Daily Archives: May 14, 2013

The Most Unconventional Love: DP Challenge

How convenient.  I was looking for an excuse to tell this story, and WP must have felt the vibe and fed me the question at just the right moment.

I have been hard at work writing the life story of Mighty Mouth, the Most Unconventional Kitten.  He was a real kitten, born on my horse farm, and he was born to a life of adventure.  He announced his entry into the world the moment his black-and-white head emerged, toothless pink mouth open and yowling, even before the rest of his body was born.  His ear-splitting howls brought the farm hands running to the empty box stall his mother had wisely chosen as her labor-and-delivery room.

Mouthie had what to say about everything and anything, and kept up a continuous editorial regarding his opinions of barn life.  Wherever you were in the barn, you could hear his conversational meow-ings and yowings.  I don’t know why his mother did not eat him out of desperation.  I do believe he got the best of her teats, though, because he became quite portly, certainly a maternal effort to shut him up.

May lengthened into August and hay season was ending, and the kittens had grown out of their box stall nursery and were up to every kind of mischief in the barn.  One got run over by the manure spreader, and its eye popped out and the driver of the manure spreader had to throw up.   Another got squashed between two fifty-pound bales of hay, and just barely survived after we heard a muffled frantic mewing issuing from the hay mow.

And then there was Mouthie.  One early morning my son rushed in from doing his barn chores:  ”Mom, mom!  Mouthie’s been stepped on!”  And he threw up in the bin.  He was an easy thrower-upper, in those days.

After I got him cleaned up, I sat him down at the kitchen table.

“What do you mean, Mouthie’s been stepped on?”

“I went into Airhead the Thoroughbred’s stall, and there he was lying on the floor, with a hoof-print on his hind leg, and it’s broken!”

“Oh dear!  What did you do about it?”

“Well, I know you shouldn’t move an injured person, and an animal might bite you (here my heart swells with pride at my son who remembers what his emergency physician mother has taught him), so I caught Airhead’s halter and tied her up so she can’t step on him again.”

“What great thinking!  I am so proud of you.”  Big hug, even if he does still smell like throw-up.

We tromp back out to the barn to assess the damages.  Airhead, tied to the ring at her grain bin, shows us the whites of her eyes as she tries to shy but can’t because she’s tied up.  I smirk privately.  I only tolerate that horse because she is a paying guest, one of our 32 equine boarders.

At the opposite side of the 12-foot box stall, Mouthie makes a pitiful sight lying squashed in the sawdust bedding, alternately muttering a stream of sad commentary and giving forth heartbreaking yowls of pain.  We approach carefully, talking to him reassuringly, thus:

“Hi, Mouthie, it’s just us, it’s OK, we’re here now, you’ll be all right,” and so on.  Mouthie looked tragic and kept up his end of the conversation while I gingerly examined him.

His leg was badly broken, but I could find no evidence of lethal injury, so with the help of my son I slid him onto a board, secured him with a light wrapping of sack cloth, loaded him gently onto the back seat of the Suburban with my son next to him, so he would have someone to talk to, and drove 50 miles to the nearest vet.

The X-ray showed a bad spiral fracture of the femur, very unstable.  It would never heal on its own.  Needed surgery:  steel plates, pins, that sort of thing.  Estimated cost $1200.  I have to think about this.  Twelve hundred dollars to fix a barn kitten that might get run over by the manure spreader as soon as it was up and about again…this was sticker shock.

But it wasn’t just any old barn kitten; it was our Mighty Mouth, the Mouth that Roared, and did we want to make an executive decision to extinguish his bright little life just because it cost a gazillion dollars?  No, we didn’t.  But there would be compromise.

“OK, fix it,” I told the vet firmly. “And while he’s under, just declaw him, and neuter him too.  He’s going to be our indoor house cat, and he’s never going outside again.”  The vet heartily agreed, and we left, to return for our Mouthie in two days, all fixed and new.

Mouthie never forgave me for that.  His paws were sore for weeks, and he licked his missing testicles until I had to take him back to the vet to do something about the resulting infection.  He gave me so many reproachful looks and yowling lectures that I wondered if I had made the right decision.  At last I pulled myself out from under the black cloud of guilt and said, “Listen, guy, if it hadn’t been for me you would have died a slow and painful death on the barn floor.  Now what do you think of that?”   Mouthie subsided.

