It’s Hard Out Here For A Crip

[This isn’t a plea for more help. I try to spread my requests out, because everyone has their own lives. I have actually had certain friends get mad at me because I asked for help more than once in a year. So in the spirit of friendship no, I don’t need anyone to get my groceries or prescriptions.]

Facebook is great until it’s not. Just hang with me as I explain this.

I’ve got so many medical conditions, allergies, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements that I have everything alphabetized on a sheet that I keep updating and printing every time I go to appointments. I can’t remember everything. I’ve got two injections that I give myself every week in my stomach and thighs, and it’s possible I’ll be getting a third. One of them really hurts and it takes a long time to push the syringe down; my hands cramp up and a few times I didn’t go long enough and have shot the solution all over myself when I pulled the needle out. (I hate wasting that precious medication.)

Nothing is simple with my healthcare. I just got done coordinating a treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa, which means I have to fly to Minnesota for two different lasers and get Pronox gas since Lidocaine doesn’t work on me topically. One of the issues we had to figure out was what to do about me breathing back OUT into the air – what if I was breathing out contaminated microbes and spreading COVID-19? So the office had to track down a device to add to the machine. It took me a week and a half to put everything together and find flights/hotel that I could afford that would also work with the office’s schedule.

At the same time, I was also scheduling surgery for some scarred areas with the hidradenitis suppurativa. Again, since I don’t get numb from Lidocaine, I have to be put under completely to get the spots removed. They are not going to be closed up but rather left open because of the nature of the condition; it’s better not to make a tunnel, that would just encourage the disease to start again in those spots. So now I have to also reschedule other doctor appointments because I will be uncomfortable for a couple of weeks, especially since I can’t take pain medications because of mast cell activation syndrome.

I met with a new cardiologist because I’ve been having major problems with pitting edema, despite being on a very high dose of spironolactone. He put me through a very thorough ECG and ultrasound of my heart and carotid artery, and wants me to have a tilt table test performed. I have a resting heart rate of 110+ now but a very normal blood pressure which sometimes dips low and have had the diagnosis of POTS since 2017 (but symptoms since 2000), but he wants to be sure that that is what I’m still dealing with. When it gets into the summer months here in Phoenix, it gets a lot harder for me to deal with the heat, and I get closer to blacking out frequently, even in my apartment with air conditioning.

I saw my OB/GYN because I still have cysts in my breasts. I get checked every six months. So far they haven’t changed in size, so I might be able to go once a year.

I was being lectured by my primary care doctor and rheumatologist about being on steroids long term for ankylosing spondylitis. I told them that going off for even a day is very impactful, but of course, they didn’t believe me, so I had to demonstrate it. I went off for 7 days and then went in to my rheumatologist’s nurse practitioner. She saw my hands twisted, red and inflamed to three times the size of what is normal, and also observed the spasms in my back that also severely affected my breathing. I’m allergic to all NSAIDs including ibuprofin and naproxen sodium because of mast cell activation syndrome, so I’m not able to take anything besides Tylenol at this point, which is absolutely unhelpful. After seeing for herself, she agreed to continue the steroids. (Side note: the cardiologist told me that I obviously gained weight on the steroids because I was eating more. Wrong. I eat about 1,000-1,2000 calories a day. Doctors love to shame women. One of my fellow patients was told to lose weight when she only weighed 95 pounds at 5’4″.)

I went back in to Barrow to follow up on an EEG. I had reacted to the strobe light even though it hadn’t been noted on the report and the tech saw it happening and kept asking if I was okay. I also have been having issues with my tongue and mouth going numb, and my left arm has been having spasms. I know that my brain has had changes that are different from the last two MRIs. This appointment was set up with a nurse practitioner because the neurologist I previously had left Barrow (yes!!! he was horrible), so we had never met. It seemed like she understood what I was explaining about my history. She left the room, came back, and said, “We’re really specific here, and no one knows what to do with you. Can you just go to a neighborhood neurologist? Maybe they will know what to do with you.” Seriously. When I go to a neurologist who is outside of a big organization like Barrow, they throw up their hands and say, “But I’m just a neighborhood neurologist!! What do you want from me?” The NP gave me two names as a suggestion, but since I saw a different doctor in the same office already, I can’t see anyone else.

My thyroid stopped working at optimal, which explains why I was feeling extra tired and achy, and looking even more like a defensive tackle. Whenever that happens my cholesterol also goes through the roof. So I had to adjust all those meds again.

I’m being monitored for clotting by an oncologist/hematologist, so I had to go in for more tests. Right now it looks like my factor IV and fibrinogen are high. The fibrinogen makes sense because of what has happened to all of my shunts.

I need to have a laser treatment on my gums and one of my molars pulled but that has to be put off indefinitely because of the current situation. These are complications in my mouth because of mast cell activation syndrome. I can’t ever get dental implants, also because of mast cell activation syndrome – I’m allergic to metal, cement and glue/bonding.

Throughout all of this, I’m also trying to coordinate all of my meds. Some are traditional meds that I can get through a place like Walgreen’s. However, I’ve encountered some shortages. So it’s been left up to me to follow up to try to figure out how to get them. One of my meds I couldn’t get for FOUR months. Some of my medications have to be compounded because they aren’t available in the form I need to take them on the regular market. For instance, one is available as an eye drop, but I need to be able to take it as a pill. But the prescribing doctor is in Minnesota, and I’m overdue to see him, and he can’t do a televisit because I’m not physically in MN. None of my other doctors will write the script. See how this shit gets complicated? Besides that, I also had to go through the approval process multiple times for the shots because I failed out of multiple medications. I talked, I faxed, I talked some more, I faxed some more, I scanned, I talked, I waited on hold, I faxed, I scanned, I faxed…you get the idea. Oh, and they also ran credit checks on me. That’s something new all of them are doing. They are saying it’s because they want to make sure I’m getting all the benefits I can get, but obviously that’s a big fat lie. I’m wondering who they are withholding medication from. Drug manufacturers have a lot of power.

