Things don’t go as planned for a reason, and it’s not because of God.

Crossroads: they’re part of life.

We all experience them at different points in time. They are the stuff of coming-of-age, meeting our destinies, and in many instances, confronting truths. I suppose that I could make an argument for life itself being one big crossroad event, but I’m not feeling that philosophical today.

Crossroads can be a brutal, bucket of suck. I have reached one such crossroad, and let me tell you this: any crossroad that involves being brutally honest with yourself about who you are is never going to be a fun-filled retrospective of memories. When you have to face certain realities and confront a less than optimistic truth, it is easy to bog yourself down in self-pity and sadness. You want to wallow. You should wallow. But not for long. No one wants to hear that, see that, accept that; not from themselves, and certainly not from others. We are an increasingly insensitive, isolated, narcissistic species and loads of us absolutely abhor the feeling of responsibility for someone else’s sadness. By responsibility, I don’t mean that we created it, but that we feel the need to “fix” it. We tell ourselves we’re just too busy, we have too many of our own concerns. We may even be so inclined as to actually be concerned and sad for them. We will attempt to quickly divert them with phrases and pithy responses. We pay lip service to their misery; “Cheer up! It’ll be fine.” With that in mind, you must choose your method of wallowing carefully, so as not to offend any of the dozens of easily-offended people in your immediate realm.

While my initial reaction to those who seem personally affronted by my wallowing is to say “Fuck all y’all” I know better than to do that. It is better to choose which direction you take without the bitter resentment at others’ indifference to your personal pain. Irrationality can color a situation in an unrealistic way. In my stubborn way, I am always tempted to insist, “I can do this on my own.” The truth, though? I shouldn’t.

I am a writer. Always have been, always will be. It doesn’t pay the bills, though, and hasn’t been a possibility due to other life events taking up my brain and my time. I began my adulthood working toward a career in writing but was quickly sidetracked. I faced a crossroads: continue with my education or drop out to follow a man and raise his children. I can never, ever say that I chose wrong.

Throughout that journey down that road, I often pondered returning to that life of study, if only part-time. I wanted to be something, someone. I was convinced, though, that writing wasn’t going to put food on the table and help our situation. My biggest influence in that life was my husband, and he treated my desire to write as if it was just a childish indulgence. Better to focus on something else I had always been interested in: nursing. I would get catalogs from the local university and plot my course. Invariably, though, something in life would force me to focus elsewhere. A few job losses (his), a natural disaster (flood), and the reality of raising 5 kids becoming more and more expensive. There will be time later, I would silently tell myself. You’re still young.

Later, when the children were getting older and the next crossroads loomed ahead, I made another choice: to love someone else. Thoughts of nursing school would surface, bobbing quietly in my stream of consciousness, and then eventually disappear. Life was so busy. Life demanded that I put out fires constantly. I began to write again, blogs, poetry, little story ideas. I was good. I knew it. Friends, strangers, family told me so. This was still possible.

The nursing thing, though? It was always there. I have always taken care of others in some way, from childhood to now. It’s been not so much a calling as it is a part of who I am at my core. I’m a nurturer, an empath, and apparently amongst the 1% of personality types classified as an

INFJ

INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.

How wonderful for me, right? It’s actually a pain in the ass to be this way and to be depressed. It’s probably why.

Be that as it may, nurture is what I do. Putting out fires is what I do. Combine the two, and you get a nurse. And it pays well, too.

The idea was this: go into nursing. Write in my spare time. Certain events coincided in such a way that it suddenly became possible. At 50, I was going to work in a subordinate nursing position and go to school. I was overjoyed. This, I told myself, was finally The Right Time.

Until it wasn’t.

No pity party here. I am 50. I have tried to be healthy, but my body has always had other ideas. The neck birth defect, the spleen compromise at 16, my heart deciding that it wanted to be a rock star and beat to its own, eventually dangerous rhythmn. The depression. The fucking depression!!!!

And now, this eye condition. We don’t know what it really is or how it began or if it will eventually be cured. We don’t know anything, really, except that I don’t have tears. None. I have tried everything, even watching The Notebook. On the one occasion that I cried because I had no tears, I ended up crying harder because I had no tears. (Cue Alanis.) My corneas are damaged. I can’t even get new glasses because my eyesight has degraded to a point where a new prescription is not possible. I am in pain. Discomfort. And I need to put drops into my eyes at an hourly rate. Sometimes more, if the sun and moving air get to them. I exist most days in the dimness of subdued lighting, venturing out only to do what is essential. My opthamologist has been less than helpful, and quite unavailable most of the time. We fired him. Next at bat is my PCP, and I admit, I have way more faith in her. She at least shows up for our appointments.

