Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother


38 years on this mountain, come May 31st...



Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby


Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Thursday, May 31, 2012

(7) You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD: Good Twin-Bad Twin

You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD
Good Twin-Bad Twin
Annie and I went down to Ukiah yesterday to take care of logistics associated with the upcoming jaunt(s) over to the Central Valley. Never in the history of the universe has so much individual attention been given to one three-day period of time.  It’s a CAF situation because considering all factors is one way to avoid possible disaster.  Mind you, there are infinitely more ways for me to not only encounter disaster, but to embrace it warmly as a long-lost friend, even though it may have only been “lost” for an hour.  I didn’t invite this friend in the first place, so all I can do is hope that he is not feeling especially lively on any given morning.  Leave the potato chips and the party behind, puh-lease.
So yesterday served the purpose of warming me up to tomorrow’s trip to Ione, to see that nice Lito graduate from the Cal Fire Academy.  We were determined not to have a time element attached to our busy schedule.  I get agitated if I feel I am not adhering to an established time frame.  Therefore, I pushed that concept aside, as I carefully listed all the stops that had to be made in Ukiah, Willits and the Ville itself.  Down in Ukiah I scored slacks and a couple of shirts, and got a hair cut for the grand occasion.  In fact I got them all cut, except the ones on my chin.
All week I had been communicating with my first cousin, Kati, who was out in Cali from Virginia, and in our neck of the woods.  Of course we wanted to connect.  She had never been up here on the ridge and I hadn’t seen her since I was 17 and she was a sophomore in high school.  I knew one thing about her though; she flew jets in the military.  I have never met anyone who flew a jet and was not going to miss this opportunity.  She had a similar bent as far as time frame was concerned, so we left it open and figured we would communicate via cell phone.  
It actually worked to perfection, as we had completed all of our tasks in both Ukiah and Willits, and were leaving for Laytonville, when Kati called from Eureka.  Perfect timing, as it would take us an hour and a half to complete our journey home, including several stops in the “Ville, while it would take her fifteen minutes longer to get to our place from the North.  That gave us fifteen minutes to try and pick up the house.  Not feeling particularly up for that challenge, we shrugged our shoulders and figured that the house would have to pick itself up.  It proved to be a good decision, because Kati did not seem the kind of person who attached much importance to anything but visiting.
We had rendezvoused at Happy Days Farm, just up our driveway, and shown her around Casey and Amber’s organic farm.  It is always so impressive with its six greenhouses sprinkled around, providing the venue for fresh produce all through this past winter.  We proceeded down to our place, and sat out on the deck catching up, drinking ice-water from our spring.  It was the perfect way to complete a hectic afternoon.
When Kati had departed, heading down to Willits to stop in at Pauline’s, whom we had seen earlier in the day, Annie and I took time to assess the day.  I have been in this mild hypomanic phase this whole week, with my sleep limited to about 2/3 my normal rate.  I had acknowledged to Annie on the way down that I was definitely amping, but in what I considered to be a positive way.  We had been aware of this mild development in my illness, after my having had ten days of relative harmony.
Whether to attribute it to the upcoming weekend, or to place it under the heading of the “normal” spectrum of mood shifts, is unclear, but as long as it is all positive, and Annie is comfortable with my conduct, the rest is gravy.  It’s one of the perks of the illness, that boundless enthusiastic energy.  After dealing with the leaden lethargy in my legs all winter, I am thrilled.
And here I am at this morning’s literary destination: hypomania is the good side of the good twin/bad twin concept, if we can distinguish between the mild version I displayed yesterday, and the volatile brand promenading around this establishment last winter.  Yesterday: good; last winter: bad.  Nothing more to say on that.  But here comes the truly fascinating part, as opposed to all the rest of this scintillating narrative: In an “average” mood spectrum patient, the manic side of the illness presents itself only a fraction of the time, compared to its evil twin, depression.  Excuse me?
Research indicates that the average MSD patient suffers slightly more than half of the calendar year with his illness.  However, characteristics of depression dominate time period, an astounding 93 percent of the time.  Whether that figure is 93, or 87, or whatever, depression still remains the dominant element of mood spectrum disorder.  Do you realize the significance of this imbalance?
It means that many people are routinely diagnosed incorrectly, because their depressive symptoms are so overwhelming, that they are subsequently given the wrong medication.  While in the hypomanic phase, often the sufferer is fabulously productive and upbeat (like me yesterday) and everybody is happy.  But in the depressive state, it’s all bad.
The net result is that the medication these patients ingest, may or may not help.   It may “take the edges off” either end of the mood spectrum, but if there are too many times when the patient plunges down into depression, then it must be possible that the meds are incorrectly prescribed.  Meds don’t solve all problems, and indeed create some new ones, but demonstrating continuous symptoms of depression, while on meds, is not right.
As you may remember, I have grappled with the notion of medication,  and accepted the possibility that it is an option, if stabilizing the three elements of sleep, diet and exercise, does not provide the desired results.  We have the meds all picked out, and waiting on the display floor for special delivery to me, via the “Ville pharmacy, in the event they are needed.  They’re not my first choice, and they’re not even in the top ten, but at least it’s nice to have a choice, that does not involve the pysch-ward at the neighborhood mental hospital.  I’ve always been a fan of choice, especially when we’re talking “One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(6) You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD: Behind the Scenes with Annie

