Friday, May 27, 2011

Left Behind...AGAIN!

The Tall Lady has deserted us. On Wednesday morning, she loaded up the aptly named Escape, and departed for the Cabin with her mom and dad, abandoning five poor, helpless, little cats to my questionable, if well-intentioned, care. She has gone (she says) to plant blueberry bushes, cut lawns, and to take an inventory of what remains in the house following the recent break-in. It's been three days, and I feel like an orphan.

The Fierce Black Panthers seem to think it's recess!

I was a little concerned that we might lose her last Saturday evening. That was when fundamentalist Christian broadcaster Harold Camping said that the Rapture was due to occur. I was imagining the alarmed expressions on the faces of our three startled kittens, when their warm lap suddenly disappeared from under them, leaving them alone on the armchair with mom's yarn and knitting needles. Of course, I would have been there too - left behind...AGAIN!

The Rapture, my fellow infidels, refers to the moment mentioned in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, when the faithful few "which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (the righteous departed) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Many "Christian" fundamentalists interpret this as the time when a white, conservative, nordic Jesus will carry all of the inbred, narrow-minded, selfish, bigoted buffoons like themselves to a Heaven that resembles some antebellum Dixie Disneyland. As it says on W.C. Fields' headstone: "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Some of the "faithful" parted with their substantial earthly treasures last week, giving them away to the Republican Party, West Bank building societies or celebrity rehab clinics. Now they're all feeling a little disgruntled. Almost a whole week has gone by, and the wicked are still with them - or more properly, they are still with us.

I went out for coffee with a group of friends on Thursday afternoon. After all, the cats have already been abandoned by one parent, they can do without the other one for an hour or two. One of our topics of conversation was the uneventful passing of the Rapture's deadline. My friend, Richard Abrams, listened very carefully to everyone, and posed an interesting hypothesis: what if it actually had happened?

What if there really was a Rapture on Saturday night, and Jesus had already picked everybody that he wanted to play on his team? What if we - you, me, the Tall Lady and even poor Richard himself had just not been chosen?

Well, I'm used to it.

But then, Harold Camping wasn't picked either!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Embracing the Dark Side

Raspberry Reese
Darkness has fallen upon the bright and spotless world of the Flying Fellini Sisters. It has been about a month since that pest, Blaze, left their apartment to make life hell for his new big sister, Gilda, and they have been in Big Cat Paradise. I told them it couldn't last forever.

On Saturday, the Tall Lady and I went to visit Karen Duncan. We came back with a large, green pet carrier filled with trouble. Inside, there were three small, lively, curious alien invaders. We brought home kittens - again!

These are three perfect little boys about twelve weeks of age. All three are (sort of) black and they range in size from little Reese, with his skinny shoelace of a tail, to big, fluffy Dickens, who looks like a furry pompom. Malcolm, of course, is in the middle.

Devil Dickens
They arrived with all of the very worst habits that kittens could possibly possess - they are active, they are playful and, horror of horrors, they are friendly. Dickens - the devil - has decided that he likes Xena, and will not stop touching the Big Perfect Cat's big, perfect tail.

Reese is the scrawny, little clown of the litter, and will perhaps always be the first to kitten. He was the first to leave the green carrier, the first to settle on the Tall Lady's lap and the first to say hello to Auntie Brie. This makes him the first to get punched on his little black nose, but it seems to be of small consequence. He's having a blast here!

For the first day, Malcolm was the shyest kitten of the trio, but it's not really a good adjective for any of these boys. He is as much of a pet as his brothers now.

Today was Laundry Day, which I normally enjoy anyway. Apparently, though, I've been doing it wrong. I haven't been observing the proper safety protocols, as I discovered when those three fearless kittens rounded up and subdued our unruly underpants for me. I had no idea how cunning, willful and dangerous Fruit of the Looms could be!

The boys aren't very good at folding our clothes yet. After all, it was only their first time. They'll get better, I suppose. The Tall Lady probably won't ever let them iron.

They love each other, and they sleep together in a tight little pile of fur, feet and foreheads, but they like everyone and everything that they find in their new home. They will be comfortable almost anywhere.

Malcolm in the Middle
That makes me a little bit sad. The boys will be on VOKRA's gallery page as soon as they are socialized, and cats don't come a lot more sociable than these little scoundrels are already. We'll have them until someone meets and adopts them, and one of my FaceBook pals has just expressed interest in all three of them!

I'm determined to enjoy them for the short time that they'll be with us, and they seem just as determined to let me. They Tall Lady is having a hard time getting anything done with three little cats glued to her lap. She and I have already embraced the Dark Side.