The point is, I can’t work in a healthcare setting without eyesight, and certainly not while being a slave to a bottle of drops. It’s not sterile, hygienic, or wise. If it corrects itself eventually, yay for me! I’m pragmatic, though, because have you met me? Nothing is ever simple. If I won the lottery, it would most likely coincide with the fucktard-in-chief deciding to raid all 50 states of their lottery coffers to pay for his goddamned Wall. I’d end up with an engraved brick somewhere along the Texas state line.

The neck has spoken, too. Because it can’t just be one, simple, mysterious eye affliction, can it? At 50, the neck has decided that Fuck this shit. It may tolerate some more shots before going kaput, but behaving as if I am not in pain when I am not, in fact, in pain is apparently baaaaad because when the pain eventually returns, it is worse. My left side is significantly weaker than my right. That means being careful. And that limits how much physical activity I can safely get away with. Bottom line? No joining Cirque De Soleil. No Wayne’s World, Bohemian Rhapsody-esque headbanging. And no nursing.

Crossroads: they suck sometimes. And the thing about dreams is that that’s all they really are. You can work hard and do everything right and sometimes, they just don’t happen. And so you wallow, and then you put drops in your eyes and it may take you three days of pecking away at this blog but you do it because guess what? You still have this.

I am a writer. No one can take THAT dream away from me. None of the roadblocks, and all of the five-gallon buckets of suck that life has dumped on me, can take this gift that I have away. If my eyes are fubared? I have a voice. There’s Braille.

Whatever it takes! Maybe all the crossroads I have found myself at were necessary to get me to this one. To the true path. I have options along the way, too.

So let’s get going, shall we? Bring a pillow for your ass – because riding with me is bumpy. Bring your sense of humor – because it will save your life. And bring pizza. And nachos. And wine. Because why fucking not?

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Reality IS a thing.

Let’s try a new thing. I’m not one who enjoys change, but at this stage of my life, I’m making an uneasy peace with it.

Let me give you an accounting of a life lesson that has been taught to me. Call it fucknuggets of wisdom or the sounding of the douchetrumpets – whatever.

When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot. I was, short, dumpy, uncertain, clumsy, and had an oddly-shaped head (a friend of mine back then – kids have no tact or guile – said her dad referred to me as “moon-face” and I didn’t know what it meant, but instinctively knew he wasn’t being nice; he was a big, loud, angry fuck knuckle of a botard and he died in late middle age and I was glad) and poor, so I was easy prey.

There were these “rich kids” who lived in the neighborhood. In retrospect, they might not have been rich but their father had a good job, they had a big, nice house, and everything anyone could ask for. Their mom was a stay-at-home who was always in everyone’s business and who came from a huge, Italian family in the neighborhood, which was code for “We belong and you don’t” in this particular ward. They sent their kids to Catholic school and wrinkled their noses at anyone who A) wasn’t Italian, and B) didn’t have the same or better social status. These kids were spoiled, entitled, and mean. There can be no other word. They flaunted their clothes, their posessions, and acted as if they were royalty. Other kids treated them as such, so how were they ever going to know that they weren’t, right? They were both older than me; the boy was 2 years older and the girl, 6. He was a nasty little prick who once cornered me and threatened to punch me in the stomach just because I was walking past his house. He teased and taunted me. In later years, we actually got along but mostly because he was hired, through our contractor, to replace the kitchen cupboards in a remodel my first husband and I did of our house. I let it slide, because I was young, and still not the loudmouthed truth-telling bitch that I am now. Were this scenario to happen now, I’d have had my verbose way with him.

The girl? She was a cunt. Seriously. I don’t use that word unless I mean it. A bit on the chunky side, loud, snobby, and stupid. FUCK! Was she ever. I knew it, even then, but she was so mean to me that it took my breath away. When she deigned to pay attention to me, it was to ridicule and insult. I avoided her whenever possible, but she was so present, so in-your-face, and I was so much younger…..it was difficult to escape her. The memory of her is one of those shudder-inducing recollections that everyone has. Since she was so much older, I was able to avoid altercations with her in my teenaged tears. That was a fortunate thing for me, because that decade was fraught with so much turmoil and sadness and assorted fuckery that adding her to the mix might have tipped the suicide scales much farther than they leaned.

Apparently, life was not a bed of roses for this family. The dad had an affair. The parents got a divorce. The kids were taken out of private school and sent to public. The mother, a gay divorcee in her 40s, started dating a guy and then got *GASP!* pregnant and “had” to get married. How the mighty fell in the 80s. This was a big, fat, dramatic scandal! I lost track of the older girl over the years, not really giving even one fuck about what happened to her. She was a cunt, remember?

