sadbrain

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…off..so 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..

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?

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.

….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.

LOLitics

A coworker is at the entrance of my cube, talking to me about politics. I hate politics, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to think about it, and try to avoid them at all costs. I don’t watch the news, I don’t read news sites, I actively do not pay attention to any of that. I get more than enough from my facebook feed, thanks, and I have a policy even there of, “if your last five posts were all political, welcome to the Ignore List.”

Willful ignorance for the win, I guess? There’s that saying, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” and it’s true, but some of us have better things to do than be outraged all the damn time. I certainly have OPINIONS about a lot of things, don’t get me wrong, but seriously shut up. You’re not saving the world with your opinions on gun control or abortion or whatever the flavor of the month at 31 Outrages is. Terrible Situation is Terrible, but sitting in your office writing vitriolic screeds and stressing about it without DOING anything about it solves NOTHING.

Ranting in your facebook does one of two things: Alienate People Who Don’t Agree With You, or Preach To The Choir. You’re not changing anyone’s minds or calling anyone to action. You’re just yelling about TERRIBLE THING with no specific call to action and no change as result, and it is actively depressing/infuriating/frustrating to read this over and over and over. I don’t give a SHIT about an article about a protest or a war or a new policy or whatever, facebook is where I go to find out how the fuck you are doing. Where you AT the protest where the cops tear-gassed the protesters? No? Then WHY ARE YOU POSTING THIS. Are you seriously expecting to sway someone’s vote with your clever little infographic about gun control? Seriously? HAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHHAHAHAHA oh man. That’s a good one. Ok but really you know you’re not, right? And you DID run that article through Snopes or FactCheck or PolitiFact or Hoax-Slayer or something before posting it, right? And not just shared it because it agreed with you before making sure it was true? No? Sigh. Okay. Yeah. This is why we can’t have nice things, people. Check your facts or better yet, just don’t post that. Post pictures of your cats. That’s important. That actually tells me about your life. I want to know how your breakfast was, not about some philandering politician or your stance on abortion or some insipid inspirational wabbajabba picture of a sunset with a misattributed quote.

I don’t give a shit about your politics, I often like you in SPITE of them.

There was a point to this. …Where was I.

Oh right. Coworker. Cube. He’s talking about the Republican party and the possibility of Trump as president and blah blah blah, and I find myself cheerfully saying, “You know sometimes, I’m GRATEFUL that I’m checking out early so I don’t have to DEAL with this shit.”

And he gets quiet.

And that is the end of THAT conversation.

I win.

I’d name this post some kind of marijuana pun but I hate them.

Okay, peeps. Real talk. First? Any employer who may or may not be reading this should regard this post as a work of fiction or satire or something. I have never smoked pot*. I hate the smell of it, it causes migraines**. These are theoreticals and opinions and satire. As far as I care to say.

I know I’ve mentioned marijuana before, but I can’t seem to find it to link to, so I’m just going to pretend I’ve never said anything and start from the beginning. So here’s the beginning:

I have hated pot ever since I was a wee thing. (seriously, as a kid I once cried so hard I threw up and was angry at my mother for WEEKS because she smoked a joint with our neighbor) The smell of it is one of the small handful of things that will nearly ALWAYS trigger a migraine, which doesn’t help at all, but I mostly have always had an intense dislike for it because of the people I know who smoke. Who…’partake’. And they’ve ruined that word for me. I hate that the people most upfront about habitually using it are usually complete idiots. That stoner laugh, the drawn out “….whut?” Most of the people I knew while growing up who smoked pot were complete idiots, and it was not until much later in life that I learned the difference between “person who smokes pot” and “pothead”. My sole experience with the drug was a second hand high I got at a Depeche Mode concert, and that may VERY well have been endorphin and adrenaline that come naturally with a rock concert. I came home hyper and hungry. I came to know some people who could keep their act together but still smoked, but I always thought a little less of them, if I’m being perfectly honest. OK sure you can hold down a job, but how much more could you accomplish if you DIDN’T light up every night when you got home?

I’m saying, I have some prejudices.

How could I not, really? My direct experience has always been pot = migraine. Stoners = idiots.*** Oh sure, people swore up and down that pot cured cancer and AIDS and ADD and whatever other letters you wanted to throw at it. You can make hemp everything! The hemp people always struck me as trying to find a loophole to legitimize their habits, NO SERIOUSLY IT’S NOT FOR GETTING HIGH MAN IT’S FOR PAPER AND CLOTHES AND SHIT and okay also getting high because you don’t see us making the same arguments for using bamboo which ALSO does all these things plus FOOD, and collecting signatures for THAT, but hey, whatever man. I could never take any of it seriously because all information about the medicinal benefits were nothing more than anecdotal. ..Because hey, it’s pretty hard to do a legit medical study on an illegal substance, turns out.

…Okay side rant, people, because I HONESTLY, SERIOUSLY believe that a major reason why no one ever took marijuana seriously as medicine? IS BECAUSE YOU NAME YOUR STRAINS DUMB ASS THINGS LIKE CAT PISS AND PEPDAWG AND ALASKAN THUNDERFUCK. There was no medical journal out there willing to take seriously a chemical composition and therapeutic benefit breakdown comparison between Purple Urkel and Ninja Turtle. If you want to be seen as a legitimate, scientific cure, KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE SATURDAY MORNING CARTOON NAMES. No doctor is going to prescribe “2 tablets of Purple Monkey Balls”. There is probably a way to scientifically, accurately track the medicinal benefits of each strain, but you stoners made it REALLY REALLY HARD for us to see it as science with names like Romulan Cotton Candy and Skyhigh. OKAY? Ok. Also, I only made up ONE of those names****.

Anyway.

I’ve a lifelong dislike for pot, is what I’m saying. It was recently legalized for recreational use here in Oregon, and I actually think that’s marvelous for a lot of reasons. I strongly feel, that no matter what my own opinion on smoking pot might be, anyone should have a chance to use a medicine if they thought it might help. There’s been awesome articles about the benefits people have found through its use; epileptic little girls finding seizure relief, and cancer patients using it for pain management, and ADHD people using it for focus, and PTSD victims using it to quell anxiety attacks, and I think that’s awesome. I am ALL ABOUT letting people do what they feel is doing them some good, so long as it hurts no one else. People have been telling me for years and years that pot would help with my headaches, and while I declined to take up their advice, I encouraged others to do so if they thought it helped. Just don’t smoke it around me, please. I agree that it’s practically harmless, it fixes a lot of things either for real or through the placebo effect, legalizing it recovers a lot of police time pursuing people who are not actually a threat, and brings in some tax money. I don’t believe it’s truly harmless, because while doing nothing but smoking pot may not be dangerous to your health overall, it’s harmful like overindulging in ANY addictive pastime, like video games. You’re not hurting anyone, but how long has it been since you checked in on your friends? They miss you. And you are REALLY BORING to people who don’t do #hobby because that’s all you ever talk about, be it pot or Fallout 4. But I freely admit I’d MUCH rather be on the road with someone driving stoned than drunk. You don’t get stoned and go on a bender that ends with seven dead. You don’t clonk a granny over the head and steal her purse to get money for a joint, no matter what Reefer Madness told you. You don’t get stoned out of your mind and then call your ex sobbing that you two should get back together, because, like..the phone is way over there, and you’d have to get up to get it, and then press all those buttons.

So I was honestly kind of irritated when I read a lot of studies about medical marijuana doing great things for people with ALS.

I asked Dr. Goslin about it, if it would help with anxiety and the twitches and the cramping and everything, and she said, yes, it probably would, would I like a medical marijuana card? I told her I’d go do my own research and pursue it if I felt it would do me good. I did a LOT of research. I talked to a few people who used it, and tried to open my mind to the idea. While I fail to see how something known to trigger migraines could possibly help my headaches, I was at least passingly interested in the possibilities. A year passed, the data I found was inconclusive, so I let it lie.

Then I had a Really Bad Stretch. So bad I can’t even tell you about all of it; but my heart was broken by a lot of awful events conspiring to happen at once, so much drama and heartache and confusion and I really, really just wanted it to go away and let me think straight. I was back in the same dark headspace I used to get in when I self harmed; not a desire to die or disappear, just desperately needing an outlet and a calm space to sort things out. Some time to think without panicking. A friend strongly advocated for marijuana as a stress relief, and gave me strong enough testimonials that I caved and applied for the card. Because I strongly feel, that no matter what my own opinion on smoking pot might be, anyone should have a chance to use a medicine if they thought it might help.

Including me.

The card took FOREVER to get to me and cost $200. An initiative passed to legalize recreational pot here in Oregon, and it was actually in place and active only a week or so after I finally got the thing. It’s still necessary, though, because ‘recreational’ only includes the flower and seeds. No oils, tinctures, edibles, or anything, and like I said, the smell gives me migraines so I’m not smoking it ever. But I was interested in the alternatives and dipped my toe in. The first thing I bought were chocolates, I bought them from a legal dispensary in Washington that was INCREDIBLY crowded so I didn’t get a lot of time to ask the questions I had. A lot of questions. Dosage, strains, methods, I mean I knew that different strains did different things and that ‘medibles’ (seriously, stoners. “medical edibles LOL U GUIZE SO CLEVAR”) reacted differently in your body than smoking, but I needed details. I didn’t get them that day, just bought the very expensive white chocolates, and slunk away.

I made sure I had a babysitter when I tried a chocolate with 10mg in it. It tasted bad and did nothing, which wasn’t terribly surprising since I was later told that 10mg of THC is NOTHING. Another day, I tried a vaporizer with a friend who smokes but had never used a vaporizer before, and it did nothing for either of us. I tried two chocolates, another day. Felt nothing but calm, but I’d also slept all day and then soaked forever in a hot bath with a Lush bath bomb so I was pretty freakin’ relaxed already. I saved the last two and tried them another time, when work had sent me into a rage, so I knew it would be a good test. I felt nothing but calm, which could have been the chocolates, but could have also just been the time that passed once I was home from work. I was still angry as hell, but just not as energetic about it – which tends to happen with the passage of time on its own. I dwell, but I don’t tend to stew when I’m angry. So that wasn’t a particularly good test, either.

The same friend that originally testified so strongly (later jokingly called my Pusher) brought me a small assortment of ‘medibles’ (ffs) to try. These gummy robots, hard candies, a pink lemonade, and some CBD caps. CBD is the more medically useful compound in pot. I don’t want to get high, just want the medical benefits, so low THC and high CBD is what I was after. The gummy robots were super cute and there was a little diagram on the back showing which part of the robot had what kind of dosage. I tried a small piece of one of the gummy robots (his head) one night and…yeah, I got high, I guess. I was decidedly altered. I wasn’t giggly or paranoid or anything, but aware that my perceptions were altered. I opened a wordpad document and started typing something in it but stopped bothering after awhile, but the gist of it was basically “now I know why stoners talk like they do, because there’s literally no way to describe these sensations without sounding like you’re on drugs.” Even later, sober, while trying to explain the sensation to a friend, it was TOTALLY STONER SPEAK. “There was something like a core of energy in my gut, and it pulsed out in waves, and I could feel the tingling of the waves as they radiated out and off of my body like electricity.” (Um. Yeah. Shut up, stoner.) I was cognizant enough to know that social contact would probably be a bad idea, especially writing the emails I was working on to introduce myself to clinical trial coordinators, so I banned myself from social media and instead just watched television for the rest of the night, knowing that it was NOT in 3D even though it sort of looked like it. “This is probably WAY more surreal right now than the actual show is. I’ll have to rewatch this tomorrow and compare.” (it was still weird, for the record, but not nearly as bizarre as I remembered, predictably.) My body was tingly and heavy and I did not enjoy the feeling. I had to walk to the kitchen to get something and had to concentrate really hard on not falling, which might be fun for some people, but I already have real life troubles with such things so I did not need a chemical to enhance that. I wound up sort of falling at one point, very gently, and it was really hard to get back up; and even chemically altered, I had the presence of mind to realize that this would be really, horribly upsetting if I let it be, and turn into a Terrible Time, so I concentrated really hard on not thinking about it at all and just pet the cats until I felt like I could stand up again. I went straight to bed and was glad to wake up and have it gone.

