How Was The Ketamine?

I thought you’d never ask.

Ketamine. I had five treatments intravenously, dosed at 0.5 mg/kg initially. (If you’re new here, having arrived via the Rabbit Hole, the short story is that I’m slowly dying of Bipolar Disorder and in order to try every last thing to palliate the psychache, I’m trying the latest quasi-experimental thing: medically supervised ketamine infusion therapy.) The plan was to gradually increase the dose, but my body didn’t like that (weird very uncomfortable muscle spasms). So we stayed with the initial dose.

The treatments themselves turned out to be more of a chore than a vacation. My veins suck because, connective tissue badness. They are these tiny spidery things that instantly explode when touched by a needle. Therefore, I was touched by many needles in order to get five IV infusions in, and now, every halfway decent vein I had is a purple blotch, with yellow and green accents. Beautiful. Hope I don’t need any emergencytype treatment any time soon, because I donated all my veins to Vitamin “K.”

But what about my brain? You inquire. After all, she’s the star of this shitshow. The only reason I would go to such extremes of drug-taking and expense (did I mention the expense? Oy vavoy).

Let’s see…I can’t really judge how I feel by how I feel…yes, I know….really the only way to tell how I’m feeling is to look at what I’m doing, because aside from the affective part of the affective disorder, my main symptom of depression is the one where I turn into, like, a rock, moving only under extreme duress, kind of like what normal people do when they’re asleep, except in my case, I’m not asleep at all. Ever. Just. Not. Moving.

I’m still kind of lethargic, but my appetite is back. Apparently I was too depressed to notice that my appetite had gone south. I had lost over 10 lb, but my residual anorexic self was sluggishly applauding that. She’s now disgusted that I’m making omelettes at 9 a.m., as opposed to breakfasting on frozen Trader Joe’s Indian food at 5 in the afternoon. I’m moving around, noticing the extreme layer of desert dust that is covering absolutely everything. That’s a sign, noticing things. Getting up and doing something about it–that’s still in the realm of the theoretical, but at least the notion does flit through the cold molasses of my mind.

I was really hoping that the irritability part would go away. It has abated somewhat, but Atina the Wonder Doggess is still keeping an eye on me in case of explosions. I feel bad, because I grew up “walking on eggshells” around my mother, and I hate it that I give my loyal pup reason to do the same around me. I really feel like climbing into a hollow tree trunk and staying there for the rest of my assigned days.

So I would say I’ve had a partial remission. Better than none! We’ll see how long it lasts. I’m supposed to have another treatment in a couple of weeks, but I don’t yet know how or where. One minute at a time.

Trying

Sometimes people write to me.

“Just checking to see if you’re OK…you haven’t been posting on your blog…”

I really appreciate it! I know as well as you do what it can mean when a generally motor-mouth blogger goes silent.

You’re right. I feel terrible. I can’t think. My imagination, usually fertile, is…somewhere. I don’t know where. I don’t know anything. I’m in The Pit. At the bottom. At least I hope it’s the bottom. I certainly can’t see daylight. If I go any deeper it will be the La Brea Tarpits.

In fact, that’s what depression feels like: black and impossibly thick and sticky. The harder I struggle against it, the more stuck I feel.

I tell you, if my dear Doggess did not need me….but she does. She is dying, very very slowly, but very surely. Each day brings some new sign of it. And there is nothing to do but to swing with it…and I don’t feel like swinging.

Brings back bittersweet memories of my father’s lonnnnnng descent. Years of enjoying him while he slowly faded, then the horror of the final months.

So I spent some time researching the latest treatments, beyond the drugs that have never worked or had side effects that laid me flat. And I found something I’d never tried before: ketamine.

Now, ketamine is a drug I’ve never had the slightest inclination to try. I saw plenty of its effects when, as a medical student in the 1980s, I had the unpleasant task of sitting with babies as they emerged from ketamine anesthesia. My job was to keep them from eating parts of their own bodies. For some reason, ketamine does that to infant brains: makes them try to gnaw their paws off, like an animal caught in a leghold trap. So my impression of the drug was somewhat colored.

Likewise, I’ve had my share of human teenagers stoked up on K in the emergency room. Not a pretty sight. I have not yet figured out what the draw is.

But I’m so damn tired of being depressed, I’ll try anything. There’s a ketamine infusion center in Tucson. I read up on the stuff and its use in depression treatment. It looked hopeful. I called.