That sums up everything I have been dealing with for the past couple of months.

I’m on Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), which means I worked before I became disabled. In fact, the judge that decided my case said I truly worked as much as I possibly could before I really couldn’t work anymore. I now fall into the category of having a very low income, but it’s not low enough to receive any additional help. I don’t get any assistance with housing/rent, food, utilities or transportation. Some people get discounts but I don’t. The last time I had this income was 1993.

With this income, I have to pay for my monthly medical premiums. The premiums alone add up to $438.20. One of the plans I have isn’t from the state I live in. The state of Arizona doesn’t believe that someone could exist who is below the age of 65 and receives income above poverty level, who is also disabled. That’s me. They don’t have any policies for anyone under 65 who isn’t poverty. The craziest thing happened, though. I was actually living in another state when my case was decided, and the state had one – only ONE – policy that I could buy that could travel to any of the other 49 states no matter where I lived. I just can’t miss a payment for the next 22 years, ever. If I do it could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs for me because of all of my crazy health stuff. This dollar amount does not include the money I spend on prescriptions, OTC meds or supplements. The supplements are absolutely necessary because they help to treat mast cell activation syndrome.

I spend something in the neighborhood of $100-150 on transportation a month because of having to go to doctor appointments, labs, scans and to the pharmacy. For about a month and a half Medicare was allowing our medications to be delivered, but they stopped allowing that, so I have to go and get my meds now. We can’t do mailing here in AZ because the heat degrades medications. (There have been a few times when the ice packs have been barely cold on my shots that have been delivered to me.)

I am signed up on two different transportation programs for disability, and I’m supposed to wait outside and be visible to the drivers. This is fucking hell in AZ in the summer. My heart condition makes it so much harder for me to be up and out in the heat.

So let’s talk masks, and COVID-19.

I have 8 masks now, with vents. My very first mask a few years ago was a Vogmask. I started wearing it on flights because I wanted to avoid breathing in the shit everyone was passing around in the cabin, because I was sure to catch whatever they were dishing out. So far it’s worked. And let me tell you, those vents make all the difference. Right now I’m on a list for the backordered masks from England for the fanciest of fancy vented Cambridge masks; I’m in for 2.

I’m up on COVID-19. I’m comfortable with the science, been correcting misinformation. One of my drivers tried to tell me the 19 stood for it being the 19th version of the virus. Ha. Ha. Nope. I think the people who walk around saying their freedom is being taken away are complete assholes and deserve what they get. I think the people who say they will make themselves sick with bronchitis or other lung infections by wearing a mask are assholes.

So when I’m going around to all of these appointments, seeing my doctors, getting labs and scans done, I have my mask on. There have been a few times where there blackness has been closing in on me because transportation has insisted I be outside in 100+ heat, my wig is dripping hot, I’m gasping for air, and I have to pull the mask off because I can tell my pulse is through the roof and my BP is dropping.  It will happen at the grocery store too. I’ll be walking around and suddenly my body will just crash. I have to take the mask off for a few so I don’t end up on the floor. I do my best to stay masked up unless my body rebels. When the episode is done, the mask goes back on.

Last night, a friend posted on Facebook that if someone didn’t mask up, he was going to cut that person or people off (with an exception for some medical situations). I saw some people posting, including comments about how there was no way there should even be exceptions for medical. So I raised my hand and said hey wait a second, there has to be exceptions, and we still need to go out. And one guy lectured me about how I needed to have my groceries and prescriptions delivered and my doctor visits should be telemed. I told him to fuck off.

I don’t know this guy. He doesn’t know my shit. But groceries cost me at least $30 extra delivered because of the delivery fee and tip, and they NEVER get what I need and they never do substitutions when I ask for them, which would result in another run to the grocery store. Do I have tons of extra money to spend? Do I have $30, or $60, or $120 a month to throw away on delivery fees? Prescriptions were only allowed to be delivered by Medicare for a short amount of time. Now I have to go and get them again. As far as the doctor visits go, my shit is so complicated that I am required to go in. The docs don’t give me a choice.

This guy’s response was that he thought I would want to not spread the virus and be responsible, and if I didn’t wear a mask, I should just at least pull my shirt up over my mouth and nose. So I told him that I’m not a bottomless pit of wealth, and he’s telling someone who uses a cane and two arm braces and whose face is also partially paralyzed to walk and pull her shirt up. He then offered to “get my groceries” and I told him to stop talking. His response was “Damn.” A particularly dumb broad piped in about how rude I was to refuse his help by telling him to fuck off.

Being a disabled, middle-aged, single, adult female is a fucking challenge. There was that time when a complete stranger grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into an elevator because I was waiting for someone to turn around their power scooter and he assumed I couldn’t handle the elevator on my own. So here’s this guy on Facebook telling me that I have to pay for delivery and get only half of what I need, get my prescriptions delivered (even though Medicare doesn’t allow it) and just see my doctors on video (even though they won’t allow it). Yes, I’m going to tell him to fuck off. He offered to get my groceries AFTER I told him to fuck off. He wanted to feel better about being an asshole and making HUGE assumptions. I would never, ever, ever let someone near my groceries, my medications or my living space who would try to ridicule me like that and then try to strap on the hero cape. “No, really, I’m a good guy.” Don’t ever trust a guy who tells you he’s a good guy right after he does something shitty. And I’m still masking up.

 

 

Sayonara, Senor Shorty

Have you ever dated one of those people who blamed everyone else when something bad happened?

The last time we were naked together, all Senor Shorty (height: best guess is 5’1″, I’m 5’5.5″) did was complain about his first long-term girlfriend, and why he was justified in cheating on her. The son they had together is now 12 years old. I tried to steer him away from that topic, because 1. (and I said this): I didn’t want to talk about another woman while we were doing what we were doing, and 2. He has never taken responsibility for cheating. It’s a choice.

