Shame

While I’m waiting for this case of flu to blow over, I may as well write something.

I had a dreadful experience in the Land of Cleve, which I will write about as soon as I get un-triggered enough to be capable of writing more than ba-ba-baaaa-baba-baaaaa…see what I mean?

And the root of it all is shame.

Shame that after surviving a childhood of violence, confusion, loneliness, and fear, surviving rape, prostitution, homelessness, and fear, pulling it together and getting successful in art, music, and medicine, shame that after all those shooting star successful years, I’m still broken, more broken even than before.

Shame that at the age of 63 I am homeless.

Don’t think for a moment that my fancy camper van and my (to quote my dear mother) “fat disability check” means I am not homeless.

“Don’t say homeless, say house-free,” sage advice from just another such as me.

Don’t believe it.

I know what it’s like to have a home.  I’ve had them, from time to time.  They just don’t stick.

I can’t stay anywhere, because she will find me.  She will drag me out from under the bed where I am hiding…so I have to move.  I have to run.

I can’t stay anywhere, because he will hit on me, he will sell me to his friends while I am knocked out on Angel Dust that he put in my joint…I can’t stay here, because the cops will find me.  You don’t have to be pretty for the cops to like to play with you but it helps, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not…

Such a shame, she’s got all these degrees and doesn’t use them, just sits on her ass all day….

Shame can drive you to despair, makes you want to disappear, but where?

If I were well, I’d go back to work

Settle down

Volunteer

Publish my books

Find some friends

Get a life

If I were well, there’s a lot I could do.

Now it has to be good enough just to deal with the stares.

Yes, it’s that bad.  I try to fix myself up so I don’t look so crazy as all that, but lately (I think it’s the limp now, from the sciatica, it’s killing me) I’m noticing…maybe I should buy some new clothes.  I hate throwing out perfectly good clothes.  OK, they have holes, and when you live outside, you’re bound to get dirty.  

Maybe I should cut my hair.  Even when I braid it, it ends up all wispy and wild.

Maybe I should….

I hope this doesn’t last too much longer.  

Antiepileptic Drug Suspected of Causing Psychosis

http://m.brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/08/07/brain.aww196

There has been much discussion in the bipolar blogging community regarding the pros and cons of different medications in our treatment regimens.  We wonder whether our symptoms are caused by our brains…or maybe, and this terrifies me…from the drugs we take to pacify our unruly grey matter.

The debate has largely focused on the role of antipsychotics.  Many people find their bipolar symptoms are not controlled by certain drugs: but when they try to discontinue, their symptoms rebound, or they even develop symptoms they didn’t have before, like auditory or other sensory hallucinations, tremors, and so on.

I had been skeptical of the extreme descriptions I’ve been reading, of people literally crippled by psychotic symptoms after even a very slow wean from certain drugs.  After all, how could antipsychotics CAUSE psychosis…could it be, thought I, that these people were simply experiencing a resurgence of their own “native” psychosis upon withdrawal of the “anti”?

This study, which focuses on psychosis caused by, or by withdrawing from, certain antiepileptic drugs, has literally changed my mind.  I’m now thinking about the way the brain is able to change the way it functions in its environment.  We bathe it in a substance; it learns to use and depend upon that substance for everyday function.

Sometimes, in the presence of a substance that is supposed to do one thing, our brain rebels and does something else.

This might explain why a person with temporal lobe epilepsy, as represented in the article, given a certain antiepileptic drug, might go ahead and have sensory hallucinations. 

I’m not going to stop taking my lamotrigine (an antiepileptic), because it really does help me feel better.  But this article did give me pause, since I also have temporal lobe epilepsy that causes sensory hallucinations.

Jeekers crow, I sure don’t want to have my days and nights haunted by the smell of baked goods burning in the oven, which is my main sensory hallucination.  It’s damned hard to sleep when your brain is tugging at you yelling “Get up, asshole, and take those cinnamon buns out of the oven before they’re ruined and the house burns down!”  Never mind that I don’t eat baked goods and don’t even have a house, much less an oven.  Stupid brain just goes on and on. 

Combine that with the constant intrusive music that isn’t there, and the bouts of disabling paranoia…I’ll take my chances with my  L&L cocktail (lithium and lamotrigine).

