Schedules

My work schedule changed yesterday. Instead of the floating, uncertain schedule that I had for the first 5 months of working at my full-time job, I have a fixed schedule. I am now working Monday through Friday, 11AM-7PM. If yesterday is any indication of how things are going to go, I am going to be good with it.

How does an EMS provider land such a schedule, you might ask? Most of the time we work 24 hour shifts. The reason for this one is because it is what is known as an “impact” truck. What that means is that we are on the schedule for the busiest part of the day. That in itself is fine; give me two back-to-back specialty care transport runs and my day is complete. From a revenue standpoint, it is a win-win for the company; they get to squeeze hard work out of us over a short time, plus it makes them considerable money to boot. And it’s a win-win for me because at the end of the day I get to sleep in my own bed. Plus I get to spend time with Martha, which I otherwise might not get to do.

As for the other jobs I have, I’m making decisions about those. And I’ll talk about them later. For now, however, I have to finish getting ready for work as it is nearly time for me to go. I need to put on a shirt and my boots, take my daily dose of medications, and hit it.

I will make an attempt to put up another post later on today, provided time is available. We’ll see.

Schedules

Conflicting Thoughts on Recent Events

Lately we all have seen the horrible carnage of terrorist attacks that have been broadcast in the media.

  • 147 killed in Kenya in a terrorist attack on a University
  • 43 killed in Lebanon by a suicide bomber. 239 injured
  • 224 killed over Egypt in a Russian aircraft that was bombed while in flight
  • Coordinated attacks in Paris. 129 killed and hundreds more injured

I have no other word than “horrible” to describe all of this. Over 400 people – innocent people in different corners of the world – killed. This is horrible enough. But there is more.

I have done a lot of thinking about not just what has been happening, but also about both the reporting by the news media and the response of our elected officials. And there are many messages being sent from all corners that have an effect the opinions of anyone who hears them. A significant number of those messages are certainly meant to influence how we view what happened and how we should respond.

Probably the first of those who are guilty of this is the news media. Whether you think of the mainstream media – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, etc. – or the alternative media, which could be any number of outlets as there are way too many to name, everyone who reports the news has an agenda. There is no such thing as “unbiased” news reporting; it doesn’t exist. A couple of examples come to mind as cases in point.

I have been following CNN‘s reporting of the attacks in Paris. I know – a lot of people refer to CNN as the “Communist News Network”, including me, from time to time. But the reason I follow CNN is that they tend to have wider ranging coverage than the other networks. That makes them no less biased in their reporting, however, and I take a fair amount of what they say with a grain of salt. But I do the same for other outlets as well: Fox News, MSNBC, and the more independent outlets are guilty of the same sort of thing. And I am using CNN as an example because they are the most visible, and by extension, the biggest example of what I’m referring to.

Some of the stories on CNN’s home page include significant coverage of what has happened. The headline is the words “FIGHTING BACK”, just as you see it. Two opinion pieces are entitled “Don’t feed ISIS chaos” and “It’s not ‘World War III'”. The first article makes the statement, in large part, that while there were mistakes made in terms of dealing with radical Islam since before 9/11 (remember the Mujahadeen, who the US backed, when the former Soviet Union had troops in Afghanistan?), it’s not too late to do things right, ultimately leading to victory, peace, and healing. I use the word “healing” because in the beginning of the article the author points out that since 1975, when the United States walked away from Vietnam in seeming defeat, today we as a nation are the eighth largest importer of Vietnamese goods in the world, not to mention we host the largest number of Vietnamese students worldwide.

The other piece, the “World War III” article I mentioned, talks about the difference between al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL – I think Daesh is totally appropriate, personally), in large part reminding the reader that while al-Qaeda is spread worldwide in terms of their operations, Daesh actually has co-opted geography in Iraq and Syria in the attempt to form a caliphate. The differences are clear: al-Qaeda wants anyone from the West to leave the Middle East. Daesh wants to bring on the Apocalypse. With that said, a number of points were addressed in the article, including the limited support Daesh has beyond its own physical boundaries and the number of nations allied against it, including the US, Britain, Russia, Iran, and France. Some of the other ideas expressed include the issues of how the US responds to refugees and the potential consequences for how people of different religious faiths are treated, how to deal with Syria (the gist is “Assad needs to go”), and the overall complexity of Islamic politics.

