Close Encounter With The Mind Of A Narcissist

Dearest Readers, those of you who have been with me for some time are aware that I am an ACoN, which stands for Adult Child of a Narcissist.  The Narcissist in my life is my mother.

I have never understood her way of thinking, and she has never understood mine.  Therefore, our relationship has always been superficial and unsatisfactory on both sides.

Narcissists, by definition, are unable to think outside their own box.  They are the center of their own universe-no, the Universe. Anything negative that happens is someone else’s fault. Positive things, on the other hand, are clearly their own handiwork.

They thrive on praise and flattery.  The latter is as good as the former.  Sincerity is not an issue, as long as the adulation is centered on themselves.  They will work hard to achieve success and status, for the purpose of feeling important, and hopefully getting publicly honored.

Narcissists see their children as reflections of themselves.  The children are expected to bring praise and adulation to their narcissistic parent.  They must succeed and excel in academics, accomplishments, and anything that reflects well on their Narcissist.

A Narcissist expects, no–demands, respect and admiration from her children.  If she does not get it, she will retaliate with all kinds of abuse, be it physical, emotional, psychological, and sometimes even sexual, if she needs reassurance that she is still beautiful and sexy.

Somehow or other, I ended up with not one (which would have been enough, dayenu*) but two narcissists in my life–my mother, of course, and her sister.  As often happens, I was much closer to the sister when I was growing up, and her two children were my mother’s darlings.

Time has passed and the sisters have suddenly found themselves in the category of the very elderly.  My mother is 88 and her sister is, I believe, 91, although that side of the family has no compunctions about shaving a few years off their true age.  They tend to live to over 100, God help us, so what does it matter, really?

It doesn’t matter in itself, but they also don’t mind stuffing their purses with the packets of sweetener, soy sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, that populate the tables in various types of restaurants.  One time I was sent to retrieve something out of a purse, and had to paw through enough condiments to run a fast food joint.

My mother has no problem using my father’s handicapped placard to get a space closer to the supermarket doors, even if the weather is fine.  No matter that he’s been dead for six months.  I try to explain to her that this is lying–she is in no way handicapped (she said her knee hurt, and feigned a limp for a few steps, then forgot about it and switched into her locally famous confident stride)–and it is also stealing, because she is taking a parking space that a really handicapped person might need.  I had that happen once, when I was on crutches for something, and all the handicapped spots were taken.  While waiting for one to open up, I watched several totally able-bodied people come along to their vehicles parked in spots that I could have used, had they not been stolen by the Temporarily Able Bodied.  So in Jewish Law, at least, using your late husband’s handicap tag simply because you can, is both lying and stealing.  Bad things.  But she doesn’t think it’s bad.  She thinks it’s “getting away with something,” sort of like shoplifting, which she doesn’t really see as a crime.

To get to the meat of this story, now that I have given a dissertation on Narcissistic Personality Disorder: the sister’s life has taken a devastating turn for the worse.  First off, her husband, who has been her landmark in her stormy emotional sea, and whose constant praise has sustained her, got MRSA (Multiply Resistant Staph Aureus, AKA Flesh Eating Disease) in a sore on his leg, and being 97 (although an extraordinarily active, and healthy up till now, 97), his immune system couldn’t fight it, and he seemed imminently moribund.  All the family gathered at his hospital bed, gowned and masked against the horrid disease, to await his demise.

Imagine their surprise when they showed up one day to find him sitting up eating a hearty breakfast!  Miracle.

But it didn’t last too long.  The profound dips in his blood pressure during the critical days of his illness had done their work on his brain, and now he is being cared for by his daughter, who says that he is “in and out of it.”  No telling how long he’ll last.

In the meantime my mother flew to be with her sister, which was a good thing because her sister has florid dementia and can’t be left on her own.  I think she might have had it for quite some time, but her husband kept things together and served as her stabilizer.  But now he was not at home, and to her that means he is gone, no matter how many times they brought her to see him.

But that’s not all, folks, that’s not all.  The sister had a sore place on her leg.  It was red and puffy.  My mother took her to her doctor’s office, but the doctor had no openings, so she saw a PA, who diagnosed her with MRSA empirically, (which was probably correct), did not take a culture (bad), and sent her home on the wrong medicine.  Bad, bad.  Possibly fatal.

