Travels With Animals

By Chelscey Clayton (Guest Author)

Take a road trip, they said. Use your move as an opportunity to explore, they said. Except that those people didn’t travel with 3 pets. Or if they did, I guarantee you none of those animals were cats.

First, a little context: I have never lived more than 60 miles from Los Angeles. When I travel for long distances, it’s me and my dog (and sometimes husband), because he’s a good dog and loves being with me at all times—literally (this applies to the husband, too). Then, the husband got a job in New Orleans and I said, “Well, why not? Let’s do it!” And so, we packed up our life and started to drive. This included packing up our 2 cats and our dog, and drugging them for 4 days straight because oh my God, those cats were driving me crazy.

My dog, on the other hand, was a saint.

I don’t have children. I imagine my cats crying all through the night in every hotel room was akin to a baby crying and keeping parents up all night.

The pet sedatives that we had—because, fun fact, cat’s won’t stop meowing for 8+ hours of driving if you don’t mellow them out—always wore off at about ten at night. Just about the time when we were settling in, and preparing for another long drive the next day. At which time, my little balls-of-fluff were just beside themselves.

I get it, they were scared, and didn’t know what was happening. But while my dog would look at us and decide “Well, if Mom and Dad are here, then I’m good.” My cats would look at us and think, “OHMYGODWHEREAMI?! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”

Did I feel bad for them and wish to ease their discomfort? Of course! I’m a devoted pet parent. But I couldn’t figure out what to do. They didn’t want to cuddle with us, they didn’t want to eat, they just cried, and cried. Again, I assume much like a teething toddler where there is just nothing you can do to make things better for the suffering child. Unless you employ some shady methods—usually involving whiskey (I won’t judge you).

We passed through beautiful states, we saw some amazing vistas, but all from the “comforts” of our car because we couldn’t risk leaving the cats alone for a moment, and this included the hotel rooms. We couldn’t take a stroll through the city, dine at a local haunt that was just-to- die-for, because if we did, the cats would lose their minds, and the dog would respond by trying to “play” with them—which the cats would hate even more.

I kept telling myself, “Next time, we’ll do this the right way. Next time, we’ll take the scenic route”. But that was a bold-faced lie. Why? Because I love my cats, even when they are insufferable jerks, and I wouldn’t leave them, or give them up for anything. Eventually, I stopped trying to force feed myself the lie, and my mantra became “This will be over soon. We’ll get to our new house, and it’ll be fine”.

Well, spoiler: we did get there, but it was not fine.

We didn’t have our furniture, power, or hot water for the first few nights (but that’s a different story), so we had to sleep on an air mattress, and the blankets and pillows we took with us for packing purposes. We could have stayed in a hotel and been more comfortable, but I was so tired of subjecting myself—and the pets—to that, that we just decided to “rough it”.

Again, this could have been fine. It could have been like urban camping from the “comforts” of our own home; except for the cats.

No, they weren’t crying anymore. They sensed we had arrived and things were okay by that point. Instead, our cats would see the sleeping lumps of their humans and think, “That looks like a monster. I must slay it!”

Please note: they have never thought that before when they saw us sleeping.

Cut to one of my cat’s pouncing on my foot, claws out, in the middle of the night. I did mention we were sleeping on an air mattress, right? Good. How that thing didn’t pop is beyond me, but thankfully it—and I—survived the encounter.

“So, Chelscey, would you do it again?” Willingly? No, but that’s not an option. I won’t be in New Orleans for the rest of my life, so I will be moving again at some point. Which means we’ll once more be loading up our fur-babies, and attempting to travel cross country.Have I learned anything from the experience? Sure: kitty-downers are a life saver. Will that change anything for the future? No. Because unlike babies, cat’s never grow up. They stay inconsolable little creatures who I will always have to clean-up after, and who will never be able to tell me what’s wrong, but whom I will still love fiercely.

I will tell you what I would do differently next time though; stopping at fewer hotels and just powering through the drive. Because either way, I’m not sleeping.

20171111_135442Written By: Chelscey Clayton, author of The Monster of Selkirk series.

C. E. Clayton (Chelscey) was born and raised in Southern California where she worked in the advertising industry for several years on accounts that ranged from fast food, to cars, and video games (her personal favorite). This was before she packed up her life, husband, two displeased cats, and one very confused dog and moved to New Orleans. Now, she is a full time writer (mainly in the fantasy genre), her cats are no longer as displeased, and her dog no longer confused. More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, and poetry, can be found on her website: https://www.ceclayton.com/

 

Adiós Chihuahua Ojo

My mom’s dog died last week. I know, I know, but don’t worry – she still has my dad and her health. And she’s pretty young, so there’s that too.