I tried a hard candy, another night, and it didn’t feel like it did anything except test my powers of endurance by forcing myself to suck on an awful hard candy for 20 minutes. I tried the other part of the robot another, different night, and got REALLY altered, and my twitches got so much worse it was like having a seizure. I found I could calm the jerking by thinking about it, practically mentally commanding myself to do so, but then they’d start right back up and there wasn’t anything for it but to sleep it off. Except I couldn’t sleep because I was spasming so hard I was kicking the cats off of me and reenacting the part of Ash from the Evil Dead. GIVE ME BACK MY HAAAAAAND. It wasn’t painful at all, just completely surreal to watch my limbs thrashing about of their own accord, and a little scary. I wound up taking a video of my hand twitching, mostly to see if that was really what was happening or I was maybe just imagining things. Turns out I wasn’t. I can’t move my hand that fast if I wanted to, anymore. Maybe not even before they started losing their strength; it was seriously bizarre. But, I had another bad day and another piece of robot, so I tried it one more time and got REALLY altered and REALLY REALLY sick. I wound up in bed, in the dark, trying to be quiet and calm. I wasn’t freaking out or anything at all, I was just seriously overstimulated, and every sharp noise was a weird synaesthetic flash of light in my brain, and eventually I just barfed it all up and felt a lot better and went to sleep.

So, fuck those little robots.

Also? Fuck the taste of pot. SO GROSS. There is no way to make anything with pot in it that doesn’t taste like pot, and pot tastes AWFUL. Bleah. The pink lemonade tastes like acid and death and pot. The hard candies taste like artificial raspberry and sweet and pot and death. -15/10 DID NOT ENJOY. WILL NEVER ENJOY. Shelf that with beer and wine as Things I Do Not Like and Don’t Understand Why People Do This To Themselves On Purpose.

Bad days continued, and while I was pretty sure I hated pot forever still, I hadn’t tried any concentrates and had no idea what strains I’d actually tried so far. I knew there were LOTS of options. I finally went to a recommended dispensary with a name that was ..tolerable.

…Okay side rant number two. Dispensaries: STOP WITH THE PUN NAMES. “CannaBliss”. “Grin Reefer.” “ReLeaf”. “Urban Farmacy”. OK YES WE GET IT YOU SELL POT. IT IS LEGAL. You’re NOT CLEVER. You are making it HARDER TO TAKE THIS SHIT SERIOUSLY. I feel dumber just walking in. Again, like with the strain names, if you want to be taken seriously as medicine, maybe calling your dispensary “Fifty Shades of Green” is not the road to credibility. It drives me NUTS because only stoners think this is funny – HURR HURR “420 Collective” IS REALLY CLEVER GUISE. Only SLIGHTLY less irritating are the ones that take some aspect of pot, open a thesaurus and choose a name. “Above”. “Ascend.” “Elevated”. “Lift”. GET IT CAUSE IT’S ANOTHER WORD FOR HIGH. LIKE HOW YOU GET HIGH WHEN YOU SMOKE POT. (I can’t stand it when beauty salons do it either, for the record. “Curl up and Dye” was funny the first time I saw it, but how many “A Cut Above”s do we need, or “Hairway to Heaven”. GET OUT.) Fine, name your store something that clues people in to the nature of your business. “Holistic Remedies”. “Green Gardens”. So far “Flora” and “Bloom” are the ones I’ve found the least irritating. But really, as long as you put “Dispensary” in there, people will get it. You don’t see proper doctor clinics with names like “A Cut Above Surgery” or “Meds4U”. There is a reason for this. You are the reason no one is taking marijuana seriously as medicine. Stop it.

okay.

So I got to this recommended place, was soothed by the totally actually clinical interior, like a doctor’s waiting room, and approached the reception counter. I explained what I was after and why. Something for anxiety, maybe, but primarily an anti-seizure/relaxant, I wasn’t looking to get high. He was extremely knowledgeable, and suggested several particular strains. I told him what I’d tried, and what they did, and that I couldn’t smoke and why. He said it was no problem, they have several vaporizers possible, but the higher heat, the better the effect, but the more smell. He explained how oils work and what the naming convention was for some of the things. The oils come in a syringe, “Which sounds scary,” he told me, “but the oils are so sticky it’s really the best delivery method.”

And the whole time he’s talking and writing things down for me on this post-it note, I’m thinking, “Great! Are you gonna maybe SELL me anything?”

I told him about my experiences with medibles (guhhhhhhh), explained I wasn’t looking to get high but I wasn’t adverse to feeling some effects if the thing did good. He used the word ‘intoxicated’ instead of ‘high’ which I liked. He explained, continuing to write on the Post-It, that I would want higher CBD and low THC to avoid the intoxicating effect. I asked questions about what the oils’ availability and such was, hint hint, do you have this in stock right now? And he was oblivious to the subtlety until I finally asked, “Do you have any of this that I can actually LOOK at?”

“..Oh! Do you have a card?”

…That maybe should have been a first question, boyo. Yes, I did! He took my patient ID number, matched my card with my ID, and buzzed me into the back. The back was actually just a storefront, and not little offices at all. I have no idea why there are three doors. He pointed out the syringes, and suggested that I pipe out little dots on a piece of parchment and freeze them, and when I need a dose, just peel one off and take it like a pill. But he put the syringe back in the case. He walked over to the tinctures and pulled one out, a bottle of a strain called Harlequin. It is a glycerin base, so it will be sweet, he said, and I said, “OK I will try that” before he could put it back. And then I kind of looked around, saw the display for the “sour bhotz” and said, “Them robots, man.” He nodded and showed that the display was almost empty. “Obviously they’re very popular,” confirming that people actually do enjoy that feeling. Mystifying. They had all kinds of other medibles (whhhhhyyy) that I wouldn’t have minded looking over, but he didn’t seem inclined to show or sell. So in the end all I bought was the tincture, which was super gross and did nothing. Pot tastes like barf, so let’s make that barf SUPER SWEET and then have you hold it under your tongue for a few seconds before swallowing it okay? To make sure it’s completely warmed up and the oil spreads alllll over your mouth and makes everything taste gross for the next ten minutes and assure that you hate your life if you burp.

I wound up going back and buying a vaporizer (it is a vaporizer. It is not a vape. OH MY GOD YOU SOUND SO STUPID WHEN YOU SAY THAT. ‘Vapin!’ ‘I’m VAPIN! LOOKIT ME WITH MY VAPE’ HURR DE DURR) pen and a small assortment of different strain concentrates from a MUCH more helpful and sales-savvy assistant. No less knowledgeable and willing to educate, but much more willing to actually, you know, let me BUY something. I explained up front that I was looking to get an assortment of things to try and would come back for more of the thing that worked. I got one for anxiety, one for focus, and one that was the highest CBD concentration. I tried them all, and they stink both figuratively and literally (“It’s harmless, it’s just water vapor.” “If it were just water vapor it would be odorless. It is not. IT STINKS LIKE POT AND THAT IS HARMING ME.”). They don’t alter me or affect me in the same way as the stupid robots, which is good. But they don’t actually do much at all. They just taste bad and make me cough and then dry out my mouth really bad.

And to top it off? It doesn’t help anything. I don’t get calm, I get incapable of thought, which is frustrating. I’d actually rather be sad than frustrated, any day, and I’ll take crying because I feel powerless over getting angry because I literally can not remember the thing I was just trying to do. I don’t enjoy getting ‘high’ and I don’t see any benefit for the physical effects I’m trying to combat, so there really isn’t a point to it for me. I gave it several good tries, but pot is definitely Not For Me. I don’t see the appeal in how it makes you feel. I like not thinking about stressful things, but I don’t like being unable to think about anything at all. I don’t like having a 5 second attention span. It didn’t calm, it didn’t quiet, it just made it really hard to concentrate and impossible to do more than one thing at a time, like walk, which I already have enough problems with. I don’t enjoy feeling like my reactions are on a time delay and my density has increased a hundredfold. The muscle twitching either stays the same or strangely got so much worse. The cramping and sleeplessness and headaches are all still there.

So medical marijuana gets a big ol’ F. More power to you if it works out for you and your symptoms, I completely support you. Even if you just want to get high and watch cartoons, I support that, too, and I’m really trying hard to work on that whole ‘pot smokers are losers’ mindset from my childhood, I promise. Just don’t smoke it around me, please, because it stinks.

*This is actually technically absolutely true and did not need a qualifying statement.

**This is actually also totally true. I guess I just feel like making asterisked statements for no reason today.

***Also not helping, the fact that people who smoke pot but still have their shit together DON’T TEND TO TALK ABOUT SMOKING POT ALL THE TIME. So you don’t know they smoke and the visible perception of pot smokers as a collective is just the stupid loud people. Just like with religion and politics, really.

***Skyhigh, the LEAST RIDICULOUS ONE. Think about that, stoners. A MADE UP NAME WAS LESS SILLY.

“The only thing sadder than a cripple… Is a hobbled cripple!”

Some things are bound to happen. Even if you don’t want them to, you know they’re coming. And so it is with a sense of inevitability that I write this post about the time that I fell down and actually hurt myself. I was trying to pick up a pile of laundry off the floor to carry it to my bed – THREE FEET AWAY – and went down like a rock in a small space and sprained my stupid ankle.

After every fall, every misstep that almost results in a fall, there’s a period of reflection and reconstruction of the events that led up to it. How could I have prevented that? There was no period of reflection this time, there was me, writhing in pain in the hallway screaming FUCK FUCK FUCKING FUCK OW FUCK OW OW OW OW WHAT THE FUCKING FUCKHEADED FUCKING SHIT FUCK

See also: Lalochezia.

Right about when I ran out of swear words and began repeating myself, it occurred that I’d probably done something bad this time. The swearing went on longer than usual and the pain wasn’t going away. Now the swearing and OW OW OW was joined by YOU STUPID BITCH WHY DIDN’T YOU BE MORE CAREFUL TRYING TO LIFT THE FUCKING LAUNDRY WHAT IF WE BROKE SOMETHING FUCKING OW GODDAMMIT FUCK SHIT FUCKING STUPID BITCH IT WAS THREE FUCKING FEET AWAY YOU COULDA JUST PUSHED THE FUCKING CLOTHES ACROSS THE FLOOR WHY DID YOU TRY TO PICK THEM UP HOLY FUCKING GOD OW OW OW OW FUCK

Eventually, the pain let up enough that I could breathe, and I tried propping my foot up against the wall to elevate it as I lay on the floor, whining a monotone mantra of ow ow ow ow ow the whole time, but my leg didn’t even have the strength to keep my foot up. So I did the next best thing! I curled into fetal position and sobbed my eyes out! With a whole lot of feeling sorry for myself and fuck this disease and it’s not fair and ow ow ow and do I need to go to Urgent Care or not. I eventually got myself up, found that I could in fact put pressure on it but if I turned it any way from there it was suffering city. I fetched an ice pack from the freezer, a soda, and made a little nest out of my bed with my ankle elevated on ice and cried.

It sucked a lot, is what I’m saying. It has been a super shitty stressful week, and it was just the icing. And I lost my shit for awhile, took ativan, made contingency plans to work from home the next day if I needed to, and went to sleep. Eventually. Sort of. In pieces.

So today my ankle is twice its usual size and very tender, but still has full range of motion, even if some of those motions are owwie. So I don’t believe it to be broken, so I decided I didn’t need urgent care to tell me what to do, and took anti-inflammatories, iced my ankle and elevated it and stayed off my feet as much as possible. Cause that’s what they’d say and then charge me money after costing me hours of my life and having to put on real clothes.

And despite all of the crying and hurt and bullshit, I am grateful that I had an army at my disposal at all times. Even though I never reached out to them. If I’d decided to go to the ER last night, I’d have had a handful of available rides. If I’d needed anything today, I’d have had several people willing to bring it to me. Once I announced my stupidity to Facebook, I had many offers of help. At no point did I feel helpless and alone. I was very crisis-management mode once the writhing was over, and even in the writhing I was mentally giving myself a time limit before I called someone for help, and I knew it would be there. That’s awesome and can not be understated. GO GO GODZILLA SQUAD.