You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD:
Behind the Scenes with Annie
The time has arrived for me to write about something near and dear to my heart, something that I have been prevented from writing, by the very person, about whom I wish to comment.  I am speaking about Annie. When they say “for better or for worse,” the more cynical individuals usually assume the latter.  Annie and I have had a lot of good years, and we’ve faired well in our partnership.
However, the older I get, the more determined my mind is to establish its independence, as though it were a teenager once again.  First  I had to haul my brain down to Dr. Jill’s office, and have my panic attack syndrome removed.  Now I have some DJ up in my belfry playing 33rpm albums at 45rpm speed.  You remember what George Carlin said about playing Black Sabbath at 78rpm?  You see God.  
I have clung to that turntable, as it spun around at a ridiculous pace, and watched as Annie tried to simply keep up.  As the pace went from meandering to frenetic, and then back down, she began to realize that the music being played in my head, had a decidedly foreign tinge to it, and it wasn’t Spanish. 
When the gang up in my brain decides it time to party, and gets out the potato chips, it’s time for me to slow the pace down, and examine all factors carefully.  Annie has been seeing these characters establishing themselves in my brain with impunity, and she has had to grapple with a lot of debris from the parties that have been going on for the past 18 months or so.  Now that all of her work and determination is paying off, I want to set her up on a pedestal, and shower her with appreciation.
That makes her uncomfortable, because she does not like being in the limelight.  All of those years of working her magic in the middle school, and she would never let anyone acknowledge it, because she likes to work behind the scenes.  She demanded that the credit go where it deserved: to the kids.  
Now I want to bestow on Annie, the appreciation I feel, for weathering the storm.  I try to tell her how sorry I am, but she won’t allow me to beat myself over the head, because of circumstances over which I had no control.  We agreed that I could apologize for the pain I have caused, but that since there was no intent to harm, I could not be held accountable for it, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
So when I asked her how she managed to hang on to her sanity, while I was misplacing mine, and why she didn’t just get out of Dodge, she said, “Because I love you.”
“Could it really be as simple as that?”  I mean, I have seen a half-dozen different pictures on FaceBook of couples purportedly married for sixty or more years, and the post always makes a commentary on the reason for their marital longevity being that they were married in an era where things that broke did not get thrown away, they got fixed.  But that implies that whatever constitutes “for better of for worse,” is of the mundane “he said, she said” variety of marital spats.  They aren’t easy and they aren’t fun, but they are also surmountable, because there is an awful lot of good mixed in with the not-so-good.
But in the middle of all this discussion about what is expected or not expected within the boundaries of marriage, there is no discussion about a mood spectrum disorder.  There are a lot of things that are not mentioned, and I am sure we can find more heinous afflictions than a mood disorder, but ultimately, we are playing with the cards we have been dealt.  There, I have just likened my life to a poker game, with Annie as the dealer.
Right now, she is dealing me a wealth of information about my disorder, and how others handle it.  She reads me narratives describing different therapeutic approaches, and we discuss the merits-and demerits-of each.  It was her abhorrence of the side-effects of the original prescription from Dr. Garratt, that finally convinced me that she was an advocate, and not a foe.  I am ashamed to admit it now, but that is only one in a lengthy list of things that I would have to be ashamed of, if that was the way we were playing this hand.  
But Annie being the dealer, has made it clear that we don’t look backward, unless we can learn from it.  Otherwise the focus is on the mood chart and the future.  Who knows, along with the joker I’ve been dealt, there may be a full boat in that deck somewhere.  I’d even settle for a flush, as long as it wasn’t my face we were talking about, and I wasn’t doing motormouth again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