In the meantime, my 88 year old mother is reveling in the adulation she’s getting from the rest of the family for caring for her sister.  It was the right thing to do.  But she was wallowing in an environment crawling with MRSA, since it is passed by fomites.  That’s one of my favorite words, fomites.  A fomite is any article that can pass germs from one person to another, like a hand towel.  Let’s say somebody’s sick with oh, let’s say, MRSA, and they touched an infected part of their body.  They went to wash their hands, and they opened the bathroom door with the now-contaminated hand.  The MRSA germs are now on the door handle.  Different germs live for different amounts of time on different surfaces (did you know that the HIV virus can only live less than 5 seconds on a fomite?).  MRSA can live quite a while, especially on damp surfaces like the hand towel they just dried their poorly washed contaminated hand on.

Now we have an infected bathroom.  Door handle, sink handles, hand towel.

But someone else has been impatiently waiting because they have to go to the bathroom.  The infected person comes out and closes the door.  The Someone Else opens the door, getting MRSA on their hands.  They use the toilet and flush–now it’s on the toilet handle.  Wash hands, dry on the infected hand towel…

Now you might be wondering, in that case, why doesn’t everyone come down with it?  The answer is: it’s because of the wonders of the immune system.  If you are a healthy human being with a normal immune system, you’re going to be fine, most likely.  But if you are 90 and have a weakened immune system, you might be in trouble.

How does MRSA get into our bodies in the first place?  Usually it needs a break in the skin, no matter how small, to take hold, and a weakened immune system that can’t fight it off.  So let’s say the person comes out of the bathroom, having been bathing in MRSA bacteria, and scratches an itch.  This causes a tiny break in the skin; and the MRSA germs that have been patiently hanging out under their nails just bail right into the tiny cut.

Under the right conditions, these germs can now have a holiday infecting skin, fat, muscle…whatever they can manage to spread.  Since they are Multiply Resistant Staph Aureus, that means that most of the usual antibiotics used for soft tissue infections will not work.  And the library of resistant Staph Aureus germs is growing at a frightening pace.

MRSA is not something that can or should be treated on an outpatient basis.  Anyone with a confirmed MRSA infection needs to be hospitalized and treated with the few remaining IV antibiotics left in the arsenal.  And, oh yes, they must be isolated, quarantined so that they can’t spread the disease to others.

Back to the present.  My dear aunt is now surrounded by her two terribly dysfunctional children (in their 60’s), who are almost as clueless as she is.  They are ostensibly taking her–today–to live with, or near (in a nursing home), one of them, which involves an airplane ride.  That should be interesting.

So the female cousin mentions, this morning before the flight, that both of my aunt’s legs are swollen up to the knees today.  She’s not eating. Not good.  I get this information by way of my mother, who I’m pretty sure is losing what marbles she had left.  She should have put a halt to the travel plans and had her sister hospitalized right away.  Instead, they took her on the plane (which is now a contaminated plane), with the plan of taking her to the ER when they landed.  Sigh.

As my mother was telling me this sad story, she digresses to mention the ice in her driveway and how she needs something outside (nothing critically important), and she is going to put her ice grippers on and go and get it.

Please, Mom, don’t do that.  I don’t want you to fall and get hurt.

“What, you mean you don’t want me to mess up your trip?” she says sarcastically.

It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about.  Then I got it!  She was talking about my plans to go RVing, sometime in the near future, when the weather finally breaks.

She was projecting her thought process onto me!  That is what she would have assumed, were she in my position.  For a fleeting moment I understood how her mind works.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

*Dayenu=Hebrew for “Enough for us!”

Enter The Twins, Pain and Aggravation

First I sincerely apologize to everybody to whom I’ve promised various things.  Life is not going in anything remotely resembling a straight line.  I feel caught up in a whirlwind–no, more like the vortex of water flushing down a toilet.

I don’t have a toilet, but other people usually do, if they live in developed nations.

Dad just got home yesterday from the nursing home where mom dumped placed him for six days while she went to visit her relatives.  Dad did not enjoy it, and I ran myself ragged going back and forth to the nursing home, which fortunately is not far away, to my house, to the store to get him things, to therapy an hour and a half away….

Dad was discharged from the nursing home Friday at noon.  Mom came home in the evening.

I settled in for some deep Shabbat rest yesterday, but my phone rang at ten a.m.: It was Mom, sobbing that Dad had fallen and blood was coming out of his head and nose.  He was unconscious but seemed to be breathing.  She had called 911.  Shit.

CALL HOSPICE NOW!  I screamed into the phone.  We are not supposed to call 911 without calling Hospice first, but she panicked and did it anyway.  Now we would be covered up by the fucking millions of Keystone Cops that stand in place of an Emergency Medical Service here in West Bumfuck.