I’m giving it another night, and tomorrow I’ll see if I can hobble along with the walker or something. Cause I favor my right foot when walking with the cane, so of course I hurt the left one. And walking with the cane on my left hand feels weird as it’s not my dominant hand. So maybe the walker for a bit. We’ll see. But for now, I have a nest, an ice pack, chemicals for the pain, warm cats, Good Eats on TV, and a friend bringing me dinner later. I’m sitting pretty.

Even if my ankle ain’t so pretty.

You can blame Jack for the title. It’s how he reacted when I told him what happened.

Lalochezia

There’s something magical about swearing.

Lalochezia means relieving stress or pain through swearing. La-Lo-KEE-Zee-Uh. It derives from the Greek words for ‘speech’ (lalia) and defecation (chezo). It is literally Greek for ‘talking shit’. That, too, is magical.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know it’s not just a word, it’s a way of life for me. There are times that swearing IS appropriate, thank you. I’ve always used it to promote catharsis and relief when angry, sad, or stressed out. I swear casually too, but I wish I didn’t. My casual swearing isn’t nearly as profane as my lalocheziac screeds, but I would prefer to keep the swearing to important times. Overuse of the words diminish their power – a mouthbreathing stoner kid using the word ‘fuck’ doesn’t have nearly the same punch as say, a priest using it.

I’m sure you’ve known the relief. That day everything went wrong, your alarm didn’t go off, you missed the bus, you were late to work, the coffee was cold, you realized halfway through the day your underwear was on backwards, the printer jammed, they were out of your favorite thing in the vending machines, your boss griped at you for something out of your control, it suddenly started raining when you left work and you weren’t dressed for it; just, a thousand and one small insults piled up on top of each other all day. And then you got home, kicked off your shoes, grateful to be home and safe, and banged your toe on the couch which made you drop your mail all over the floor. All of the microfrustrations of the day exploded out of you in one vocal outburst.

I bet you didn’t say “darn it”.

There are times when it just isn’t enough to say, “she wasn’t very nice”. “Mannnn, FUCK her.” It doesn’t convey enough of your frustration with the problem to tell someone, “I couldn’t get the door open to get the cat out of the room before he barfed on the carpet”, but it works perfectly when you tell them, “I couldn’t get the fucking door open in time so the cat puked on everyfuckingthing.” And many times I am betting a mental FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!!! brought you a little relief.

And it really did! Studies have proven that swearing brings pain relief. Here’s one, from Scientific American. Mythbusters proved it. And here’s an article in Time that explains why it works best if you don’t normally swear a lot.

SCIENCE IS ON MY SIDE, BITCHES.

I’ve loved that there is a word for it. It delights me when there actually is a word or a term for that thing, like ‘esprit de l’escalier’ for the devastating comeback you think of after the argument’s already over or “semantic satiation” for when you see/hear a word so often it ceases to mean anything. Language is amazing, even if it’s foul. Sometimes, ESPECIALLY when it’s foul. I found out about the Greek meaning a handful of days ago, and was delighted all over again.

I felt a connection to that word, and specifically to what this site is. ALS:FTS has brought me vast relief through swearing about the things that suck, and proclaiming the things that don’t. I get very articulate and sweary when I’m angry, and babbling incomprehensibly when I’m happy, and honestly kind of boring when I’m neither of these things. I like lalochezia as a word, as a concept, and as a therapy. On a whim yesterday, I checked to see if lalochezia.com was available. It was. I toyed briefly with the idea of moving this blog over there, but a bunch of logistical reasons made me leave this alone. Like, domain redirecting and I’ve got cards printed with this URL and all of my email addresses and then what the hell do I do with gifhy.com? I’ve already got two other domains that are just old sites parked somewhere because I can’t bear to bring them down.

And then I had a thought. (It’s rare, but it occurs.) One minor complaint I’ve had about this site is that someone couldn’t freely share it because of the swearing. And I often get people self-editing themselves when they tell me about a bad day, “I feel stupid ranting about this to you when you’ve got real problems”. And that? That is a rant on its own. Which you’ll see. Because it occurs to me that there are a million and one little complaints that we have, all the time, and we don’t feel like we’re allowed to express it properly. We have to be calm and collected instead of just screaming FUCK FUCKFUCKING FUCKER FUCKHEADS!!! at the top of our voice. This site isn’t meant to be nothing but sweary rants, but being allowed to DO that here has brought me peace and catharsis. And I think more people could use that.

I don’t know if it will be a thing people use, but I’ve registered lalochezia.com and I’ve created a safe space for us to vent. Create an account. Prove to me you’re human. And then write about what makes you angry. Use as many swears as you like. The more the better. Complain about everything. Your shitty boss. The barista that shortchanged you. Your vague sense of discomfort and displacement in a dispassionate universe. Or just write the word FUCK 270 times if that makes you feel better.

Let’s fuck shit up.

Not even going to mince words here.

Fuck everything about this image. Fuck the message it conveys, fuck the people who made it, fuck the president of the stupid fucking website it came from.

suffering is not beautiful
suffering is not beautiful

I’ve ranted about this before. And I will again. Because every time I hear something like this, every time I see something like this, I am filled with a rage indescribable in its intensity. I am sitting here, sobbing, because I’m angry. Because I’m afraid of someone thinking they have the power to make this decision on my behalf. And because I can’t make them understand. Short of committing an act of extreme violence or wishing something horrible to happen to a loved one to present them with the opportunity to reconsider their opinion, I am completely unable to make them understand how fucking HATEFUL this is. I want you to look at a dying woman with inoperable cancer and tell her how lucky she is to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ.

In my rage, I typed, “Let me stick a knife in your guts and then while your stomach acid digests you from the inside out, you can tell me how beautiful your suffering is.”

There is no grace, no beauty, and no “opportunity” inherent in terminal disease. There is nothing beautiful about starving to death because you’re unable to eat. There’s nothing graceful about shitting your bed every day. There’s no opportunity to be found while trapped in a shell of meat you’re unable to control, no opportunity when you’re in a hospital bed wracked with pain that the strongest drugs can’t touch, no opportunity while your memories and self slip away until you’re nothing but a meat robot that looks like someone your friends and relatives used to love.

We FIND grace, beauty, and opportunity in dying because we must. Because we have no choice but to laugh at pain, to smile at death, and to accept. Because we can not fathom a world in which suffering is for nothing and pain has no reason or purpose. And when all hope for life is lost, we find a new hope in allowing an end to the torment. In accepting our own death, at last, we find grace in deciding when your limit is reached, beauty in allowing the suffering to end, and opportunity to end things on your own terms, in your own way, in your own time.

Enjoy the life you live, that you are allowed to have such a hateful opinion because you have no idea what it’s like to be close to someone who wants nothing more than a quick end to their inevitable, pointless suffering. Praise Jesus that you don’t have the opportunity to make this decision for yourself because you’ve still got a life ahead of you. And enjoy that you have the opportunity to think you are entitled to make this decision for others.

Because you don’t.

You really fucking don’t.

Spoiler Alert: #everyonedies

Today’s post comes with story time!

Story one:

I’m walking with the cane into the cafe. There’s a girl who works there that I smile and say hello to practically every day. She notices the cane, today. I don’t always bring it down when I get a drink, but today I have. I’m a little wobbly, anymore.

“OH no, did you hurt yourself?”

“No,” I shrug, “I have Lou Gehrig’s. I’ve just gotten weak enough finally that I need this a lot.”

“Oh, god, I’m sorry, I’ve heard of that. Is it painful?”

“Oh no, nothing hurts, really, but it’s just a loss of strength over time. I guess that’s a good thing, nothing hurts even if you ARE dying slowly,” I half-joke.

“Well aren’t we all,” she smiles back.

“Truth,” I tell her, and we part ways.

Story Two:

We’re walking to a restaurant, my coworkers and I. We parked kind of far away, and I’m struggling a little with my cane, to keep up with the crowd.

“Keep up,” he jokes, falling behind to walk next to me.

“I’m trying,” I tell him, grinning. “Y’all bastards walk too fast.”

“Well maybe you’re not trying hard enough to keep up,” he teases.

“Yeah sorry, everything’s slow with me. Neurons burning out, walking, you name it. I’m *sorry* I am slowly dying,” I joke.

“Well, everyone’s dying,” he shrugs.

“Some of us just take the fast track,” I tell him.

The Rant

Please, please stop saying “well technically everyone is dying”.

Please.

It’s like when the cashier is ringing up your stuff and something doesn’t scan and you snort, “well I guess it’s free.” It’s a dumb joke, everyone’s made it, she’s heard it a thousand times. And it’s already old and it wasn’t funny in the first place and you’re not that clever, just pay for your shit and leave. And you know it’s a dumb thing to say, but you said it anyway, and will say it again, but everyone politely laughs even though no one thinks it’s clever.

Only, …no. Okay. It’s not really so much like that. It’s..

It’s dismissive as FUCK is what it is. Yeah, okay I get it, everyone is dying slowly. We are all biding time until our own demise. Everyone, eventually dies. MEMENTO MORI.

When you tell me, “yeah well we’re all dying, right?” I know you’re trying to soften the blow. You’re trying to comfort me in a way, to include me with the rest of the human race, telling me that death is normal and it’s okay. To make light of the situation. And I will always, always joke back.

But I don’t want to.

What I WANT to say is “fuck you”. You’re completely dismissing my death. You’re diminishing the sadness of my struggle. You’re telling me that I’m nothing special, that my disease is no big deal. Everyone dies. So what? My disease will kill me but hey, everyone eventually dies anyway so what does it matter? What do YOU matter? What are you whining about? Everyone dies, so what.

So what? Yes, everyone dies. But YOUR book has a billion potential endings. Boating accident! Heart attack! Cancer! Pneumonia! Peacefully in your sleep with your loved one by your side! Gun accident~! You could die of ANYTHING! You could die during sex! You could die from mountain climbing and being exposed to the elements! You could join an international drug cartel and be gunned down on the private air strip in Boca Raton when Louie rats you out! You NEVER should have trusted Louie! You could fall on the sidewalk and hit your head JUST SO and become brain dead until your tearful mother signs the paperwork and they pull your plug. Choose Your Own Adventure Death! If you would like to die of accidental CO2 poisoning, turn to page 56!

My Choose Your Own Adventure book has three possible endings. A long, lingering loss of ability and strength, humiliation, frustration, and fear that ends in…..

OPTION ONE! Sudden accident. I mean, anyone can get hit by a car, randomly, or some freak accident, lightning strike, store robbery gone wrong. Anything could unexpectedly kill me. We’re even on that front.

OPTION TWO! Suffocation! I choke on my own spit, unable to breathe because my muscles have all atrophied and I can’t swallow or take a breath and eventually I choke to death. Drowned in my own spit.

OPTION THREE! Suicide! I decide somewhere along the story that I’ve had JUST ABOUT ENOUGH, thank you, and take some pills if I can still swallow, or push the meds into my guts via feeding tube.

THAT’S IT. Those are my options. Your roadmap to life has a lot of lingering little trails and you never know where they’re going to take you. You might decide to become a mountain climber at 60, you might die tonight, you might waste your life away at some meaningless job until you have a heart attack at your desk. Your maps are open and wide and the ends aren’t known but the possibilities are endless. My map branches three ways, and there are many many stops along the way. Loss of walking. That cuts off a thousand roads. Loss of hand/arm movement. Well there’s a ton of other destinations crossed off my map. Unable to eat. Well that’s a lot of stuff closed off to me, what with the wheelchair and the feeding tube and hell, you need a special van to travel now, you can’t just pick up and go. So my destinations are the trauma ward, a palliative care hospital bed, or a dose of pentobarbital in a place of my choice.

