A Year of Significance

2010: Every day in the life examined. 2011 and beyond… more stuff I think about

A week of cat hospice May 29, 2016


Our cat died on October 26, 2015.

A week before Russell left us, he began a new phase of life.

His week  of hospice wasn’t a bad life. It was an odd mirror of his normal routines. Instead of making his way through his usual day, we simply carried him.

Russell Scot Fry adopted us in 2001 and was fully grown when we became family. Since 2008, Russell lived a fairly healthy life for an FIV positive cat. He’d even disappeared for 5 weeks once, during which time he went from a 20 pound Big Boy to a 14 pound, frightened little guy. He was a fighter and we nursed him back to health. Years later, hypotension, kidney disease meds were a daily fact of twice a day life.

He put up with it with relative equanimity – wriggling and hating it – but never holding a grudge. I finally figured out how to powderize the pills well enough for him to eat them in his food. Hiding them un-pulverized always meant a licked-clean pill rolling around on the bottom of his bowl.

We didn’t bother with the daily pills once he stopped eating and drinking.

This enormous, loud, handsome family member changed. Since I work from home, I was on daily cat duty. A visit to the big water pitcher we left on the hearth in the morning was cause for celebration. On the rare days he’d drink, I’d call my husband over and we’d clasp hands like our little one just took his first steps.

More often than not, he’d heave the water up soon after, but that became part of the day. I’d mop the mess and carry him to his cushy spot on the loveseat. Russell probably didn’t care, but it made me feel like I was doing something by fluffing before tucking him in.

When my husband would leave for work every day, he’d take a few minutes with Daddy’s Cat to explain that he didn’t have to hang out waiting for him to get home in case he decided it was time to go. He wanted to make sure Russell didn’t feel the pressure to keep going once it was no longer time.

During the day, I’d check in on him curled up in what became his afghan, his smelly afghan. A light hand on his flank just to see if he was still breathing. He’d look up at me like ‘whu? yeah, Mom. still here. zzzzz…’

He perked up when we’d take him outside. Before FIV, he was an indoor-outdoor adventure cat. Big game hunter. King of the neighborhood. Cock of the walk. Scourge of squirrels and bunnies everywhere. Outside was the magical place and he knew how to work it. Smart cat learned that if he checked in with us every once in a while, he could stay outside longer.

It made him so happy that getting carried outside became a regular event. On the grass and along the garden verges, he was once again Jungle Cat. Rubbing up against the yucca was cause for near delirium.

He crafted a bit of a routine, always ending up in the same corner by the base of the bay window. Sunny, perfect view of hid kingdom and just hidden enough. Russell kept an eye on things from there.

Routine was important to Russell. Mornings, downstairs for breakfast and evenings, upstairs for tv time until it was time for bed. At bedtime, always according to Russell’s clock, he herded us into our room, and hopped up on the bed into his spot. He would stand there, surfing the covers while I straightened the bedclothes. I like smooth sheets and Russell got very good about rolling with my tugs and tucks.

When going up and down the stairs got to be too much, I carried him. But, he was always able to get up on the bed himself.

There was a glorious nip in the air that late October. Russell’s greatest cat-passion was being on his cushion in front of the fire and the chill made a fire a delight. Truthfully, though, we would have cranked up the air conditioning and built a fire if it had occurred to us. We are those kind of cat parents. His cushion in front of the fire was always there. Always ready just in case.

One week after going into home hospice, I called our vet to check in. She was so caring and kind. She gave us some of the best advice and I’d like to share it. We all knew that it was only a matter of time. The one-day-at-a-time aim was to keep him comfortable and give him a good life. The one thing that could not be allowed to happen was for him to suffer.

All loving pet parents understand this. Never allow your pet to suffer. But, how do you know? Everyone offers the platitude “You’re cat will let you know when it’s time.” I find that to be specious bullshit. Nothing wants to die. Not a cat, dog or human. Your cat is not going to look at you with the expression that says “Now, please.” The best you can do is guess and then live with it.

