Cross-dressing and Ghost Stories

We have been on the go all day, and everyone finally slept reasonably well last night.  I actually got to stay up late reading a novel! Actually, Doireann and I stayed up late together parallel reading the same novel whilst warming ourselves by a gorgeous fire Doireann made–the seventh book in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series Frost Burned which is a very guilty pleasure for me.  I have made a point to keep Grace on her medication and sleep schedule ensuring that she will manage well so that she enjoys her holiday.  The Wild Card on holidays isn’t Grace.  It’s Milly.  ASD kids don’t deal well with change or new situations, and Milly is no exception.  She has been quite the fuss budget, and, let me tell you, she has exceeded her whining budget by quite a lot since our arrival.  She tries very hard not to be frustrating, but she can’t really help it.  It’s her nature.  She struggles.  Grace can’t sit still for long so the two of them are a bit like fire and gasoline.  They are incessantly inflaming each other, and it’s enormously grating.

Currently, Grace is begging Milly to play a card game with her, and Milly is literally rolling around on the cabin floor.  Why? I don’t know.  She needed to roll around? This would be driving my husband crazy, but I’ve found that if you just quietly redirect the behavior, then it doesn’t escalate.  Suddenly, they are playing cards.  Just like that.

I’m taking a break to enjoy the view once again and remember the day.  We had a rather extraordinary day up North.  We, of course, had to head back to that independent coffee shop for more beautifully delectable coffee, and we weren’t disappointed.  I ordered the White Chocolate Mocha this time.

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Mine. All mine.

We then headed to a beautiful but lesser known historic mansion which I felt rather proud to find since it was off the beaten path.  Two guys were sitting in the gift shop.  Jack was to be our tour guide, and Mikhail was manning the gift shop for the three hours that the old Victorian was open to the public.  We had to wait for twenty minutes for our tour to start so the girls spent their time looking over the wares in the shop while I chatted with Mikhail and Joe.  As it turns out, Jack was a native of the area, and he was in the “tour guide” business.  A member of his family had worked for one of the notable local families years ago, and he was desperately trying to convince her to divulge her secrets.  Mikhail was a very affable fellow who struggled terribly with boredom when forced to sit in the gift shop for hours on end.  Apparently, on a dare, he once donned one of the Victorian hats for sale in the shop along with a scarf and some jewelry.  Just as he was decked out in full Victorian regalia, some people came into the gift shop requesting a tour.  Mikhail admitted that he wasn’t sure what to say paralyzed with embarrassment as he was, and his co-workers made no attempts to rescue him or explain the situation.  They hung him out to dry, and enjoyed a good laugh at his expense.  The girls and I laughed uproariously at his tale.  Finally, I’ve met a kindred spirit–a person who manages to embarrass himself as easily as I do! Mikhail declared that the last tour that he ever gives at the mansion he will give dressed in a Victorian scarf, hat, and jewelry; he won’t give an explanation either.  He’ll just do it and pretend that he’s dressed normally no matter how uncomfortable the patrons look.  It’s important to note that Mikhail is a bearded dude who enjoys exploring shipwrecks in Lake Superior during the summer so imagining this masculine scuba diver wearing any kind of Victorian lady’s attire continually tickled my funny bone.

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Mikhail feels pretty! Oh, so pretty….

We were so amused by Mikhail’s stories that we almost regretted leaving the shop, but Jack led us to the mansion–only us–for what ended up being a private tour as no other people arrived.  This particular mansion does have a ghost story or two associated with it, and we did have two odd experiences while in the mansion.  I dismissed the first experience, but as we were about to leave Doireann suddenly went pale.  She then turned to me and said, “Did you hear that?”  I responded, “Hear what?”  She looked around and said, “Someone just came up to me and said, ‘Hello’ in my ear, but when I looked there was no one there!” She was terrified.

Jack led us out to where we began our tour, and we thanked him profusely for his excellent efforts.  We looked up as we were climbing into the Mystery Machine  to see Mikhail dressed in a scarf, hat, and jewelry.  He waved and said, “I had to do it for all of you! Have a good vacation!” We all clapped, laughed, and waved.  He must have been terribly overcome with ennui or inspired to start cross-dressing again.  I will always think of Mikhail, the scuba diving tour guide, dressed as a Victorian lady when I think of this mansion now.

