Yes, I clicked on “Send”

8/14/2006

THE *SEND* BUTTON

Here’s an e-mail I just sent off to Paul Selig, Program Director, MFA in Creative Writing, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT.

Hello Paul,

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve been in contact with anyone from Goddard. I’m sure you remember me–I was a student working with Kenny Fries in 2004 but I had to drop out because of my psychiatric disability. Well, I have good news: I will be ready to return in spring of 2007!

I have all sorts of plans that we should probably talk about further. My phone number is 617-xxx-xxxx (home). I would like to change my concentration from fiction to creative nonfiction, and I realize that in switching, I will be required to complete extra semesters for my degree. Also, I’m interested in the Port Townsend residency, mostly because I think I’d feel more comfortable in a smaller group of people.

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope you are well.

Julie Greene

In other words, I was telling him he had better accept me back into the program, or hailstones will fall on him, frogs will leap in his path, and his firstborn son, if he has one, will become a snake-swallower.

Readers, I hope that you, too, are well. I must have spent a full half hour fussing with that e-mail, and another half hour getting up the courage to click on the “send” button.

I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time. I’ve been on Topamax for 32 days, and they have been the most consistently happy 32 days I’ve had since the month or two after I first started taking Lithium in 1984.

I did have my “Dope-amax days. I was tired and definitely doped up. I don’t think I blogged much during those two weeks. Still, I figured even then that I felt better with Topamax than without it.

You don’t need a psychiatrist and the DSM-IV to figure this out; I think even QB has noticed that I feel lots, lots better.

If Paul asks for a writing sample, shall I send him the URL to this blog?

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This is a scene from the Plainfield campus in January ’05.  I thought the stairs were neat.  Note the cigarette dipository.  Very tasteful.

Topamax

8/11/2006


 


TOPAMAX, DAY 30


 


At my favorite mental health site, www.schizophrenia.com, a member asked the following question: “Comparison: How are you doing compared to how you were doing a month ago?”


 


For some reason, my DSL provider, www.verizon.net doesn’t have the right techno-bandwidth whatever to enable me to connect with the www.schizophrenia.com boards from home, so I seize the opportunity to do so while here at the wonderful new Watertown Free Public Library (www.watertownlib.org).  At any rate, when I read the “Comparison” question, my date book and journal were within arm’s reach, so I picked them both out and flipped to the time around July 10th….


 


The weekend was horrible.  Especially yesterday, Sunday.  Sundays are always tough.  I’ve stopped caring about certain things.  I can barely walk, but I walk the dog.  The dog kept me up several nights this past week.  Last night he barked continuously until finally I took him out, and he stopped after that.  I binged yesterday.  I feel like bingeing again.


 


I started Topamax on July 13 and my life hasn’t been the same since.  I’d be embarrassed to quote my journal now.  The problems I face are problems from outside my head, problems to do with people, places, and things.  Previously, problems came from within, such as depression, Evil Beings, problems with eating, sleep problems, worry, obsession, torture, paranoia, and so on.


 


What a joy it is to worry about the outside world!  What a relief it is to fear terrorists instead of fearing Evil Beings!   A “red alert” couldn’t be half as scary as a threat from within!  When one considers Inner Torture, the Second Gulf War, horrible as it is, seems remote, outside one’s head, which in fact is very, very far away.


 


What now?  I have to brace myself for the highly unlikely worst: that Topamax will be taken off the market for some strange reason, or that I’ll develop a weird allergy to it.  But chances are, I’ll continue to do well.  Topamax has proven itself to me.


 


Take some courses?  Return to graduate school?  There are many possibilities.


 


I wonder what life will be like in a month.  Mark your calendars!

The QB method of study–read carefully!

QB FOR PRESIDENT!

<IMG src=”/images/27466-26086/bush_with_book_(1).jpg”>
If QB were still a puppy, say, five months old, he’d have no qualms about grabbing that upside-down book from Our Dear President’s hands and tearing it to shreds.  Shredding things has always been a favorite hobby of QB’s.

Given that QB has more brains than Bush, I would say that QB would, in the act of shredding, absorb more of the content of the book in a matter of minutes than Bush could after several semesters of study at Yale on the subject.

