Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: the last photo shoot. He was the best dog on the planet.

Tomato Madness

Tomato Madness
The author of Mark's Work

Hollyhocks and zinnias

Hollyhocks and zinnias
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Tomatoes are us.

Tomatoes are us.
Smoked paprika catsup, here at HappyDay Farms

Packing some heat...

Packing some heat...
These peppers know how to party!

Halloween fun

Halloween fun
Lito and Keelee

Our house

Our house
The snow season approaches...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ready for Action-Ready for Danger


Ready for Action-Ready for Danger

Life is a mixed bag for me these days, a good news/bad news proposition, so to speak.  I am ecstatic that Annie is out of the hospital and back up here on the mountain, and on the way to recovery.  I am sad that she is recuperating elsewhere than here in our home, but I fully understand that it is necessary.

Annie needs to eat properly, and not just the occasional chicken cacciatore special. She needs to eat the kind of food that her daughters-in-law can prepare, and she needs the attention of others who can provide the emotional support that she needs, which I am unable to provide.

I mentioned in an earlier piece that I wanted to provide the support,  but in the end, I was not able to step outside my own disability, and rise to the occasion.  Therefore, I now must move graciously aside, while others conduct the business of helping Annie recuperate. 

Meanwhile, my own forward progress is going to elevate its game this Friday, as I once again meander down to Ukiah, for my visit to the Veterans Administration doctor, who will give me my first physical exam.  To him I am going to pitch my request for medication to help my mood spectrum disorder, after having steadfastly refused to go down this avenue, ever since the first visit to Dr. Garratt, last March.  My current psychologist, Dr. Cieri in Ukiah, has faxed a referral to Dr. Shepherd, the doctor I am going to see on Friday, to facilitate the prescription of this medication.

I have struggled to explain my hesitation to take on a mood-stabilizing drug; I think it is more out of fear than out of knowledge.  I wrote about the potentially lethal skin rash that has been known to accompany this medication, and I read about all of the other side-effects.  I never found the one that I was most terrified of, the one that would essentially take the real me, and replace it with a facsimile, who performed the same motions as me, but with a sugary coating over everything that indicated a false presence.  

I don’t even know what it is I am trying to articulate.  I was and remain very nervous, that the pills will remove from me, something that I am unaware is gone, but that will somehow mean that the passion and exuberance of life will be missing, in order to keep my illness at bay.

This thought has been creepy all along, and yet, here I am, ready to take the plunge.  Now it gets easy.  Why would I do something against my better judgment?  I would do it to prove to Annie that I now recognize that I am dealing with am illness that surpasses my own abilities to contend with it.  I even had Annie’s support to try and contend without medication, through sleep, exercise and diet.  None of that was remotely good enough to stave off the onset of MSD symptoms, in the days leading up to Annie’s surgery.  

Therefore, I now intend to prove that life with medication, no matter what the ramifications, is better than life without Annie.  In an effort to prove that I would do anything on earth to help her get better, I will begin my own version of recuperating from my illness, and see if I can keep pace.  

I need to progress from my current mental health level, to the next one, and that means taking medication.  It’s not my first choice, but it beats what’s been happening so far.  Wish me luck, and if you see me grinning vacuously on the street some day, you’ll know that the meds were a success, I guess, and we’ll all have a good time, because, well, you know, both the Giants and the 49ers are winning, and what better reason to grin?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Grinning [Like an Idiot]


Grinning [Like an Idiot]

Though the inexorable march of time has never failed to materialize,  it would appear to be traveling in baby steps these days, because it has been five days now since Annie had her kidney removed, and I am no closer to knowing how she is doing, than I was five days ago.

I have received the one phone call from San Francisco, last Monday, as Lito told me that the operation had been successfully completed and that Annie was in the recovery room.  Now this is Friday, and I know nothing more.  The original edict which came from Annie, said simply that she had to focus on getting well, and that I needed to give her that space before we got back together and assessed the damage.

As difficult as that is to do I have had no choice.  After experiencing three weeks of debilitating depression, which annoyed Annie no end, I am in the midst of a manic stretch, which began the minute she left ten days ago, that rivals the earlier depression very effectively.  Instead of sleeping twelve to fifteen hours a day, I sleep less than two.  Of course the amount of cleaning and the number of projects being addressed is truly impressive. If I survive the separation, I will certainly dazzle Annie with my industry during her absence.