Both are interesting articles to read. But they are only part of the picture.

First, while I certainly think there should be response to what Daesh has done, and continues to do, is it worth it to put more troops into that part of the world? Unless there is a solid plan with quantifiable objectives, like there was during the first Gulf War in the early 1990’s, I don’t see the point in doing so. Part of my reason for saying that is because of the conditions our troops operate under today in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Rules of Engagement limit what they can and can’t do to the point of being crippling. Don’t get me wrong; there have always been Rules of Engagement. Some of them were much less crippling, others more so. An example of the latter is the Rules that Marines had to follow in Lebanon in the 1980’s before the Barracks was bombed. If you ever have the opportunity to view them, take it, and you will see what I mean. The absurdity of the Rules they operated under was written about by Eric Hammel in his book, “The Root.” As a result of the disastrous consequences of how they were implemented and enforced, a substantial number of Marines (241) and other personnel who were there died. And I think some lessons were learned over that. However, that doesn’t mean the conditions our troops work under now are hugely better. I would submit that they are not. And it all goes back to what I initially was talking about regarding objectives.

Second, why was Paris singled out, in terms of worldwide attention? Understand that I am not begrudging anyone who was a victim of the attacks their due, in terms of support, and of the city of Paris as a whole. No city or population deserved what happened. And it is the second time this year if you consider what happened in January with the attack on Charlie Hebdo. No – Paris has not deserved any of this. At the same time, however, I mentioned three other incidents that have occurred in the recent past. How is it that they – especially the incidents in Kenya and Lebanon – have not warranted the same attention? Is it because they are not European locations? Or is it because, in the case of Beirut, that “this happens all the time over there”, as it were? I have to point out that the last time there was any marked violence like this in Beirut was before the Lebanese Civil War ended a little over 20 years ago.

And what about Kenya? The attack I’m referring to happened seven months ago. This was an attack on the campus of Kenya College, located in Garissa. It occurred on April 2, and there were 147 students killed in the attack. I remember hearing about it when it happened, and I also remember thinking, “Why isn’t this being covered more thoroughly?” There was also no further mention of this attack until the story was re-told this past week after the attacks in Paris.

This, especially, is both sad and absurd at the same time. Why an attack on a school was low-balled, in terms of reporting, is beyond me.

There is the matter of refugees in all of this. I can only imagine that there are many who would say “no more, especially from Syria.” Indeed, 27 states, as of the last count, have opted to not allow more into their territory, New Hampshire being one of them. Do I agree? I won’t lie – part of me does. But a larger part of me knows that the problem is not with refugees themselves. It is with the small percentage of those who have in mind to commit acts of terror and attempt to spread chaos that are totally screwing things up for the huge majority of people who are running away from the awful circumstances that they have been forced to live under. What makes it so difficult is that there isn’t a practical way, at least that I am aware of, to separate the wheat from the chaff. And that hurts anyone and everyone who is trying to escape the terror that they have had to endure.

One last thing to consider. Two nations, France and Russia, have basically said, “enough is enough”, and have taken matters into their own hands. Is this a good or bad thing? I think it depends on your point of view. Part of me has actually rejoiced over this. Another part of me worries that there will be considerable spillover as a result, the cycle of violence will be pushed down even further, and more people who don’t deserve to die, unfortunately, will.

I guess my point is that we live in what could be euphemistically described as “interesting times.” It is bad that all of this is happening around the world. It is equally bad that our own leadership is so divided on ways to try to stop what is happening, as well as prevent it here. My personal opinion on that is it won’t be prevented in time; I am not sure that those who are in charge will figure things out quickly enough, or that political considerations will be put aside in order to do this. Ultimately, I believe that is the root of the problem; nobody wants to cooperate to figure out how to solve this problem. And, in a manner of speaking, the wolf is already at the door.

