Wednesday, March 29, 2017

When your brain has it's own menses cycle...

People know about depression. That one is easy. You're sad, you're constantly down, you sleep a LOT. More often than not, depression leads to a lack of enthusiasm, lack of appetite in every aspect of the word, and a lack of care or empathy. Life sucks, and it will always suck when you're depressed. And that's okay. No matter if you have chronic depression, Bipolar disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or just going through a small bought triggered by an action or event, life will, in fact, turn around. Not being okay is okay. And people are beginning to understand that.

But what happens when you're too okay?

I was originally diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. That diagnosis has since been changed. I have now been diagnoses with Bipolar II disorder (among other things). I do not speak for all people with Bipolar disorder, but I can tell you my experience. I get asked about it a lot. People tend to understand my depression, and what it looks like, but don't understand that that's not all I go through. When people think of Bipolar Disorder, they think of a lot of really insane circumstances, possibly even some characters from shows and movies, that wind up hospitalized, or ostracized because they are unable to function. They think of adrenaline highs, drug junkies, and extreme needs to be crazier and crazier.

Bipolar disorder has an almost cyclical pattern. I get depression, and that's easy for people to see. I tend to get more down on myself than usual. I see the worst in everything. I sleep a lot, and I mean a LOT. Last time I hit a super awful depressive swing, I came home from work, took a 6 hour nap, woke up for long enough to grind some coffee beans, put them in the coffee pot, hit the start button, and proceeded to fall asleep before the 6 cups had finished brewing, and slept another 8 hours before getting up for work, exhausted, and starting that same process over 9 hours later after coming home again where I proceeded to go be unable to stay awake. I cry a lot. Over everything. Every small critique is a major insult to my person, and any change in my plans is a complete overhaul of my life. Smiles are infrequent and usually forced. Life is overall really difficult. I've sometimes contemplated suicide.

But there's another extreme associated with Bipolar disorder that people don't tend to talk about: Mania.

My manias are getting worse, and while my consequence is usually productivity, and that tends to be all people see - me getting large to-do lists accomplished - it is extremely dangerous and not as fun as it sounds. So here's what Mania has been like from my perspective...

Imagine waking up, the sky is the bluest shade of blue, and is the most beautiful sky you have ever seen. It's a little chilly, but 50 beats 20, so you'll take it! Your to-do list is expansive, but doable and you are excited to accomplish everything on it, nothing can stop you, you are a strong independent woman, and you can do anything you set your mind to! The coffee you ordered is the best coffee you have ever had, and you feel amazing. You're attentive in class, taking notes, nearly writing down every word that comes out of your lecturer's mouth,  you're absorbing every word, putting pictures together in your mind. School isn't so hard! You'll get to graduation in no time! You smile at everyone, and laugh at every dumb joke your next professor makes. Someone cuts you off on your way home from school, you flare, and get super upset, but seconds later you drop it, life is back to happy-go-lucky. You decide to run some of the errands you've been putting off. To target you go! How amazing is Target though? You walk up and down every aisle, with a new attitude and style idea with every article of clothing, and home decor piece. All the food sounds amazing, and storage boxes? OF COURSE YOU NEED MORE STORAGE BOXES. While you don't know what you're gonna put in them, you'll think of something. Need more coffee? DUH, we don't have THAT blend/brand/roast, and you know what, we've been talking about a pourover, and why look at that! THEY'RE ON SALE! It's your lucky day! Phew, shopping is hard, so you come home, loot in hand, and get to work. Maybe you'll order some pizza, food is a necessity, and money is no big deal (even if it is). That idea is forgotten as you walk in the door and walk the dogs, back inside you buckle down. First stop, the kitchen, duh, all that happiness needs fuel, and you just bought some good coffee you need to try out!  You make yourself some food, just something simple, quick, you need you get back to work, toss it in the microwave, decide you need to clean out the fridge, then you remember you were supposed to use those bananas on the counter AND in the fridge. You whip up some chocolate peanut butter banana "ice cream," and a loaf of banana bread, and work on your homework while the loaf is baking. You decide it's time to play outside, and start up a few seeds in your new seed starter kit - courtesy of target - and some cool new seed kits, and finally make those succulent tear drop hanging terrariums you've been letting collect dust, and take some cuttings off of your current succulents to make MORE succulents. Then you remember you were going to research succulents and cacti, and planting methods for your new bigger tank terrariums. You get stuck on Etsy, Amazon, Pinterest, Google, and suddenly you're not even looking at succulents anymore, you're redesigning the living room, in a house out west you haven't even bought yet. You notice you've gotten SO MUCH DONE in just a couple hours of being at home, and feel pretty proud. Time to sit down, eat the food you forgot was in the microwave, and watch a couple episodes of whatever show you're binge re-watching this semester. But Bones will have to play in the background, you just have too much to do, and you decide to write a paper (literally one handed) while you eat, you can't just sit and watch this show, you won't be doing enough. Your body literally tenses up, and locks up, your jaw is tight, your shoulders are tight, and you realize. You haven't stopped moving all day. You've updated your FB about 15 times, and posted at least a half dozen photos or groups of photos to IG. 