(5) You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD: Cause and Effect

You Call it Bipolar-I call it MSD
Cause and Effect
If I didn’t know better, I would say I have my mojo back.  My legs again allowed me to spend a solid four-hour block of time, over at my mom’s Sunday, weed-eating the driveway, from top to bottom, on both sides.  After Saturday’s effort, I awoke stiff and sore, but the problem with my legs has abated, allowing me to push forth, in an unprecedented manner.
As is her custom, Annie asked me about sleep.  I had been expecting the question.  Whereas I have been striving for at least seven hours per 24 hour period of time, I have gone five consecutive days with five or fewer hours.  Annie and I had the following conversation the other morning, as we walked up to Blue Rock and back, a 45 minute jaunt.
“So I want to know if I get credit for trying to sleep, if it turns out that I don’t actually get the desired amount.”  I started off the discussion.
“Credit?”  Annie looked at me blankly.
“Sure, credit.  Last night I went to bed at eight, and got up a few minutes after midnight.  I stayed up until 2:40, at which time I made myself stop writing, and went back to bed for an hour and a half.  Unfortunately, I did not sleep during that hour and a half. So how much ‘sleep’ do I enter on the chart?  I only slept four hours, but it’s not as though I didn’t try.”
“I see what you mean,” Annie began.  “But you and I are the only ones who count, so what difference does it make?”
“It’s just that if I write down four hours, and I do that every day for a week, then it makes it seem as though I am experiencing hypomania.  By listing that I tried to sleep, but could not, I feel that I’m indicating that I am not amping, and going off the deep end again.  I mean, my legs are strong, I am killing it over at Pauline’s, and I am not sleeping a whole lot.  On paper, it’s not looking too good.”  I was big on that mood chart, because I was hoping it would allow me to see patterns of behavior, that would become predictable.
“Well, how are you feeling?  Are you feeling like you are going back into hypomania?”  Annie asked the question, because I had made it clear, that if she asked, I would answer, and not try to pull the wool over her eyes.
“To be honest, I don’t feel a whole lot different, but the DJ whose running the record player inside my head, indicates that the 33 rpm records are playing at 45rpm speed.  That’s not as bad as 78rpm, but give me some time.  I don’t think I have ever worked so hard to earn a hundred dollars in my life, but I also don’t think I have ever been so happy to have earned it either.  I think it has something to do with how we are spending it.”
We had been struggling with the logistics of the upcoming wedding, being held the first Sunday in June, over in Placerville, about a five-hour drive from here.  Annie had announced recently that she did not see how we could afford to go.  I said finances should not play a role, because we could borrow the loot, but we could not have them make up the wedding, if we chose not to go.
I wondered if Annie was afraid that my illness would raise its ugly head, and cause conflict.  It did not seem fair, that she should have to hinge attending such an important event, on my mental condition.  On the  other hand, was it possible that the events of this weekend are the cause, while my seeming hypomania is the effect?  
There is so much still to learn, both about the disorder, and how it impacts me.  Recording the data, daily, on the mood chart, allows us to see how external events may impact my frame of mind, and vice versa.  If I awake on the day of the event, and too many red flags are out, then obviously, like any ill individual, I would gracefully retire to my sickroom, and not attend the wedding.  
Otherwise, for the first time in my life, I am anticipating an enjoyable venue for this wedding, even though I will know only a handful of people, and I have to drive a fair distance to attend.  Maybe it’s the hypomania side of me, but for once, I think I will just channel that energy into this event, and ride the crest of the hypomania wave to Placerville.  Drive on, James, er, Annie.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nothing Personal, You Know?

Nothing Personal, You Know?
Because he had so much respect for karma, Dana did not hate his boss, Scott.  He tried to view Scott with a good deal of detachment, because he found that he could better navigate the murky waters, in which Scott spent so much of his time, if he did not take things personally.
Scott had run a grow operation, the result of which Dana was trimming right now.  Scott had spent a lot of cash to set the whole thing up, way back in a remote area of Northern Mendocino County, and had paid little attention to details such as respect for the environment.  Scott had made use of chemicals in the form of additives, that he had dumped in the soil of his plants.  He had run a diesel generator eighteen hours a day, and didn’t give a hoot when a hundred gallons of the stuff had leaked out into the creek, from which he took his water.
Dana saw Scott on the graveled road regularly, and observed how Scott bullied his way around with his mega-colossal Dodge Truck, with its jumbo-sized mud tires.  He once saw Scott come up behind a little Nissan truck with such menacing wrath, that it reminded Dana of a rabid dog who slobbered and drooled his way amongst others, while they tried to stay out of his path.  He’ll get his some day, thought Dana, and when he does, I’m going to stand back and not lift a finger to stop it.
Now, as Dana sat in his chair, he felt the ache descending from his neck and shoulders, all the way down his spine, lodging in the small of his back with a vengeance.  You wouldn’t think sitting around using your hands, could cause such a ferocious amount of pain.  Whether or not it was worth the twenty bucks an hour was open for debate, but arguing with his old lady about paying the bills, was not.  She had given him an ultimatum: Either get off his lazy tush and earn some loot, or get a job, whichever he preferred.  Otherwise, get the hell out of my house, she’d said, forgetting for just a minute, that the house was actually Dana’s.
He did not know if the little incident the other day had anything to do with her edict, but then again, he did not know that it didn’t.  What incident?  He had darn near burnt the place down, and only the barking of the dog had alerted him to the fact.  Actually, since Haley was just arriving home at the same instant, it had alerted them.  To say she had been furious, is to say that the Dodgers bite.  No one would argue with either.
How was he supposed to know that his new bong had a peculiar habit of ejecting the contents of the bowl, if he should accidentally exhale into the glass shaft, while taking in a lungful of Blue Dream?  In this case, he had been coughing so hard, that he did not notice that the cherry had landed right in the pile of trimmings, sitting beside it, and that had ignited the pile into a dancing mass of leaping flames, just after he had gone out to the kitchen.  The resulting mess left him in a world of hurt, as far as Haley was concerned.
There was a bong here in the trimming shed, just sitting on a shelf, but not one that was up for grabs.  Scott seemed to derive great pleasure in dangling it there for Dana to see, while enforcing the official work policy, which was that Scott alone called the shots as to the frequency of use of said bong.  Otherwise, don’t even think about it.  Dana didn’t dare try to stuff a few button buds into it, and take advantage of what most trimmers accept as stock conditions.  He thought of it as one of the perks of the industry.  Well, who knows?  Maybe the earth would move and Scott would see fit to load a bowl.  
The door burst open, banging on the opposite wall, just as it did every single time Scott ever came into the shed.  Dana did not kid himself, that it was done for any other reason, than to make Dana jump six inches, and every time it made Scott burst out laughing.  Every single time. 
“Hey, there, old chap.  What say we fire up that bong?  I got a reason for celebrating-twenty of them, actually.”
“You sold your first-born into slavery?” Dana inquired.
“Ha, ha.  That’s pretty funny.  Shut up, dick, and hand me your lighter, so I can fire up this bitch.  I gotta meet a man about a horse.”
“You’re leaving?”  That came as a surprise, because Dana had been expecting to work at least another hour, until six.
“That’s funny, so am I.  You are too, dipshit.  Get your act together after we finish this rip so I can lock this place up.  I stashed the twenty pounds in the back room earlier.  If this guy goes for it, I’ll be back in an hour to get the shit.  Get a move on, Danny-we don’t have all night.”
Danny, Dana thought to himself.  Son of a bitch can’t even get my name right.  What else would I expect?  He took the perfunctory hit off of the bong and handed it back to Scott.  He turned to grab his lunchbox, while he pulled the hoodie off the back of his chair and donned it.  He watched as Scott loaded the bong for one last hellacious hit, and then couldn’t help laughing to himself, as Scott erupted into a fit of coughing, reaching out and grabbing for the door at the same time, and pulling it open.
“We’re out of here,” and out the door he went with Dana on his heels.  They headed back down the path, but only got about a hundred feet, before the penetrating November cold made Dana realize he had left his overcoat hanging on the nail behind where his work station lay.  
“Hey, Dude!  Hold on.  I gotta go back and get my coat.  I’ll only be a second.  Toss me the key.”
“Oh great, like I got nothing better to do but wait for you.  Make it fast and don’t stop for anything but that lousy coat.  You hear me?” He threw a key on a mimi-flashlight at Dana while he hollered the last to Dana’s retreating back.
Dana burst into the shed, heading straight back to his spot, where he snagged his jacket off the nail.  As he was turning back to the door, his nostrils were assailed by the acrid smell of smoke, and he realized that the source was a humungous pile of trimmings, that had been shunted to one side of the expansive trim table.  Apparently that last rip that Scott had taken, had sent that cherry out of the bowl, and right into the center of the bone-dry pile of shake, and it was about to erupt in a pile of flames.
Too bad Scott had given him such precise directions about what he could and could not do, at this juncture in time.  “...don’t stop for anything but that lousy coat.”  
Hey, he was just following directions as he pulled the door tightly shut.  Nothing personal, you know?