Fast-forward to last year. I encountered her mother, who has been through a series of life-humbling events. We spoke, and she informed me that her daughter had died the year before. She’d had some sort of cancer and it killed her quite suddenly. I offered my condolences, because really? Telling her that her daughter was a loud cunt who had made my childhood even more hellish than it already was seemed unnecessarily cruel at that moment. Her treatment of me no longer mattered. I felt sorry for this grieving mom. I’m a mom too, and I wouldn’t ever wish that kind of pain on another parent.

A little more fast-forwarding, to the other day. Facebook has the ability to bring people together and put them in your peripheral vision even accidentally. I stumbled across a family member of these childhood nightmare kids and curiosity took over and I had a bit of a creep. We all fall victim to this temptation; don’t lie to me and say you never have!

The cunt of my past had a Facebook page. You know, the thing about Facebook is that it’s like schizophrenia, or herpes: it never goes away. She died, but her profile lives on. People still post things on her page, too. Her friends, family, kids, husband. Post after post, I read about how good she was, kind, loving, funny. Everyone seemed to miss her terribly. I thought to myself, maybe she changed. Maybe life taught her a lesson or three, and she became less of a cunt and more of a humble, caring person. Just as I became less of a victim and a doormat and more of a blunt, honest, kick-you-in-the-crotch warrior….maybe she became redeemable. Maybe she acquired some wisdom. I was actually feeling a little bad about my radical, extreme labeling of her.

Then I saw a post from early November of 2016. One of her family members had posted to let her know (because in the Afterlife the dead still get their news from Facebook. Duh!) that Donald Trump had won the election and was going to be President. Apparently, she loved him. She thought he was the greatest person ever. She admired his goodness. She had felt that he was going to save this country from the terrible path it was on. The family member wanted to let her know that her “hard work up there in Heaven” had succeeded! Her savior had won.

What a stupid cunt.

My life lesson, kids, is that people don’t fundamentally change who they really are. Just as I was a warrior deep down inside, this girl was the same vapid twit even at the end of her life. Anyone who condones, admires, and espouses the characteristics of the morally-bankrupt turd who currently sits in the Oval Office – and thinks his values are what this country needs – derserves to retain my early, first impression of her; even in death. First impressions can be misleading, but not if they keep on giving the same results over and over. Trust the gut. It never lies.

Class dismissed!

This is all true, I promise.

One of the hardest things to do, when trying to write, is to not revisit themes you’ve been to before. When you write a blog with specific ideas and parameters in mind, that can be hard. Sometimes, you need to abandon those specifics entirely and just write what you know. My intent, namely putting a real face on depression and calling it out for the nasty, lying bastard that it is, can be just that – depressing. One of the best ways to escape the daily drudgery is to do things to combat it. So for today, fuck depression. I have other things in my bag of tricks and experiences. I can write about other things that I know.

And, here is what I know: my life has been a series of “What the fuck is this?” moments. Some of it, you cannot make up. A lot of it, you can. But only in an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland While on Drugs with a Good Half-Dozen Shots of Tequila sort of way.

Let’s recap last week, and not in a Breaking News fashion, because with what’s happening in this country alone, this could be the blog that never ends. I’ll hit on that this way:

The President is a stagnant dribble of douche-waste, a discarded baby diaper that has been left in a parking lot and run over by cars for a week. John McCain is an American hero.

There. That is the best I can do today, because I am exhausted by the minute-by-minute cacophony of political pundits, tweets, and “He did what?” exclamations that rise into the air in a muddled symphony of exasperation. Today, let’s be all about the love, the silliness, and the profane. I threw in profane because you all know how much I enjoy a perfectly-placed expletive.

I bought a bicycle last week. Not being able to drive because of my eye condition has been pretty confining, and definitely contributes to the tendency I have to burrow down into myself. I walk every day, but I thought that putting some serious exercise into that routine and being able to go farther in a shorter period of time would be grand. The local bus lines don’t get you everywhere, and not always at the times when you need to be places. Let’s set aside the fact that the last time I regularly biked, I was 19. I tried to revisit the activity one time in my late 20s but I weighed about 75 lbs more than I do now and that ended rather quickly. (Me, wilting in the summer sun on a bike trail at State park, tearfully crying to my ex-husband that this was a baaaaad idea and then walking the bike the rest of the way.) I wasn’t physically ready. Now, I am.