We’re all dying. Some of us have our stories written, and the endings are not happy. There is no happy ending for ALS. And when you compare your unwritten book to my Cliff Notes, it’s insulting.

Your story probably does not have chapters in it about falling for absolutely no reason and getting a really horrible looking scratch out of it but not allowing yourself to show pain because the people you’re with are freaking out that you fell and you have to assure them you’re okay. It probably does not feature you cleaning out a cat box and breaking out in a sweat over that small, stupid effort. It probably does not feature a feeding tube or respirator as a given course. It likely does not have six introspective chapters, each titled some variation of HOLY SHIT I AM GOING TO DIE IN A REALLY FUCKED UP NIGHTMARE WAY AND I KNOW IT’S COMING. Your story might have a little chapter about being embarrassed in front of someone when screwing up something you were trying to say, but I doubt it has six paragraphs afterwards wondering if that was a one time fluke or is it a sign your tongue is starting to atrophy too? Did I enunciate when I was on the call with my manager earlier? Is this guy saying ‘what’ because he didn’t quite catch what I said or because I have lost the ability to speak and he literally has no idea what I just said? Your book has going to work and going shopping, but does it have a pre-chapter about managing a ride that isn’t going to be too hard for you, or not purchasing #thing because you’re not sure you can lift it up in the cupboard where you’d like it to go? Your story’s ending is unwritten. Mine is written in stone, carved by hands that no longer have the power to pick up a chisel.

Telling me “everyone dies” is the same as co-opting #blacklivesmatter into #alllivesematter. You’re technically correct AND YOU ARE COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT. And diluting the original message with your vapid need to be included. Of COURSE everyone dies. Of COURSE all lives matter. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW. You are dismissing the message and selfishly, HORRIBLY, turning the story about you. In telling you that I am dying, I am not saying no one else dies and no one else has to mourn. I am not dismissing the value of your mortality. I’m not denying your story has an end. I’m telling you mine is brief. As someone put it, by saying “save the rainforests” I am not saying “fuck all the other kinds of forests, they’re deserving of destruction”. By saying black lives matter, it’s not to say others DON’T. To say that I’m dying is not to say that you aren’t.

It’s the same, also, as when you tell a friend your woes and s/he says, “That’s okay, I lost my job today.” IT IS NOT OKAY. YOUR PAIN DOES NOT DIMINISH MINE. You have a right to your suffering, and it does not trump or cancel out anyone else’s. People will often try to one-up your sadness, and I’m guilty of doing this too, sometimes, and it’s a horrible, horrible thing to do. I don’t understand what the point of it is. I see your suffering and raise you “my keys got locked in my car”. Your pain doesn’t matter, because I have a completely unrelated circumstance that I somehow have determined is more impactful than yours and therefor I am suffering worse and I WIN at the FML game! And LOSE at Friendship and Human Interactions! And I leave with a parting gift of making your situation worse by dumping all over you when you wanted comfort from me! I’m going to put that statement again in its own line, because it’s important.

YOUR PAIN DOES NOT DIMINISH MINE.

We are all dying. Some of us just know the way. And if you don’t, then I’m happy for you. Seriously. I rejoice with you in not knowing your end. It’s an amazing, free world of possibilities and I’m delighted you get to dance in that sunshine. I will read my own story, and dance as long as I can, while the rain comes, before I’m washed away. Both of our stories are fantastic pieces of literature, but because I got a sneak peak into the last chapter, it doesn’t make my book any less worth reading. Your book’s unknown end chapter doesn’t make your book better than mine, or different. And when I tell you the plot, you don’t have to tell me that EVERYONE’S story finishes. Because of course it does. I was just trying to tell you about mine for a second.

And I joke about it, because it’s a sad thing and I try to keep things light; but I want you to know that it’s crushing when you dismiss me like that. Everyone dies. Yes. This is an unfortunate fact. A fact that does not change that I have a terrible disease and I’d like to be able to talk about it without it being diminished to a non-problem by the words “everyone dies”. You don’t need to one-up this. You don’t WANT to one-up this. It’s okay. Just say ‘sorry’ or shrug and agree, or laugh with me about it, or tell me to man the fuck up, tell me anything but that I am insignificant because of course everyone dies. And none of this matters. Because I fucking matter. If I didn’t, you wouldn’t be wasting your breath to piss me off with those words.

Everyone dies.

Some of us have a story they’d like to tell, before that happens. Not because they think it’s the best book. Not because they don’t think you have one, too. But because they think it’s worth reading. So, thank you for reading mine, so far. I hope it’s been worth it.

Everyone dies, but I guess not everyone gets to blog about it, yeah?

Betrayal

I’m not sure it’s possible to put into words how it feels when your own body betrays you. It’s like Lemony Snicket said about the loss of a loved one: “‘If you have ever lost a loved one, then you know exactly how it feels. And if you have not, then you cannot possibly imagine it.” If you’ve had your body just stop working the way it ought, you know how it feels. And if you haven’t? You can’t possibly imagine it. I can’t properly convey the complicated feelings it invokes. But it’s not gonna stop me from trying.

So.

Falling down.

I’m becoming good at it. By which I mean, I haven’t broken anything yet!

They come with no warning. There’s no preparing, there’s no prevention except possibly living in a bubble and/or strapping in to a wheelchair already/never doing anything ever. One leg or another just suddenly says NOPE and then I’m on the ground. It happened today while I was walking to the title office to sign over my house. I was walking slowly, I had my cane, I was watching for uneven sidewalks, but I was just …on the ground suddenly. There is a split second of OH SHIT I AM ABOUT TO FALL and then gravity. There’s nothing you can do about it. I scraped my knee a bit, wrenched my ankle a little because it’s a whiny bitch that can’t do its job right, and roughed up my palm, but it didn’t really hurt. I managed, in my wobbly goose ascent, to mostly land on my butt. There were no witnesses.

The WORST part was trying to get the hell back up. The cane was mostly useless, I need two hands to haul myself up anymore. I gave it a couple tries, like a newborn deer trying its legs out for the first time, but SCREW those little baby deer, man, they got FOUR legs and I only got two that don’t work. I sat/knelt on the sidewalk for a minute, surveying my surroundings, trying to figure out how I was gonna do this. To my left, shrubbery and then a little steel fence. The fence is perfect, but the shrubbery is an obstacle. To my right, freshly watered grass and a tree. I sacrificed my clean pants and opted for the slightly muddy track to the tree. Kneeling in the dirt, I planted my heels against the sidewalk and kinda pushed myself up against the tree. Once I got back to my feet, I was fine.

There wasn’t a lot of angst involved in the process. Just quick thinking and scheming and logistics. The thinking/feeling comes AFTER I’ve solved the immediate problem. And my thought process was almost entirely:

WHAT THE SHITTING FUCK, BODY?! I THOUGHT WE WERE A GODDAMNED TEAM. WHAT IS THIS RANDOMLY DROPPING MY ASS ON TO THE SIDEWALK BULLSHIT?! DO YOU WANT ICE CREAM? ARE YOU BLACKMAILING ME FOR ICE CREAM? WELL GUESS WHAT, SHITHEAD, WE GOTTA WALK TO THE STORE FOR THAT. AND THAT MEANS NOT DROPPING US ON THE SIDEWALK FOR NO FUCKING REASON.

I’m trying, I really am, my body says back. It’s just hard. Everything is so much harder than it used to be.

YEAH OKAY I GIVE YOU THAT I MEAN FUCK WE ARE SWEATING BUCKETS HERE FROM JUST WALKING TWO BLOCKS EVEN IF IT WASN’T ASININELY HOT OUT ALREADY. BUT FUCK, MAN, COULDN’T YOU HAVE DROPPED US SOMEWHERE I COULD GET UP WITHOUT GETTING OUR PANTS MUDDY?

You have as much warning as I do. I’m sorry. The last few weeks have been rough, maybe we could take it easier for a little bit?

WELL SURE I WOULD REALLY LIKE THAT, BUT WE HAVE TO DO THIS ONE THING TODAY. WE HAVE TO DO THIS AND THEN WE WILL BE DONE WITH THE HOUSE WITH THE STAIRS FOREVER.

…Ugh. Stairs. I’m so glad we’re done with those.

WORD. AND ANYWAY DIDN’T WE GET LIKE, ALLLLLL THE SLEEP ON MONDAY?

We did? But I don’t feel rested at all. You’ll have to take that up with Brain.

hey look dudes it’s been a rough coupla weeks a’ight i’m having a hard time dealing with all this at once so maybe just back off okay

WELL NO SHIT IT’S BEEN ROUGH, YOU WON’T SHUT UP. IF YOU’D JUST LET US GET THROUGH THIS STUFF MAYBE WE COULD NOT SUCK SO BAD AT LIFE AND FALL AND SHIT.

Yeah!

hey fuck you body you’re the problem in the first place you know if you weren’t killing us all by deciding to shut down then there would be no stress over house sales and we would not have fallen probably i’m just saying and we could stay in the zombie tramp house cause we like that place but no you can’t even get up the stairs without sweating like a little bitch

SHE HAS A POINT.

Fuck you both, alright? Can we just get to the signing so we can get on with the day?

WELL I DON’T KNOW, BODY. THAT IS KIND OF UP TO YOU.

Oh. Right.

hahah fuck you loser

OKAY LET’S DO THIS, OKAY. AND BODY, MAYBE YOU CAN STOP DUMPING US ON THE SIDEWALKS SO MUCH.

not to be a dick or anything but maybe we should get an actual walker so if this happens again we can get up off the ground easier and maybe it won’t happen so much cause we’ll be more stable and stuff

…YEAH. YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT. FUCK. WELL LET’S JUST GET THROUGH THIS SIGNING OKAY AND THEN WE CAN DEAL WITH THAT.

ok man whatever hey body you ready to do this shit

Yeah. Hey, sorry. I mean…I really am trying. But everything’s so much harder, you know? I’m sorry this sucks so bad. I’m trying.

YEAH. I KNOW. I’M SORRY FOR YELLING..I MEAN, I’m sorry for yelling. We’ve been dealt a shit hand and I need to be nicer to you. I’m sorry. We’ll get through this. I know you don’t mean to be unreliable. I mean, you’re what gets bruised and scraped up after all. I just get embarrassed.

and you know uh also reminded that we’re gonna die sooner than later in a pretty shitty way but maybe that’s just me cause i mean a fall is a pretty clear indicator of decline and stuff but hey

Okay yeah, that too, but that comes later. Usually. But of course now that you’ve brought it up. Fuck. Yeah. I guess I am falling more, lately. They’ve already asked if I want a chair but I ..I just don’t think I’m ready for it, I mean I thought I was getting around okay and so far nothing really bad has happened when we fell, besides freaking out bystanders.

…dick move, brain.

just saying

We hate that phrase, brain, and you know it. It makes us sound like a complete tool. You could replace ‘just saying’ with ‘I’m an asshole’ and still convey the exact same message.

Okay, you two. Fuck it. Let’s go sign away our dream house.

Ok. I’ll get us there. Just go slow.

hey though seriously you know we’re gonna be a’ight though, right cause i mean we’re doing good all things considered and we have peeps at our back and it’s gonna be okay

Yeah. I know. This sale happened quickly, for much more than we thought we’d get, we had so so many friends show up to help, and Justin did all the post work so we didn’t have to. Seriously we’re pretty goddamned lucky, all things considered. Let’s go sign some paperwork.

Can we get ice cream afterwards?

fuck yeah ice cream

Hell yes we can. Let’s do this shit.

Moved

Last Saturday, the hottest day of the year so far, I moved from the Zombie Tramp House to my 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment. The Zombie Halfway House of Ill-Repute.*

I had a whole gaggle of people show up to help. I was as prepared (stuff-wise) as I could possibly be for the event, disease and time permitting. Though still not as prepared as I’d have liked, I’ll grant you. I have a personal pet peeve about showing up to help someone move and they’re not even ready to do this thing. Like…I’ve had to do dishes, then pack the dishes, then move the dishes. YOU KNOW THIS EVENT IS COMING UP. PUT YOUR SHIT IN BOXES. IT MAKES IT EASIER AND HELPS YOUR SHIT NOT TO GET BROKEN. Some last minute things and cleanup is inevitable, but OH MY GOD PEOPLE WHY IS YOUR CLOTHING NOT IN BOXES YET. I try really, really hard to not be that person. So not only was most of my stuff in boxes, it was pushed out in to the hallway when I could, to make maneuvering as quick as possible.