(4) You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD: Is Your Head Screwed on Right?

You Call it Bipolar- I Call it MSD
Is Your head Screwed on Right?
Mama was up on the mountain Saturday, just in time to view my initial weed-eating efforts.  When Annie and I paid a visit in the afternoon, it was just like old times.  
“So you’ve been seeing this psychiatrist for a while now.  Have you got your head screwed on right, yet?”  She kept her face neutral, as she was so capable of, until after the smile had appeared on my face, whereupon she beamed.
“Well, Mama, I honestly don’t know that that’s ever going to happen.  Let’s not get carried away.”  I could just as easily have said, “Not yet Mama, he only had a straight-edged screwdriver, and we needed a Philips-head.”  The idea is that as long as I can poke fun at myself, or have others feel comfortable enough to do the same, then I think this will work.
I am getting past the point, where I am cruising along, minding my own business, and suddenly I am thinking, “Hey, I am bipolar,” and having the gong go off in my head.  Getting rid of that gong was key.  As our conversation went along, I thought to ask Mama the question I had about my father’s sleep habits.
“Did Robert have insomnia, or other sleep issues?” I asked.
“Well, he could go to sleep just like that,” and she snapped her fingers.  “But you know that from seeing him sit down in front of a movie.”  She paused.
“Did he wake up in the middle of the night, and not be able to go back to sleep?  Or did he wake up really early, and get up at 3 or 4 in the morning?”  I asked, because these were characteristics of my sleep issues.
“No, he didn’t wake up in the middle of the night that I know of.  And no, he didn’t get up early either.”  
“I just ask, because I think Robert had a mood spectrum disorder, also.  I mentioned this to you, when your brother, Ralph, was here.  I know we all saw the depressive side of him, the black Irish moods, but we also saw him engage in an endless stream of projects, that required that he expend a lot of energy, and from a guy who worked in a steel factory full time, that was a lot.  It is a key component of a mood spectrum disorder, and falls under the heading of hypomania.”
I went on to describe some of the projects I remember him working on, including the utility trailers he used to construct, bringing scrap iron home from the shop, and welding the chassis in the side yard.  By the time he was done, and the trailer was painted, he could command as much as three hundred dollars for it, which back in the late sixties, was a veritable fortune.  He began construction on the Honah Lee, a sailboat, which he never completed, but still traded for a four-feet-deep Doughboy swimming pool.  He sure talked about what he would do when the Honah Lee was completed.  Sailing around the world is not that exotic, but still would seem a little grandiose for most people to consider.
For a while he was building these tile-topped tables, the undercarriage of which he made as he did the trailers.  Then he would inlay plywood in the frame, and tile the surface, creating different designs.  On the top of one, he got his brother Joe to draw a Chinese New Years dragon, and he used tiny red and black tiles to create the mosaic.  The effect was quite stunning and it amazed me that something that began with a welding torch and some useless scraps of iron, could become such an exquisite piece of furniture.  He had an excellent sense of vision.
He was a master craftsman, when it came to brick/stone work, and fine carpentry.  He had a tremendous capacity for working creatively with his hands.  The chests of drawers he assembled after his retirement, are works of skill and artistry.  He also began to collect coins, sometime in the sixties, and he would spend hours nightly, pouring over his pennies, sorting them, organizing them, and storing them in the proper containers.
My father operated a great deal out of the right side of his brain, and engaged in hypomania, for long stretches at a time.  For at least a five-year time period, he also became seriously health-conscious, beginning a daily program of not only going to the track in the afternoons to run, but also jogging in place in the early mornings.  Through the open windows, in the boys’ bedroom at the lower end of the house, I could hear his feet rhythmically dancing, as he jogged in place, something I have never been able to sustain, for more than a minute or two.  That was a lot of energy for him to be able to have, and still work the way he did.  He would also contract jobs on the weekends, doing projects for extra money.
Though prone to fits of melancholy, he also had great capacity for warmth and enthusiasm, as he demonstrated every summer when he would take the entire family camping.  I was always amazed that I had almost none of the normal duties, that plagued me at home.  I did not have to wash dishes, or peel potatoes, and he seemed mostly to be in the best spirits while camping.
No one disputes that mental illness tends to be genetic.  My own diagnosis of mood spectrum disorder, makes a great deal of sense, if I conclude that my father suffered in some degree from the same disorder.  It doesn’t/didn’t make him a bad guy, just as it doesn’t make me a bad guy.  I simply need to get my head screwed on right.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

