25 days of joy, constraint, & my holiday brain: Day zero.

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Part One… The return of the cheap advent calendar…

A few years ago, I did a Christmas writing thing on Tumblr based upon my purchase of a suspiciously cheap chocolate-filled Advent calendar. Just a little something each day. Helped keep my spirits up during a difficult Holiday season. And it really got my creative flows juicing:babyjeebus

$1.98 Advent calendar I got at the C-Town across the street

The other week, I found an even cheaper choco-calendar at the Tuesday Morning’s in the shopping center with the good Vietnamese food.

There is freshly-tilled brain dirt up in my head after a fun season of stuff you can read about in Part Two if you so choose: There’s medication withdrawal, hip pain, a not-stroke, a psychotic Valtrex reaction —all overlaying a year where I started, for lack of a better word, honoring my big-ass ADHD. If my ADHD were on the menu in a Thai restaurant, there would be four bright red peppers next to it, and the waitress would ask, “Are you sure?”

It’s been a scene.

I’m now feeling very expansive, and I want to put that expansiveness into the service of good, not evil. Recently, I’ve been trying my hand at storytelling. One thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to explore the darkest corners of my psycho-sexual corn maze, all the while trying to be so freaking amusing.

Saying all that stuff out loud made me realize that cracking wise about suicide and sex can be kind of off-putting. Do folks really want to hear cracking cancer alliterations? But that’s where my brain goes when I sit down to write. It’s automatic.

I want to go to the not-cancer, not-suicide, not-not-quite-consent cul-de-sacs of my memory.

JOY: I WANT TO GO TO THERE

So… Each day this Advent, I’m going to post a short piece about something that brings joy to my world, far as the curse is found. (Far as the curse is found.) I just strung up over two-thousand proper incandescent mini-lights in the front yard, along with 250 LED multi-colored C-9 bulbs in the back. If we get a little under two inches of precipitation this month, 2018 will be the wettest year on record for Columbus. The only way to survive December in Central Ohio where it’s always cloudy and cold —but never cold enough to snow for some annoying reason —is to throw lights up wherever you can. I’d decorate the cat if Her Grace would permit.

And I’m going to limit myself to a reasonable 300 words or so. Artistic constraints are both necessary and fun. They bring about the best words. Once all the darlings are killed, only the strong survive.

I could use a lesson in less is more.

[I’ll catch up, don’t worry]

Part Two… The Garden Weasel comes…

It feels like someone has taken a Garden Weasel to my brain. I mean that as a good thing. I can plant things now without hacking at the ground with a rusty screwdriver. The dirt is loose and ready.

Last week, I finally planted my 177th flower bulb of the season. It probably is a decorative daffodil. Could be an allium. Honestly, I lost track of specific genotypes early on. I knew I was in for something when the cashier at the Costco’s looked me in the eye and said, “You do know that you have to stick all these in the ground, right?”

“Don’t worry. I got a Garden Weasel.”

She must have seen that I was a bit wild-eyed. I’m always a bit wild-eyed when I leave Costco, a magical land of comically large impulse buys next to the Outerbelt. There’s aisles, but if you traced my steps during a visit, there wouldn’t be an orderly progression of straight lines like I was corn. My route is a Mandelbrot set, an infinite collection of recursive squiggles punctuated by sausage samples.

I average 5000 steps during a visit. I’m chatty as fuck. The other week I talked space heaters and humidifiers for ten minutes with a Somali gentleman. Turns out Somalis are not big fans of the cold. Sometimes I Tokyo Drift my big-ass cart when I see something especially shiny and/or salty. Everywhere there’s delicious angles and colors and sausage samples. It’s completely inefficient, but everything gets bought. So, get off my back.

It’s just the way things get done.

It’s ADHD, It’s a feature. Not a bug.

In June of 2017, I finally got the courage to stop taking the endless stream of pills (and sometimes shots) that have been keeping me chemically warehoused since 1991. At the end there, I was on six different psych meds. I weighed 296 pounds, blood pressure so high that ended up in the ER, and what I’m assuming was Type IV diabetes. I was so sleepy all the time; once I tried to take a nap on the bed at a historic house and was asked to leave.

Other than dropping 35 pounds so far and getting my BP back down, going off the meds has been rough. Whereas the meds were keeping me between a four and a six, going off them has re-introduced me to old friends like 9, 3, 0, 11, -7, pi out to the four thousandth decimal, and the square root of negative e. My moods have been all over the place, and I am constantly reminded why I went on them in the first place. I had forgotten the subtle joys of banging one’s head on the windowsill repeatedly.

Since I was a kid, I have been labeled as sad, depressed, bipolar I, major depressed, psychotic, borderline, and bipolar II. Each new diagnosis gave me a new identity, but nothing seemed to fit. ADHD was often mentioned, but it was treated as a sideshow. Plus ADHD meds disagreed with me. I once stabbed myself in the leg with a black Sharpie while I was on Adderall. Maybe I can focus a little better, but it’s an angry focus —mostly upon my self.

My current therapist asked me to stop thinking of my difficulties as necessarily a “mental illness.” Instead, I have been trying to think of them as overcompensation brought on by my “neuro-diversity.”

“If you want to, you can say you’re on a spectrum,” said my therapist.
“I’m on the spectrum?!?”
“No, not THE spectrum. A spectrum.”
“A different spectrum then?”
“Well, it’s adjacent and overlaps somewhat.”
“Then it’s the same spectrum.”
“Not really.”
“Huh? If a spectrum overlaps another spectrum, then it’s the same friggin’ spectrum!”
“Well…”

This went on for the rest of the hour.

According to my therapist, The vast majority of people have a bouncer in their brains who keeps undesirable stimuli out of the club and then passes the cool ones with the proper footwear on to a host who shows them to their seat. I have neither. Every sound. Every touch. Every shiny object. Every emotion. Every thing just gets to just come in the door and wander around the club. Some belly up to the bar. Some just sit there waiting for table service from a cocktail waitress who may or may not be on break. Some bring in pizza from the gross joint next door and don’t buy anything. Some take over the jukebox. Some start fights. Some get blow jobs in the handicapped stall. Some play pinball. Occasionally, there’s petty arson.

No one leaves at closing time either. It’s like they drove a U-Haul through the doors. They got stuff, and they’re going to stick around. Don’t mind us. But please cater to our every whim.

It has something to do with my thalamus and the ratio of gray matter to white matter. I don’t really recall. There were guys doing stuff on the roof of a tall building I could see from my therapist’s office. One of them wasn’t wearing a fluorescent safety vest. I was concerned. I figure I can just look up the brain stuff later.

As much as I try, I cannot process thoughts in a linear manner. Instead, I just whack and whack at brain-moles as they come up. Much of the time, I can whack fast enough that it looks like I’m getting along. But that is very, very tiring, and I either explode or implode. It varies, but there always comes a ‘ploding time. Sometimes I nap; sometimes I stay in bed for weeks. Sometimes I shadow box a wall; sometimes I drive my car into a tree over bacon.

The meds increase the time between crashes, but the crashes still happen. The whack-a-moles slow down, but they’re really dull moles.

I deserve exciting moles.

Back to the Garden Weasel…

I would not have been able to plant all those bulbs without the Garden Weasel tearing apart hard soil and choking roots.

Ever since I stopped the meds, hard soils and choking roots are giving way to a more pleasing dirt. It was slow at first, and I wondered why everything didn’t change overnight. (Because we all know that’s how the human body works, right?) But in the past six months or so, the pace is increasing.

I feel both #blessed and #horrified that the chemicals are finally leaving my body, and my brain is learning.

I hurt my hip back in April trying to shut a window with my toes. The pain has been excruciating at times. But it has forced me to confront my physicality. I am just finishing up a stint of PT, and I am learning to work with my body. Apparently, I’ve been walking like an idiot all these years. I am starting tai-chi.

Part of that work is relaxing my psoas [rhymes with Greg Boas] muscle in my hip. Apparently, when someone massages and releases your psoas just a tiny bit, you burst into tears. The more my psoas releases, the more my brain speeds up. Also, I look two inches taller and make much better eye contact with cashiers. Soon, I may be able to make eye contact with people who are not on the other side of a counter.

I’ve been getting acupuncture once a week since the hip thing started. First, he does these ear points, five in each, that make me drool. The technique was first used in the States in a Bronx methadone clinic. Second, when I started I could feel literal blocks, like a python going thru a goat. My chi is now doing its chi thing freely, like a fat guy in a caftan. Lastly, there is much to be said about laying there for an hour covered in needles. It takes getting up and walking around off the table. You just sit there with your itchy beard and chestnut bladder. This is as close to meditation as I’m willing to get.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a health scare. Left side of my face went numb on the way to DSW to get some shoes stretched. Telling the desk at the ER that the left side of your face has gone numb gets you right in and into a CATscan machine in no time. Luckily, it wasn’t a stroke. It was face shingles. The doctor gave me some Valtrex for the face shingles. I do not handle Valtrex well; it makes me crazy. Not my normal crazy, which normally approaches me from the direction of five o’clock and goes slowly enough that I can step aside most time… this came in fast from around eleven o’clock high. I broke down sobbing in my local cheesesteak franchise because my order wasn’t coming. “But, but… I’m starving!” And a few hours later I was beating myself over the head with my iPhone. After they took me off the Valtrex, it took a few days for everything to settle down. But, that Valtrex was like a Garden Weasel made of Adamantium.

Much like how you feel absolutely great when a migraine finally leaves, the lessening of hip and brain pain finally has me ready.

…to do something.

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