Did that sound crazy? How many paragraph long sentences can I make before I allow you to take a breath? That was my day today, at least, a rough approximation of my day. I'm posting this on a manic high, because it will be the only time I will have the courage to post it. I can not post it during any other period of my fluctuations, because it's only now that I want to tell the world being Bipolar is not a disability. By the end of the day, I'm exhausted, and will slow down, it will look to an outsider like coming off of a caffeine high, and based on my caffeine intake today (for taste of beverage not for the caffeine), that's probably exaggerating some of my symptoms, but tomorrow the cycle will start over, and I will probably have had little sleep for it. 3-5 hours a night is about how much I get during a manic episode. 

But how do you tell your friends, a shrink, your family, that you're just TOO happy? life is TOO beautiful? 

I do this every once in a while. I'll spend a few days on the cloud nine, skyrocketing to the moon. I feel proud of myself for everything. I can do no wrong in my own eyes, and will get over every hurdle life has to offer. I will not be stopped, everything is the most beautiful version of itself. Which might sound like a good thing. Except you'll be completely unable to focus, you'll try to do 8 things at once and accomplish little. You will go days without eating, and sleep deprivation will catch up to you eventually. Then, in about 5 days, you'll hate life,the world and have no motivation for anything. Sleep will be the only activity worth participating in, and you'll always feel exhausted. Your Caffeine intake will go up so high, you'll overdose, and actually make your depression worse. 5 days later, cloud nine will be your new home, and the cycle will continue.

During all of this, especially my peak manic days, I still hallucinate. I'm still hearing voices at all times that I've learned to tune out. It's like my body has to have something to do and focus on at all times, so I wind up creating things to see, talk to, and interact with. I sleep with TV shows running, I know I shouldn't, but if I don't, the silence is literally deafening, and I'll have nightmares, or will self harm in my sleep. I sleep walk more on the days I don't have some kind of noise going at night. Sleeping with another person in bed, can sometimes help, but not always. 

I've never been on medication. Not for long anyways. I hated the idea of having a pill or set of pills to take every day that "fixed" me. I didn't want to be some doctor's chemistry experiment, while I try desperately to get a hold on myself. But this past year, my episodes are longer lasting, and worse. They impact my life far more than ever before, and I'm scarring myself. It's time to make that long dreaded call. To go to offices I hate, and get myself on medications. Not to fix something that is broken, but to help the fact that, while I'm okay not being okay, there is a better way to live in inevitable periods of "not okay."

Depression is easy. Constant crying is easy. People understand upset. People don't understand when you're so happy you scare your significant other. When you can't NOT spend your last few dollars one things that are absolutely unnecessary. This is my mania, it is not how all mania manifests itself, but it is mine. 

I make these posts - as crazy and all over the place as they are - to help. I don't write this as pity, or to make friends feel sorry for me. I want you to understand when I say "I'm running on a manic high, I can't go out today, it won't be safe." or "I'm sorry I'm so irritable, I'm in a transition and my body can't make up it's mind," I'm not making up excuses.  I'm trying to explain to you what is happening, and to not stop inviting me to things, tomorrow may be a completely different day. I want friends to understand their own symptoms. I want friends of friends to know that it is ABSOLUTELY okay to have these disorders, you are not crazy, you are not broken, you do not deserve to be cast aside.
The more I talk about these things, the more others may have the courage to speak up, and maybe someday, we won't have to hide from society, pretending everything is 100% okay at all times. Maybe someday, the social stigma will vanish, and disorders, disabilities, medications, all of it will be as common as it needs to be. Access will be easier, and more affordable. Maybe we will treat mental disorders and illnesses with the same regard we treat broken bones, colds, and other physical ailments, temporary or chronic. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Shadow Has 4 legs and Barks at Everything

Being kept up at night by barking dogs was not an unusual thing in the apartment complex we were in. Most of the time, little yippy type dogs were all over the place and constantly barking up a storm. But when a dog barked from 7pm until 7am, with a bigger deeper bark than normal, I couldn't fall asleep. I posted statuses about how I was going to have to talk to someone about keeping their dog quiet at night, how some of us were trying to sleep. Little did I know those barks would change my future, forever.

