My own personal crawl through depression vs. a broken leg.

CrawlOutHoleThe world’s eyes have turned to the Robin Williams story. He is a man that we all loved, and we really had no idea that he was in so much pain. We mourn him.

While there is now much debate on what could have/should have/would have been done, I thought it might be a good time to share some of my own travel through the black hole.

First, let me say, Depression is not a decision. You don’t decide to snap out of it any more than a Diabetic can just snap out of it, or someone with a broken leg can just decide that the leg is no longer broken.

There are many factors to Depression. Stress, trauma, abuse, chemical imbalances, and yes, all the junk and GMOs in our food supply, toothpaste and deodorants. I am sure there are other factors also. It’s a complex disease and cannot be treated by waving the magic wand. There are no easy answers.

We’ve all had “bad days,” sad days, betrayals by friends, deaths of loved ones. This is NOT Depression.

Depression

Depression

Depression is a world where there is no time, no passage of time. I am stuck. I cannot move forward. I cannot remember good times, good friends, or the receiving of love. I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. I cannot believe there is light. My faults, failures, pains are magnified, and they overtake me, they push me down, they stop my brain from logical thought. The pain is excruciating, and all-encompassing. It’s nearly impossible to ask for help, as my voice is also broken. I struggle to ask someone for help, only to be pushed away.

If you fell down and broke your leg, the pain would overtake you. You would not think, “Gee I really love pizza” while you are in agony.

 

There is a reason it’s called a Mental Illness.

For years its victims have been looked down upon, especially by Church Folk. “Oh you just need more faith.” Would you say that to someone with a broken leg?

I remember some Church Folk telling me about a neighbor of theirs who had committed suicide. “Well, you know, she had mental problems.” Did you do anything to help her? Did you ever invite her to dinner? Invite her to the movies? Have a cup of tea with her? Sit with her while she cried?

As most of you know, I am a Christian, I do believe in Jesus, and I do memorize scripture. This did not make me immune to Depression. Yes, there is a spiritual aspect to it, but it’s not the only part.

The Church has been ignorant and just plain mean to people who suffer with real sins and pains. The Church is supposed to be a hospital, not a gas chamber.

So while the spotlight is on Robin Williams and his pain, maybe something good can come out of this? If you see someone in pain, help them. Sometimes a listening ear is the best gift you can give someone. It doesn’t cost anything except your time. Don’t give advice, just listen. Offer to bring them to a doctor or counselor, but don’t push.

Another debate going on is the use of anti-depressants. Personally, they saved my life. I do know of others who had terrible experiences, and were made worse by them.

If someone is hit by a car, and breaks their leg, they lie there in agony. A person will call an ambulance. A team of EMTs will work on the person, place them into the ambulance, bring them to the hospital. A doctor will administer pain medication, set the leg, and put it in a cast to heal. Friends and family members will offer help with driving, cooking and cleaning.

Why don’t we treat Mental Illness the same way?

 

Am I having a mastectomy or buying a used car?

Used-carAny car salesman knows that once the customer has walked off the lot, he’s lost the sale. A savvy car buyer knows: always be ready to walk away.

I did not realize that my best negotiating skills were necessary to maneuver through the process of mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a lumpectomy and radiation in 2008. The cancer has returned to the same breast but a different quadrant.

Dr. “A”, my original surgeon back in 2008, who has also been monitoring my mammograms for the past 6 years, has recommended a full mastectomy. The reconstruction is to be performed by Dr. B, a plastic surgeon who specializes in mommy makeovers and breast reconstruction. (You can see him for all your Botox injection needs too!)

I met with Dr. B and decided okay, let’s do it, the clock is ticking; I have stage 1 cancer and I don’t want it to spread and become stage 2.

I should insert here that the “reconstruction” is taking belly fat, (aka donor site), and making a breast out of it. Donor site will then have a tummy tuck. Dr. B also said that they will “get rid of extra fat and skin and throw it away.” Okay, sign me up.