The intake process took a week. I liked that. It wasn’t like, Oh yes, come on in, we’ll hook you up and take your money. I had to take numerous inventories: depression, of course, and personality, and a screen to rule out psychotic illnesses. Three different interviews. And in the meantime I went on Medline and read the handful of papers I found. I asked my questions, was satisfied with the answers I got.

And yesterday I had my first ketamine infusion.

I was petrified, but I’m so sick of being depressed that anything else, no matter how bizarre, felt like a good idea. I can’t be dead right now, because I can’t do that to my Doggess. So I marched into the infusion center and allowed myself to be hooked up to an IV pump full of the evil drug. I resigned myself: at least I’m Doing Something. If nothing else.

They put me in a comfy recliner in front of a TV screen that played continuous, seamless nature films. It reminded me of the endless loop of bird videos a friend of mine plays for her cat when she goes out. I synced my phone with a Bluetooth speaker and cued up a playlist I’d made for the purpose: dreamy Sikh chants. If I’m going to trip out, I want it to be holy.

The stuff flowed into my veins and I breathed, wondering what was going to become of me. I held no expectations. How could I, when I had no idea what to expect? I hoped that they would watch closely and not let me gnaw my paws off.

A warm, cocoon-y feeling enveloped me. That was all right. It was comfortable, safe, relaxing. OK, I can go with this. They asked me how I was feeling; I told them this. They turned up the rate.

The nature films flew over the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley…all places dear to my heart, and right here in Arizona. The holy music spoke of beauty. The nurse (a man) wondered how I had chosen just the right music for the film….really.

My reptile brain flashed back to 1970, such a year full of terror and beauty, flashing like the red cherry on top of a police cruiser. The many trips on LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, peyote. “Wasted on a 16-year-old,” I observed. The nurse chuckled.

It went on forever, which turned out to be 90 minutes. 90 minutes’ worth of Eternity. I hope Eternity turns out to be something like it. Incredible beauty. No pain, not from the body and not from the brain. The best vacation I’ve had in a long time.

The dose of ketamine for this kind of vacay is 0.5 mg/kg, which for my weight turned out to be 29 mg. For comparison, the anesthetic dose is 3.0 mg/kg. Yep, that would knock you out. On the brain-pain dose, I could, with extreme effort and advance planning, make purposeful movements and even speak, after a fashion. Standing up was out of the question. At about 45 minutes into the trip I needed to pee. They turned off the infusion and, after a couple of minutes, helped me/dragged me to the bathroom, where I made use of the generous handrails to navigate to the pot. Getting my clothes down was an exercise in logic. Peeing felt incredibly great. Afterward, somehow empowered by this, I enjoyed the remainder of my ketamine+ music+ visuals treat even more.

Will it work? Is there some kind of durability to the brain reset? I don’t know, and at this point I’m withholding hope/expectation for the future. The protocol at this center is four initial treatments at every-other-day intervals, followed by another one ten days out, and reevaluate after that. I’m OK to roll with it. It’s an expensive vacation, at $500 per treatment, but I can’t use the money if I’m dead, and that’s where things are headed if I don’t do Something. I sold my Walmart stock to pay for it. That’s what money is for, right? Living.

I’m trying.

Depression Comics Halloween

https://wp.me/s2dNEa-366

“Girl commits suicide after being shut out of graduation”

As if living with childhood depression isn’t bad enough, this young teen’s school decided to exclude her from graduation festivities. It was the last straw.

Mental illness is not contagious, but the way it’s treated, you’d think it was.

Depression Comics Hits a Homer

http://wp.me/s2dNEa-359

When I’m depressed, everything is all about the fact that I’m shit. Other people’s reactions are iron-clad proof that I’m shit….right?

In this comic, Clay brings a new perspective. I’m going to paste this one to the insides of my eyelids.

Depression Is A Drag

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but I haven’t been posting with the clock-like regulatory of previous days/years.  I just haven’t felt like it.  I haven’t felt like anything.

I’ve been inhabited by the demon Depression.  It’s sucked the life out of me.  I have no interest in anything at all.

If it weren’t for my dog I’d certainly be dead by now.  Sometimes I get frustrated by that.  It’s not like this is some passing cloud.  I’ve felt this way since childhood, with a few manic episodes thrown in so I could get something done and piss off everyone in my environment in the process.