Here’s our vets advice. Pick the day before the day it’s time. By the time it’s ‘time’, it’s too late. Your pet is suffering. So, we did. We called her that Monday morning to check in. We talked. We decided that that evening would be it.

Russell had a brilliant last day. Tucked into his afghan. Being Jungle Cat. Melting in front of the fire on his cushion.

It took 2 shots. One to relax him and one to make his heart stop. He died on his cushion in front of the fire.

My husband dug a hole in the garden in his corner – the spot he’d picked out. Just hidden enough and just sunny enough. Where he can always be Jungle Cat.12189264_10207967875864664_974061828700583590_o

 

To Tai Chi or not to Tai Chi – getting over myself


It takes me a while to figure out how to incorporate new things into my life. My typical practice is to muddle along with an idea wrapped in frustration until I have an aha that reflects how simple the thing really is. Yes, I try my damnedest to complicate things.
 
I’ve been taking tai chi for about 5 months now and have enough body memory to attempt a session at home but I have been unable to wrap my mind around the logistics. Where? When? Is anyone watching? Music? Silence? Will I do enough? Will I do it right? Will I get bored?
 
Where? In the front room.
When? Whenever I find the lull I seek.
Is anyone watching? Probably Ron Scot Fry, but he thinks that my movements are pretty.
Music or Silence? Yes.
Will I do enough? Yes.
Will I do it right? Yes.
Will I get bored? No.
 
This last question is the crux for me. I used to get bored, bored, bored training for my marathons. Last week, Sifu Kevin explained that tai chi is never boring. Today, I agree. There’s a wu chi space that happens after monkey brain stops flinging poo for a nanosecond. I’ve experienced it in class but never doing tai chi alone.
 
Sweet.

 

Benzo withdrawal for fun and profit May 4, 2016


It slices, it dices, it makes mincemeat of your brain. And by ‘your’, I mean mine.

Lorazepam. Powerful, seductive, addictive. It also works miracles. It did for me, anyway. My Dr prescribed it about 2 years ago for insomnia. Over time, I developed a tolerance and had to slowly increase my dosage to achieve the same results.

As an adult child of alcoholics and having been exposed in a bad-touch-uncle kind of way to drug users over the years, I have a wary relationship with mind-altering substances. As a bipolar person, I will cut anyone who considers how funny it would be to take my lamotrigine from me. Trust me, I can tell if you even think it. Drug-dar. Violently protective. Perhaps I should up my dosage. But, I digress… which is something you should get used to.

Back to the point – that upping my dosage to achieve the same results thing. I did it under instruction from my Dr. I’d started with 1/2 a pill and had worked my way up to 4 whole ones. They’re teen-tiny but still. On the verge of yet another increase, it occurs to me that there may be no end in sight. I don’t want to need them. Like those tortilla chips coated in lime dust and fresh salsa. Don’t bring it into my house or it’s dinner. The sad thing is, I always run out of salsa before the bag is empty. What the correlation is between the deadly lime crack / salsa combo and lorazepam… I’ve lost myself.

When lost, I hit the googles. Interweb searches quickly fill me in on how life devastating it is to take benzodiazepines for more than a few months and I’m coming up on a couple years. Suspicions of doom, gloom, and psychosis lurk in the horror novel corners of my brain. Helpful articles describe the painstaking, equally horrid and drawn out process for titrating off. Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it. Here’s how it goes…

Down from 4 to 3 1/2… no big deal! I can keep this up for the chat room suggested 2 weeks before another 1/2 pill decrease.

Night two. Sleep? What’s that?

Night three. The googles say I should replace the decreased med with something over the counter. Ibuprofen PM doesn’t interact, so I’m sucking that little blue pill down like a man with a Viagra prescription and an expense account on an out of town business trip.

Night four. I have achieved dopey, frustrated, insomnia. The noise in my head is reaching a fever pitch. But, not just any noise. Music. One song. Loudly. The worst earworm you can imagine. I pretend that the white noise sleep app on my iPad helps.

Night five, the paranoia sets in. This is so ugly, I won’t admit to it.

Day six before night six. I’m terrified of the radio. I cannot listen to uptempo songs I know or one will haunt me until around forever o’clock in the morning. I start loudly singing Mama Cass’s version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” throughout the day.

Day something, not quite 2 weeks in … I’ve lost the ability to count or feel my tongue …. I have a regular check-in appointment with my Dr. and tell him what I’ve started. He doesn’t physically assault me but does capital A-Adamantly explain that the googles will lie to you. Although delighted with my Mama Cass song choice, he’s speaking slowly and using small words because I’m obviously a naive idiot and should be treated thus. My brain and long stare concurs and I’m too whacked out to take umbrage.

Since my Dr. has met me before (read: knows I am an active participant and decision maker in my health care (read: a pain in the butt)) he prescribes a non-addictive anti-depressant to help me ween off the lorazepam.

Fast forward to today. Particularly appropriate since my vision sometimes looks like I’m jumping into hyperspace. In 3 days, I go down to 2 1/2 pills. The anti-depressant called Tori Spelling or something is helping and I don’t need it every night. The last 2 nights in a row have been good quality sleep. I still hear music in my head (currently “Go Ask Alice”) but some people I work with confessed that similar noisy brain conditions happen to them but they don’t admit it in polite company.

Don’t want to sound crazy, you know. Bless them.

 

Did I really wish for a good cry? How cute… August 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — susanscotfry @ 10:36 pm

Did I really wish for a good cry? How cute….

 

Did I really wish for a good cry? How cute…


A good cry? HAH! I laugh in the face of a good cry. I don’t do ‘good cries’. I do forced-march-blind-with-pain purges.

Did I really wish for a good cry? I’d like to say ‘be careful what you wish for’ in a sweet, smug sing-song voice but really, I can’t. I’d like to have gotten what I wished for but I didn’t. For a couple of days, I thought I’d gotten my wish. I cried. It was good. It included a picture of a tragically cute dog. I was fooled into complacency and then – wham. Why do I always forget that this is not how it works? Is it some kind of pain of childbirth memory block?

“The Fantasy”beautiful-fantasy-girl crying

I am tired, stressed, and stick-a-fork-in-me done. It’s usually the end of a big project and regardless of the brilliance and beauty of the end result, I’m strung out. I need … something. In my romantic, wishful thinking lizard brain, I imagine that a ‘good cry’ will do it. Some sort of episode that generates cleansing tears of relief and transition. An event where I’m ensconced in pillows and heave deep, heart-felt tears into soft cloth hankies. I will emerge on the other side with a clear head, glowing skin, and resolve.

“The Reality”

I am tired, stressed, and stick-a-fork-in-me done. It’s usually the end of a big project and regardless of the brilliance and beauty of the end result, I’m strung out. I need … something. I search and search and try to do the right thing and try to take care of myself and have patience and try not to become progressively more and more of a raving bitch. I fail. I fail more. I fail bigger. And bigger and bigger until my failure combined with exhaustion tips me over the edge. I hit full blown PTSD breakdown.

Day 1 is spent being utterly shattered and wracked in agonizing pain. If you’ve never suffered this, I’m not going to try to explain right now. If you have, I feel you blanching in horror with me.

Day 2 is spent being hypersensitive to light, sound, thought, breathing, and whatnot.

Day 3 is energized. Today is day 3.

I’d like another option, please. I grudgingly accept that good cry is a dumb wish for me. My extreme brain chemistry doesn’t get the cleanse. But, is this horrid mental purge the only option? Is this the way it’s always going to be? No figuring, reasoning, bargaining or trying something constructive has eliminated this process for me. Holy crap. On the bright side, it is shorter than it used to be. I’m kind of functional after one day.

I have no pithy conclusion other than the truth. Will it set me free? Perhaps, in a way. It doesn’t change this currently inevitable process but at least I’m not lying to myself about it. Oh, and perhaps I should calendar this cycle. Remove sharp objects. Lay in bottled water. Prep for fallout.

Significantly,

Susan

 

My good cry – Meh July 27, 2015


Beware what you wish for.