Not long after these adventures, it came time to move to the American Southwest.  Decisions had to be made regarding which of our menagerie would come with us, and which would stay on the farm with its new owners, and which would go to new homes.   Of course Mouthie came with us.  There was never any question about that.  He rode in the Suburban, talking on the CB radio the whole way.

Our new house had a pleasant patio out back, and a fenced yard, and behind that, a two-acre paddock with a nice small barn for the four horses we had brought with us.  Mouthie stationed himself at the glass slider that looked out on this idyllic scene, and muttered and yowled about how I had ruined his life by forcing him into a role he was not meant for, i.e., house cat, and he would rather have died on the barn floor, etc., etc.; eventually I lost my resolve and opened the sliding door.  He waltzed out victorious and hopped up into the patio chair he had been eyeing, and curled up on the seat for a nap.

I shrugged and went back to making lunch.  The next thing, the kids came running in yelling “Mouthie’s outside!  He’s up in the apricot tree!”  Outside, yes.  Tree??  I ran out into the back yard and followed their pointing fingers.  Good grief, there he was, curled up in the crotch of the tree!  How did he get there without claws?  Over the next months he was to show us that, apart from the joys of destroying furniture, cats can do very well without their claws.

And then one day Mouthie disappeared.  I let him out in the morning and watched him rolling around on the warm patio stones, having a nice back scratch, and I went to work.  When I got home that night he was not there, nor did he appear on any of the subsequent days.  Oh well, I thought; coyotes one, cats zero.  I was sad; the kids were sadder; but we were all philosophical about the hazards of life on this planet, and soon stopped thinking about Mouthie.

Months later I was riding Joe Crow, my Peruvian Paso, up in the old abandoned orchard that was an easy ride from our back yard.  We rode there several times a week, and knew every inch of the place.  There was a fox’s den on the southern border of the orchard.  I never saw any sign of activity around it, and assumed it was abandoned like the orchard.

On this day, as Joe and I approached the fox den, I blinked, rubbed my eyes, and blinked again.  There were two animal figures sitting in the opening of the fox den.  One of them was a red fox.  The other was Mouthie.  I thought perhaps some of the mind-bending drugs I had soaked my brain with in the ’60′s were coming back around for another whack at the old squash.

I “whoah’d” Joe to a stop and watched his face for clues.  If I was tripping, then the horse would not react to my hallucination.  But Joe pricked his ears, extended his neck and whinnied to his old buddy.  Mouthie responded with a friendly yowl.  His foxy friend turned, and giving us a wink over his shoulder, strolled side by side with Mouthie into the den.

If that had been the sole sighting of this odd couple, I would have chalked it up to Southwestern magic, or a waking dream, or somehow explained it away.   But I saw them twice more, sitting together in the arch of the fox den, surrounded by an air of a serene love: the love of two ancient souls reunited, having somehow found each other against unimaginable odds.  Time, distance, and form itself had not succeeded in keeping these soul mates from finding each other.

I cried.  How many hardships do souls have to pass through, how many agonies and ministering angels, before they finally find their resting place?  The aura of content surrounding these two unlikely lovers filled the orchard like the heart-breakingly sweet fragrance of apple blossoms.

I never saw them again.


When You Get Worse

Once upon a time I was a young(er) lad who was having struggles getting help from the Los Angeles County mental health department. I was dealing with acute bouts of major depression, but, I was turned down again and again and again. Each of the clinics told me they were working with more clients than they could handle and they weren’t taking any more. I spiraled out of control and wound up sleeping in the streets for a while.

I felt defeated until finally there was a break through. I was able to check myself into the psychiatric ward at Cedars Sinai Hospital. They kept me for 10 days. They expected to release me after seven days but had to keep me for an extra three because they couldn’t find a county clinic that had room to accept me as a client. Finally, to my doctor’s relief, he was able to get me assigned to a clinic that was only a three hour bus ride from my home. That’s right, a three hour bus trip to the outer edge of the city to get there, then sitting in the waiting room for at least an hour, about a half an hour with an intern and then another three hour bus trip home. A seven in a half hour day. The process of receiving therapy from the intern was disheartening. She literally had a booklet that would tell her what questions to ask me. When I would respond she would then turn to the appropriate page to ask me the next question. Apparently my responses took me to the right pages because the sessions would end with me finally getting a prescription for anti-depressants.