We are once again back at the cabin, and Doireann is about to build a fire.  Our final fire of the trip.  We leave tomorrow.  Grace has done remarkably well.  She has had her ups and downs–moments of fear and sadness.  At this point, I just tell her to “ride the wave”.  It will pass.  It always does.  It’s a feeling that suddenly overcomes her, and just as quickly as it overwhelms her it’s gone.  She says that she hates the waves, but I suspect that she just needs to accept them.  They have a beginning, middle, and end, and they pass.  Learning to understand that will help her.  It will help all of us who live with her, too.

I shall now go make dinner.  Yes, this cabin has a kitchen so I don’t get a vacation from cooking.  That’s okay though.  I get a vacation from cooking in my kitchen.  That’s something, isn’t it?

Now if I could just get a vacation from the squirreliness that seems to be taking hold of my children…Oh, that would be something.

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Almost Perfect

It was recommended that I take a computer break on Spring Break, but I am documenting our holiday with photographs.  What can I say? I’m a writer by nature.  We are currently lazing about in a rather spectacular cabin after gallivanting about town all morning, and I’m listening to Joshua Bell play “O mio babbino caro” which is about to send me into a pleasure coma.

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Our cabin

The view from where I sit at this moment is rather awe-inspiring.  The ice is breaking apart and has formed what looks like a blue and white patchwork quilt, undulating upon the waves.

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The view

These cabins are perched directly upon the rocks…

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Another view

This morning we found an independent café while waiting for an antique store to open.  They were roasting their own beans, cute hipsters snuggled up in the corners, and the dude behind the counter was ever so charming.  Doireann ordered the White Chocolate Mocha.  Charming Dude told us to take a seat; he would bring us our beverages tout de suite.  We wondered what was taking so long.  This is why…

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White Chocolate Mocha…and, yeah, it tasted as good as it looks

Doireann sucked down her coffee in five minutes and said, “We are coming back here tomorrow morning right? This is the best coffee I’ve ever had! Plus, you know, it’s art!” I ordered the Café Miel…

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My Café Miel…it’s food porn

Doireann was right.  It was the best coffee I’ve ever had not to mention a pure pleasure to behold.  Grace drank her hot chocolate before I could photograph it, but it was probably the most beautiful.  We felt kissed by the Divine in some way, blessed by beauty in the midst of the mundane.  That is what our entire day has been like.  We ventured forth into little shops, chatted with shopkeepers, and everyone has extended kindness upon kindness to us.  One woman even let each of my girls pick a piece of beach glass with a word etched upon it as a reminder of who they are.  Grace picked a piece of blue beach glass with the word ‘courage’ written upon it.  She said that she really needs that.

And here we are now, in our very temporary but beautiful home away from home enjoying Divine kisses, blue ice, and food that looks like art.  I couldn’t have planned a better holiday.  If only my husband were here.  Then it would be perfect.

A Day in The Life

It is total insanity around here! We are preparing to take what Bridget Jones would call a mini-break.  My husband is on the East Coast for business so I am flying solo, captain and co-captain as it were.  I have been doing a pretty good job of it, but the crescendo has begun.  He’s been gone for two weeks now, and we’ve another week to go.  I have what feels like a million tasks on my To Do list, and my children have suddenly decided to stop behaving like stoic Swedes and indulge their other half–their father’s side…the fighting Irish.

My lovely accountant dropped by this afternoon in the middle of the mayhem to get our taxes underway.   I took Grace and Milly to Costco and Target to pick up necessities and made bread to take along because we’re a household of Celiacs; I have to check the oil on the Mystery Machine, and I’m terrified of leaving something important behind like Grace’s Lithium or my migraine medication…or an Epi-Pen…or someone’s inhaler.

Every time I sit down to do anything like, say, pee someone stalks after me, and arguing has broken out amongst my daughters like a bad rash.  Are they arguing about anything worthwhile like whether or not homework helps or hinders one’s education or the pros and cons of universal healthcare? Nope.  Doireann decided to confront Grace on the ridiculousness of the possibility of a sasquatch living in St. Croix, WI at which point Grace’s claws came out.  A cat fight ensued, and I had to metaphorically turn the hose on those two.  In the middle of the Cryptid Kerfuffle, Grace hurt her hand on her own tooth (I have no idea how that happened) and, henceforth, needed a Band-Aid.  I have come to the conclusion that a Band-Aid gnome lives in my house because as soon as I buy them, they disappear.  The other Band-Aid gnome that I know for certain lives here goes by the nickname ‘Milly’.  That kid steals Band-Aids particularly if they have characters on them.  As soon as Grace sought out a bandage, she yelled out, “They’re gone! All the Muppet Band-Aids are gone!”

