Pit Bulls and Other Postal Priorities

I wrote this essay in November of 1996. I’m publishing it on here on what would have been my dad’s 72nd birthday.

Pit Bulls and Other Postal Priorities

Faster than a speeding mail truck…more powerful than a stamp vending machine…able to leap small poodles in a single bound!  It’s dedicated!  It’s surprisingly non-disgruntled!  Yes…IT’S A MAILMAN!

My mother once said that my father has more faith in the Yankees and mailmen than he does in God.  I never questioned his passion concerning baseball; after all, the Yankees are the best team in the universe.  But being a sane person, I would often wonder why he loved the Postal Service so much.  So, I asked him about it.  He was more than willing to share information, due to his firsthand experience.  My father, Edward Slavin, has been a letter carrier for nearly thirty years.  His enthusiasm for his job increases annually.  And no, he’s never packed an Uzi. 

The number of negative connotations concerning “fanatical” Postal workers is disturbing.  After all, a mailman possesses many characteristics of an average superhero.  At first glance he appears a mild-mannered employee of the United States government.  Upon closer examination, one sees that such a man is invaluable to the operation of a nation.  Indeed, he displays much loyalty toward his country and fellow man.  Nothing can deter him from his delivering duties; he must brave hazards (such as papercuts) on a daily basis.  The macho mailman can scale an office building in seconds, though he often has to use the stairs.  The letter carrier zips around in his sporty mailmobile all day, bringing joy to an endless number of civilians.  Yet instead of brightly colored spandex and a cape, the mailman is forced to wear a nondescript uniform.  And let’s face it: not even Superman or Spiderman are brave enough to wear hiked-up socks and safari hats in public.

“Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night shall stay these carriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  Indeed, bad weather and other dangers have not prevented Ed Slavin from doing his job since June of 1966.  As a child, my father wanted to be a professional baseball player or a “teacher of mathematics.”  After dropping out of college, he worked briefly as an “engineer of sanitation.”  Seeking a more rewarding profession, he turned to the Postal Service.  My father wanted to quit “when [he first started…[he] didn’t like it.”  He was only earning seventy cents above minimum wage.  For a young man attempting to earn a living in Irvington, New York, two dollars and seventy cents was hardly enough.  Yet he grew to love the work within six months and has had no desire to change professions since. 

Numerous sources claim that “Superman never made any money.”  However, the modern mailman makes quite a bit.  Fortunately, the Postal Service went on strike in 1970.  Congress passed the Postal Reorganization Act, and the wage for Postal workers was raised to over five dollars and hour.  It has been rising steadily over the years.  When I asked my father how much money he makes, a look of terror crossed his face and he replied, “I don’t know.”  When I assured him that this information would in no way increase my shopping habits, he confessed.  He earns about seventeen dollars an hour.  Working over eight hours is considered overtime; he then earns twenty-six dollars, or “time and a half.”  After ten hours he earns the “double time” wage of thirty-five dollars per hour.  When working over twelve hours, he receives a whopping forty four dollars an hour!  I immediately changed my mind about the shopping comment. 

The Post Office ranks its employees according to the experience of the worker.  For example, those with low or no seniority are used as substitutes for ill co-workers.  After a year or two, these workers can put in a bid for a “regular” route.  The individual offices label employees with numbers in accordance to their seniority.  Seven years ago, my family moved from New York to Idaho.  My father had to request a transfer, for he had no intentions of leaving the Post Office.  A small tragedy ensued.  My father accumulated twenty-two years of seniority in Irvington; after the move, he had to start all over again.  After moving up several hundred notches to number five on the revered list of seniority, he moved clear across the country.  Consequently, he received a rank of one hundred and eighty-nine on the Boise list.  Yet he has quickly climbed the charts.  In seven years, he has moved up fifty-four notches to number one-thirty-nine.  As Kasey Kasem might conclude, “now, on with the countdown!”

My father’s alarm clock sometimes goes off at four-thirty in the morning.  On the day after a holiday, he punches in at five or six a.m.  He arrives at seven in the morning on an average day.  The well-being of a mailmobile remains a top priority; my father inspects his faithful vehicle immediately every morning.  “Half asleep,” he then sorts mail for about three hours.  The first hour of sorting is dubbed “the golden hour,” when the letter carriers “are not supposed to talk.”  This silent ceremony supposedly encourages efficiency.  Ed “case[s} letters into a flat case in delivery sequence.”  He then ties the mail in bundles, loads them into his truck, and drives into the brightening sun.  He delivers mail to the crime-ridden metropolis of downtown Boise.