It’s interesting how much we rely on our pets: for friendship, protection, emotional support, and as great excuses for not having to do stuff. And let me say this: people are far more forgiving when you say your dog is sick versus when you say your kid is sick. I don’t know why the heartstrings pull so hard when friends or co-workers find out your adorable fur baby needs care, but when your toddler is suffering… again… they annoyedly brush you off with a dismissive, “they’ll get over it.” It’s the power of the fur.

Before you make me out to be a callous human, in case you don’t know, I rescued three strays in 2 years, cared and paid for one’s cancer treatments for another two years before she passed, and am absolutely ga-ga, head over heels for my current two fur babies, who mean the world to me. So, I get it. I also have a toddler.

All of that being said, my mom’s dog died a week ago. He was a 126-year-old, one-eyed, shaman looking, 27lb Chihuahua (Chihuahua mix…oops, they paid for a pure bred). The truth is either the damn dog was sick for all his 18 human years, or my mom developed Munchausen by proxy. I’m not a doctor. I’m a writer, I am in no way qualified to make this diagnosis, but, the dog was never sick until this last year of his life when he suffered from old age ailments. So I’m sticking to Munchausen. Let me explain:

Most individuals who suffer from a condition that requires a support dog, get a dog so they can have a pseudo-normal life – leave the house and live amongst the world. My mom used her “support dog” as an excuse to never leave the house again. Ever.

A little history on the pup: Originally he was a gift from my father. The then two-eyed Chihuahua was meant to rekindle a marriage that my mother had already extinguished and abandoned. She was living in a new home, with new people, and the dog, then just a puppy, was left in my father’s care. Under my father’s watch the puppy lost an eye. I know, I know, “WHAT!?!” but yeah, this is quite common in certain breeds. The veterinarian assured us that the dog, having been so young at the time of the incident, would never know the difference, and he didn’t even feel it since the nerve was cleanly severed. I sound very clinical relaying the information now, but it was a long and traumatic day when I had to drive my terrified, sobbing father, and my mother’s scared puppy to the animal hospital all those years ago. Someone had to stay strong and make choices, like calling my mother at her new home with her new (roommate? Boyfriend? Main squeeze?) partner, and telling her that her puppy had lost an eye.

After the “incident” my father could no longer be trusted with the pup and my mother could not keep the pup at her new family’s home, so ultimately she came back to my father, to care for the puppy, and eventually terminated the divorce proceedings. So I guess the dog did his job? This all sounds a bit sketchy, but for the purposes of time and length, it is a story for another day.

Since losing his eye, my parents determined that the dog needed two parents to care for him full time. Apparently, something not even their high school teenager, new grandbabies, young adult children, their home, or other two adult dogs needed. This one small dog that was missing an eye, but otherwise was in perfect health, was the only living creature my parents needed to give their full attention and time to. My mom spent time making inquiries to plastic surgeons about the possibility of a glass eye. My dad set up wee-wee pads around the house so the dog wouldn’t have to be burdened with using the yard. The pup was also segregated from the other dogs in the house until he was a year old; or perhaps I should say, the older dogs were forgotten, much like their teenage human sibling (not me). For all intents and purposes, the puppy was also segregated from all my parents’ adult children because we didn’t know how to “play” with him delicately, this now 27lb bowling ball of a dog.

It was hard not to resent the dog. He received the care and attention that none of us had or ever would get from my parents. Every phone call or text message received or made revolved around the dogs day, his feelings, emotional health, physical well being. A trip to the vet for gas, bloating, hiccups, wet nose, dry nose, bad breath, soft stool, hard stool, you name it. It was hard to feel anything but severely annoyed. Was the son-of-a-bitch spending my one-day inheritance on his hypochondria? Hahahaha! I have no inheritance don’t worry. But seriously, what the hell was going on all these years? And before you activists weigh-in on the idea of diet, the dog had all his meal specially prepared: boiled chicken breast and steamed green beans with a little olive oil. He wasn’t sick, he was spoiled, literally, spoiled like expired milk, he was no longer a dog but a vessel for emotional pain. Poor guy.

My parents declined to attend birthday celebrations, canceled holiday plans, and rejected every dinner invitation extended by my siblings who lived locally. “We can’t leave the dog; he needs us. He’ll die if we’re not home with him,” they’d plead on every phone call.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, WHAT? Yes.

It had never presented a problem in the past with the number of family dogs we’d had before, but this dog carried the burden of all my parents emotional baggage: betrayal, unhappiness, entrapment, marital obligation, years and years and years of emotional grief and depression; all of which were heftily laid upon the back of one small dog, just like that.

Once joyful and spry like a young dog should be, he quickly became aggressive and mean to anyone who wasn’t my mother. Hugging my mom became impractical, as we never knew if the mixed breed Chihuahua would leap from her lap or arms and take a bite out of us. As my parents were unwilling to leave him at home, the executive decision fell on the parents of my nieces and nephews to not invite Grandma and Grandpa over, or out anymore, since the dog could not be trusted with children, or the children with the dog.