Senor Shorty was angry with her because she didn’t service him enough. She was staying at home to take care of their kid, who was born with cystic fibrosis and a host of developmental disabilities, and she also takes care of this guy’s mom, whose house they lived in (and she and the kid still live there). So this woman is taking care of a child and an elderly woman all day, every day. Senor Shorty gets home and demands that she make herself more available for sex. She doesn’t make it happen, and he starts screwing around on her. He also controls her money and transportation. Classic abusive move right there.

Besides being a shit to his ex, Senor Shorty also bullies his 12-year-old. Because the kid has sensory issues, he has a hard time standing and peeing. So I found out this guy has been calling him a mama’s boy and telling the ex she’s doing a bad job of raising him. But this guy lives in my state, and these two live in New York. He tells everyone else this kid is his mini version, but he’s a total dick to the kid and the ex. I can’t convince Senor Shorty to stop bullying his kid. He thinks that he’s a great dad because he says he is. Of course, his actions say otherwise.

He says he “fell in love” with another woman and he got her pregnant while he was still with girlfriend #1, which resulted in his second son. He definitely favors Kid #2, 5 years old, because the little one misses him terribly and tells him so. Kid #2 is also in New York, though far away from Kid #1. Senor Shorty has given him very expensive gifts to make up for his absence, which Kid #2 really doesn’t want any part of. He just wants his dad. Of course, Senor Shorty cheated on this woman too, and punished her by taking away her transportation and controlling her money. It’s a common theme.

So, this guy. Within a week and a half of agreeing to date exclusively, he cheated on me. He tried to blame me for being hurt, saying it was my imagination, and he never said anything about dating me. I’m just gonna leave this screen shot right here.
Cheating1

I swear like a truck driver on the regular anyway, but I tore him a new asshole.

After a while, because when he’s not lying or manipulating, we can get along decently well, we decided to try friendship. The lines got blurred a few times and we did have sex, but it wasn’t a regular thing – maybe two more times at most over the span of five months? Anyway, I told Senor Shorty that I would help him get his life on track, and it would be better for the next woman. I meant it too. And his life is better, when he does things the right way.

But it always drove me fucking nuts whenever I’d catch him in a lie (which was every day, big and small). Like when he insisted he didn’t watch TV. We were talking about his budget, and he has this very fancy laptop that he only knows how to turn on and off. He doesn’t even know what an address bar is. I was telling him he didn’t need to buy a TV for his little studio apartment, he could just watch his laptop, and after I explained everything he agreed. Trust me when I say that he didn’t even have enough money to buy toilet paper. A couple of months later he was complaining about the fact that he was still paying off a TV that he didn’t even have for a week. I asked him to repeat himself and then told him I didn’t understand. I realized that he had been lying and that he had in fact gotten a TV and he immediately broke it – but it wasn’t his fault!!!! Oh god, just wait. He had put up a little shelf over his head and the bed, and put a 55″ TV on the shelf, that he bought on installment payments. But he just put it the shelf in the drywall. He didn’t look for studs in the wall. Basically, the shelf just peeled off the wall like an orange peel. So it was the shelf’s fault, it was the TV’s fault, how was he supposed to know that there was a right way to put it up? Now he’s going to be paying those installments for forever, because he doesn’t have enough cash to pay off what he owes. 

This guy decided he needed to sell this brand new iPhone he had no business buying in the first place because he couldn’t afford it. He told me he was going to be paying off the bill. Of course, he didn’t. He texted me in a panic saying that he got a notice stating that the phone was going to be disconnected and the buyers were upset. So I was concerned. I said, “So you sold the phone, and you had no intention of paying off the phone?” He said he didn’t know the phone company was going to expect to be paid. It was their fault the phone was cut off. Now he had to hurry and figure something out. He was looking for sympathy, but I shut that shit down real quick.

This guy. Senor Shorty goes through jobs like candy. It’s always the employer’s fault. He was getting one new job a month, or so it seemed, all the way through 2019.  His jobs are based on road and highway travel, and he some has very specific skills. It’s their fault that he can’t stay on budget if they pay every other week instead of every week, though. Nevermind that it’s the same pay, and the taxes work out the same. He doesn’t know how to budget. He blows the money if it is in his account for too long. He has told me this is the first time in his life he has been in financial trouble, but I think that’s a lie too. He’s only a year older than me, so he’s been old enough to work for 28 years. He’s been fucking up his bills for decades.

The lying is exhausting. Whenever I caught him lying, he would tell me it was just his personality flaw and I had to be okay with it. 

Last week, I had enough. He was posting high school, feeling-bad-for-himself-shit. We’re smack in the middle of this virus and he’s whining and crying on Facebook about how lonely he is and he wants to “find a woman he can trust, who is beautiful, who will cook and clean for him and make him feel special.” First of all, no one should be dating right now. Second of all, no woman should be signing up to be his slave. He just wants someone to control. Boy, did that post ever put me over the edge. And why the fuck would he demand someone he can trust, when absolutely no one can trust him? He has cheated on every single woman he has dated for the last two decades.

My response was, “All a woman wants is a guy who won’t fuck around or expect her to be a sex slave, have no life, and perform like a porno star while he lays back like a lazy ass pillow princess.” Which, by the way, describes him nearly perfectly. The other parts I haven’t told you is that he’s the worst kisser ever (he just sticks his tongue out like a dead fish), he’s a premature ejaculator, he doesn’t know anything about female anatomy, and he’s very rough in a not-fun way (he tore the skin under my boobs, took about 10 days for me to heal). This relationship was not destined for long term anyway. I tried to get him to discuss with me what he enjoyed about sex, and he couldn’t say one word. Then he said that I clammed up and it was funny. Talk about gaslighting! He was unable to tell me one single thing he liked. The last time that happened, the guy ended up coming out as gay a short time later. 