Just not that other stuff, which you will find in the linked article.  I encourage you to read it for yourself, and please do comment here!  I have some private thoughts, which I’m sure will spill over into the comments somewhere.  But I want to hear what all y’all are thinking about these critical issues of what we are putting into our nervous systems.

Mental Illness Not a Factor in Most US Gun Violence, Study Finds

http://m.voanews.com/a/us-gun-violence-mental-illness/3373716.html

Study: News Stories Often Link Violence With Mental Health Illness, Even Though People With Mental Health Illness Are Rarely Violent – 2016 – News Releases – News – Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

This study is helpful in describing the problem, but we need the numbers.  Does anyone have more information on violence and mental illness?  We specifically need the numbers (%) of violent crimes perpetrated BY people with severe mental illness vs violent crimes perpetrated AGAINST people with severe mental illness.

Also, please share this article widely.  We must dispel the myth that every mass murderer/terrorist is “mentally ill”!

http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2016/study-news-stories-often-link-violence-with-mental-health-llness-even-though-people-with-mental-health-illness-are-rarely-violent.html

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. 

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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.

How Stigma Compromises My Medical Care

I don’t know what to do.

I can bet that most of you will say, “Just be yourself, Laura.  Fuck ’em if they can’t relate to you as the awesome human being you are.”

Well, yeah.  I appreciate that.

However.

I have this service dog, see, and she’s neither little nor cute.  Well, she’s cute to me, but a 75 pound Belgian Malinois is automatically not cute to most people, especially the uptight assholes that tend to go into “the medical field” these days.  Even my therapist does not think she’s cute.  Even when Atina climbed into her lap and gave her kisses, because she could see that the dear lady was clearly in distress, it did not help.  My poor therapist could do nothing except beg me to get the monster off of her, which I did, and Atina reluctantly obeyed but was still of the opinion that the lady needed her attention.

On the flip side, if Atina perceives that someone is potentially a threat to me, she stations herself sideways in front of me, giving the unsafe party the hard-eye, which is dog language for “come over here and make my day.”

This is why I have a Service Dog:

I have a perfect storm of Asperger Syndrome, PTSD, and Bipolar illness.  My judgement about people is shot to hell.  I lost it on April 22, 1970, the very first Earth Day, when I was drugged, dragged into a dark basement, and brutally robbed of my virginity.  That, and the prolonged months and years of running from one frying pan into another fire, robbed me of my ability to read people’s intentions.  I think it’s because I simply dissociate every time I have to interact with other people.  So now that I’m on the far side of sixty and no longer give a shit, I’ve stopped making myself do painful things, and aside from the inconveniences of not having friends, family, or a partner when I have a medical emergency, I feel much better.

Have you noticed that sometimes your fridge, washing machine, microwave, computer, and automobile all crash at the same time?  So now you have to get a ride to the Big Box store, to the bank to get quarters for the laundromat, and a ride back and forth to the laundromat, to the convenience store for ice until the new fridge comes, and while you’re on the phone with Tech Support your phone is giving your ear a second degree burn and probably giving you brain cancer as well….

This is what I call a Wear Cycle.  When everything wears out at once.  It generally falls out when you’re between jobs, or just before those gift-giving occasions, or your wedding.

So as some of you are aware, I am in the throes of a Wear Cycle of the most annoying sort.  My body is falling apart.  I thought it just needed a tune-up and maybe a brake job, but it turns out to be the transmission, the universal joints, the head gasket; and every time they fix one thing, another one turns up bad.

The result is a seemingly endless procession of doctors, PAs, Nurse Practitioners, lab techs, snotty Front Office People, sadistic MRI techs who put me in Positions Of Stress for upwards of twenty minutes while further damaging my hearing with the various hammerings and clangings of that infernal magnetic tube, being told that I need surgery for this, surgery for that, and they all worry about my blood pressure.  Surely not!

You must understand that my relationship with The Medical Field is a mine field.  The minute I leave my van in the parking lot of the doctors’ building, the hospital, the lab, I dissociate.  I am terrified.

But you’re a doctor, you say.  How could you not be comfortable in this oh-so-familiar milieu?

