Cold Apartment Saga Continued–WHA Computer Glitch Does it Again

I live in subsidized housing.  The Watertown Housing Authority keeps our heat regulated by computer.  We can lower the heat, but we cannot raise it over 73 degrees.  Sure, it says 75 degrees, but it’s really 73, because there’s a “two-degree offset” they don’t tell you about before you move in.

I was too cold in my apartment.  Still am, actually. I complained and complained.  I wore, and still wear, a fleece jacket and hat indoors.  I still wear it when I go out in the hall, and I wear it to the housing office, just to demonstrate how cold I am.  However, I don’t need it in their office.  It’s plenty warm there.

Finally, the manager said to me, “Julie, if you get a doctor’s note, we will raise the heat for you.”  I got a note.  From Dr. P.  She wrote one on the spot, saying it was ridiculous that I should suffer in the cold.  They raised the heat.  I was overjoyed.

Now, I thought that this was the end of the story.  The saga continued, though.  Last year, it was the ordeal with the air conditioners.  They didn’t take mine out till nearly the end of December.  Some serious air was leaking under my AC and I was freezing to death.  My heat couldn’t keep up with the leak.  You’d think with all the money they wanted to save, they’d have taken out the AC in October the latest.  Like this time last year.

Meanwhile, I was having this problem with the thermostats, and this is what I wanted to mention now.  There is a computer glitch that makes the thermostats “jump” back from 78 to 75.  This happens all the time now.  So I call the housing authority maintenance lady, and ask her to fix my heat, and put it back to 78, and she does.  This can only be done on weekdays, as first of all, the maintenance staff on weekends doesn’t have access to the computer, and secondly, a “jump” from 78 to 75 isn’t an “emergency” that has to be dealt with on weekends.  So I freeze until Monday.  As you can guess, one of my big worries is that the “jump” will occur Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, and I’ll be freezing for the next five days.

Today, I called maintenance to fix my heat yet one more time.  I waited for the heat to go back to 78.  I waited.  And waited.  Finally, I called again.  Did you forget about me?  No.  Something’s wrong with the computer.  We can’t do it today.  We’ll do it tomorrow.

Uh oh.  Uh oh.  Uh oh.  You know what I’m thinking.  That this  problem won’t ever be solved.  That their computers won’t ever be fixed right.  Because they haven’t fixed them yet, after two winters, going into a third.  What next?

You may know what I’m thinking, but I know what you’re thinking, too.  That I need to gain weight and put meat on my bones, and then I won’t be so cold, right?

Sometimes, when I’m videoconferencing (Skyping) with Frank, I don’t feel so cold inside.  Sometimes, I even take off my hat and fleece jacket, and wonder why it suddenly got so warm in here.  I don’t know if it’s so much that we eat together, or that we are special friends that does it for me.  But when Frank is around, I feel a little warmer.

Yeah, Frank got me to eat, but he says I got me to eat.  Today, I added milk to my diet.  I decided that since my periods have pretty much stopped, probably from my low weight, I’d better get more calcium pronto.  I had two  glasses of skim milk today, plus the milk I used to make my oatmeal.  I encouraged Frank to drink two glasses a day, and to my surprise, he said he likes almond milk and soy milk.  I didn’t think he was that kind of guy.

Wow, it is cool getting to know each other.  We talk about everything.  We talk into the night.  We get on Skype, with all its wonders, and it is like we are sitting across from each other, eating together and laughing.  Sometimes, we get disconnected.  Yeah, there are glitches in cyberspace.  But we spend hours talking about how on earth we ended up with the curse of this eating disorder, and how we are going to deal with it…together.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.

My Nano book is making me cry

I have now written out the basic plot to I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. The main character’s name is Megan.  She has anorexia.  I haven’t given her an age yet.  The evil male character is named Calhoun.  He lives not too far away from Megan.  They live in a town not too different from my own, with streets like the ones in my town.   She keeps going back to him, sadly.  Her three sisters leave her early on, saying they cannot deal with her eating disorder anymore.  Her best friend, Nina, is on her way to recovery from anorexia, and they can no longer be friends.  Megan chooses to end her relationships with her therapist and nutritionist after a brief hospitalization.  Her mother was never there for her and never will be.  Even Megan’s pet rat dies.  Megan resolves to starve herself to death, and in the end, only the abusive Calhoun remains.