My father has received two “special achievement” awards for efficiency and a certificate extolling him for unused sick leave.  Obviously, he takes great pride in his work.  He enjoys working outdoors and appreciates the exercise.  Interaction with the public is also important to him, and he talks to many of his customers on a regular basis.

However, many unpleasant occurrences can darken the day for any father.  The randomly closed streets of downtown Boise present constant irritation.  Most customers on my father’s route are “nice”; however, he admits that “there’s one lady on my route who’s pretty bitchy.”  Those who complain of the high cost of service are also annoying.  “Go to a different country and it will cost you more,” he remarked.  “It costs more to send a letter in Germany, which is about the size of Texas.”

“Certain supervisors” and the Postmaster General often do not acknowledge the fact that letter carriers are human beings.  Marvin Runyon, the current Postmaster General, is a “crotchety old guy…[who] makes all the major decisions for the Post Office.”  Yet Runyon concerns himself only with the financial aspects of the Postal Service.  Sighing sadly, my father remarked, to them, we are just numbers, numbers, numbers.”

And then there is the issue of dogs.  Mailmen must immediately file reports and receive medical attention for canine-inflicted wounds.  The Postal Service loses three million dollars in productivity per year due to dog attacks.  Canines across America snack on mailmen.  Consider the following example:

It is a quiet summer’s day in Irvington.  A certain German Shepherd (we’ll call him “Rocco” to conceal his identity) sat by the storm window, deep in reverie.  He had just watched the movie “Cujo” with his master, and the film was highly inspirational.  How Rocco longed to become a star; hell, he’d even settle for one of those Alpo commercials.  Just outside the window, something moves.  Rocco’s ears perk: this is just the opportunity he needs to display his star potential!  This could land him the role of Lassie’s abusive boyfriend!  “A mailman!” He thinks.  “Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy.”  Without further thought, he perfects his growl and leaps right through the glass window. 

Ed Slavin may seem superhuman, but he is not immune to injury and has a healthy sense of self-preservation.  After hearing and seeing Rocco blast through a window, my dad yelped.  The dog bounded closer; yet quick thinking and a can of mace prevented potential gore.

“I don’t understand!”  Whined Rocco’s owner.  “He’s a friendly dog!  See, look!  He’s wagging his tail!”  Rocco, however, remaining loyal to the art of theatre, continued to shake his head vigorously and produce shaving cream with his lips.  My father then decided it was time to “wag [his] tail outta there!”

Another time.  Another place.  Another dog.  “Fufu” is hungry.  The Sheltie mix hasn’t eaten in an hour.  The dry heat of Boise is growing unbearable.  But just his luck!  Along strolls a citizen, one who is getting too close for comfort.  Ah, and not just an ordinary citizen, either!  Fufu waits until the left pointer finger is within range.  Chomp!  Mmmmm, delectable!  Mailman with just a touch of Brut!

Harmless little Fufu bit right through my father’s finger.  It was my father’s first week on his “regular” route. 

Yet there exists an organization which can sometimes defend mailmen from dogs and lawsuits.  The National Association of Letter Carriers is the union of the Postal Service.  It was this organization which won the right to negotiate with Congress for the contracts of Postal employees in 1970.  The NALC shields employees from managerial abuses of power and protects each worker’s rights under the contract.  Unfortunately, one is not required to be a member; my father was visibly upset by this fact.  “Non-members get all the benefits without paying…if the union has to defend them if they get fired, they should have to pay the costs.”

The threat of Postal privatization also looms.  Privatization would “do away with the USPS monopoly on first class mail and let other companies compete” in delivery services.  This idea greatly angers my father.  “They [the government] will sell it off in bits and pieces…they’ll deliver to highly profitable areas and leave rural areas to the Postal Service,” he suggests.  He believes a privatized system would cater to only private companies and the wealthy.  Massive layoffs would also occur.

Hoping to spark some semblance of competitive spirit, I asked my father what he thought of the United Parcel Service.  “Do you know what UPS stands for?”  he asked.  “Under Prickly Shrub.  That’s where they leave the packages.  They hide ‘em.  We leave notices,” he added haughtily.