I sighed and quietly muttered, “Well, shit.”  I took a deep breath and hunted down Milly who undoubtedly had all the Band-Aids.  “I just wanted to make sure we had enough Band-Aids for our trip in case someone got hurt!” she explained as she handed me the contents of the entire box.  Planning.  She was planning ahead.  That’s good.  Grace quickly followed up that conversation with an announcement.  “I’m hearing voices.”  I sighed again.  “Are you stressed or anxious about something?”  She nodded.  I heard Milly and Doireann arguing about something in the background.  Eadaoin was suddenly playing Wii Fit.  “The Wii says I’m fat! Can you believe this?” Eadaoin snapped.  Doireann marched out, “Oh great.  That’s all we need.  A teenager obsessed with her weight! Come OOOOON!” (as if she’s not a teen herself).  Eadaoin inhaled a breath and prepared to fire back, but Doireann continued, “Don’t even! You are so NOT fat! Did you make adjustments for height? Our culture is obsessed with youth and appearance, and there isn’t one image you see in a magazine or an ad that hasn’t been photoshopped.  I don’t even want to hear you say the word ‘fat’ in this house.  I’m not having it!”  Eadaoin pointed her finger at Doireann and yelled, “I didn’t say I was fat! The game did! I know I’m not fat! Geez! Stop lecturing me!”  Do all 16 year-olds and 14 year-olds argue like this? It’s like being back at my all-women’s college for Pete’s sake! The Theatre Geek vs.The Prep…I’m just waiting for Doireann to discover Naomi Wolf and begin quoting directly from The Beauty Myth.  God save us all.

Once the Gruesome Twosome worked out their issues, I headed back into the kitchen to finish making the bread.  The atmosphere in the house was decidedly stressful so I was practicing some deep breathing, and that’s when Grace found me in the kitchen.  “That’s right, Mom.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  That helps with anger and stress.  In through your nose…out through your mouth…” I just stared at her, my mouth agape.  Grace was giving me tips for handling stress.  It was ironically funny.  Speaking of irony, she is now in the bathtub trying to relieve her own stress as she broke down not long after she found me in the kitchen.  She appeared with tears streaming down her face, “I miss Dad!!!!” She’s not the only one.

I’m trying to tell myself that I can do this.  I can drive up North and take care of everyone for another week.  Alone.  This is tough.  I think I took my husband for granted.  I won’t be doing that anymore.  I think I believed that I was in this alone.  It’s pretty clear to me now that I wasn’t…now that I am.

I think our mini-break will be good for us.  Lake Superior and a log cabin.  A fireplace, natural beauty, and, hopefully, a bit of peace.  Plus, the time will go by, and he’ll be home all the faster.

Give your special someone a hug today.  Let them know how much you love them.  It’s important.

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Our destination


Clearing The Fog

There is a lot of confusion around schizophrenia.  I was recently reading a website clearly written by a bunch of amateurs that was attempting to explain “splitting” in the borderline personality.  They then went on to say that splitting might remind us, the reader, of schizophrenia because of the clear identity disturbance associated with splitting.  I was shocked, but I suppose I should not have been.  The authors of this website were confusing schizophrenia with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  Sometimes it feels like we’re still living in the Dark Ages.

I don’t know that I’ve written a post about how schizophrenia is defined.  Many of us know that bipolar disorder is divided into two subgroups of symptoms: mania and depression.  Depression is a unipolar illness.  Schizophrenia is classified by negative, positive, and cognitive symptoms.  The negative symptoms refer to the absence or diminishment of normal function.  They are:

  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Appearing to lack emotion (this refers to the flat affect that is typical of those with schizophrenia)
  • Reduced ability to plan or carry out activities
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of motivation

This sounds a lot like depression, and on its own without the positive and cognitive symptoms it probably would be.  The positive symptoms refer to an abnormal distortion of normal behaviors and functioning, and they might include:

  • Delusions. These beliefs are not based in reality and usually involve misinterpretation of perception or experience. They are the most common of schizophrenic symptoms.
  • Hallucinations. These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist, although hallucinations can be in any of the senses. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination among people with schizophrenia  (Grace hears the footsteps of the men whom she sees although she does not hear them speak to her).
  • Thought disorder. Difficulty speaking and organizing thoughts may result in stopping speech midsentence or putting together meaningless words, sometimes known as word salad (Word salad has not been uncommon with Grace.  It is an odd thing to see.  An example of Grace’s word salad: “I want to buffalo was on the couch, and the television was on but I don’t know if I’m hungry, and I can’t decide if I want to drink that.”).
  • Disorganized behavior. This may show in a number of ways, ranging from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation (Disorganized behavior is very common in our home).

Grace has schizoaffective disorder which is on the schizophrenia spectrum.  When she is not properly medicated she experiences almost all the aforementioned positive and negative symptoms including mania from time to time.  With the right cocktail of drugs, the mania and much of these symptoms are reduced, but if the drugs are not working Grace struggles with something called a “mixed state” which is very dangerous because the rate of suicide tends to be highest during mixed states.  A mixed state in Grace happens when she experiences mania, negative, and positive symptoms all at the same time.  It is excruciating to watch.  To me, it a new kind of torment and suffering that no one should have to endure.  I believe it’s the mixed state that has caused people to confuse schizophrenia with DID due to the rapid mood cycling.

There is one more classification of symptoms associated with schizophrenia, however, that drugs really can’t treat very well–cognitive symptoms.  Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Problems with making sense of information
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Memory problems (online source)

According to a new study in Neuron, “Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include problems with memory and behavioral flexibility, two processes that are essential for activities of daily living. These symptoms are resistant to current treatments.” (online source)  In other words, the working memory issues and problems dealing with daily stress that plague people with schizophrenia are inherent to the disease.  Grace’s working memory is in the 3rd percentile.  She struggles daily with basic activities of daily living simply because she can’t remember why she left one room and went into another.  She works very hard to be flexible, and this hard work increases her anxiety levels to the point that she gets stress headaches and stomach aches.

We went shopping for a pair of new shoes for her yesterday, and it was very hard.  Much harder than it was two years ago.  Decision-making requires a herculean effort on her part, and I have to work hard to be patient.  Milly needed new shoes, too, and that’s nightmarish.  She has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) which is one of the most common co-morbidities with autism spectrum disorders so taking Milly shopping for shoes is like taking the princess from The Princess and The Pea shopping for mattresses.  It tests my mettle.

All this is to say that schizophrenia is not DID.  It’s not depression.  It’s not bipolar disorder.  It’s a neuroprogressive disease, and many symptoms do respond to the right combination of drugs.  There are, however, symptoms that do not, and those symptoms, the cognitive symptoms, affect daily living and determine, in large part, how successful a person with schizophrenia feels about their daily life and treatment plan.  Surprisingly, I am meeting a lot of clinicians who don’t seem to know jack about the cognitive symptoms, and that’s not acceptable in my book.

So, what can be done? Grace’s case manager and I are making it up as we go.  We are getting her set up with skills training.  I don’t really know what that means yet, but I’ll let you know when I know.  I believe that there must be a comprehensive plan that can be created to support a child with early-onset schizophrenia so that they can flourish and progress WITH–not in spite of–their illness.

Resources:

Altered Brain Activity Responsible For Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Avengers Underwear and Doctor Who

I can’t help myself.  I have to finish the story.

I took Doireann out for her new bras last night as promised, and it went just as I predicted.  She stood in the middle of the section and proclaimed, “Good grief! What’s with all the lace? And the pink? And the…flowers? Yuck!”   I laughed and said, “Would you prefer barbed wire and leather studs?” She snorted, “Well, that would be better than this!

As it turns out she has now surpassed my cup size.  “I wear a bigger bra than you?”  I could only answer with a sigh and an inward pout.  I never was destined to be the buxom beauty.  I’m not sure where these girls are getting their busts from, but it’s not from me! Doireann made puking noises when trying on the flowery patterned bras, BUT I succeeded in finding her some very comfortable bras to which she admitted, “This is so comfortable! So this is what a good bra is supposed to feel like.  I’ll wear this, but I’m not telling anyone that it’s periwinkle with tiny flowers on it.

