Grief is an Animal

It’s a panther that pounces from the dark places, claws raking across your body, physical pain created from shadow. You’re suddenly on the ground, mind screaming, emotional wounds fresh and bloody. It feels like it came out of nowhere.

It’s a python, winding around you and taking your breath away. You feel like you’ll never breathe again. How did you manage to do it, before?

It’s a chameleon that changes its color, surprising you by seemingly showing up out of the blue. It’s always been there, just blended in. You only just realized it’s been there all day.

It’s a peacock, demanding attention with large displays and raucous calling. Notice me. You can’t help it. There is nothing in your life so important as this feeling.

It’s a spider on the wall, offering you a choice. Do you get up and kill it? Do you pretend it’s not there? Or do you gently scoop it up, carry it a moment, and set it down somewhere safer?

It’s a parasite, eating you from the inside, until you’re a malnourished shadow of your former self. You don’t notice its gradual effects, but your friends notice. To them it’s obvious.

It’s a mosquito, annoying and just out of swatting distance. It leaves a hundred tiny wounds, and they all itch. Sometimes, it’s satisfying to just scratch and scratch and scratch.

It’s a seeing eye dog, guiding you through your transition into a new life and showing you how important small moments are. A small bump to remind you not to go to the restaurant you had your first date in, don’t drive through the intersection where the accident happened, don’t listen to That Song. Not yet.

It’s a pigeon, showing up absolutely everywhere, making a total mess, and discouraged from existing at every turn. But sometimes. Sometimes? It’s nice to sit in the park and feed it for a little while anyway.

Eventually, it’s a fish in a tank – familiar and part of the background of your life, but occasionally you’ll notice a movement and turn your attention there. It’s no longer a panther, just a little colorful part of you, beautiful in its own way.

And always. Always. It’s the elephant in the room no one talks about.


I was told twice yesterday that I had been unkind. Once about a caustic post I’d made that I didn’t realize had such a caustic tone, which I didn’t intend at all. Once about letting in-character anger spill over into an out-of character moment during a game.

It’s fucking with me more than I want to admit out loud.

I want to think I’m patient and a nice person. I want to BE a kind and soft person. With swearing as needed. I also want to think I can take constructive criticism. Both times, I tried to take the information in with a whole mind and open heart. I freely accepted valid points, admitted areas of ignorance – I genuinely did not realize my irritation with a sub-group of people spilled over into a perception of complete disdain and impatience for a related whole category of people. I vowed to be more aware, and work on it, and thanked them for bringing it to me. It’s a brave thing, to tell a friend they’re being a bit of a bitch.

But it’s fucking with me.

I don’t want to be unkind. It bothers me that someone would think I am. It bothers me that I speak without careful consideration, to have words and actions misconstrued.

So I lie awake until 3AM mulling over every interaction I had that day, wondering who else thought I was being a bitch, and what I can do to make amends. Usually these criticisms are self-inflicted, so coming from an external source, that knows me well, is especially jarring.

Before I moved away from Sacramento, several friends told me later, I became a bit of a bitch. My joking a little too caustic. I wondered if it were a subconscious self-defense mechanism, distancing myself from people I cared about in an effort to make it less shitty to leave.

I’m terrified of doing that same thing, knowing that I’m dying. From Diagnosis Day I have been fearful of being that embittered person in a wheelchair, lashing out at loved ones because I’m afraid to leave them. To be remembered as a total and complete bitch at the end of my days, in an effort to somehow distance myself from them so that the parting will be easier. Knowing it won’t help a goddamned bit. I do not wish to be a caustic person with nasty words where my love should be.

I’m glad my unkindness was called out. I’m glad I have time to work on it.

But until I am nothing but kind, it’s gonna fuck with me.

Keep Your Mouth Shut, Or Just Say You’re Sorry

We’ve forgotten how to die. We’ve forgotten how to be dying, and how to comfort. How to be okay when things are definitely Not OK.

We’ve lost the ability to not be absolute shitheads to each other by accident or ignorance when something terrible happens.

In my adventures with dying, I’ve accumulated quite a wealth of pretty words and useful words on the subject of death, dying, and grief. I’ve always meant to catalog and share them. When a friend who’d lost their mother was told today that she’s going to hell because she refuses to just leave her grief up to God and put on a happy face, I kiiiiiinda lost my shit. And knew the time to publish this is NOW.

So here it is, A Grief Primer.

I’m still alive.

I have a lot to say, but not a lot of it is good, so I tend to not want to talk about it. Some days just suck. I’ve been in a state of..depression is not quite right, more like barely contained terrified panic, since the election. It just keeps getting worse. Thank you, everyone who voted Republican, for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so I’m not entirely certain I’m going to have medical coverage when I’m forced to leave my job, because I have one hell of a pre-existing condition.

I had clinic recently, not much to report. Same decline, my hands are getting worse, swallowing and breathing are still normal.

My 23 year old cat is dying, and I feel like I want to, too, when I think about it. I’ve known him for more than half my life.

Christmas was…good and bad. I’ve had more falls lately.

That’s the baby update. There will be more; I have a lot to say and I promise to say it soon.


I’ve had depression most of my life. I’m really, really lucky in that it’s a super high functioning depression; most of the time I can still convince myself to Get Shit Done. I know many, many people who aren’t that lucky. Most days, I can get out of bed even though I don’t want to and my brain asks what is the point, even, and my anxiety tells me a million lies a day that I can usually push aside and do things anyway. A lot of folks with depression are like this; we’re not all like the commercials show you.

Some days though.