I came home from work one night, around 10, to find the source of the barking, a medium sized black dog who had no collar that I could see, and was terrified of everything. I tried to coax it over to me, and failed, the dog ran into the night and wasn't seen that night - although it was heard.

The next night was the same thing. I even had peanut butter to offer this time. And again, I pushed too far and wound up scaring the dog into the night.

But I didn't hear barking that night. Or the next.

The first picture I have of her!
I started to get worried that maybe something had happened to the poor thing. Hoping it had just found its way home.

Then the dog showed up once more. Armed with a slip lead from work, 12 cans of Pedigree, a small bag of Ol Roy (I ran back out to Walmart when I heard the dog again), a squeaky toy, a small jar of peanut butter, and a whole lot of determination, I even managed to get Tristan involved in capturing the dog.

5 hours later, the sun is starting to come up, I've chased the poor thing all around the parking lots, people have asked me to shut my dog up and I've explained that it's actually been quiet for most of the night dealing with me, and it's not mine. I heard people threaten to shoot it if I ever let it out, or bark, again. I knew what I had to do. Even Tristan gave up, and decided to go to bed, leaving me with a dog to capture on my own.

Eventually, both of us exhausted, she rolled onto her side, and let me put the slip lead over her neck. She fought with me for a minute, before willingly following me back to the apartment. We immediately threw her in the spare bathroom for a scrub, and doused her with Dawn. There were no fleas (we have no idea how that happened), but several ticks that we spent the next few days trying to pick off of her.

Our plan was to wait until Monday (I caught her Saturday night), and call the rescue I worked with at Petsmart and release her to them.

 The dog hated Tristan, right from the start. She wouldn't go anywhere near him. But within minutes of coming inside was attached to me. I kept tripping over her. She wouldn't leave my side, we joked that she was my little shadow. Then he started calling her Shadow. Within hours, she was overly attached to me, and had a name.

I didn't work that weekend. Neither did he. We decided to keep her by Sunday, realizing she was housebroken, trainable, and not going to fare well in a shelter, especially after becoming so attached to me. To be honest, I had already gotten attached to her. We had been talking about getting a dog, and were discussing getting an adult dog from a shelter in the next few months, I was already on the hunt, and she just fell into our lap.

Monday she came to work with me, we asked the vets to look her over, explaining we still weren't 100% sure we would keep her. (He wasn't, I was.) and they offered a discount on the service because of it. It turned out, I had a 8ish month old, Black Lab mix, who, aside from being covered in ticks two days ago, nails that were just too long, and being scared out of her mind, seemed perfectly healthy.

Shadow was a big fighting point between Tristan and I, he constantly pushed me to get rid of her, especially as we realized she was more my dog. When he said he wanted a dog, he really wanted a dog that would be like his Aussie at home. One that had bonded completely to him, and listened to him without fail, and he could train, to outshine me.

But Shadow ran from him. Growled at him. Barked at him constantly, it took him 3-4 weeks of constant treating and babying for him to even pet her. Looking back, that should have been my first sign.

But my girl stayed with us. When Tristan and I fought, she'd wrap herself around my head, preventing him from cuddling with me. She'd let me cry to her when I needed to, and was taking easily to training. We just couldn't take her anywhere. We brought her to Petsmart, and she just barked. After a few weeks of doing this constantly, she was starting to get better, but only if I was around. She had made friends with the Vets, so when I was at work, if they were going to be open the whole time, she came with me. She'd get to play with other dogs, and with other people, and I got to know she was safe while I was at work. Shadow was already my baby.

I had no idea the impact this dog would have on my life. She came home with me, as Tristan couldn't have cared less about her, and adjusted almost immediately, with few incidences (the few we had were more annoying/funny than harmful). Her training has fallen back a little, as she sees other dogs get away with things she never would have in a million years if it were just the two of us, and I haven't had the time to really work with her. She still is socially very anxious, but I'm hoping to really hammer through a lot of that this summer.

This 4-legged Shadow of mine has been just what I needed more often than not. She hasn't been away from my side for more than a few days in 3 years now. She's saved my life more times than I can count, as she's defended me against dogs, and people. She's my little guard dog, who'd sooner run behind me if someone were to really break in, and my loud obnoxious barky butt. I can't imagine a life without her, and I really hope I never have to for long. She is indeed one of the best things that has ever happened to me. She's got her quirks, but so does her mom, so we make quite the pair in my opinion.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When the Passion burns so bright, eventually, you're gonna get burned

I've heard this so much in the last few months, from all friends - in school and post graduating:

"I'm losing my love, and motivation to dance, and I don't know how to fix it."

So I wanted to make this post (while I procrastinate things I could be getting ahead on), about my journey through burnout.