I grabbed my knapsack, which serves as my 24 hour kit as well as a purse, threw some food in my bewildered pup’s dish, and ran out the door hoping to beat the ambulance to my parents’ house.  Dad was on the floor, unconscious and bleeding, just like she said.

He looked like he was in the process of checking out, and I didn’t blame him a bit.  But I did lean down to his ear and softly sang, “Shma, Yisra’el, Adon-ai Elo-heinu, Adon-ai Ehad,” which is the central prayer of the Jewish faith:

“Hear O Israel, Adon-ai is your G-d, Adon-ai is ONE.”

Well, damn me if he didn’t start singing it with me!  He was almost drowned out by my mother’s loud sobs, but I heard him, and he started cussing me out for leaning on him, which I might have been.  I sat up and he still cussed at me for leaning on him, so I knew that he was very much alive, although in rough shape.

After a while I heard the screeching siren shriek of the meat-wagon, driven by a team of bozos with spanking new uniforms.  They looked like milkmen on a spree.

They were planning to strap Dad to a backboard, but I talked them out of it, citing his spinal stenosis, so they scratched their heads for a spell and then brought their ambulance gurney into the house and strapped him onto it.  At least it had something that passed for a mattress.

The trouble began when they tried to get him out of the house.

My parents’ house is not built for ambulance gurneys.  A steel spiral staircase blocks access to the only egress in the house, and the bozos couldn’t figure out how to get out, since they had raised the gurney up on its pneumatic legs, and it wouldn’t pass by the stairs anymore.  So instead of lowering the gurney to the ground and picking it up and over the stair rail, they tried to pick it up with the bed part four feet off the ground.  So the idiots actually lifted this thing, with my dad on top of it, over the railing, grazing the ceiling and taking a layer of paint off the stair rail.

I tried to move my car out of the driveway, because I had a funny feeling we were not done with the Keystone Cops.  I was right.

As I was backing up the dirt-road hill that stands in for a driveway, I looked in the rear-view mirror, and glimpsed the gigantic red nose of the county Heavy Rescue truck.  Trapped.  Shit.  Hit the parking brake and cut the engine, since I was out of gas and running on fumes already.

I got out and said “Hey” to the driver and he said “Hey” to me.  Introductions over with, I advised him that heavy rescue was not needed, as my dad was already in the ambulance.  He cut his eyes at me and said that first of all he wasn’t Heavy Rescue, he was just driving their truck, but since he was a First Responder and had heard it over the radio he was obligated to go and check things out.

Suit yourself, I told him, but you’re going to have to move your vehicle so I can get out, and so the ambulance can get out, because there is no more room in the driveway.

Well, the Heavy Rescue truck backed up the hill, spewing gravel, and tried to find someplace to turn his rig around.  I admit that I smirked a little when he backed right into the ditch you have to watch out for on that dirt road.  I backed around him and got onto my own road after negotiating the tricky spot where the road does a wiggle going over a creek.

I’m too tired now to write anymore, so you’ll have to stay tuned.

 

Which Disaster Will You Be Having Today, Ma’am?

It’s hard to know where to start.

When I last posted, I believe my dad was already in the nursing home, ostensibly for rehabilitation after a fall.  Medicare pays for 100 days of rehab, and then if long-term care is needed, one’s own funds have to be used until gone, and then Medicaid kicks in.  But then you are pretty broke, both the patient and the spouse, because the nursing home costs $6000 per month more or less, and that doesn’t include a lot of necessary things.  So for most normal people, it doesn’t take long to run through the savings/retirement account at that rate.

But it does include the basic care an invalided person needs, like feeding and diapering, showering, and a variety of entertainments for those who are able to take them in.

Well.  Dad’s 100 days were up, and Mom, who used to work at the very nursing home he was in, went to look at the room on the long-term care wing where he was to go.  I didn’t see the room, but apparently it was dark, tiny, and horrible, and Mom freaked out, and she was talking about it in front of Dad so HE freaked out even though he didn’t really understand what it was all about, and he started crying and in his broken language, begging to “go home to his house.”  So I freaked out too.

So Mom decided to bring him home, and I went along with that because Dad’s pleas were heartbreaking.

But.  I had tickets to Israel for the two weeks surrounding the festival of Purim, and Mom wanted to bring Dad home before I came back.  I didn’t like that idea, but when Mom gets a bee in her bonnet about something, it will happen regardless of any extenuating circumstances.

But.  I refused to cancel my trip on account of her poor judgement, so I put Noga in the boarding kennel and went off to Raleigh to spend a few days with my son before hopping a Delta flight (free with miles) to New York, and from there to Israel on Turkish Airways.