I picked out a sweet black bike with white and pink striping at my most favorite Hell Store in the world (the husband still works there, and a 10% discount is still a 10% discount, yo) and the husband took it back to the automotive department to have the tires inflated. He also adjusted the brakes. We headed for the check out and were ringing out when suddenly, a ear-shattering BANG! sounded. Bomb? Gunshot? The whole place went silent. Hesitant voices rose in unison: “What was that????” People emerged from crouched positions and hiding places. I should point out that we had an active shooter situation in our store last Autumn. You do not forget that shit and it kinda makes you expect it again. Especially there.

The husband said, very loudly, “IT WAS THE INNER TUBE IN THE BIKE TIRE EXPLODING.” He said this loudly because he was balancing the bike and his right ear had just taken on a deafening, concussive sound. Casualties that day included various pairs of underwear, his eardrum, my esophagus stretching to accommodate my heart, and let’s not leave out the possibility of cardiac arrests that could have occurred when various out-of-shape employees came huffing and puffing to the scene of the bang. Apparently whoever filled those tires is not very educated about tire pressure, which is frightening given that the department is Tire and Lube Express. Reason #676 not to shop there, kids.

Anyway, a replacement bike was procured and then I made the husband ride it home while I took the bus because I was scared. Yep. That is what I did, and he did it because he loves me, and we got home at the same time, which was interesting. I rode it that evening, just a couple of turns up and down the street. I didn’t wreck. I figured out the gears, which are on the hand grips now and not in the center of the yoke like they were back when Hector was a pup and I had a gorgeous turquoise ten-speed with the curled handlebars.

Sidebar: who is Hector? Is/was he an actual puppy or was he referred to as a pup because he was young? What did he do to gain such fame as to have a “saying” coined about him? Did anyone ever actually meet Hector or is he an urban legend?

Anyway, the bike revealed the fact that I will need wind-canceling goggles to wear over my glasses because that’s one bad aspect of having severe dry eye syndrome. This means that I will either look like a complete moron or a serious poseur when I ride depending the style of eye coverage I buy. Or can afford, more importantly. The bottom line is that there can be no vicarious bicycling until I do, which is probably good, because you just know that there will be a crash in my future. Let’s put that off for a while, shall we?

On Friday, I was walking as usual, and passed one of the 4 churches I usually lower my head and look away from so as not to catch any Christianity cooties. This is what I encountered on the sidewalk in front:

A man had apparently dropped his undershorts. In front of the church.This happened to be a Baptist Church, and you know those Baptists are passionate about their worship. I speculated with my friends that perhaps this was a new religious movement, or maybe it’s like Vacation Bible School, where a bunch of guys stand in the community hall bare-assed and speak in tongues. Then they have cookies and Hawaiian Punch and color a picture to take home and put on the fridge. I came up with some titles for the program:

Get Naked For The Lord

Moon If You Love Jesus!

Geeking Out For God

Mother Mary Says ‘Never leave home without clean underwear!’

Shake Your Willie For the Holy Trinity!

Nude Christian Men For God

Commando For Christ

Commando For Christ was the clear winner. On Saturday, the skivvies were still there but on Sunday, they were suspiciously absent. It can only be one of three things:

1. A bad advertising angle

2. The group was secret, like a cult, and didn’t want to risk being found out

3. My suspicions were wrong and someone just dropped their laundry and a conscientous church member considerately retrieved them and deposited them in the Lost and Found

My money’s on #2.

At any rate, it is Monday again. This means there are all-new and interesting “What the fuck?” moments to come. Stay tuned, because I guarantee you that I attract them like flies to shit.

What I mean to say is that I don’t know anymore.

I’ve got a confession to make, and it’s not one I will ever be able to be comfortable with making. The people who care about me won’t be, either, but if they are being totally honest with themselves, they already know this, deep within.

I think about killing myself all the time. There are long stretches in which the thought crosses my mind at least once a day. Most days, I can push it away, knowing, on an intellectual level, that this is just a chemical in my brain tricking me. It’s sort of like the Mucinex blob from the tv commercials; a hateful, horrible creature tucked away up there, living in a corner, feeding on my thoughts. It malevolently whispers in my ear about how hard this life is and how much better it would be to depart from the pain of it all. In my case, this asshole resembles Rockhound, the Steve Buscemi character from the movie Armageddon. Remember when Rockhound got the space dementia and was riding the nuclear device and whooping and hollering? That’s sorta how my guy is up there. Demented, certainly. But smart.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, I promised, when I began this blog, to leave no stone unturned in my dialogue about the things that are very fucked up about me. I promised to write about my journey with mental illness. I promised to be transparent. My thought was that if I could do that, I would be able to help others with their magical mental mystery tours, so to speak. In doing so, it would give me a sense of purpose and keep me from the darkness and doing something “bad”. Many people are great believers in writing things down and then burning the pages. This purges them of the poison within. I don’t want to burn the pages. I want to free the thoughts but I also believe that returning to read them when I’m feeling whole is a key factor in keeping me alive. The way, I can conduct a rationale between fact and fiction, so to speak. And I don’t believe that we should be silent about mental illness. I think it’s every bit as lethal as cancer, or heart disease. It kills people. Every day. It kills wonderful people.