Staring in about August, I was dealing with a lack of satisfaction in my dancing skills, running low on energy, and money - due to some medical conditions - my car was slowly dying, and I didn't have the time or money to take it to be looked at, much less fixed. I was losing my love of the dance, although I loved to see friends, and I thought I was just not progressing fast enough for my own tastes, and needed to go to more and do more and take more lessons. Turns out, that's what killed me.

By October, I HATED dancing. The drives, the cost, the drama. The dances were mediocre anymore, and while the friends were great, even the music wasn't inspiring, I was doing the same moves, just to zombie through dances. I felt bad that my friends weren't having the same dance experience with me, because I was frustrated with myself, which just drove me to want to continue to improve, by doing more. "Just work through it" was the attitude and that just didn't work.

I decided I needed some time off. I went to one last event, and had such a bad time, I was willing to bet I'd never dance again. For November, December, and January, I didn't dance, I didn't listen to the music, I didn't watch dance videos.

At first I was so mad. I wanted to blame the way dancers held workshops and things. The costs of them, the fact that they were built around sleep deprivation. The fact that they were not conducive to helping someone with burn out, but instead, exaggerated it. I wanted to blame everyone and everything I could, so I didn't have to admit, that it wasn't a lifestyle I could handle at that moment, and I needed to help me help myself.

So I focused on other things. I worked, I  painted again, I drew, I worked on other craft projects that had been waiting on me to find time to finish them. I played more games, and just rebuilt myself in an absence of dancing. I missed my dance friends terribly, but knew pushing it would just make matters so much worse for me in the end.

By mid January I was feeling like I missed everyone too much, and actually mildly wanted to dance. I didn't have the opportunity, so I never took it and was started to get frustrated again. Finally, early February, I had an opportunity to dance for one night, and I took it. I went out, more nervous than I had been in ages. I walked in the door and a friend greeted me and started my dancing off fairly well. I didn't feel super confident in my skills, knowing I'd be rusty for while.

I was turned down for dances for "rest songs" and "this song is just to fast for me" and then I'd turn around and they had either accepted another's dance offer and I saw them on the dance floor that song with another follow. I was suddenly super frustrated, and having a panic attack about getting back into dancing. I spent the next 3 songs freaking out to friends about how much I shouldn't be there, and I was now an outcast of the swing community. Eventually, a dancer I very much look up to asked me to dance, and spent the entire song talking to me about where I was, and just getting to know me. My next few Lindy Hop dances went pretty well, and I was feeling better. Blues came around, and while I didn't dance a lot, I did dance, and it was they were the easiest dances I'd ever had (not because of their style, but because I felt so comfortable), and I finally felt at peace with where I had chosen to be.

I now listen to Blues music and feel myself moving in my seat again, something that hasn't happened in probably 6 months. I tap my feet to swing music. I watch videos and wanna do what they're doing again, I've stopped seeing it as tedium and see it, instead, as something I still love to do.

Dance burn out happens. To everyone. Sometimes for no reason. Find another hobby to focus on. Invite dance friends over, not to dance, but to play games and have fun in other ways. Take the time to learn something new. When you're ready, you'll know and you can go out, not for an event, but for a night, and see if its something you're ready for.

Dancers, especially dancers who travel, have such a passion for dancing. It's beautiful to watch, but when the passion for an activity burns that bright and burns so high, it doesn't matter how much you wanna fight it, you're going to wind up burned, and if you don't treat it immediately, you'll burn completely out and have to start over. It's possible to do, but you have to go through and do it.

Don't worry when it happens. That's I think the big thing. It's worrisome to watch something slip out of your life, and not know if it's ever going to find its way back in. And maybe you'll never be ready to come back, and it was a great hobby for a while, but you found something that peaks your interests more. Interests and lives change. Don't fight adapting to it, even temporarily. You'll kill yourself trying, and that's so much worse than admitting that you're burned out and need time off.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It's not the destination, but the journey, that matters

I'm often told that the destination is not the important part of life, and so I should enjoy the journey and make it my own. This journey has been such a roller coaster, covered in fog. I've gone through a lot of ups and downs with unexpected twists and turns. The spring of 2014 brings a big moment in my life. To most people, it would be nothing, hardly a blip on their radar, but for me it's a big deal. Because of this, I have done quite a bit of reflecting on the subject over the last few days.

A year ago this week I was moved back home, from South Carolina, after my engagement fell apart.

Let me start from what I would consider the beginning of this journey:

Roughly three years ago, I was biting my nails, worrying that I wouldn't get into what I thought was my dream school. Itching just to get that letter of acceptance. Checking my email and the mail every day for a sign that OSU had said "yes, you can continue the family tradition" and let me be the buckeye I desperately wanted to be. When it finally came, the sigh of relief brought me to tears. I didn't think I had what it took, but as it turned out, OSU was willing to take a gamble on me.