Some days it really IS like that. The days you call in sick because you literally just….can’t. The days you cry, the whole day, for little or no reason at all. When you spoon food in your mouth and it sits there, unchewed, for like five minutes. The days when your cat looking up at you and meowing (as he has a million times) is suddenly the worst thing ever and you just shake in frustration because you don’t know what to do. About the meowing, about standing in your kitchen, about being alive at all. And then you go to bed and the next day it’s fine, and it’s like you were possessed. If you’re lucky and female, sometimes you realize that the depression is PMS in disguise and somehow just knowing that takes the sting out. It’s temporary. It’s going to be okay, even if you don’t feel like it right now. Which of course is the same thing you tell yourself the OTHER days, too, but with nothing concrete to point at, you never believe yourself.

Depression and terminal diseases are tricky. Because you have a PERFECTLY legitimate reason to be sad, but you know in those slumps that it’s not why you’re crying. When they talk about your meds, and ask how you’re doing, of COURSE you’re low; you have a terminal fucking disease. Separating the mind disease from the physical disease becomes a very demanding and complicated thing, and of course you won’t get it right all the time. You don’t want to bump up the meds and become a zombie if your uptick is just cause you’re quite reasonably sad; it’s only for the sadness you can’t help, the depression that is there for no other reason than your chemistry is off and your brain hates you. The I-have-hella-circumstances depression can be medicated too, but I don’t like the idea of taking something all the time for something that’s legitimately situational and not just chemical. I like having an as-needed med for those times.

Wednesday was one of those times.

I think it was triggered Tuesday night; I found my newt dead in his tank. Now, the newts were always just above furniture, the same as a fishtank; they hated to be looked at, much less TOUCHED. They were low maintenance, you top off the water when it evaporates and toss in a couple of frozen bloodworm cubes once in awhile. I wasn’t particularly emotionally attached to these animals. The cats found them enchanting, I called it Newt TV and it was Molly’s favorite show. I always felt a little guilty for not getting more enjoyment out of them, surely there was some kid out there who would love these neat little pets more than I, but they were perfectly happy being completely ignored. They looked like pissed-off old men, and I named them after the old heckling muppets, and we coexisted. I was upset when Molly somehow pulled the screen off the tank and she either killed one of them outright or put it on the floor and it dried up and died outside of its tank; it seemed like it was an easily preventable death and I should have noticed he was missing from his tank before he had a chance to mummify in my living room. The last newt, I’m pretty sure died of natural causes – there was water in his tank and he’d CERTAINLY gone longer without being fed before – but I failed to notice until he’d had time to partially decompose in there. It was a warm week, probably didn’t take long for that to happen but I was still horrified with myself. Not guilty, he didn’t die because of neglect, just…I should have noticed that a living thing in my care was no longer living before then. I felt shaky and weird, horrified at his little corpse that I just couldn’t bring myself to fish out of the tank just yet, and went to bed after taking an Ativan.

Wednesday was work from home day. My stomach felt… I called off the housecleaner. And then at some point during the day, sadbrain kicked me in the head. Everything was wrong. Work was frustrating and seemed hopeless. I checked Facebook to distract myself, but that turned out to be the absolute WORST thing, because not only were several friends having terrible things happening to them, but the world was full of screenshots of a dead black man bleeding in the street next to his car. And then I lost my shit. And cried and cried. And then went to sleep for a bit, and woke up crying, and everything was the worst. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop crying. The slightest thing set it off, and when you have ALS and the slightest things are stupidly difficult already, the world just seemed …too much. I had social obligations that night, and begged off instead, because I didn’t know if I’d ever stop crying. And then I watched television to distract myself, and HOLY SHIT WAS THAT A DUMB THING I DID.

OK. So. Something about me and my broken brain. This sounds stupid, but, welcome to how my personality disorder works. Look up Avoidant Personality DIsorder, and read all about my dumb brain. I have a really hard time watching new shows, because they’re an emotional risk. I just don’t know how they’re going to make me feel, so I have to be REALLY REALLY brave to try something new. I usually have some kind of an “in” – it’s recommended to me by a friend who knows about my broken brain, it’s by a writer whose work I trust, it’s so dang silly it couldn’t possibly be harmful. Otherwise I stick to ‘safe’ shows, like nature specials (Sir David Attenborough is legit one of my favorite people on the planet), cooking shows, How It’s Made.

So I picked this show that had just been added to Netflix:

Dream Knight (드림 나이트)
Alternate titles: 玩偶骑士
Starring Song Ha Yoon and Im Jae Bum (JB)
Though she’s constantly bullied, orphaned high schooler Joo In Hyeong (Song Ha Yoon) refuses to let life get her down and fills her little home with positive vibes from her favorite boy band. But fandom hits the next level when she discovers the ability to call upon four mysterious hotties (played by GOT7), who turn her world topsy-turvy with magical and hilarious antics, including JYP artist cameos. No matter how tough life gets, she’ll get by with a little help from her friends, especially with dreamy knights!

HOW COULD THAT HAVE GONE WRONG. I mean, it even had wacky sound effects and live-action cartoon antics. Only…she lives in a trailer because her mom died suddenly. Ok, I’ve seen anime like that before, that doesn’t HAVE to be depressing; it can lead to wacky misunderstandings involving four boys unsupervised in a single woman’s home. Classic harem anime formula. Four gorgeous guys show up, but they’re really magical dolls born from her tears of despair, here to make everything better! And what she wants most in life right now is to win a dance competition so she can dance with her favorite idol! Only she can’t really dance because she’s clumsy! THIS IS A COOKIE CUTTER FORMULA. Throw in the “oh noes, when her wish comes true the magical dolls will disappear!’ trope that ALWAYS FINDS A SOLUTION (hint: she falls in love and true love’s kiss saves him!) for good measure. Why not. Oh hey, loophole that if they kill her, they can remain human! O NOES (whatever, they totally won’t betray her).