(3) You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD- Too Late

You Call it Bipolar- I Call it MSD-Whatever
Too Late
If there were one element about mood spectrum disorder that I feel merits more discussion than any other, it is the disparity with which I, and others, view the world.  I can never be sure if I am seeing the same things that Annie-or another-is seeing.  We view the same universe, but I now find that I am occasionally in need of some assistance, when it comes to deciphering certain events.
One example that comes to mind occurred in February, and effectively eliminated blogging as an option for me.  It involved another blogger, a person who wrote a piece one day, in which she accused “someone” of stealing her work, or her words, or maybe even her soul, I was never quite sure.  She went on to say all sorts of dastardly things about how someone had “stolen her Cheetos.”  
Because I do not use a moniker, but use my name and picture when I visit other sites, I felt as though her words reflected more on me, than on some anonymous blogger, who could never be identified.  She never did explain at whom-or for what reason-she had written the piece.  Where I got into trouble, was that I could not let it go.  As I read the comments that others left on the piece, they expressed the same universal concern: I hope it is not I to whom you are referring.
I felt as though the whole experience were an expression of an ego gone wild, at the expense of some innocent bystanders.  Was this the illness speaking?  I must conclude that it was, even if I feel that the original piece was unfair and made me feel defensive.  It may even have made others feel the same way, but they got over it.  I did not, could not, and remain incapable of “getting over it.”  
So this is what I mean by seeing the world in a different manner.  I feel compelled to not only take umbrage at perceived injustices, but to cling to my stance, no matter what details materialize, that indicate I am about to take a long walk, off of a short pier.  I pursue the matter, using words and logic to make a point, even if the point is dull and innocuous to others.  
I take matters further than what I used to, and further than others take them in the first place.  I may sit down to write out a letter of explanation, with the intention of sending “I” messages, and end up making it personal.  Then I justify the whole exchange because I feel that the original affront validates my negative reaction, leaving me with the need to make an apology.  The trouble with written words is that they are tangible, and remain there on the paper, shouting out with authority, when I wish they would just shut the heck up.  At least when I write stuff down, I have had some time to reflect, unlike being in a verbal war, during which I have gotten into trouble in the past.  “Think first” is a concept that suddenly resembles a foreign language, with no translation available until it is far too late.
“He who hesitates is lost,” my father used to say, but he who leads the charge, occasionally finds that there are no followers, because he is charging into a void, which others can clearly perceive and avoid.  That does present some problems.  But the nature of this illness is that charging forward is standard operating procedure, and the best I can do is hope that some good may come out of it.
At this moment I am jubilant because I have regained the strength in my legs over the past couple of weeks, and believe that the lethargy which has plagued me all winter, may be on summer sabbatical.  I was over at my mom’s weed-eating this morning for a four-hour block of time.  I didn’t necessarily feel as though I were twenty again, but I didn’t feel seventy, either, which is where my legs have been.
But they’re back, and leading the charge, because he who hesitates, misses dinner. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

(2) You Call it Bipolar-I Call it MSD, Whatever: Chicken Concerto in Three-Part Harmony