This went on for about three months. I tried numerous times to get into the clinic in Hollywood because I could walk to it, but they always turned me away. They are the busiest mental health clinic in the county, so I couldn’t get in. Finally I just stopped going on my long bus excursions. I don’t recall it being any kind of conscience decision. I just stopped.

I was able to function as a productive member of society for a good number of years after that when suddenly things began to fall apart again. This time I could tell was going to be different than my previous bouts of depression. This time was going to be much worse…and it was. I lost my job, I began having seizures and became agoraphobic. I lived in an entirely different area of the county and had no idea where to go or what to do. I called the county mental health line and asked where I could seek help. The clerk on the other end of the line told me where to go and then warned me to “keep in mind that the county clinics are struggling for funding so the primary function of those who work in admissions is to not admit you.” This was not what I wanted to hear. I was going to have to jump through hoops all over again. He then proceeded with this advice, “when you get there you need to make it look like you really, really need the help. They have to believe that you are likely going to kill yourself, if you don’t get in.” In fact, he continued “it would be best for you to put on a really good show and flat out tell them emphatically that you are going to kill yourself. If they don’t believe it, you are not going to get in.”

Apparently I am not a master thespian because I didn’t make the cut. They refused to admit me “because [I was] too high functioning.” I didn’t feel like I was high functioning. Then the saddest thing anyone has ever said to me was “when you get worse, come back and we’ll see if we can get you in then.” WHAT??? He really said “WHEN” not “IF”, but “WHEN.” Once again, “when you get worse…” Clearly preventive care was a very low priority. Perhaps, not even part of the program.

What happened after that? Was I able to get the help I needed? If so, how was I able to get the help? The answers to this question and many more will be posted in Part two of “When You Get Worse.” See you tomorrow.

Trying Again (The Work Grind)

A dining room view.

Work: With a dining room view.

Hey, did you guys know it was the middle of May? Oh… yeah, you guys probably did. It sort of dawned on me yesterday that I’d definitely entered a timeless void bubble.

My husband and I discussed it, and I said I’d probably be happy to try going into work today. I told him that I’d want to wait until the morning to make the call though — I am feeling slightly liberated by freely admitting that I feel terrible. And honestly, I put off deciding until the absolute last minute, but in the end, I did decide to give it a go.

A room with a beautiful view.

Work is always improved by garden adjacency.

I had my reservations, of course. My in-laws are upstanding caring people, but when I have no spoons, their concern for me destroys what non-existent reserves I have. So I’m always a little bit worried about that. It was blessedly uncalled for this time — my mother-in-law didn’t make any little zapping noises of surprise, and my father-in-law told my husband he would make a point to not speak to me unless he was first spoken to. These things are very relieving, especially with being combined with the semi-security and privacy in my pretty little nest here that I will miss terribly when we’re fully moved to the office proper.

I don’t know if this means that I’ll be okay to work tomorrow, mind. I’m still taking this all one day at a time, because I know how fragile my state is. It’s also slightly complicated by me accidentally taking the wrong dose of the Seroquel the last couple of nights — I got my 50mgs mixed with my 100mgs, and was accidentally taking 450mg instead of 400mg. It’s not exactly dire, but yanno… I’m supposed to be doing 400mg, and I’d like to stick with what I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing! But still, hopefully it’s all a move in the right direction again. I’ll keep telling myself that, ’cause there is certainly some power in optimistic thinking (when applied inwardly, that is — we all know other folks spewing sunshine on us can be very stressful).

Hope everyone is having a good day — back to trying to earn my keep!


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No, I didn’t finally lose it and hit someone in the head with a shovel.

Since I have thus far had such shitty luck with doctors and therapists, I decided to attempt my own form of therapy.