Only she lives in the trailer because her aunt fucked her out of her mom’s fortune. Only she’s clumsy because she actually has myasthenia gravis! What’s that? OH ONLY A MOTHERFUCKING PARALLEL DISEASE TO ALS THAT CAUSES MUSCLE WEAKNESS AND EVENTUALLY PARALYSIS. No big deal, not fatal, right? Nothing to be upset about as a viewer? Oh, what’s that? Her disease is progressing quickly and she’ll be paralyzed within a year? Is that her and her knight finally falling in love even though the other knights have decided to betray her after all and she doesn’t know about any of this, including the fact that they’re not human? Is that her praying to her dead mother to give her the strength to dance really well, this one last time, with the man she loves? And then afterwards, she is going to break up with him to spare him a lifetime of taking care of a cripple? Oh, is this her winning the competition, everything is happy, wait a minute ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME THEY ACTUALLY DO DISAPPEAR FOREVER AND THAT IS THE END OF YOUR SHOW YOU ASSHOLES.

After triggering a lot of ALS/terminal disease buttons, you’re not even going to give me a happy ending to your stupid boy band television live action cartoon?


….so yeah I cried until I nearly threw up, cried until I gave myself a migraine, called in sick the next day and cried that whole day too. Zootopia was released on Netflix, but I knew it was a not-even-bothering-to-veil-this analogy for race, and after sobbing in despair for a couple of hours about race relations ALREADY the previous day, I avoided that trigger. And just avoided the internet best as I could. And slept. And I don’t menstruate anymore so I couldn’t even lie to myself that it was temporary, and I thought about just not showing up to life ever again, and slept some more, and took more ativan in three days than I’ve taken in the last six months. And slept. And Friday came, and I was no longer crying, but so bone-tired that all I could do was sleep some more.

And the tricky part is looking back at that and trying to figure out what was Depression, and what was Disease. My feelings had a reason; their intensity did not, necessarily. Because I need to decipher what the situation really was, what were the triggers, in order that I might avoid them in the future and not lose three days of my life to crying and sleeping the next time. The dead man on my feed, that was obviously a real trigger, and there is most decidedly some very real buildup to that breaking point – you’ve read the news or failed to avoid it as much as I have. I had reason to cry over that. Maybe not so long. Friends’ issues that came up, I don’t know that there would have been tears to go with the empathy otherwise. Not sure. The frustration that my hands cramped up when I tried to eat something, real. Intensity, probably uncalled for. Etcetera. I have to unpack all of these things, examine them carefully, and put up traffic cones around the ones likely to make me slip again. There is certainly an element of the single straw that broke the camel’s back, here; a lot of kinda shitty things have been going on lately, a lot of micro-stresses, and the weight of the major ones combined, and the dam broke. I was way overdue for a cathartic cry. But not so hard, not so long.

ALS has added a layer of difficulty to this process. I can’t just shrug it off and say fuck it, I had a breakdown, maybe it’s time to try a new med. I’m paying much closer attention to all of this, for as much as I could easily play the “I’m Dying” card when I freak out and withdraw, I don’t WANT to unless it’s true. I don’t WANT to give myself permission to ignore causes and allow myself to drown in slumps like this without trying to figure out how to never do that again. My life is too short to allow whole days and weeks to be wasted if I can do something to avoid that. I quite literally…do not have time for this.

And if I’m being honest? Neither do you. Please look after your mental health, babies.

Oh hai.

It’s uh…been a month. Soz.

I have a lot to say, as usual, but typing is getting hard, and when I get home I usually don’t want to sit in front of the computer at all. I have a lot of things I wanna talk about but yeah, I have a thousand excuses why I haven’t. They all suck – the reasons, hopefully not the things I wanna talk about. In short, it’s like this:

There’s the general health update – the short version is that I have graduated to the walker full time, my hands are decidedly weaker, still no breathing or speaking problems. Headaches are still a thing; got a Cefaly device and it doesn’t seem to be helping. I wanna do a video about the device. It’s weird.

Housing, short version OH MY GOD WHY IS THIS SO HARD. I don’t wanna be adult and do this, I wish someone else was doing this for me, I wish there were even any places AVAILABLE to buy, I wish Portland wasn’t becoming the second Bay Area. It’s complicated and dumb.

I’ve decided to hold a Living Wake for myself in April next year, adjacent to my birthday. The announcement on Facebook concerned some people, because they thought I was throwing a Goodbye Party instead. Naw, dawgs, I just want to see you guys while I can still talk and hug you.

I’m sorting through a lot of emotional shit, as you can imagine, but mostly the idea of BIG CONCEPT vs little concept and how they can screw with you in their own ways. “I’m Going to Die” is a BIG CONCEPT but it isn’t nearly as disruptive day to day as the little concept of “I’m not going to be able to pack my own house when I find a place to move”. Both of them screw with me in their own ways, but the little ones are the ones that usually ruin my day.

I need to check in with y’all about having house cleaners coming over. That’s a bundle of something.

My 22 year old cat was dying, and then he wasn’t, and then he was, and now he can’t figure out what’s going on. It’s been incredibly hard dealing with his impending death, harder I think than dealing with my own in a lot of ways, and I want to talk that out.

Work has been chaotic, lots of organizational changes and looks toward the future. I’d originally thought I might be done working by the end of the year, but now I’m planning on things happening into next spring and beyond, so we’ll see.

I have a lot going on, as you can see, but mostly I just go home after work and watch TV I don’t care about and eat food that’s bad for me and sleep. My time is limited but I’m sleepwalking through it. And I’m…kind of okay with that.