Needless to say, I would not recommend textbook-shredding as quick-fix method of learning.  You won’t necessarily pass the final exam, and, unfortunately, when it comes time to return your book to the student bookstore for a refund, they will not accept it in shredded condition.

Plus it could be very messy to clean up.

Enjoy the school year.

Consistency

8/9/2006


 


CONSISTENCY


 


I am a person who likes things to always be the same.  I like to do the same things each day at the same times, see the same people, wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time.  No surprises anywhere. 


 


I don’t like incorporating new people into my life.  Humans are a nuisance.  Dogs are just fine by me.


 


So when I contacted someone on www.craigslist.com in the Boston area over the weekend and got a response, I hesitated to take it any further.  M gave me his phone number and told me when he’d be home, saying he was easy to talk to. 


 


I expected a hippie type, a Bush hater, beyond that, I didn’t know.  He worked in human services.  That could mean about anything.  We had had minimal e-mail contact.  I felt that I would get a clearer impression of this guy through the phone than e-mail because his e-mails were brief and vague–Red flag!  Red flag!–which I assumed was simply a “guy thing,” or maybe he couldn’t type.


 


After three days of procrastination, I finally telephoned M.  What I found was a nervous, whiny guy who didn’t quite know what to say to me.  To quote the conversation to you, dear readers, would be dishonest, because truly I recall none of it; the conversation was not worth remembering.  I never found out what his “work” with the homeless was except he never seemed to be at work, he was home all the time or hanging out at Harvard Square with the bums.  I finally concluded, during this tedious conversation, that he probably volunteered at a soup kitchen once a week.  Or ate at one.  He claimed to have a college degree and rattled off the names of some local colleges, but didn’t seem intelligent enough to pass a college course let alone the entrance examinations.  At the end of the conversation–well, this part I remember, so I’ll spell it out here:


 


M said, “So, do you want to go out sometime, I mean, you and me?”


 


“Er, well, uh, sure.”  I was so angry at myself for saying this that I bit my lip.


 


“We could meet in Harvard Square.”


 


“Uh, okay.”  Now, I told myself, I’ve truly blown it.


 


“How about tonight?”


 


No way.  “I’m busy.”


 


“How about tomorrow?”  It was at this point that I concluded he didn’t in fact have a job.


 


“I’m going grocery shopping.”


 


“Well, then, Wednesday.  Wednesday at noon.”


 


Finally, I told him yes, hating myself for agreeing to it.


 


“At the entrance to Au Bon Pain.”


 


“M, Au Bon Pain has several entrances.”


 


“Then the entrance to the Coop.”


 


It occurs to me now that there are two Coops in Harvard Square, but that doesn’t matter.


 


Why was I meeting a man I didn’t want to date, didn’t want to be friends with, didn’t want to spend any time with at all in fact?  I felt that I’d rather spend the time (in an hour, in fact) at the gym, which is what I’ll do.


 


I always want things to be the same.  I would rather stick to my little world than venture out to try something new, even if I think I may enjoy myself.


 


But I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed my time with M.  I panicked.  I knew I had to cancel.  Yesterday afternoon I wrote him a brief e-mail:


 



I regret that I will not be able to meet you tomorrow at noon.  I am sorry if you are inconvenienced by this.


To which he wrote back a brief e-mail asking for an explanation.  I didn’t write back.  (Isn’t a woman entitled to change her mind?)  He immediately called me (blocking the call so I wouldn’t know it was him) whining into the phone, again asking for an explanation.


 


Hopefully, that will be the end of my contact with him.


 


Phew!


 


And so my life will continue with the same routine, my same little, predictable world, and it will be just as I like it.


 


See you tomorrow.


 

Muckin’ around

8/8/2006



NOTE: IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR OCTOBER  ’06 ENTRIES, SCROLL DOWN AND CLICK ON “OCTOBER” IN THE ARCHIVES MENU, TO THE RIGHT.  SORRY–TECHNICAL GLITCH I’M TRYING TO SOLVE. ~JULIE 


THROUGH THE MUCK


 


Yesterday I decided to walk home from the library instead of taking the bus.  This was after writing my entry about the hill I must climb daily to get to my apartment building.  The hill was still there, waiting for me as always.


