The GOP Platform Goes Completely off the Rails

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Each time the GOP lowered the bar for itself, during John McCain’s presidential campaign, I hoped someone would step up and say, “Enough!  We are better than this.”  But, once Sarah Palin became a  “leader” of the party, I knew the only hope for the party of Lincoln was destruction from the inside. Then, deep and careful introspection and a return to actual conservatism.

Sadly, I was wrong. Not only was Michael Steele fired as RNC Chair, but his suggested reforms, based on actual data, were  summarily dismissed. Mitt Romney, who had been a successful, but moderate governor, transformed himself into a bitter, angry man, in order to curry favor from the Koch brothers and others of that ilk.

This year, one of the most bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic and crazy platforms in the GOP’S history was unveiled.  As Esquire Magazine detailed, Republican Party Platform: Porn Is A Public Health Threat; Guns Are Not.  Wait.  WHAT?!!

Yesterday, Secretary Clinton said, “the party of Lincoln has become the party of trump.” Lynsey G. was a little less delicate in her blog post, GOP Platform Names Porn a “Public Health” Crisis.  Yes,  folks, pornography is a bigger health risk to our Country than poverty, the Flint Michigan water supply or even the  Zika virus. Bigger than gun violence.

The clown car of chaos has officially been taken over by Toonces, the Driving Cat, with the  GOP leadership’s tacit blessing. By doing nothing, they allowed themselves to sink into a hole of excrement they can no longer escape.

Trump’s GOP is little more than an episode of reality television, complete with undereducated surrogates, carelessly thrown out sensational lies, tabloid-worthy headlines and dangerous rhetoric that appeals to the very worst part of our society.

It is like a Maury Povich audience, on crack, with live ammunition, overdosed on Viagra, gone completely off the rails.  Only much much worse.

I am terrified for our country. Terrified.  We must vote as if our lives depend on it.  Not voting is no longer an option.

EmilyWrites’ Glorious Review of the new Tarzan movie

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Dear Emily,

I appreciate you for hurling yourself, selflessly, albeit a bit wined-up, into a PG-13 movie to provide us such a valuable Movie Review.  Furthermore, I am grateful to know  that Samuel L. Jackson was cast in some type of speaking part, because he’s a fabulous actor – even when he’s not enquiring about the contents of my wallet.

Then you focus on the most important, nay…VITAL, aspects of the film.  Alexander Skarsgard, his hair, his eyes, his abs, his ability to effortlessly act without wearing a shirt.  Bravo! These are life-altering and riveting moments, necessary to the plot, and our very lives.

I wept, like a wee babe, as I read your description of his V. This V provided silent, yet crucial support to Alex, as he stood shirtless, spoke shirtless, swung on vines shirtless, and perspired, again…shirtless.  If the V does not receive an OSCAR nomination for Best Supporting Actor, it will be a travesty, not unlike, when Steven Spielberg was overlooked by The Academy, for his block-buster movie franchises.  The V is, clearly, the unselfish, unsung hero of the movie.  Talent like that will not go unnoticed.

This is the best movie review ever, in the history of the world.  I laughed. I cried. It was better than “Cats.”

I raise my own glass of Malbec to you.

Regards,

Michelle

In all fairness, my tears may have been alcohol-induced or an allergic reaction due to the unfortunate “wasp incident” in my backyard, a little while ago.

For the sake of this post, we’ll just go with “the review brought me to tears.”

And, what is it about New Zealanders and their intrepid storytelling skills? Yes, Hayson Manning I am speaking to you, my Kiwi goddess.


Orlando, Your Floridians Brothers and Sisters are With You

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#PrayforOrlando

As someone who went to college in Florida, I spent my share of time dancing in Orlando.  Since I came of age in the mid-1980s and early-1990s, my girlfriends and I loved going to gay clubs, because they had the best DJs, best music, and good drinks.   We felt safe there, knowing that we would be left alone and our drinks wouldn’t be altered (roofied) by creeper guys.

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I have LGBT family members and lifelong, dear friends whom I love.  I have felt outrage when homophobic and transphobic comments have been hurled at them, I have stood next to them as their basic civil rights were threatened, and celebrated alongside them when the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality.

Today, however, my hurt and anger know no bounds. Seeing the toll having to address our Nation again, as more innocent American kids were senselessly murdered, by another Amercan, has taken on President Obama, broke my already wounded heart.  Learning that one of the victims who died, was a friend of one of the young women I advised, nearly broke me.  The very real possibility that more people I am close to, will know the victims, is all too real.  Tonight we grieve. Together. As one Florida family.

May our Father and our Blessed Mother, have mercy on us.   Our idolatry of the Almighty Gun and Dollar have brought us to this place.  I am sickened by it, but hearing about the acts of heroism and compassion, humble me.

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Tomorrow, however, we fight. We fight to ensure that Pride Month is spectacular, sparkly and bigger than ever. I shall don my feminist cap again, and continue to fight for ALL people – which means we must elect Hillary Clinton.  Period.  There is no other choice.

My resolve, as a PFLAG, and someone who believes we are our brother’s/sister’s keeper, was tested, but remains steadfast.

I leave you with Mary Lambert’s beautiful voice, and bid you peace. Amen and Namaste. 
She Keeps Me Warm

Courage, Grace and Strength Under the Most Insurmountable Odds

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Trigger Warning: This post, and the article shared, feature a rape victim’s frank and explicit statement to the man who raped her.  Please share with women and men, responsibly.