You Call it Bipolar-I Call it Mood Spectrum Disorder
Chicken Concerto in Three-Part Harmony
Let’s not get manic about the whole thing.  Here is what one half-hour looks like in my world.  I was working on a little building project, out by the orchard, well within hearing distance of the chicken house.  Now, before I go any further, I must tell you that I never met a chicken that I liked.  I have met many chicken wings that were appealing, and thighs, and drumsticks, but when it comes to the little beasties themselves, I am not a fan.
When Annie and Casey decided to expand the farm and include chickens, I protested that they were stinky and loud, with no socially redeeming value.  Did I mention they are hideously loud?  I swore that I would not be a part of any chicken business, and I have stuck to my guns.  I do not care for the eggs, and it used to drive folks nuts.  They’d say, “But organic eggs taste so much different than store eggs,” and I would respond, “Precisely.”
So when I have to listen to the little critters, after an egg has been delivered, I cringe and I find a way to exit the vicinity.  Well, I was on the clock, getting paid handsomely, and you know what they say about handsome is as handsome does.  If I exit the vicinity, I have to adjust the timesheet, and that makes me dig in my heels.  I am not going to let the chickens bug me.
Until I am ready to scream.  My issue is that a hen will select the most strident and profoundly annoying note, to trumpet into the spring morning air, and she will not stop.  She will not vary one microscopic note from the original blast of off-key, clarinet screeching, and will repeat it at the same two second intervals, until the aural sandpaper has worn through to my bruised and battered eardrums.  Finally, just as I am ready to dunk my head in the watering trough to ease the pain and provide silence, a second hen kicks into full gear, this one mimicking an ooga-horn off of an ancient Model-T, repeating the same note, at one second intervals, alongside the first.  
Now I want to find a deeper watering trough, except that I start to get agitated.  Instead of focusing my eyes on the task at hand, and making one of the several cuts I have to make, I find myself looking about on the ground to find a rock to heave at the chicken house, about 100 feet away.  There is no shortage of rocks, so I snag one and let it fly.  It causes great agony in my left shoulder, flies off the course by twenty feet, and ends up falling harmlessly to the ground, while I grab my left arm and try to make the ache in my shoulder diminish.
I decide that the ache is not going to go away until the chickens stop squawking.  A third hen has joined the band, a band renowned for its projective qualities.  I have begun breathing deeply, in an effort to keep adequate oxygen available for the upcoming fracas.  I already have a slightly smaller rock in my hand and I am easing toward the hen house, figuring that I will have a better chance of hitting the darn thing if it would stop moving around.  I can help guarantee that, by getting closer.  
Now only fifty feet away, I heave the second rock, and it makes it halfway to the intended target, incensing me, because the chickens haven’t let up one note’s worth, and I am sure a fourth one is getting ready to join the cacophony.  Now I find a rock that is double the size of either of the first two, charge up to within five feet of the side of the hut, and slam the rock against the wall, sounding like a shotgun blast.  The chickens do not miss a note.
Enraged now, I storm to the side to the henhouse, and beat against the wall with both fists, imitating the appelliated woodpeckers that we hear every day of the week.  In the instant after I drop my arms, and wait silently in my tracks, I am aware of two things: one is the incessant bleating of the moronic chickens, and the second is the soothing voice of Eric, the farmworker, sitting ten steps away on the front steps of the workshop, observing my actions sympathetically.  
“Yeah, those chickens sure can be annoying.”
I turn slowly toward him, saying, “Well, I guess you got a glimpse of my illness firsthand.  Sorry about that.”
In the background, the three hens went on, oblivious to the fact that their concert was the most detrimental impact on my very soul.
Chickens !-Mark 0.  I don’t think it’s going to be a close game.

Friday, May 25, 2012

(1) You Call it Bipolar-I Call it Mood Spectrum Disorder-Whatever

You Call it Bipolar-I Call it Mood Spectrum Disorder
Let’s not get manic about the whole thing.  I have now completed ten visits to Dr. John Garratt, who maintains a little office in Mendocino, after having had it brought to my attention, that I was experiencing some technical difficulties.  I have had just under eleven weeks to dig in and learn a little about what Annie first called “The Enemy.”
Having shared all of that good information, I have now formed the opinion, that I know very little indeed.  Fortunately for me there are no tests to pass, nor pop quizzes to fear, just the every day highs and lows of a disorder that is fairly predictable, as far as patterns of behavior are concerned.  It’s the timing that never lines up quite properly, not that one time is a better time than another, to encounter one of life’s speed bumps.
Having become aware of my disorder, having accepted the diagnosis (a biggee), and having begun psychiatric evaluation/therapy, I am now able to take advantage of this neutral (for me) period of time to focus on several elements, that up until now have been lost in the shuffle of everything else that has unfolded.  My primary objective all along, has been to gain enough tools to allow me to be able to salvage my relationship with Annie.  Now I am able to start hanging pieces of information, on the hooks I have fashioned in my brain, that allow me to make connections between past behaviors, and current courses of action.
I have mentioned in the past the mood chart, upon which I have been tracking information, and the results are not anything really to write home about.  What needs to happen is more time needs to go by, so that I can look for patterns that will allow me to predict with any kind of accuracy, when I might expect a revisit from the “Enemy.”  I am looking for either events, or developments, which create stress, and that I can learn to either avoid, or to modify my itinerary so as not to make matters worse.
For instance, when I went down to Santa Rosa on Monday, to renew my medical marijuana prescription, I automatically took one of my two-milligram Lorazepam pills, to try and head off anxiety.  It worked according to plan,  and I blasted down and back without incident.  On the other hand, when I go over to Mendocino, I do not feel the anxiety that I did in the beginning, so I do not take the Lorazepam.  It’s just a matter of figuring out what things are going to rock my world, and what things are not.
I asked Dr. Garratt yesterday, for the second time, if from what he had observed so far, he thought I had suffered from mood spectrum disorder my whole life, and for the second time, he pretty much let me draw my own conclusions.  My conclusion is that I have, but that the characteristics that have emerged within the past year, indicate that the illness has been worsening.   
The difference is that I have now become infinitely better able to determine my own frame of mind on any/every given day.  What’s up with that, you may ask?  Doesn’t everyone essentially do that every morning?  I think everyone does, but it is done automatically.  I have always had a busy agenda in my head, and have never been very good at assessing what may or may not be problematic, on any given day.
Therefore, being able to say, “My irritability level is off the [mood] chart today,” simply gives Annie a heads-up.  My adding agitation to the chart recently, is very telling because I have never identified that characteristic in myself before.  Agitation, for me, involves being fixated on one specific thing, and not being able to let go.  The Internet provides ample opportunity for agitation, as I am certain many of you would agree.  But for many, when the Net is down, they find another avenue to pursue until service is restored.
I, however, often find myself on a treadmill of repetitive actions, designed to get one more glimpse at FaceBook, or one more shot at editing my blog, even though it is patently obvious, that it isn’t going to happen. 
Thus I try to analyze my mental outlook each morning, with the goal being able to give myself-and those around me-a prediction as far as my mood goes.  Honestly, it is about as effective as the predictions the weather people make, because there is no instrumentation available to measure mood spectrum disorder.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Out of Sight