The Flying Fellini Sisters will probably be glad to see the back of them...but I think Xena might be wavering...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Still Nuts

Steel nuts (get it?)
When most of us talk about our Dream Job, we're expressing an ideal. It is the thing that we would most want to do if we had the opportunity, the training, and the choice. My dream job is exactly what its name implies - it comes to me in my sleep, and it's visiting me more and more frequently of late.

I am alone outside a building that I've never seen before. When I enter, there is no one to meet me; the place, its purpose and its equipment are completely unfamiliar. As I wander from room to room to room, I am joined by little groups of anxious strangers, who speak in whispers to each other, but never to me. Finally, we arrive at a locked steel door. The reason we are here is behind that door, but I can't open it. And apparently, I'm the one in charge.

Gee, I wonder what THAT could mean...

Somebody mistook me for a psychologist yesterday. It was an error that I was quick to correct, but for a moment or two, I let myself enjoy it. A number of my friends tell me that they think that mental illness is a gift. Perhaps it is. If so, I wish I'd kept the receipt. But I'm also aware that I'm lucky. I'm blessed with resources that many of my peers don't have, and I know of many that they don't.

Through the classes, workshops and support groups I've become involved with, I have found that there are tools to help me recover, techniques to help me stay healthy and people who want to see me do that. I've been given the help, I've taken advantage of the facilities, I learned the landmarks, and now it's time for me to pay some of that back.

My regular readers may (I hope) have noticed that there has been a absence of posts to Limited Vision lately. I have been fine, I have been busy, and I have been (mostly) content. My problem is that I've been composing a (just one?) post on the subject of my depression and anxiety, and I've been beating about this particular bush for the past two weeks.

It's one thing to sit in front of an empty textbox and key in a few random observations, when the height of your aspirations is just the odd clever phrase. It's quite another altogether to expose your naked viscera to the idle inspection of curious strangers, and that's what some of this has felt like. But here is the door, and maybe this is why we're here today:

If you feel that you're lost, ask for directions. If you think there's no hope, ask for help - it is there. If you think you're at the end of your rope, there are thousands of people at the other end who will be grateful for the opportunity to help pull you back up. If you think you're alone, guess again. There is a chance for all of us, and with the right help, you'll find yours.

Here endeth the lesson - go in peace.

Be very, very well.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


About four years ago, I was unloading a container of bedroom furniture at work one morning. It's something that I've done for about forty years, and I'm good at it. Step One is this: Disarm the Boobytraps.

The people at the other end of the transaction have never met you, and they aren't actually trying to kill you, but historically, their loading practices would appear to indicate otherwise. One of the first things that I learned was if there is a boobytrap in the vicinity, I will be the booby who falls into it.

I think that my next lesson was not to worry too much, because my heart is pure, and my head is hard.

So, here was I with my nice, safe container half-emptied of its headboards, footboards, dressers and armoires, stacking one nightstand on top of two others so that they could be dollied into the warehouse to be counted, received and divided up for shipment to our twenty-one stores, when the carton of bedrails fell over.

I have a very clear image of one of the narrow sides of the box hitting the target painted on the back of my head just exactly on the bullseye. I don't recall the next few seconds very well, but I do know that there were some lovely, bright colours skipping, gliding and dancing in the pleasant, twilight that had formerly been my secure, brightly-lit workspace.

Whenever I tell this story, I say that I reported the incident, emptied the container, and finished the day, but the fact of the matter is that I don't recall anything after Dave and I sat in his office adding yet another page to my WCB file. I don't actually have any clear memory of how much of the following week I missed, or even whether it was longer than a week, but I do remember the headache. I also remember the morning that I had to call my upstairs neighbour to walk me to the CarePoint Clinic on Commercial Drive, because I was too frightened to leave my apartment by myself.

My claims officer at the Workers' Compensation Board (it wasn't Worksafe BC yet) arranged for me to be treated by a group called LifeMark at the Columbia Health Centre on Keefer Street. My first visit involved an assessment by a doctor whose name I can't remember. I told him that I really wasn't interested in what was wrong with me - I just wanted him to fix it. We discussed my medications, my family and work environment, my lifestyle and my interests. I think I failed the memory and co-ordination tests, but that might have happened anyway, because I tend to be an absentminded clod as a rule.

We agreed that I was reasonably fit, healthy and motivated, and that a return to my customary work, social and recreational activities was very likely - very quickly. Under the care of a fine psychologist named Warren Weir and a brilliant, patient occupational therapist named Theresa Wong, I was back to work on a graduated return program in about six weeks.

I found that I was having anxiety attacks which cascaded into full-blown panic episodes every day, and vivid, terrifying dreams every night. The medication I was taking just seemed to intensify the dreams and to ramp my anxiety. It got to the place where the Tall Lady had to wear body armour to bed. The best solution that the doctors at CarePoint could come up with was to double my dose of trasadone. 