 


It was 2pm.  To catch the bus, I would have had to backtrack two blocks to the CVS, wait until 2:21 when the bus was supposedly going to show up, and then wait some more.  The bus is always late; frequently I’ve had to wait a full hour for the bus when it was supposed to come every 15 minutes, seriously!  The bus ride to the bottom of Lexington Street takes about five minutes.  Then I would have walked up the hill and would have arrived at home, with little QB patiently waiting, at, say, 3pm.


 


Instead, I did not backtrack to the CVS.  I did not wait for the bus.  I did no waiting at all.  The walk home took less than 20 minutes.  I bounded up the hill after having purged myself yesterday of whatever was irking me about my mother (in yesterday’s blog entry).  QB greeted me at 2:18pm.


 


What I am saying is this:  Why make a task complicated when there is a more simple and easy way to do it?  Sometimes the answer is right in front of us, staring us in the face, and we don’t see it.  For some reason, I had thought the walk home would take an unbearable amount of time to complete, and it seemed to be beyond tolerable.  Generally, if you really consider your options, it’s easier to walk through the muck than it is to tiptoe around it, to face brief discomfort than to go to great lengths to avoid it. 

Hills

8/7/2006


 


OVER THE HILL


 


If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the hill coming up Lexington Street from Main to my apartment building. 


 


It’s not even a steep hill.  It’s not even challenging.  And yet it feels like the worst hill I’ve ever climbed.


 


I’ve tried everything.  I’ve tried listening to music, to audiobooks.  Still, the hill daunts me.  Calling my friend Joshua on my cell and talking to him while I stumble up the hill is one solution that’s not too bad.  But Joshua isn’t always available and he doesn’t owe it to me to keep me amused and distracted while climbing fucking Mount Everest.


 


I end up stopping frequently because my legs ache, to let the blood flow back into my muscles, to get my strength back.  At least I never get winded.  No, it doesn’t come to that.  Months and years of nonsmoking have me protected.


 


My fucking mother is 80 and can run up this fucking hill carrying 80 fucking pounds on her back and then do somersaults in my fucking yard.  She’s another story altogether.


 


I called her the other day and asked how she did in the heat wave.  She said she went for a walk.  One hundred and ten degrees in the city and she went for a fucking walk???????


 


I give up.


 


The problem is, she boasts about it, and that’s what hurts the most.  I’m sitting here in the library, realizing I’m 48 and my body is falling apart, and hers is still intact at 80 and she’s doing her darndest to rub it in my face.  To rub it in all our faces.


 


Every step I take up that fucking hill, I see her smiling face, her Rudolph nose, hear her way too loud sing-songy voice, I hate her I hate her I hate her with every step.


 


I think today when I walk up the dreaded hill, I’ll stomp.  I’ll stomp out her boasting, her “perfect” body, her agelessness, her superiority.  I’ll stomp so loud that even she, quite deaf, will be able to hear me.  I’ll stomp up to the condo complex and yes–past the condos, and–over the hill.  Because we all go over the hill eventually.  And when I make that last step over the hill I’ll turn around and glance back to where I came from, glance at all the fools who are too proud to come over the hill, to those like my mother, and I’ll look upon them with true pity.

History in the making

8/6/2006


 


HISTORIC REOPENING


 


I am at the Watertown Free Library, which has been closed for two years for renovations and has finally reopened (www.watertownlib.org).  At 1pm the crowds were thick and excited, full of kids (not quite screaming yet), elderly folk, couples, pregnant women, dignitaries, TV cameras, town officials.


 


Let me apologize for my absence over the past couple of weeks.  I’ve had two trips to the emergency room within ten days.  The first was by ambulance because I injured my back and it turned out to be nothing.  The second time was for my blood pressure.  Something struck me that second time.  In the waiting room, I noticed I was the only one who was by myself.  Every patient there was with a husband, a parent, a trusted friend, and I was entirely alone.  I had come alone, in a goddam cab, I didn’t even have anyone to drive me, no one to stay with me in the waiting room.  I waited two hours, listening to my MP3 player, alone.  What is wrong with this picture?