That’s just it.  I’m all too familiar with it.  I know exactly what goes on behind the scenes, and it disgusted me while I was in it, and it terrifies me now.

Because I am…one of those patients.

You know, the aging female with so many complaints it throws your schedule off, and she’s slight dotty, and might be amusing if you weren’t running so far behind, and of course–of course, she has to be a doctor, at least she says she is, and she does know the lingo…and she has Medicare and doesn’t seem to have a job, so she must be disabled, but for what?  She’s not saying, and if you ask, she’ll say something vague.

I know this, because I’ve been on their side of the white coat.

So imagine what the reaction would be if they walked into the exam room and there I was with my Service Wolf Dog.

The entire visit would revolve around whether the person who Works In The Medical Field was comfortable with the Doggess, and whether she thought they were Safe.

And of course she would pick up on my instant dissociation because I dissociate whenever I run into One Of Those People, because of the abuse I suffered when I was working In The Medical Field, and the abuse I have suffered as a patient dependent upon these people’s power.

And the shame of being disabled, which is, according to the ancient tenets of The Medical Field, weak; and even worse, crazy.

I just rediscovered a former mentor who was hugely influential to me when I was a medical student.  She was my supervisor in the Public Health Clinic.  We became good friends, and she helped me crystallize my medical practice world view, which is based on compassion and empowerment of the patient to take charge of her own health and well-being.

It turns out that this amazing woman had a terrible crisis, which lead to a suicide attempt.

Rather than supporting her and helping her to rebuild her life, the medical establishment brought criminal charges against her for lowering the esteem of the medical profession in the eyes of the public.

They drove her out of the profession.  It didn’t matter to them that this heinous act might push her over that very precipice she had dragged herself back from.

It didn’t matter that they were persecuting one of the finest physicians on the face of the earth, for the crime of being human.

All that mattered was that she had “failed” to complete her suicide.  If she had died, she would have been another tragic physician suicide; but since she managed to survive, she was pronounced a disgrace to the profession.

Fortunately she is a strong and resourceful woman.  She cleaned houses in order to feed her children.  She struggled her way back onto her feet, and reinvented herself.  Blessed be.

So I know very well what the result would be, even if the Doggess didn’t bite the Assistant (you hardly ever get to see The Doctor anymore):  “Did you get a load of that lady with the dog?  What a crock!”

Yes, fuck ’em.  They’ve no right, legally or otherwise, to prevent me from having my dog with me.  She’s Durable Medical Equipment, just like a wheelchair.

The only thing is…being mentally ill automatically discredits anything I say.  I’ve tried it both ways.  And unfortunately, whenever I’m honest and disclose that I have DSM diagnoses, I get my case dismissed.  No contest.  No service.  Goodbye, and put some ice on that.  It will feel better in seven to ten days.  No need for follow-up.

In awful contrast, when I have withheld my diagnoses, it’s all sympathy and MRIs.

Hell, I even got a few tramadol tablets for my torn shoulder, when I begged the doctor because my left wrist is in a brace awaiting surgery and my right shoulder is so painful that I can’t even get out of bed without fainting if I forget and try to push myself up with my right arm.  (How do I get out of bed?  By wriggling on my tummy until my feet touch the floor.)

You think she would have given me that prescription for thirty, no refills, if she knew that I’m bipolar?

Nope.  Bipolar people are categorically drug seekers.  Even though I asked for tramadol and not Percocet.  Drug seeker, no way.

I’m stuck.

I’m terrified of those places, and I need my dog.  But the presence of my dog would set off such alarms in the mind of The Medical Field Person that my actual medical issues would be eclipsed by Prejudice.  Stigma.

If I showed up in an electric wheelchair, they would be all ears.

But a crazy person with a dog?

Shifting Sands

There are many definitions to “function.”

Most days I find myself checking inside, feeling how I feel right now, and reminding myself that this is how I do “function,” at this moment in time.

Maybe in five minutes I’ll function some other way, but that is something I can neither predict nor control.

My goals are slimmer, tighter. I will take a walk. I will play with my dog. I will give a go at reading this book, and if it won’t read, I’ll put it down and try another time, or not. I will be happy if I remember to give both my dog and I our pills. I will consider it a triumph if I don’t get angry. These are things I now call “functioning.”