I put a rubber band on each wrist. One is to snap when the people around me irritate me. The other is for when I start to feel anxious, panicky, or have negative or angry thoughts.

Needless to say, both wrists are full of welts after one day.

I apparently have zero social skills and zero sanity. That’s a lot of snapping done in one day.

Is it helping?

If it were, I’d have fewer welts.

I think it’s one of those things that take time, conditioning or some shit.

What it DID do is keep me from flying off the handle or saying mean things. Okay, it helped, it didn’t keep me from being honest. I am the foot in my mouth girl, I don’t think that’s ever going to change.

I just keep thinking of all this “retrain your brain” crap and am so desperate at this point, I’d lick psychadelic toads if it would get me out of my current mind space.

I loathe going to the shop. Loathe being near R and Kenny. Loathe loathe loathe it. But the car brakes aren’t gonna pay for and install themselves and at this point, that takes precedence over my mental discomfort. Every day though, I see signs indicating that I am right, not just paranoid. I do believe I am being used and while it’s supposedly a friendship…It’s very one sided. He uses me when it suits him, I am there for him all the day. I don’t know how an arrangement like that isn’t supposed to eat me alive on a daily basis.

How I want to just be paranoid and be wrong.

More and more signs each day tell me I am dead on.

And while I have changed so much,grown up so much…There is still that evil little part of me, the control freak, who wants quid pro quo. You want to use me, disrespect me, disregard me?

Prepare to get what you give, bitches.

(Ooops, rubber band snap for negative thought!)

Maybe if my brain learns to equate these bad moods and anxiety attacks with pain, it will rewire properly.

I don’t entirely buy it, because if that’s all it takes, couldn’t we rehabilitate killers and child molesters and schizophrenics the same way?

People just don’t want to admit there’s such thing as mental illness. No, it’s so much neater to think of it as all being behavioral, choice, decision. To face that nature (God) makes mistakes and some people are born off in the head would just be too ugly a truth.

Yet the ugly truth stares us in the face everyday and we either deny it, shake our heads sadly, or selfishly thank our lucky stars it’s not us.

(Another snap for negativity.)

But the proof is right here…God, nature, science, biology, genetics…Call it what you will,but fuck ups occur and they are often ugly and cruel and downright sick.

Harlequin Ichthyosis. (Not for the squeamish)


Most people say “What the fuck is that? Kill it with fire!”

That is a baby born with Harlequin Ichthyosis. They do not survive.

So while you look away and think “Gross!” or thank that your child didn’t turn out that way…

I have seen ten pictures of babies born with this condition in the last week.

Every single time, rather than be repulsed, all I could think is, “That poor innocent baby.”

Then my thoughts went to the parents, and all I felt was heartache.

What  behavior did the parents do to bring that upon their baby? Because if everything is behavior and thus can be modified…Explain deformities and genetic anomalies.

Because mental illness is just one more of those hideous mutations no one wants to face or have empathy for or even discuss.

(Snap, because I am angry and seeing the cruelty of nature makes me sad and I must block it out and see nothing but sunshine, rainbows and puppies.)

The thing is…I can’t view the beauty of the world without also acknowledging the ugliness. Which the professionals say is my negativity and it’s what makes me depressed and stressed out.

(Snap, because thinking of those stupid professionals, two of whom I have to endure this week, makes me angry and depressed and we cannot have such pessimistic thinking.)

Fuck that.

I’m a realist.

But the rubber band therapy is sticking around for awhile. It seems to do better than biting my tongue for helping me hold back on all the snarky comments I really want to make and usually do.

When all is said and done though…The ugliness will still be there and there is no way I can look at one of those Harlequin babies and not feel utter sadness. And anyone who can only focus on the deformity and not think of the doomed little life that grew in  someone for months and months….

Those are not people I want to associate with.

No one asks for deformities. No one asks for mental illness. Not everything is behavioral.

That is, my friends, the ugly truth.

An ugly truth the masses would rather be kept in the dark, which is why I bare my soul here daily. Because if we stop raging against the dying of the light and just allow ourselves to be shunned into the shadows for something that isn’t our fault…Then the masses win.

And as the L7 song goes, “The Masses Are Asses.”

Fuck ‘em.