If my father is an average mailman, most mailmen don’t mind the stereotypes surrounding such a profession.  The Postal Service employs over eighty thousand people.  “Other big corporations have problems, too,” he claims.  He feels “disgruntled” incidents are bound to occur; he also feels that the way managers treat employees instigates most violent incidents.  For example, the Postmaster General recently eliminated the “Employee Involvement Program” because it wasn’t cost effective.  My father sometimes worries about ex-employees that might “go off the deep end” and pay the local offices a visit. 

Other stereotypes are a source of amusement for my father.  “I think Cliff Clavin [from “Cheers”] is funny,” he chuckled.  He then told me about an episode where Cliff is going through the hall of a business delivering mail.  After Cliff leaves, the businessmen all open their doors and hand each other the correct mail.  Due to appearance or rhyming last names, my father is often called “Cliff” by certain customers.  The world sometimes operates in reverse: Cliff Clavins hide in the clothing of civilians.  My father told me a true story about an oblivious customer.  A clerk asked her what kind of stamps she would like.  “Anything but the self-adhesive kind,” she remarked.  “They taste terrible!”

My father will retire from the Postal Service in about five years.  When I asked what benefits he would receive, he responded: “A monthly annuity.  That’s about it.”  Yet I know he will always cherish the memories of his job.  I feel better knowing he will never be disgruntled.  When I asked who he would recommend his job to, he pulled a very somber face and said, “Ex-convicts.”

“Just kidding!”

But has our story ended?  Will the increase of e-mail eliminate the need for our hero?  Will a rabid dog cripple him long before his retirement?  Tune in next century to find out!  Until next time, remember to hug your mailman.  And if you see Fufu, run!!!

Le Sigh

It’s been a hell of a week.

We started out with two medication management appointments. One for my son, then one for me. Our provider doubled his sleep medication so that he can sleep through the night. Medication changes can be rough, and I imagine they are even harder for a kid his age. I was prescribed a stimulant to help with my chronic episodes of fatigue.

We held our breath until the inauguration Wednesday. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a leader who not only acknowledges that transgender people exist, but has the wherewithal to appoint them to important positions. My child and I are over the moon because of this.

But on Wednesday, we also received some tragic news. My grandmother’s dog, Short Stuff (aka Shorty), an adorable little dachshund, passed away. The weekend prior, the poor little fella had a liter of fluid drained from his abdomen. The ultrasound results revealed that he had an inoperable growth in his heart. My grandmother, of course, is devastated. We all are. We will truly miss the little guy.

Then came Thursday. I’m almost 43 years old. I got really excited because I was going to pick up soup from Cafe Zupas before heading to my regular doctor’s appointment. Yes, I am so old that the prospect of having a few quiet moments to myself to eat soup in a parking lot brings me immense joy.

I get out of work and into my car, only to be greeted by a slew of text messages and voicemails. The most important of these said that my grandmother had some kind of an episode and that my mom had taken her to the ER. Apparently she said she didn’t feel well as they were out driving, reclined her seat, turned white as a sheet and was not breathing or responsive for a few minutes. This of course scared the hell out of my mom, who immediately took her to the emergency room.

My first instinct was to drop everything and go to the hospital. But I couldn’t, because of COVID. Instead, I made arrangements for my boyfriend to pick up keys and let the other dogs at my mom’s house out. I had been putting my doctor’s appointment off for months. I’ve been experiencing episodes of intense fatigue since my shingles episode in the summer, and I needed to know why.

I slurped down some soup and then dealt with the first of the voicemails. It was from my son’s doctor’s office. They had some paperwork asking whether E was about to be admitted as an inpatient at a hospital. This came from the insurance company. No one has any idea why. I indicated that I had just texted him to make sure he was doing ok at home, and that we haven’t gone near a hospital in months.

I had my doctor’s appointment. My provider, a nurse practitioner, is awesome. She seems determined to get to the bottom of this. She offers elbow bumps in lieu of handshakes.

They do some basic bloodwork, since basic is all I can afford until better insurance kicks in.

I get back to my car and deal with the other two voicemails. One is to schedule an appointment with Liberty for a re-evaluation for YES Medicaid for my son. I play phone tag with the polite woman, again. Then I have to call St. Luke’s Mental Health, because they are threatening to cancel a referral for my child. I sent the paperwork in Saturday, since no teachers were available to fill out the teacher questionnaire during winter break. The lady on the phone says she always tells people that it’s not the teacher portion that holds the referral up, but the parent portion. But I didn’t speak with this woman before, and therefore had no idea. Insert shooting star with rainbow. The More You Know.