I finally told him to clean up his shit and stop claiming to be a good guy while he was cheating on everyone he dated. I knew there were other women after me and he was screwing around on them too. One of his jerky friends piped up and said he should “run, because it was obvious [I] was bitter.” Not about him dating other women, believe me. I just want him to not keep doing this shit and then feeling sorry for himself, so that was my response. So that got me unfriended on Facebook. Boo hoo. Good luck to whomever is next. He loves to dump his shit on you and then say that you won’t ever get close to him – meaning he doesn’t want to hear about you or support you, he only wants to talk about himself. (Pro tip: at least you don’t have to do a marathon BJ session ever.) 

Also, he wants to get a penis implant to make his penis larger. He thinks it will make sex better for him. He doesn’t care if it will for whomever is having sex with him. I asked him if he thought it would change his sensation, and he said no, but he still wanted it. And if it isn’t happening to his penis, he isn’t interested. 

I definitely should have vetted him better before jumping into a relationship. That’s on me. Sometimes I am blinded by the promise of fun and adventure. I’ve changed from my 20’s, though, and don’t let things drag on for years.

My Milkshake

Just a little update: I was finally diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in May, and my case is fairly advanced. I have growths all along my spine and just got confirmation on Friday that all of the difficulties I’m having with my hands (horrible pain, swelling, tenosynovitis in every tendon, and cysts) is also likely from the AS, as I have grown to suspect. Humira is out for treatment because it accelerated my hidradenitis suppurativa, so I’m going through testing and trying to get approved for a different injectable. I’ve already been denied by my insurance company because the co-pay is $1,523/month so we’ve started the paperwork for a patient assistance program.

I also flew back to Minnesota twice to get two different laser treatments for my hidradenitis suppurativa. The dermatologist who is treating me started experimenting on another patient and mentioned it to me when I was moving away last year. I tried this as a last-ditch effort because absolutely nothing was working. Boy, what a difference! After the first round I got about 60% improvement, but it took about 3 months to see it. I’ve got about 75% improvement now after the second treatment. I know I’ll have to go for a third treatment but I’m hoping to wait until after the snowy season, which means I’ll have to postpone at least until April/May. This is a really, really difficult disease. I couldn’t convince any of the local Phoenix dermatologists to use the same method, so now I have to spend a fortune in travel and hotels (can’t stay with family because I’m allergic to their animals).

During all of this I had to fire my pain doctor for dropping the ball in a major way. I finally got into Barrow again with a new neurologist (I really liked the resident and I hope he doesn’t burn out; the doctor seemed suspicious of me because all of my stuff is so weird, but hey, I think neurologists are pretty much useless, so right back at ya, buddy). The next thing I think I have coming up is my teeth. I’m having a lot of issues with the gums and pain with two teeth, and I noticed a growth that I thought was just some swelling initially. Mast cell activation syndrome really fucks with all of this.

So just in the past week, I had some perverts knocking on my virtual door.

I still have a notice on my FetLife profile that I’m not participating in any activities because of health issues; that includes parties, one-on-ones, texting, role-playing, etc. I will say hello and that is it. In all honesty, I’m sick to death of online stuff anyway. I much prefer real life. But this is what I got in my inbox:

A nice smile nice conversation nice lips nice eyes nice hair nice tits nice pussy nice ass nice personality all boils down to one thing. Can this person make me orgasm and use rope to tie me up and take advantage? After having long stressful days and weeks and unfulfilled sexual satisfaction a person just wants one thing. With me it’s just straight to the point. No need she pretending to be the princess or the dominated woman that you pretend to be and your outside personal business and work life. I didn’t know what what’s going on until I made her come and orgasm over and over again until she blanked out several times. Are you then figure out what was going on, suggest a few commands and before you know it she was coming on command. I’m straight to the point very blunt. I host everything. I get a hotel or motel room here in Tucson You show up in the proper attire and the session begins just that simple. No strings attached just you and I and you getting what you want. All I ask is give it one try. After that if this is something that you don’t want then you cut the string and this is all forgotten about.

[I’m just going to say here that it’s every man’s fantasy that his dick has magic juice. Seriously. Every guy thinks he can make a woman black out or blank out. Hahahahaha! Or this Jedi mind trick shit – cum on command. Fuck you. Fucking lazy shit.]

Me: Kind of a bummer you went through all the trouble of copying and pasting that without reading my profile.

Him: Sweetheart I read your profile, how was I or anyone to know how you are now? Your last entry was 5 months ago. 
Note: [His thought process is that my request to be left alone doesn’t matter. His dick has magic juice. P.S. – I hate being called sweetheart when I’m calling him out on shitty behavior and we don’t know each other.]

Me: That should be a clear indication that nothing has changed. Sweetheart.

Him: Maybe a person got off FetLife because they lost their account information. Maybe the person wanting a break. Maybe a person was in a certain situation but things got better but just never updated.
[Translation: Maybe I have a magic dick and if you get some of my magic dick juice, you’ll be cured. I will then claim that on my profile – and in this copied and pasted paragraph for the next victim. Whatever is going on, though, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening…]

Me: Maybe we’re done talking now.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Crickets after that.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

I accepted a friend request from a friend of a friend on Facebook. It seemed like we had the same political leanings (something I ALWAYS check for now) and he might possibly know my mom and stepdad – he knows one of their friends, at least. I don’t accept a lot of strangers. So he messaged me immediately.

Him: I couldn’t resist your beautiful eyes! And I am working on my hesitancy with beautiful red headed women. Frightens me some….love to look, but never touch.

[Jesus H. So he puts redheads up on a pedestal of weirdness. I wasn’t even going to bother telling him that I’m bald. None of his fucking business. I’m pretty sure he had already printed off a picture of me at work and was taking my picture into the bathroom with him to wank off.]

Me: I appreciate that you want to appreciate certain features, but you should do that on FetLife. Once you fetishize a person, you miss the red flags and seeing them as a whole person.

Him: That’s your first conclusion of me based on one comment? Kind of discriminatory!