Anyway, love you all, and I hope to post something real soon. <3

Too private.

“I tend to be pretty private,” she told me, as we talked of grief.

“I keep that close to my chest, usually, too,” I agreed.

“But you’re pretty open, usually? You have that blog.”

“I post a lot of things people would consider private and personal, sure. But when I get really sad about my own situation, I tend to shut up and not post for awhile.”


So I haven’t posted for awhile. Not that things haven’t been happening. Things being thought, that I ought to write down. Feelings to document, frustrations to record. Things. But it’s hard to write, when you feel bad. There’s a bullshit self-imposed rule of “if you can’t say anything nice”, when the whole POINT of this was to record the good and bad. The funny among the fucked up, the grace between the grief, the other alliterative things that mean shit happens and sometimes it sucks and it’s all valid and okay.

There’s been a vast lack of energy, both physical and spiritual, lately. I spent the entire weekend in bed. Sleeping or playing video games. Safe to say I’m in a depressive streak, and things are hard right now, but good stuff still happens. I have a lot in my brain. Work is stressful as shit, and that’s its own post, one of many that I feel I owe you, this place, this blog, my future self. One of many. It’s harder to type and that makes me not want to do it. I am tired. I am lazy. I would rather be escaping into virtual realms, the Commonwealth, the biome I call my Minecraft home, Discworld, anywhere but here. I am squandering the time I have left and the ability I have to do things with it, and I can’t bring myself to care, most days.

But I have things to tell you. And I shall. I’m sorry to myself, and to whatever audience here, and to the universe in general for not being a diligent reporter, for not allowing myself permission to post even the bad days, when the bad days aren’t funny. It’s just easier to sleep, instead.

I have things to tell you. And I shall.


*cough* Hi. Um. *taps mic* is this thing still on?

Yeah. Sorry guys. It’s been very nearly a month. I haven’t had much to report, for the most part, and I FREELY admit that I was hiding from everything on April 1st. Diagnosis Day. My second Saddiversary.

Two years ago, I sat in Dr. Goslin’s office and stared at the carpet, nodding slowly, repeating the words, “definitely a motor neuron disease of some kind, and very likely ALS.”

“In a nutshell,” she’d replied.

At the time, my hands were unaffected. I could still stand up without assistance, and walk unaided. I couldn’t stand on my toes, but I could stand on one leg. My breathing was fine, speech was fine. I had periodic muscle twitches, mostly in my thighs, and sometimes harsh cramps in my calves. I could still slowly wiggle my toes, though my mutant ability to wiggle my left pinky toe was gone. I weighed 175 pounds, up from the 160 I’d finally managed to hit when all these troubles started.

I was devastated, of course. No shit, right? But I had a fierce optimism about it all. It didn’t really matter, I knew to my core that I’d be okay; it’s just that OK was going to gain a new definition. Someone else’s broken and busted is someone else’s awesome mobility day. I had amazing people at my back, I had a NAME at last for what was wrong with me,and with that name came a roadmap. As long as I have a name, I can have a loose plan. With good people on my team, and a discovery of a whole organization of people dedicated to help poor bastards like me cope as best as we can for as long as I can, I had this thing in my pocket.

Two years have come and gone, and they’ve taken my ability to stand without assistance. They took my ability to stand on my own without leaning against something. They pretty well chewed up my hands by now. I’m losing the ability to wiggle my fingers independently, which KILLS the joke when I try to make sarcastic air quotes. I no longer type as fast. I no longer fit in my cutest clothes, because I’m now 200 pounds. Still eating and breathing fine, though, so again – the things that will eventually kill me have not yet begun to kill me. They took their toll on my energy levels, which is the second worst part of all of this I think. I can cope with being able to type with difficulty, I can cope with relying on a cane to get around, but doing any of these things just completely WRECK my energy levels for the rest of the day and probably the day after. It’s getting hard to get out of bed both because my energy levels say no, and part because hauling my now 220 pound ass out of the bed is not an easy task. Specially with a cat who just will NOT GET OFF OF YOU but he’s 22 so I have to be super nice and NOT toss him across the room. I fall sometimes, occasionally because I forget I’m not a normal person and can’t multitask walking AND adjusting my backpack. My cats are three obstacle course experts, and they drag their toy obstacles in new configurations every day. To keep me on my toes. Except the little fuckers don’t seem to get that I can no longer stand on my toes, and if I fall, we are ALL gonna regret it.

Those two years have seen some relationship changes, too. Surprisingly, mostly for the better. Amazing people have come out of the woodwork to support me, I hear stories about me that I never would have known, heard the effect I’ve had on people that I never realized. That part’s been awesome. And some people have gone, for many different reasons, mostly that it’s just really fucking HARD to be around someone with a terminal disease. You know the relationship is doomed. It’s difficult to watch someone you care deeply about struggle so much. And THAT is the worst part of having ALS. Watching how it affects those I love.