What does a mood spectrum sufferer do, in order to try and retain some sense of normalcy, or rather, the sense of normalcy that would impress Annie, and make her think that I may actually have an idea of how to get a handle, once and for all, on my illness?

To begin I have respected Annie’s wish not to contact her, even though just to hear her voice would mean the world to me at this point in time.  Somehow, I do not think Annie would be impressed with that sentiment, so I’ll skip it.  Along with that, I have not attempted to deal with the frustration that was exhibited towards me, by those who had a peripheral role in relocating Annie.  As I mentioned the other day, for some people, others’ mental issues evoke annoyance and anger, rather than compassion and care.  It is what it is.

I have tried my hardest to get the required sleep, even if it has meant just lying, awake, for hours at a time, thoughts racing around my head, like the Indy 5000.  I know it’s supposed to be the Indy 500, but I have extended it for this occasion.

I have continued to walk the dogs, trying to do so both in the morning and the evening to keep up a regimen of vigorous exercise.  I have overcome my non-existent appetite, and returned to a routine that guarantees that I am eating adequately.  Proper nutrition, along with sleep and exercise, is one of the big three.  Annie just might even be impressed that I actually bought a steak at Geiger’s the other day, and made three meals out of it.  I am an avowed opponent to red meat, for the simple reason that I have difficulty digesting it, and that’s the point.  In an effort to eat properly, I am willing to undergo the discomfort of that choice. 

 I take my daily vitamin, my fish oil, and I drink vast, unlimited amounts of water.  I have eliminated all caffeine, except for that one morning mug of coffee, and I have eliminated all of the beverages that contain all sorts of mean and nasty components.  I drink only fruit juice, laced with water.  I avoid all alcohol, and take the Lorazepam only when there is a sleep issue.

I do so to show Annie that even though she is not here to observe and coach me, I am trying to assume this mantle on my own, so that she no longer has to worry about me-just herself.  Additionally, going down to Ukiah yesterday, by myself, to see Dr. Mark, is another indicator, that I understand what has to happen in the future, at least for a while, so that Annie can devote all of her attention to getting better.

I have vast, unlimited opportunities to demonstrate to Ann that I am ready to take the next step in my recovery, and I am beginning to think that means adjusting my stance on medication for MSD.  I have steadfastly (with Ann’s support) refused to consider taking either the atypical, antipsychotic meds, that Dr. Garratt originally prescribed, or the mood stabilizer, that seemed to be the best fit, except for that pesky, skin rash, that can kill you if you do not catch it quickly enough.

Now, however, in light of recent hard times, I am capitulating.  When I visit the Veterans Administration doctor, one week from today, I have decided to ask him to write a prescription for me for Lamictel (SP?), the mood stabilizer that may allow me an element of normalcy in my life.  

Normalcy, whatever that is destined to look like, has got to be better than what I’ve got going now, which is hideous.  I’d rather be a drooling idiot, than just an idiot, which is how I feel at this point in time, sitting around wondering whether my bridges are burnt and destroyed, or whether they still have enough infrastructure left, to incorporate a change in the program.

I have never been an advocate for change; therefore bring on the meds.  I will probably never even notice the old Mark as he white-waters his way into the cosmos, leaving me, the new Mark, floating, effortlessly in the middle of a still pond, grinning like-well-an idiot.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In the Darkness


In the Darkness

All things come to him or her who waits.  We waited interminably for the 6th of September to roll around so that the surgeon who will be operating on Annie, could be consulted.  I know precious few of the details, because I was not present for the discussion, and probably could not have assimilated the information successfully anyway, because MSD patients encounter difficulty taking in new information.  For me it is particularly hard if I am hearing information for the first time, as opposed to reading it.

I believe there is one tumor that the doctor thinks is confined to one kidney alone.  He feels that to remove the one infected kidney is the most effective way to stop forward progress, and will do so early this Monday morning.  I do not know whether the tumor is malignant; it does not seem to matter one way or the other at this moment-the kidney has to come out.  I do know that when I used to experience stress, say back when I was teaching, I had no idea what kind of stress, real life events could produce.

Now I am experiencing a degree of emotional upheaval, unparalleled in my life’s experiences.  I am also six months into therapy to obtain some control over my recently diagnosed mood spectrum disorder.  Unfortunately, my coach and mentor is Annie and she is occupied at the moment.  What happens to the MSD patient when his coach and mentor needs to be doing something else and cannot guide him?  I’m not sure what happens, but I do know the result is unpredictable.