I used to go to work every night and save lives.

“Bye folks, I’m off to save lives,” I would say to my family. And I did. Save lives. Just not theirs. And not mine.

After the crash, it has been as much as I can manage to live from day to day. I don’t know why I do it, since there’s not much I can contribute any more.

Maybe I’m finished with the “contributing” part. Who knows.

At this point I just have to be sure I stay far away from the tongue cluckers. I’m too fucking old and busted up to let myself feel bad just because I did the best I could, continue to do the best I can, but now the definitions have all changed.

It’s taken me a long time to get this, to see it clearly. There’s a grieving process, mourning who you were and what you loved doing and how it defined you, both in your eyes and in the eyes of those who knew you then. It’s like giving birth to a stranger. Who the hell is this person in the mirror?

I guess that’s our job now…getting used to who we are, the shifting sands.

The broken shards.

I give the filthy homeless people money.

Critics disdain: why do you give those filthy people money? They’re just going to go buy booze with it.

That’s not my business, what they do with it. If booze is what they need to get from one day to the next, am I God to say that I know better than they do?

Tomorrow, that may be me standing there with a sign out. Or you.

Who knows, that filthy smelly person might be Elijah the Prophet. He’s said to take the form of a down-and-out person, the kind you wouldn’t let in if he came to your door begging.

How do you know this person’s personal tragedy?.

There but for the grace of God go I.
Truthfully.

The longer I live in this tiny camper, the closer I get to myself. It’s not comfortable. Not the camper, and not myself. I can’t avoid the truth: in many people’s eyes I am a failure. They can’t boast about their “daughter/mother/cousin/niece the doctor.”

No, don’t. Don’t say I’m still a doctor, because I’m not.

I’m just me.

That’s all.

Just me, and if that ain’t good enough for ’em, fuck ’em.

Cook County Jail Mental Health Center

In the United States, “budget cuts” have eliminated most of the community mental health services that up until the mid 1990’s served a vast number of uninsured, unemployed, homeless, drug and/or alcohol dependent, and otherwise disenfranchised people.

Where once these people in need of services were able to access a minimal level of care including evaluations for mental illness, medications, group and individual therapy, social work support for helping them get Medicaid, job training and placement, substance abuse treatment, and connection with community support services such as AA and NA, now all of these services have largely been shut down. 

Now, without access to mental health services, people who were formerly able to access care are left on their own.  What happens to them?

Homelessness, drug addiction, crime related to survival on the street with mental illness.

Who assumes their care?

Well, that depends on which prison they end up in, if they don’t die at the hands of “law enforcement,” other individuals, suicide, overdose, freezing to death, or other hazards of street life.

If they’re fortunate enough to live in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel in his “wisdom” shut down six of the city’s twelve community mental health centers, they go to Cook County Jail.

Please take the time to watch and **share** the video below, which documents the unique program for mentally ill inmates initiated by Cook County Jail, which now serves as Chicago’s main “Mental Health Center.”

Postscript

After I wrote my previous blog entry, I let my service dog Atina out to pee and putter around.

Then I felt the scream building up.

Every once in a while, the pressure inside builds and builds, and the only way I can let it out is to scream.  A lot of screams, until my throat is sore, my head is pounding, and I’m too exhausted to scream any more.

But I can’t scream when Atina is with me, in the van.  She already gets concerned when I laugh, because she thinks I’m crying and tries to cover me with her body, which is her way of comforting me.  I like it.

And if I’m in fact crying, she licks away my tears while suffocating me.  She weighs 71 pounds.

So when she was outside, the screams overcame me like a boiling kettle, again, again, again, I couldn’t stop.

Then I heard her barking and scratching frantically at the door.  I stopped screaming and opened the door.

She rushed in and threw herself on me, almost knocking me down.  We clung to each other and she gave little worried yips, stood up and licked my face, and I had to go lie down with her for a while and cuddle till we both felt better and calmed down.

It was a beautiful day, so I figured the best thing we could do was to go for a walk.  As I closed the door of the van, I looked for the scratch marks.

They were right by the door handle.  She had been trying to get the door open, to get to me!