[WTF. He immediately opened up with his fetish.]

Me: You don’t understand discrimination. You approached me. Redheads aren’t different beasts.

Him: I did not say you or they are…I only indicated my opinion.

Me:  Look, you obviously have a fetish. It’s okay. Own it. This whole thing about being injured because I recognize it is weird. Go out and explore all of your kink.

Him:  I do. It’s the enjoyment of discovering all kinds of people and their diversity.

Me: Fine. But I’m not on FB for fetish.

Him: Fantastic, me either and I will happily delete contact with you, while at the same time reinforcing my fear of redheads.

Me: Haha! Baby.

[So, he hit me up regarding his fetish, then claimed he didn’t have a fetish, then told me that our only purpose of contact was for his fetish and redheads are back up on the pedestal. Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker.]

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Co-Dependency: I’ll Scratch Your Back If You’ll Scratch Mine

Co-dependent: I’m quick to use the term. It’s not so easy to define, though. I’ve been trying for better than a decade to find just the right words. It seems most psychology publications are in the same boat as me.

PsychCentral defines it as “a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.” So really, they provided two definitions, not just one.

GoodTherapy.org breaks it down with a good ol’ list (because we love bullets) and explains that the “old” way of thinking was that everyone’s feelings were centered on one person’s addictive behaviors. Now co-dependence is recognized in much broader terms to include the role of caregiving, denial of personal problems, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt when offered help or attention from others, sensitivity to criticism, perfectionism and fear of failure, a projection of competence and a need to control others.

But the definition from GoodTherapy.org doesn’t make clear that there has to be at least two people in the relationship to make it co-dependent. At least one of the parties has to have low self-esteem and be sensitive to criticism and project a false sense of competence, and have support and attention from another party to continue carrying on with those behaviors. And let’s be clear, here: both or all parties can be co-dependent upon each other. Mothers and daughters, friends, teachers and students, lovers. Of course, some relationships are much more intimate and lasting than others.

Here is a comprehensive list from CoDA.org (Co-Dependents Anonymous.org):

Patterns and Characteristics of Co-Dependence; Co-dependents often:
• have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
• minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel.
• perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others.
• lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
• label others with their negative traits.
• think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
• mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
• express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
• do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom they are attracted.

Low self-esteem patterns; Co-dependents often:
• are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
• compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
• put aside their own interests in order to do what others want.
• are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings.
• are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
• accept sexual attention when they want love.
• make decisions without regard to the consequences.
• give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

Control patterns; Co-dependents often:
• believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
• attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
• freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
• become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
• lavish gifts and favors on those they want to influence.
• use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance.
• have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others.
• demand that their needs be met by others.
• use charm and charisma to convince others of their capacity to be caring and compassionate.
• use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally.
• refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate.
• adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
• use recovery jargon in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
• pretend to agree with others to get what they want.

Avoidance patterns; Co-dependents often:
• act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them.
• judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
• avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.
• allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships.
• use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
• diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery.
• suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
• pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away.
• refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves.
• believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.
• withhold expressions of appreciation.

As I revisit the definitions, I evaluate first my own behavior, but also a few specific relationships near me (that I have to be careful not to become too invested in, though I tend to become protective and outraged when I spot misbehavior). I think that the actual name “co-dependency” will be adjusted within the next 5-10 years, though what it will morph into will be a great mystery.

Saturday Morning Thoughts About Friday Nights

Last night was a babysitting night for my nephews, ages 11 and 7, while my sister and her husband attended an art opening for a friend. I got permission to initiate them into the world of the musical “Grease” and all of its dirty references with actors who were very obviously not teenagers – the boys immediately picked up that Stockard Channing was “old” (33 when the movie was filmed). The 7-year-old said the actors were “creepy.” But they still got up and excitedly danced along with “Greased Lightning.”

I told my sister that if any questions came up about dirty jokes, she was getting all the queries. I didn’t want to get in trouble for giving them any answers.

Back in 1997 to 2003 I was living in Cincinnati, and during that time I worked in a very large law firm that expanded from 50 people to 350 people by the time I left. If you’ve never worked with lawyers, just know that they can drink. It was a great place for me to be really social. I did a lot of dancing. Sometimes I can’t believe that my Friday nights now are so different from 20 years ago. TWENTY YEARS.

We used to bring our going-out clothes to work on Fridays (if we weren’t already wearing them), and then all pile into the bathroom with our curling irons and hair spray and perfume and body glitter and high heels and makeup. We were a core group of four but sometimes there were more, and we’d rent a hotel room to stay in so we wouldn’t drive home drunk. If there were 8-10 of us, the hotel room would only end up being $10-15 downtown for a decent room, and maybe even a suite with a living room and pull-out couch.

One of the nights that we had a larger group for a friend’s birthday, there were 10 of us total, and four people got two bedrooms, and the rest of us were out in the living room. Two of the girls were doing full body barrel rolls over one of the guys on the floor. Now, let me tell you that I have no idea how we got this guy to party with us, but we did. He was younger and he worked in the mail room next to our area and we built up a good rapport with him, and he was fucking hot. There’s just no other way to say it. He was hot and he had a big, tight body with muscles everywhere, and we all wanted to jump him. So at the end of the night my two friends were rolling around on the floor with him, and I was sure that at some point it was going to be a threesome and I was going to have to pretend to look away. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t happen. A few days later one of them whisper screamed to me that he had the biggest penis she had ever had the pleasure of bumping into and she might have been a little scared if she would have been sober. I was a little sad that no one deflowered the mail room guy. It was some sort of male dance review fantasy.