Can we agree on one thing right now? Can we agree that suicide is reaching epidemic proportions? People are sad. People are born sad, or their circumstances make them sad. The ones with circumstances causing the sadness are a little luckier, because they can fix it, fix the circumstances. There is hope. Those of us who were born sad face greater challenges, because we’re just chemically wired in a different way, and we could have every little thing, be everything, and still be sad. We would never, ever choose it. We never, ever enjoy it. We sometimes wallow, but most of us are great pretenders, great actors. How many times have you heard someone say, “He/She always seemed so positive” when discussing a suicide victim? Sad people are really, really good at deception. We can function as extroverts, even! It’s fucked up, isn’t it? Trust me, though: we are counting the moments until we can take that mask off and just wilt. Because it is exhausting, playing that part. There is a great cost.

I attempted suicide at age 13. The circumstances surrounding it are very complicated and would take forever to explain. The condensed version is this: I was mentally abused at home. It began when I was about 7 and continued relentlessly until I escaped. And then, it continued from time to time because I allowed it. At the same time that this was occuring, I was entering that awkward phase we all experience when we become teenagers. Hormones, peer pressure, all of it; and I was not pretty, or thin, or possessing of the essentials of surviving. I was poor, had old clothes, and was a nerd. You either sink or swim in 7th grade. I could not swim and I had no life preserver. Thus, the bullying began early in the year and culminated in a mass-bullying incident that lasted for weeks and weeks at the bidding of “the most popular girl in the class” and was aimed directly at me. I could not escape it; even the handful of friends I had shied away from me for fear of being targeted themselves. I began a daily complaint of stomach pains and refused to go to school. I’d miss a week, go back for a day. I’d hope that my classmates had forgotten. Tenacious and cruel as they were, they hadn’t. My mother would take me to the doctor. I had tests done. Of course, there was nothing physically wrong. My homelife was such that I didn’t feel that I could tell anyone about the living Hell that was school. My pediatrician was wise, though; he prescribed me a tiny dose of valium.

When I had missed 40 days of school, my mother began to insist that I had to go. During this time, there was a nasty evening in which she and my grandmother took turns reminding me just how unwanted I was. My grandmother had dementia and was confined to a wheelchair. She had psychotic breaks from time to time and we were her punching bags. But when she would attack my mother, my mother would then attack me, and then they would both fixate on me.

I had simply endured too much. My family didn’t like me. I had no friends. Most of all, I hated myself. The only person who gave a crap about me was The Male Sibling Unit, and he would be fine. It was all too painful, and so I decided that it was time to do us all a favor and remove myself from the equation. It was what everyone wanted, wasn’t it?

It was a Sunday night. I cried for a while, and then my movements became robotic. I knew pills would be best. I would take them and just go to sleep forever. I remember methodically shaking out little handfuls of my grandmother’s heart meds, my valium, and then a big handful of aspirin. I swallowed them all, then went to bed. Then I worried that maybe it wasn’t enough, and went back and got more. I added Tylenol into the mix, because I didn’t want to leave my grandma with nothing, or she could die. The irony of that isn’t lost on me, okay? The things she would say to me aren’t anything I want to put in print, but they are things no grandmother – no human being – should say to another. I shouldn’t have given a single fuck, given that I was hoping that I’d be dead by the time she’d need them again.

The fact that I’m writing this means that I didn’t take enough to kill me, although it did make me very sick and I did have a nervous breakdown and there was a hospital visit and subsequent intense therapy. The therapy should have continued for longer and there should have been intervention in the form of medication much sooner than there was, but there is now, and that is what keeps me from trying again. This time, I guarantee that the drugs used would do the job.

The thing is, the drugs put up a barrier between thinking and doing. They don’t remove the thinking entirely, and they don’t remove the impulse to do self-destructive things. I worry, when it is particularly bad, that the drugs will stop working. I try to send up signals that those I love will understand, because there is not a more wretched feeling than to look at some someone I love and say “I am thinking I might just kill myself.” It’s equal, In my eyes, to looking at them and saying, “You don’t matter enough to me to stick around and I don’t care if it hurts you.” While I may feel as though I’m commiting a tender mercy upon them, I know that they won’t see it that way. And that’s the part of the drugs I take that do their job.