And it worked! The guys (and gal) had everything in the driveway and front room, ready to rock, by the time we got back with the truck. I had a lot of friends work hard in stupid heat, and I was done in record time. I got the truck at 10:30, it was back to the U-Haul before 3. One last round to get the cats and all my groceries, and then I was all moved! With an hour to spare to get ready to go see Eddie Izzard perform (PROTIP: GO SEE EDDIE IZZARD PERFORM. HE IS A MAGICAL HUMAN BEING MADE OF UNICORN RAINBOWS AND SARCASM).

And Sunday, I was alone in my new apartment.

…which was the problem.

I had been frantically preparing for this move for a few weeks. As much to not be that person, as to keep my brain busy. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about the house being sold. Don’t think of your dream home in someone else’s hands. Don’t think about this being the first major loss to ALS. Don’t think about the sheer magnitude of work that’s going to need doing to find the next place. Don’t think about THAT place as temporary, too. Don’t think about this being the last Saturday you will ever sleep in at the house you own. Don’t think about this being the last time you’ll have to clean your kitchen floor. Don’t think about this being the last shower in a house you own. Don’t think about it. Don’t think. Don’t.

Sunday, I crashed. Left to my own devices, and with sweltering heat besides, I slept a lot. I went out for brunch with a friend, with the intention of going out and running errands and buying things that I needed for the new space, but found myself falling asleep at the table when he went to the restroom. He brought me back to the apartment, and I slept some more. I moved some furniture around, hooked up my TV and made my bed, and slept.

I called off work Monday. “I wrecked myself,” I told my coworkers in an email, “clearly I should have chiggity-checked myself.” And then I slept. I woke around 11AM, answered an email from my realtor, rolled over, and slept. 4PM I woke, with the intention of putting my PC together, and stared at my desk for 10 minutes before just sort of…collapsing out of my chair in to a heap on the office floor and lying there for probably twenty minutes, just staring at the wall. I went back to bed. 7PM I woke up, used the bathroom, fed the cats, unpacked my socks and underwear, and went back to bed. I just had no power to do anything else.

I’m not stupid, I know what depression is. And this? This is it. After all of everything, and a REALLY shitty week last week, I finally crashed and depression grabbed me by the jugular and shook hard. And I bled out and slept.

It’s still there, very much, but I managed to get to work today and do some things. My body is so fucking TIRED but my mind is going a million miles a minute. The sale is not quite final, there’s last-minute fuckery going on. I’m not quite out of the house yet, there was still some storage stuff and a couple of fans and cleaning materials, and then I have to clean everything up to make it presentable to its new owners, just as I’d wanted it presented to me but got a filthy house full of broken and useless shit instead. So much unpacking to do before this apartment is even navigable, much less livable. And so much to do after that before it’s mine. I have medical forms to fill out and new bills to pay and addresses to change. This afternoon, sitting at my desk at work, I cried, overwhelmed at how much was left, how much I had to do, and wishing someone would just fucking DO it for me.

I got a voice mail from some inspection company to reschedule an inspection I didn’t even know was happening at my house. That I still own. They’re doing work on the Zombie House to prep it for the final sale, now, and apparently the buying broker doesn’t think it’s necessary to actually let the owner of the house know that strangers are going to be there, working. I chatted up Justin, the Wunderbruder, and asked him when he was free to help me clear out the rest of the stuff at my house, to make the last storage run. He said he’d already moved all the straggler stuff into the garage, and just needed to sweep it out.

I said he was amazing, and he said Nope. Just a crazy white guy.

I told him it sounded like he had it mostly sorted out, and asked if he needed me; he said, “My thought was to bring to your place what goes there, get the storage key and code, stop back by the old house and get the remaining stuff out of the garage.”

And just like that, my brother had already sorted my shit and had a plan and I didn’t have to do ANYTHING.

“That way,” he said, “you can focus your energy on your new place.”

And I fucking cried. Totally lost my shit at my desk in front of my Sea-Monkeys and everything. Because he was an answer to my desperate prayer. I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t have to ask. And I can’t even tell you how much that allowed me to just…fucking…BREATHE. For a minute. For a couple of minutes.

He has my back. I never doubted this. All of my friends have my back. I have never doubted this either, though this weekend was serious and hardcore proof. But to have him here, to have him step up and just…fuck. Just. Fuck. Without even….fuck. I can’t even tell you. Grateful. SO fucking grateful. He quiets my brain and I know I’m taken care of. And every time I tell him he’s amazing, he says, “Nope.” But he lies. In my darkest moments, I know I can pull through this because of the love of the people surrounding me. I don’t know what I did to deserve this much light, and this much love, and just..fuck. Yeah. So much love. And gratitude. And just…fuck. All of it. Everything.

Sometimes angels are real. Even if they used to punch you in the head when you were kids.

*That’s from a Dresden Dolls lyric. I’m not that clever.

Complicated

“It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases – one was Alzheimer’s, and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer’s.” -Terry Pratchett

“Complicated.”

It’s become my go-to phrase when people ask how I’m doing. “Life is complicated.” Check off that box on Facebook, I am officially in a relationship with ALS and It’s Complicated.

Nothing is simple. Everything is terrible, and everything is wonderful. I am cursed and blessed. And everything is complicated. I have, as the late and very great Sir Terry Pratchett said, two diseases. Two minds. The ALS mind and the Knowing I Have ALS Mind. I call them Future and Fatality. They argue constantly over everything I do, every plan I make is scrutinized by both sides, every human interaction is watched with both minds. Future is all about the practicality of the day to day, maintaining a sense of normal through all of this chaos. Fatality is about the hard reality that my time is very much abbreviated and some allowances must be made. Future is the one saying I have to work until I can’t, so as to prolong the quality of my life and finances for as long as possible. Fatality is the one saying FUCK THIS, we are DYING, who the fuck wants to work until all quality of life is gone?! Let’s spend our money making the last days AWESOME. Future says, yeah, but we still have to go to fucking work tomorrow, you moron. Disney World souvenirs don’t buy themselves.

They’re both right.

…It’s complicated.

There is definitely some sense of maintenance of the status quo that’s necessary. Continuing to work not only provides a stronger income than I’ll get on disability, but it’s feeding me a sense of normality, and there’s a great comfort in the routine. I can handle this. Yes. I’m dying. But there’s still work to be done. The floors still need swept, the cats need feeding, and while I’d like to do nothing but sleep, that’s not going to help anything. I can continue because I must, life is moving and so I, too, have to continue to move. Acknowledge that I am not dead yet.

There are definitely concessions that need to be made. Considerations to signing a 30 year mortgage that I know goddamned well I’m not going to see the end of. Allowances to make life fun while I still have the ability to participate. Plans to make so that memories are made and things don’t get left undone. Write your fucking will. Go ahead and spend some money on stupid things because I know in my heart that it doesn’t even matter. Make myself as happy as I can, while I can. Acknowledge that I am not dead yet, but WILL be.

Their key arguing lately has been about living situations. It’s amazing what will trigger me and what won’t, and unfortunately I never know until it happens. I can brace myself for things I think will be problematic, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes it’s the stupidest shit that trips me up. And it changes from day to day. Some days I think living with Danielle will be just fine, and some days I think I will do anything within my power to live alone until I absolutely can’t. It’s not about living with her, it’s about living with ANYONE. Some days I accept financial advice with grace, and some days it’s FUCK YOU I KNOW HOW TO SPEND MY FUCKING MONEY LIKE A MOTHERFUCKING ADULT. I HAVE GOTTEN THIS FAR, YOU KNOW. I AM NOT STUPID. Anger comes up unexpectedly, avoidance gets triggered, there are hurt feelings and tears and anger and misunderstandings, and later you sort through it all and you don’t know what happened, even after.

My main babe and I had a huge thing last week. I wouldn’t call it a fight. It was a..surprise boundary test that went very poorly. Plans kind of got put on hold, and I wound up making a rash concession that I had to withdraw and I feel fucking awful about it. Lines were drawn. Many many tears were shed and for a few days there, ativan was popped like candy to try to stave off the panic attacks that just kept coming. It cemented our need for couples counseling. It brought up a lot of good questions. It hurt a lot of feelings. I really, really can’t accept help gracefully and need to work on that. I need to draw lines and feel comfortable, as the center circle, maintaining them. Even if I’m wrong, I’m in charge of my own care. And even if I’m right, other peoples’ opinions are valid. Even if I choose to ignore them in favor of what I want. And a lot of times, I don’t know what the fuck I want.

It was complicated.

We’re still okay, of course, we love each other to pieces and that’s never going to change. It was a surprisingly brutal and hurtful exploration of caregiver/cared-for relationships and I did not like it one bit. And it’s going to continue to happen, and we’re both going to get stronger for it, and it’s going to fucking SUCK while it happens. I hate making her life hard. But I can’t help but do so. Fucking ALS.

I wound up looking for, and finding, an apartment of my own in the interim. My house closes on the 6th of July, but the housing market is extraordinarily chaotic right now, so finding another place to buy is impossible. Especially when I don’t even know what the fuck I’m LOOKING for, and things I am okay with on paper suddenly turn in to panic-inducing dealbreakers. So I am going to live in an apartment, and continue to be alone while I can, and get through life with my best babe and my awesome planets in orbit as best as we can manage. Looking for an apartment is always shitty, and right now rents are INSANE – I wound up accepting an apartment that is 2 bedroom and less than half the size of my house with 6 square feet of patio and a tiny kitchen for $50 less than my goddamned mortgage. And I’m having a really hard time with it. I sit here, typing this, looking out at my amazing back yard that will be someone else’s in a month’s time. I walk the floors I installed myself, I sleep in the room I had not even finished carving out for myself, I sign a lease with all of these rules and regulations that being a homeowner just didn’t have. And it’s hard. I’m glad I found a place and have a place to land, but losing this dream of mine is hard. I’m grateful the work is lessened, happy to have less space to maintain in my lesser state, but goddammit this was MY HOUSE. Future is happy that I’m being so practical about it and is planning the move, and Fatality is punching holes in things when she’s not crying her eyes out.

It’s complicated.

Yesterday we moved all of the extraneous stuff that had been taken down for staging, all of my books and DVDs and winter clothes and decorations and baking gear. We put it in storage. It was a really hot day and we all sweated a lot. The heat kept my mind from wondering if I’ll ever unpack some of these boxes. My ability is waning every day, and the longer I wait to find my proper space, the less power I will have to make it my own. I sacrifice my future nesting to further my independence today. And the weekend was a constant reminder of my lessening ability. My handwriting, as I filled out the lease paperwork, was atrocious. My hands are suffering and I am trying desperately not to just freak the fuck out all day, every day. My stupid feet grew wrong and I’ve got nasty bunions on both my feet, and because of the muscle loss, the bone is barely covered with a little bit of skin and it rubs and pinches and is excruciating no matter what shoes I wear – but the only real fix is surgery, and do I seriously want to give up even MORE mobility to get it corrected? Every movement costs more energy than ever before, and even though I wasn’t allowed to move boxes, I am physically DONE from this weekend. DONE DONE DONE. I am tired and sad and grateful – so fucking grateful – to my friends and brother for coming to my rescue on a miserable day. I put them all through a rough day, and they loved me enough to stay. And though I was grieving, I was grateful.

Future is kind of pissed off that I spent so much money for the lease and renting storage space, because that’s money we could be putting away, and it’s really impractical when I know I’m just going to have to give in eventually anyway. Fatality is flipping her the bird and patting my head and telling me it’s going to be alright even though we both know she’s lying. Usually I side with Future, but right now she can fuck off. I have to leave this house that I love, and it’s cruel that it’s so much work to make that happen. Fatality knows we have people who will help and just chill the fuck out and maybe play some video games tonight instead of worrying about it.