I flip flopped between absolute terror and pure joy all summer. I was desperately scared that I had made the wrong decision, that it hadn't been truly my decision to go to Ohio State. Rather, it was a decision made for me at birth, and I simply ran with it.

Then I got to campus.

What a dream I was living.

I was making friends with my roommates, albeit by changing who I was to fit all 9 of their personalities. I partied hard once, and decided that 20 something beers, and a blacked out, stumbling, drunk walk home in 4 inch heels from the frat house on greek lane to my tower on the opposite side of campus was an experience a person should only have once in their lifetime.

A few weeks later I got to see a friend of mine who I had been crushing on for ages. And by "crushing on for ages" I'm talking something along the lines of 14 years of head over heels loving this man. About a week after that we said, "fuck it" and decided to give a real relationship a try. There was a catch though, he was 10 hours away, and I was without a car. We seemed to make it work.

I was doing the typical college student thing, staying up far too late, deciding not to go to class, and putting off any and all homework until the last possible second. I was drumming it up in The Ohio State University Athletic Band, learning the same cadences as The Best Damn Band in the Land (TBDBITL - pronounced tuh-biddle by most of us) and playing them at Basketball, Volleyball and Hockey games.

Then grades came back.

Uhoh.

Time to reevaluate how things were going to go. Second quarter was more of the same, and by the time I reached my third quarter at Ohio State, I was dropping my course load to the bare minimum for my financial aid, and was still struggling through everything. So I left.

Meanwhile, in the middle of my failing my classes, my relationship was failing too. I had been asked to marry him in November, going as far as to have my finger sized so that he could design my ring - we used the Claddagh he bought me as a substitute in the meantime. But things were going sour. We couldn't stop fighting until we saw each other, but 10 hour drives are tough, and we'd think things were fixed, before returning to our respective homes and the fights would begin once again.

So I moved to South Carolina to be with him.

I moved in exactly a week before his birthday, and on his birthday, proposed to him. Using 10 Blue Ring Pops - having no better substitute for an actual ring. Even still, those first few months were rough. We really got at each other, but eventually it just got better. I got my job at petsmart and things were looking up.

Until we were transferred.

Until he bought that house.

I still blame that damn house for a lot of our problems. His company decided we were needed elsewhere, and through many stressful miscommunications, we wound up in a house at the border of South Carolina and Georgia.

The fighting restarted, and got worse.

And worse.

And worse.

Then I came home from work one day and he was sitting on the couch, as I walked in the door, he turned to look at me with the most hurt look I had seen. Three to four hours of screaming later, we decided to end it, and to finish unpacking our stuff so I could repack my stuff and throw it back on a moving truck.

My first few months home were a nightmare. Plagued by mental disorders I didn't understand, seeing more therapists and doctors that I cared to ever see in a lifetime, battling the desperation to be back where I was in South Carolina. I didn't think I would last the summer. I wanted to stop breathing, because every breath was painful. To stop my heart from beating because every time it did, another broken piece fell off.

I even thought I'd never dance again. He was the one who taught me, and I was afraid I'd never get over that fact. I was afraid he would haunt my every dance, and dance relationship. But determined not to let him ruin something else I loved, I went to a dance in Cleveland.

Shaky, nervous, almost entirely without friends in that area, and not having danced in a year, I was in no shape to be showing off anything special, but I still had fun. And my love for dancing was renewed. (I'll probably make another post at some point about how much I love the swing community)

Life was still unkind, and I continued to have many many months of hard times. Emotionally, physically, academically, and professionally.

But since then, I have found an incredible passion in my Blues dancing, and drastically improved my Lindy Hop. I even get to spread that passion with others now! I've learned how to control the majority of one of my mental disorders, while learning how to cope with the other one. I gotten over my desperation, and found a job that I enjoy. I'm succeeding in classes, and even finding the ones that failed me last time around easier to bear, to the point of liking them in some cases! I've not changed my major, but have changed my career path, and am much happier with the decision.

For once, I don't feel like a foreigner in my own skin. My confidence level in myself and my abilities has sky rocketed, and I actually feel happy in general.

My roller coaster is obviously far from over, but this spring marks an awesome time in my life. I have gone through a few kinds of hell in the past 3 years, but I haven't let it stop me. I've picked myself up, dusted myself off, and carried on.

Everyone who has ever used that cliche on me was absolutely right, it's never the destination that you should be paying attention to, but the journey to that destination that really matters. If you think life sucks now, that you've hit bottom, and things just continuously look dark. Please, please remember that it is always, ALWAYS darkest, just before the dawn.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

For those who have asked: The life of this Paranoid Schizophrenic

"I don't feel safe here anymore" says the 10 year old to her mother one evening.