Don’t get me started on how they are so quick to cancel a referral when the waiting list to get an appointment is 6 TO 8 MONTHS LONG in the first place.

I get home and tell E about grandma. He has a lot of anxiety in general lately but in particular, he is worried about grandma or great grandma getting COVID. So I wanted someone to be home with him when he found out great grandma was in the ER.

Fast forward to Friday. Grandma is on the mend and her tests were normal, which is excellent. They think she may have had a seizure, which is not so excellent. I receive a denial letter for life insurance, which, frankly, is discriminatory. And sucks. Apparently the information released from my mental health provider was the nail in the coffin, so to speak. I understand there is an appeal process, but I don’t have the time or energy for more paperwork. I also really couldn’t afford the coverage in the first place, since I am currently only working part time.

The kicker? This week was stressful but not particularly out of the ordinary.

Oh, and to top it off, my blood tests already came back. They are BEAUTIFUL. Everything is in the green. My doc is still offering to refer me out to a clinic rheumatologist, or perhaps the endocrinologist. But my medication manager indicated that sometimes people who have shingles have long-lasting ill effects. So maybe it’s just that.

And all the medical professionals keep telling me to avoid stress.

That’s rich.

To quote this James Corden skit, what a month this week has been.

Unst(able)

Let me dispel a little ableist nonsense I saw on the internet a few nights ago.

It involves a quote that says, “I hate it when people say, ‘must be nice.’ I’ve worked my a** off to be able to do the things I do and have the things I have. You chose to be where you’re at.”

Key word here? Able.

To say anyone would choose severe mental illness, or any other disability for that matter, is presumptuous and privileged at best. If the playing field were leveled, that would be one thing. In reality, it’s not. I didn’t choose this life. It chose me through an unfortunate combination of genetics and lack of access to proper medical treatment.

These quote implies that I’m lazy. I’m quite the opposite. I work very hard to stay employed, manage my own care, and manage the care of my son. For many, many people, life is a series of struggles. And it’s all a lot of us can do to stay afloat. A vast majority of people don’t care if you’re disabled in this country, or simply choose not to acknowlege it.

Must be nice.

Must be nice to never have suffered so much that you no longer wanted to live. Must be nice to have adequate insurance. Must be nice to not have to jump through hoop after hoop to get medical coverage and care for your child.

It would be nice if it wasn’t such a bureaucratic nightmare to get assistance in this country. I’ve dealt with social security for my son for the past year. We are just barely above the threshold for actually receiving any aid for his disability. Because in order to qualify for any form of assistance, you have to be destitute. I have actually lost money by applying for social security on his behalf. Because I have to print out paystubs and mail them with a tracking number to make sure our social security numbers aren’t compromised. That’s $90 in shipping costs alone. Not to mention all the time and effort it took to apply, and the time it takes to call and sort out the communications they send.

So even though I am also disabled, I continue to work. I continue to advocate for my son’s health in any way that I can, even though it involves many hours of red tape and paperwork. I will likely have to work until I drop dead of some stress-related condition. Random lottery win isn’t much of a retirement plan.

And the sad thing is, compared to a lot of people in this country, I’m doing relatively well.

A lot of life is bad luck and happenstance. In light of how many people are truly suffering through this pandemic, I would say that the attitude prevalent in the quote smacks of a deep lack of empathy for other people. So I would encourage those who post it to pull their head out of their hard-working a**es. No one is saying hard work shouldn’t be rewarded. But to imply that because you are “able,” people who are “less than able” don’t deserve to lead a good life? That’s utter bulls***.

Miss Mood

I keep telling myself I’m going to make a habit of writing. Yet, here I am, writing at odd times, while the rest of the household is sleeping. I have been thinking of making a schedule, but with so many appointments and things being generally chaotic, it hasn’t happened. For a detail-oriented person, I really need to get on the ball.

Yet so much of my life is dictated by my mood. Long before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my ex-husband used to call me “Miss Mood.” Ha! It seems a very accurate nickname, in retrospect. I also tend to be ruled by my anxiety. Anxiety that is now manifesting in physical illnesses. Shingles, migraines, psoriasis. I am told I need to stress a lot less. But as an underinsured person during a national health crisis, I’m not quite sure how.