I compromised by buying her Avengers underwear which pleased her to no end.

When we arrived home with her new underwear she promptly marched over to Eadaoin and proudly announced, “I wear a bigger bra than you! Ha!” Oh, so she does get it after all! They are playing Who Has The Bigger Boobs! Eadaoin stared at Doireann’s chest and then looked her in the eye and said, “Whatever.  I’m already a B cup.  I’ll be a D cup before I’m done.  You’re already 16.  I’m still 14.”  Doireaan looked a little uncertain, grabbed her stuff, and retreated.

Grace and Milly stood by watching their older sisters spar like they were watching a match at Wimbledon.  Milly immediately declared, “I’m never wearing a bra! I bet they itch.”  Spoken like a true Aspie.  Grace whispered, “I think I see the men again…” I just shook my head and shepherded Grace into a hot bath.  Stress seems to bring about hallucinations for her.

An hour later, Doireann found me and quietly admitted, “I love my new bras.  Thank you.  They are so comfortable.  Do you remember that scene when Cassandra took over Doctor Who’s body?”  I did.  “Well, that’s how I felt when I put on one of those bras for the first time.  Now I know why you wear good bras.  I get it now.”

This is how Doireann felt when trying on a comfortable bra for the first time:

What’d I tell you? She does indeed have a flair for the dramatic, and I think my husband needs to come home soon.  We desperately need some male energy around here!

Cylothymia, Bra Shopping, and Wonder Woman

Grace is not the only child in our family with mental health needs although her special needs do seem to eclipse everyone else’s.  My 14-year old daughter Eadaoin was recently diagnosed with cyclothymia which is on the bipolar spectrum.  We, of course, have to observe her for progress up that spectrum.  Her psychiatrist is taking special care with her because of Grace’s diagnosis.  Eadaoin spends a lot of her time in a hypomanic state, and she is ridiculously creative when she’s riding the high.  She does, however, come crashing down, and the deep melancholy is hard on her so her doctor has put her on Lamictal.  If this drug works for her, then she may be able to discontinue the SSRI that she’s been taking for two years which has been prescribed to treat a rather severe anxiety disorder which is possibly linked to her bipolar spectrum disorder.

Yesterday, Eadaoin and I had an errand to run.  She very matter-of-factly brought it to my attention that she needed a new bra.  Doireann chimed in with a “Me, too!” My husband is on a three-week business trip so I can’t very well take both of them.  Plus, I really didn’t want to try to manage a bra fitting with these two very different young ladies at the same time.  Doireann is extremely modest but pragmatic at the same time.  She wears skinny jeans, army boots, and camo all the time but wept when Doctor Who and Rose were separated by a different dimension never to see each other again.  Eadaoin, on the other hand, loves Hello Kitty, sculpts tiny chibi creations, and loves babies, kittens, and all things “Kawaii“.  Eadaoin would oooh and aaaah over the lace, and Doireann would roll her eyes and say something insensitive because she’s uncomfortable with the fact that she has breasts at all although I think she’s starting to get it.

So, Eadaoin and I started out on our journey to procure better fitting undergarments which every woman needs.  We found our way into the undergarments section, and Eadaoin began to look about suspiciously.  “What are you doing?” I asked.  “I don’t want what happened to you when Nana took you bra shopping to happen to me.  I’m looking for people I know….” she declared.  I laughed out loud.

When my mother took me bra shopping in high school, we were standing in the bra section of a well-known department store.  It was the beginning of my freshman year, and I was, of course, typically self-conscious and terribly insecure.  My mother had a handful of very boring looking white bras.  She shouted out, “What do you think of these? Are you still a size A? I think you are.  You look pretty small to me.”  Just as she said this aloud, Jackson the Theatre God and a SENIOR walked by with Natasha the Theatre Goddess.  They, of course, heard the whole thing and saw me standing there, blushing red.  They both burst into peals of laughter and carried on, snorting and guffawing as they made their way past the women’s lingerie section.  It was social death.  I wanted to curl into the fetal position and die right there next to the Maidenform bras.  Of course, that caught Jackson’s attention, and he ended up being my first kiss so it turned out alright in the end.  Alas, that moment still haunts me, and my daughters still make me recount the tale just so they can laugh and relive the horror.  Apparently, Eadaoin remembered it a little too well…standing next to the Maidenforms.