Living with paranoid schizophrenia, for me, means living in your own nightmare. All of those movies, all of those books, all of those ghosts on TV are suddenly not on TV anymore, not on the pages of the books, and no longer on the silver screen. They're in your living room, they're in your bedroom, you see them reaching for you, grabbing at you. You hear them calling for you, out to you.

You hear the constant naggings.

Most people have that little voice in the back of their head. The one that tells them not to worry, or in some cases causes them to worry needlessly. The one that tells them about the negative consequences of the actions they're about to take. The harmless voices that most would consider a "gut instinct."

Mine come with faces.
Mine come with anger.
And fear.
And hate.

My voices appear as the skin and bones version of myself in the mirror, telling me exactly how beautiful I'm not. They appear as the ex-lovers of my life, reminding me of everything I did wrong to lose something so amazing and how I will never have that again, how I will never be happy again. As witches, and ghouls in the back seat of my car, screaming at me to listen as they tell me how wretched I am as an individual. Worst of all, they appear as scary, shapeless men in the corner, brandishing creepy smiles, and a wicked silence.

My voices attack me.
Their faces laugh at me.
Their bodies come after me.

I have to be careful. If I'm not, I black out. I've woken up with strange bruises, cuts I've never seen and a fogginess for what happened in the last few moments. The man in the corner, smiles greedily, patiently waiting for me to break, for me to agree with any one of the previous voices, for me to tell myself what an atrocious failure I have become. If he comes closer than the corner, I know I'm in trouble. If he moves even one step towards me, I need to brace myself. If I yell, his smile goes away, and he leaves, he exits my sight like a puff of smoke. But I know this will only cause a harder blow next time. That he will only take his revenge out on me later, in the only way he knows how. And next time, I won't be able to make him go.

Life hasn't always been like this. I didn't always see my voices. But I could always hear them, always feel them. They have always been a presence in my life. A voice calling out my name. A comforting whisper from a loved one in my ear as I fall asleep. A glimpse, out of the corner of my eye of a face, long forgotten, feared or loved.

I haven't gotten rid of any faceless voices, many of them found their form.

It's not always bad. Life isn't always about avoiding the man in the corner. Screaming at hurtful, cackling ghouls isn't an everyday occurrence.  Sometimes, they're friends, long since forgotten, guiding me through difficult decisions. Old lovers, not seen or heard from in ages, talking me through to a calming realization about my life.

Life as a paranoid schizophrenic isn't a life to be pitied. But a life of strength and courage. To stand up to a man you can't fight with your fists, or with another hurtful claim. To scream back at those who would tear you down. Standing up for your life against those who know it best. Those who have not just heard your thoughts but have seen them, heard them, been those thoughts. To realize, and be okay with the fact that not only do you have complete control over your own life, but simultaneously, you have no control over the life you lead.

This schizophrenic, will live her uncontrollably, controlled life in every way she sees fit. If only because the voices say that she can't. If only because the voices push her until they say that she can.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jelani the Mighty (and a bit odd)

When I was a kid, we had this ferret named Blizzard - Blizz for short. She was this absolutely adorable, mischievous, albino ferret who proceeded to curl up in my dad's fleece coat when he picked her up, and she was ours. Several years later, she escaped from the family room while her cage was being cleaned, and well, a dog got her. Needless to say, she didn't make it. But the love for ferrets never left me.

So as a Junior in High School, what did I want for my birthday? A ferret. What did I get? Well, he looked like a ferret, smelled like a ferret - at first - but he certainly rarely ACTED like a ferret.

I was looking for a specific color ferret - that really nice Dark Chocolate Masked variety. Preferably female. And with lots of spunk. But I went to the store, and found this little teeny ferret and was in love. I dragged mom out to the store and said "this is the one." A cinnamon sable, male, runt of a ferret, who would go on to change my world.

Neither one of them truly enjoys baths...
Here's how life with this little guy went:

Ferrets love baths.
He hated water. I don't think I've been glared at more, than when I said it was bath time and tossed him into a tub.

Ferrets love running around and doing their "war dance"
He slithered just about everywhere, like his legs were broken. Similar to a snake, but covered in fur...

Ferrets dook constantly when they're excited.
He never really made a peep in his life.

And the list just goes on. He took just about every stereotypical ferret behavior you could come up with and threw it out the window. He acted as tough as he could though, and - after much research into where ferrets probably originated - I named him Jelani which is Swahili for "mighty."

Jelani was my baby boy - my baby Je. But now my baby is gone.

He was never a healthy ferret. Even when he was little. Some nights he would just start vomiting. And if you're unfamiliar with the way ferrets vomit, it's a scary thing to witness, as they truly define the phrase "projectile vomiting." His weight constantly fluctuated for no apparent reason.

