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Sunday, March 16, 2014

It's only allergies, BUT


If any tacky click ads appear in this text, I apologize. I did not ask for them, and the only way I have been able to eliminate them is to change the wording. I'm complaining to Blogger and if they don't stop this practice, I'll have to move to another domain. So sorry...

Dr. Phil says that when you follow a phrase with the conjunction “but,” it negates that phrase and essentially means that the words before it are bullshit. 

I know there is never a good time to be sick and that I should just shut up and not complain, BUT I’m here to complain. It is my God-given right to bitch and moan about it as much as I please, and if you want to just stop reading right now and spare yourself the agony of hearing me whine, I will certainly understand.

Last Monday was such a sparkling day in the park that Honey and I added a loop through the fitness trail to our established route under the oaks along the river. It was warm and we were sweaty when we returned home a little out of breath, happy and feeling refreshed. We had a drink of water and both flopped down on one of the navy sofas to catch our breath. I picked up my Kindle and resumed reading Fear of Flying. Honey promptly fell asleep with her head propped on a pillow. So far, so good.

It wasn't until that night that I started to cough. It really wasn't much of a cough, just a persistent tickle in my throat , a nuisance that did not in any way foreshadow how I would feel six days later. In fact, I wrote it off as an allergic reaction to the tree pollen with which the air is thick all over The Island. 

It is, after all, Spring. I don’t care that the calendar says the Equinox won't occur for four more days; it’s Spring in The Golden Isles. The bees are in a frenzy over the azaleas that are beginning to bloom, and the pansies in pots on the balcony are wilting in the warmth of the bright sun and warming air temperatures. They need to be pulled up and replaced with heat-hearty dusty miller and petunias and portulaca and lantana. 

Cliché alert:  Spring has sprung.

So, I gave little notice to the persistent irritation in my throat and upper chest, writing it off to the change of the season, which, as anyone who lives on the coast of Georgia knows, brings hacking coughs and runny noses to many of its inhabitants.

Undaunted, on Tuesday we were back out in the park, soaking up the sun and breathing in the pollen. That night, I took a Zyrtec to combat the cough and the feeling of something fuzzy sitting in my chest. 

I woke on Wednesday feeling more congested and scratchy and announced to anyone who would listen that I had “allergies.” I haven't been sick in two years, so why think I would be now? It was hay fever, for God’s sake, nothing more. 

I had my first appointment with a new therapist that afternoon, and I went, armed with a wad tissues, to try her out. She bought the “allergy” story with good grace, and in my defense, I thought I was telling the truth. The same goes for Music Night that night, where I warned everyone off kisses and hugs, just in case, saying I thought I had “allergic” bronchitis. I played the cabasa and sang, pausing occasionally, or maybe more than occasionally, to cough into the elbow of my shirt. Relishing my time of music and friendship, I gave it my all. I left before the others because The Ex-Husband was staying with Parrish so I could have the night out.

And here’s another BUT:  I realized when I got in the car to drive home that I was inordinately tired BUT gave it little thought, being worn out as I was with my “allergies.” The cough got worse during the night and I woke with severe pain in my throat and upper chest. So I took a Lortab. (I’m never without a small bottle of them for emergencies, like pain or, God forbid, a cough.) Still telling myself I wasn’t really sick, I finally got comfortable enough to go back to sleep.

On Thursday, still deluding myself that I was not sick, only “allergic” to something, I spent the day shuffling from my bed to the refrigerator for cold water and juice. I felt like I had been hit by a bus and was coughing so deeply that I thought I would spit out my toenails. I had Parrish walk Honey, keeping myself out of the pollen and telling myself that all I needed was more Zyrtec and another Lortab and some rest. I tried to write. I tried to watch a movie on TV. I tried to read. BUT, I kept falling asleep, so exhausted was I from coughing and taking drugs.

By that night, unable to sleep except in short intervals because of the chest pain and a cough that made a hack saw sound like a lullaby, I felt as though I were coming down with pneumonia. If you’ve ever had pneumonia, you know what it feels like, and I’ve had it three times. With the rising sun, though, I thought better of things and decided another day in bed would have me back to speed. After all, the  Lortab kept the cough at pay for a couple of hours.  That’s when I slept, day and night.