What a precious carrot.

 

The Carrot and the Stick

My life hangs by a frayed thread.

I am a donkey who lives by the carrot and the stick.

The carrot hangs in front of me, just out of reach.  This gives me a reason to keep reaching.  It is valuable, because it means that someone else’s life depends on mine.

I had two carrots; now I only have one.  That one is my dog, Atina.  She cannot live without me, for she is sick and depends on my care to stay alive.

Actually some other benefactor could care for her, but I love her, and she gives me the only joy I have now.  So she is my carrot.

Then there is the stick that follows me, threatening to whack me if I don’t keep trudging along under my load.

The stick is the fear that there might actually be an afterlife, reincarnation, some consequence for taking my death into my own hands.

My life has always hung by this thread, and I have clung to the thread as a mountain climber clings to the fixed ropes, the lifelines that prevent the fall into the unknown, or rather, the certainty of death.

Before the doctor rescued me by cutting me out of my mother’s hostile womb, my tiny organism was flooded by the amphetamines she took to keep from gaining weight while pregnant.

My organism did not tolerate her labor.  My heart began to fail from lack of oxygen.  No doubt my attachment to her womb, my lifeline, was marginal because of the drug that caused constriction of the blood vessels.

I was “small for dates,” four pounds, and struggling to breath, so they took me away and stuck me in an incubator with plenty of oxygen.

My lungs were bad, I suffered withdrawal from the amphetamines, I was unstable, and in those days no one was allowed to touch a fragile newborn except for feeding and changing, so I sucked my thumb and watched the white forms padding on silent feet through the dim space that surrounded my plastic bubble.  This I remember clearly.

Childhood was searing pain, alien to everything, clothes tearing at my skin, terror of my mother, clinging to my father who always had somewhere to go or something to do, only my animals for companionship and love.

Teenage hopelessness, violent rape, runaway, street life, rape, rape, rape, pregnancy, abortion, alone, alone, alone.

Finally mentors, self esteem, push push push degree degree degree, marriage, baby, fell off the balance beam, paralyzing depression, no support, head of my class, medical honor society, residency, depression, mania, no support, ruptured discs, surgery, body jacket, divorce.

Son’s father refused to see him “because it was too emotionally hard” on father.  Really?  Your son cries for you every night and day.  How can you sleep at night?  How can you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “My emotional pain is more important than my five year old son’s”?

We went on, my son and I.  Life was rough, life was rocky.  He was angry, I was numb, except for the pain always there.  Work, the drug.  Work hard, work long, work better.  A nanny in place of a father.  Angry boy, angry boy.  Can you blame him?

Angrier angrier angrier.  Treatment treatment treatment.  Drugs, legal and not.  Go and live with father finally, maybe that will help.  Bribe father to take the boy.  Father likes money, I have plenty.  Used to.

Disaster.  Thrown away, street life, homeless shelter.

Mother now disabled by mental illness, bankrupt.

Son needs help, NOW!

Therapeutic boarding school, but how to pay?  Father and his family refuse to help.  I borrow money from my parents.  They get it by mortgaging their home, to save their grandson.

I leave my career behind, to help my son, no turning back after too much time away.  I am disabled, that’s who I am, new identity.  But I helped my son to save himself, so that’s who I am now, what, a sacrifice?  No, just a disabled person.  It would have happened anyway, in my downward spiral.

Now he is a big shot, finishing his Ph.D., and his father and his father’s family have taken him back, so proud.

His first scientific paper published in the world’s premiere scientific journal.  I am so proud.

But.

We “do” Thanksgiving together, he and I, and every year has been a blast.

This year, something different.

He invites me to his apartment.  Just the two of us.  Why?

Don’t you want to invite some friends who don’t have somewhere to go?  You remember, when you were a kid, we always had students over who couldn’t go home, or were Chinese, or for some reason would be alone.

No, he said.  Everyone already has a place.

I wondered.

The night before Thanksgiving I was invited, with great pomp and circumstance, to go out with he and his friends to a bar.  I was thrilled to be included.

But when I arrived, a five hour drive from where I stay, I had a migraine and felt sick, and just wanted to smoke some flower and curl up in my van with Atina, my dog.  I would feel better tomorrow.