But he was never the same after he and I took the long trek to South Carolina.

When I moved to Columbia, I thought I was going to lose him, he lost a lot of weight, his fur started to thin, and he started getting lethargic. He was thought to have a tumor, but eventually, the idea was dismissed, and we continued life as normally as we could.

But he played with Eeva, although, admittedly, a bit roughly. He loved to tumble around with her, and chase her all over. After separating a tumbling pile of squealing fur, Tristan of course always defended the Christmas Kitten, and I always took the side of my mighty warrior. They were the topic of many arguments. And as he seemed to have a good bit of energy, we continued on, with the continued idea that it would be awhile before I had to say goodbye.

And once again he saw life throw me a curve ball, and he took another 10 hour drive with us back to North Eastern Ohio.

Jelani (bottom) and Majivu (top) Chillin' together
He began seriously losing weight, and sleeping more often. So, when a ferret at work stole my heart, I brought home Majivu, with the intent to give Je a companion, as well as make him more active. It was working, for quite some time.

After a couple of months things quickly took a turn for the worst. He lost a lot of weight, extraordinarily quickly. He wouldn't and almost couldn't play for that long, and it was obvious something was wrong. I watched as slowly his weight loss turned from "Senior animals just tend to be bonier as they age" to "his eyes have begun to sink in, and I haven't seen him eat more than a couple of bites in a couple of days..."

BACK TO THE VET WE WENT

Kidney failure was the diagnosis. The prognosis? "...just make him comfortable"

So that I did. I bought - or more like had Dad buy - bottles of Pedialyte, and warmed up baby food chicken, which I fed to him through a syringe. I put wet ferret food slurry in the cage about once a week, and things looked up a tiny bit for him.

But not enough to change anything.

A few weeks later, I came home from a dance, to find a stressed Majivu pacing the front ramp of his cage, and every once in a while, frantically trying to warm up his best friend. I've never seen a ferret more worried in my life. I watched Je's body for the sudden heave of his abdomen - ferrets will commonly look like they are not breathing when they are asleep, and then will suddenly have a deep intake of breathe before breathing normally for a few minutes, it's almost like they forget how to breathe temporarily - but it never came. I shifted the hammock he had himself curled up in, and the whole body shifted awkwardly, the ears never twitched, his head never popped up dazed and confused, and I realized suddenly that I had lost my beautiful baby Je. We proceeded to move, placing him in a box, digging a whole in our backyard near where my beautiful Batik rests, and buried my handsome warrior.

But that's not how I will remember him. I won't remember his lifeless body, curled into a ball against the wall of a hammock at midnight. I will not remember him as a box in a hole in the ground in the ivy of our backyard. No. Surely, that will not be the case.

Adventure time outside
I will remember my Mighty Warrior scuffling around the living room of my old 2 bedroom apartment. Slithering his way through the grass of our big backyard. Bouncing around Azael, confused, because the spiky ball didn't want to play with him too. Stuck in his big blue ball, unable to properly move around in it, and walk anywhere, so he just sat there, looking at you pleadingly to let him out. I'll remember how the vet swung him like the pendulum on a big grandfather clock, to calm him down so they could check him out. The way he used to hop around silently, afraid of the paper towels being shaken in his face, proceeding to attack every roll of paper towels he came into contact with. I will look back and remember the dozens of squeaky mice I've had to buy from the cat toy sections of pet stores because they were his favorite, and he always tore them open, ripped out the squeaker and bit down hard enough to prevent it from squeaking - of course proceeding to get bored of the mouse, and walking, or slithering around continuously sighing in boredom, until I was guilt tripped into buying yet another mouse.

I will remember the night before he died, when he actually chose to cuddle me, before choosing to play with Majivu. Sleeping in my lap, and on my shoulder, while I cleaned his cage, and played tug with Maji.

I will forever remember the joy this little boy brought to my life. And know that he was there for me, during all of the high school heartbreaks, deaths of other family members and pets, through my successful graduation from high school, and my failures as an academically inclined college freshmen, though the pains of moving away from home and starting a life far from anything you've ever known. He supported me, whole heartedly, through fights with a fiancee, the stress of moving once again, the heartbreak of being dumped, and the feeling of defeat as I packed up a truck to move back home.

I'm just glad he was able to see me happy again. That he left us, knowing that he took fantastic care of me. There are many times where I believe he did more taking care of me, than I did of him. I gave him what he needed, sure, but he gave me so much more. And for that I am so grateful, and so glad he was a part of my life.

 I will forever miss the little stinker, but he was my baby, and I'm simply glad my baby feels better.