I should pause here for a little background that, in your eyes, may or may not excuse my ignorant behavior and cavalier attitude about something as serious as bronchitis or pneumonia. I was married to a physician for thirty-four and a half years, and as we all know, doctors’ families are never sick. We are like cobblers’ families who never need shoes. An aspirin would pretty much fix any minor health issue we might have, and believe me, all of our ailments were minor. We needed to have arterial blood spurting from a deep wound or be unconscious in order to garner any real attention from the House Doctor. The second and third times I had pneumonia, it was under the watchful care of my husband. Both times, I had to listen to my own chest and hear the rales before he would even reach for his stethoscope.  So you see, I come by this attitude honestly.

I sat in my usual spot in my writing nook and began, well, writing. I had some thoughts for my other blog and wanted to put them on paper, telling myself that if I weren’t better by Monday, I would insert myself into the health care industry and visit the walk-in clinic that is conveniently located in my neighborhood. BUT I couldn’t stop coughing and the pain got worse. So, I brushed my teeth and fluffed my hair and trundled myself over there.

My temperature was 101 and there were patches of pus in my throat. The doctor kept saying “Tsk, tsk, you sure have some congestion there, and your throat is infected.”

He pronounced that I am suffering from bacterial bronchitis and had the nurse give me a shot of Rocephen, a potent antibiotic that is supposed to act like a carpet bomb for all sorts of infections, and a shot of Decadron to help control the inflammation and swelling in my throat and breathing tubes. I fell asleep on the examining table while I waited the obligatory twenty minutes to make sure I wasn’t allergic to the antibiotic.  

Armed with prescriptions for a potent cough syrup and another antibiotic, I went by CVS on my way home, where I have remained for forty-eight hours, in and out of bed, sleeping in two-hour cat naps and coughing.

Feel sorry for me yet? I won’t blame you if you don’t. Clearly, I am unbalanced and think I can wish away an illness that could have easily landed me in hospital. 

The birds are chirping happily now, and I’m taking my not so chirpy ass back to bed, at least for a couple of hours.

Copyright 2014 cj Schlottman

Friday, February 28, 2014

Why I Shouldn't Have a TV

Here is one of the reasons my television sits blank and mute for days at a time. I should be over at Madness Mania and Muddlement, writing my ass off and telling the story of this week with Parrish. Instead, I am all worked up over the situation in Ukraine. And it’s my fault. After playing music all day, at seven o’clock tonight, I decided to check out the news of the day, get Parrish engaged in something current, get his mind out of the past by rubbing his nose in the present.

I was standing over a pot of risotto, stirring away, when I heard a newswoman report on the situation in Crimea, a peninsula of Ukraine that sticks down in the the Black Sea. Most of the peninsula is home to the Republic of Crimea. With it’s ethnic Russian majority, it is the last holdout of opposition to Ukraine’s new political leadership.

Today, officials of the Ukrainian government accused Russia (and Vladimir Putin) of trying to take over two airports in Crimea. They said their security people prevented the takeover. Now Washington is seized up with trying to figure out what’s going on and what, if anything, the US should do about it. 

Puleeze. I have stories to write and ideas to put forth and don’t have any time for Russia to start taking over other countries. So, I turned off the tube and finished the risotto. It will be days before the I turn on the damned thing again.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. - Carl Sandburg

The fog won’t lift. I tried to wash it away with the salty air of the park, tried to walk it off but found myself looking at the ground moving under my feet as Honey ran around on the end of her leash. I made myself go to the marina and look out over the river and marsh but the sky was gray and there were no birds in sight. Both doors are open and there is fresh cool air blowing through the flat but I don’t feel anything except a gloomy chill even with a sweater on. And I took my medicine; I always take my medicine unless I forget.
Yesterday I washed P’s clothes so they would be fresh and sweet smelling when he gets home tomorrow. This morning I folded them carefully and tucked them into the drawers of his bureau, shorts and undershirts and socks together in neat piles. I hung his shirts in the closet in careful rows alongside his trousers and  jeans and jackets and made sure the towels are fresh and in good supply. His cashmere sweaters are in a plastic storage box to keep them fresh and safe from moths. I arranged pictures along the walls with an eye for where to hang them, took his baseball cards from the old smelly cardboard box and fitted them neatly into a plastic shoe box and put it on the bottom shelf of his night table, put Huggy Bear on his bed. I made sure the lamp has a good bulb. Then I stood in his room and wondered aloud how I would move the walnut cabinet from one corner to the other so there would be a place for his TV. I gave up wondering about and sat down to write.