Time with my nearly-29-year-old baby boy was wonderful as always.  We never run out of things to talk about.

I arranged with my hotel to keep my car in their garage at $5 per day, cheaper even than the airport’s long-term-parking where you have to drag your luggage to a shuttle stop, then hope the shuttle appears before your flight leaves.  Then, when I returned, I would stay the night at the hotel and drive back to West Bumfuck (as my gay boyfriend in Jerusalem calls it).

My flight was at 7 am.  The night before, I called the front desk and asked them to arrange a cab for me at 5:30–the airport is a 20 minute drive, and since it was a domestic flight I only had to be there an hour before.

The desk person told me they don’t do that (calling cabs), but that there are tons of cabs hanging around at that hour because of all the guests leaving for flights.  But did I want a wake-up call?  I did.  At four am, please.  It takes me a long time to get ready in the morning.

Four am, both my phone alarm and the room telephone go off, and I levitate, thrashing for the light, the phone, whatever I could get my hands on first, sending everything on the bedside table flying: water bottle, glasses, asthma inhaler, cell phone, telephone, lamp.  Fuck.

I felt around and got hold of the lamp.  It still worked.  Then I collected the rest of my belongings, calmed down, and went for the shower.

I got down to the lobby with my bags at about twenty after five.  There was a cab waiting outside.  I rushed to the desk and asked them to reserve that one for me; but at that very moment a couple jumped in and off it went.  So I asked the clerk to please call another one, which she did.  I finished checking out and sat down to wait for the taxi.

An elderly yet fit couple came down, checked out, and sat down to wait for a cab.  Their flight was three-quarters of an hour after mine.

The cab showed up forty-five minutes late.  We all rushed out.  They had a lot of luggage; it took several tries to get it all arranged so that the back hatch would close.  By now it was well after six.  There was hardly any traffic; I entreated my driver to go faster, but he just bumped along.  It wasn’t his flight, after all.

In short, I arrived at the check-in exactly five minutes late.  Would they hold the flight?  No.

But I could go on the next flight, which got into JFK at 1:30 pm.  Great: that was exactly the time my Turkish Airways flight took off.  I called Turkish Airways.  It took a while to get someone who spoke English on the line.  Wouldn’t you think they would have English speaking customer service people in their New York office?

Anyway.

There is only one Turkish Airways flight to Istanbul (the only place T.A. flies from JFK) per day.  I could take the same flight out the following day: for an additional $444.

I considered it briefly.

Then it became clear that this pattern of obstacles was trying to tell me something.  But which thing was it?  Was it a test, to see how many obstacles I could overcome in order to merit to be in the Holy Land for Purim?  Or was it a sign that I’d better turn back, let go, let all my plans (and considerable money) slide?

I chose the latter.

So I took another cab back to my hotel (another $45 fare!), collected my car, drove the five hours back to get Miss Noga, who was of course thrilled to see me (and I her), and drove back up the mountain to beautiful West Bumfuck.  I fell into bed at 7 pm and slept until 10 the next morning.

I figured I’d better go up to the house (remember, I live in an outbuilding on the property) and see what was going on.

Mom was sitting at the table having her breakfast.  Dad was sitting at the table in his wheelchair, staring at the slices of cheese on toast, pawing at them with his nearly useless hands while Mom ate her food and mildly scolded him for playing with his food.

She had only just brought him home, it turned out.  She brought him home in her car, having forgotten that there is a county van service that would transport him safely in his wheelchair, for free.  The very same one we used last week to take him to the dentist.

I fed him his cheese, but the toast was too much for him: it stuck in his throat.  He can’t eat solid foods anymore.  It has to be mashed up or put through the blender.  And his hands have forgotten how to get his fork/spoon/hands to his mouth.  If no one feeds him, he doesn’t eat.

Then the home hospice nurse came and did an intake.  They have someone coming to the house a few times a week, and they provide a wide range of services that I am grateful for.

Mom has arranged for three hours a day of private nursing assistance.  The guy came today and got Dad out of bed, which was a good thing because Mom was unable to get him out of bed by herself.  TYS, TYS, not funny.

The bed of course was soaked in urine, since my dad is incontinent.  So he wanted to get up, naturally, but couldn’t because he is mostly immobile, and Mom is 87 although she has not so far awakened to that fact.  So they had to wait for the nursing assistant to arrive, to get Dad out of bed and showered and dressed.

I showed up there at noon, having slept till 11 am (am I stressed or something?!).  Mom had made Dad a sardine sandwich–his favorite!–that he had not had in 103 days, the time he was in the hospital and nursing home.  So Mom was very excited about the sardine sandwich.  Dad was asleep in his wheelchair, drooling on his front.

She sets this delicious sandwich down in front of him, with all sorts of expressions of anticipated delight.  He stares at it blankly.  I ask him if he wants a bite.  He nods, so I pick up the sandwich and bring it to his mouth, which remains closed.

“Do you want a bite of sardine sandwich, Dad?”

Nods.

“Then you have to open your mouth.”

He does, I slip the sandwich in, and he takes a bite.  I watch out for my fingers.  He is known to have a ferocious bite.

We manage another bite, and then his throat rebels.  I wait anxiously for him to get it swallowed.  I guess that’s the end of the sardine sandwich experiment.

But Dad reaches over, in a rare moment of coordination, and takes the top piece of bread off the sandwich: he uses his spoon to carefully butter the bread with apple sauce, then drops it on the plate.

Mom mashes up the remaining sardines and takes the bread away.  I feed Dad the sardines.  When they’re gone, he spies a bit of onion on the plate and points to it.  I feed it to him.  There are little specks of sardine here and there on his plate; he points to them, and I gather them up on the tip of the fork and put them into his mouth.

Then he has an attack of acute chest pain.  This has been happening more and more often.  In my opinion he’s having cardiac angina–when the heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen, it complains loudly with pain.  My mother has convinced herself it’s indigestion.  Well, whatever.  I try to convince her to give him a nitroglycerine tablet when he complains of chest pain, but she looks off into the distance, which I know means “I won’t.”  She says she will give him an antacid.

And now she’s decided that he doesn’t need his pain medication for his destroyed spine and shoulder, because “he just sleeps all day.”  I remind her that maybe sleeping all day might be better than being in agony all day.  Quality of life and all that.  Besides, he sleeps all days anyway.

She briefly brightens up at “quality of life,” being a social worker and all, but then starts complaining again that the medicine “dopes him up.”  So I don’t doubt she will withhold his pain meds.  If she does, I will speak with the hospice nurse and see what good it’ll do.

So here I am, back in my own little hornet’s nest in West Bumfuck, waiting to see what will be.  I know what will be; it’s a matter of when.

 

And Here Goes The Other One…What Will I Do?

As my regular readers know, life with my mom has always been far from pleasant.

And now….Dementia Case #2.

I had suspected it, even before I left Jerusalem in 2011 (January 11, 2011, to be exact) to come to the US and help with my dad.  Fears out of proportion, throwing screaming fits in public and not just in private, arguing with the carpenter about whether or not she had paid his bill (she hadn’t).  He even came to me and asked if I had noticed anything wrong with my mom.  He’s been working for us for years, and never saw anything like that.

Interesting how dementia brings out a person’s true character traits.  Take my dad: soft, sweet, gentle, kind.  Very occasionally grumpy or moody, but who isn’t?

My mom, on the other hand, is selfish, angry, suspicious, and nasty.  And she lies.  In fact, she likes to say, “a little white lie won’t hurt.”

The hell it won’t!

But one or two of you might know her personally, and you will say, “Oh, but she is just the sweetest person!  How can you say such things about her?  It must be YOUR misperception.”

The hell I say!

That’s the way people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder operate.  They bask in public accolades, while conducting a Reign of Terror at home.  But the abused ones are in a pickle, because if we try to get help from anyone who knows her, they will shout, “How can you say such a thing about your lovely mother, who is such a gift to the community, such an angel, has dried so many tears and started so many non-profit charities!?”

So in general we just shut up and take it, and marry someone equally dysfunctional.

That’s the way I grew up.  And my dad was terrified of her and hopelessly in love with her, both at once.

Think “Mommie Dearest.”

No, she never dragged me out of bed to scrub the bathroom floor, but plenty went on, and I won’t elaborate here, because today I got the confirmation of a growing suspicion: she’s got dementia.

I’ve been too caught up in the emotional tempest surrounding Dad’s plight to really pay attention to her acting-out.  I’ve been mightily pissed off because she threw a bunch of pottery items that my dad made (he’s a potter) behind the refrigerator.  Right.  And she somehow disposed of a beautiful porcelain vase that Dad and I collaborated on back in my painter days.  It just “disappeared.”  And like the little cups that ended up smashed behind the refrigerator, every inquiry about my vase gets an “I don’t know” with averted eyes and a little smirk.