I have written about serving as an adviser to a college sorority for many years.  The experience forever changed me as a woman.

One of the most difficult subjects I encountered was how to frame the conversations around sex and consent.  This was before colleges and universities recognized rape, sexual assaults, sexual batteries and every point on that continuum as a violation of a student’s rights, according to the school’s own policies.

How I wish websites like Consent Is Everything had existed to give me tools on how to broach this delicate subject.  How I wish I had known what constituted consent when I was a college student. I would have recognized that I too was a victim of acquaintance rape.   And I would have known that it is far more common than we can imagine.

But, what happens when a brave young woman comes forward to share how she was unimaginably violated by a “star athlete?”  Why does she have to justify her actions, when he was the one who committed rape upon her?  Why is she the one whose morals and character are called into question?   And, how does she react when faced with the reality that his “status” may have ensured preferential treatment by the justice system?

What happens is this brilliantly heartbreaking victim’s statement, as shared by Buzzfeed’s news reporter, Katie Baker Here’s The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read To Her Attacker.

To the woman who stood strong, surrounded by people who loved and supported her, I say – your mission in life is ahead of you.  Each time you speak truth to power, you are helping another person.

To Brock Allen Turner, I say – may Karma find you. Repeatedly. For the rest of your miserable life, you rapist.

Revisiting My Jealous Bitchfriend, Depression

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Waterolor beautiful girl. Vector illustration of womanIn April 2015, my self-exorcism post went live.  It was, by far, the most difficult and soul-consuming blog post I had ever written.  Yet, as cleansing as it was to post, I had unfinished business with it.   A few days ago, I saw August McLaughlin, talking excitedly about her Beauty of a Woman Blogfest V, on Facebook.  Knowing the type of exposure and scrutiny my blog would receive, it was the sign I needed to revisit this post.   Here it is, in its entirety – still unedited – followed by an update, of sorts.

 

[April 15, 2016]  This post has been a long time coming, as it has been dwelling and languishing in my house of avoidance.  Typically, I composed blog posts, edited and posted them.  This one was minimally edited, against my better judgment as a wordsmith.  It needed to remain in its raw, almost draft state, in order to convey the events accurately.

I am Clinically Depressed.

No, I am not “sad” or “melancholy,” as those terms lack the depth to describe what I have felt.  Or in my case, haven’t felt.

According to Web, MD., “clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships — symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks.”  Signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)   [Yes, there should be a proper citation here, but I need to exorcise this post from my psyche before I chicken out and retreat into my fortress of solitude.  So, fellow wordsmiths and scribes, bear with me.]
RN school books
My social life as of Fall 2011.

I started this blog when I returned to undergraduate studies to complete prerequisites to apply for nursing school.  After attaining a 3.8 GPA, being wait-listed, then accepted, I began the RN Level I course in the Fall of 2011.  The material was challenging, in ways I never expected. To say that I was ill-prepared would be a gross understatement of epic proportions.

I graduated with my BA in Criminology in 1991, so my expectations were completely inconsistent to the new way of work of higher education.    For example, I went to class with a course syllabus, notebook and pen, took notes, read my textbooks and supplementary materials, studied both and took written exams.   In 2011, there were syllabi, textbooks, e-textbooks, videos from the textbook manufacturer, YouTube videos, Power Point slides, sample tests from an outside company used as predictors for the NCLEX Board Examinations, digital records of lectures and my own personal notes.   This was for the lecture portion of the course, only.   The practical/hands-on Clinical portion had it’s own syllabus, notes, “check-off” preliminary skills practice and finally, the formal hospital rotations working directing with RNs and their patients.   I received a “B” in this class.  I was 43 years old.

Spring of 2012 brought Level II (Medical Surgical Nursing and Labor and Delivery) and Pharmacology.   I received a “B” in Pharmacology and a “D” in Level II.  My instructors revisited and regraded each of my tests and quizzes because they could not understand the disconnect between the student they saw explaining concepts to classmates and practicing safely on the hospital floor, with the final grade of 79% (D in my RN school).  My Clinical Instructor, who has sense become a good and trusted friend, asked me if I had ever been tested for Learning Disabilities.   Having gone to a major university in the 1980s/1990s, before Learning Specialists were on staff, and performing well in my classes, I never considered it.   I visited our college’s Learning Specialist who referred me to a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, specializing in Adults with Learning Disabilities.

Welcome to my nightmare.
Welcome to my nightmare.

At my first visit with  the LMHT, he tested me for Learning Disabilities and determined that I had Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with an emphasis on Distractions.  He described my brain as being a shelf with cubbieholes.  Each cubbiehole was a part of my brain and as long as each cubbie was filled, I was able to function well.  My challenges were when I had to concentrate on only one item and leave all the rest of the cubbies “empty.”  My brain would naturally want to fill them up.   In layman’s terms,  I was/am fantastic at multitasking, but terrible at concentrating on one project alone.  This served me well when I was working professionally, but was my kiss of death in Nursing school, where any tiny distractions would pull my attention away from the material I was supposed to be learning.