Sizing a 14 year-old is not easy so we ended up with ten bras of various sizes.  Initially, when we arrived at the fitting room Eadaoin wanted me to stay outside which I expected. I wouldn’t want my mother helping me try on a bra, but she needed help.  In the end, I was in there with her helping her with the clasps and the straps.  Then came the “shimmy”.  I had to show her how to lean forward, put all her breast tissue into the cup, and then stand up.  Then, you have to put your hand into the cup and make sure that you’ve got your entire boob in there! It’s almost like working out for crying out loud, but there’s really no other way to know if you have the right fit.  We did find some excellent bras for her, and she stunned me by saying as we were leaving the fitting room, “Mom, I think you missed your calling as a bra fitter.  You’re really good at it.”  I didn’t know what to say.  I had succeeded in doing it differently than how it was done before me.  “You didn’t feel weird about it? I wouldn’t want you to feel weird about this.  This is part of life for we ladies.  You have to have a good bra.  It makes you stand up straighter, and it helps you feel good about yourself.”  She patted me on the back and said, “Nope.  I didn’t feel weird at all.  It’s important to support my girls.  Thanks for helping me.”  I was relieved.  She would have a good memory.

It is a very strange feeling to watch your kids get older.  Eadaoin is calling her breasts her “girls”, and she is now wearing the same bra size that I wear! A good friend has volunteered to be there for her for the “What it’s like to be stacked” conversation because she might need that kind of support.  (Pun!)  It won’t come from me because I have no idea.

The beauty of these kinds of things is that they are a normal part of life.  Even though Eadaoin is on the bipolar spectrum she’s still her.  It hasn’t changed the essence of who she is.  Her hypomania amplifies parts of her personality, and that drives Doireann crazy because they share a room.  Life, however, still goes on, and that is a very, very good thing.  It serves as a reminder that mental illness doesn’t have to change everything.

As we were leaving the bra section last night Eadaoin pointed at a pair of panties and said, “Hey Mom, you need to buy those.  Those are totally for you.”  They were Wonder Woman underwear! I take Doireann bra shopping tonight, and I imagine it will be a very different experience.  She has a flair for the dramatic.  I think I’ll pick up those Wonder Woman panties while I’m out.  I’m already standing at an Amazonian height.  I may as well have the panties to match…

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Carrying On The Tradition

My husband left for Boston on Sunday for three weeks.  That’s a long time to singlehandedly look after four kids two of which have special needs.  My 16 year-old doesn’t really need looking after these days, but you would be surprised by how much care and feeding two teenaged girls require.  I spend an inordinate amount of time spending time with my girls.  It’s almost 24/7.  So, I can’t afford to be out of commission.  This is why I fear what has come to feel like a curse.  Every time my husband leaves for a business trip, I end up in the hospital or at the ER.

The first time he left for an extended trip, I was pregnant with our fourth daughter.  I found myself in the ICU on the brink of death, and my husband got a voicemail from one of the ER doctors that went something like this: “This is Dr. Asshat from the ER.  We need permission to intubate your wife.  Call us back at 1-800-WE-DONT-KNOW-HOW-TO-COMMUNICATE.”  Who leaves messages like that?

Since my husband rarely travels for business, he said he would never travel again after coming home to see me in the ICU.  He did, however, have to travel last summer, and, this time, I found myself driving to Urgent Care thanks to a contaminated fruit basket.  I’m deathly allergic to kiwi fruit, and I didn’t realize that I couldn’t eat a piece of fruit from a fruit basket if a kiwi fruit was merely IN the basket.  Apparently, I cannot.  Enter Epi-Pen, Benadryl, and Prednisone.  When I called my husband to tell him what had happened he yelled, “Goddammit! I’m never leaving again!”

I’m an optimist so I refused to believe that anything would happen to me this time worth a trip to the local ER.  It must be noted that getting me to go to the ER must be like getting Dustin Hoffman to go to the dentist after acting in “Marathon Man”.  Even if I’m dying–and I almost die at least once a year thanks to my various and sundry food allergies.