It doesn’t help with the sadness, though. Nor does it help me to understand why I am sad. I just am. Sometimes less so, but sometimes so much that I think, “What is the point?”

This is the reality for millions who suffer from depression and other forms of mental illness. This is the reality for millions who live with chronic pain and illness. This is the reality for millions who struggle with addiction. No one gets to judge when enough is enough for them, so this rhetoric that suicide is an act of cowardice/selfishness needs to stop, and those who have never been in that dark, low place need to open their hearts and minds to empathy.

We need to listen and to hear. We need to understand. We are losing precious lives. Every day, someone important chooses to succumb to the dark. By “important” I don’t mean a Chris Cornell, a Robin Williams, or the latest, a Chester Bennington. I mean a human. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy.

Can we agree?

Oh, Brother!

The Male Sibling Unit has spent the afternoon at a mental health-sponsored community center he visits at least twice a week. It was opened by the local mental health facility that treats the many individuals in our community with anything from mental disorders to actual mental and physical handicaps. I say “handicap” with no fear of being chastized by someone who has adopted whatever new terminology it is acceptable to use when identifying individuals with a permanent mental or physical disability. When I was a kid, the label “mentally retarded” was quickly going out of style as other, kinder words were being adopted.

Mentally Handicapped. To the point, if a little bit blunt. We used this for a long time.

Developmentally Delayed. I liked that one. It was kinda scientific but seemed sympathetic.

Special Needs. Now, this really takes you to a safe place, doesn’t it? In a vague, glossed-over way. Hell, have special needs. My need for wine at 5pm could be construed as “special”, right? My need for the Skittles to be in pairs of two with different colored Skittles before going into my mouth is obviously special.

The latest, most politically or socially correct “labels” used by those in the mental health/educational community range from Cognitive Disability to Intellectually Impaired. Okay. Whatever. The bottom line? It all means the same thing, and there are varying degrees, conditions, and impairments. I quit giving a shit about how I refer to my brother or his friends and coworkers because at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I  know who he is and where he has limitations unique to him. The only word I cannot bring myself to use is “retarded” because, when he was 18 months old and my mother had been given the devastating, soul-crushing (for her) diagnosis, she sat me down and forbade me to use any manifestation of the word at all. It was officially a curse word in our family. It would have been better for me to have been caught calling some dumb boy in our neighborhood a “stupid, motherfucking cocksucker” than it would have been had I uttered, “You retard.”

The Male Sibling Unit has many “labels”. Our mother was 39 when she gave birth to him in 1975, and while that’s no big deal now, it sure was then. She was morbidly obese, smoked, and lived a very sedentary lifestyle, despite caring for both me and my grandmother, who had been partially paralyzed by a stroke when I was 5. My mother developed toxemia – we call it pre-eclampsia now – in her third trimester and had to be hospitalised for the last two weeks of her pregnancy. My brother was delivered at a bloated weight of 9 lbs, 5 ounces; he couldn’t even open his eyes because he was so filled with fluid. Even worse, there was a period of time, during his birth, when he was without oxygen and I will never forget the description in his records: bloated and blue. Still, the doctor got him breathing and everything seemed okay for a while. He was colicky at first, but sweet. He was a good-natured baby who drank his bottles and filled his diapers just like any other infant. I was 8 when he was born, so it fell to me to help. A lot. And I didn’t mind it, being a solitary, awkward kid myself.

When he turned 1 and he still couldn’t walk or even crawl, my mother was worried. Tests were performed. Xrays were done. A healed, hairline fracture of his skull was discovered. It was eventually surmised that he had hit his head on the edge of the kitchen table while in his walker. He had never reacted to what had to have been a painful event. But while running these batteries of tests, psychological ones were run, too, and that’s where all the labels came from. “Mentally retarded” was the first, and, as the years passed, “autistic” was another.

Was he born that way? No one seemed to be able to agree. It could have been the toxemia that interfered with his development in utero, but there was that “period of time” where he was not breathing, too. Both the Obstetrician and the Pediatrician were understandably defensive about that fact. Back in the late 70s, there were a lot of experts throwing their weight around, and it was eventually determined that the Male Sibling Unit would “never reach an intellectual age past that of a 4th grader” and require care for the rest of his life.

Those experts were stupid, retarded motherfuckers.

The Male Sibling Unit is developmentally delayed, yes. He is on the Autism Spectrum, too. He has OCD. He has various medical issues including Type 2 Diabetes and Hyperthyroidism. He is unavoidably, through no fault of his own, a narcissist. He does not feel pain like a normal person; his threshold is frighteningly high.  He also is, as he refers to himself, “a horse’s ass”. Nothing could be truer when he is being everything on the list at the same time but it simply is what it is.