Every time we went out I managed to play kissy face with some random stranger. I’ve been accused of putting out a scent, but maybe it’s because I just shake my ass when I’m dancing. One time on the dance floor I was minding my own business when a guy who was exactly my height started dancing with me and immediately put his hands on my shoulders and started pressing down really hard. Maybe I was bouncing around too much? He was really drunk and it’s possible he wanted the world to stop spinning. My friends were watching this happen. They said they could see the instant that my face changed from “I’m going to see where this goes” to “Oh, HELL no!” After he succeeded in immobilizing me, he tried to suck my face off with his lips. I couldn’t move my body away from him, only my neck. Back, back, back went my head like a chicken, and his lips kept stretching forward like a cartoon. I finally pried his hands off and climbed over my friends to get to the corner of the booth and he eventually went away after he couldn’t figure out how to find me again.

A bunch of the bars in the Over the Rhine area of downtown Cincinnati change ownership and themes often, but back in the late ’90’s the popular ones were Banana Joe’s (a chain that some of you might remember in other cities) and a ’70’s disco place called “Have a Nice Day Cafe” and one of those light-up disco dance floors. I remember that some dumbass maced someone else on the dance floor and the whole bar had to be evacuated one night, and all of us were teary-eyed and gagging. It was not “nice.”

Banana Joe’s had $1 rail drinks from 5 pm to 9 pm, so we would race from the firm to get there as soon as possible and pound down those drinks before they became full price, and to dance before the floor got packed. I was often the first one on the floor. I can still hear my friend saying, “There go her hips!”

One night in particular we had a bigger group of about 7 meeting up for drinking and dancing, starting early as usual. It included a gay couple and it was on a chilly night; we were all partying on the cheap and there wasn’t a coat check, so we just piled our coats in the corner by the DJ booth and danced near it, per the usual. On that night, though, there was a guy who was coming up to all of the girls and humping all of us in a distasteful way and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we were throwing him dirty looks and edging away from him – and further away from our coats.

Dumb move. Not much time lapsed when one of the guys noticed that the nice $700 leather coats he and his boyfriend owned had been stolen by the obnoxious guy. We looked at the front door and the guy was on his way out. We girls were pissed! We shot out the door and yelled at the doorman to ask which way the asshole went, then we split up – two one way, two another. We circled the building, running to catch up, and by the time I did with the person I had paired up with, the other two girls had already pounced on the loser and retrieved the two jackets. They had seen him slinging them into a dumpster when he was taking off down an alley. They were yelling at him and he was holding up his hands as if he didn’t know what they were screaming about, then he slinked off into the shadows. We celebrated a little the fact that we kicked ass while the boys waited inside to see if they would ever get their jackets back.

I think about my Friday nights now, when I have a few hours with my nephews, or when I am looking for some diversion on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon. I’m so glad that I embraced every opportunity to be social, that I chased after an asshole who stole my friends’ coats and nothing bad really came of it, and that all of us survived the Friday nights.

I realized, just this moment, that every generation thinks that they are the ones that discovered wild. That’s not true at all. My nephews are going to figure that out too. They have no idea what their parents did or what I did because they think of us as the adults that are pretty quiet on Friday nights.

Okay, OKAY, Cupid – Sheesh.

I received a message from one of my stalkers whose messages go directly to my spam folder on my phone. I somehow managed to open it in my sleep and it startled me wide awake when I saw it: “I left Minnesota.” Did I believe it? No. Because when I scrolled back further in the spam folder, I saw various messages from him desperately trying numerous tactics to get my attention. “Oh, hey, the sky is blue, so I thought of you.” Yeah, buddy, nice try.

I haven’t logged onto OKCupid since March, so it took me a few tries to get the right username/password combo. I finally got in and found this jackass’s profile, made sure he was still blocked, then tried to figure out if he truly left the state, but everything looked the same. So I really can’t tell. That means I’m going to be looking over my shoulder for a while still. His “I won’t take no for an answer” attitude has gone on for almost a full year now.

While I was on, I decided to block the profile of the most recent ex, since he also has stalking tendencies – he admitted that he was still trying to “get” a friend to love him after five years of friendship and one failed date and that she was “the woman of his dreams.” The birthday gift to me was what he had told me he was going to give to her, which was a box he had picked out from a thrift store and write out qualities he liked about her on index cards he placed inside the box like a treasure chest. On one hand it was touching, but on the other hand it hurt – it made me realize there wasn’t anything special about me as far as he was concerned, but rather I was just fulfilling some romanticized role he had created in a fantasy. It also explained why he referred to me in the third person when we talked to each other. I was an object. I could barely get him to stop using a fake accent he had concocted when we were being intimate and not silly. I can only imagine the lies he is telling everyone about why I chose to end the relationship, but now I have to worry about him showing up at my sister’s workplace across the street, or hovering around my apartment’s entrance door and slipping in and then trying to SHOW ME how even though he tried to conceal a big part of his life from me and lie about the rest of it, he was going to swoop in on his white horse and save me.

I was logged on for all of seven minutes at about 3:32 a.m., and I guess that was enough to ring the fresh meat dinner bell. Immediately I got a few messages, including the usual with no punctuation: “Hi”, “Hi how are you” “Hi” “hi” “hi how you” and then one saying, “Wow! You are gorgeous! Do you want my phone number?”

I can’t handle the bullshit yet. The littlest nope:
LittlestNope

Hit Me Baby One More Time

Today I had another dental appointment, my second for the week. I had thought this would be the “easy” appointment because we were just fixing a broken filling in the back right bottom tooth, part of the whole series of fixes that are a part of the issues that are being caused by me clamping my jaw in my sleep and cracking and breaking all of my teeth because I’m in so much pain.