Out of Sight
From my vantage point inside the car, I can see the couple arguing over by the wind-blown cedar trees, the tops of which are peculiarly rounded from the incessant stiff breeze.  The cedars run parallel to the cliff’s edge, effectively blocking much of the ocean view.  The dude is doing most of the talking; she is expressing herself primarily through body movements.  Neither one seems to be having that much fun.
I had not been sitting here for more than ten minutes, killing time while waiting for my appointment, when the little blue Honda pulled into the same row of parking spaces, without seeming to be aware of my presence.  I had my laptop in front of me, and never even noticed them, until I heard the voice.  The man was obviously agitated about something, and his voice had assumed a piercing intensity to it.  Though I could hear words, and distinguish tone, I could not make out what was being said.
There are no other people in the vicinity, and not many cars seem to be passing us by.  The first time I was over this way, ten weeks earlier, I had gotten out of my car, and walked over along the cliff.  I had only done it once.  The view over the edge revealed a long drop and a whole lot of rocks at the bottom.  There was no way on earth, or any other place, that a person could survive a fall from those cliffs.  But I didn’t plan to get out of my car, it did not cost anything to park here, and I still had time to kill.
The first thing I had noticed about this guy, is his black and orange hoodie, because I have one identical to it.  It says SF Giants on it, in any one of ten different fonts or scripts.  There is nothing unusual about a guy in a Giants hoodie.  The first thing I noticed about the gal was her green and yellow hoodie, identical to the one a roommate used to own, only this one said Oakland A’s.  There is nothing unusual about a gal in an A’s hoodie.  
However, in retrospect, there may be something about a guy and a gal, wearing these respective garments, and being together.  I just don’t know.  I mean, oil and water don’t mix.  Peanut butter/jam and pickles don’t mix, for most people, and people who like George Bush and people who hate him don’t mix.  I rest my case.
So I am intrigued by this couple's very existence in the first place, let alone the fact that something is apparently very wrong.  Now, as I fixate on the two of them, standing alongside those cedar trees, squared off, carrying on this animated dialogue, I can only imagine what it is about.  Is she accusing him of infidelity?  Is he adamantly denying it it three different languages?
Has she unveiled something heinous about him, and demanded an explanation?  Has he stumbled upon some indiscretion on her part, that leaves him incapable of letting go?  I have no way of knowing one way or the other, and moreover, no reason for knowing, and-wait!  I suddenly notice that there is now only one person visible, over there by the cedar trees, alongside the cliff, where a second ago there had been two.
I straighten up so fast, that my head makes contact with the ceiling of my little Nova, and my laptop comes within an inch of skittering forward off my knees, and onto the floor, before I catch it, and restore its rightful spot.   A moment ago there had been two; now I see only one.  What else could that mean, but that the argument has come to a climactic ending, and that the woman is now a crumpled shell of her former self, lying at the base of a towering and unforgiving ocean cliff?
What in the hell am I supposed to do now?  I actually think he is staring at me even as I am writing this, as though suddenly aware of my presence.  Do I have time to make an exit?  He is completely staring at me, and his hands ore clenching and unclenching.  He looks mad, or nervous, or both; how am I supposed to know what he’s thinking?  I can only guess, if he thinks I just saw him push his woman over the fricking cliff... 
That’s the problem. He thinks I saw something, when I didn’t actually see a thing.  Should I tell him I didn’t see him shove his lady over the cliff?  Oh, how stupid is that?  Oh, shit.  what am I supposed to do?  Why can’t I think, and why do I think he is heading in this direction?  There is no way I am going to just sit here and let this madman do the same thing to me, that he just did to her.  No way.
As soon as he approaches my car, I am so out of here, I don’t even care if I run him down in the process.  I am going to shove this computer aside, and fire this beast up if he takes three more steps in this direction.  Holy shit, that’s four, so here I go-wait a second!  Is that her, again?  How did she get back up on top?  And they’re laughing, and no, I actually don’t think he’s looking at me like he’s angry, so much as he is embarrassed.
I guess I was yelling there for a second, and startled the dude.  And now I can see from her body language, exactly why she “disappeared,” and what she was doing, behind the trees, obviously out of sight.  I wish I were out of sight right now.
The argument?  What else?  The eternal question.  Giants versus A’s... Which is the better team?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Like a Vulture