I watch you watch me struggle, and I feel your helplessness coil off of you in tentacles that hover and sway as you debate coming forward to ask me to let you help. I watch panic burst from your chest like a gunshot wound when you witness me fall, and you bleed in little droplets of ‘what do I do what do I do’ while I assure you that I’m okay, and scan my surroundings for ways to get myself up. You do a little “I wanna step in and help but I don’t know how” cha cha at my side, tentatively reaching down with those useless tentacles, hands offered but of no use to me. “Unless you can deadlift 200 pounds,” I warn, “you’re not going to be any help to me.” I can’t help you help me, you see. It’s not simply a matter of grab my hands and help me to my feet; there are no longer muscles to flex and bend and counter my weight. Getting off the ground is a matter of leverage, I have to find a solid footing and something sturdy and tall like a chair that I can use to wedge my legs into straight lines, and then lift myself off of the chair. My legs are stilts, made of useless skin and fat; the muscles are out back protesting. And so here we are in an incredibly awkward situation in which not only did you have to witness gravity force itself on someone you like, being able to do nothing, but now you have to watch as I humiliate myself by exerting an insane amount of energy to belly up to the chair and lock my legs in position behind me, shakily lifting my body upright, hissing to myself “come the fuck onnnnnnnn just stand up. STAND UP.” and when I get up, swaying and panting,k we are all of us worse for the experience. My humiliation and out of breath sweating will stop, though. You, you never really stop feeling helpless. And I see that knot of internal pressure, maybe it’s rage at the unfairness of the situation, maybe it’s fear that something might happen to you. You have a lot of reasons. Just as I do, watching my friends in situations I can’t control. It’s the worst place to be, and I don’t blame people for realizing they can’t handle it and stop coming around.

Hell, I actually respect you for recognizing your limits and putting your own health and life first. I WANT that for you guys. I appreciate everything you do, and I love you for who you are, and that includes knowing your boundaries, setting them, and keeping them. It’s hard to make those decisions. And keep them.

I’ve..lost track of where this post was going. It’s been two years of actual factual ALS. Life proceeds, as it always does, and so many things have become the new OK. Humans are amazingly adaptable, and I’m still having enough good days to make sticking around worth it. Having the world’s best excuse for not getting out of bed at ALL on a Sunday, nested in cats and blankets, playing video games with no guilt. It’s a recovery day/I woke up with no mana/I just don’t want to Adult today and this “I’m Dying” card says I don’ t have to. Having amazing friends who will bring me dinner, to my bed, because I don’t want to expend the energy to dislodge the cats, pull back the fortress of blankets and pillows, wriggle out of bed, and wall surf to the front door to meet you. And I’m not even dressed.

So that’s pretty much what I did on April Fool Day. Poisson d’Avril. Diagnosis Day. Saddiversary 2: Electric Boogaloo. I hid. And I cried, and I distracted myself with cats and video games, and slept a lot. And then it was okay. I’m still figuring out the new Normal, cause that keeps changing on me.

I really am sorry about being quiet. I do still have things to tell you, and things to show you. I was just being all Emo McCryface for a little bit. I hope you guys are having great days. I love all y’all.


It occurs to me, and was suggested by my shrink as well, that I’m in a slump because I’m grieving. Mourning the loss of my ability, grieving the life I don’t get to have. It’s not so much a depression as it is going through one of the stages of loss.

Today I came across this link:

What you say vs what grief-stricken people hear

And it’s all truth, all of it. And I’ve heard a lot of these, and God help me I’ve said some of them. I’ve filed it away in my ALS bookmark folder, but it occurs to me that I should probably have a link page on this blog, for articles that have explained things better than I could.

Anyway, there’s that.

He, She, Me.


A few weeks ago, a few very short weeks, a friend posted something in her facebook along the lines of “our routine doctor appointment turned into a little bit more. He’s being admitted right now, but please don’t worry!”

…and I worried.

She’s like me. Bubbly, happy, all about best possible outcomes, optimism, and smiles. She’s a joy to be around. He’s a sardonic, sarcastic, clever man who used to be my boss. You know he’s awesome if he used to be the boss of me and we STILL talk. He’s snarky and hilarious. They’re both a pair of my favorite people. Still can’t believe they hooked up, much less got married, but they’re fucking perfect for each other and I’m really glad they did. I love them to pieces.

So when she, bubbly, optimistic She, didn’t SAY what had gone awry, I knew it wasn’t good. And then I was invited to a support/information group created in facebook, to keep in touch with what was happening and how we could all help. And then, scary words eventually saw the light of day. Cancer. Stage 4. Scant months to live. Maybe more if chemo works.

And just like that, their lives were over as they knew it. And just like that, the floor dropped away from all of us who knew and loved them.

I can’t even pretend to say I know what it’s like to be told you have a short and definite lifespan. I know how it was for me, how it continues to be, but I can’t even fathom what he’s going through. His time is so much shorter than mine, his notice so much more sudden. He has a wife. And while they’re publicly taking it with grace, no one knows what’s going on inside. Some aspects I can guess at; the panic of Time suddenly a companion, yelling at you about all the things you have to do before you go. The complete bafflement of, how did this happen. Is there something I could have done? But then there’s also the chemo – unlike my timeline, there’s a chance for an extended cut, but only if you can withstand it. And now they have to decide quality of life vs. quantity. And I know that mental argument very well.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do but stand by and love them, and listen, and hold space. And when they make decisions, honor them. Be there as much as they will allow me to be. And then let him go.

It’s the only thing within my power.


I wrote about her awhile ago. She was suffering from bulbar onset ALS, and she gave me the chance to figure out and to talk about how I feel about assisted suicide. And she gave me the courage to tell all of you, and start that difficult conversation. It’s a really hard thing, to tell everyone that you are probably going to take your own life and they’re going to have to forgive and be okay with it. She did it with perfect grace.

She had been fighting the Boss Fight of ALS for awhile. Her decline was fast. I only knew her through facebook posts, and it seemed like daily there was another struggle, another development. But she faced it with so much fucking GRACE, and smiles, and gratitude. Her posts weren’t about how she’d never live to see her son grow up, they were about the daily joy she found in his company and the treasure trove of memories she was building for him. Her posts weren’t about her medical suffering, they were about the gratitude for the people who helped her through it all. Look for the rainbows, she says constantly.

April 4th, she had fought enough. She left a goodbye, and a video for her son, and the last words, “Enjoy. I have.”

And then she let go. And so I, too, let her go.


I’m losing strength in my hands.