So I said, you guys go ahead, I’m going to sleep off this migraine.

OK, he says, eager and relieved.  And ran out the door.  I’ll leave it unlocked he says, in case you need anything.

Morning late, I feel better, he’s hung over.  Coffee, cartoons on the big screen, I’m content.  He starts cooking.  Always happy when he’s cooking!

Dinner: a roast duck, fried rice, greens, cranberry sauce.

Not much to say, and it’s getting weird.  I feel a void, ghosts at the table, who are they and why don’t they come out and play?

So the pipe goes back and forth, and he is drinking more beer and more beer.  I go to bed early, he goes out with friends.  I wonder ?

Friday morning, coffee, and I am served a spoonful of leftover rice.  He gives himself a plate, not a lot, but a plate. ?

He goes to lab to feed his cells, I shower and try to get this migraine to go away.  I’m hungry.  I take a bit more duck, rice, a bit of everything.  Thanksgiving leftovers are the best.  I wish son was here to share, but I’m hungry and my head is pounding, so I eat.

He returns from lab.  I tell him I’m sorry I couldn’t wait for him, I had to eat.  He looks angry.  I feel the old ominous storm clouds.  Why?

I guess I’d better go now.

But I feel like crap, I don’t want to drive.

He’s already holding the door open for me to go out.

Um, listen, I don’t feel so well, do you think I could hang out for a while longer?

Um, sorry Mom, I need my space, he says, with irony face.

Oh, OK, I understand.

Beggar at the door, no place for you here.

What did I do?  Did I eat too much?  Am I too burned out?

I’m not successful like his father, the famous scientist, or his father’s father, the famous whatever.

I’m just a mentally ill disabled person, a failure at life, an embarrassment.

I’m skinny, I look ill, my hair is grey and frizzy, my clothes hang loose, my dog is nervous…

Can I at least use your internet to find a place to camp?

Oh sure, Mom.  Come in.  But please leave Atina in the van.

I thought he liked dogs.  Maybe now that he’s got new clothes and new furniture, he’s afraid she will…

I find a place, guess this is it, he’s holding the door….

Love you, honey….

Love you too, Mom…mechanical doll voice.  Grim.

I drive off, numb.  Can’t feel yet, I have to get there, too much traffic.

Get there, hook up, walk dog, collapse, convulsed with grief.

There goes my carrot.

Now I know that my leaving won’t make much of a dent in his life.

I stay here for him, thinking my exit would destroy him, but not so.

He has his father now, and his father’s father, and he is their prestigious prodigal son.

In some way, relief, that cord is cut, that fixed line down.

The plan has been in place for some time, yet I have held my hand because of Carrot #1.  Now Carrot #1 has shown me the door, out of his life and into ?

Carrot #2 snuggles against me as I write.  Precious baby.  But she is sick.

She may last months, or a year or a few.

When she goes, I go too.

Will I be punished?  Will I have to come back and do it over till I get suffering “right”?  Or, to quote Lewis Carroll, do we just go “poof” like a candle, when we go?

Already I am losing the use of my body.  My shoulders are too full of arthritis to throw a ball.  My left hand no longer works well enough to play my music, which has carried me through so much suffering all my life.

Something has happened to my blood vessels.  They break and bleed under my skin so that I go around with blue lumps simply from the trauma of living.

My skin comes off in sheets if I brush up against anything harder than a pillow.  The wounds take months to heal and leave hideous scars.

The cancer that I had in the 90’s once again inhabits my innards.  I hope it grows faster this time.  No, I’m not going to treat it.  That would hasten my death, and I don’t want to leave my dog.

But some days I can’t move, my bloated belly pushes down like a rock.  Other days, not so bad.  Some days only liquids, others, soup and rice.

I had this one carrot that kept the juice of life running through my broken veins.  Now that carrot is gone, eaten up by some other entity, and the sick carrot and the stick remain.

The stick doesn’t frighten me.  I can’t do anything about the stick.

My sweet Atina will drag me along until her own candle gutters and goes out, and I will follow after, poof, and at least this life will be done with.

I can only hope that the cancer takes me before I have to take myself.

That way I don’t have to worry about the stick.