The college allowed me to re-slot back into a Level II course in Fall 2012, while my classmates moved on to Level III.  Along with swallowing my pride, ignoring the growing guilt about “wasting” money again, trying to ignore my feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment at having to repeat a course for the first time in my life, I retook Level II, this time with appropriate accommodations for tests, which included a quiet, private room and extra time to take the test to allow for mental “refocusing” breaks.    I don’t think I ever fully processed my personal biases against needing ADA accommodations, because I expected I would “snap out of it,” as my father suggested.   Of all the courses to repeat,  the irony and agony of retaking Level II, with its emphasis on Labor and Delivery, was not lost on me – a childless middle-aged woman.   I made it through with a “C.”

Spring of 2013, brought with it Level III (Medical Surgical Nursing, Pediatrics and Hospice Care) and Psychosocial Nursing.  I received a “B” in Psychosocial Nursing was the only person in my class of 30 students who actually looked forward to our clinical rotation with Mental Health patients, or “my people, as I began to think of them, almost immediately.   I passed Level III with a “C” and thought it was the most rewarding Medical Surgical Nursing rotation, because I had so many hands-on experiences, it re-energized me for the final semester and was working with a population very precious to me – Veterans.

Summer passed quickly and I looked forward to completing Level IV, Role Transition in Nursing and the Nursing Care Management Practicum (aka. Management rotation).  I received an “A” in Role Transition in Nursing, because it was not academically challenging, but took precious time away from my Level IV study time.   Level IV and Management ran consecutively, and in order to qualify to take Management you had to successfully complete Level IV with a “C” or better.  Adding to the pressure was the knowledge that at the end of Level IV were two exams,  the Level (or class final) exam and the ATI comprehensive test.  Students who did not pass the ATI test – a predictor for success on the NCLEX  – were ineligible to proceed to the Management rotation.   Consequently, the amount of stress we were under was tripled.  Needless to say, I cracked under the pressure and finished Level IV with a 78%, another “D.”  Ironically, once my grade was posted I felt an immediate sense of relief.   Unfortunately, I had to share the news with everyone I knew, including my parents who had changed their travel plans to ensure they could attend my RN Pinning Ceremony and Graduation.  That was probably one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make.

Additionally, at a time they should have been celebrating, my classmates were stunned, sad, and angry….very, very angry.  Out of 112 students in our Level, 27 of us failed to make the Management rotation.   As competitive as we were with each other, the nature of Nursing school (and the Nursing profession) was infinitely more congenial, team-oriented and we became  a “family.”   They wanted to know why their teammates would not finish the program with them.  And they vocalized this, loudly.   It was just before Thanksgiving  2013 and I was 44 years old.

As this was occurring, I took to my bed.

For the next two and a half months.

I dragged myself out of bed, showered and participated in holiday activities, or what I labeled, resentfully as “mandatory family fun.”   When December ended and January began, my husband, who had been my rock during this entire episode, suggested I speak to my Primary Care Physician about my “lack of moods and tired feelings” at my annual physical.   I will forever be grateful to him for this, but at the time, I simply wanted to be left alone to be in my room, pretending to read, sleep or watch funny animal videos online.

My Primary Care Physician was a Puerto Rican woman, whom I adored, admired and respected.  She was the right person to discuss my condition with me.  All of it.  The comforting numbness, the security blanket of obesity that I had started weaving around myself, the lack of interest in anything and the heart-stopping pain of knowing I had disappointed everyone…including myself.     In our typical Spanglish, we went through issues I had never discussed with a doctor.  Ironically, Nursing school deserved a great deal of the credit.  One of the skills we practiced from our first day on the floor with patients, was teaching.  I was a natural teacher and I enjoyed it.  So, if I was able to ask men in their 60s, 70s and 80s about their current sex lives, and ensure they were using condoms correctly, answering similar questions about myself should not have been a barrier.   It wasn’t.  In fact, it was the first time in my life that I had been asked many of the questions.

My doctor became concerned when we discussed my mental health. and she asked me to describe how I felt.

I never felt sad.  

I never felt happy.  

I felt mildly to severely inconvenienced and numb.

Numb.

Devoid of all emotions, feelings and sensations, as if I moved into

a fluffy, shock-absorbing, grey Cloud where all lights and sounds were muffled.  

Waking up and engaging the world required more energy than I could, or cared to, muster.   Showering, washing clothes and spending time with people entailed bracing myself for questions I had no answers to, conversations I had no desire to participate in, and were physically and mentally draining.

I had become comfortably numb, just as described by Pink Floyd.

The truth was…I liked it.  It worked for me.  On every level.

Numbness required little or no time away from wallowing in my own self-pitying disappointment.  Unfortunately, as a “responsible adult,” numbness is frowned upon as a way of life.   It prevented me from engaging in life.   I was a failure in school, unemployed and rudderless.   My security blanket of obesity had taken me past the point of being an unattractive “fat person,” and into the realm of “the invisible people” quite effectively.

To my doctor’s credit she listened.  Carefully.   She referred me to a therapist and prescribed an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reutake Inhibitor), that I immediately researched in my Nursing Drug Guide.   Simply explained, serotonin, a neurotransmitter,  is responsible for sparking the body’s natural chemicals that control feelings of happiness and well-being. The body distributes it when needed, and then collects it, when not.   People with depression, tend to lack enough naturally-occurring serotonin,  or too much is recollected at the end of emotionally difficult or sad moments – resulting in the “numbness.”   Additionally, the SSRI prescribed me would help my lack of focus, related to my ADHD.

cloud of depression
“You don’t look depressed though.” Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot to bring my literal, dark raincloud with me today.

I resentfully, took the loading dose (30-90 days), and noticed a gradual change in my moods and energy levels.   Not a “magic pill,” by any means, as all it did for me was begin to dissipate my Cloud.  But, I resisted.  Dissipating the Cloud would allow the sunlight of self-exploration to take place.  It would require me to notice and acknowledge my obesity blanket and begin to reconnect with others.   I wasn’t sure I wanted to do any of that.

I really loved my Cloud, dammit.     Cloud understood me without judgment.  She was my mistress and best friend.  She was also my greatest enemy, and a jealous one at that.   That was February 2014 and I was 46.

For the next few months, I struggled to find myself.   Every day Cloud waited patiently for my return, letting me I know she loved me more than anyone, just as I was.   I am disgusted to admit that more often than not, I would let myself float into her beautiful numbness, as my medication would begin the arduous process of pulling me back out.  As I was experiencing the allure of numbness and the frightening thought of leaving Cloud behind, I stopped being a wife.  I simply was not interested in any of it.  For months, my husband would come home from work, only to find me lying in the same position I had been in when he left for work at 5:30 every morning.  Dishes went unwashed, dogs were not walked, dinner was not cooked.  His patience, already worn thin from dealing with my stress during Nursing school, disappeared.   For weeks, then months, we lived an existence of cohabiting strangers.

In October 2014, a dear friend whom I met working on political campaigns sent me a Facebook message.  He recommended me for a job as a Regional Field Canvass Director for a political action committee.  After all, I had done community organizing work for years and had  the necessary networking and human resources experience to successfully do the work.   Thinking this would be a great transition, from unemployed to temporary employment, I accepted the position.  Then lasted two days.   My husband saw me for my dinner “break” on the first day and grew concerned, as he said I was simply staring into space and speaking in tongues.  On the second day, he visited my office, helped me out of my chair, waited until I had sent my resignation email, and escorted me home.  The only word out of his mouth when he saw my work environment, was, “no.”   In fact, he called my parents and in-laws to give them his impressions of the “cold, ugly, white box” I would have to work in.   He told them, “I just got glimpses of my wife back.  I am not willing to knowingly send her into an environment that will only make her worse.”   Like I said, this man was my rock.  He knew and supported me like no other.

charlie brown teacherBut, Cloud was already there.  Soothing me, reminding me how much better I was wrapped up in my blankets at home.  She was right.

This proved to be but a minor setback and the climb out of Cloud was easier.

In December, my Father arrived for a Christmas visit, and repeated his “my daughter was confident and fearless, this is only a phase, just snap out of it,” mantra.  I heard similar versions, in various  levels of resentment from my mother, mother-in-law, and several friends – dissonance.   I have always been able to tune people out so well and quickly, that it makes my own head spin, sometimes.  Frankly, I have never cared if they knew it.

2015 arrived with a renewed, albeit cautious, sense of purpose.   And Cloud.   Always waiting patiently to embrace me in her soothing emotionless depths and play my new theme song, Bad Day by Fuel.

Before I flunked out of Nursing school a dear friend I met in Level I and I found very inexpensive tickets to New York City and planned a girls’ weekend to celebrate my graduation and Pinning.   Needless to say, I neither graduated nor received my RN pin, and now had nonrefundable tickets to New York for the four days before St. Patrick’s Day.  I asked my family to help me take the trip, and they agreed.   By now, my parents were fully paying my mortgage, so I was asking two retirees for money to take a leisure trip.  The ugliness and lack of fairness was not lost on me, but I was learning my new normal.   I had a wonderful time in New York and was reminded of when I would travel there for business, years ago.   Suddenly,  I began to see, and miss, the old me.    And Cloud knew.  She always knew.

Cloud reminded me that my “new” life was online – a mixture of reality and fantasy.  Interactions with strangers who now knew more about me than my own family.   Sharing myself in depression-themed and other chat rooms, finding kindred spirits who never asked me to change or leave the house.   Cloud approved of my new friends and generously created more space for me to experience these relationships within her numbing comfort.

Which brings me to the present, and the impetus for finally writing this post: a new friend.   A new friend who sees more of me than I am comfortable showing, and yet, accepts me as a I am.  A friend who asked me, rather audaciously,  to share how I got here.   The boldness of this request both surprised and frightened me, as it would require tracing my steps back to my bottom: the end of Nursing school.   It would mean taking responsibility for my own selfish behavior, regardless of whether or not, it was related to my Depression.   But most of all, it would necessitate a level of introspection that I had avoided.   That I have always avoided.   I would have to see my own beauty and worth and begin to tear down walls erected in my late teens and college years.   SCARY STUFF, as I preferred to see the beauty in others.  Never myself.

So, to my friend, I say, challenge accepted.  And to Cloud…bitch, you need to find another mistress.  I am 47 years old and Clinically Depressed, battered, bruised, incomplete, but not defeated.   May soothing rain fall on me and help me chase Cloud away.

Thank you Ed Sheeran for sharing Foy Vance’s angst-filled lyrics, that moved me beyond words and allowing me to cry real tears of pain for the first time in over eight, or more, years.  “Make it Rain,” indeed.

UPDATE – April 30, 2016:

I am still here.

No.  Scratch that.

I am more than simply “still here.”

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April 2016. I make crazy look GOOD, people.

I am a a better version of myself.  Still sassy, snarky, loud and opinionated, but also a little wiser and more gentle on myself.   Still obese, but 30 pounds lighter than I was at Christmas time. Listening to my body and working out with that tiny English dynamo, Gemma Fountain, while embarking on a journey as a Plexus Ambassador with my Sister-in-Law.  While still high, my “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and liver enzymes (indicators of possible inflammation and impaired function), are only one number out of “normal” range.   I have more energy, my libido is back and I feel like participating in life, for the first time, in a very long time.   I am still an extroverted introvert, who loves to socialize, then regroups by spending quiet time at home with her dogs, working, reading or chatting online.  And, at 48, I KNOW I look good and can still rock a side ponytail, like it’s the 80s  or 90s.

Thanks to Paxil, mental health therapy, a primary care doctor who is not afraid to say, “lose weight and clean up your eating habits,” my very own Drill Instructor/US Army Veteran #10 Can ‘o Whoopass Facilitator/Husband, family, friends, classmates and K9 kids.   It has taken a village.

I Live in the “New Loneliness”

Aside Posted on Updated on

In her article This is the New Loneliness Jamie Varon focuses on the Millennial Generation. She categorizes them as both the most and least connected generation, due to their inherent, almost organic, use of social media.

I believe millennials have a arrested interpersonal communication skills, simply as a result of being born into a technology-dependent culture.  Communication requires “doing.” As children, millenials were not encouraged to physically be present. Most of their play needs were met by technology. So, it is unfair to paint them as disconnected.  They connect differently.  Social media, rather than face-to-face interactions, is their preferred vehicle.

Ms. Varon overlooked the original disconnected generation – Generation X. 

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We were latchkey kids. Loneliness was ingrained in our lives.  Sure we participated in every activity we wanted to, but most of us held a piece of ourselves back – a self-preservation piece.

These early experiences served us well as we entered an unpredictable, and sometimes volatile work environment, vastly different from the generations that preceded us.  The days of a life-long career with one company ended, just as we came of age.  So we became latchkey adults.

Social media paired nicely with Generation X, because it allowed us that “separation” we learned in childhood.  Technology offered the buffer against anonymity. We were still communicating, just indirectly.

I work primarily from home, so I have limited contact with others. And, even though I prefer to work alone, I genuinely miss the everyday interactions among coworkers in an office.  

Sometimes, I force…no…motivate myself to physically interact with other people.  As a natural “loner” and “homebody,” this is as unnatural and outside my comfort zone, as it gets.

Additionally, I am an extroverted introvert, suffering from clinical depression. Not only do I have to psych myself up to “participate,” I then need several days within my soul cave to regroup and recharge.

The paradox for me has been that even though social media is  “artificial” (as in manmade, rather than preexisting) I am still myself when I am online.  Some people create entirely new personas and lives. I did not and have not. Regardless of the clever nicknames I take on, given the site, my personality remains intact. Acting as someone else, is just not in my skill set.

Missing in technology-based interactions are the subtleties of speech, inflection and body language.  For someone who joyfully wields sarcasm and dark humor, this is a slippery slope.  Not only have I written/said things that were not understood as I had intended, I too have felt the string of a poorly worded online barb.

And, those words that are carelessly hurled around under the guise of anonymity? Those words injure, sometimes fatally. They bring the loneliness to a level that surpasses having a “dark/gloomy” or even “sad” day. Social media gives us the liberty to erect  invisible walls to hide safely behind.

The key is to peek over the wall, open the gate and talk to our neighbors…but it’s easier and quicker to just text them, isn’t it?

The Courage of Thomas McKenzie

Aside Posted on Updated on

I am a Roman Catholic.  I am also a proud Democrat.  Not voting in the GOP’s Presidential primaries is not a crisis of conscience for me, especially since Pope Francis has spoken out clearly about the history of social justice of my Church.   I am, for the first time in many years, able to vote my conscience without betraying my Faith.

Today, I read Thomas McKenzie’s post,   This Isn’t Funny Anymore: Why I’m Voting Against Donald Trump.  Mr. McKenzie, an Anglican priest, describes how Donald Trump’s candidacy runs afoul to basic Christian teachings.   Trump’s entertaining, yet troubling, rise in popularity, has continued to cultivate an ugly, racist, misogynist, intolerant feeling that has permeated our culture.

Sadly, after Mr. McKenzie’s post went viral, he was subjected to exactly the type of bullying, he so eloquently illustrated in his writing.   Some of these unsavory characters have resorted to threats of violence, which I hope he has reported to local law enforcement.

Mr. McKenzie’s words touched and moved me.  I know several former Republicans, my husband included, who have been deceived and left behind by their political party.  They have seen reasonable discourse turned into vitriolic insults at President Obama, Democratic politicians, women, minorities, disabled persons, and anyone who may deem to disagree with them.   They have all gone “underground,” have reclassified themselves as “independents,” and are supporting candidates who espouse centrist views. Silently.

Mr. McKenzie, please know that you are not alone.  Your strength in speaking truth to power, is what Jesus called all of us to do.   You set a humble example that I hope many more of us follow.     Christians and non-Christians, must question the motives of Presidential candidates, demand to know exactly what their platforms are, then vote according to what makes our Country great, and that is to continue to BUILD a more perfect union, as our forefathers wanted.   We are a work in progress, and TOGETHER we are better.   Jesus taught us that.

Depression, You Jealous Bitch, I Miss You

Posted on Updated on

This post has been a long time coming, as it has been dwelling and languishing in my house of avoidance.  Typically, I composed blog posts, edited and posted them.  This one was minimally edited, against my better judgment as a wordsmith.  It needed to remain in its raw, almost draft state, in order to convey the events accurately.

I am Clinically Depressed.

No, I am not “sad” or “melancholy,” as those terms lack the depth to describe what I have felt.  Or in my case, haven’t felt.

According to Web, MD., “clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships — symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks.”  Signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)   [Yes, there should be a proper citation here, but I need to exorcise this post from my psyche before I chicken out and retreat into my fortress of solitude.  So, fellow wordsmiths and scribes, bear with me.]
RN school books
My social life as of Fall 2011.

I started this blog when I returned to undergraduate studies to complete prerequisites to apply for nursing school.  After attaining a 3.8 GPA, being wait-listed, then accepted, I began the RN Level I course in the Fall of 2011.  The material was challenging, in ways I never expected. To say that I was ill-prepared would be a gross understatement of epic proportions.

I graduated with my BA in Criminology in 1991, so my expectations were completely inconsistent to the new way of work of higher education.    For example, I went to class with a course syllabus, notebook and pen, took notes, read my textbooks and supplementary materials, studied both and took written exams.   In 2011, there were syllabi, textbooks, e-textbooks, videos from the textbook manufacturer, YouTube videos, Power Point slides, sample tests from an outside company used as predictors for the NCLEX Board Examinations, digital records of lectures and my own personal notes.   This was for the lecture portion of the course, only.   The practical/hands-on Clinical portion had it’s own syllabus, notes, “check-off” preliminary skills practice and finally, the formal hospital rotations working directing with RNs and their patients.   I received a “B” in this class.  I was 43 years old.

Spring of 2012 brought Level II (Medical Surgical Nursing and Labor and Delivery) and Pharmacology.   I received a “B” in Pharmacology and a “D” in Level II.  My instructors revisited and regraded each of my tests and quizzes because they could not understand the disconnect between the student they saw explaining concepts to classmates and practicing safely on the hospital floor, with the final grade of 79% (D in my RN school).  My Clinical Instructor, who has sense become a good and trusted friend, asked me if I had ever been tested for Learning Disabilities.   Having gone to a major university in the 1980s/1990s, before Learning Specialists were on staff, and performing well in my classes, I never considered it.   I visited our college’s Learning Specialist who referred me to a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, specializing in Adults with Learning Disabilities.

Welcome to my nightmare.
Welcome to my nightmare.

At my first visit with  the LMHT, he tested me for Learning Disabilities and determined that I had Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with an emphasis on Distractions.  He described my brain as being a shelf with cubbieholes.  Each cubbiehole was a part of my brain and as long as each cubbie was filled, I was able to function well.  My challenges were when I had to concentrate on only one item and leave all the rest of the cubbies “empty.”  My brain would naturally want to fill them up.   In layman’s terms,  I was/am fantastic at multitasking, but terrible at concentrating on one project alone.  This served me well when I was working professionally, but was my kiss of death in Nursing school, where any tiny distractions would pull my attention away from the material I was supposed to be learning.

The college allowed me to re-slot back into a Level II course in Fall 2012, while my classmates moved on to Level III.  Along with swallowing my pride, ignoring the growing guilt about “wasting” money again, trying to ignore my feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment at having to repeat a course for the first time in my life, I retook Level II, this time with appropriate accommodations for tests, which included a quiet, private room and extra time to take the test to allow for mental “refocusing” breaks.    I don’t think I ever fully processed my personal biases against needing ADA accommodations, because I expected I would “snap out of it,” as my father suggested.   Of all the courses to repeat,  the irony and agony of retaking Level II, with its emphasis on Labor and Delivery, was not lost on me – a childless middle-aged woman.   I made it through with a “C.”

Spring of 2013, brought with it Level III (Medical Surgical Nursing, Pediatrics and Hospice Care) and Psychosocial Nursing.  I received a “B” in Psychosocial Nursing was the only person in my class of 30 students who actually looked forward to our clinical rotation with Mental Health patients, or “my people, as I began to think of them, almost immediately.   I passed Level III with a “C” and thought it was the most rewarding Medical Surgical Nursing rotation, because I had so many hands-on experiences, it re-energized me for the final semester and was working with a population very precious to me – Veterans.

Summer passed quickly and I looked forward to completing Level IV, Role Transition in Nursing and the Nursing Care Management Practicum (aka. Management rotation).  I received an “A” in Role Transition in Nursing, because it was not academically challenging, but took precious time away from my Level IV study time.   Level IV and Management ran consecutively, and in order to qualify to take Management you had to successfully complete Level IV with a “C” or better.  Adding to the pressure was the knowledge that at the end of Level IV were two exams,  the Level (or class final) exam and the ATI comprehensive test.  Students who did not pass the ATI test – a predictor for success on the NCLEX  – were ineligible to proceed to the Management rotation.   Consequently, the amount of stress we were under was tripled.  Needless to say, I cracked under the pressure and finished Level IV with a 78%, another “D.”  Ironically, once my grade was posted I felt an immediate sense of relief.   Unfortunately, I had to share the news with everyone I knew, including my parents who had changed their travel plans to ensure they could attend my RN Pinning Ceremony and Graduation.  That was probably one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make.

Additionally, at a time they should have been celebrating, my classmates were stunned, sad, and angry….very, very angry.  Out of 112 students in our Level, 27 of us failed to make the Management rotation.   As competitive as we were with each other, the nature of Nursing school (and the Nursing profession) was infinitely more congenial, team-oriented and we became  a “family.”   They wanted to know why their teammates would not finish the program with them.  And they vocalized this, loudly.   It was just before Thanksgiving  2013 and I was 44 years old.

As this was occurring, I took to my bed.

For the next two and a half months.

I dragged myself out of bed, showered and participated in holiday activities, or what I labeled, resentfully as “mandatory family fun.”   When December ended and January began, my husband, who had been my rock during this entire episode, suggested I speak to my Primary Care Physician about my “lack of moods and tired feelings” at my annual physical.   I will forever be grateful to him for this, but at the time, I simply wanted to be left alone to be in my room, pretending to read, sleep or watch funny animal videos online.

My Primary Care Physician was a Puerto Rican woman, whom I adored, admired and respected.  She was the right person to discuss my condition with me.  All of it.  The comforting numbness, the security blanket of obesity that I had started weaving around myself, the lack of interest in anything and the heart-stopping pain of knowing I had disappointed everyone…including myself.     In our typical Spanglish, we went through issues I had never discussed with a doctor.  Ironically, Nursing school deserved a great deal of the credit.  One of the skills we practiced from our first day on the floor with patients, was teaching.  I was a natural teacher and I enjoyed it.  So, if I was able to ask men in their 60s, 70s and 80s about their current sex lives, and ensure they were using condoms correctly, answering similar questions about myself should not have been a barrier.   It wasn’t.  In fact, it was the first time in my life that I had been asked many of the questions.

My doctor became concerned when we discussed my mental health. and she asked me to describe how I felt.

I never felt sad.  

I never felt happy.  

I felt mildly to severely inconvenienced and numb.

Numb.

Devoid of all emotions, feelings and sensations, as if I moved into

a fluffy, shock-absorbing, grey Cloud where all lights and sounds were muffled.  

Waking up and engaging the world required more energy than I could, or cared to, muster.   Showering, washing clothes and spending time with people entailed bracing myself for questions I had no answers to, conversations I had no desire to participate in, and were physically and mentally draining.

I had become comfortably numb, just as described by Pink Floyd.

The truth was…I liked it.  It worked for me.  On every level.

Numbness required little or no time away from wallowing in my own self-pitying disappointment.  Unfortunately, as a “responsible adult,” numbness is frowned upon as a way of life.   It prevented me from engaging in life.   I was a failure in school, unemployed and rudderless.   My security blanket of obesity had taken me past the point of being an unattractive “fat person,” and into the realm of “the invisible people” quite effectively.

To my doctor’s credit she listened.  Carefully.   She referred me to a therapist and prescribed an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reutake Inhibitor), that I immediately researched in my Nursing Drug Guide.   Simply explained, serotonin, a neurotransmitter,  is responsible for sparking the body’s natural chemicals that control feelings of happiness and well-being. The body distributes it when needed, and then collects it, when not.   People with depression, tend to lack enough naturally-occurring serotonin,  or too much is recollected at the end of emotionally difficult or sad moments – resulting in the “numbness.”   Additionally, the SSRI prescribed me would help my lack of focus, related to my ADHD.

cloud of depression
“You don’t look depressed though.” Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot to bring my literal, dark raincloud with me today.

I resentfully, took the loading dose (30-90 days), and noticed a gradual change in my moods and energy levels.   Not a “magic pill,” by any means, as all it did for me was begin to dissipate my Cloud.  But, I resisted.  Dissipating the Cloud would allow the sunlight of self-exploration to take place.  It would require me to notice and acknowledge my obesity blanket and begin to reconnect with others.   I wasn’t sure I wanted to do any of that.

I really loved my Cloud, dammit.     Cloud understood me without judgment.  She was my mistress and best friend.  She was also my greatest enemy, and a jealous one at that.   That was February 2014 and I was 46.

For the next few months, I struggled to find myself.   Every day Cloud waited patiently for my return, letting me I know she loved me more than anyone, just as I was.   I am disgusted to admit that more often than not, I would let myself float into her beautiful numbness, as my medication would begin the arduous process of pulling me back out.  As I was experiencing the allure of numbness and the frightening thought of leaving Cloud behind, I stopped being a wife.  I simply was not interested in any of it.  For months, my husband would come home from work, only to find me lying in the same position I had been in when he left for work at 5:30 every morning.  Dishes went unwashed, dogs were not walked, dinner was not cooked.  His patience, already worn thin from dealing with my stress during Nursing school, disappeared.   For weeks, then months, we lived an existence of cohabiting strangers.

In October 2014, a dear friend whom I met working on political campaigns sent me a Facebook message.  He recommended me for a job as a Regional Field Canvass Director for a political action committee.  After all, I had done community organizing work for years and had  the necessary networking and human resources experience to successfully do the work.   Thinking this would be a great transition, from unemployed to temporary employment, I accepted the position.  Then lasted two days.   My husband saw me for my dinner “break” on the first day and grew concerned, as he said I was simply staring into space and speaking in tongues.  On the second day, he visited my office, helped me out of my chair, waited until I had sent my resignation email, and escorted me home.  The only word out of his mouth when he saw my work environment, was, “no.”   In fact, he called my parents and in-laws to give them his impressions of the “cold, ugly, white box” I would have to work in.   He told them, “I just got glimpses of my wife back.  I am not willing to knowingly send her into an environment that will only make her worse.”   Like I said, this man was my rock.  He knew and supported me like no other.

charlie brown teacherBut, Cloud was already there.  Soothing me, reminding me how much better I was wrapped up in my blankets at home.  She was right.

This proved to be but a minor setback and the climb out of Cloud was easier.

In December, my Father arrived for a Christmas visit, and repeated his “my daughter was confident and fearless, this is only a phase, just snap out of it,” mantra.  I heard similar versions, in various  levels of resentment from my mother, mother-in-law, and several friends – dissonance.   I have always been able to tune people out so well and quickly, that it makes my own head spin, sometimes.  Frankly, I have never cared if they knew it.

2015 arrived with a renewed, albeit cautious, sense of purpose.   And Cloud.   Always waiting patiently to embrace me in her soothing emotionless depths and play my new theme song, Bad Day by Fuel.

Before I flunked out of Nursing school a dear friend I met in Level I and I found very inexpensive tickets to New York City and planned a girls’ weekend to celebrate my graduation and Pinning.   Needless to say, I neither graduated nor received my RN pin, and now had nonrefundable tickets to New York for the four days before St. Patrick’s Day.  I asked my family to help me take the trip, and they agreed.   By now, my parents were fully paying my mortgage, so I was asking two retirees for money to take a leisure trip.  The ugliness and lack of fairness was not lost on me, but I was learning my new normal.   I had a wonderful time in New York and was reminded of when I would travel there for business, years ago.   Suddenly,  I began to see, and miss, the old me.    And Cloud knew.  She always knew.

Cloud reminded me that my “new” life was online – a mixture of reality and fantasy.  Interactions with strangers who now knew more about me than my own family.   Sharing myself in depression-themed and other chat rooms, finding kindred spirits who never asked me to change or leave the house.   Cloud approved of my new friends and generously created more space for me to experience these relationships within her numbing comfort.

Which brings me to the present, and the impetus for finally writing this post: a new friend.   A new friend who sees more of me than I am comfortable showing, and yet, accepts me as a I am.  A friend who asked me, rather audaciously,  to share how I got here.   The boldness of this request both surprised and frightened me, as it would require tracing my steps back to my bottom: the end of Nursing school.   It would mean taking responsibility for my own selfish behavior, regardless of whether or not, it was related to my Depression.   But most of all, it would necessitate a level of introspection that I had avoided.   That I have always avoided.   I would have to see my own beauty and worth and begin to tear down walls erected in my late teens and college years.   SCARY STUFF, as I preferred to see the beauty in others.  Never myself.

So, to my friend, I say, challenge accepted.  And to Cloud…bitch, you need to find another mistress.  I am 47 years old and Clinically Depressed, battered, bruised, incomplete, but not defeated.   May soothing rain fall on me and help me chase Cloud away.

Thank you Ed Sheeran for sharing Foy Vance’s angst-filled lyrics, that moved me beyond words and allowing me to cry real tears of pain for the first time in over eight, or more, years.  “Make it Rain,” indeed.

 

 

On Thoughts and Prayers

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In his post, Thoughts and Prayers, John Scalzi challenges us to do more than offer our thoughts and prayers.  Many of us, myself included, are paralyzed by fear just thinking about being in an “active shooter” situation.

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Active shooter.  The name seems innocuous enough, but the reality is terrifyingly real. And commonplace.

Yesterday, however, House Democrats, led by its conscience, Representative John Lewis of Georgia, provided a beacon of light. Leadership in an otherwise dark, right-wing, reactionary era in our Country.  Though greatly outnumbered, in such a way, that any legislation they sponsored, would never see life outside of a Congressional Committee, showed the American people that social justice is alive and well, in our Republic.

For almost two days, they staged a Sit In, on the floor of the House of Representatives. By that defiant act, and ignoring all the Rules of the House, they demonstrated that observing moments of silence and thoughts and prayers for gun violence, are no longer enough.

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Clearly in the minority for far too long, this group of legislators took up the mantle of freedom, combing traditional social justice acts with social media to communicate with the American people.  I am encouraged and empowered by this act.   As we move forward toward another watershed Presidential election, the choices are clear – either we choose division, hate, bigotry, misogyny and homophobia or we choose life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL Americans.

My choice is clear, as Paul Wellstone eloquently stated: “I dare to imagine a country where every child I hold in my hands, are all God’s children, regardless of the color of their skin, regardless of whether they’re boy or girl, regardless of religion, regardless of rich or poor, that every child I hold in my hands, will have the same chance to reach her full potential or his full potential. That is the goodness of our country. That is the essence of the American dream.”

Our only choice to defeat the forces of hate is Hillary Clinton, and I’m with her.

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24 Things Women Over 30 Should Wear

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A cautionary tale for all of us women who are “over 30.”

This morning, as I was perusing my Facebook timeline, I happened upon an article that a lovely friend shared. It was entitled “24 Things Women Should Stop Wearing After Age 30”, and it …

Source: 24 Things Women Over 30 Should Wear

Interstate Message Signs Literally Can’t Even Right Now

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Thousands of Nashville-area motorists were reportedly surprised, concerned, offended, and otherwise taken-aback today when the city’s typically affable system of electronic interstate message signs…

Source: Interstate Message Signs Literally Can’t Even Right Now