I should have known that the first bad sign would be the pedestrian who walked out in the middle of the road without warning. My cab driver slammed on the breaks and left us both gasping, and then swearing at him; he just strolled slowly as if he didn’t care that he had just tried to compete with a couple of tons of metal and his human body sure would have lost if my driver would have been any closer whilst trying to slam on the brakes. Maybe he was tired of his life and thought today was a good day to die. Maybe he figured he was just a short ride from five different hospitals and it would be a couple of free nights of room and board with painkillers as the cherry on top. Whatever his reasoning for being a jackass, I was ready to open my door and beat him with my cane. Fortunately for him I was running on 80% blindness, a torn left shoulder cuff and an appointment to keep.
2016-08-26 11.17.14

I was called back for the appointment and the assistant introduced herself as Brittany. After she got me set up with the bib and the ugly-ass biker sunglasses (because that’s all the rage now, for dentists to put safety sunglasses on their patients while they drill and shine bright lights in our faces – but really I think it’s so they can’t see us crying), the assistant dentist came in to start me on the Novocaine shots. She informed me her name was Brittany too, so I was officially being worked on by two Brittanys. Yea for something easy to remember in case I had to yell!

The assistant dentist put the swab of numbing gel in my mouth and I thanked her, telling her that the main dentist didn’t do that at all on that side for me on Tuesday. I said I believed that he was trained in a war zone. Both of the Brittanys got really quiet and looked at each other over my biker glasses, and then the assistant dentist tried to make a weak joke, like “Oh, you know, going to dental school is kinda like training in a war zone, ha ha!” and I said, “But I’m right, aren’t I?” and they said, “Yes, you’re right.” Okay, score one for me and my ESP. Sometimes I don’t always like to know everything, but lately the universe has been finding ways to make sure I know. None of this blissfully unaware shit.

Assistant dentist Brittany started doing the shots. As usual, my heart rate started jumping up. I felt like there wasn’t a lot of numbing going on though. So she went for another round, this time going on the inside of my teeth along the gums. The Brittanys went away for a while so the numbing could kick in, and I did a few exercises with my mouth to encourage the Novocaine to spread, like silently mouthing “Unique New York.” I could feel my right jowl going numb, buy my tongue and inner gum line were still feeling normal.

When the Brittanys came back in, they decided to start drilling. I warned them that I still had feeling, but they guessed that I was just feeling pressure or temperature. Now, kids, I know the difference between pressure and nerve pain – I’ve been through 9 lumbar punctures and they’ve hit my nerve bundles with needles every time, it’s really freaking unpleasant, and it can’t be compared to feeling a little cold. So after the third time I said “Ow!” from them hitting a nerve, they finally relented and assistant dentist Brittany did a third round of Novocaine. She told me I should feel the difference immediately. I told her that I didn’t. She sighed, went in for round #4, all along my gums on the right side and hit the juncture between my upper and lower jaw, and gave it a few more minutes to kick in. Finally it wasn’t completely numb but it was just enough numb that we could drill for about four minutes and get the rest of it taken care of.

Generally speaking, most dentists and assistants can handle two instruments apiece. Assistant Brittany was struggling with two straws and a mirror and I was nearly drowning, so I offered to do what I did before – I held one of the straws and kept my hand out of their way while they did the rest. They thought it was great.

The most difficult part was the filling. They were trying to keep the very back tooth dry while they put in a white resin filling (because I’m allergic to mercury fillings so it had to be the resin), and they were doing all kinds of things like moving my tongue and putting cotton wads in my mouth and triggering my gag reflex. They actually got me so badly that I thought twice I was going to throw up all over myself, and at one point I had grabbed their hands because I was ready to move them out of the way in case that happened. I had tears streaming down my face again. My stomach heaved. The Brittanys cooed above me, “I know, I know, it’s terrible, we’re trying not to make you gag, but it’s in the toughest part of your mouth to get to, try to think happy thoughts, wiggle your toes, oh good, you already are, just about three more minutes now, try not to throw up, we’re nearly done, you’re doing great, you’re doing really great, it’s almost time, that cotton is awful, what do you have for plans this weekend?” It was absolutely ridiculous. I checked my makeup afterwards; I expected to have trails of black eyeliner down to my chin, but I had forgotten that I had sealed it this morning in anticipation of the shit show and it had survived quite nicely. (Side note: I strongly recommend eyeliner sealant available from Meow Cosmetics – it’s the consistency of water and you put it on sparingly and must let it dry, but man, it is GREAT for keeping your makeup on longer!)

This is how I think I can help, as a patient: Have me sit upright for the first part of it so I can help position everything like wads of cotton; if I know where it’s supposed to go in my mouth, I can probably make it happen without making myself vomit and without having to fight gravity so hard. I know that they were trying to get everything done as quickly as possible, but just like I helped with the straw, I can also help with stuffing cotton in my mouth and not barfing. If I can handle my Ren & Stimpy nubs for teeth to eat with for weeks, then surely I can handle that.

Just as the Brittanys predicted, as we’re rounding up to dinner time, I’m starting to get some feeling back in my mouth.

I Heard The News Today

I woke up this morning to a message that was sent to me around midnight telling me, “I know you were friends with Bart [not his real name]; just wanted to let you know that he died after a confrontation with the police Wednesday morning.”

I wasn’t awake to chat back and forth, so I had to do some searching of news articles when I saw the message. There was actually quite an extensive write-up as well as video clips so I was able to get a complete picture from the law enforcement’s viewpoint of what happened.

The hard part was seeing pictures of his dwelling and recognizing the side of his building. Bart was so proud of everything that he did to fix his place up. I still remember walking through his door and smelling his split pea soup.

Bart and I weren’t close friends; in fact, the person that notified me of his death had known him decades longer than I had and was the reason we had become acquainted. But we had gone to the Renaissance festival as part of a big group, and we always ended up attending the same get-togethers. Bart was friendly and jovial, though he definitely had issues with drinking too much. He also could not control his impulses or anger; this certainly fed into a never-ending cycle of joblessness and financial uncertainty.

From what has been published in the stories online, he got a DUI on Friday night and was sent home in a cab rather than sent to jail. On Saturday night he drove by a deputy and shot him and prompted a manhunt/search. On Wednesday morning the sheriff’s department knocked on his front door and he shot himself.

The county sheriff is proclaiming this man to be an obvious participant in the bigger war on cops. I’m calling bullshit on this. Bart was in an all-out war on his own life.