I did slash my hours to 25 a week, but I’m still having trouble managing my son’s care. They do not make anything easy here in the good old US of A. We got a referral concerning a potential sensory processing disorder. He has been having an acute trauma response to loud noises, especially the sounds of planes going by. We live close to the airport. He can’t get earplugs in on time. And the waitlist for the necessary test? Six to eight months. In short, this is not good. I don’t want to have him on any more medication, and his present emergency med just makes him sleep. Which would be fine, except for this concept of being awake and alert for online school.

Online school has been going a bit better due to the efforts of his wonderful and empathetic IEP instructor. I can’t imagine how stressed out this sweet lady must be, and here she is, attempting to help us through this. Teachers were overworked and underpaid before. And now? Man, they need hazardous duty pay. Actually, they needed it before, with the risks of school shootings. But when I think about it, I start asking myself what is wrong with this country. The answer, unfortunately, is A LOT.

Racism. Transphobia. Homophobia. Anti-Semitism. Millions facing eviction. Millions uninsured or underinsured. So many of us just barely getting by. Or not having the opportunity to get by at all, due to a national health crisis. A large percentage of our leaders refusing to help the common people of this country. I am one of the very lucky ones keeping food in my mouth and a roof over my head. But I worry so much about everyone else. It makes me sick that we are getting no government assistance. We really need to stop with this irrational fear of socialism. It seems to come from propaganda, paranoia, and a willingness to believe anything the talking heads say. Let’s face it, folks. We pay taxes. We need help. Our pleas to our leaders for help are getting ignored.

I find it interesting that certain members of Congress have time to back frivolous lawsuits that would essentially upend democracy. But they don’t seem to have the time or the resources to legitimately help a country in an unprecedented crisis. And here in Idaho? Our public officials are facing threats and harassment for trying to do their jobs and protect the public. It is deeply shameful. Putting a mask on hurts no one. Not putting one on increases the spread of this potentially life-threatening disease. I read a sign from a recent protest that read “Why not try liberty instead?” You see, dummies, diseases don’t work that way. Diseases do not have ideals, and do not care what you believe. Hundreds of thousands of people, some vulnerable, some perfectly healthy, have succumbed to this dreadful disease. Stop being a jerk, shut your mouth, and then put a d*** mask over it.

But there I go, being moody again. Just a glance at national and local news tends to aggravate me to my core. No amount of positivity, toxic or otherwise, is underscoring my prevalent mood of despair lately. Oh, and you Nazi jerks that did this? How dare you. Did your parents miss the day they taught empathy in kindergarten? Did you yourself graduate kindergarten? Apparently you didn’t make it to the part in school where they taught us about WWII. Your stupidity and lack of decency is abhorrent.

It’s not that blatant ignorance hasn’t always been around in this country. It’s just lately, it’s been emboldened. Millions blind to the fact that they are being swindled. Millions voting against their self-interest. Millions who voted for a guy who is too busy whining that he didn’t lose, when, in fact, he did. I have no faith in someone who puts his ego and self-interest above MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN THE COUNTRY HE IS ALLEGEDLY LEADING WHO ARE URGENTLY SUFFERING.

But hey, that’s just me.

Now I’m going to take a moment to stare at the late, great Chris Cornell. And maybe some kittens. Because writing, though usually therapeutic, has not improved my mood.

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

Hello folks! It’s been a while. We have been under a great deal of stress lately. Kiddo has been having major anxiety attacks every time a plane passes or another loud noise occurs. I think it may be a sensory processing disorder, but I’m not a professional. A referral is in the works. I am staying home with him today. We are going to try to ease his anxiety levels by baking cookies.

He desperately wants to rearrange his room. I think he is going stir crazy since I won’t let him go anywhere. Screw this year, and this pandemic in particular. I am going to rearrange the office room today so that we can switch the beds from the different bedrooms.

I received the highest rating possible from a writing sample I did for a content mill. But it’s a content mill. My ultimate goal is to get paid to write for a website, especially one related to entertainment or mental health. I need to get on with writing reviews and beefing up my portfolio. I haven’t had a lot of time. It would be great to freelance for a living. But I am not even close to being able to do that.

I did start reading my boyfriend’s book, finally! I have had it for many months. But because of terrible time management and depression, I didn’t crack it open until my son was at the dentist yesterday. Because of COVID protocols, they make you wait in your car. Much to my delight, Jim’s writing was very engaging. He’s such a smart guy that I figured it would be. It is called Blood Red God, and it is available on Amazon.