The OCD stuff is the worst. The fact that he has a cell phone, which tethers him to me and anyone else who is on his contact list, makes the OCD harder to manage. He worries about himself and his circumstances and his routines constantly and those thoughts translate into multiple text messages a day. He will begin worrying about his prescriptions 10 days before they need to be filled and remind me that he will take care of them. Every day. Multiple times. Until it is time to actually do it. He will fight with his friends and revisit the fights over and over. When a special event is upcoming – meaning it is weeks or even months away – he begins a daily countdown.

We discuss how he feels about every little thing, every single day. When you’re me, with my own, unique set of mental albatrosses around my neck, managing another person’s is challenging.  There are days when I simply need that community center time, for him to go there for a while; to leave me to the peaceful silence of a quiet house. He’ll come home, filled with the happiness of a day spent with friends, and go up to his room to post it on Facebook. Yeah, you read that right.  The “mentally retarded” boy who would “never function past a 4th grade level” is now a 42 year-old who has a robust social media life. It is quiet. I am watching a news program.

Then my phone vibrates.

And yet, I can’t imagine life being any different. I knew what I was in for when I swore to take care of my baby brother for the rest of his – or my – life. It is the most challenging, infuriating, frustrating, hysterically funny, wonderful reality. I’m going to write about him more, because it’s cathartic and also because he is one funny motherfucker.

Assuming the position.

You know, I bitch a lot.

I didn’t corner the market on the Art of Bitchery, but I can roll with the best of them, and I even had a laminated “License to Bitch” once, long ago.

I don’t bitch as much as some people. No, my amount of bitching isn’t as over-the-top as some people I know, who have upped their game to a quantity-versus-quality scenario that simply qualifies them as not only uber-bitchy but also miserable. I prefer my level of bitchiness to suit the moment in such harmony as if I were pairing a wine with an entree. If there was a SUPER BITCHY HALL OF FAME I would like my name to be amongst those who were eloquent and measured with their bitch proficiency. You know, bitchy on the same, stellar level as Robert Plant or Mick Jagger or Elvis Presley in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I am legit bitchy, not dime store bitchy.

I was pathetic bitchy yesterday. This is something that, in the hazy, humid light of today, I am not proud of. I took bitchiness to a corner of the market where I rarely go because I don’t want to be that person who’s holding up a sign, asking for donations to her pity party. Yesterday, I looked like her and acted like her and today, I want to slap her.

I have been fighting with my eyes for a while now, just another item on a list growing longer of shit that is breaking in or on my body.  Yesterday, the grossly-overpriced, yet very qualified opthamalic surgeon informed me that I have severe dry eye disease and ocular nerve damage due to circumstances that actually  were within my control. Short version? I have cold urticaria, a sort of autoimmune disorder that causes me to be allergic to extreme temperature changes. I break out in hives when cold hits my warm body, or warm hits my cold body. I’ve lived with it for 17 years now. It’s really not a big deal, because while irritating as fuck, it is at least mostly controllable with proper medication. This is my skin I’m talking about, and on one, very scary occasion, it spread into my mouth and throat. Anaphylaxis isn’t fun.  It also should have clued me in that it’s not just my skin, but my system, but well…I’m a little slow, I guess. It never occured to me that it could travel into my eyes under extreme conditions like working in a 30° dairy cooler 6-7 hours a day. 

Go ahead. You can call me a dumb fuck. I have, many times, over the last few months. I took a job that was bad for my health. We all question, at one time or another, the wisdom of continuing with  some jobs we have done or do, but in this case, I didn’t think it through, and when the symptoms started, I continued to  not think it through. 

The lesson I learned the hard way? As much as I would like to insist that “You are only as old as you feel” the truth of the matter is that science hasn’t figured out a way to stop the effects of aging and even if my brain is saying “Go! Go! Go!” my body sometimes pleads, “Oh for fuck’s sake. Please, for the love of all that is holy, DON’T EVEN.” And this very wise advice extends to medical diagnostics that limit me in certain ways, 50 or not. Got it.

So, I felt really shitty yesterday. Losing some of my ability to see well, and knowing that it is permanent – well, it sucked. Knowing that I could have prevented it by not taking a job I hated from day 1 left a sour taste in my mouth. I can bitch all I want about how soulless Walmart is and the personal things I witnessed and experienced, but the truth is that I chose to be there out of some sense of supposed dignity. They offered me a little bit of power and a very tiny pay raise (Tiny. Oh-so Renaissance statue of a naked man with microscopic junk tiny) and I took that koolaid and drank it and asked for a refill. The fact that I came to my senses means very little right now. I swore that I wouldn’t, but some insignificant person in relation to me said, “Here, you’re good at this” and I was grateful for that validation and guess what? I fell for the con!