That is basically it in a nutshell.  I have it in more detail written out–events, etc.  As I flip through the scenes, I weep.  I get teary-eyed reading about how the sisters leave Megan.  I cry because I hate Calhoun and the person I’m modeling him after.  I cry about the breakup between Nina and Megan, and I cry thinking about how “Rain,” believe it or not, is going to be a character in my book, because the imagery is going to be so strong (hopefully).  I am devoting an entire chapter to a description of the rain.

It did not rain today.  We have had enough rain.  Last night, it was raining so hard that the water soaked through my rain jacket and onto my shirt.  Puzzle soaked up two hand-knit sweaters.  I wore my boots and my feet didn’t get wet, but the rest of me did.

I bought that rain jacket in 2005.  It didn’t fit.  I couldn’t zip it up.  It was an XL, or maybe XXL, the largest size I could order from the online store I got it from (don’t recall which one).  Now, it looks silly on me, but I wear it because I have nothing else.  You could fit two of me in it.  (Maybe my double vision is useful after all.)

How do I feel about this?  Changing sizes…like trading one body for another…shrinking…like going through some sort of Grand Transformation.  It is a bigger change than dyeing your hair or cutting it.  It is a bigger change than gaining or losing 15 pounds–I lost 110.  It is not as big a change as being transgendered.  Given what I’ve been through, I am in awe of anyone who has the courage to go through a sex change.

So when I put on my rain jacket yesterday, and every time I put on my rain jacket, I think of this, how I used to be so large that I could not zip it up, and how much I’ve changed.  I don’t know if I should be sad or happy about this.

Yesterday, I showed my therapist two photos.  One was of me at my lowest weight.  The other photo was of me ten pounds heavier, right after my hair was cut in April.  The difference is astounding.  Now, how is it that they didn’t notice?  Incidentally, the day before the April photo was taken, I got weighed at the nutritionist’s with my pockets loaded, wearing two jackets that she never asked me to remove, and never mind what other tricks I pulled, and the scale read ten pounds more than I actually weighed.  Imagine that.  They believed her scale over my face.

So I looked at my face in the mirror today, just to see what it looked like.  I don’t look too good.  I look ugly.  I don’t know how to describe it.  Maybe it’s just low self-esteem that’s saying I’m ugly.  More likely, I wasn’t smiling when I looked at myself.  I don’t look at myself often.

But what shocked me, yet another time, was that my lips were blue.  Again, the thermometer at my desk read 79 degrees.  I knew I was cold, but blue?  I felt my hands and they felt icy, same with my nose.  I turned and sat on the toilet and it was like sitting on ice.  My body is in revolt.

I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul is a tragic book.  I can feel it already.  There is going to be so much loss in the book, so much sadness, so much heaviness.  I feel like Brahms’ First Symphony, First Movement should be the background music throughout, with the ever-present bass drum, and strings pulling torturously apart from each other.

But the sound of rain is music enough.  Rain does so much more than “pitter-patter.”  It does so much more than “come down in sheets.”  It plays.  It wanders.  It screams.  And it doesn’t let up.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.

Nano plans forming

In November, I plan to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  The goal of Nano, as it is called, is to write a book in a month.  I have decided on a tentative title for my novel.  I am going to use the title from a recent blog entry: “I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul.”  Here is the entry:  click here.  The entry was inspired by the fact that I felt cold in my apartment, and it was 79 degrees in here, and my lips were blue.

It is raining today, and cold.  I have decided, therefore, to use rain as a persistent imagery in my Nano novel.  There is nothing worse than cold rain.  It is cold outside now.

I am using the book, Book in a Month: The fool-proof system for writing a novel in 30 days by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, PhD to write my novel outline in October.  I hope to get a complete outline done in time for Nano, so that I can write the book smoothly during that month.  Book in a Month is written in workbook form, and is spiral bound.  I will give you all updates on how my outline is progressing.

Meanwhile, it keeps raining….

Climbing the Ladder

The other day, I had to get onto a ladder to put up a new shower curtain.  I was thrilled to get this curtain.  The other one had a broken hole, so it didn’t reach all the way across, meaning that there was a gap between it and the wall.  Of course, this meant cold air coming in.  You know, dear readers, that I do not like anything cold.  So I got a new shower curtain, and this was a very good thing.