He wrote a whole book! I am a lazy writer. Sure, I get ideas for fiction, but I am so critical of my writing that I never get much past the basic concepts or opening scenes. My friends who write books astound me. I need to immerse myself in reading to become a better writer. Heck, one of my friends from college, Cynthia Hand, is writing books faster than I’ve been able to read them! And she has a team of lady writers that she works with, which is about the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard of. I am loathe to admit that I haven’t read their first book, of the Lady Janies series, though it is sitting downstairs and I hear it’s fantastic.

I think I may go downstairs while everyone else is sleeping and rearrange our little library. We need another bookshelf, as the books are quite literally spilling off the shelves. I have accumulated so many books over the past five years. Time to kick this depression somehow and start reading them!

But first, I will try to help my son through some of his homework. I can help with speech and critical thinking, but probably not the math. Math is a language that though beautiful, eludes me. I shall conclude with my favorite song about literature. Hey, that would make a great Spotify playlist. Songs with literary references…

Sanity vs. Vanity

I’m going to say something that may shock some of you.

Healthy does not mean thin.

And thin is not something that someone with my number of chronic illnesses can hope to attain. I am on a medication that, even at a baby dose, causes a lot of weight gain whether I fight it or not. It caused 60 pounds of weight gain in two months the first time I was on it.

But you know what? I am sleeping. And not waxing delusional.

And these are good things, right? Wrong, but only if I decide to base my worth on the numbers on a scale and not, say, my IQ. Am I good to my body? Not really. I try to be, but with the whirlwind that has been the last year, self-care has not been high on the priority list. Could I modify some behaviors and become healthier? Absolutely. And I think I will do so, now that I have time to breathe and think.

But I am so tired of fat-shaming, overt or otherwise. that I could scream. You want to be “healthier?” Bully for you. Respectfully, I could try my hardest to lose weight and still get hit by a bus tomorrow. Worse, since I am high-risk and still working on site, I could contract COVID and die a horrible death, or accrue far more debt than I already have, because I am woefully underinsured.

My dad was on three softball teams the year that he suddenly passed away. The man walked for a living. Genetics are a b****. And terrible things happen. I’m not saying it’s not a good idea to try to better yourself. I’m saying let’s not bring guilt and the prospect of our mortality into this.

The fact is, NO ONE KNOWS when they are going to die. And if I cope in different ways than you do, it does not make me less of a person. It does not mean that I am selfish and that I must not care for those who love me because I do not take better care of myself.

Healthy, in fact, is not really something I can attain. Too many of my illnesses have no cure. So let’s stop idealizing this phantom notion of health. Do I want to be around for my wonderful boyfriend and child? Absolutely. But I am also cognizant of the fact that in reality, I have very little control over when or how I will die.

So stop trying to make me feel bad about it. I have spent so much of my life feeling bad, based quite a bit on the weight of other people telling me that I am not enough, somehow. And I am really, really, tired of people who tell me I can get off my medications, if only I were more active. Exercise and diet can help control a few of my conditions. But (say it with me now)–THEY. ARE. NOT. A. CURE.

Maybe I’m being overly bitter. When my ex visited me in the hospital after my nervous breakdown, his first comment to me was not “I’m glad you’re ok.” His first comment was, “Wow, you’re as skinny as you were when I first met you.” Let’s rewind. Less than a month after I gave birth to our child, we were putting creamer in our coffee. I told him I liked a little more creamer in mine. He responded, “That’s why your a** is fat.” My response? “I just had a baby. What’s your excuse?” You see, I was valued inversely, per pound, for too many years. So are my feelings about other people trying to get me to lose weight part of a trauma response? Absolutely.

It’s good to have goals. It is. I am going to formulate some health goals as soon as I stop being so angry. Talking about all this has been bad for my health, as it has undoubtedly raised my blood pressure.

My before and after? Before medication. Skinny as a rail, but absolutely miserable. Now? A bit more rotund. Happy not to be suffering in personal purgatory. Everyone’s healthy is different.

Doomed to Party All Night

What’s up, party people? Me. I’m up. Hypomania? Perhaps. Time will tell. The good news is, I have little disposable income. So I won’t be going on a shopping spree anytime soon.

National Novel Writing Month is coming up. They have free tools on the website, which I discovered a few days ago. I’ve never participated. I started a romance novel (sans sex) maybe thirteen years ago. I never completed it. I think, in light of the fact that I can’t sleep, I need to finish it. Or at least compile that book of essays.

I haven’t had much time to write as of late. Too many appointments, too many phone calls. We average four appointments a week. I had only one slated for this week and wah-lah! It multiplied into four. I have to call the school psychologist back today and fill out another test.