Conflicting Thoughts on Recent Events

1775-2015 – 240 Years Young

 

 


Today is the 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

Some people, looking at this, will likely think, “Why is he celebrating that?” If you don’t know me, and you’re asking that question, then you deserve to know. If you do know me and you’re asking that question, then slap yourself in the head with the palm of your hand, because you should already know why I am writing about this.

For those of you who don’t know, I served in the Marine Corps from June of 1980 until June of 1984, and again as a Marine Reservist from August of 1985 to October of 1989. I was a musician, a bandsman. A trumpet player, MOS 5541. As a Reservist, I served with the Infantry as a rifleman, an Infantry platoon sergeant, and as a communications technician and team chief. It was a great time in my life for a number of reasons. Not only did I get to do something I liked quite a lot and that I recently realized how much I miss doing it, but I learned quite a bit.

I grew up. I learned how to be an adult. I developed character. And I had some great role models. People like Clyde Croswell, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who I had the privilege of serving with twice and working for when I was stationed on Okinawa. Or Elaine and Bob Gooding, both musicians that I got to know and become friends with when I was with the band at Quantico, Virginia. Another Quantico Marine musician I had a great deal of respect and regard for was James “Pete” Snyder; he was the drum major while I was there. A Marine’s Marine. Always looked out for his people. And he made sure we did our job to the best of our ability every time we went out, whether it was to do morning colors or a change of command, or to the rifle range on the outskirts of Camp Barrett to qualify. Or Master Gunnery Sergeant William Mike; he was the Bandmaster of the Second Marine Division Band at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. A man who knew how to set an incredible example. I saw a photo of him recently; he is now in his mid-70’s and he still looks like he could run the kids into the ground.

Probably one of the people I have the highest regard for is a man named Hank Donigan. He is a retired Marine Colonel that I have known for most of the past 35 years. When I first encountered him, Hank was a First Lieutenant. He was the series officer of the recruit series I was assigned to in June of 1980. I was a member of Platoon 2048, Foxtrot Company, Second Recruit Training Battalion.

It is amazing what we remember years later, isn’t it?

In any case, Hank was the first officer I encountered. He was 25 years old to my 18 – I thought he was old. But I also was impressed with the way he carried himself. He had a quality that I couldn’t describe at the time, but I know it now: he had bearing. And he had presence. Plus, he knew how to lead. That was something I discovered, sort of instinctively. Between him and the three Drill Instructors that were responsible for forming me and the 70 other young men that were in my recruit platoon – SSgt Bjelko (killed in a helicopter crash in 1984 in S. Korea – RIP), SSgt Britton (one memory I have of him is that he told my battle buddy that he should have his face dipped in batter and made into Gorilla Cookies….), and SSgt Lomax (retired as a Marine Gunner – last I knew was on the range staff at 29 Palms) – they molded us into Marines. And I think they did a decent job, if how I turned out has anything to do with that.

Years later, I am still in touch with Hank. He has children that are the same age as mine. He runs marathons. And he is still a good, cherished friend who I still look up to. He lives out on the west coast (not too far from Camp Pendleton, CA, in fact), and if I have an opportunity to go out there again any time soon, I will make it a point to contact him first so that I can buy him a beer. Should he find his way out here (originally he grew up in Bedford, MA, two towns away from where I grew up), I will do the same. It is the least I can do.

In any case, I felt it was worth sharing some of my memories of serving in our beloved Corps. It is something I keep with me every day, and from time to time it is worth letting out and putting on display.

From me to you – Happy Birthday. And Semper Fidelis.

The Life Raft

I’ve rewritten this post probably four or five times in the past week or so. Trying to express my thoughts on this one has been difficult. And what is normally relatively easy for me to do has been, for lack of a better word, elusive. Truthfully, I’m not even sure I’ll get this right. But I will do my best.

An extremely quiet child, they called you in your school report
He’s always taken interest in the subjects that he’s taught
So what was it that brought the squad car screaming up your drive
To notify your parents of the manner in which you died?