I could not follow through on my determination to be the go-to guy for Annie; that became apparent three days into the process.  I could not do the things that I wanted to do, because my foundation and support was gone.  Therefore, I struggled, and in doing so, caused those around me to have to contend with my struggles.  In the end, it was deemed appropriate that I remain here on the mountain when the journey down to San Francisco was undertaken, to talk to the surgeon at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, where the operation will be performed.

I am sorry that I cannot be there in person for Annie, but I do understand.  I am also heartily sorry that there are people who are exasperated with me. 

Mental illness is not a crime, but many patients receive a fair portion of negative response.  I did not mean to offend or annoy anyone while grappling with my aloneness.  When people do not understand the actions of a person with mental issues, the natural inclination is to get annoyed, if not downright angry.  I am paying the price for my illness big-time, right now, because I am unable to be with Annie.  For that I am grievously sorry, because she is and always has been the light in my world.  I am in the darkness without her.

I have a better understanding of my illness, but no better ability to control it when this kind of life issue comes along, than I ever would have, no matter how many sessions of therapy were involved.  I would give anything to be able to help Annie right now, and therefore I understand why I am up here on my mountain.  I just wish I weren’t. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Tilt-A-Whirl



The Tilt-A-Whirl
Once, long ago, when I was a small boy, a friend of mine and I were at a carnival and bought tickets for the Tilt-A-Whirl, being a little too meek for the Hammerhead but far too daring for the Ferris Wheel.  As enjoyable as the Tilt-A-Whirl had looked from our vantage point on the ground, when we got on the ride, my friend and I were terrified.  Purely as a defense mechanism, we shriveled ourselves into as small of passengers as possible, awaiting the end of the interminable ride.  Much to our astonishment, when the ride finally ended, the man who operated the Tilt-A-Whirl, had the unmitigated gall to yell at us for “sneaking an extra ride.”

Why was the Tilt-A-Whirl so scary?  I think it was because we were expecting one thing, and got something different.  I inherited this characteristic from my mother, this notion of having some sort of clear idea of what my expectations must always be.  If there is a mismatch, then it rocks my world.  So this particular ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl turned into a nightmare, complete with indignant ride operator.

Now I am back on a metaphorical Tilt-A-Whirl.  I am shriveled up on the inside, and compressed against the back of the ride, certainly at my darkest hour, just waiting for the operator to finally let up on the gear shift, so that we can glide to a halt, and get the hell off.  Only there is no getting off this ride called life, not legitimately, anyway.

My intent in writing anything, is always to spotlight what is going on in my head, and not to put the focus on others.  Any of you who have read anything at this site, know that I have ongoing, never-varying instructions about what I may not write about, and that is anything that violates others’ privacy.  I respect this edict with all of my power.  

Sixteen days have passed since we learned of the presence of the tumor on Annie’s kidney.  All we can do is wait until the Sixth of September arrives.  At least then, we will learn some new information and hopefully schedule the surgical procedure, that will begin the healing process.

Meanwhile, we are in a holding pattern.  We are not up in an airplane, holding, nor are we on a phone, holding.  We are in life, holding, because it takes time to arrange these kinds of logistics, cutting people open, to remove unwanted baggage.  One likes to have the best possible person doing the job, and there has been such a person recommended.

However, he is not available just yet, so we are holding.  How am I holding up?  Holding up implies I was up in the first place.  I meant to be... I promised I would be... I tried to be...I even was for the first two or three days, in an invisible and shadowy way.  But nothing happened, and any facade that might have suggested that I was keeping it together, collapsed with nary a hiss.

I wept a lot.  You know, not the dramatic sobs of the man who has been jilted from his lover, just the muted type of sobs, that you hear from a man, who fears that he is going to lose the one centering thing in his life for the past thirty-one years.  Those are the kind of sobs that seem to appear while sitting out under the pippin tree, hidden within the branches, no one there to see or hear anything amiss.

My gut tells me Annie has lived the healthiest lifestyle of anyone I know, and that she is going to take advantage of modern technology and beat this illness.  She has her three strong sons, and I know that I am going to help in any way that I can.  I also know that I will not be at the front of the charge, because I cannot be.  But lots of smaller jobs need to be done that get less glamour, and right now that’s probably better for me anyway.  No one notices someone sobbing while cleaning a toilet, or if she does, she just nods her head, and thanks her lucky stars it’s not her cleaning the bathroom this time.