That’s what I am more ashamed of than the sadness at the fact that I now have a new medical condition to add to my list. And so I bitched in a pathetically whiny, pukey way and licked my wounds for a little while. This morning, I awoke with the realization that my bitch was not a quality bitch at all. It was quantity all the way, baby. And this is not how I roll.

It’s not life-threatening. It limits me a little, but I can work with it and make changes. It’s not cancer, or heart disease, or the end of the world. Yeah, it’s the end of a way that was, but hasn’t been, for a while now. So many people I know are sick, really sick, or caring for sick people, and I am sad to say that some people I know are actively in the process of dying, way before their time. I would cry for them, but I have no tears. That is sad, and darkly amusing. But certainly not worth the time it took me to bitch.

So, fuck that self-pitying bullshit! It is not a good color on me. It’s the pink of my emotions. I look like shit in pink. I will carry on, squinting in such a way that elevates my resting bitch face to Scarlett O’Hara status (or better yet, Melania Trump) and continue paint it black in a stellar, Mick Jagger way. Will I have to limit it? Yep. But it will be all about the quality from now on.

Break glass in case of an emergency.

It is after 2 in the morning. I am awake. I don’t want to be. My mind will not stop making noises and my heart is galloping along, trying to keep up with the echoes of the jumbled thoughts tumbling down the hills and slopes of my consciousness.  This is the aftermath of some sort of episode; if it was a panic attack, it just upped its game in a huge way. I can’t take a magic pill because I already took 2. I know: take as prescribed. Fuck that noise. I’ve had a lot of shit hit the fan in the last couple of days and it’s covered me in its stink and I just need the cleansing of a deep, dreamless sleep.

I want to sleep. I crave it. I was ready. But as I settled down, underneath the covers because the air blowing from the fan in the window is a crisp 50°, a thought formed in my head and then bloomed like a firework ; it was quite loud and instantly jarring.

What if you fall asleep and you don’t wake up? Would it be so bad? You wouldn’t know. You’d be dead. What if your last act on this planet was to spend a lazy evening on the couch, watching HBO? Is that how you want to go out? Shit, girl. Face the facts: that’s exactly how it’s going to go down, whether it’s tonight or 25 years from now. You have squandered a life. You could’ve done things. And yet, you let people convince you that you were shit and that you didn’t matter. They said it just enough times for you to believe it. You fell for the oldest trick in the book and that is the fact that unhappy people spread unhappiness like the plague. And now you think you have it all figured out and you’re cured of the disease but what if this is it? What if this is as good as it ever gets and your newfound dreams are just wisps of smoke on the wind? And what if it’s all just gathering again, the bad? Gathering and building up strength and it’s going to barrel through your heart and decimate you? What made you think you were entitled to peace? 

And boom. Fear. Paralyzing fear, heart racing, trying to take even breaths and cursing my stupid brain for not simply shutting the fuck up.

Traitorous fuck. You traitorous fucking brain.

It’s dark. I have not turned on the light. The husband is asleep in the next room, a wall separating me from his loud, droning snore that can be heard upstairs, he gets so vocal. Don’t judge us. This is the ONLY way we both get our night’s rest and so what? That’s precisely why the wall separates us. I should try and get to him, but he has to work in the morning and really, he is probably sick of my mental bullshit. am sick of my mental bullshit. And ashamed. I know, in braver moments, I champion the fact that this is me and I can get through it and that anyone who suffers from any kind of mental health issue should own their shit and not be a slave to the lies it tells. Right now, though? I’m not feeling like owning my shit. I’m feeling tired of my shit and ashamed that I can’t be stronger. Fight that low stuff, vanish it with exercise, with meditation, with inner strength. But no, I have to take pills. Every. Single. Day. And they are not working, and I know they are not, because thoughts like what just happened made it through. Hell, it’s as if someone just opened the door and said, “Come on in!”

Did I do that? Let them in?

I’m tired. Ironic, huh? This whole exercise is about being tired and I am the motherfucking EPITOME of tired right now. Maybe the intruder is right. Because things have been feeling wrong for a while now and I am nothing if not a faithful follower of my own intuition. So maybe that’s why sleep eludes me; something is coming.

Or maybe this is just the big D lying to me again.

And maybe it’s the stupid full moon. Either way, I will probably regret publishing this but I’m going to because you never fucking know.