I did manage to get a flu shot at Costco yesterday. Only $19.99! I insisted on paying cash, and the kind pharmacy tech insisted that my insurance probably covers a flu shot. But you see, I called, and it doesn’t. “That’s kind of crappy,” she commented. Exactly. That is the most succinct summary of the plan currently offered to me. The nice thing is, I have been there a year, so I am finally eligible for EAP. I asked about it several months ago. Before the added stress of online school. I would call, but I have so many other appointments at the moment.

Self-care. Apparently it’s important. Who knew? I am up in the middle of the night. Plenty of me-time, am I right? Updated the resume and applied to a position. These lovely ladies took the opportunity nap in my stead.

Mona looks personally offended. Not at all ready for her close-up.

I know I brought this on myself. Bought mass quantities of chocolate at Costco on my way out. Looked for lettuce as well, because life is about balance. Couldn’t find what I was looking for, because life is also a b**** sometimes. Had a biscotti with a cup of coffee at three in the afternoon. Hence, I am awake now.

The funny thing is, I know my child will complain about HIS lack of sleep when I get him up in three hours.

And I must remember, in my sleep-deprived state, not to go out the front door. The concrete guys showed up early to fix our sidewalk. So that the rain and snow runoff doesn’t pool by the downstairs window and leak through the wall.

And with that mental note, I am off to make more coffee. I’m to that point where if I go back to sleep, I will just feel worse when I have to get up. I think I’ll indulge myself in the eternal delight that is laundry. Indeed, Fifth Dimension. That sleeping pill I took was, in fact, a waste of time…

Pshaw

Psoriasis. Hard to say, even harder to spell.

Joined the psoriasis group online to learn more about my newly-diagnosed disorder. And guess what? The fatigue I’m having may be due to the fact that autoimmune disorders suck.

Cue doctor house–at least it’s not lupus, right?

Could be worse. But I need to learn to control (or at least better manage) my stress levels. Of course, yoga and kale are suggested. And this time, I’m taking this advice seriously. Couldn’t hurt, might help. NOT A CURE.

Saw this terrifying article. Had shingles in June. Which came first, the autoimmune disorder or the shingles? Chicken, or egg? They appear to be part of the same bird. Doesn’t help that I’ve been running around like recently decapitated poultry. At least the risk of stroke has passed.

So. What else have I learned? Oh, yes. Don’t eat or drink anything that might be considered “fun.” No salt. No excess. No alcohol. I’ve been meaning to get more fruits and vegetables into my diet anyway. Exercise, of course. Avoid stress.

Bought a fancy paint-by-numbers set. Am determined to actually use one of my four exercise mats. Have a yoga DVD downstairs. My only real exposure to yoga was the P90X version. I definitely need something less extreme.

And, of course, research. I heard turmeric can reduce inflammation, and I bought two bottles yesterday. Vitamin D. Plenty of rest. Ha! I woke up at 3am for no discernible reason this morning. Good luck to me.

What bothers me the most is that, other than prescribing an ointment for the thick patches of skin, the doctor said nothing about psoriasis causing my other symptoms. But every person who commented on my post in the group said that fatigue is definitely present, and often debilitating. I was sure I had COVID the week before last, because I have never been so tired. Not even when my kid was born. Not even in the sleep-deprived weeks leading to my hospital stay.

In honor of Halloween, I am bone tired.

At least it wasn’t the shingles coming back. YET. Haha. So in addition to the mental maladies, I have added autoimmune disorder and asthma to my list of chronic illnesses. Apparently I am an avid ailment collector.

My Inner Demons

It’s October. That means it’s spooky time.

I was on the Facebook group “Creatures of the Night” recently, and someone’s story reminded me of my own experiences with sleep paralysis. From what I understand, this phenomenon happens when your brain does not fully shut off during sleep. In my personal experience, it has happened when I have been severely sleep-deprived.

College. When I lived off of vegetable beef soup, coffee, and Pepsi. Side note–I do not remember ever drinking water during college. Anyhow, I was getting 3-4 hours of sleep on a good night, because I was an obsessive-compulsive nerd who loved to study. Between classes, I would go back to my dorm room for some much-needed rest.

In a prior dorm room, when I had a roommate, I had a few strange episodes of sleep paralysis. While sleeping, I felt someone sitting on my bed, watching over me. The feeling was that the entity was benevolent. I asked my boyfriend at the time if he had stopped by my dorm room when I was sleeping. He had not, which makes sense. Benevolent is not a term I would use to describe him.

