Category Archives: The Damn Dogs

Of Various and Sundry Tragedies

Standard

Artful Blasphemy has been eating up a lot of my time, but so have stress, sorrow and anxiety. 

EDS News:

I saw the Physiatrist last week, and he felt that my shoulder is impinged. We discussed, pretty thoroughly, my concerns about steroid injections, and he felt that it would only take one shot to fix it. So I agreed. So far, it is sore, and I’ve postponed trying to sleep on that side because I’m not ready to deal with the possibility of this treatment failing. He also wanted to try Effexor, which he said some people who do badly on Cymbalta can tolerate, and some can’t. I started it Thursday night, and I feel a little clenchy, and a little weird, and I can’t decide if it’s the drug or if I’m just paranoid due to so many paradoxical responses. Being stuck in mental debate is always fun. 

That afternoon my back spasmed horribly, and I had to go home and ice my shoulder while soaking my back in a hot bath and crying over the perfect storm of awful that has struck my life this past week.  

Work: 

Since my new department chair gave my co-worker more power, she has become impossible to work with–and this while she thinks things are going great (why wouldn’t she?). She countermands me, invalidates me and yet needs me or else she can’t do her own job. She barges into fittings, snatching them from my hands and announcing to students, “Everyone does this WRONG, nobody understands this.” Were I to confront her, she would suddenly “not remember” doing that. I’ve been down this road before with her. I’ve reached the point where I hate her, I am miserable at work, and I fantasize that I will, at some point, simply put down my scissors and walk away, never to return. 

I have to somehow deal with all of that while I am in pain, icing my shoulder, nursing my back, and appearing to be graceful and resilient. I don’t feel like I am either, but maybe I was meant for the stage after all. 

Life: 

My mother has dated a man for two and half years, whom I liked. She has been so very, very happy–they travel, they shop, they have fun together. Until last week, when apparently she found out that he had hidden something from her that was an absolute deal-breaker. I have been utterly heartbroken for her; I cannot fathom the pain she is in and would do anything for her to not have it. I was so happy that she had love and joy in her life, and I feel really bitterly about this man turning out to be someone he said he wasn’t. My poor, poor mom, you know? 

More Life: 

Many of you with chronic pain know that sometimes a pet is the very best pain medication there is. We found out this week that my soul-mate dog has a cancerous tumor in her leg that is inoperable because of where it is. I am completely unprepared to lose this dog. We have the option of amputating the leg and hoping it hasn’t spread, but she has arthritis in her back and slight dysplasia so we are not sure if she can handle only one hind leg. I have no intention of making her suffer because I can’t let go, but I also feel unable to cope with losing her. It’s a really hard decision, and instead of making it I’ve just broken all the rules and let her sleep in our bed each night. I am too emotionally reliant on her, yet I must make a really painful decision on her behalf that she won’t understand. 

So it’s fitting that Artful Blasphemy just started the first edition of “I Hate Sundays” because it’s Sunday, it’s not even 9:00 am, and I am just suffused with dread about going back to work tomorrow. Perfect. 

Like The Star Wars Trash Compactor

Standard

I am having a hard time with having lost Boris (our small Mexican dog with the big Eastern European name) and doubting my choice to let him go. Not in any rational sense; on paper, logically, I know I did the right thing. But in my heart, I feel sorry and sad. I hope he understands; but maybe not–I’d love a world where animals had the same treatment as people, but would I love that because no one would get euthanized for having run out of quality time, or because people wouldn’t have to suffer for so long, either?

I just know that I really, really miss that little guy, and I am responsible for his absence.

———–

The trip to Chicago was really emotionally hard, and the key piece of that was understanding that I can’t depend on my spouse to advocate effectively for me when he is in his place of origin. On one level, I get it–he reverts to his kid role, he’s overwhelmed, they are extremely difficult. On the other hand, I’m angry and disappointed. I really am on my own, and since that is true, I will never go back with him to visit them unless something is really wrong on a deathbed sort of level. I can’t put myself through that. If they come here, as they have threatened, I will go out of town. I’ve given a lot to them over the years, and they’ve taken a lot more than they’ve given back, and their son can’t set good boundaries with them. So, I will have to set boundaries to take care of myself.

————

Long after I am gone, I am sure medical science and genetics will evolve to determine how mental illness–or at least the propensity for it–is passed down. Borderline personality disorder runs in my family, and while I am sure the process is somewhat akin to alchemy more than straight genetics, it means that right now there are two Borderlines running about– each from a different generation. That’s just my mom’s side, too–there’s also depression, anxiety, alcoholism, sociopaths, suicide, self injury and drug problems coming from both sides. The question maybe is how do any of us make it out alive? When you know that someone is ill, and you’ve proven to yourself that you cannot help them, you have to detach and protect yourself. Sure, their behavior isn’t personal, it’s pathology, and yes, they are in tremendous pain, but that doesn’t mean you should allow them to hurt you. The moat is in place, the drawbridge is up. All signs say, “Go away.”

You’ve reached the boundary, you’ll need to turn back.

———–

One of my tenants called me today, in tears. One of the roommates’ mother had committed suicide last night. Walked out of the room from an argument with her kids and killed herself. The tenant who called me kept saying she was sorry for burdening me and I told her she wasn’t, I care about her, it’s a horrible thing. I reminded her to take care of herself so that she can keep on being a good friend to her roommate. I told her that her grief is valid, and doesn’t need to be measured against the roommate’s. Gosh, there’s enough grief to go around, really–you won’t run out, or take someone else’s, go ahead and grieve. I suggested that she not judge anyone for how they act right now; grief does strange things to a person, and suicide is like knowing an asteroid is coming to vaporize you–maybe then it might seem rational to ask about how much the house is worth or what should be done with the cars–those are solvable problems, whereas the asteroid is just this terrible thing hovering above your head. Maybe it’s not possible to look right at it; at least not at first. I told her we’d cover the rent if it was late, not to worry.

I revisited, for a moment, Ray and Ruby and John. But then I let them go back to their places. You never get over it, I told my tenant, but you learn to live with it. It takes a long, long time.

————–

The theme is who do I have to take care of, and how much? I have to take care of myself. I have to take care of my child. For ten minutes on the phone I can take care of my tenant. I do not have to take care of people whose mental illness could cause them to harm me. I do not have to take care of people who have no space in their lives for me. I do not have to take care of people who aren’t doing their work.

The shrink said that when we’re about to refine something, or pass to another level of understanding, just before we get there it feels like the walls are closing in, and the problem is everywhere. All around me demands are being made for my attention and energy. People want me to put them ahead of myself. So each time I say no, I’m moving forward. No, you cannot come to my house and ring my doorbell a million times and pound on the door. No, I won’t go on a trip where I will be lonely and ignored and pushed beyond my limits. No, I will not act as a buffer for you to avoid your family.

She also suggested that I probably need a really good cry. This is also true, but a far more elusive beast.

The Whole Kettle of Fish: A Study in Emotional Exhaustion

Standard

We have returned from a trip to the Chicago-land area to visit the in-laws. As it always ends up, it was challenging.

The Thursday before we were to leave, I took  a very old, very sick dog to the vet for the last time. I had been up all night with him, setting me up for going on “vacation” (and I use the term very loosely) exhausted. It’s never easy to decide to euthanize a dog, and I don’t judge others whom I know love their pets dearly, as do I. We do the best we can.

I had only just returned from the vet, and the child and I were weeping in the hallway (without hugging, since I had dog poop all over me) when my doorbell started ringing over and over again. A peek outside confirmed it was someone with whom I want no contact, and from whom I fear violence. Unlike a normal person, this one chose to ring the bell over and over and over again, pound on the door, ring the bell, etc, for around 15 minutes. The child and I retreated to the back of the house and called the police. They just missed our unwelcome guest, but will now be watching for her. I was so stressed that the responding officer took both my violently shaking hands in his and said, “I can tell you are really frightened. Take a deep breath.”

——

The next day should have been for resting and packing, but I had bought tickets to see Wicked in a nearby city for that night, the night before we would leave for Chicago. We went, but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I’d have liked–I was too caught up in feeling like I wronged the dog, angry with the unwelcome visitor (who should know better), worried about packing and, oh, the fact that I find flying terrifying. I found that at each musical number, I was beset with an almost overwhelming urge to ugly-cry. We got home late, got up the next day, packed, and headed back to that same city’s airport to fly out.

We were fine from El Paso to Austin, where we circled and circled and due to storms were diverted to Dallas. We sat on the ground in Dallas for three hours, while our flight to Chicago left without us. We flew back to Austin. I had quickly booked a hotel online while we lingered on the tarmac, paying an outrageous sum of $200 for a near-to-the-airport La Quinta. By the time we arrived in Austin (Trapped in Texas, Chapter 1), the airport was all but shut down. They booked us on a morning flight that would go through Dallas once again.

La Quinta refused to accept our distressed passenger voucher because they are total dicks and I hope they are someday financially ruined. We stayed in a room with a shower so gross none of us were willing to use it. The bathroom door wasn’t a door, per se, but two cabinet type doors with shuttered vents (like closet doors) that couldn’t be locked and the knob fell off. The hotel was full to the brim of loud, shouting, running people all night. I had not packed any wine, so I spent the night dozing and hallucinating to the tune of six Benadryl, while also berating myself for my needs.

We made it from Dallas to Chicago, and went directly to the Huge Family Gathering that the in-laws had scheduled so we could “see everyone.” It was raining. They did not, therefore, move the party into their house, they moved it into their filthy garage, next to the truck they for whatever reason did not see fit to move to better accommodate their guests. The first thing my FIL said to my husband was not, “How are you?” or “You must be exhausted.” It was, patting stomach, “Getting a little bigger, huh?”

My MIL informed me in whispers that she hadn’t told my husband but she had developed a serious spinal condition (Spinal Stenosis) and had been unable to walk and might need surgery. This is par for the course. My FIL explained to me and the child that the reason it was raining here but California had a drought was because “the liberals” got rid of the smog, which used to hold the rain in California. The child is 13 and he was baffled by this amazing, magical bullshit. We met cousins with whom we had nothing in common. We talked to other people about themselves and no one asked me much about me (also par for the course). Oh, except for when my FIL told my husband’s cousin that she should have me make her wedding dress, and also that I make, “Crazy weird costumes with funny legs and stuff.”

Oh yes, I know that this is what the FIL considers “praising” but I am far too evolved to accept that being passive aggressive is anything other than what it is. Which makes it hard for me with them, since I won’t play pretend.

The evening goes on and on and on until I finally say, “I am too tired. I must go to bed.” Then I am stranded in the filthy, moldy basement because not only are there stairs, said stairs have a pretend railing that threatens to fall off should one use it. My husband realizes this belatedly.

There are stairs at my BIL’s house, which means I must carefully plan my ups and downs. There is also an atmosphere of suppressed rage that I am especially attuned to, and which my spouse can’t notice. It takes us forever to get our shit together the next day, sitting in the ‘burbs in the rain, and we finally meet up at a Dave and Busters. I drink. I can’t help but simply order two drinks per encounter with the parents-in-law. The child balks initially (look at all those KIDS, he says, in disgust) but then has fun. Then we all retire to the BIL’s to sit and stare at each other.

The BIL disappears to the basement to play video games with the child. The MIL asks how my hands are (it has been two years since diagnosis, they still can’t stick with a conversation long enough to find out what I have). I say they aren’t very good. I mention that since it’s genetic, I have to just try to pace myself. My FIL asks me if changing my diet would help. I say, very evenly, that this is a GENETIC disorder, meaning my GENES are flawed, and the GENE that is flawed is present in 90% of the body’s structures, so NO, it’s not an issue of changing my diet. He falls back to his climate change theory and then they spend 45 minutes giving us an intimate blow-by-blow of my MIL’s recent, very scary MRSA infection. The MIL can hardly tell her own story because the FIL is trying to talk over her. My silly story is left far behind.I go to bed at 8:00 pm, alone, which is how it always works there.

Everything we eat is gluten. I give up and accept that I will just take immodium every day and gain five pounds.

Day three it rains. The BIL takes the child to the movies and the husband and I go to a nearby suburb’s charming downtown, have an expensive lunch and a bottle of wine, wander about, then collect them. We later meet the in-laws for dinner at an Italian restaurant they like. I stick my FIL with buying my dinner and two glasses of wine. My MIL mentions that we aren’t staying for very long. I resist mentioning that it feels like a life sentence. We planned four full days–not our fault one was lost to travel, but that one still would’ve been spent sitting in their goddamned garage. I mention that guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days. She agrees gaily, entirely missing the point, which is that we are staying four and when they come out to see us, they never stay less than an entire week.

Day four we go into the city. The in-laws refuse to go with us, but resent that we aren’t, I guess, sitting in their living room. We take the train, and are planning to take a boat tour of downtown architecture. The BIL leads us on a forced march that despite claims of, “We’re almost there” is far, far too long and too fast and too many stairs for me. My husband weakly mentions maybe a cab but is overruled by the BIL.

I should have stopped. I should have insisted on a cab. I relied on my spouse who cannot function or be decisive around his family. So it’s my own fault that every step I go up now, my left knee snaps and then grinds.

The boat tour was fun. Then we faced another forced march through the city, where we couldn’t find anywhere to eat, where the husband couldn’t make a decision, and there were words in the business district. I was hangry, exhausted physically and emotionally, and as usual, he didn’t have my back.

Upon returning we declined meeting the inlaws for dinner, and I went to bed. Alone. Early.

We met the inlaws the next day for breakfast before our flight. They, predictably, chose a place that could be called “Breakfast in Anywhere, USA”. They aren’t gourmets. Any anecdote I related about things that interest me was met with a complete lack of understanding, being talked over by my FIL with his penguin laugh, or silence.

Soon, the husband and I will have a little post-mortem, and I will explain that this trip we just finished? It’s the last one I’m taking to Chicago.

Someone’s got to have my back, because it hurts right now, along with my hips, my knees, my ankles and my calves.

Tilting at Windmills

Standard

The Shrink was naturally concerned about the weekend’s drug debacle. She again mentioned medical marijuana. I mentioned my concerns; can’t travel with it, seems shady even though it’s legal in the state.

The next day I went to PT. My therapist said, upon seeing me in the waiting room, “I can only imagine how happy you are to be here.” and “You are actually wearing sneakers.” Yes, I said, just for you.

That afternoon I saw my PCP. He said to stop the Xanax (again), stop the Baclofen, stop Benadryl. Take 2 mg of Valium at night. Nothing else. It’s a muscle relaxant, it’s good for sleep, it’s good for anxiety.

Night One I had trouble falling asleep, woke up a lot, and had really weird, intense, not very restful dreams. The next morning I had a big anxiety attack about continuing on with benzodiazapines when they are not approved for long term use and I’ve been on them too long, and did it make sense to switch one benzo for another?

Then there was another attack carried out by the Pit on the Chihuahua, so there was an afternoon at the vet’s office and very stressful decision-making and money-spending. We will now keep two dogs entirely separate from each other forever.

Night Two I had trouble falling asleep, work up a lot, and had really weird, intense, not very restful dreams.

I went to PT, where she said that maybe I should get a second opinion on the drugs, maybe see the Rheumatologist for that. This sentiment was echoed by my husband and my mother. It seemed like a good solution; get a second opinion and then start pursuing the medical pot angle.

Somewhat hopeful,  I called the Rheumatologist’s office. The woman who answered told me that he was not available until September. “But, I’m an established patient, I said.” Yes, she said, very sorry. Did I want an appointment in September? No, I said, I don’t. That wouldn’t do me any good. I felt jilted.

I went online and sent the Rheumatologist this email:

Dr Michael

If you can’t save some appointments for your established patients, you are not qualified to supervise my care or my meds.

I had two glasses of wine last night before 8:30 pm. Around 8:30-9:00 I flew into some sort of a rage that I don’t clearly remember and can’t determine the cause. As usual, my family acted as if this were normal, if annoying, behavior on my part. I went to bed. I started to fall asleep and woke up. I did that again. I boosted the Valium with two Benadryl.

2:00 am, I woke up. For a moment I thought that I had slept really well, then noticed the time. Then began the gnawing stomach. So I’ve been up since then, finally giving up on lying in bed and getting up to sit uncomfortably in a nice chair with my iPad, playing Match 3 games and querying Dr. Google for life solutions. I’ve asked about Valium side effects; sudden rage can be an adverse effect. I don’t know what will happen when I find myself so sideways on something that’s been prescribed that I cannot do the research, because I think my family might just step over my body and continue on. The dog might lie down with me, at least, if it’s her turn on the floor and the other dog is in his cell.

I’ve decided that I will proceed by stopping the Valium, going back to the Xanax full strength for three days, then cutting it in half for two weeks, then maybe cutting the half in half and then I’ll be off. I will have to supervise my own withdrawal from drugs I never wanted to be on in the first place, and I will have to really work on remembering that modern medicine has little or nothing to offer me. As I’ve said before, stop going to the doctor, weirdo.

Seriously. 

 

 

Household Tensions

Standard

Another dog fight has occurred–although calling it a “fight” is a stretch. More realistically, the Pit has again attacked the Chihuahua. These two dogs have lived in happy cohabitation for all of the 5 year old Pit’s life, at least until about six weeks ago, when the first unprovoked attack happened. This one, yesterday, was shorter in duration but more damaging. I took the Chihuahua in to the vet to check on the bite wound. At 3:30 pm today we went back to the vet to collect him after his having been anesthetized in order to insert a drain.

We had no clue what we were getting into. We collected a terrified, shrieking dog that wrestled and thrashed  and screamed as I tried to hold him still and he scraped my neck and face with the wild flailing of the cone of shame. The drive home involved the same, with periods of him laying, rigid, in whatever grasp I was managing to hold him in, gasping and wailing until the next time he tried to get away. The drain is horrid looking, and there is no way I’m getting close enough to it to clean it tonight. He is still bug-eyed and terrified, periodically crying and fussing.

Now, everyone in the household has felt the stress of the situation, and we’re all mad at each other for some reason or another, and really what we all are is freaked out about how badly hurt the dog seems to be and how unsolvable the problem is. Ultimately, the issue is that unless we can manage to somehow keep two dogs that live together entirely separated for the rest of their lives, someone’s heading to the vet for one final trip. The Pit is the dog of my heart; I adore her, but I have to say that now I am feeling like I can’t trust her.

I suspect it is motivated by stress and by resource guarding. She was stressed by our absence and a new pet sitter. Our feeding schedule was restricted by nighttime pooping in the house, so she is stressed by that. Finally, she is deeply attached to me, to the exclusion (or sometimes grudging inclusion) of all others. Insecurity about my presence, territoriality and excitement led to striking out at the other dog. None of that is an excuse, nor do I find it easy to solve, since dogs don’t speak English. I can’t sit her down and explain to her that she is not to hurt the other dog.

I dread a sleepless night with the Chihuahua that will just set up a day of household unhappiness tomorrow. I see no real way of being able to keep them permanently separated in the same house. I also don’t feel ready to have my dog put down. It’s a shitty situation that makes everyone feel helpless, and therefore irritable. I don’t know what, if any, long term solution exists that doesn’t involve making a permanent, irreversible decision.

Fortunately there remains plenty of mundane issues to keep me focusing on that. Like,  I need to get the Chihuahua to drink some water and go outside so I can give him more medication. That will take some creativity and patience, but I think it can be solved. The bigger issues will have to wait at least until tomorrow.