I bought the new curtain and liner from a dollar store in Cambridge called Jax.  I think I must have paid $3.50 for the liner and maybe $3 for the curtain.  The curtain has a nice blue floral design on it and is machine washable; the liner is heavy duty clear plastic with metal rings for hanging.  I already had rings at home.  My bathroom is an ugly blue but the curtain is a good match.  It actually makes the bathroom tile look a little nicer than it really is.

So my task was first of all to take down the old curtain.  This made me very sad, because the old curtain I had bought because it matched one that Joe had in his apartment.  The seven-year anniversary of Joe’s death was August 19, not that long ago, and it seems like he died just yesterday.  I remember his shower very well.  It was the walk-in type, a “handicapped” shower.  The water pressure was never strong enough, and you had to turn the shower up all the way to get it hot enough.  Some of the tiles were coming off.  But he seemed to think the shower was great, and liked it just the way it was, or so he said.  His mother bought that curtain for him, a clear curtain with a map of the world on it.  You can get them at Target or even on Amazon.com.  So when I replaced my shower curtain after he died, years ago, I got the map of the world, too.

To take down this curtain, I realized I would need a ladder to reach the shower rod.  I do have a three-step ladder, which I carefully set up on the bathroom floor.  I thought: I am going to have to be very careful on this ladder.  One wrong step and I will fall three feet to the floor.  I have missed a period because of my eating disorder.  Who knows how screwed up my hormones might be, and whether I have developed osteoporosis, thinning of the bones.  I could break something if I fall off this ladder.  Even without thinned bones, I could easily get hurt falling off a ladder.  Be careful.  Be careful.

I stepped up one step.  And another.  And another.  I was at the top of the ladder.  I did not look down.  I used the shower rod to keep my perspective, then realized that I should not expect the shower rod to hold me up; it would collapse if I pulled it too hard, should I begin to fall.  I could not fall.  Do not fall.  Do not fall.  Do not step to the side because nothing is there.  Nothing.  You are on a ladder.  Remember that.

I wanted to work quickly, but not so quickly that I broke the rings.  It was sad removing the old curtain.  I watched it slowly droop to the floor of the tub, then finally, finally die in a heap.

Later, I bagged the shower curtain in a CVS bag that once held a dozen rolls of toilet paper, and brought it to the trash room, as if I were toting small coffin.  I tossed it into the bin and tried to stop thinking about it.  Tried.

I climbed the ladder again, and attempted to install the new shower curtain and liner.  This was a challenge because I had to install two things at once.  Then, it dawned on me: I could not be doing this if I were still eating as little as I had been eating in August.  I was eating about 600-700 calories a day then.  I could not have kept my balance on a ladder.  I could barely keep my balance walking.  I would not have dared even take the ladder out of the closet in August.  I would have barely been able to lift the ladder without teetering.  And now, I was taking on the challenge, and succeeding.

Today, I will be climbing the ladder again, this time to get Puzzle’s heartworm medication out of the pantry.  It is hidden under the pots and pans I have used, for cooking food, since September 20th when I turned my life around.  The box of heartworm medication, along with other dog supplies, is up there on the same shelf as some Swiffer stuff and the pizza pan I used for the pizza party with Frank last Friday night, and other pans I’ve actually been using over the past 11 days.  And yes, I do eat what I cook.  Not a lot of it, but a heck of a lot more than I used to eat.

I don’t count calories anymore.  Frank taught me to stop doing this.  I don’t measure my food.  I do measure a few things but I don’t measure the way I used to.  I have stopped writing down my food, or obsessively planning meals.  It’s unnecessary to plan out exactly what you’re going to eat way, way ahead of time.  As my brother said, “Just cook food and eat it.”

“Just cook food and eat it.”  That was my brother’s answer to eating disorders.  I wish it was that simple.  I struggle daily to do this.  I screw up all the time.  But at least the Grand Starvation is over.  At least I climbed the ladder.  At least I trust myself to climb a ladder again today.  And again and again, I hope.

My wish is that everyone could climb this ladder.  Because once you step up, you can reach things you couldn’t reach before, and do stuff you couldn’t do had you not made this climb.  It’s only three steps, and you don’t need to be on the ladder all the time, just for a couple of minutes.  Peek up and see what it’s like.  Dare to do it.  Eat.  Because once you take a look, it will change the way you see everything else in your life, and you will keep on climbing, again and again.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.