I’ve been noticing maybe a month or two now, but I’ve been in complete and total denial. The mailbox lock has ALWAYS been hard, it’s just a bit more difficult to turn the key; must have frozen or something. The lid to the cup is way more difficult to pry off because it’s new. Cutting a piece of steak cramps up my hands, but hey, it’s just cramps. I had AGES before my foot strength was lost after the cramps started, right? My hands are shaking while holding my laptop because I’m just tired. The word of the day and things that I write up on my whiteboard every day just SEEM a little shakier. But I’m sure it’s nothing. Right?

Friday, April 4th, I fell. For no reason. It was the first time that happened; I wasn’t tripping on anything or trying to maneuver, I just…fell. And wrenched my ankle. And felt very sorry for myself and frustrated. And so I told Dr. Goslin this, on Thursday during my appointment. And she confirmed I’m losing strength in my hips.

…And I said I think I might be losing strength in my hands. She did the usual tests. And proved that I am.

I was absolutely right in that this? This is a trigger. This is panic and terror and the beginning of the end. And this makes everything so much worse. My timelines have shifted, and things I thought I had some time to do, I suddenly don’t. I have to write the letters while my handwriting is still stable. I have to do all the things I can’t, soon. And I’m freaking the fuck out. Because I don’t know what else to do but scream.

She asked if I’d like to borrow a motorized wheelchair to see how it works out. And internally I flipped the fuck out because I am NOT ready for that. No way no how. But outwardly I politely declined and said I’d like to wait awhile before going down that road. She agreed that I have a lot more time of mobility left, so there’s no rush. But it’s coming. Danielle suggested one of those old-people jar opening assist things. And I panicked a little but kept it in. I said maybe a walker, but not a wheelchair. Not yet. But my hands are going to have to be accommodated for.

After the appointment we went to the store to get some meds and some air fresheners for the empty rooms in my house that I’m clearing out for sale. And I couldn’t get the fucking tops of them off. I had to use my teeth. I still have dexterity, but my strength is going. And so, too, are all of the things I thought I could do to keep the loss of mobility tolerable. For now I can still type. I can still play video games. But I thought I had so much more time before I had to think about the end of those things. To a time when I can’t use chopsticks, to when I can’t pull myself out of bed, to when I can’t dress myself.

And it scares the motherfucking SHIT out of me.

I’ll get accustomed to the changes as they come. I’ll persevere. But I feel like this is kind of when I really start to die. No mobility? Whatever, that’s okay. Seriously. It sucks, but a wheelchair isn’t that bad. This is a hardship, but not the end. When I am no longer able to draw stupid pictures, no longer able to frost a cupcake, no longer able to chat, no longer able to launch Skyrim…that is the death of me. When I am no longer able to even fucking pet my cats. That begins the days of the useless shell that I become. I wonder if I’ll want to go get the prescription the day I drop something for no reason. I won’t use it yet, but I wonder if that’s going to be the preflight check. When I will start thinking seriously about the endgame.

And I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to let go, when all I feel like doing is trying to hold on.

And I’m really, really scared.

Falling with Grace

I went out to get the mail yesterday after work, and waited for traffic to cross the street. My street’s the only one in the neighborhood that goes all the way through from one major road to another, so it’s busy. Coast is clear, I step off the curb, but here comes a truck. He’s waiting for me, how nice! But the other side is not clear, and it looks like there’s a few cars, so I don’t want the truck to wait for no reason. I think that I will signal to the truck driver that I intend to wait for traffic by stepping back on to the curb.

Except that doesn’t go so well.

Instead, I don’t have the strength in my legs to make that step back, and so I wind up on my ass on the curb in some very crunchy grass. My neighbors don’t water their lawn any more than I do. I’m not hurt at all, just embarrassed, and I laugh nervously, shake my head, and flash the truck driver a thumbs up. Like, hooray for that! ha ha ha I just fell that’s so funny. But I’m okay! He laughs, and drives away.

I wait for traffic to clear to try to stand up. It takes me a try or two.

And I’m not going to lie, when I got back in to the house, I cried. And felt an irrational anger at the truck driver, even though I know if he had understood why I just fell, he wouldn’t think it was funny at all. And I was laughing, too, and he has no idea that it’s a nervous habit I’ve had all my life. When I’m angry, I laugh, and then I cry. When I’m hurt, I laugh. When I’m being insulted, I smile. Until I’m alone. And then I cry. But still I’m a little angry that he didn’t understand it wasn’t my fault I fell. It wasn’t clumsiness. It wasn’t. fucking. funny.

This is the fourth fall. It’s not the worst. The worst one, thankfully, didn’t have any witnesses and was just scraped up palms. It was the day of my diagnosis and my mind was elsewhere so it’s hardly surprising I didn’t quite make the curb. They’ve all been the result of trying to step up and not quite making it, and then not having the strength to correct my balance. So I just kind of sit down. Or kneel. I’ve never been actually hurt, they’re gentle falls.

But they’re a precursor of things to come. A sign that things are going to get worse. Hateful little reminders that my time on my own two feet is limited. The fall itself is frustrating, of course, and humiliating, but they echo of disability and impending loss. There’s no outward injury, just a cringing inside and fear and future loss.

There will be more. Worse ones, too, I wager. And in public, I’ll fall with grace and good humor, and joke about it, and feel like dying just a little, and never let on that I’m not actually okay.

“Nothing bruised but my ego,” I joke. But that bruise hurts like hell.

Most Days

It seems like every time I post/say/THINK anything remotely depressed-sounding, I am blasted to smithereens by very well-meaning people giving me encouragement and light. Like, I have to be cheered up at all costs. But I don’t need it,usually. And when I do need it, I will say so. Lest you guys get some idea of me drowning in my own misery as I die slowly, let me explain something.