Glad he can finally be at peace.
My baby, the day we brought him home. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The product of being hassled...

So, I am apparently rubbish at updating everyone on my life properly, and am being told to update my blog with another "life update" post.

I still work for Petco. Its... well... stressful is an extreme understatement. There's currently a lot of drama and I'm not really sure it's worth it some days. We've got a lot of people going after others, some people trying to get others fired, a lot of hated, and a level of dramatics that rivals... some... drama production... probably Shakespeare...

Bright light at the end of the professional tunnel? It will hopefully work itself out in a month, tops. I'm also FINALLY in the program to be a trainer. I'm a trainer trainee (which makes me laugh more than it should). I spend 2-3 nights a week up in Strongsville where I watch classes and discuss technique with a mentor trainer. Hopefully I'll be able to take over classes before the other trainer leaves, and we don't have such a huge gap between us without any classes...

What else, what else?

OH! (IO) I'm going back to school this fall. It's about 6 months earlier than I expected to be thinking/stressing about school, but I spoke to my adviser and because of how small ATI is, it would be better for me to start this fall and take two full years at ATI before going back to main campus Ohio State. Soooo here comes Chemistry (again) in August. I'm very nervous, very excited, and partially relieved. Not really sure how to feel about school again, as the last time I tried this, it went HORRIBLY, but I'm relieved that I am finally taking steps forward with this whole career thing. So I don't have to sit here and wonder if I won't be stuck in retail my entire life. (Let me clarify that statement by saying that I actually have an incredible respect for people who make careers out of retail positions, and even more for those who enjoy it, I just happen to really NOT LIKE retail... AT ALL. It's just not something I see myself doing 10-15 years down the line.)

The animals are doing much better!

Azzy is quilling currently... so... he doesn't come out much, even at night he's not as active... Imagine teething... big spiky things... all over your body... I can't really say as I blame the little guy for being extra grumpy for the next few weeks.  Otherwise, he is as adorable as can be. Even comes out of hiding to play. Generally, he has to be coaxed out with food first, but it's progress!

Sarafina meows all over the place and has so far managed to escape the dogs' love of chasing cats around the house. She's adjusted to stairs and jumps and mantles quite well!

Jelani has a new playmate: Majivu. The two of them were NOT good friends for the longest time, going as far as big fights that I had to leap out of bed to break up in the middle of the night. I had to bathe them to clean up blood a couple of times, but now, they can't STOP cuddling with each other. And are generally adorable and hilarious. Majivu has done exactly what I had hoped he would do and that is help keep Je active.

Shadow has no idea how to react to the ferrets. She just doesn't get them. At all. They start playing and she is right at that cage, tail wagging, whining away that she can't join in on the fun, or understand what is going on.

She's probably the most surprising of the adjusted animals. We were all afraid she would just constantly cower in corners and bark constantly, and shake 24/7 and just generally not adjust well. Turns out, she's actually a rather dominant dog. She's constantly getting into it with Dawson over the head hauncho spot in the dog line up. Tiberius has taken is spot on the bottom and Shadow's thought is that she's definitely alpha, until Dawson wants to claim his alpha spot and then she is a very close beta.

Tiberius and Shadow are the best of friends. Seriously, they are NEVER far apart unless we have separated them. I think Shadow may have an unnatural attachment to Tiberius, as she whines and paces when he is not around... Every morning, she has NO interest in getting up, until he is. Once Tiberius is up and about, all she wants to do is pounce on me to wake me up, hurry to her food bowl, go outside, and then rush back in to play with him. Dawson, of course, being the crotchety old man that he is, does not approve of the juvenile act of play between puppies. If they get into playing with each other while he is around, he leaps up (as fast and leap like as a 10 year old 120 lb dog physically can) and barks at them until the cower away.

What else is going on in my life?

Not a whole lot...

Well...

I'm dancing.

I don't dance as often as I would like, mostly, because I would like to dance every moment of every day. But I'm at least trying to get out there and dance some more. I went to a workshop Cleveland (Burning River Blues) a while ago, and am already registered to go to Exchanges in Cincinnati (CincyLX) and another one in Cleveland (ClevelandLX) with plans for two more (Time Warp Swing in Columbus, and PittStop in Pittsburgh, PA). And am hoping to get some random Saturday night dances in between exchanges.

I'm still painting...

Everything is on my store, minus a couple of things I'm still waiting to finish, but yeah, that's still a thing. More of a hobby thing than anything else. It's not really selling, or working as a hobby that funds itself, but it's certainly a fun hobby to have.

Anyways... I think that's everything... I don't really have a lot going on, which is why I don't really update people or my blog as much as some people would apparently like me to.
Life's a little boring, but maybe that's for the best right now.