 


I feel, on this historic library reopening day, that too many chapters of my life are ending and not enough are beginning.  My body is falling to pieces and no one is there to catch them.  I walk too fast, then I stop, and my blood pressure drops so low I fear that I will faint.  Who will rescue me now?  I imagine myself the only single person on a ship; the ship capsizes; everyone’s found his buddy and I’ve been forgotten.  Lost in the stacks, I suppose.


 


The library is lovely.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have waited for this for two years and I’m sure this facility will be well worth the wait.  I’ve already found some nice places to hang out and avoid other human beings (do I sense a contradiction here?).  I am sitting near a collection of books about gardening and house plants, a few shelves of manuals on auto repair and curiously enough, in between, books about lunar landings. 


 


It took me a while to get up the courage to come inside.  It seemed that there were so many people that I would suffocate if I tried to follow the crowds.  So I waited.  I sat outside and pretended I wasn’t alone.  Yes, it’s a lovely day.  Suddenly, I had a feeling of disgust.  I trekked over to a nearby drugstore to get something to drink, and then came back.  Diet Vanilla Pepsi.  Better than nothing, I suppose. 


 


The library’s first floor was packed with people, especially in the children’s section, kids of all sizes, and the library’s little café was also a popular spot.  I found the ladies’ room and was pleasantly surprised to find it nearly empty.  Because of my blood pressure woes I’ve been avoiding stairs, but the elevator, too, was empty.  Up to the second floor.  Reference section.  Study areas.  Comfy chairs.  Desks.  A row of desks by the windows.  The corner desk.  I sat down.


 


It’s at this moment, as I write these words, that I finally notice the smell of this place, the unmistakable new library smell, quite unlike the old library smell I remember from childhood, the smell of old books, old floors, old schools, chalk boards, mimeograph machines, and ancient school librarians.  The old Watertown library smelled like that.  The new has replaced the old.


 


But in life, we cannot replace the old, the tired, the worn out with new parts.  Our bodies wear out but we cannot get new bodies.  We must make do with what we have.  We lose brain cells, our skin dries out, our tissues lose elasticity.  We are slowly dying, our parents die, our friends die, slowly each facet of life stops working.  Chapters close, books close, we struggle with arthritic hands to open a new book, gripping the cover, we feel the spine, the jacket, the pages, we hold the corners of the book in our hands and we try to pull it open, try, try, but the pages turn to dust, the cover falls, we are covered with dust, dust, dust….


 


And so it happens, between gardens and moon landings.  I think that I will feel at home here.


 


 


 


 

Better living through chemistry

7/16/2006


 


TOPOMAX, DAY THREE


 


I thought I would report to you my experience with Topomax so far.  I had tried it previously, I believe in January or February of 2005, found it very, very sedating and had to discontinue it, but this time around I don’t find Topomax sedating at all.  For the first three nights I took 25 mgs, then I’m supposed to take 50 mgs, then 75, etc.  The dose has to be increased gradually, or I’ll end up with the “dopomax” effect: sedation and mental slowness, or so I’m told.


 


Instead, I have slept eight hours all three nights, falling asleep at 8pm (I take my bedtime meds at 7:30) and waking up promptly at 4am, no alarm clock necessary.  I wake up so completely that I am plenty alert without the aid of coffee.


 


Yesterday I met a Filipino couple who had just arrived in this country to study at Brandeis University.  I led them to the bus stop, being headed in that direction anyway, and told them a few things about the area.  We boarded the 70 bus.  Along the way, I showed them the sights, or, at least, I showed them things that thrilled me, and it seemed that everything thrilled me!  I pointed out a couple of museums, a nice restaurant, the Armenian section of Watertown, my own street, Pooch Palace (QB’s day care) and of course the newly renovated Watertown Free Public Library, which will have its grand reopening August 6th.  These things I blurted out with such energy that they, as well as the other passengers, must have wondered where all my enthusiasm came from.  What I meant, I told them, was that these things were thrilling to me, and perhaps they would find the library, the restaurants and museums at least interesting.  A smile was stuck on my face the whole time.


 


Why such exuberance?  Where did all that enthusiasm come from?  Could it be the Topomax?


 


I’ll keep you posted.

Le plus je vois des hommes, le plus j’aime mon chien!

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7/15/2006


 


QB: PART TWO


 


QB’s visit to the doggie shrink, Dr. Amy Marder, along with a student vet from Northwestern University, went well (www.petbehaviorproblems.com).  Dr. Marder detailed a program for QB that included simple training exercises as well as doggie day care three times a week, play time, wearing a head harness on walks, and future visits from a private trainer at my home.


 


Perhaps the most striking changes stem from the exercise, “Nothing in Life is Free,” which is simple but extremely effective.  QB must sit for everything: sit for his food, sit to get his leash put on, sit to go through a door, sit for the elevator.  Furthermore, he must sit outside whenever I stop.  Each time he sits, I give him a treat.  Recently, I’ve been giving him treats at select times, and leaving them out at others.  Here’s the disciplinary key:  When QB sees something he gets “crazy” over, I turn in the opposite direction, and ask him to sit, praise and reward him.


 


Simple?  Yes.  But this amazing exercise works wonders.  QB is now able to ignore bicycles, joggers, slow and fast-moving cars, pedestrians, people entering and exiting cars and buildings, and yes–today he even turned his back on a squirrel, unheard of two weeks ago.  He rarely goes “crazy” anymore.  The next thing I need to work on is establishing the command “stay,” then teaching him to come when called.  (Right now the little guy ignores me when I call him, unless he feels like obeying.)


 


Most important, he needs to learn how to say “hello.”  I don’t mean he needs to speak the word, but simply to greet friends and strangers politely instead of reverting to “crazy” behavior, including barking and jumping.  He needs to sit and stay seated, and wait to be petted.  This will be my biggest challenge.


 


While working with this program, I encountered a new problem: QB wouldn’t go to sleep at night.  Instead, he barked over and over, keeping me awake; in fact, he would begin his tirade as soon as my head hit the pillow.  Dr. Marder, whom I call every Monday evening, suggested that I give him 25 mgs Benadryl at night to sedate him.  I have no qualms about this; for years I took Benadryl for sleep, and Tiger took Benadryl as well, for allergies.  So I felt safe administering it to QB.  The trick worked and he now sleeps through the night.


 


QB’s behavior on buses is exemplary.  As soon as we board the bus he lies down, generally in the center of the aisle, but he graciously defers to my pushing him off to the side so people can walk past.  And indoors QB behaves excellently, never chewing anything contraband or “stealing” off the table.  He knows what’s a toy and what isn’t.


 


I feel that I’m going through a journey with QB, a journey of love and learning.  I feel like I’m preparing him for the world, and although this training is overdue, he is still at a perfect age to learn new habits.  He is eager to please me and obeys most of the time, waiting for praise and perhaps a treat and a petting.  I am getting more out of the relationship, so much that I am sometimes moved to tears when we are out on walks when I see him putting forth such an effort to be “good” instead of seeking out ways to be “bad” as he was before.  QB is my best friend, my true companion, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The Gym, Part 3

7/14/2006


 


THIS PAGE CANNOT BE DISPLAYED


 


I can’t connect to the Internet here at the library today.  Generally, I log into www.schizophrenia.com, go to the “diagnosed with” boards, which I can’t access from home, and see how everyone’s doing, and the act of making a social connection helps me come up with a topic for today’s blog entry.  But I can’t do that today.  I feel excluded right now from the world of mental patients who enjoy communicating online. 


 


Perhaps I can take this opportunity to write a chatty blog entry about myself, what I’ve been doing, how the new meds are working out, bore you to death with details you probably haven’t any desire to hear.


 


Or, I could launch into a dissertation on how Internet-dependent I am, how I’ll fall apart if my computer breaks down, but my phone was out for five days last year and in fact I didn’t fall apart.  Any longer, though, and there would have been major meltdown.


 


Or I could talk about how I went on a five-day eating binge recently that truly wrecked my confidence.  I could get into details, what a binge is like, and so on, but I think I’ll save that for another time.


 


What I really want to tell you about is the new gym I’m going to.  I saw it on the bus yesterday and I said to myself, “Wow, would be so much better if I could go to a gym on the bus line!” and immediately got online (here we go again) at home and signed up for a free week pass at Boston Sports Clubs (www.mysportsclubs.com).  I went to Yahoo maps (http://maps.yahoo.com)and saw that this gym is 1.8 miles from my home, and when the weather isn’t so hot I feel like a toasting marshmallow, I could even walk there.  I noted the adjacent side streets so I’d know which bus stops were closest.  Then today, after walking QB and showering, I headed over to the new gym. 


 


I was immediately impressed with the enormity of the place.  It made the old gym look like a closet by comparison.  I stepped through the doors and was overwhelmed by a blast of cool air that told me these people had an air conditioner that actually worked.  As I expected, there was a desk out front.  I presented my coupon and handicapped bus pass (photo ID) to someone who obviously worked there.  He disappeared into an office, then a friendly-looking young man introduced himself to me as Scott, a “membership associate,” and brought me over to his desk, where he arranged a bar code membership card for me like the one I have for my old gym, and showed me around.


 


I’ve never seen so many cardio machines in one place, and such a variety.  Each machine has its own TV that you can plug headphones into (and a choice of 17 channels, Scott said) and a fan that blows cool air on your face if you want.  I saw at least 30 treadmills, 20 recumbent stationary bikes, an entire room of “spinning” bikes, elliptical and stair-climbers of all sorts.  There were huge rooms dedicated to free-weight work, and a room for nautilus machines, including a “22-minute express workout” area. An exercise room and smaller “mind and body” (yoga) room, off to the side, were designated for exercise classes, and further along the same side was a room for “spinning” classes with 28 bikes.  The pool wasn’t the biggest I’ve seen, but pleasant enough, though I would be embarrassed to show up there in a bathing suit.  Though I explained to Scott that I’m unable under any circumstances to shoot a basket, he pointed out the basketball court, then he gestured the way to the ladies’ locker room.


 


I was suddenly hit with déjà vu.  I remembered my first time at the old gym.  I’d never been to a gym before and didn’t know what to expect.  I was embarrassed to ask for help, so I blindly followed what other women did: how they used each machine, how they adjusted it, how fast each machine worked.  I rode a stationary bike for 20 minutes and then, too shy to try strength training, I immediately located the stretching room, did my routine, and headed home.


 


Now, I felt that I knew enough about working out to ask appropriate questions, to get the help I should have asked for in the first place, a year and a half ago when I first started working out.


 


I won’t bore you with the particulars of my workout, details that fascinate me and are useless for everyone else.  Let me say though that the air conditioning was a blessing; I didn’t sweat to the point of dehydration, or get on the bike and suddenly feel like I had to pee.  I am in my own very private world when I work out, and luckily I was afforded real-life privacy as well because the gym wasn’t crowded.  If you really want to know, I listened to Vertical Horizon, one of my new favorite groups.


 


I think I’ll switch to Boston Sports Clubs.  That gym suited me fine.


 


What is the point of my telling you all this?  I think very little of what I said was worth saying, and I didn’t say it particularly well, but if I were to edit this piece, I think I’d save the “Déjà vu” paragraph (the first gym experience is always worth writing about), develop that, and toss the rest.


 


But I don’t want to toss the rest; I’m too selfish.  People who work out are fascinated by their own personal details: how long they walked on the treadmill, how fast they rode the bike.  People who work out become fascinated with their bodies, what their bodies can and can’t do, and how to push their bodies to do more and more.  People who work out care about their bodies and care about these details.  Some days I come home and e-mail my friends, who are probably bored sick, about my workout, how I felt I did, what needs improvement, and so on.  (I think I lost a couple of e-mail friends this way.)


 


The library will be closing in 20 minutes.  I just heard an announcement, so loud it scared the shit out of me.


 


I feel damned good.  It’s hard to believe that only a few days ago I was depressed to the point of thinking about suicide.  Instead, I’m sitting here in the library boring you with things you don’t care about, things that matter only to me, but matter deeply, and I want to share with you that depth.