Most days, I’m good. Great, even. Most days I don’t even THINK about my disease, I don’t think about the ugly implications of my staggered walk. And when I think of the future on those days, it’s not a bad place to be. I’m a naturally upbeat person, and it’s easy to be in good cheer. I take the greatest of pleasures in the stupidest things, and that keeps me going. Life is good, everything’s great.

Some days, I am aware of my illness. Maybe it’s particularly hard to walk that day. Maybe I’m suffering from an overdraft of spoons from the day before. Maybe I have a doctor appointment that day. For whatever reason, I am aware of my disease and the limitations it puts on me. But on those days, even when I am aware of this disease cutting my life short as I breathe, I’m still good. My disease is present but it’s not really a problem. I have a realistic idea of what’s coming, but I have security in the knowledge that I have the best team in the world at my back. I can handle this. I can handle everything. Life is okay. Everything’s good.

Every now and again, there’s a moment of panic. It’s usually on the tail end of circumstances conspiring against me, for whatever reasons. My defenses are low. I am a bit “squishy”, as I call it. Just ..sensitive and prone to cry and things seem a little dark, maybe. And then there’s that moment it turns, and everything collapses in on itself and I am crushed under the weight of it all. These days are very rare. But they are inevitable. I’ve got a terminal fucking disease. If I didn’t sink under the weight of how badly I’m being fucked over occasionally, it’s likely I’m just in denial.

Things have been conspiring. I lost my 19 year old cat and just turned in his unused pain medication to my vet, so that someone else who can’t afford it can give their pet some pain relief. I’ve been GO GO GO the last few days and I’m exhausted. There was a screwup with the post office which made them think my house was vacant and that really, really fucked with me because it was a reminder that I don’t get to stay here. The motherfucking shingles. NOTHING seems good when you’re in pain. I’m kind of freaking out about money; I’m about a grand in to my credit card, with a $3k property tax bill going to come due at the end of the year and then January resets my $2k deductible and I’m supposed to go to Europe and I’ve got nothing to spend and…yeah. I feel like I’m financially drowning.

And then this video was shown to me this morning:

It’s…really fucking powerful. Stay past the bikini babe. It’s worth your time. And it left me really raw. And I talked to my brother about putting in a hand rail because I’m beginning to need both hands to haul myself up the stairs, and it hurt. I thought about having to throw all of my things in boxes and maybe not having the strength to unpack them by the time I bought a new place and I panicked.

Tonight I’m tired. And in pain. And lonely. And afraid. And worried. And weak. And angry. And depressed. And really fucking unsure where it all goes from here. And tonight I know there’s not a goddamned thing I can do about any of it.

Tomorrow I will be fine, but I am having a bad night.

And nothing will fix this. No amount of being told it’s going to be alright will MAKE it alright. And nothing will help except to let myself cry.

And so I lock myself away from the world, and I cry.

Care and Feeding of Your Center Circle

This one’s important. It was hard for me to originally write this up. You can skip everything else if you want, I’m pretty boring, but if you feel like you want to support me through this shit, then this is what I need you to know.  The tl;dr is at the end in bold, you can skip to there if you want to.

I’m a big fan of optimism. I am a very (obnoxiously) optimistic person. There is, however, a thin line between optimism and denial, and I skirt that line every day. In order to do a proper advance directive, I need to dip my toes in the other pool. The one that says I am going to end up in a wheelchair and then hospice and then I’m going to die. I need to think about how I want to handle all of those things from a practical standpoint, and at what point do I really think I want to be done with it? What is my timeline? And when things get bad, who can I rely on? Who am I going to burden with taking care of what? And in order to do all of this, I need to be allowed to be sad. I need to be allowed to really, truly feel the panic of knowing I’m going to die. To know that I’m going to be trapped in a meat shell with a clear mind. And that fucking SUCKS. I need to deal with that grief and mourn who I will never be allowed to be, in order to get past that and make rational decisions.

There’s gonna be a lot of crying. And anger. And despair. And I need to be allowed to do that, on my own, without interference. I know that you want – NEED – to be here for me. But I hate being a burden and I’m really bad about reaching out for help when I need it. I don’t like seeing people I care about in distress, especially when I’m the cause of it – whether or not I can help being the cause. Believe me, I’d love to not have anyone have to worry about this. I really, really would.  And part of my inability/unwillingness to reach out for help is my stupid avoidant bullshit. Because I don’t want to cause drama, I am allergic to awkward situations, and even worse is when I reach out for help and don’t get what I need.

So let me help you out, and help myself by doing so, and maybe help some other people going through serious shit and need support. I’m going to give you a phrase. Use it liberally.

“I’m really sorry that this is happening. It must be really difficult.”

That’s it. Or some close variant. Acknowledge my suffering, and empathize. I don’t need “everything’s going to be okay!” or “it could be worse!” or “hopefully it won’t actually come to that!” Sometimes, often times , I don’t need an uplift. I just need someone to know that it hurts, and it’s hard. That’s all. I don’t need you to solve the problem for me. I don’t need to be rescued. I don’t need to be cheered up or distracted. When I want those things, I will ask for that specifically. If I reach out, if I say, “I’m having a really hard time right now and I need support for a bit,” I just want you to listen to me for a little bit and then say “I’m really sorry that this is happening. It must be really difficult.” If I say, “I’m having a really shitty time, I need a happy distraction,” THAT is the time to pull out the anime and kittens or whatever. If I trust you enough to tell you I need you there for me, I just need you to hear me, and agree that it is shitty. 