Did he drink to get drunk? Always. He couldn’t get together with a group without drinking. When you’re middle-aged and you’re drinking every weekend (and I am guessing for him, every day), it’s obviously a problem. He tried his luck with dating, but he was always stuck in his 20’s there too, referring to women as girls and only taking pictures with the pretty random strangers with their boobs propped up, never really being less than insulting. Bart was a smart guy and had loads of certifications and degrees in the tech field, so he should have had no problem with landing well-paying jobs. In fact, when I was laid off, I visited his place and we chatted about our resumes and wages, and I was quite impressed with his in both areas – he could have afforded to buy my house two or three times over with his salary. But Bart had done and said so many crappy things in his workplaces that he had been blackballed in his current state, and finding work out of state was proving to be just as difficult.

The friends who were much closer to him had relayed stories about how in recent years and months, he would suddenly become angry and take off, or disappear for hours. If they were all out of town for a trip and following each other in their cars, Bart would somehow manage to leave the caravan and insist on his own route and get completely lost. He would become belligerent if anyone tried to reason with him.

Not that this means a whole lot, but he and I used to debate his support of Trump as a presidential nominee. Bart definitely had prejudices against people who were anything except white middle-aged American men.

So here is this guy who is doing everything he can to make his own life as terrible as it possibly could be – ruled by alcohol, void of love and understanding, built on a foundation of fear and ignorance. He shot another human being because he wanted to blame someone for something. He shot himself because he saw no other way out of the pit he dug.

I have a hard time thinking about him no longer being on this earth. I saw the destructive behaviors in him, but Bart was mostly friendly towards me – maybe because I didn’t have a long or involved history with him, or because I knew exactly what to expect. I hope that now his soul is finally at peace. I think about this often, especially since death seems to be around me a lot more this year, and I wonder if souls review their lives and their lessons like I think they must. (I hope that Bart can see the humor in me saying that my wish for him is to finally understand why Trump would make a terrible president.)

In fact, I wish I could interview all of the people I knew who crossed over in the past ten months and ask them what they have learned. What were they surprised by? What was the biggest reveal? Was it all worth it, taking on this human body and signing this contract?

I’m Just The Patient

Today was my big appointment with the movement disorder neurologist at the U of Minnesota, and it was decidedly anti-climactic. My first impression was that he was a young version of Derek Jacobi, pictured here:
Derek Jacobi
All of the doctors seemed to be excited that I was scheduled to see this particular one and told me repeatedly how thorough he was. In fact, I was supposed to see him over a month ago, but he looked over my file a few days before I was due in and instead insisted I get my face tased (with an EMG) before seeing me, which pushed my appointment back so that he could rule out myasthenia gravis (a second time). I knew I didn’t have it as of 2010 and I still don’t.

This doctor was short on bedside manner, so I immediately shortened my answers and didn’t elaborate on anything. We went over my family’s extensive history of autoimmune diseases. He made me walk and do things with my eyes closed to deliberately make me fall (which made me sweat and because I was under so much stress, the tremors started up almost immediately). He shook my shoulders, sending white hot pain through my left shoulder that I’ve been going through PT for but am going to get an MRI for after next Friday because I’m not healing – I spent three years laying on that shoulder because all of my surgeries were done on the right side for that length of time, and the pressure really messed up the tendons and ligaments.

After all of that, the doctor told me that his nurse gave me the website in December that I should have checked out on movement disorders. He must have seen my eyes glaze over and the stubborn set in my chin because he left the room and returned with screenshots of the website. I politely folded them into squares and stuffed them into a pocket in my purse. He said that a doctor from July of 2015 believed that I have a facial movement disorder. I told him it was news to me, since the only thing that was said to my face was that I wasn’t a good candidate to have surgery to relieve the pressure on my optic nerves. This doctor said that the other doctor may have chosen not to tell me that I have a movement disorder because there’s “nothing that can be done about it anyway.”

This entire conversation is deeply flawed. First, I don’t have a facial movement disorder. I have a problem with CSF pooling in my cranium while I’m upright and it presses on some of the nerves leading to my face as well as my cerebellum; as soon as I lay flat, the fluid moves away from the area and I get full functionality back. Second, I have plenty of issues in which “nothing can be done” for them – including alopecia universalis, though he was quick to point out that someone was doing a study. I told him that it was low on my list of priorities. Third, I’m the motherfucking patient. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if this is one or more of the thought process of the doctors that it should be discussed with me?

When it was time to go home, the cab driver that got the dispatch to take me home pretended to come and pick me up but then acted like I didn’t show up – even though I was outside sitting on a bench in between approaching every cab that rolled up asking if they were there to pick me up, so it took me an extra hour to get home after I had to call dispatch to bitch.

I really could have just stayed home.

In fact, I would have benefited from a day in bed. I predicted that I would be laid out for a good week after last Saturday, but I think that it was an accurate call. Now that I have an honest to goodness boyfriend, we’ve been trying to do activities that I can actually handle for a few hours. There was a flea market/antiques expo at the state fairgrounds and I thought we could just take the bus because it stops right outside my building and seemed to spit us out right at the fairgrounds gate. I was not a good planner for this trip and we ended up doing a lot more walking than we thought – and it wasn’t like we had a choice, no one could do the walking for us. My phone tracks my walking automatically and I wasn’t surprised when I saw 2.5 miles for the day rather than my usual high of 0.5 miles. By the time I climbed the steps to my building, I was visibly shaking and was fighting fatigue tears.

But damn, this boyfriend rocks. The Saint Paul is loving and affectionate, and goes on food runs and lets me stay behind so I don’t have to get out of bed. I have begun meeting his family and friends, and he is in the process of meeting my people.

Most importantly, we have said the “L” word, and meant it, and will continue to say it. When someone great comes along, you absolutely can’t take for granted that they just automatically know how much they mean to you or how much you appreciate them. I’m infinitely grateful to the universe for nudging me in his direction.

And then there were two.