She’s been on a gaslighting campaign regarding my memory, accusing me of forgetting things that she never told me, such as important appointments.  Gaslighting, if you don’t already know, is when someone tries to make you think you’re crazy by setting up situations that don’t really exist.  It’s a power trip, or it can be used as a coverup for someone’s own mistakes.

Last year I went to the trouble of having a complete cognitive workup–lasted two days and cost me $1200.  And it turns out that I do have one very specific hole in my memory: reconstruction of long and detailed stories–which is distressing for someone whose job used to be collecting and reconstructing long and detailed stories, as a physician.  But my long, medium, and short-term memories are perfect.  So it ain’t me, babe, as someone once wrote in a song.

So this whole business of Dad being in a nursing home has brought out some interesting (heh) and instructive situations.  On a couple of occasions she has asked me to bring something from the house, and when I bought it, she would scold me for bringing the wrong thing, citing my “terrible memory.”

Today, in fact, she called me from the nursing home, asking me to bring Dad’s slippers and a couple of packages of pull-up diapers.  When I reached their house, though, she was already home, having lunch.  The slippers were sitting on a chair.  I picked them up to put them in my backpack and she screamed with her mouth full, “No, not that!  Those are his Pads.”  “Pads” are the brand name of the slippers.

“Didn’t you put these out for me to take?  Did you mean a different pair of slippers?”

“You don’t know what you’re doing.  Go take your shower.”  The building I live in does not have a bathroom, in the usual sense of the word, and I was in fact planning to take a shower at their house before going to the nursing home.  So, cursing under my breath, I did.

I hoped that by the time I finished my toilette that she would be in a more reasonable mood, but no luck.  As soon as I landed downstairs she began screaming at me about my terrible memory, and shoved a bag of stuff in my general direction.  It contained a couple of packets of diapers, with the already mentioned slippers on top.

“Wait a minute, Mom,” I said, trying to control my temper and not doing a very good job.  “These are the same slippers that you said were the wrong ones.  These are the ones that were sitting on the chair, and I picked them up, and you said they weren’t the right ones!”

“No I didn’t!  I told you to get the Depends (diapers).  You don’t know what you’re talking about.  You can’t remember anything!”

At that point I put my coat on, gathered up my stuff and the package, and sailed out the door cursing, not so much under my breath, and not caring whether she heard or not.

When the blood stopped pounding in my ears, I realized that my suspicion is dead-on: she’s sliding into dementia.

Now what am I gonna do?

My dad is safe where he is, but she is a loose cannon and could do anything.  She’s already made some disastrous financial decisions that I am powerless to reverse, because at this point it would be very difficult to prove her incompetent.  That may change very quickly.  But what am I going to do in the meantime, having to interact with her on a daily basis because of my dad, having her living in a place that is now completely inappropriate for her, and having her seething anger aimed in my direction?    Granted, part of the anger is due to the grieving process for my dad.  But that does not excuse her leveling it at me.

I can’t go to the Social Services people, because they all know her in her “public face” and none of them would believe me if I tried to tell them what’s going on.  And of course if they approached her about it, she would tell them all about her mentally ill daughter with the “terrible memory.”  She even has a story about how my memory got so terrible: it was the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatments that have saved my life over the years.  That’s her explanation for why I can’t remember anything.  And of course the Social Services people would shake their heads and cluck their tongues, because they KNOW her and they know she’s a competent person, a kind, sweet angel.

So what am I going to do?

I don’t even know what to say….

I just got back from the nursing home, where they took my dad after the hospital.

Actually I stopped by Walmart to get a heating pad, two bottles of castor oil, a package of 5 cloth baby diapers, and a back brace I know won’t fit because of my curvy hips.  All this to treat the disc that’s bulging in my lower back.  I coughed it out a couple of days ago when I was still asthmatically getting over the mini-flu, the kind you get when you’ve had your flu shot and get the flu anyway.  But at least it was the mini-flu and not the whole thing.

So to treat the inflammation I am going to soak the baby diapers in warm castor oil, maybe mixed with eucalyptus or some other anti-inflammatory oil, maybe German chamomile, put a sheet of plastic wrap over that so it doesn’t stain the heating pad, slap the whole mess on my back, and listen to some soothing music while it works.

I got through yesterday by dosing myself up with the cannabis tincture I have been steeping for the past two weeks.  It got rid of the cough and relaxed the spasm in my back enough so I could get through the day without screaming in pain.  The stuff is miraculous.  Too bad it’s illegal in my state.  Actually it’s a Schedule IV substance in my state, which puts it in the same class as benzodiazepines; in other words, needs a prescription but considered low-risk for abuse.  But for some reason, the criminal code and the medical code don’t agree.  Figures.  I consider it medicine and use it as such.