Also? KNOW that I am shit at reaching out. Maybe check up on me once in awhile. Just “hey, how are you holding up?” once in awhile. I’ll tell you what I feel like telling you. And this is important, so I’m putting it in a line all to itself:

Don’t fucking ride my case if I tell you after the fact that I had a hard time because I didn’t call you. 

This is a very important one. Because it will sincerely piss me off. Chiding me for failing to call you feels like you’re vilifying me for my own suffering. Don’t do this to me ever. Just tell me that option is available. “If it happens again and you need someone, I’m available.” not “You should have called me.” I mention this specifically because I kind of got in a fight with a friend over this, and it caused me to be pretty unkind to him. Disclaimer: I GET it, that’s how he is, he is like me and uses goofy kid words, and jokes to make a serious thing lighter. It’s why we’re the best of friends and I love him a lot. (I do love you. But holy shit this was the exact wrong thing to say at that precise moment.) But when your best friend – who is dealing with some serious, maybe life-threatening shit – tells you that she had a really rough week last week and she’s kind of in a weird headspace, this is NOT how to respond:

“Erg. No good! Why didn’t you call me! I mean, I know I can’t help balance the chemicals in your body out, but I could have given you a shoulder and some distraction! You were a naughty sad-face!”

Naughty. Motherfucking. Sad-face.

I didn’t ASK for a shoulder because I didn’t WANT one. I KNEW that it was chemical depression, that week, because I was on a new medication and it was seriously fucking with me. And when the real crying happens, it needs to be PRIVATE and PERSONAL so that I allow myself to just BE without worrying about how I’m distressing someone else. I did not WANT a distraction. I would have asked for one. And unfortunately, I’m probably going to be LESS likely to call on him, because he treated me like a fucking three year old when I said I was sad. Like I’m not able enough to handle my own shit, I have to have adult supervision. An adult that chides me with toddler words.  He also threatened to start randomly coming over to check on me if I didn’t reach out more.

…Don’t ever do that to me. Even when things are going great. I fucking HATE surprise social situations. Being an introvert AND an avoidant personality makes me allergic to surprise social situations. I will be gracious to your face when you show up, and hate you a little bit while you’re here, and be very, very resentful when you leave. Also so much less likely to call on you when I do need to reach out to someone. I promise you that it would NOT go over well. Because it never has.

I have been told that I should reach out and call because the thought of me crying my face off by myself is a depressing thought. Which is a really sweet sentiment, I get that you are concerned about me , but that statement makes the whole thing about YOU, and reaching out when I’m like that may be impossible and probably counterproductive. I can not be honest and open with my own feelings when I know I have a witness. I just can’t. I can sort out for myself what the fuck I’m feeling and then express that to you later, but when I am experiencing them for the first time, I need to do it privately. Maybe it hurts you to think that I was suffering alone (again, this isn’t really about me, it’s about you – and it feels like you’re using it against me as emotional blackmail). And when I apologize for making you really sad and uncomfortable with my conversation, don’t tell me “not hanging out with you and feeling like you are having to deal with everything on your own makes me even more sad and uncomfortable”.

Because sometimes it’s not about you.

In fact, this is NOT about you. At all. This is about me. Center motherfucking circle.

I need to be free to not give a shit that you’re unhappy that I don’t reach out when I’m unhappy. Because if I feel like I need to be alone in my unhappy, then I will BE alone. If I feel like I need a voice, I will call you. And if I don’t want to talk, I won’t. Because it is all. About. Me. Don’t make me feel like I have to alter MY behavior when I’m sad in order to make YOU feel better. I really fucking DON’T. I am allowed to be sad, and cry until I throw up, alone in my room. In the dark. And not call you. I probably wouldn’t be able to make myself understood through the crying, for one. And then on some level, I’m going to feel obligated to pull myself together a little bit because there’s someone else around, which interrupts my grief and makes it less effective catharsis. I need to be allowed to have my mourning alone. When I want to NOT be grieving, when I want to be happier or comforted or distracted, THEN I will call you. But sometimes? A bitch has just got to get her sobs on. It’s part of the whole thing. And the spectacular way that I am psychologically broken means that I need you to back the fuck off and let me do it privately.

I know this is hard for people that care about me. And you have every right to your reactions and your suffering. And I want you to be able to tell me about them without feeling like you’re burdening me about something that’s happening to ME in the first place. I care about you very much and I want to be able to tell you it’s going to be alright, one way or another, because it really is. I promise it’s going to be okay.

But, see, if you are center circle – REGARDLESS of the severity of the problem – and you tell me you just need to talk, I will listen. And I will not make any kind of demands for your time and attention, even if I think – even if I KNOW – you’d be better off for it. I will remind you that I am available if you need me, and say “I’m sorry that this sucks for you too. It must be really frustrating.”

Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.


It doesn’t hurt to check up on me once in awhile. I have a hard time reaching out.

Don’t chastise me if I don’t reach out when I have a bad night. I don’t necessarily want or even need someone every time.

I know you’re there if I need you. If you feel I need the reminder when I tell you I’m having a hard time, remind me. Don’t fucking mandate it.

DO NOT threaten to just dropping by to check on me unannounced if I don’t start reaching out. I don’t need a goddamned babysitter and I WILL resent you for it.

I will ask for distraction if I need it. Encouragement, if I need it.

Otherwise, “I’m sorry this is happening” is all you need to say.

I can’t control this situation. I can’t control what is happening to me. I can’t control your reactions and your feelings. I can only own how I react and deal with all of these things, and I’m trying to figure all of that out. I’m looking for a therapist for some professional help with this, too, because I don’t have those coping tools. I can’t predict how I’ll react to any given thing. This shit didn’t come with a manual. 

And neither did I, which is why I am telling you all of this.