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





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





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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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





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.

The Topomax idea

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For some reason, I find sleep deprivation an excellent, tried-and-true method for controlling depression and psychosis.  Sleep deprivation is more effective for me than ECT (“shock treatments”).  The results are immediate and striking.  However, the trick is to stay up all night, not part of the night but the full night, without sleep.  Getting a few hours will make me miserable. 


Despite my success with this, though, I wouldn’t recommend pulling an all-nighter to anyone else.  For most, depriving oneself of sleep is just plain stupid. 


Frequently on these all-nighters I come to an epiphany partway through the long night; I solve some problem that’s been bothering me, or hit on a new idea.  Tonight’s idea stems from a careful look at my records over the past month: Out of 28 days, I was depressed for 18.  I wouldn’t call it major depression, which must last two weeks to be labeled as such, but these depressions, which last up to five or six days, impose on me such a burden that I cannot commit myself to long-term projects because I never know how I’m going to feel from one day to the next.  Telling myself, “It won’t last forever,” helps not the slightest, because while I’m depressed I can’t comprehend that I will ever not be depressed.  It is totally beyond the realm of my imagination.  Exercise is near impossible during these times; I move very slowly and frequently have trouble walking or even sustaining a standing position.  I take baths instead of showers.  QB and I spend a half hour walking around the block.  I have tried everything to overcome these brief depressions.  Nothing works.


Accompanying the depressions have been eating binges that ranged from moderate to massive.  Given that in 1984 I based a suicide attempt on my inability to stop the bingeing, I am placing myself in a dangerous position by continuing to binge, but I cannot control it (otherwise I certainly would stop), and my weight is on the rise, which certainly isn’t helping my mood.


The only thing that’s ever helped stop bingeing has been medication.  When I began taking Lithium in 1984 (about six months after the attempt) the bingeing immediately stopped.  The change was so dramatic that in the weeks and months that followed, I hardly recognized myself; I was a new person.  I should say that this reaction to Lithium is highly atypical, but I’ve always been an atypical patient.


Cymbalta, my antidepressant, also helps with bingeing, but it only works when–well, when it works.  I had been blaming the Cymbalta for the inconsistencies in mood, but now I’m realizing that the trouble lies with my mood stabilizer, Lamictal.  It’s obviously not doing what it’s supposed to do!


The appealing option I’m considering is Topomax, another mood stabilizer also associated with weight loss and decreased appetite.  I tried it about a year and a half ago and found the medication overly sedating, so I stopped it, but I’m willing to give it another try.  Friends have praised Topomax as the best mood stabilizer they’ve ever encountered.  I put in a call to my psychiatrist a few hours ago–yes, it was midnight but this was on her voicemail and she’ll pick up the message eventually–stating that I’d like to try Topomax again.


I can now allow myself a sliver of hope.

Don’t think about it





I had hoped to come here and write something constructive, something helpful for others, a piece of writing that would contribute to the overall good of humankind.  But how can I do this when I hate my own life so much?  How can I do anything positive when the overall trend is negative?


I promised myself a while back that those days are over, that I can’t think about it, won’t think about it.  Not a peep.  I promised myself that if I ever started thinking about it again, I’d put myself in the hospital first.


I’m getting scared.



7/10/2006 Happy Monday





Every Sunday I have trouble.  It is so consistent at this point that I’d like to cut Sundays out of the week and go from Saturday directly into Monday.


If the Beings are going to come, they come on Sunday.  If I’m going to be depressed, it starts on Sunday.  Frequently the depression gets so bad that I can barely walk, but I walk the dog anyway.  I take baths instead of showers because I can’t stand up too well.  Everything goes in slow motion.


The Beings are Evil.  You know that.  They haven’t been around for a while, but I still worry about them.  I worry about Evil.  I worry that I’m Evil, and that I’m growing up to be just like my mother.  Please, God, not that.


I think I binge (on food) just about every Sunday.  Yesterday I ate over a pound of oats, a half pound of raisins, half a pound of cheddar cheese, half a pound of walnuts, and I can’t recall what else.  And people complain when they’ve gone off their diets eating one piece of pizza!


It’s sick, this Sunday thing.



7/8/2006 Today’s update



Even normal people’s brains need periodic maintenance.  The files have to be cleaned out, old, unnecessary thoughts can be tossed aside making room for the new.  I suppose that is exactly why we sleep, we take our brains offline for eight hours for site maintenance.  Occasionally I install new programs, and the more adventurous of us download all kinds of crap on a daily basis.


Because of the passage of time, we have to update our brains now and then.  This involves the collection of new files to replace the old, faulty files.  Although brain chips do not regenerate, they can be reconfigured–producing genius or chaos, depending on how they’re arranged.  All the building blocks are right here in our heads.  I am reminded of the Sudoku puzzle, that starts as an odd collection of digits on a grid, and develops into an ingeniously clever array of figures, all because of what we do with our brains.


Writing, too, is a product of the mind, borne of nothing but writing utensil and space to write figures.  It makes no sense, this concern of ours with symbols–at all levels.  Letters are a product of the mind, words, sentences, all come from our heads.  Ideas come from the mind, and conversation–what is it all but strange noises?


Let me tell you this: I need an update.  I need a message from the brain equivalent of Microsoft, that god that giveth and taketh away.  I need some higher knowledge, some configuration of wisdom.  I need to grow up.  But you can’t hurry Microsoft, and whenever the god giveth, renewal is necessary in the form of a restart.  The growth process is annoyingly cumbersome and tends to slow us down some.  And the result?  The computer looks the same, smells the same, and still has the same crud that it had in it before the restart. 


Updates are subtle, though.  It’s not like putting on lipstick, the exterior repainted.  Updates happen inside us and keep on happening, whether we want them or not.


I suppose, when the system in my brain gets too old and tired to maintain, when Microsoft throws its arms in the air and says, “Your operating system is no longer supported by us,” I will retire, donate myself to a school or library, eventually get chucked in the “hazardous waste” bin.  Someone might want to use me for parts, but probably not.


So, where is my update?  When will I have the wisdom necessary to break my own code, my own faulty wiring?  When will I be able to self-repair, to regenerate myself, the perfect no-maintenance machine?  Or is that an unreasonable request?


I’m telling you, this computer’s gone mad.