At St. Patrick’s every Sunday, Father Fletcher heard your sins
Oh, he’s unconcerned with competition he never cares to win
But blood stained a young hand that never held a gun
And his parents never thought of him as their troubled son

“Now you’ll never get to Heaven”, Mama said
Remember Mama said
Ticking, ticking, grow up straight and true blue
Run along to bed, hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking

The above lyric is from a song recorded about forty years ago. It was recorded by Elton John, and the song, entitled “Ticking”, is a disturbing and very sad story about a young man who struggled with mental illness. Indirectly, he lost his life to it. The story, as the song goes, is that this man went into a bar somewhere in the New York City borough of Queens, pulled weapons, and took hostages. He killed two. There was a stand-off with police. When he was called out, he was shot to death.

While not necessarily based on a true story, it could be. And as tough as the story told in the song is, it is also too common, especially now. If anything, circumstances are worse today than when the song was recorded. Look at the news stories that are published on a daily basis: shootings, bombings, terror attacks, the Presidential race…

Okay – the Presidential race may be a little bit of a stretch, but certainly the cast of characters in this election cycle lend themselves to unease, no matter who you like. But I think you get my drift.

Even today there are still people who marginalize mental illness. It is frustrating to see and hear it when it happens, mainly because I understand all too well what it is like to suffer. To an extent, I still do, but not nearly as much or as badly as I used to. I think mainly that is because I have a good support system and access to excellent healthcare. It doesn’t hurt that I am reasonably well-educated, either. You also have to remember that professionally I see it also; many people I deal with regularly have their own mental maladies, whether they are due to organic causes or not. What I mean by the term “organic causes” are illnesses like Schizophrenia, Bi-polar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD, ADD, etc. There are others which are not necessarily organic in nature, as well. Addiction certainly comes to mind, and there are many who would say that addiction falls into the organic category. Whether or not I agree with that is up in the air. And it is best reserved as discussion for another post. But I will talk a little about it later on, just the same.

Why am I writing about this, anyway? Well, since the post I put up a few weeks ago about the anxiety attack I had, it got me to thinking. And I did a lot of thinking about it, which is why this was so difficult to write in the first place. The question I came up with was this: is it just me, or has the whole world just blown up and gone totally crazy? And is mental illness real, or is it an excuse for some people to wreak havoc on others?

To answer that question, you have to consider what has changed in the world we live in. Some would say that nothing has changed; things have always been this way but most people haven’t noticed, mainly because the way we interact with each other has changed. I would submit that this is only partially true; much of what has changed is societal, and I’ll touch on that shortly. As an example, I remember as a child growing up about 25 miles west of Boston thinking that the city was so far away. In reality, you can drive from downtown Boston to Maynard, the town I grew up in, probably in about 45 minutes by taking Route 2 out of the city. Driving through Cambridge, into Arlington then Lexington, through Lincoln, into Concord, then turn onto Route 62 and follow it through West Concord, a sliver of North Acton, and into Maynard. For my friends who are from the area, and many still live around there, not to mention family members, they can relate to what I am talking about. It is a blink of an eye, in a manner of speaking, to make that drive now.

Then there is the development of technology over the past 35 or so years. Prior to my becoming an EMS provider, I worked in the computer and telecommunications industry for a little over 17 years. I remember the first computer I ever put my hands on; it was a big system that filled a room and used 8-inch disks and tape for storage. It ran the VAX/VMS operating system. It took hours to run programs that today can run in fractions of seconds. And it was self-contained. Today, your smartphone has probably 100 times the computing power, and it can communicate with devices all over the world. That, in itself, if you think about it, is hazardous, mainly because you don’t necessarily know at the machine level who your phone is handshaking with. Not to mention those who would try to find ways to hack into your phone, or PC, or tablet, or whatever device you use, either to steal your information or just to destroy what you have stored on your computer. Simply because they can.