So what happened? It’s quite simple.  On Saturday, the temperature rose above freezing so it rained.  Then, the temperature decreased again, and all that water and melting snow froze again resulting in a lovely sheet of ice on my sidewalk and street.  I park my car in the same place daily so I didn’t know that there was a very large sheet of ice underneath it.  Monday night I parked my car a little further up exposing this glistening sheet of ice, and, to make a long story short, I slipped on it.  Okay, I did more than slip.  I fell and landed directly on my elbow.  O the pain! I just lied there on the street like a dead fish, tears streaming down my face, trying to collect my thoughts.  Three of my girls were standing there rooted to the ground.  Grace was trying to take control of the situation by asking me if she could help me.  I couldn’t say a word.  I was trying to give them a task to do, but I couldn’t see straight what with this burning pain shooting through my forearm and out my fingers.  Eadaoin might have been crying.  Milly was trembling.

Man down! Man down! I couldn’t get up because the ice was so slick so I very ungracefully slithered up the sidewalk until I was on exposed concrete.  We got into the house, and I immediately took 800 mg of ibuprofen.  I thought I was home free.  Not so.  The pain was getting worse.  Eadaoin started texting her dad immediately which wasn’t good.  I could only imagine what she would tell him.  I called my friend, and she and her husband came over immediately.  It was 9:30 PM at this point, and I was feeling silly.  My friend’s husband called his EMT friend, and it was determined that I should go to the ER so he took me.  Doireann, my 16 year-old daughter, was adamant that she would be coming along.  I felt very, very silly at that point, but I admitted that I was in pain.  Dammit!

After two x-rays and two exams by the ER doctor, it was determined that the swelling was too great to determine whether my arm was indeed broken.  So, they gave me two Narco pills for the pain, a sling, and told me that if my arm still hurt in three days to come back.  It was probably broken if that was the case.  We got home at 1 AM, and Milly was sleeping on the couch next to my friend who was peacefully hanging out.  Everyone was exhausted, and I still felt silly–slipping and falling on ice, needing to go to the ER, and causing everyone to stay up late.

My friend’s husband returned the next morning and sanded the offending ice sheet and left a bucket of sand on my front steps for our use.  My husband’s response to the whole affair: “Dammit! I can’t believe it.  Again? Are you okay? I’m so glad they were there for you.  I owe them….

So, I am here today with my sling sporting some awesome bruises.  I woke up at 5 AM this morning to a dislocated clavicle which I promptly reduced.  Damn my multidirectional joints! So, what did I learn and why write about it?

I talk a lot about taking care of yourself, and part of that is asking for help when you need it.  I hate to ask for help.  I will ask for help on behalf of my daughters in a microsecond, but I hate feeling vulnerable.  Doireann knows this about me better than my other children.  She knows how to blackmail me, too.  All she has to do is threaten, “I’m calling 9-1-1 if you don’t go to the ER now!” I hate ambulance rides.  It draws too much attention, and it’s far too dramatic.  No thank you.  I don’t think any of us should like the notion nor should we want to visit the ER.  It’s hard to ask for help particularly when you’re the one who makes things happen for others–when you’re accustomed to being the caregiver.  It’s a necessary skill, however, and we need to do it.  I need to do it even though I don’t like it.

Sometimes asking for help forces us to take stock of our resources, and maybe we don’t have that many true resources.  Maybe there are strings attached when we ask for help, and it’s just not worth it so we feel that we must rely on ourselves.  Self-reliance has been called a virtue in American society.  If you can’t lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, then something must be wrong with you.  There are people who still believe that the old trope “God helps those who help themselves” is actually in the Bible.  Guess what? It’s not.  God specializes in helping those who cannot help themselves.  This is most likely one of the contributing factors to the stigma that surrounds mental illness.  When you are struggling with any form of mental illness, you don’t have the inner resources and strength to help yourself.  You need other people to lift you up and support you.  American society so worships self-reliance that it frowns upon the notion of reliance on others in order to gain ground in the healing progress.  Funnily enough, I don’t judge anyone else for needing help.  Why is it then so hard for me to ask for it? I’ve got a few ideas.

My arm will heal.  I will be back in the swing of things soon.  The ice will melt.  My husband will return.  And, I’ve been reminded that there is nothing shameful about asking for help.  I still don’t like it.  I still find it very hard.  Apparently, I still need to be threatened and in pain to ask, but at least I know that I have friends I can call.  To me, that’s what experiences like these are for.  They give us clarity.

Me and my gimpy arm are going to go rest now.