I’ve ruined two childhoods (my own and my child’s), decimated two marriages, gained and lost more than one profession, and now slog through each day putting one foot in front of the other.  Just taking up space on the planet.  

I used to volunteer, feeding people less fortunate than I.  It made me feel good to be of service. Now that my skeleton has betrayed me, I can barely lift my coffee cup, let alone sling hash.  

I think about doing some kind of phone hotline thing, like a suicide prevention line.  Stupid.  How can I help someone else who’s in crisis, when I myself dream of going to Belgium, where euthanasia for intractable mental pain is legal?

I isolate myself.  Depression is not something to chat about.

“Good morning, how are you?”

“Fuck off.  I’m depressed.”

Or how about this one:

“How are we today?”

“We feel like shit.  How about y’all?”

“Oh, is it depressed?  Don’t wallow in it!  Put on a happy face!  The sun will come out soon.”

And other well-meaning drivel.  

“Oh, my (sister, friend, whatever) got depressed after her sixth baby, and they said it was a chemical imbalance, and she took, what’s the name of that stuff that begins with a “P,” for a whole week, and it was like magic!  You really ought to try that stuff.”

Yeah.  Thanks.

Really, the suggestions make me insane.

“Why don’t you go get some more of those magnetic brain treatments?”  –Mom

Because I get them in Canada.  My brain would freeze to the pavement right now.  If I’m still alive in the spring, I’ll brave the headache and get some more TMS.  

(Yes, I know it’s available in the U.S.  A very low-voltage wimpy version that barely surpasses placebo.  Thanks for the suggestion.)

“Why don’t you get one of those SAD lights?”–I forget whose helpful suggestion this was.

I’m in Arizona.  The light here is so bright it hurts my eyes even through sunglasses.  Do you really think a SAD light is going to help?  I have one, somewhere in one of my three storage buildings, each of which contains the relics of past lives.

The first one is 10 x 20 ft.  It contains my life from 1972 or so through 2002.  My own art, millions of family photos, my medical books (now obsolete), my general library (molded), tons of relics, memorabilia, horse stuff, VHS tapes, who the fuck knows.

Then there is the 10 x 10 foot unit with my life from Israel in it: plastic tubs full of gorgeous clothes that I used to wear every day, but in the casual States would look absurd everywhere except perhaps NYC; boxes of more books, religious; more art; and assorted personal effects.

Now there’s a new one, since my mother had all my stuff from my father’s former studio, where I lived until 3/4/15, boxed up and deposited in a brand new storage unit, so she could rent the studio out.  This one has my very personal effects in it, such as my Israeli I.D. documents, my jewelry, stuff I really wasn’t prepared to have dumped unceremoniously into boxes and carted away.

Clearly this is a thorn in my side, but it’s not the cause of my depression.

I have my family to thank for that.

My mother’s mother was in and out of the hospital because of depression, her entire life.  She suffered hundreds of ECT treatments.  Many of these were given at home.  My mother and her sister were tasked with holding their mother down while she convulsed.

My father’s father was paralyzed with depression.  Like me, he tried to outrun it a few times.  His doctor recommended he move to Florida, for the sunshine.  He did better there, except when he was overtaken by bouts of paranoia that precipitated episodes of going on the lam.  He would move my grandmother and himself from one seedy Jewish residential hotel to another, keeping ahead of some imaginary threat.  Eventually my grandmother would manage to put in a call to my father, and he would fly to Miami and somehow catch up with the fugitives.  Getting Grandpa to open the door and let him in was another matter.

There are suicides on both sides of the family.  It’s quite a genetic load.  

No one told me any of this until I was sitting in my bare room during my first hospitalization, trying to make sense out of this enormously intimate and awkward conversation, painfully aware of the fact that I had a roommate who was trying to be respectful of my non-existent privacy.  My father came to visit me just once.  He was too “shook up” seeing me in that condition.  My mother, who is always up for drama no matter what the cause, came every day, for the first two days.  After that it ceased to be exciting.  She is easily bored.

I’m not sure how long I can keep this up.  I don’t want to traumatize my son and my ancient mother.  Even more, I don’t want to leave my Biggess Doggess to suffer who knows what kind of fate.  She’s got failing kidneys and other health issues, despite being a young lass of 2 10/12.  I can’t bear the thought of someone not taking care of her.

I guess I’m not ready to die yet.  I still have what to live for, even if it’s not a love for life itself.  Even if I have outlived most of my purpose.  I wonder what will happen.