I began to miss a few shifts every week, or to leave work early. Frequently, I'd forget to call in, and I never told Warren or Theresa that there was any problem. I think that I was too embarrassed. Finally, about three and a half years ago, I stopped showing up for work at all.

My friend and boss, Dave, likes me, and has hired me twice for two different companies. I stopped answering my telephone calls or looking at my emails for about six months, but Dave is pretty sharp.

I think maybe he's begun to suspect that I won't be coming back...


Some days, I have depression and anxiety - some days, they have me.

One Sunday in April of 2008, our beautiful, gentle seventeen year-old cat, Pepper didn't wake up. I think I stopped going to work the following week. The Tall Lady and I swore that we wouldn't get another pet, and we managed to keep that promise for about a month.

She soon discovered the website of an organization called the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, or VOKRA, and we visited it a lot. We kept returning to the page that showed a pair of pretty, eight month-old sisters named Xena and Gabrielle. We took the Flying Fellini Sisters home for the weekend in the middle of May. It's been a very long weekend.

When kittens come into a new home with strange people, the first thing that they do is to find a safe, secure refuge; traditionally, it is under the bed. Brie and Xena couldn't use that one, because that's where I was hiding.

Of course, it was a temporary solution. I was fully recovered from my head injury, and I had been for several months. WorkSafe BC (formerly known as the Workers' Compensation Board) had signed off on my claim late in the previous year, and I was all better. This was only a rough patch, and I'd just have to wait it out...under the bed, with those two suspicious kittens glaring at me from behind the bedskirt.

I've said that I didn't call work, or WorkSafe, and I didn't call Warren or Theresa at Lifemark. I didn't tell you that I couldn't leave the apartment, and that I was afraid to use my telephone.

I had decided that the people at the CarePoint clinic up on the Drive were quacks, frauds and charlatans (an opinion that hasn't softened much), so I stopped talking to them too. Dave had couriered my locker contents to me, along with a very concerned letter and my Record of Employment several weeks before, but I still hadn't called him or even visited my friends at Service Canada to put my EI claim into motion.

One night a few months later, while the Tall Lady was in the office paying bills online, the kittens and I ventured into the living room to watch the Fifth Estate. They were interviewing a young soldier who had just returned "uninjured" from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was dealing with the trauma of having lost a number of friends, and he was feeling guilty about not being in their vehicle when it hit the landmine. He was back at the base nursing a cold.

I'm not especially weepy, but this report really had an impact on me. The next day, I picked up my RoE, and I headed off to Service Canada's office to initiate my claim. When I got home, I picked up my telephone and made a call to Coast Mental Health.

I'd lost pretty nearly a year waiting for my depression to pass - maybe it was time to try something else.


Frequently, it's a bit of a shock to see the tired, scruffy, unkempt old man in the bathroom mirror. I don't know why that should be, because he doesn't look any worse than I feel.

I wake up feeling as if I hadn't slept at all. I have a small, insistent headache, and I know that anything I take to relieve it will make it rebound with a vengeance. So, I ignore it - after all this time, it's only white noise. My back hurts from the middle of my neck to my sacrum, and before I remember that it won't do any good, I shake my left hand repeatedly, trying to get more feeling into those three numb fingers. The fingers are a different injury; the back is just forty years of warehouse work.

If my smartphone tells me I have things to do today, I will make it into the tub where I can shower a few of the aches and pains down the plug 'ole - not all of them, though. I won't be working in a  warehouse today. I don't do that anymore - I cower in washrooms now. Maybe today, I'll have a support group to attend, or a Dialectical Behavioural Therapy workshop, or perhaps I'll be answering the phone at 411 Seniors' Centre for four hours.

If there's nothing on my calendar, I will probably creep from my bed to the sofa, dragging my tired backside across the carpet like a rude chihuahua, and I will lie in front of the tv, drifting in an out of consciousness for the rest of the day. I've seen all of Ben Hur, but never at one sitting.

The Tall Lady has been my exclusive support for the last four years, and in my lucid moments, I think that's grossly unfair - in her lucid moments, she probably does too. In that time, I've sent out around a dozen job applications, mostly for volunteer positions, and most of those have been successful. My applications for paid employment have all disappeared without an echo.

I don't have the attention span to read anymore, but it appears that I've begun to write again - now, what do I do with it?

I've found a GP named Larry Barzelai, who is kind, competent, and actually seems to give a damn. My pal Larry referred me to a very good psychiatrist named Jeffery Claman about six months ago. The three of us have been tinkering with my meds and my moods since then, and we've reached a point where I feel better than I have since my little knock on the bean - now, what do I do with it?

My days feel like a game of Snakes and Ladders; the snakes are everywhere, the ladders seem too far apart, the dice just won't roll the way I want them to, but, still, the game goes on.

Maybe I won't ever be cured, but I think that I'm getting better...