Like a Vulture
Ellen was frustrated with herself for having done it again.  She had signed up for Saturday “duty” and she was already kicking herself in the backside for her lack of preparedness.  She should have told Joanie that she had other plans, which would have been true.  Of course, her plans had not included school.
Instead, when Joanie had waltzed in after last class had let out, Ellen’s guard had been totally flattened, and she had not sensed the trap until it had been sprung.  She had made a promise to herself at the beginning of the school year, that this year would be different than the first two, which had found her overwhelmed, over-worked, and over a barrel, more weekends than not, because she just couldn’t say no.
That’s what educators did, though, and wasn’t she starting to know it all too well?  You were the bottom of the heap the first year and then some.  There was no other way to get out from under, than to make yourself noticed by those who were in charge.  But making yourself noticed, meant spending long hours not being on your own time, in your own space.
Ellen couldn’t help thinking weekends should be off limits.  Was nothing sacred?  She had wanted to take a spin down to the city, to see about doing a little light shopping, and maybe even stopping by at Anna’s, her favorite art supplies shop, and picking up a couple of new brushes, and then who knew what else she might have gotten up to?  This living by herself was getting so old.  But she would be doing nothing, now, except for going down to school to sit there and sign up people for the walk-a-thon.  How fun for her.
She knew it was a good cause, especially since the kids were among the ones doing the walking.  The school had been conducting this particular fund raiser since the beginning of time, and kids participated as well as parents, teachers, even local celebrities, all to help raise money for the music program.  Last year the kids had raised the bar as far as participation and end results.  It was dumb of her not to have anticipated Joanie’s lasso.
She made the commitment on Tuesday, and it hung over her head like a vulture, the rest of the week.  Of course, she made the best of it, out on the playground while doing yard duty, carrying around a stack of the entry forms, and getting the word out.  In her conversations with the kids, seventh and eighth graders, she’d enjoyed the good-natured jockeying going on amongst students from different homerooms, each set on being the winning class.  The big reward was ice cream sandwiches. 
Did kids really compete for ice cream sandwiches, still?  Of course, they didn’t compete for the ice cream, they competed for the prestige of being number one.  And they did it as a unit, working together to get the word out, and to encourage siblings and relatives to sign up for the walk-a-thon, and to just be kind of zany about the whole thing.
One of her students named Aaron, had talked to her more than once, telling her that his uncle was going to be participating in the walk-a-thon, and was she, Ellen, going to walk?
“Oh, I have to consult my calendar.  I have so many social engagements...”  She smiled sideways at him, and he had laughed with her.  “You know I’m going to walk for music!”
Friday night was a distinct letdown, as Ellen geared herself up for what she knew would be a very long and trying day.  She’d agreed to be down at the school from nine in the morning until three, six hours of painting a smile on her face, to conceal the fact that she’d like to be walking all right, just anywhere else but school.
Saturday morning found plenty of the major players stopping by the multi-purpose room, but things began to slow down after noon.  Time which had gone by quickly earlier, seemed to be turning into jello, refusing to plod along any faster, than the angel fish in her aquarium, daintily exerting just enough movement with its fins, to keep it from drifting backward from the current caused by the filtering system.
Just when she was about at the end of her rope, in walked Aaron, and with him, an older gentleman, who turned out to be that uncle he had been telling her about.  She had paid about as much attention as she normally did with exchanges involving eighth grade boys, and that amount of attention could easily rest atop the head of a pin, with room to spare.
Now, Ellen wished she had been paying more attention.  This man standing in front of her was one fine looking specimen of the male population, and more importantly, he had a welcoming smile on his face.  
“Hi, I’m Clint, Aaron’s older brother.  Are you going to be participating in this walk-a-thon too?”  All Ellen could think to herself was, if you’re going to be there, I will lead the charge and bang the drum at the same time.
Ellen could feel her face turning red.  Why the hell was she blushing? “Oh, you know how these things go-that’s what I get paid the big bucks for.”
“Seriously?  Aaron has been telling me about this event; if I participated in the walk-a-thon, would you walk with me?”
Hell yes!  “I don’t know, Clint.  I just met you; I don’t make a habit of dating strange men.”  Ellen delivered her usual disclaimer.
“I’m not THAT strange;  ask Aaron here.  Besides, this isn’t a date.  It’s a walk-a-thon.  But if the walking went well, then maybe we could have dinner.  That would be a date.  What do you think?”
“I try not to whenever possible, and this is one of those times.  So, yes, I’d love to take a walk with you.”