Eighth Night

The ultimate night of Hanukkah, in the year 5777 from Creation.

And the ultimate night of the civil year 2016.

And the beginning of Yom Rishon, or First Day, that always begins after the sun sets on the Holy Shabbat.

Time to be doing.  Time to be getting up and going! 

I think about my life in the past.  I was always getting up and going, doing, and doing even more!  I was never satisfied with “good enough.”  It had to be perfect.  Everything had to be perfect.  No such thing as “good enough.”

Being sick is pure torment.  I forget all the time why it is that I’m not at work.  I jump up and head for the phone, gonna get some work happening around here, can’t be that hard…OUCH!  Who broke my fucking arm?  WHOA, what happened to my neck???  And somebody’s stabbing me in the heart….what the fuck is going on here?  Why can’t I just go the fuck to work like a normal human being?

Take away my ability to do meaningful work, and you take away my self-worth.  I have a hard time feeling like I’m worth a rat’s ass even on a good day, when I’ve gone in and saved lives…but when I’m stuck on the sidelines, I may as well be dead.  

It would be a lot easier if I could tell from one day to the next, how I am going to feel.  If I knew, for instance, that every Tuesday would be an OK day, that I would go to the bathroom like a mensch, and my shoulders wouldn’t cause me to squeak every time I reached for something, and my brain would not be either fogged over from depression or reeling with the electrical overload from mania…if I could count on every Tuesday being a good day, then it would be possible to get a volunteer gig for Tuesdays.  A volunteer thing would do wonders for my heart and mind.

Too bad I don’t have any good Tuesdays!  Or Wednesdays, Thursdays, etc.

I hate to whine.  I know some people are going to actually read this, and probably will go, oh, fer krissake will you stop whining and get on with it!

I feel the same way. 

It’s been 16 1/2 years since I fell off the balance beam.  I have held on to the notion that there must be some greater purpose in it.  That, you know, it must be part of the Grand Design, that certainly I would be one of those who Triumph Over Adversity.

That has not been the case, at least not so far.  I haven’t given up.  Where there’s life there’s, etc.  It’s just that things are gradually becoming more unpleasant.  I wonder when, and how, this thing will end?

Postcard From The Ol’ West

Hi!  We’re having a delightful stay in the sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, sleepy (KNOCK IT OFF, DORMOUSE!) border town of Deming, New Mexico.

People come here to be where it’s warm in the winter and cheap all the time!  It’s so cheap here, the K-Mart had to shut down because, well, there isn’t enough money for both a Wal-Mart AND a K-Mart in this town, pardner.

But it has roadrunners!  Lots of roadrunners!  I been trying to get a video to post for you, but those sonsabitches run like the devil was after ’em.  Stay tuned.

No tarantula sightings yet.  Guy I met yesterday says his dog catches the bastards, rips their legs off, and eats the bodies.  Says he finds piles of hairy giant spider legs he has to sweep up.  Put me in mind of the mess after a pile of wings.  With hair.

That’s about it for now.  Did I mention it’s cheap?   

I just rolled in after a few harrowing days on the road, a bit on the depressed side, everything is filthy and I have forced myself to rest on the Sabbath so that I can devote tomorrow to unloading my Silver Toaster so I can clean, clean, clean.  I hope to feel better fast.

I just found out why this place is so rotten with roadrunners.  The people here hand feed them with raw hamburger.  Meep, meep!

Rain On The Brain

It’s raining again in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I left my precious Arizona, hot but at least high and dry, to trade in my trusty Jenny the Chevy camper for the 24 foot house on wheels that I ordered back in November. 

image

I’ve been sick ever since my arrival last Thursday.  Stress is a bitch!  And for me there is nothing more stressful than moving, even if it’s from one mobile dwelling to another.  I get completely disoriented with all my personal shit strewn around.  Disorder breeds more disorder. 

Speaking of disorder, my dear doggy is completely discombobulated.  All her two favorite hangout places in our previous van are gone.  Like moi, she’s having to adjust to this new space and new lifestyle, all of a sudden. There’s lots more room for her to stretch out in the aisle, but I’ve configured the bed in a way that is unacceptable to her, so she is sleeping in the driver’s seat in protest.