Unmoved by their brilliant faces, I poured water on the pansies on the porch. There is a pile of clean towels on the other navy-blue love seat, waiting since last night for me to fluff and fold and put them away. They are glaring at me, demanding attention but here I sit at my laptop doing nothing except acknowledging their existence. They can stay there forever for all I care. 

The grill pan sits unattended where I left it last night after cooking some chicken breasts so we could have supper and Honey would have a decent breakfast this morning. I haven’t eaten today even though there are strawberries and blueberries and blackberries and Greek yogurt in the refrigerator. Coffee is all I want, coffee and cigarettes and this keyboard.

Yesterday I began rearranging the painting on the walls but I stopped and haven't gone back to them. It will make me feel better when they are all where they should be and maybe I will work on them some more today. Maybe not.

I don’t want to go back to bed because I’m afraid I will stay there all day except to make coffee and go to the bathroom. Maybe I will do that anyway. No, I won’t. I’ll get up and do something, anything to cut through the inertia, stop the stillness. It’s what I do. It’s not like it used to be when I could’t type or walk a straight line or remember a thought I had a moment before. The fog will move on, perhaps on Sandburg's little cat feet, but it will move on.

The rain started a few minutes ago. 

Copyright 2014 cj Schlottman

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sylvia Plath and Some Other Stuff

My Kindle Paperwhite came yesterday, and last night I started reading The Bell Jar. Honey got me up at seven-thirty this morning, and I started reading it again, amazed that I could read without eye strain.

After about an hour, my eyes were fine but I was wake until a little after eleven. We started on our walk, but a storm was brewing and the wind nearly blew us over before we could get into the park. Honey did her business and we hustled back inside just before the rain came. It was a hard, wind-driven rain that came into the east window, and I had to close it. Honey hunkered down with me on the sofa but it was clear to me that she would rather have been in bed.  

I was tired of being in bed and wanted to read my book here in the good light. I never read The Bell Jar before. No, it’s true. Why? I just never did. I seem to remember being in college or maybe it was after college, that  the title didn't appeal to me. I suppose now that I’ve read the book, the title was off-putting to me because of my own bell jar.  

I was already depressed by then.  It started when Parrish was born. I had postpartum depression and no none knew what the hell it was. My doctor didn’t turn a hair when I told him I was sad all the time, just suggested that I get a hobby. What the hell did that mean? I already had my hands full with a colicky baby, and even with a great deal of help from Mama, I was barely coping. I ended up teaching myself to do needlepoint but it would be years before I could enjoy the art of it. My first pieces were as sad as I was.
I was miserable and couldn’t eat and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I quickly got back into my pre-pregnancy clothes because I couldn’t swallow food. I remember what a challenge it was to cook a meal. I remember feeling guilty because I couldn’t breastfeed. Nobody showed me how and I thought it was something that just happened naturally. Boy, was I naive. I think it was about that time that I started drinking alcohol. I liked the way it made me feel - still do. 

The depression deepened when I left Lawrence, even though I was sure I was doing the right thing. My appetite dwindled to nothing and I ended up weighing less than a hundred pounds. I worked through it, though, and was able to move forward with my life

Where did that come from?  Oh yeah, The Bell Jar. It’s one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read and I want to read it again. I may just start over tomorrow. I downloaded a book of Sylvia Plath’s poems tonight and started reading them. I’ve tried to read her poems before but never got into them. Now I think they are incredible. All of a sudden, I can read them with some understanding that I suppose has to do with me reading the book. I want to read some of her short stories now. I just went to Amazon and none of the are in Kindle edition. Maybe some day.

I finished the book this afternoon. It’s unheard of for me to read an entire book, even a short one, in a day.  My eyes get too tired and my vision blurs. The Kindle allows me to crank up the font to a size that doesn’t cause the crippling eye strain I get when reading hard copy. I only put it down every now and then to do some small chore, like clean up my room since Lawrence is supposed to bring over my dock box some time this weekend, and since it’s going in the bathroom, he’ll have to go through my room with it. I made an half-ass attempt to start cleaning the kitchen from Wednesday’s dinner with Bob, but I only managed to put the dishes in the sink to soak. I didn't give a shit about anything but that book. 

Tonight I started to think about arranging P’s room. The carpet is filthy on the side of the bed where The Famous Writer sat and smoked weed and spilled the ashes on the carpet. I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t burn it, but I’m not grateful for anything about him except the fact that he is gone. I’ll call a carpet cleaner to scrub the last of him out of the room. And I need to hang pictures and buy Parrish a decent chair. I also need a room divider - a handsome screen - to wall off my office and bedroom from the great room. And I need a storage unit of some kind for the garage. I need a lot of stuff, but I don’t want to spend money right now.   