Because of the changes to technology that we’ve seen, so much more information is available than ever before. Bear in mind that a good portion of that information is not necessarily either accurate or wholesome, but it’s out there just the same. Then there are the human factors to consider. Much of what many of us grew up with, in terms of how we were raised, societal norms, and traditions – all gone or changed so much as to be unrecognizable. People have little or no respect for authority: look at the attacks on Police officers nationwide. Or others who work in public safety; Fire and EMS personnel are not safe, either. Then there is organized religion; Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, has taken a big hit, mainly due to its shooting itself in the foot – certainly a story in itself that has been told over and over again. Islam, in some parts of the world, has gone totally radical, and this is causing fear in places where it is not, especially in the West. Jihad is seemingly everywhere, if you subscribe to what the media says. Substance abuse is another consideration; from alcohol to marijuana to LSD to crack cocaine and crystal meth to the massive heroin problems that exist, all have contributed in one way or another to our overall mental health as a society. And it is not getting better. There is not a day that goes by, especially now, where reports of people dying from overdoses, or stories about people being chemically resuscitated with Naloxone (otherwise known as “Narcan”) are commonplace.

I’ve managed to pack a lot into about 1400 words. The obvious question that should come next is “so where do we go from here?” To be honest, I don’t know. I do know that most, if not all, of the points I’ve made should make anyone question their own sanity. I also know that there has to be a way to survive, because the world we live in is a hard place, and it’s enough to make most anyone suffer the fate of the subject of the song I referenced at the beginning of the post. At the same time, there is no shame in getting help if you feel you need it. While many wouldn’t admit to needing it, there are many resources available. But you have to start with yourself. Don’t be afraid to climb into the Life Raft.

I did.

The Life Raft

Adventure on a Mountain Toll Road

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I had an experience a couple of days ago that is really hard to describe. I did something that I have wanted to do for a very long time, and we were in a position to let me do it. I wasn’t quite sure how the experience would be, but I am so glad that I got to do this, and it will be something that I won’t forget for a long time to come.

Martha and I, along with her sister and fiance, spent a couple of days over in Bennington, Vermont. It was some long-awaited and needed down time that we had been trying to plan for quite some time. While we were there, everyone else wanted to tour around the town of Manchester, which they did. Manchester is a fairly affluent community with lots of high-end real estate including the home of Robert Todd Lincoln (son of our beloved sixteenth President), marble sidewalks, and a shop that specializes in upscale men’s clothing and highly-priced firearms. I thought this was a strange combination, but the theme of the store is hunting. A story for another day, I’m sure…

Anyway, while everyone was in Manchester, I drove to the nearby town of Arlington, approximately 10 miles away. I did this because I wanted to drive to the summit of Mount Equinox, which is the highest point in that area as well as the eastern Taconic mountain range. It’s kind of a strange place to go, but I had my reasons for wanting to have done this.

The road starts at the base of the mountain, right off of Vermont Route 7A. From bottom to top, the road is just over five miles long. The elevation at the time is 3,848 feet above sea level. It is the oldest privately owned paved toll road in the United States. Originally, the property of the mountain was owned by Dr. Joseph Davidson, an engineer who specialized in designing hydro-electric power plants, among other things. Apparently he was a high-level executive at Union Carbide for years prior to his retirement. Plus, he was involved in the development of a number of systems and devices used during both world wars. He and his wife, Madeleine, made their home there until his death in 1969. On the road there are two privately owned homes. I don’t know if either one of them belonged to the Davidsons, but it wouldn’t surprise me if at least one of them belonged to them at one point. The other, this monstrous brown house, sits on a relatively small parcel of well-maintained property. It is gorgeous.

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When I drove by it on the way up, there was a sign that pointed cars up the mountain and away from the driveway.

IMG_0844 In itself, I didn’t think that was unusual. But I spotted something that I couldn’t quite make out on the back of the property out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was worth checking out. So I did on the way back. There is a turnout in front of the house, which I parked in (it is on the other side of the sign I mentioned), took my camera, and walked along what I thought was the driveway, but it is actually a road. The driveway is off to the left in the photo. When I got around to the back side of the house, I found a simple but rather formidable looking gate.IMG_0845 Needless to say, it got my attention. And I didn’t want to go any further, because I knew where it led, and I didn’t want to be having to explain to local law enforcement why I was trespassing on property that has a history of belonging to a rather austere monastic order that has been part of the Catholic Church for over 1,000 years. The road, incidentally, goes back to their monastery. From where I took this photo, the road, as can be seen, forks left and right. To the left it is paved. To the right is dirt. The fork to the right leads to the monastery. The distance from here to the monastery itself is approximately three miles down that dirt path.