My dad.  I can’t even wrap my head around it.  The brilliant thinker, the blazing torch of a teacher, the maker of achingly beautiful art: now unable to figure out how to use a pencil, unable to understand how to read a phone number, let alone use a phone–how could this happen?  Whose idea of a cruel joke is this?  It makes me want to run off and kill myself before I have a chance to get so badly off that I can’t even figure out how to do it.

I comfort myself by knowing that he’s much better off in the nursing home, where compassionate people take care of him.  They don’t belittle him for dropping crumbs on his clothes–they just put a bib on him and treat him like a normal human being.

They don’t scream at him for wetting the bed–they take it for granted that he will, and they check him every two hours at night and change the bed if it’s wet, and change his diaper if it’s wet, and treat him like a normal human being.

He doesn’t ask me who those two sisters are anymore–the nice one who helps him and takes care of him, and the one who gets upset all the time–those two sisters are my mother, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of her personalities.  The sweet one that everyone outside the home adores, and the control freak abuser that nobody sees but us–my father and I.

She is spending hours and hours at the nursing home, and making sure that my father and I are never alone together.  The look of hatred in her eyes, toward me, is more open than I’ve ever seen it before.  I’m sure that it’s because the love between my father and I is so apparent–he knows that each parting might be our last, and we tell each other we love each other and I give him a kiss on top of his bald head.

The last time I kissed my mother was several months ago.  She demanded it, saying she was jealous, so I kissed her on the cheek.  It’s not my fault that I treat her like a poisonous snake–with a long forked stick–because she is liable to strike without warning.  Has done, and does, and will do.

At least she finally admitted to letting her own mother die of lactose intolerance.  Did you know that people can die of lactose intolerance?  Yes, they can.  My grandmother had terrible diarrhea from it, and was losing weight.  The nursing home she was in did not have a doctor.  They had a Physician’s Assistant.  Pardon me, to any of you who may be P.A.s, but P.A.s do not have the level of education that an M.D. has.  Some are excellent clinicians and know when to consult their supervising physician, and some are full of themselves and think they know it all.  The one in that nursing home was the latter kind.

So they fed my Nana Ensure, a liquid food substitute that is milk-based.  It is full of lactose.  So she kept on having more and more diarrhea, and losing more and more weight, and they kept on feeding her more and more lactose-containing substance.

I begged my mother to put Nana in the car and take her to see a gastoententerologist.  “She’s old,” my mother said.  “What would they do anyway?”

“They would make a diagnosis and stop the diarrhea,” I said.  My mother made a face and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about.  I had only been in medical practice for ten years at the time.

So Nana died of diarrhea, like people die when they have cholera, only more slowly and in terrible pain.

And two weeks ago, before Dad fell again and broke his back and got yet another concussion, she suddenly started saying how guilty she feels that she didn’t do more for her mother.

And why this sudden bout of guilt?

My mother has become lactose intolerant herself, and got a little taste of what it feels like to have horrible cramps and have to run to the bathroom every ten minutes, and have your butt burn up because of the acid stools you pass.

But Nana couldn’t run to the bathroom anymore.  She had her liquid stools in her diaper, and her whole bum burned up from soaking in the acid stools.

So now Dad is in the nursing home, and Mom is acting like a jealous bird protecting her nest.  She has always considered me an inconvenience, but now my presence is indispensable, as it has been ever since I flew here from my home in Israel three years ago.  She tolerates me only because she needs my help with Dad.

Tomorrow we take Dad to the cardiologist, an hour and a half away by car.  We will have to get him into the car, and out of the car.  It’s generally me who does the heavy lifting, but now I’ve got a bulging disc, so we will have to have help from others both at the nursing home and at the cardiologist.

I know the nursing home will help get him into the car: it’s their job.  I also know the cardiology office won’t help get him out of the car, for liability reasons.  If one of their staff accidentally injured him, the practice would be liable to be sued.  So this will be an interesting exercise, since Dad can no longer walk without help.

Things have gotten so out of hand, so out of control, that I don’t even know what to say anymore.  I just try to “keep it between the ditches,” as Dad used to say, when he knew how to talk.

 

Two Hebrew Kings Blog For Mental Health

I lived in Seattle for a time, and was crazy as a bed bug (ugh! bed bugs!) due to indiscretions in several arenas of my life and untreated bipolar disorder.  Fortunately, I found a wonderful psychiatrist named Ray Vath.  Dr. Vath, if you are reading this, please know you saved my life.