A more frightening episode happened a few weeks later. I was napping, and I felt like someone was clawing down the length of the underside of my mattress. A voice was repeatedly hissing, “Get OUT.” Not the best experience. That nap got a 0/10, would not recommend.

I eventually moved to a “closet single” dorm room, and the strange experiences took weird to a whole new level. While I slept, there were once again two entities, one good, and one bad. Like Yin and Yang, they were black and white, and they encircled me. In one episode, I was the little spoon, and the white entity was the big spoon. It seemed a genderless, but protective, force.

Keep in mind that during these experiences, I was partially awake, but could not move when I attempted to. I could hear conversations of my college colleagues in the hall outside. I could hear good old Todd practicing his trumpet upstairs. I was frozen, but I could see my dorm room quite clearly.

The malevolent spirit terrorized me during other episodes. Once it appeared as a giant curtain, dark grey, at the foot of my bed. In the most terrifying scenario, it transformed into a tornado-like cloud and forced itself into my mouth.

My friends wanted me to bless the room somehow. But I knew it was not the room, but my mind, that was haunted. My angel and demon followed me to my parents’ house. I simply was not getting enough sleep, and my brain went wonky because of it.

It has been many years, and many medications, later. Thankfully, this does not happen to me anymore. My child did have an episode where he saw a monster with a top hat come out of his closet, so I am wondering if sleep paralysis was at play.

Mansplaining Mental Illness

I got up at 4:30 to have some “me time.” I’ve recently reduced to part-time, and am looking for an at-home position to be closer to my kid. I’ve never really worked at home before, but I think I would dig it. I’m also determined to start submitting writing to websites, rejection rates be damned. You don’t get better if you don’t practice and learn from your experiences, right?

So, dear readers, what has happened these past few months? Here, we’ve been managing medication changes. I would say it’s been fun, but I don’t think that’s the right word. We have been trying to focus enough to pass online courses. I have contacted several other online school websites, because (praise administrators and teachers for trying), the district online learning is just not jiving with E’s disability. They’re trying to get an IEP in place, but it’s a slow process, and I know everyone is overwhelmed.

In my search for online and other part-time work, I noted that the district is hiring interventionists to keep kids from failing. Which means, this lovely pandemic and its repercussions are not just affecting MY kid. Everyone is struggling.

And by the way, they sure don’t make being disabled easy. In case you were wondering. They’ve given me enough red tape to hang myself. I wanted to see about a certain treatment program that we were cleared for this spring. But now that it’s been over six months, we would have to start the reevaluation process. On top of the IEP process, and the gender support meeting, and the counseling, and the med management, and the family support, and the coordinated care team…I’ve been up to my eyeballs in appointments and paperwork.

And at the heart of all this bureaucracy, there is a child, suffering. It breaks my heart.

In order to get more support, I tried to attend NAMI virtual meetings. The first meeting went well, though the other members indicated that they had adult children. The second meeting, however, seemed to be led by a gentleman (ahem) who held certain convictions about mental illness. When he heard that I had been divorced in the last five years, he asserted that my child’s mental maladies were a result of early childhood trauma. The exact quote was, “Sometimes, when people are seeking their own happiness, they forget that they are dragging other people along with them.”

Um, what?

So it’s better to stay in a toxic relationship, one which you might not have survived long-term? And what about the genetic factors? There is a history of one mental illness on one side of the family, and a history of the comorbid condition on the other side of the family. I guess that doesn’t factor in though, according to what this individual read on the internet.

I found what this man said greatly upsetting. As an OCD sufferer I blame myself for EVERYTHING. I accidentally cut someone off while driving yesterday, because when I glanced back to cover my blind spot, the sun was in my eyes. Scared me and her to death, and I WILL NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF. Imagine how this gentleman’s claim made me feel. I stayed in the group to listen to someone else’s story, because I didn’t want to be rude. But I will never attend another family support meeting hosted by the local NAMI branch.

Just writing about this has made me furious.

So, puppies and kittens and unicorn farts. I’ve read enough on both disorders to know that logically, it is not my fault.

But STILL.

Guess I’ll look at job boards for the next half-hour or so. Also need to look into purchasing a Windows-based computer, because a lot of at-home jobs require them. And this lovely, lovely laptop that I have keeps going black, at random…