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As I said, the monastic community that lives beyond that gate is part of an order that has been in existence for over 1,000 years. They are known as Carthusians. And the word “Carthusian” is thought to be a corruption of the French word “Chartreuse.”

For lack of a better way of describing them, they are hermits who live in a community. I have a friend (a Trappist monk; incidentally, Trappists are nearly as tough as Carthusians, in terms of the rule they live by) who described the order as “the Marine Corps of monasticism” because of the austerity of their lifestyle. Their founder was Bruno of Cologne, a German who was raised in and lived in France during the eleventh century. The rule of life Carthusians live by, known as “Statutes”, are attributed to him. While they are not the same as the Rule of St. Benedict, developed approximately 500 years earlier, they are similar in many ways.They live in solitary cells and pray most of the Liturgy of the Hours on their own. They study, do manual labor, and eat – one substantial meal and one light meal each day, when they are not fasting, that is – on their own. They do come together three times each day to pray, however, one of those for the celebration of Mass, the other two for Vespers (evening prayer) and Matins or Vigils and Lauds (nocturnal prayer, from Midnight until 2:30-3:00am). They do not see each other except for these times, the one day a week they eat together and go for a community walk, which is the only time they really speak, also. They only see their families maybe once or twice a year at the most. Otherwise, they are solitary and silent.

It’s a tough life. Not one that I could live, even if I were so inclined. But the people that choose, or more accurately, are called to do this, have my respect and admiration. I highly recommend the movie “Into Great Silence.” Regardless on one’s views on religion, or faith, or spirituality, or Catholicism in particular, it is a highly fascinating insight into the sort of life these monks lead. The monastery in the movie is La Grande Chartreuse, located in the Grenoble region of France. When this monastery was founded, it was by monks from La Grande Chartreuse.

I got up to the summit, and I discovered two things. It was cold, and it was windy. But I got some incredible photographs of the view.

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This is Lake Madeleine. It was named for Madeleine, Dr. Davidson’s wife. It is man-made, damming the outflow from the nearby Battenkill River to produce electric power. I believe the capacity of this dam approaches 200,000,000 gallons. It produces power for the mountain, the monastery, and the residents in the area. I’m not sure what the actual area is that is covered, but I do know that it is not just this area in Vermont but also some to the west in New York, as well.

This is a view of Mt. Greylock, located in western Massachusetts. IMG_0788 (2)

I’m not sure of the distance, but I know it is a decent drive. Greylock is supposed to be a decent hike, and like any other mountain, you have to be prepared for what can happen. That is true anywhere where there is altitude, but it seems to be especially true in the Northeastern United States.

These two sets of antenna arrays were a surprise. One of them belongs to the Vermont State Police as a part of the agency’s microwave relay network. IMG_0790

The other is the transmitter antenna for a local radio station. IMG_0833I don’t know the call letters of the station, but I don’t think it matters much.

This is the visitor’s center on the summit. It is an interesting place. Nobody was there; no staff, no other people, nothing. I had the summit to myself for quite a while. Truthfully, I expected the building to be locked up tight. But it was wide open. Apparently it is from May 1 to October 31 every year. And inside I discovered all kinds of information about the mountain, the Davidsons, the dams (there is a second one in addition to Lake Madeleine that I didn’t get photos of), and the monastery.

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When I left the mountain, I felt a little different. About myself, and about a lot of other things. But it was different in a good way. It was as though I had checked an item off of a bucket list. And if I ever have an opportunity, I may go back, if for no other reason, to take more photographs in a different season.

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Adventure on a Mountain Toll Road

A Day Makes All The Difference

Today is a better day.

I can honestly say that I feel better than I did. For whatever reason, I needed time to work through that which caused the problems I was dealing with. And the time made a great deal of difference.

I spent most of it just being. Weezy, my new best buddy, went for a ride in the car with me. I think it is really funny that she loves riding in the car. But then most dogs do, I think. When we got back home, she wanted to stay outside. So we did. For about four hours.