Meanwhile, my insurance company has informed me that they will not cover Dr. B at all. He is not in their plan. Too bad, so sad.

too-bad-so-sad

While I was stewing over that bit of news, I received a bill from Dr. A, who had billed the wrong insurance company. It said please pay us now.

Steam blew out of my ears, so I picked up the phone, called Dr. A and cancelled the surgery. Then I called Dr. B and cancelled the consultation appointment and the surgery. In other words, I walked off the car lot.

ear-steam

I couldn’t talk for the rest of the day because I was so stressed, but I did get some writing done and caught up on my BBC viewing. So not all that was bad I suppose.

 

notebook

Downton-Abbey

 

I then had an appointment with Dr. Y, a female surgeon who comes highly recommended by the neighbors. Dr. Y put me in touch with Dr. Z, also a woman, who does the plastic surgery and breast reconstruction.

Dr. Z said she would do the reconstruction but that there would be extra flesh flapping around. She would only take what is needed from the donor site, stitch me back up (at least she’s not using staples) and whatever flesh is there, just kind of hangs there.

wait-what

So although my insurance company is happy to pay for Dr. Z, do I really want excess hanging skin that’s not attached to anything? Can we make a deal? Can you fix that up, and maybe I could throw in a few bucks out of pocket, so I don’t, well, have pockets where my stomach used to be?

flap

While still dazed and confused, I answered the phone the next day to find that Dr. B’s office is calling to make a deal.

“We will give you a free consult.”

“We will work with your insurance.”

“We will throw in a free set of white-wall tires…”

No, they didn’t really say that, but I did say, “Fine. I want everything in writing.”

So I am still working through the negotiation process, and waiting to see what the other doctor group offers me. A new dvd player? A wide-screen tv?

just-in

 

Breaking News: Dr. B’s office just called. “We need to change your appointment.”

“Why?” I ask.

“The doctor has an emergency he must attend.”

“Oh. All right then. Goodbye.”

 

Emergency at the golf course maybe?

I should have been a doctor so I could schedule my emergencies.

golf

The plan is to decide by the end of the week which doctor group to go with. I’m not sure which package I will purchase at which lot, but I certainly hope to get a lot of mileage out of the product.

#amwriting

 

Eggplant Lasagna

yumMr. Porter’s garden has been most successful this year; we have herds of eggplant, peppers and beans. I love eggplant parm as much as the next person, but all those tasty bread crumbs which usually accompany eggplant–well they have a lot of carbs.

Herd of eggplant.

Herd of eggplant.

So I figured, I would wrap up the eggplant inside some lasagna (made with rice noodles instead of wheat–I’m sure my gluten free friends could find a suitable alternative.)

So here’s what I did:

1. Slice the eggplant, place on cookies sheet (sprayed with non-stick spray) and bake at 350 degrees for 15 mins. (Note to self: don’t forget the potholders.)

2. Brown the hamburger while that is going on. (Sure, use ground turkey.)

 

brown-the-hamburger

 

3. Cook the sauce. Pour in the browned hamburger. Add extra oregano to the sauce. Yum.

sauce-is-simmering

 

4. Mix the cheeses. Ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, some peppers finely chopped. A dash of parmesan cheese and a dash of mozzarella cheese.

Ricotta-mixture

 

5. Cheese! Did somebody say Cheese?

IMG_2577

 

 

 

 

cheese-please

 

6. Pick a nice pan to cook it in. Cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil so it doesn’t stick. Then spoon some sauce over it.

7. Lay down those lasagna noodles into the pan.

8. Cover with more sauce.

9. Layer the eggplant.

10. Cover with a layer of cheese mixture.

Spread-layers

11. You know the drill; lather, rinse, repeat, until you get to the top of the pan. Then cover it with mozzarella cheese.

12.  Bake at 350 for 35 mins.

13. Cut, eat, and enjoy.

 

 

Bailey waits for more cheese to fall onto the floor!