I guess this post kind of wandered all over the place. Sorry. My brain is full, I am mourning my loss of independence even as I struggle stupidly to hang on to a shred of it at great expense, I am obsessing over every detail even as I am actively avoiding thinking about any of it. And hopefully figure out the fine line between standing up for what I want and deciding my own fate, and being a goddamned idiot who needs to admit that she’s not as strong as she wants to be. To learn to accept help gratefully while still asserting control over what help I accept. Stubbornness versus weakness, and strength perceived as stubbornness versus self delusion perceived as assertion. And I usually can’t even tell which is which.

All my life, and now so more than ever, I am very, very complicated.

Controversy and Community

I attended a symposium on ALS research today. As a result, my brain’s kinda full. Full of information, full of renewed energy to be a part of the solution, full of the obligatory introspection.

Oh, introspection. The knee-jerk “how does this all affect me” reaction to Serious Things.

So I apologize if this point is disjointed. My brain is random today and I’d really like to write up a full thing about the symposium and everything involved with it, I know that I probably won’t be arsed to do it. So instead, I’ma just barftype what’s on my mind. You’re warned. Two things come to mind, though, two main ideas that went through my brain repeatedly as I listened to three very, very smart people talk about advocacy, research, and a promising drug therapy, in their turns.

One? Thank god for science. Jeebus Christmastime flapjacks. The third speaker, specially, spoke about laboratory mice and their contributions, and the second spoke about stem cell therapy involving foetal spinal stem cells. Both highly controversial. Live animals, dead babies. Dead *potential* babies, I suppose, depending on your beliefs and politics. I don’t care to get into that. What I DO care about is how fucking USEFUL these research methods are, how sometimes really horrible things produce really amazing and life changing things, and how every day those decisions must be reevaluated. “Sacrifices must be made” is such simplistic bullshit, but I can not fathom how we’d get on without some of the amazing research and therapies and information that comes out of doing things not everyone agrees with.

I firmly believe that even the most staunch OMG DED BABIZ U MURDRER SINETISTS BASTURDS protester, if diagnosed with fast progressing ALS and told “there is promising research that may lead to a halt or reversal in your symptoms” will probably suddenly think that well, okay, maybe just ONE dead baby. That would be okay. One dozen babies in my spine to keep me walking and alive suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, I mean…Just as “NO YOU MUST LIVE WITH WHAT GOD GAVE TO YOU” might think differently about assisted dying. Until you are personally affected, until the decision could conceivably have some import to you personally, your opinion doesn’t carry much weight. You really, really don’t know, CAN’T know, what you really believe until it’s challenged and you face some really fucked up choices. While you’re safe from the consequences of that decision, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions for people who ARE affected. I’m looking at you, old white guys making reproductive rights decisions for women. And you, PETA person. If your kid had cancer, and I told you that 2000 mice have to die in order to give your kid a chance to live? I bet you’d be suddenly less enamored of mousey rights. Maybe skip the hypotheticals and ask people who actually DEAL with the consequence.

*stepping off the soap box*

Oh, idea one point five – saint preserve us from everyone who has “read an article”. Especially off of the internet. You guys pipe down, too. The three panelists do this for a living. They’ve probably read that article. There’s a reason it’s not called out in the slides.

Point two, and the main one, is amazement at the sense of community with ALS peeps. I have met, and kept in touch with, and care about, people I’d never in my life have met otherwise. I’m antisocial (despite what Danielle says (or at least highly socially avoidant)) and it was a bit weird to come to the symposium today and know some of the people there. Simply because we’ve been similarly touched by a disease. Nothing else in common. Just..yeah, I have this disease too, ain’t it shit? Diagnosis comes with an education, and ALS particularly comes with a community. People I see so infrequently, and yet we have something that connects us on a level that no one else could possibly share.

I learned today that a disease is considered “rare” if less than 200,000 Americans have it. The number thrown around for ALS is usually 30,000, but I also learned today that the ALS registry puts it at more like 12,000. That’s really not many. My employer has 17,000 employees in my area, for example. All Americans with ALS are outnumbered by people working in one metro area for one company. So when you find someone else in your area that even remotely understands, you take note of that person and make an effort to keep them around. There’s nothing like being able to share on a deep and intuitive level what you’re going through. Because even though other people might understand on a theoretical level, it’s a completely different thing to find someone that you can just make eye contact with and say, “Fucking ALS.” and they say “yeah.” and …yeah, to their very SOUL they know exactly what you mean. Because fucking ALS. And because you know how shitty it is, you feel similarly compelled to help someone else in the same position to make their situation suck less. So you stick together, and exchange ideas, and cry for each other, and celebrate the triumphs of perfect strangers with whom you only share one horrible, horrible affliction.

So I guess I have a better understanding of why Harry Potter/Supernatural crossover porn forums exist.

Assisting the Assistance

One of the most common questions I get asked is some variant of “what can I do for you?” or “how can I help?” or “what do you need?” It’s a common response to finding out someone is in distress, when the situation is too large to process at once. It’s a natural instinct, to want to exert some kind of control over a situation that makes you powerless. Okay, it sucks that you have a terminal disease, what tiny little piece can I work at to make it suck a little less? There must be SOMETHING. Anything.

You know the absolute best thing you can do, for anyone going through A Big Deal?

Take care of their caregiver.

The Big Deal sucks for the person who is center circle, no question. But it ALSO sucks for the people around them – as Dr. Doug McClure told me, “You’ll find it’s not that YOU have been diagnosed, WE have been diagnosed.” The caregiver is responsible for keeping everything together when the diagnosed no longer can. They do everything from making/getting to doctor visits to cleaning house to coordinating visits to making sure they’re wearing clean socks. Lifting spirits and lifting patients. Finding hope and finding the damn car keys.

Dying sucks, and there’s a lot of planning and work and Massive Introspective Soul Searching ™ involved, but comparatively? My job is easy. I just gotta die. Whether I work at it or not, the end for me is the same. I just have to let it happen. Danielle, though, she has to plan and prep and care and organize and clean and all the things I can’t, from here on out. It’s a really big deal in its own right. Later on in our joyful journey of doom, if I just let things happen without working at it, I’m pretty much where I was either way. If she lets things happen without working at it? I won’t eat. She worries about keeping my house clean, making sure I’m not expending too much energy, researches places to live, and is pretty much an unpaid personal assistant.

…The woman cleaned up cat poop this weekend to spare me having to spend a spoon to do so. CAT POOP. THAT IS LOVE, PEOPLE. She’s signed on to scoop cat boxes for NOT EVEN HER CAT.

It’s a tough job but it doesn’t have to be thankless. I’ve done thankless jobs, and they’re soul-draining. I’ve done really shitty jobs happily, because I was appreciated for it. It’s amazing how far a thank you goes. An honest, sincere word of thanks. A “hey, I know this thing took up all your weekends for a month and I’m sorry I can’t pay you for it, but let me take you to lunch at least”. Taking a second out of your life to say “I appreciate the hell out of what you’re doing.”

I’ve said it before: it is fucking AMAZING how helpful it is, to simply have someone just acknowledge what you’re doing is hard.

So if you want to do something for me? Do something for Danielle. Buy her a freakin’ Jamba Juice or something. Ask her how you can help share her burden. She needs people to care for her. Someone to give her a break sometimes. And mostly? People to recognize that what she is doing is HARD. She is shifting her entire life to be there for me. People need to appreciate and acknowledge that sacrifice. I appreciate the ever loving SHIT out of her, and it will be extremely helpful to me if others do, too.

Vocabulary

In addition to changes to my lifestyle, I’ve made changes to my vocabulary. I thought maybe you would like to know these words, too, because they’re verbal shortcuts, easy ways to explain something, so long as the person you’re dealing with knows these words, too. So! Some of these are specific to me, and I realize that people reading this might not understand. Then there are some that are REALLY useful in dealing with terminal diseases, and the people who have them. It includes reading other pages. That’s right, I just gave you homework. Deal with it. *sunglasses descend*

MY WORDZ, LET ME SHOW YOU IT:

Godzilla Disorder/Disease
This is how my friends and I refer to ALS. It got that name before I knew what it was, it was just a better phrase than “whatever the hell is wrong with me”. My main babe Danielle came up with it, as I was trying to figure out what to tell people when they asked why I was limping. “Just tell them you got attacked by Godzilla. In the legs.”

Get-Ups
These are different than spoons (definition of that to come). There is a specific number of times I can get up, out of a chair, out of a car, off the floor. Once I’m upright, it’s fine, but the effort of getting up takes more out of me than a lot of other activities. It’s like…it takes more gas to stop and start a car at a stop light than to leave it idling. Same principle. Once I’m standing, it’s fine, but there are only so many times a day I can get my ass vertical.

General Vocabulary, reporting for duty, SIR!

Silk Circle
http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407
If you only read one thing from this list, it needs to be this. This is how to behave when someone is having a hard time. This is how trauma works. Comfort in, dump out. THIS IS IMPORTANT. There is no better way to put this, and no better way to behave.

Spoons

The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino



This is basically the idea that a terminally ill, or chronically ill, person has a very specific allotment of daily energy units. Mana, if you like (you nerd). You spend these points throughout your day, and when they’re gone, that’s it. Game over. You think “Going to work” is one unit. But no. Every little thing that you don’t even think about (getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, put your clothes on) takes one point. It’s good language to check in. “How are your spoons?” “I’m kinda running on a spoon deficit today, sorry, I can’t go.” “Are you gonna have enough spoons to do all that?”

Also? she totally stole a spoon from that cafe.

Holding Space

What it means to “hold space” for people, plus eight tips on how to do it well


This is a relatively new one for me. I haven’t talked about it here before. This is the idea that sometimes, the absolute best thing you can do for someone, and usually the HARDEST thing to do, is hold space for someone. Just stand by, and be available if they need you. Don’t interfere or get involved if they don’t want you to. Just be on standby for when they do. It’s really hard to stand by and be non judgmental and simply offer support; but I want you to know that it’s the absolute best thing you can EVER do for anyone having a hard time. Just, say you’re there to help, and then back off. Hold space for me. And I’ll hold space for you. I can’t promise I’ll be perfect at it, I’m still learning. But I’ll do my level best.

There are certain to be words to come. There are always new things. New swear words, if nothing else.

Bad Days

I’m having a bad day.

Some days are fine, some days are normal, and some days it all just fucking gets to me.

I found out today that a dear friend has stage 4 cancer and was given 4 – 8 weeks. Maybe 9 months with chemo. And he and his wife are wonderful, amazing people and they don’t deserve this at all and just, just..

FUCK.

And I offered what assistance I can offer, what I’ve learned about the bureaucracy of dying, and just..fuck, man. It’s been weird and wonderful to watch the sudden outpouring of love on them, see the support network spring up ‘out of nowhere’ that I knew was there all along because I’m on the outside of this. Aching because I know the inside and it’s super shitty and they don’t deserve this. Angry, so fucking ANGRY that this is happening and I am powerless to stop it. And I know that panic, and that scramble, and that wait wait wait while you know time is ticking. I didn’t deserve this. They definitely do not deserve this.

No one does. No one ever deserves to be told they’ll be dead in a year. Or soon. The roadmap to life is complicated and strange, and it’s unexpectedly horrifying to see the end of that journey, and count the mile markers on that road. And sometimes you ride in the car and the scenery is pretty and you space out and things are okay. And sometimes, like today, there are potholes and horrific accidents and you just want to pull the fuck over and breathe for a minute, but you can’t. The car keeps driving. Time keeps ticking.

And so sometimes, like today, you lock yourself in the bathroom at work and cry for a little bit. About your friends, but about you, too. About everything. And then on the way home, you buy all of the junk food and sit in front of your computer and eat everything bad for you and play Skyrim and try to tune it out for awhile. Tomorrow will be better. But today is a bad day.

I think bad days are an evil gift, because they give you permission to fall apart for a while. It’s like a valve release, or some days like a punctured balloon. Permission, a reason, an excuse to just completely lose your shit and release all of the FUCK THIS SHIT IT SUCKS SO BAD FUCK EVERYTHING WHY THE FUCK IS IT HAPPENING THIS IS SO FUCKING UNFAIR and embrace the grief and face it down and acknowledge it, and then put your big girl panties back on and live your life. Tomorrow. Until the next time. And the bad days are cathartic and good, and yeah. Necessary, maybe. But it sucks to be having one, feeling like you’re in a nightmare and it’s going to get so much worse. Knowing I’ll feel better tomorrow does not help me tonight, as I eat birthday cake Oreos and cry in my now-practically empty office in a house I don’t get to stay in while my digital persona steals from random barrels and kills skeevers and dragons. Pretending that the world can stop for a bit, committing yourself to losing a night to escapism because it was a bad day. As though it somehow makes up for it when all it does is cost me more precious time.

Just..bad day. Tomorrow will resume my usual dealing-with-grace and optimism and humor. But tonight it all just sucks so much ass. And while it’s okay, normal, expected to have days like this, it feels unnatural and awful and I don’t like BEING sad and angry and pessimistic. It’s not me. I hate this. I hate being emo, I hate that people I love are going through trauma, I hate that I don’t always have the strength and grace to smile. I hate that I can’t always find humor in the dark. Especially when it’s darkness around people I love. I hate this.

I hate bad days.

Vanitas Veritas

Long before I was bestowed with the cosmic middle finger that is ALS, I was gifted with a genetic grab bag of fuckery called ectodermal dysplasia. (There’s GOT to be a cousin-marriage something or other back in my genealogy, because COME THE FUCK ON. My DNA is FUCKED. ) Anyway. I promise this is related to ALS, but I need to give you a bit of backstory.

Ectodermal Dysplasia, for those of you that can’t be bothered to google that shit, is a family of genetic disorders that causes defects in the hair, nails, sweat glands, and teeth. I have a VERY VERY mild case. Some people with these disorders are born with no sweat glands and have to wear cooling vests their whole lives, or have webbed fingers and toes, or no hair at all. I can sweat, I have some if not all of my teeth, I have hair at ALL, I’m ahead of the game. I am very fortunate that I was affected as little as I am.

But growing up with it as a kid?

Brutal.

My hair grew in transparent blonde and sparse, and only ever to about 2 inches long. Except on the sides of my head, that grew up to four in wispy little threads that flew away from my skull like feathery peachfuzz wings. When it got wet, it disappeared. My eyebrows were transparent blond, visible only when I got really angry and redfaced, so they stood out white on my face. My teeth grew in all kinds of crooked and brittle and some never grew in at all. My nails are these paper-thin shreds of nubbins. I was a very weird looking kid.

Fuck, man, you know how kids are little shitheads. I had the nickname Bald Eagle in my neighborhood. The older kids would see me coming and yell, “THE EAGLE HAS LANDED!” and run away. When I was in fourth grade, one of my girl classmates confided to me that one of the boys (that I happened to have a crush on) thought I *could* be cute – if I would just do SOMETHING to my hair, because it looked weird. I had a crooked, gappy smile that I hid behind my hand when I laughed. I had an expressionless face, because my eyebrows were THERE, they were just transparent. Even the adults joined in, unwittingly, mistaking me for a boy until puberty offered evidence to the contrary. I went to a flea market once, when I was about 8 or 9, and I was looking at this vendor’s pretty little necklaces and things, and the shopkeeper came over smiling, “Looking for something for your girlfriend, hmmm?” I was too embarrassed to correct him. When visiting my great grandmother, making the obligatory visit to her next door neighbor Mrs. Day (who always had Grandma Candy) I smiled and thanked her when she told me I was growing up to be such a big boy.

As you could imagine, I had a little bit of a gender issue growing up. It didn’t help that I have NEVER been good at “girl”; I really WANTED to be feminine and cute, but I felt like I was putting on an awkward costume that didn’t fit any time I tried. I was a social weirdo and never learned makeup or dressing girly, I felt awkward and weird, this androgynous thing that didn’t fit in anywhere. I was already Strange, my brain full of ideas that didn’t occur to most, a very intelligent and bored kid, standing out because I was a loner and never felt like I belonged to any of the little school cliques, not even the nerds. I was the weird kid in the back, and weird looking to boot. No seriously. Here’s me at 14, never having had a haircut in my life:

awkward14

My self confidence and ego never really had a chance.

Eventually I taught myself to embrace that weirdness and make it seem intentional – I dyed my hair strangely and scowled at everyone so they’d think that I MEANT to look that way. Androgyny was cool if you were a punk, man. Or something. I learned to hide it by being angry. I wore that anger as a shield, protecting the hurt and lonely little girl inside. The Bald Eagle is still a fucking RAPTOR man, and it will GOUGE YOUR EYES OUT AND FEAST ON YOUR LIVER. (Oh, poor, 16 year old me; I wish we could chat. How desperately you needed a hug.) But the anger just made me look weirder. My defiant, thrust out jaw just made my face square. My heavy lined eyes just made my invisible eyebrows more obvious. And I never smiled so no one would see my crooked teeth. And weird hair looks weird even if you try to make it look like you meant it.

Vasthi at 16

It took me a lot of years to work through that anger, slowly discovering and adding weapons to my arsenal in my Battle to Defeat Ectodermal Dysplaysia. Eventually I learned to draw on eyebrows to fix my expressionless face. To use false nails to hide and protect my little paperthin fingernails and have pretty, feminine hands at last (they were the one part of me I thought were pretty). I was introduced to hair extensions, after an unsuccessful flirting with wigs, and eventually I even came to revel in my ability to change my hair in a moment’s notice with them. Long hair today, short hair next week, long again the month after that. Through all of this, I let go of that angry teenager, who in turn stopped shielding the lonely and awkward little girl. I learned to allow myself to be a little bit feminine and dress like a girl sometimes, because I actually AM female, goddammit. And it looked cute on me.

And then I had good enough dental insurance to fix my crooked smile and have a beautiful smile for the first time in my life. That was a goddamned game changer. My brothers and I have all suffered the same over our crooked, missing, brittle teeth (I have the better teeth out of all three of us, but got totally ripped off in the hair department). All of us have dealt with being asked if we’ve ever used meth. By dentists. Having methmouth when you’ve never even so much as smoked pot or had an alcoholic drink makes you self-conscious as shit. And it’s cost all three of us countless opportunities. No one wants to hire a methhead. No one wants to date a weird looking girl with a wonky smile. So when I could afford to bridge the gap in my smile, to have straight teeth, I actually felt more normal and okay than I ever have in my life. I went from this:

to this:

And my world changed. And I felt like I finally won.

What does all of this have to do with ALS. I know. Relax, Sparky, I’m about to get there.

It was a slap in the face to be diagnosed with ALS RIGHT when I thought I had all my shit together. I had a really good job that I really like, I was financially stable. I had just bought a house like a Real Live Grownup. And at last? I was at a really good weight, my teeth were awesome, I knew how to do makeup sorta, my nails looked fantastic, and goddamnit I was PRETTY. FUCKING FINALLY. It took 38 motherfucking years, but I actually felt pretty, and smart, and stable. A Real Live Person Who Doesn’t Suck. I still had some shit to sort through, but I was doing pretty fucking good, all told.

…And then just when I think I have shit solid and good, ALS fucks it all up. I’m not going to be able to do my awesome job that I like, working with people I love, eventually. I have to sell the house I am in love with and didn’t even get to finish decorating because I can’t deal with stairs for much longer. I gained a fuckton of weight back because of my good friend Stress Eating. Hey, did you know there’s a German word for the weight you gain from emotional eating? Kummerspeck. It literally translates to “grief bacon”. Isn’t that the most AWESOME THING EVER. I mean, the weight gain sucked, but there’s a WORD FOR IT. And then being told by doctors DO NOT LOSE WEIGHT, you’re going to need it later, and people with extra pounds just tend to do better with ALS anyway. So here is your medical prescription to EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT. Don’t go all apeshit, I mean, we don’t want to have to fit you for a bariatric wheelchair, but you’re dying, fuck it, eat those nachos. Sucks about the not fitting into your clothes anymore though, yeah? Don’t worry, eventually you won’t be able to eat except through a tube and you’ll fit into all that again. So it all works out, yeah?

Where was I.

Right. Early on, it hit me, something stupid and vain – eventually I’m not going to be able to draw my fucking eyebrows on anymore. And I think I’ve just TOLD you why, that bothered the ever loving fuck out of me. I could rely on people to get me dressed, and probably put makeup on my face, but there were going to be days when none of us could be bothered to do that shit. And it really fucking bothered me to be reduced back to my 14 year old self. I had just CONQUERED that, I am not HER anymore. But I’m not going to be able to put on this Armor of Normal Seeming (+1 to appearance and +3 to charisma) forever. Towards the end of days, I’m going to be this emotionless husk, and I’m not even going to have any fucking eyebrows.

And it’s expensive, and vain, and fuck you I don’t care. I got permanent cosmetic tattooing done on Wednesday. I paid a stranger $395 to tattoo eyebrows on my face. And it looks fucking awesome.

And I can’t quite articulate the sense of..relief? Success? Booyah? Even though it was expensive and there are SO MANY better uses for the money, there’s a weight off of me with the knowledge that I can’t go back to 14 year old me anymore. I’m permanently done with her. My teeth are permanently okay, even if I DO still have a baby tooth on the bottom and not all of them ever grew in, they look like normal people teeth when I smile. And now my face is permanently okay, because I don’t have to draw on expression every day. What was already there has been highlighted, so when my hands no longer work, I can still quirk my eyebrow when you say something stupid. For awhile. And then I won’t be able to move my face at all, but my eyebrow game will still be fucking strong, yo. And I’ll never be that expressionless, angry little girl again. I’ve graduated, the tattoos on my face a diploma from Fuck That Shit University, signifying a degree in Being Just Fine, Thanks for Asking.

I am gonna go down, ALS is eventually going to kick my ass, but Ectodermal Dysplasia can fuck off forever. I beat it. I win.

The Eagle has fucking flown.

Bathroom Bitching

I promise this isn’t really TMI, but I’m gonna talk about the politics of bathroom stalls. And a personality defect of mine, it turns out.

I’m getting weaker; even if DocGos says she doesn’t notice any difference. When we first met, I used to be able to walk up the stairs with two hands full. Now I can’t; I have to have one hand free for the rail, and on no-spoon days I need both. When we first met, I could stand up on my own from sitting in a chair. I really can’t anymore.

Which means I need the handicapped stall now – I need the bars. Well, it’s like the cane – I could probably manage without? For awhile longer? But it’s so much easier with, and why make my life harder just to prove to myself that I can, that I’m still an independent woman who don’t need no man. erm. Bars. Yes. Bars. That’s what I was talking about.

And because I need the bars, I am trying really really hard to not be bitchy about it when someone who clearly does NOT need that stall is in it.

Okay – confession. I have *always* gotten a bit internally bitchy about people using the stalls when they don’t need to. It’s a serious character flaw of mine – I get bent out of shape when people don’t follow The Rules. I get irritated when someone cuts someone else off in traffic. Even if the person cut-off doesn’t even notice. I get irritated when people cut in line, even if I’m not in that line. I get mad when people at work leave their dishes in the bathroom when the stinkin’ break room is LITERALLY ten feet away. I get SO MAD when people don’t break down their fucking cardboard boxes and just leave them in the hallway. It’s because I tend to get really mad on behalf of other people, whether they even realize they’ve been wronged or not. By cutting that guy off, by sneaking in line, by not taking your dishes in, by not breaking down your cardboard and putting it in the recycle area, you are making someone else’s life more difficult because you are a selfish ASSHOLE. Even if it’s just a minor inconvenience, there was still no need for that inconvenience to exist, you just created it because you are a LAZY SELFISH DICK. And so I get mad. Because you are not following The Rules.

…Bitch.