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She has become a real part of the family since she has been with us. It’s understandable that she would have her moments; there are still times when she will shy away from either of us. But then she bounces back. I can say with a fair amount of confidence that she is comfortable in our house. She has no problem sleeping on our bed, like she probably is doing now as I write this. She also has multiple places where she can hole up if she needs to; she has a crate in our office – her “safe place” for when she gets stressed. And we got a bed for her to sleep in that is in our bedroom as well. She seems to like both quite a bit.

This is what it looked like here today.IMG_0746 The fall colors are really starting to pop. It’s only a matter of time before they peak, I think, and it won’t be too long before that happens. This fall has been unusual in that it stayed warm really late. Even today wasn’t horrible; I was able to be outside with a sweat shirt on and be comfortable. Looking at this weekend’s weather forecast says that temperatures will likely drop to levels that are usually expected sometime in mid-November. But next week is supposed to warm back up to more seasonable levels again.

Tomorrow will be a totally new day. What will happen then is unknown at best. And nobody can predict what each day will bring. Two things I know, though: life is fragile, and each day is a gift. While these two facts would seem to be a paradox, they both remain. And there is nothing anyone can do to change it.

At least right now, I’m okay with that.

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A Day Makes All The Difference

Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack

Wow.

I am not sure what to write about. But this is not a first. At times when I know I want to write about something, I’m purely and completely blocked. And I am sort of stuck. Plus, for reasons I don’t know and can’t really understand I am having an anxiety attack.

Trying to describe what an anxiety attack feels like, on one hand, is easy. On the other, it can be tricky, because anxiety attacks look like many things. Many people who have them curl up into a ball and don’t want to be talked to, touched, or disturbed in anyway by anyone. Others have symptoms that mimic a heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, cool, clammy skin, nausea, etc. Mine don’t look like either of those. And I haven’t had one for a long time, so this is like a visit from an unwelcome acquaintance.

My initial sign of an impending attack is the feeling that best can be described as having the wind knocked out of me by a kick in the stomach followed by having acid poured down my throat. That is usually followed by nausea with these sensation of big, nasty birds flying around and crashing into the walls of my abdomen. And unless it can be somehow controlled, the sensation generally won’t go away quietly. It sticks around and will either fester or get bigger. Like it did today.

One of the other things that happens, and it is usually something that I can never shake when it does, is a huge dose of fatigue. I am experiencing that as I write this. Being tired is part of my life most of the time anyway, but when I’m dealing with the issues surrounding this, I deal with what is essentially a force multiplier. That makes the overall experience so much worse. And it is just plain unpleasant when it occurs.

I currently take medication to manage this. Buproprion XL, more commonly known as Wellbutrin. 300 milligrams each day. Most of the time it works. But there are those rare times when it doesn’t. It’s on those days, which I can in no way predict, that I have a hard time. And I have been dealing with this for the better part of the past two days.

One of the things that I personally don’t experience, mainly because I don’t share this about myself, is the stigma that many people experience as a result of being diagnosed with a mental illness. I have been dealing with it for nearly 16 years. Most of the time I’m successful. And I have help if I need it for those prolonged periods of trouble. I am not suicidal. I don’t self-medicate. And I find ways to work through the times I have difficulty. Mostly I read, and I write, and I pray. Sometimes I work out extra hard. All of those activities really help. But sometimes I have a harder time coping than others. And for some reason this has been one of those times.

I had to think about what could have triggered this episode, and I have an idea what the trigger was. Yesterday I watched an episode of the PBS series “Frontline” originally broadcast a little over a year ago that centered around the changes in the Catholic Church when Pope Benedict resigned and Pope Francis was elected. Many of the problems surrounding the church were discussed, like the issues surrounding the Vatican Bank and money laundering, the Legionaries of Christ and their founder, and the ultimate issues surrounding the sex abuse scandal. I have to suspect that it played a part in this episode occurring. I don’t know how else it could have been launched simply because I was okay the day before.

Talking about this is risky; it is a side of myself that I don’t generally share. But doing so was worth the risk because it was somewhat therapeutic. Now all I need to do is survive the overnight.

Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack