Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Angel is a Centerfold

So, in case you've been in a coma (oh how darkly funny), I am obsessed with www.icanhascheezburger.com. This is a website for people who like cats; if you don't like cats, I'm sorry that life has proved so bitter and unfortunate for you. This is a website for people who like cats talking in bad grammar. It's Cute Overload mixed with Engrish. I kind of have a problem with this website: it's slightly less addicting than cocaine. How many brilliant essays on T.S. Eliot's Buddhist influence haven't I read because I have been reading "just one more page" of this:

I start to worry that Theo, my beloved cat, is getting jealous of me looking at other cats online. I tell him, "Baby, they mean nothing to me" and "They're just pictures" and "But you're real!" but he'll have none of it. I even made this piece of art to convey my utter devotion:

I mean, it's not like he doesn't rub up on other girls' legs. Sometimes he leaves and he goes out all night and doesn't come home until 2 in the morning. What am I supposed to do? Isn't it all just animal nature?

So I bought Theo a collar and a tag so that if he runs away, he'll find his way back home. Since he is originally from Alameda, and thus a sailor, I bought a nautical themed "beastie band" foam collar. The tag was a red heart, like my passionate, burning one for him. I put it on him one morning and he freaked out. He hid in the closet most of the day (which he never does) and cried ALL FUCKING NIGHT. It was like when your hijackers deprive you of sleep before they brainwash you. Finally, after several hours of epileptic spasms he managed to get it off, and I gave in. He wins. He can run around naked at the risk of getting lost and never being returned to me if it means he's happy.

I told my Mom this story and she jokingly suggested I get him an implant. I was like, "that's a good idea." They have those, you know. I came home tonight to this supreme manifestation of a mother's love:

That's Theo! And icanhascheezburger together! It's like when your wife takes sexy pictures of herself! Yay!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Stella Cathleen

Last night I had a dream about my Dad. I dreamed that my mother was telling me over the phone that something bad had happened to him and something else about what my oldest cousin Cathy was doing. I was in a house with clear glass tea cups and pink carpet. There were a few people I didn't know in the house with me: an old woman with a camping hat on and a tall, naked grad student girl. In my dream, my Mom told me that Cathy and Hannah, her daughter, (not the people in the house I was in!) had bought The Lake House (the house I grew up in, that my Dad and his Dad built when my Dad was a teenager, the house my Mom and Dad still live in) from Nanny and Papa, my Dad's parents. I was overwhelmed with sadness. I couldn't control my crying; I was moaning with grief. I was trying not to cry in front of the naked grad student girl and the lady with the camping hat, but I couldn't stop. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to ever go home.

The Lake House:

(Look Mac, the elevator is still off the porch!)

A few days ago, my Dad was transferred to Emory hospital in the psychiatric unit. The specialists there quickly realized that he had been having a gnarly reaction to the head drugs he had been prescribed initially. This was good news, because it meant that firstly, they knew what was wrong, and secondly, given time, he would recover.

This whole shenanigans has been going on for about six weeks now. I've been doing just fine with all of this. I'm doing my homework and I'm paying my rent and I'm not upset. To be honest, it doesn't quite seem real to me.

But life is mysterious and things are at work that we don't understand. For example, this.

I don't believe in God, but I do believe in the Buddhist principle that everything is interconnected. Literally, everything is made out of the same stuff. I am a collection of matter. I'm a wave in a body of water. Oh, don't roll your eyes; it's not a good time to be judgmental.

Things ARE at work that we don't understand. Remember my dream? Well, last night my Dad had an emergency and was put back into the ICU; not to be all melodramatic, but he could have died. Let's cut the shit: he stopped breathing; it's fucked up. And my cousin Cathy, who hasn't been to The Lake House in maybe a decade and lives two hours away, stopped by the house because her husband was buying some tires from some guy nearby. I see Cathy maybe once a year; I'm not even sure if her name is spelled with a "C" or a "K."

More than thirty years ago, my Dad woke up one night and smelled smoke. My Mom and he searched their apartment and, finding nothing, went back to bed. That night his sister's house burned down. She, her husband, and her two young children were unharmed. Cathy was one of those children. This story doesn't make sense, but I have to tell it.

This is a picture Stella Cathleen holding my brother:

Cathy went to see my Dad at the hospital. She's a nurse. She told my Mom that she feels my Dad is going to come out of this okay. How could I not believe?

Monday, October 08, 2007


My Dad is really, really, really sick. He's been in the ICU for at least 10 days now, in a half-catatonic state. One of his best friends came to see him and my Dad didn't even recognize him.

About a month ago, he started acting really weird. He was super anxious, paranoid, and kind of crazy. He stopped sleeping. He got so bad that he let my mom take him to a psychiatrist. My Dad is a Republican, Vietnam veteran, ex-football playing, Patton-loving, commie-hater. When we were kids, he would yell "front and center" to call us. He's practically an archetype. He's not the kind of man who goes to see a psychiatrist.

So the doctor diagnosed him as bipolar, in the midst of an "acute manic episode" and loaded him with drugs. Sleeping pills and some other stuff that's supposed to "level things off." He got worse and worse. At one point my brother and I thought he was faking because he was acting so absurd. I talked to him on the phone and he acted like someone who was very, very drunk and silly. He was concerned with how nicely the window of the car rolled up. I was pissed off.

Then he got worse. He started falling down, so they took him to the hospital and that's where he is now. They don't know what is wrong with him. They've done MRIs and tested him for everything except pregnancy. He's been looked at by a neurologist who told my mother he has no idea what is wrong with him. He told my Mom that maybe it was the drugs. My Mom said, "did they like fry his brain?" and the neurologist said "that's not the term we use."

Now I'm really pissed off. Most of my anger is blind and reactionary; I'm completely powerless and frustrated. But another chunk of it is directed at how doctors jack people full of drugs when they are mentally ill. I'm so fucking sick of it.

We all know that head drugs (and that should be their medical term) are helpful for a smidgen of the population. I have at least two friends who have been helped by them. I have countless other friends, however, who have been prescribed Prozac or Celexa or that other one because they were going through a normal, early-to-mid twenties existential crisis.

The Summer after I left the church I moved home and lived with my parents. I got into a funk, which is to be expected seeing as how I had just made a huge, life-altering decision. There were other factors, too, which I'm not going to go into, that contributed to me being depressed. I talked to my family doctor and she gave me a two month supply of Celexa samples she'd surely gotten from some pharmaceutical sales rep, a six-month prescription, and the name of a therapist. I never called the therapist and I never saw the doctor again.

I took it on and off for maybe two years. I don't know whether or not it helped; nobody ever really knows what works or doesn't. I do know that after two years, right after I finished school, I started feeling really, really, really fucked up. Crazy awful terrible bad. I really wanted to die, like every minute of every day for months. I went to New York for a weekend (tickets were cheap; it was November 2001) and sat for hours and watched these kids play soccer in Central Park and I couldn't understand how they could just laugh and be happy. I got to this point where I decided that if I were going to die, I would want to do it sober, so I stopped taking the medicine. And to my surprise, a fog lifted off of me. I remember sitting in my grandpa's living room and thinking about how much my family loves him and how valuable his life is to all of us and how that must also be true for me.

About six months after that, I was reading and expose of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly in Adbusters magazine. One of the side effects that the makers of Prozac (and other SSI inhibitors) have successfully played down is akathisia, or the sudden unexplained desire to die. This quote is from wikipedia:

Ironically antipsychotic drugs are many times prescribed as “mood stabilizers” but then have the opposite intended effect, which often leads to increased doses further escalating the symptoms when the intent was to ameliorate the symptoms.

Akathisia affects up to 10% of people who take Prozac (and presumably, other SSI inhibiting drugs). That's one in every ten. After reading this article, I realized that that was probably what had happened to me. It was healing to know that I was not innately crazy and fucked up, but it also pissed me off.

My Mom was given head drugs for a short period of time in the mid-80s. The doctor didn't tell her that they were addictive and she went through hellacious withdrawal symptoms. My mother's mother's personality changed completely when she started taking Lithium in the mid 60's. As a part of Kaiser's stop-smoking program, I took anti-anxiety head drugs a few years ago and also had a bad experience with them (mainly just a lot of crying).

I'm not crazy. My mother isn't crazy. My grandmother, both of them, aren't crazy. My friends aren't crazy (even the ones who think they are). None of us are fucking crazy. We're human beings who, as we move through life, experience inexplicable ups and downs. We are irrational, sensitive, quirky people who are artists and writers and musicians and cupcake bakers who have problems adapting to a world that wants us to iron and check our voice mail and have perky tits.

If someone lives in a cold damp house and smokes Marlboro Reds and doesn't wear a scarf
and eats frozen pizza and drinks too much and doesn't sleep, she is going to have a cold all the time. And if she goes the doctor, the doctor will give her antibiotics or tell her to get some Robitussin. And if she's really sick, she might really actually need antibiotics or Robitussin. But she also needs to take care of the situation that caused the cold in the first place.

So my Dad is really really sick, but I have no idea what he needs to get better. Obviously, drugs aren't the solution. This sucks.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Men Whose Heads Grow Beneath Their Shoulders

Disclaimer: This post is not for those who are sensitive to sickly-sweet-goody-goody-girl-sickness. If you become nauseous, click here

So, I have a whole new look, check it out:

I just have to say that I *love* grad school so much. I *love* all the work I have to do. I *love* that I have to read things that are almost too hard to understand. I *love* all the underlining and little stars in the margins. I *love* finishing my homework. I *love* it when my Freud class, my T.S. Eliot class, and my Colonialism class all allude to The Tempest and I had read three acts of it the night before. I *love* spending hours and hours reading everyday for days at a time.

I feel like those new mothers who go back to work and everyone tells them how it must be so nice to be out of the house and among and the living and they're all "I JUST WANT TO STAY HOME WITH MY BABY." I feel like that about T.S. Eliot.

I mean, I get to study weird pictures from the 15th Century from some book that some guy wrote who travelled god knows where and came back and told everybody that people out there looked like this:

I mean, what the fuck!?!