ANYWAY. At work, we have a huge wheelchair stall, and the normal sized one next to it has bars, so it’s awesome and I use that one, because I don’t need the space, just the help up. But consistently – CONSISTENTLY – the wheelchair stall is taken up. By tiny, tiny women. Like, a regular stall would feel large to them, WHY do they need the extra extra space? It’s always been a phenomenon that made me scratch my head, but there’s actually been a couple of times that it’s made me wait. And I try not to get irritated, but seriously.

YOU ARE FIVE FEET TALL AND 80 POUNDS SOAKING WET WHY DO YOU NEED A TEN SQUARE FOOT BATHROOM STALL.

Answer: YOU DON’T.

So when I go in there, and both stalls are taken, I have a choice between using one of the other ones, and then using the freakin’ toilet paper dispenser to pull myself up and hope to GOD it doesn’t come off the wall, or wait. And if I don’t have my cane with me at the moment, then they look at me weird for waiting. But if I DO have my cane, sometimes they have the good grace to look abashed. Usually not – they’re oblivious, because people at my work are very self-involved. See: previous posts about trying to not get knocked the fuck over in the cafe and halls because they’re not paying attention.

I wonder if, when I’m in a chair, I’ll be any more irritated. Maybe I’ll do the passive aggressive thing and put a note on the door: “THERE IS SOMEONE IN THIS BUILDING WHO ACTUALLY NEEDS THIS STALL – DO YOU?!”

In Comic Sans, natch.

Realistically, I probably won’t. I’m really good at ignoring those breaking The Rules when it’s me getting shafted. Though, I did get really irritated this weekend about it – I went to Bingo at an American Legion lodge (looong story) and wound up waiting for ten minutes for the one handicapped stall. The other two were simply too wide, I wouldn’t have been able to brace myself on the walls to stand, they were just too far apart. There was a line, and I as time went by I started to say kinda loudly every time someone asked if I was in line, “Go ahead, I have to wait for the handicapped stall, I need the bars.”

Man, I dunno WHAT she was doing in there. She took her shoes off at one point. I thought she was changing her clothes, but she came out with nothing but herself. And flushed a HOJILLION times and used up most of the toilet paper. I just…man. Yeah. She was old, there’s all kinds of stuff happening there that I don’t even know. Probably best that I don’t know. I just know I had to wait ten minutes to pee and she totally could have used the other stalls.

This is all the beginning of the inconvenience, the social stage of decline, and it will be really interesting to see how I adapt to it when it gets worse. Maybe I really WILL become the Bathroom Stall Avenger. Maybe I’ll just pull an Elsa and let it go. It will be telling, either way. Just as I’m discovering the true character of those around me, I’m discovering what I’m made of, too. I have kindness and patience I didn’t know I possessed, and intolerances I didn’t know I had in me.

I’m building my character even as my body unbuilds itself.

Two quick things…

Before we return to our regularly scheduled sweary shenanigans and inappropriate morbid humor, I want to say two further things about assisted suicide, and then we’ll move on.

1) This is not gonna happen for me for a long long time. So don’t go writing any eulogies or shit, cause I’m still here. I’ll give y’all lots of warning if/when that happens, but for now, you fuckers are stuck with me. Swearing ALL the swears.

2) It is BEYOND fucking RIDICULOUS that the criteria to qualify for DwD does NOT include dementia. FOR FUCKS SAKE. It is patently UNFAIR that these reasoning people can’t choose their end when they start to lose their reason. The body may not be in decline, but their LIFE certainly is. They are dying. Their bodies are just going to take a bit to catch up. Let them check out with class, for fucks sake.

Assistance

(Okay, sorry, it’s been a long time but I knew this post needed to be next and it was really hard to think clearly about. For reasons that will become very clear. This post won’t be a happy one, I wager.)

There’s a chair, a table. The table has three prescription bottles on it. The chair is draped with colorful striped fabric. She enters the screen, sits calmly, and smiles warmly at the camera. She picks up one of the bottles.

“I got my prescription today, to end my life when I see fit.”

She says it with a little difficulty, but it’s ALS, not emotion, that makes it hard to talk. She’s calm. Confident that she’s made the right choice. Beautiful. She explains she’s not going to take it, not today, because life is still too good. She thanks everyone for supporting her decision to choose. She has bulbar onset ALS and while she’s lost the ability to swallow anything, she can still speak; which is good, she says, because she has a lot to say. She puts the bottle on the table, and she tells her viewers how much she loves them all.

She glances at the prescription bottle on the table, almost lovingly, and faces the camera. Her warm smile brightens her face again, she is serene. “It’s a good life,” she says. “Live it.”

______________________________________________________________________

Assisted suicide. Death with Dignity. Voluntary Euthanasia. It’s an extraordinarily controversial topic. It’s something I’ve had strong opinions on ever since I heard of Dr. Kevorkian. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since ALS became a possibility for me, and it’s been on my mind almost every day lately thanks to Brittany Maynard.

If you’re not familiar, congratulations, you’re probably one of the five people who’ve escaped this story. You can read it here. The short version is, she was diagnosed at 29 with terminal brain cancer, was told she had months to live and an excruciating death waiting for her. So she chose to end her life under her own terms. She openly talked about how she would do it, and knew exactly when. November 1st, she took her medication and died.

It’s polarized the world it seems. Everyone has an opinion. She had the right, she did not. She was choosing to die with grace, she was a coward committing suicide. She was strong and brave, she was thwarting God’s plan for her. Opinions were very strong, debates were very heated, and theoretical relatives were killed daily in debate, by agonized suffering or suicide, and everyone thinks they know what is best. And everyone – EVERYONE – had something to say about it.

And maybe some day someone close to you will need to decide on this option. Maybe an aunt with cancer. A father who gets into a terrible accident with injuries incompatible with life. Or God help them, someone with ALS. If they live in a select handful of places, they will have this option to choose. They will have this conversation several times with a medical professional. And if they choose to die, they will pay an obscene amount of money for a prescription to die, because it is OH MY GOD EXPENSIVE and insurance will not cover it. (Which is stupid, really, you’d think the insurance company would pay YOU to stop costing them so much.) But they get the prescription, and maybe they take it, maybe they don’t. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, whatever opinion you have on the subject, allow me to make one thing abundantly clear for you.

YOU GET NO FUCKING SAY IN THIS DECISION.

Absolutely NONE.

There is no debate. You get to sit the fuck down and shut your face when that person makes that decision. If they ask you how you feel, fine, but know that you do not get ANY fucking say in what they decide. You can have all the arguments in your head that you want. But if someone makes the choice to die, and their doctor agrees? Then it’s done. You have no right to interfere with it. At all. Keep your opinions. Honor their decision. If you disagree, fine, but know that it makes LITERALLY NO DIFFERENCE.

Comfort them in their last hours, support them until their final days, and keep your goddamned opinions to yourself.

_______________________________________________________________________

I was 24 when Jack Kevorkian came into the public’s eye, when he was arrested and then later sentenced for murder because he’d helped terminally ill people to die. “Voluntary euthanasia” they called it then, in all of the court reports and news articles. Now it’s more bluntly called “assisted suicide”. They mean the same thing, but ‘assisted suicide’ has more of an accusatory feel to it and so that’s what people call it now – because Society Does Not Approve.

“It goes against God’s plan,” is the most used argument against it. “This happened for a reason and you are giving up.”

“It’s Death with Dignity,” is the most used argument for it. “It’s a humane close to an inevitable ending.”

And even then, as these two sides yelled at each other and called each other “murderer” and “sadist”, my 24 year old self thought about it with a calm heart and careful deliberation. “If I were ever in great pain and going to die eventually,” I decided, “I would want to kill myself. I think people should have the right to die on their own terms.”

And my 38 year old self thought about it with the same calm and deliberation. “If this turns out to be ALS,” I decided, “I want that option available to me.”

And my ten-days-away-from-being-39 year old self stared at the carpet for a moment, letting the diagnosis wash over me, and I thought about it with calm and deliberation. ” I’m really, really happy that I live in a state where it’s legal. I need to figure out what is my breaking point so that I can get the process started before it’s too late.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Spoiler Alert: I’m going to get that prescription. I am very probably going to take it.

And you know what? There’s not a MOTHERFUCKING THING you get to say to me about it. This is MY choice. This is a step *I* will take if I want to. I know what’s best for me. I know how much I can handle. You don’t. And you don’t get to dictate to me when I can die.

I already know how my story ends. I’ve seen the last chapter, and it’s terrible. I want to be able to close the book before it gets that far. It’s a shitty close to a pretty good story, otherwise. “Died happily, surrounded by loved ones” is a much more kickass end chapter than “died slowly, suffocating and starving, languishing in agony at not being able to interact with those she loves while watching them steadily stop coming by and trying to talk to her because it was sad and awkward”.

You DO have the right to think and feel anything that comes your way. Even if it’s the bullshit idea that “this is God’s plan” which I will NEVER, EVER ACCEPT. If it’s in God’s plan that I should die like this, then God is a jerk. I don’t believe God hates me this much; I just believe that shit happens. And this sucks. And it’s no one’s fault. And that’s okay. There doesn’t need to be a plan or a reason for this. But if you feel there’s some proper reason for this, that’s fine.

I would never dictate to you how you should feel. It’s not my right, and not my place. Your opinions and your feelings are as important to you as mine are to me. Even if you disagree with me, it is entirely your right. I might debate you on logic, but I can’t and I won’t debate you on feelings. I respect your right to disagree with my choice, but that does not give you the right to interfere with it.

I would never presume to tell you how to feel, because I can’t know. But I will tell you not to presume to know, because you can’t feel.

You’re even welcome to share your thoughts and feelings with me. Just know that it’s going to make absolutely NO fucking impact on my choice.

I don’t know what my breaking point will be. It sort of shifts around, some days I think I can live with things that I can’t fathom, other days. And it may well turn out that I don’t think it’s really all that bad, even at the end. It’s amazing what you can get used to, if the change is gradual. I may think that spending my entire life having ten minute conversations that consist of three words is okay, that being an active brain in a meat shell completely at the mercy of everyone around me is a perfectly decent way to live.

I currently think I probably want to die before it gets that far. The last thing I want to leave is an impression of being a burden. Even if it’s not true, I know that I will start to feel like people are resenting me for being useless, that they’re tired of me taking so fucking long to get anything across with my stupid little eyegaze tablet. Even if I know it’s not true – and I do, I know that I’m loved and people would happily shoulder me for as long as I need them to – I know I will feel that way. Because I know me better than anyone. And that might be harder to bear than the humiliation of having my diapers changed. That WILL be harder to bear.

Some days I think that my mind is active enough, I’m solitary enough, that I’d probably be okay to be so isolated, as long as I have a sliver of communication.

Some days I think, when I’m no longer able to eat.

Some days I think, when I can no longer breathe on my own.

Some days I don’t think about it at all.

I just know that I need to do it, if I’m going to, before I’m no longer able to do it on my own. You have to do it yourself. And even if it’s someone putting the meds in a feeding tube and putting your hand over the syringe so the weight of your hand pushes the meds into your stomach, it has to be you. Which is right and proper, because I could never ever ask someone, “Will you help kill me?” Even if I have people who love me enough to be willing to go that far to help, I would never ever ask someone to carry that burden. It has to be under my own power.

And it could very well be that I’ll get that prescription and never use it. I’ve been told that many more people get it than use it. And that’s okay. But I want the choice to be mine. And I want that option. I want that right, and that power. That decision belongs to me.

And when I die, be it by time or by chemical, you guys can do whatever you want to celebrate or mourn me; throw a party, get drunk, burn my sticker collection. My funeral will be for you – but my death is all about ME. You can decide to celebrate or curse me however you like when I’m gone, it makes no difference because I’ll be absent. And you can celebrate or curse my choice, and it makes no difference, because you’ll be absent. It’s the last and most intimate experience anyone ever has on this earth, and it’s personal and private. Sacred. No one can encroach on that space. No one should ever think they somehow get the right to think they can tell me how to die.

You only get to decide for yourself whether you take my decision on death with dignity.