 

 

IMG_1371

 

 

Happy Monday everyone!

Do I look comfy to you? (6) My dog Bailey is at it again.

Bailey-front-view

I couldn’t help laughing at Bailey today when I saw him voluntarily putting his head between the two couches.

I guess he hasn’t run out of silly ideas yet.

Here is the side view:

Bailey-side-view

I don’t know how he comes us with these positions.

Guillotine Practice


Guillotine_1I started doing some research on death by guillotine because Bridget Hardy, a character in my upcoming novel “Ambassador” will enter the Next World this way. As writers, we are always told “write what you know” and as Captain Obvious would state, I don’t have first hand experience with this. But I have experienced some medical nightmares that give me bits and pieces of agonies endured.

Pinterest, a.k.a. “The Worst Time-Suck Since Facebook”, has provided me with some interesting pictures and stories.

I could hope that the NSA is not tracking my Googling and such, because I can see how this could be misinterpreted, but we are know they are, so I’ll just carry on with my tale.

Although death by guillotine is obviously not a party:

Compared to the methods of execution in use prior to that, it was actually a “scientific” and relatively efficient and humane method. Much preferable to being hung, shot, beheaded by an ax, burned, racked, etc. –Lea Woodard

The blade of a guillotine is slanted, not straight, causing swift cutting action completed in milliseconds. But while the death itself is supposedly fast and relatively painless, I’m sure the anticipation leading up to losing one’s head is dreadful.

There are pulley assemblies which are used to put the blade into position:

The blade was hoisted up with a rope running over two small pulleys lodged in slots within the top crossbar.  –History of the Guillotine

Anyone who’s head was under the blade would hear the blade coming down the path and cringe.

I watched a few videos on YouTube. Of course you have to promise that you are really over 18.

While I should write what I know, I don’t know much about how a person would feel emotionally upon facing the blade.

So I thought:  I will use my recent MRI experience as a springboard into that cruel world. I have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and my doctor ordered an MRI to get a better look at the tumor.

Oh yes, the MRI tube, the device that turns manly men into Chicken Little. One would think that being confined to a small space would be comforting, like the womb–but quite the opposite, it scares the Dickens out of us.

I was instructed to lie  face down on the table [which in guillotine speak is known as a bascule]. The Physician Assistant, [or in guillotine speak, the executioner] maneuvered me into position by pulling and tugging my body just so,  to make my head line up where it needed to be, [the lunette] and my breasts went into a little plastic window area. I was told not to move. Every nervous breathe I took was uneasy; since I was lying on my stomach, my weight was pressed down upon the bascule.

The assistants‘s voice spoke over the speakers, “Okay, stay still.” (If this were a real execution, I, the victim, would be strapped in, but I digress.) “We will now begin.”

The executioner mechanically slid the bascule back into position. I then heard the loud wah-wah-wah overhead, and imagined the voices of those who hated me yelling, “You will get what you deserve!”

I kept my eyes closed tightly and struggled for every breath, self-conscious of my every movement.

I was too cold, then I was too hot. There was nothing I could do about either situation, I couldn’t even complain, because that would involve moving. If I moved we would have to start from the beginning.

Oh, can we just get this over with, I thought.

Hmm, I wonder if that is what a guillotine victim would think? Yes, I think so.

I was held in an uncomfortable position which caused my back to hurt, my legs hurt, my neck hurt. Of course nothing would hurt my neck quite as much as a guillotine blade.

In 2008, I had breast cancer and endured a lumpectomy and radiation. Here are a few snippets of that experience:

Before Surgery:

My right breast was compressed into the mammography machine and held in place so that a metal wire could be inserted into the tumor, which signifies to the surgeon where to operate. Although I had been given pain killers, my body rebelled against the foreign wire and I began to feel faint. With no chance of escape, I mumbled to the technicians that I was going to fall over. Where would I fall, into the machine forward, or backward taking the machine with me as I crashed to the ground?