I spent much of the weekend aware there was a straw ready to break my back and send me into hysterics. It was out there somewhere, lurking, ready to drag me under. To catch me unaware. Not actively seeking it but suspicious. Would it nail me at the photo shoot on Saturday? Or thrifting with my BFF? Or … what? Show yourself, coward!

The insidious straw (see my Blog from a couple days ago) pounced from the e-glow of the daily news. Lalala-lah. I’m curled up on the sofa reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on my iPad – we subscribe but don’t get the physical paper any more – which is it’s own story. The headline should have read: “Susan! Run! This is THE Straw”. But, no.

This undated rendered image provided by Activision shows canine star, Riley. "Call of Duty: Ghosts" isn't due until November 2013, but Riley has already become the breakout star of the military shoot-'em-up. After footage released earlier this year revealed that "Ghosts" would feature a four-legged soldier, the Internet uniformly wagged its tail in anticipation. (AP Photo/Activision)

A war veteran bomb-sniffing dog needs emergency medical care and there are no vet (pun not intended) benefits for repatriated canines. Bonus: She’s also suffering from PTSD. I immediately teared up. My brain started spinning. Injustice. Hurt. Anger. A deep need to do something about this situation and an inability to do anything.

Heartwrenching sobs later. I’ve been rude to my husband. I’ve cried for myself and everything and everyone and all the things that have ever happened in my life and everyone elses. It lasted for about 4 1/2 minutes – including the time it took to indignantly drag my sorry butt upstairs and away from the world. (Unless you ask my husband, who will swear it lasted about 3 days)

WTF?

A good cry used to lay me out. Not that I looked forward to it, but I could at least count on a familiar process.

Again, I feel gypped. Only, this time, I’m still wary as well. Will I craft a self-fulfilling prophecy? Will I worry myself into a mental and physical breakdown? This is so tiring.

Whatevs.

I know, I know… what about the dog? She is living with a wonderful young man – the guy who brought her home with him from Iraq – and she’s getting the help she needs.

Me, I’m moving on. I have a full schedule of stuff. If a mental breakdown wants my attention, it should request an appointment.

Have a good one.

Significantly,

Susan

 

I want to want a good cry July 24, 2015


I’m mystified. I’ve assiduously accumulated plenty of worthy excuses to have a heart-wrenching sob. Not to brag, but I am an expert at tallying emotionally charged hoo-hah – storing it – nurturing it – and the moment that I can get away with it, having a total melt-down.

crying girlI feel gypped.

You tell me. Here’s my cherished, sharing-way-too-much information tally…

  1. A few days ago, I read the suicide letter of a friend.
  2. A few months ago, I suffered the worst and longest PTSD episode in years. The trigger is still dancing around the peripheries of my life.
  3. My Mom died last Thanksgiving and I couldn’t get out to the west coast in time to say goodbye.
  4. We closed Shakespeare in the Park about a week ago. We work all year to put on this show for a couple thousand people. It’s a massive undertaking fraught with success, failure, terror, financial ruin, and a stupendous show.
  5. My physical health is for crap and I’m having serious angst about taking care of myself. As if I don’t deserve it slash don’t see the point.
  6. And whatever is behind door number 3 where the grand prize waits just for me.

Yadda, yadda, blah, yadda, blah, etc… you get it.

Are my meds working? Is the mindfulness meditation working? What the heck?

Maybe I’ll get around to it later. Perhaps there will be some sort of straw on my camel-like back. The kind of non-event that makes it impossible to explain why one is sobbing uncontrollably. “They only had yellow widgets in stock!” Guaranteed to earn puzzled looks and a dawning suspicion that I do actually need an Ativan prescription and some serious attitude adjustment.

All kidding aside (right, let’s see if that happens) I do feel a suspicious lump in my throat. A good, cathartic cry might be just the wonderful storm that leaves the garden refreshed and ready for planting. But, for today, I’m dry-eyed and chugging along. There’s good stuff happening. I love and am loved. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Significantly,

Susan