The rain didn’t last long and by mid afternoon the sun was shining, so we got in our afternoon walk, actually extended it by making a loop around by the slave cabins after we left the park. I feel stronger in my legs and today there was no pain, even when I woke up. I wish I could figure out what makes the pain so bad at times and nonexistent at others.

I called Sophie last night, and she’s not coming. She says her brother is sick. I’m terribly disappointed but I understand. I called Melvina and left a message for her to call me back but never heard from her. I can do Parrish coming home by myself if I have to but I’m not looking forward to it. 

I’m unsure about P’s dismissal. It’s supposed to happen on Monday, but my understanding is that we are to have a family meeting with the Dr. Snow and Wayne, the social worker, before he comes home, but no one has contacted me about that. I called Wayne yesterday and today, left messages to call me both times but never heard from him. What’s with that? He threatened by an involved family member with guardianship? Just sorry-ass and not concerned? I really don’t give a shit. I just want him to do his job.

Parrish is still intermittently confused, which is a worry, but he is so much clearer and present than he was a week ago, I can’t complain. Maybe he will continue to be more in the here and now as the Clozaril takes effect. God, I hope so. We could have a pretty good life together if he can stay on his meds and stay sober. Anyone with half a brain and one eye can tell I want to live alone and unbothered by another person in my flat, but this situation is what I have and I will deal with, and I can make the necessary adjustments if P continues to improve and doesn’t throw crazy and chaos all over the place.

Copyright 2014 cj Schlottman

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Baby Steps

It’s a cruel day and I am cold to the core.  The air is thick with moisture and its coolness bites into me.  Walking in the park there was no heat from the sky, only darkness, and the wind whipped through my pants not sturdy enough to fight it back.  My body is tired despite eight hours of sleep.  That sleep was filled with eerie dreams that woke me wondering what it all meant and now I cannot piece them together enough to know what they were about.  

My bones are chilly in spite of heat in the apartment.  They ache in the deepest places.  I am sleepy but cannot rest because P calls and garbles into the phone, saying he has had enough, that all of his clothes are gone again and I should wire him some money.  He thinks I am in Macon.

I am not in Macon, of course.  I am here on my Island, my retreat, but even here I feel exposed, open to the bitterness of knowing P is no better.  The weather man says it will rain on us, a thing I usually relish, the rain.  I don’t want rain now.  I want it on a day that is kind to my soul, but today my soul is open and raw and vulnerable to the chill of my own thoughts, the bite in the air.

Honey seems sad and distracted, away somewhere in her puppy-dog mind.  Maybe she feels the icy energy coming from me.  I have dishes to wash but they sit crusty and ignored and unattended.  I think to clean the kitchen but am drawn instead to sit and write.  My bedroom is a jumble of clothes and things I don’t know where to put.  Six months in this flat and I just yesterday figured out where to store the linen.

My thinking is tangential, thoughts shooting in all directions, my focus on nothing except the pouring of words from my brain through my fingertips as I type.  I like this typewriter font and find it comforting, familiar in its look.  All that is missing is the pounding of keys.  It reminds me of typing papers in high school and college.  I always loved to write papers, research and organize the facts and put them together in a way that made sense.  

Can I make sense of all this crazy and uncertainty and angst by spilling words onto this keyboard?  I feel a stiff breeze flowing through my being, clouding my mind and rendering me lifeless and limp.  Am I hopeless?  Maybe at this moment I am.  I can’t be hopeless in the face of all these demons, Parrish’s and mine.  Where is my fight, my relentless pursuit of peace, my determination to meet what life has in store?  I can't find it right now.  It’s here somewhere, can’t have gone far, but it eludes me and all I want to do is climb in bed and sleep and escape.  But I learned last night that there is not escape in sleep, not now.  

My soul is cold so I sit, wrapped in a blanket, and think and write and wonder when the warmth will return.  Maybe tomorrow, maybe sooner.  No later than tomorrow, though.  I have to go out and find it before tomorrow comes.  I can’t stay mired in this bog, but it will suck me into darkness if I struggle too hard against it.  So, I lift my feet gingerly, shake off the mud, take a tentative step forward in order to stop the slide.  Cliché alert:  baby steps, baby steps.

Copyright 2014 cj Schlottman