On more than one occasion, I got so manic and paranoid that I locked myself in a hotel room for several days at a time, hallucinating, emerging only to walk my service dog and get more bottled water.  I ate nothing.  No amount of Ativan slowed my mind.  I had to wait it out.  I would not call the doctor for fear he would put me in the hospital–something I feared worse than death, having been in twice already.

On one post-mania visit, Dr. Vath, after writing a script for Lithium, suggested that King David was manic-depressive.  Just look at Psalms, he said.  In one poem he would be elated, dancing and singing before G-d, and in another, crying out in pain and suffering, begging forgiveness and professing to be nothing but a lowly sinner.

I did look at the Psalms, but at the time had no Hebrew, so I had to make do with translations.  These did put across Dr. Vath’s point.  But it wasn’t until I learned Hebrew that I really got the impact of the language David used.  It is so poignant–and so bipolar.

As I got more confident in my Hebrew (and my ability to use a dictionary) I set myself the task of reading the first book of Samuel in Hebrew.  It’s easier than a lot of the ancient texts, because the language is more like modern Hebrew; and it’s easier than the later prophets, because they raved on so.  (It says in Samuel I that the prophets would fall down in something like an epileptic fit and prophesy.  Hmmm, sounds like a Pentacostal Church service.  Maybe they read the Prophets too?)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that David’s uncle Saul, the first King of Israel, suffered terribly from depression!  He would send for David, “The Sweet Singer of Israel,” to play his harp and sing for him.  That was the only thing that would pop Saul out of his black melancholy.  But what happened then!  David, playing his lyre and seemingly oblivious, would jump slightly to the right or left, in order to avoid the spear that Saul, waking from his depressive trance, heaved at his head!  And David would just keep playing, while Saul hurled spears at him right and left.  Crazy, or not crazy?  I vote crazy.  Sounds like one of my family get-togethers, fortunately rare.

Saul did some other manic-type things, like going to a necromancer to call up the prophet Samuel, who had recently died.  Saul needed some information quick, so that was the best course of action, he reasoned.  He got severely punished for that through Divine Retribution.

Saul had this thing about trying to kill David.  David would run to various difficult to get to places in the Land of Israel, like the caves at Ein Gedi, which overlook a beautiful waterfall and pool. I have taken a dip in it.  It was cold.  The caves are very high up, but that did not deter Saul and his army from hunting David down.

One time, David was hiding in a very dark cave.  Saul needed to “relieve himself,” so he went into the very cave in which David had crammed himself way in the back.  While Saul was indisposed, David sneaked up and silently sliced off a piece of Saul’s garment.  Must have been a very sharp knife!  After Saul finished and left the cave, David ran after him and handed him the piece of cloth, entreating him to show some reason and call off his dogs.  This only intensified Saul’s paranoia, and he continued to hunt David from North to South and East to West.

It gives me comfort to know that I am not the only crazy person in the world.  Yes, I know the numbers and statistics, but sometimes the isolation of my own particular variety of bent mind makes me feel as if no one else could possibly have experiences even mildly reminiscent of mine.

This is where Mental Health Blogging comes in.  Here in this wonderfully crazy part of the blogosphere, we let our hair down, and let our brains hang out.  We listen and console and comfort each other.  We do not throw spears at each others’ heads.  Instead, we provide a warm, loving community, something we all need desperately.

Some of us are more functional than others, holding down jobs, having families and social lives.  Others, like myself, confine our social interactions to the safety of the Internet and especially our safe Mental Health Blogging community.

A cornerstone of our community is that paragon of group blogging,  A Canvas of the Minds.  Masterminded by Ruby Tuesday and Lulu Stark, it is truly a place where mental health issues are out of the closet.  If you haven’t been there yet, I urge you to do so immediately!  But not before you finish reading my post 🙂

Although Lulu has retired from Canvas, she left a very special legacy.  Each year, Mental Health Bloggers from all corners of the Blogosphere take the following pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

blogging mental health

 

Well, that was easy, wasn’t it?  Because that’s what I do anyway, and I intend to continue to do it until my fingers dry up and fall off (Heaven forfend), and after that I’ll have to learn Dragon Dictate that I already bought but haven’t even looked at yet.

So.  You’ve heard about my crazy Hebrew relatives, and I hope you enjoyed their stories.  Reading this post over, I realized that my own 21st Century family gatherings are no more shockingly unhealthy than the Hebrew families of 2500 years ago.  Not that it makes me feel any better about family gatherings.  On the contrary, it reinforces my commitment to being a recluse.  Lonely at times, but many fewer slings and arrows!