Trapped. Helpless. In pain. In a place that I don’t want to be.

Radiation:

I am held prisoner on the cold metal table, and the fire of the radiation burns my right breast. I must lie still so I don’t disrupt the cable which is attached to the radiation seed inside my breast.

The roster of the patients scheduled for treatment today is displayed on the computer screen on the right side of the room. Suddenly, the screen changes and displays a “Real Estate for sale” website. Pictures of houses scroll by as I realize that the technician who is supposed to be monitoring my radiation treatment is house shopping. I am just one of a long line of numbers to be processed.

Just one in an assembly line of victims.

So although I obviously have never been guillotined, I think I have enough fodder to write a life-like scene. And who is going to tell me that I’m wrong?

* * *

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, “Ambassador.”

 WARNING: Graphic.

“Bridget Hardy, step forward.”

A little man in his party uniform grabbed my handcuffed arms, yanked me from the crowd and pushed me into the queue of people, the other non-compliants. Little Man then pulled Kathy up onto the platform in front of the guillotine and the executioner.  Kathy turned and spoke to the executioner. His eyes bugged wide and he stepped back.  I was unable to hear her words over the jeering of the crowd, the loud chorus of hate which vibrated through my body.

Little Man pushed Kathy up against the standing bascule, strapped her in, and then it pushed down and forward into position, like an ironing board setting up for its purpose.

The executioner released the lever. The pulleys and rope rumbled and a thwap sounded as her head hit the basket. A shiver tore through me. The smell of fresh blood, the blood of my friend, invaded my nostrils, causing my heart to propel my own plasma to shoot through me, straightening my fingers in a flash. My entire body shook.

A demonic pit crew dumped her body sideways into a cart and wheeled it away. A new cart replaced the old one.

A thin man took her head from the front basket, held it up to the crowd which then shrieked with glee. Her head was then taken to the front room to be placed on display with the others, the ones I had seen when I was first brought to this building.

I watched this process repeated for the people in the queue, one by one.

Then the executioner straightened the bascule back up—for me.

I inhaled, and set my mind on Jesus and the great gift that He bought for me when He died on the cross. Hands pushed me forward again, my body forced against the bascule. “Do you have any last words, Christian?” the executioner asked. I looked into his dead black eyes, then to his smirking mouth. I closed my eyes and focused. “I am not afraid to die, this is only my beginning. Are you afraid to die?” I opened my eyes, and watched his wide eyes change to a squint; his jaw tightened.

Little Man walked over to assist strapping me against the bascule. The straps tightened around me and I fought for each breath. The bascule slid into position, and Little Man yanked my neck into position to line up with the lunette, and pushed the other half of the circle down onto the back of my neck. As the pulleys rumbled I waited for the blade to pierce the back of my neck but instead, peace enveloped me and ushered me into a deeper dimension.

I saw a throne, and a King sitting upon the throne, and there was a rainbow around the throne.

<End of excerpt>

* * *
That’s a scene from my upcoming novel, “Ambassador.”

I’m using true-life experiences to carry over into fiction.  As you can see, it’s really not that far of a jump.

#guillotine

#mri

#breastcancer

#amwriting

 

Paper? Yes, please. Some things need to stay old school.

I still have a flip phone. I can’t get Facebook or “apps” on my phone. It only talks and texts. I can so relate to Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. If the old way works, why change it. Could my grandfather be correct?

My husband, aka Mr. Porter, shared this commercial with me, and I stood up and applauded.

(For my email readers; I know sometimes the videos don’t show up–click below:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksO35s3Bffc

I totally relate to Emma. I love stickies. I love Sodoku and when it really counts, yes, I love paper.

I love notebooks of all shapes and sizes. I start writing in a notebook because it feels more earthy and then I switch over to the computer or word processor.

Of course I care about the trees–plant more. Of course I recycle my paper. I don’t believe in wasting resources.

But let’s not be so anal about it.