I’ve been in awful, unremitting pain ever since I left the lovely dry Southwest.  Humidity kills me.  My spine is screaming; likewise my shoulders, hands, and hips: all the arthritic places.  And wouldn’t you know it, I had a Crohn’s flare-up start the day I moved my stuff from Jenny into my new rig (whose name might be Betsy).  I finally got the blood stains out of my brand new plastic toilet this morning.  That’s one of the lovely things that come with a Crohn’s flare: shitting blood.  I’ve got a sore throat, headache, and spent last night alternately chilling and sweating.  Fucking immune system, where are you when I need you?  Either running hot or on vacation, and sometimes both at the same time.

My sweet doggie came to see me about dawn.  She must have been listening to me shifting uncomfortably around in the bed, trying unsuccessfully to find a pain-free position.  She tried to worm her way into bed with me, but she is still a puppy, albeit a large one; and in the process of her thrashing around trying to cuddle up with me, she accidentally slashed my throat with one of her claws, and razored me up pretty good. 

My sleep deprived, paining self overflowed and I began to wail.  Poor Atina fled to the driver’s seat, and required a great deal of comforting for the rest of the morning.  She feels terrible when she hurts me.  She knows I am fragile, and tries her best to take care of me. But she is large and ungainly.  Accidents are bound to happen.

After applying first aid to my gashed and bleeding throat, I sat down with my new vaporizer and medicated.  I felt better.  I started the day.

Yesterday it rained.  Today it rained.  I’ve grown accustomed to places that don’t steam all the time.  I intend to make my way back West, where I feel good.  A friend called me a little while ago, from Glacier National Park.  He is not a formally religious man, but he said that Glacier felt to him like knowing God.

God and I have been on the outs for some time, so I think I’ll head over to Glacier and see what my friend is talking about.  I wouldn’t mind having a God experience.  My mind needs a jump start.

image

This far corner of Montana is 1,713 miles from where I currently sit.  And that doesn’t take account of my planned side trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

image

The arrow is supposed to point to the Upper Peninsula.  The little blue dot at the bottom is where I am now. So the whole trip will be a big adventure with my new motorhome as I learn its ins and outs. 

I’m glad I temporarily have the ability to do this kind of gypsying.  I won’t always.  Finances and ill health will eventually clip my wings; but I’ll keep on as long as life lets me.  I’ll go as long and as hard as I can, and be gentle with myself too.

That’s my spiritual discipline now: giving myself permission not to do, but to be.  I get depressed.  I say, OK, I’m depressed.  It will pass.  I use cannabis as part of my medication regimen.  It works.  It helps me get through the depressions.  It helps me feel better.  Isn’t that the point of medication?

None of the meds we take for brain pain are “disease modifying.”  They don’t work unless we take them.  If we stop taking them, they stop working.

Cannabis will break me out of a suicidal depression.  It helps me engage with the world, with my environment.  I feel creative.  I can cook and clean up, take a shower, talk to people.  I don’t lie around crying all day.  I’m still depressed, but I’m more functional and less likely to hole up isolated.

Sometimes I’m just too sick though, like last night when I couldn’t even think well enough to pick up the vaporizer till my dog broke me out of it by slashing my throat.  Well, it was over the top, but it changed my state, so I guess it was all right.  Hope the wound heals.  The skin right there is awfully thin.

I hate it that I’m too disabled to work.  All I want to do is to be in my own office, healing the sick.  But I’m too sick to heal anyone, not even myself.  This mobile lifestyle helps me to not go crazy mourning my lost calling.  It’s a distraction, true, and that’s what I need.

It’s interesting to see how campgrounds are places of refuge for the mentally ill and physically disabled.  Of course no one you meet will say, “My name is Doris, and I’m mentally ill.”  Nope, she will say she has a bad knee, or something legit like that.  All the talk about getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental illness has done absolutely nothing compared to the speculation about the “mental health” of the various recent shooters.  Hell, if I were to tell some campground owner that I’m bipolar, you can bet they would be fresh out of campsites.  Mental cases not welcome anywhere…not openly, anyway.  But we’re here.  We are transient; we float from place to place.  We keep quiet and don’t cause trouble.  But we don’t disclose. 

When will the Mentally Ill Matter? 

Maybe never.  We’re the Invisible Minority.

A Coupla Bummers and A Miracle

Well, it was Thanksgiving in America, again.

A friend of mine calls it Shabbos Hodu.  (“Shabbos” is the Eastern European version of the Hebrew word “Shabbat,” or Sabbath).  “Hodu” is the Hebrew word for both “turkey (the bird)” and the imperative form of one of the many words for “to thank.”  Thus, “Shabbos Hodu!”

In Orthodox Judaism there is no “Thanksgiving Day,” because we formally give thanks to God at least six times a day, and sometimes more often.

The three daily prayers, which take up to an hour each, contain 19 paragraphs of blessing.  Each of these blessings opens and closes with a verse of thanks.  There is a separate blessing expressing thanks in general, and when there is a quorum of ten people, a special very beautiful paragraph is sung that describes the praises of the Angels.  There is a verse in every prayer beseeching the Creator to rebuild Jerusalem, our Holy City.

The other three “Thank you’s” are contained in the Blessing After Meals, said after any meal containing more than a certain amount of bread (the exact amount is part of Jewish Law), and a shorter version that is said after eating any non-bread product containing one of the five varieties of grain that grow in the Land of Israel: wheat, spelt, rye, oats, barley.  The long version takes me 45 minutes to say, because I say each word with concentration on its meaning.  I learned this from my teachers.

In these prayers also, the rebuilding of Jerusalem figures large.  Both sets of prayers were codified while the Hebrews were in exile in Babylon, after the Babylonian conquest had razed Jerusalem.

However, I no longer live in a Jewish community, let alone Israel; and to tell you the truth, I’m not really practicing Orthodox Judaism these days.

It was so wonderful living in our little country, being able to practice my religion in an unfettered way.  We could wear our special religious items–you know, the ones we are prohibited from bringing to the Temple Mount–right in the street, in the buses, anywhere, without people screaming epithets and other unpleasantries.

I once had a conversation with a black woman from New Orleans who had converted to Islam, married a Lebanese man, and moved with him to Saudi Arabia.  I met her in India.  She wanted to know why we Jews had to have our own country, when we could be Jewish anywhere in the world.

I was so taken aback by this question that I had to sit and think for a minute.  At last I got hold of my senses and asked her,

“Were you able to practice Islam in America?”

“Well, of course!”

“Then why did you move to Saudi Arabia?”

“Oh, because it’s an Islamic country!  Saudi Arabia enforces strict Shari’a Law, so it is the purest Islam…”

For a moment, understanding dawned in her eyes, but it faded just as quickly.  I developed something that needed my urgent attention, and left my friend wondering what went wrong.

Oh yes. I was talking about Thanksgiving in America.

Since I’m in America for the foreseeable future, I am doing some things American style, like Thanksgiving Day and gifts for Hannukah (our Festival of Lights, coming up next week).  In Israel, Hannukah is a time for celebrating miracles.  Gifts are not really a central theme.  It’s all about the light. ( More on that next week.)  The American practice of giving gifts on Hannukah seems to have arisen in order to keep Jewish children from being bummed out because of Christmas.

Since my son’s father is Christian, my son goes to him for Christmas.  For the past few years, my son and I have been “doing” Thanksgiving together.

While my father was alive, my son would come to my parents’ house and he and I would make a kosher turkey, and we would all get gorked on the usual T-day dishes.

Last year I was still in shock from my father’s death in early October, so my son and his then-girlfriend made a huge feast at his house.  People dropped by, roommates who had stayed in town for their own reasons cruised by and partook, we all smoked a lot of weed, and generally had a good time.  My mother was not invited, because she has made herself unwelcome by her delight in shaming me in front of my son.

This year my mother decided to fly to my cousins and have Thanksgiving with them.  I was not invited.  My cousins, who suck up to her for their own reasons, did not invite me either.  That being the case, I felt no pangs of guilt when I accepted my son’s invitation, party of one.

Then my mother decided to cancel her Thanksgiving plans, for her own reasons.  Since she knew my son had invited me (party of one), she got herself invited to one of her many friends, who has a big family, so my mom could feel really angry that her own family had not invited her.

For some reason my son did not invite anyone else to dinner.  His own reasons, I guess.  It was a little weird having just he and I, especially since he was in one of his dark moods, brooding and irritable.  I really wish he would start taking lithium again, but he angrily rejects the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder that, in his opinion, was foisted upon him as a teenager.

So that was Thursday.

I slept in my camper van, in the parking lot of his apartment complex.  One of his neighbors, who had clearly been watching out for me, accosted me as I headed out to go to bed, demanding to know if I was visiting someone in the complex.  Surely he had seen me exiting my son’s door…

My nerves were already frazzled from dinner with my glowering son, so I fired back,

“Why do you want to know?”

“Because I think you’re just camping here.”  Whoa, let’s just get some holiday spirit of giving on here, hey?

I wanted to say to him, “Listen, Mr. Nice Guy, even if I was ‘just camping here,’ there’s a whole fucking empty parking lot because everyone has gone elsewhere for the holiday.  And what are you angry at, anyway?”

But I didn’t say that, because there’s always the possibility that a poor unhappy fucker like that will call the police, and I was already tired and tense enough.  So instead I said,

“Well, I am camping here.  This (pointing to my camper) is my bedroom.  I’m visiting ____ in Apartment _____.  Would you like him to come out and speak with you?”

As it turns out, this unfortunate fellow has seen my son, who is a weight lifter and quite muscular and buff.  So the sorry sucker subsided, and allowed as how that would not be necessary.  I also subsided, went into my spaceship and slept fitfully, as people constantly came and went, car lights and porch lights flashing.  My PTSD surrounding cops blazed like a tiger in the night.

Friday.  I woke up feeling like shit.  Depression.  Again. Still.

Went in and stood under my son’s excellent shower for half an hour while he went to work for a while.

When he came back, I said, “Listen, I’m feeling really disorganized brain-wise.  Do you mind if I hang out till tomorrow?”

The minute the words left my mouth I saw the twitch in his face that said, Oh No, Not That!

“Um…listen, Mom, to be honest, um, I really need my space.”

My heart hit the pavement.  Then I noticed the spiffy outfit.

Date.

Yeah, I was glad he was able to tell me no, but on the other hand I wished he had seen fit to be honest and say something more like, “Oh wow, Mom, I really wish you could, but since I thought you were leaving today, I made plans.”  That would have sent me off with a smile and a lighter heart.

“Oh, that’s OK,” I chirped, suddenly feeling like I’d been handed the bum rush.*

He graciously allowed me to stay long enough to use his internet to find a campground.  I found one pretty close by, said my goodbyes, and lit a shuck out of there.**

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I called my mother today, just to see how she is doing, and I wish I had put money on the bet that I made with myself.  I would have won.  She barely spoke to me, and clearly had her victim act all planned out, in case I called.  I laughed.  Couldn’t help myself: it was all too predictable.

Now for the Miracle part.

My sweet Belgian Malinois, Atina, is most certainly an angel.

She sleeps in the right-hand third of my bed.  The left-hand third is reserved for all the computer-related shit that won’t fit anywhere else.

The only thing I had the energy to make for dinner was a cup of gluten-free microwave macaroni and cheese.  While I was mechanically going through the motions of making it, Atina was busy doing something in the bed.

She was pushing my duvet into a nest-like shape toward the pillow.  No, wait.  She was pushing it with her nose, straightening the edge up toward the pillow.  I thought, you cutie, you are making yourself a nest out of my duvet, and you know that’s my spot in the bed!  But I did not scold her.  My heart was brimming with love.  She pushed and pulled at my pillow, fluffing it and making it into a nice continuum with my duvet.  Aha, I thought, now I will see you plump yourself down in my spot!

But that’s not what she was about at all.

When she got my part of the bed all fixed up to her satisfaction, she plopped herself down–on her side of the bed!  She had made my bed up–for me!

I dropped what I was doing and hugged and kissed her for a long time.  By the way she reacted, she knew that I knew what she had done for me…she made a place for me to rest.  She did it with love and care.  As I write this, I am lying in the bed my dog prepared for me.  Her breathing is soft and even as she sleeps in her own third of the bed.

“Friends may come and friends may go, but your dog will always be glad to see you.”

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*”The bum rush”: A term dating from the Great Depression and possibly earlier, when many out-of-work men went “on the bum,” going from door to door begging for food, money, a place to sleep…if the man of the house took offense, the beggar would be chased off the place–“given the bum rush.”

**”To light a shuck” means “to leave in a hurry.”  It has its origin in the  Civil War, when dried corn shucks were used as fuses for light cannons and field artillery.  Once you “lit a shuck,” you had to run like hell because not only did the big guns recoil (and could run you over), but also sometimes the cannons would backfire, shooting cannon balls behind instead of in front of them.  The idiom is still in use in the Southern and Southwestern United States.  It is one of my favorites.