My parents feigned outrage, but truly they could not have been more relieved to be let off the hook. “Think of us as grandparents who live out of state. On the rare occasion we can see you, it will mean so much more,” they claimed. All these excuses and lies in the name of the poor dog.

That dog, living with one eye, became my mother’s reason for not living these past, nearly two decades. “We don’t get to take vacations; we are bound by our sick dog.” Or, “we can’t have anything nice because of our sick dog.” And of course my favorite: “we need you to elope, because of our dog, we just won’t be able to come to your wedding, meet your first born child, our grandson, or see the life you’ve built for yourself in California over the past 15-years, your entire adult life, because of our sick dog.”

Alas, this poor sick dog (he was never sick) has passed away. My parents carried him to the crematorium, watched as he was lowered into the flames, and came home with an urn, engraved with the dog’s name. I imagine my mom has sat holding the urn in her lap for the past week. She has not stopped crying or left the house. And just this morning they both decided not to attend my nephew’s (their 2-year-old grandson’s) birthday party, because their dog has died. They also don’t think that Christmas will happen this year for them; possibly even next year.

The dog, even in death, must shoulder my parent’s burdens. Poor fucking Pepper (oh, that was his name, Pepper).

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I’ve Been Too Busy To Write, Because I’ve Been Busy Writing

Yeah, I know how it sounds, but it’s true. I can’t think of a better way to have been too busy for my blog… except for my two-year-old. He keeps me happily busy as well. Our daily conversations start a little like this:

Me: Jack, I love you so much I could eat you.

Jack: I love you too, mommy.

Who taught him grammar at two? Hopefully Jason and I, but maybe he’s just a gifted toddler, that’s what I’m supposed to say – I’m his mother.

I digress. I’ve had so many things to talk about and as I sit here to recount them, I am left mindlessly wondering, what was I going to say? I feel like that happens a lot. Probably to everyone, but I’m just not used to it.

I have a few writing gigs at the moment and one of them is a total stressor, but it shouldn’t be. I won’t tell you which one, because that’s not the point. What I will tell you is that it reminds me of my first day at McDonalds. I was 15-years-old and had been working since I was maybe ten or eleven. That’s right. I grew up in a large family and there wasn’t a lot of money to go around. If you wanted something you had to figure out how to get it. You also were expected to work. So my career life started early. Sure I babysat, became a junior camp counselor, I had an enormous paper route, I was a grocery store bagger, then cashier, and one summer I got a job at McDonalds, because my friend worked there. What was I thinking? I was thrown on the drive-thru my first day and I couldn’t understand a thing anyone was ordering. It felt like I was watching an old Charlie Brown movie, everyone sounded like quacking ducks. Not to mention I had no clue how to punch in the orders. All the keys were unnecessarily abbreviated on the register. How does 2X equal Big Mac? My brain just wasn’t equipped for it. After getting every order wrong for an hour, they put me on Bun Toasting duty where I immediately set-off the smoke alarms and burned my finger. After which, I was sent home for the day. They didn’t fire me. I wanted them to fire me so I wouldn’t have to keep going back every day and embarrassing myself at a job I couldn’t do. And let me be clear, I never got any better working there. They put me on the fryer, they put me at the front registers, they put me on the griddle, they put me on janitorial duty and I failed at everything. Lets not get into why I sucked at the job any further, but rather why didn’t I quit? It wasn’t an option. I would have had to beg my parents for permission to quit, and that gave me even more anxiety. Which is a bad lesson to learn.

Now I find myself in a similar situation in that I have a job I can’t quit, and I don’t think I’m any good at it, and it’s definitely stressing me out. I have anxiety just thinking about it. What’s the worse that will happen? I’ll be let go, I’ll quit, it’s not a big deal, but somehow I’ve turned it into a mountain of an issue. I found it hard to even relax while on a five-day vacation in Maui! That’s right. I was a mess the whole time. And I know I’m not alone in this. Why do we do this to ourselves?

And when do we get to an age where we can just relax a little. Let the 20-somethings stress, we’ve paid our dues, let us be calm before we get old.

I’ll survive the job, or I’ll leave on good terms, or they’ll let me go – no hard feelings. That’s the absolute worse that can happen. Until then I’m going to just breathe through it and keep plugging away at the rest of life. Living it, not letting any one thing consume me. I will keep working toward finding balance and I will promise to write more blog posts. Let’s see if I can manage to get one up this weekend, too!

Is Vacation, Vacation?

We’re going out of town next week. I wouldn’t call it a vacation, but traveling is always a treat, right? We’re headed back to our hometowns to visit family, sing Happy 70th Birthday to my Dad in Michigan, and celebrate the High Holiday – Rosh Hashanah in NYC. It will be a treat.

However, traveling is not as easy as it was before we decided to shack up together, get some dogs to pretend we were parenting, and then go ahead and open a 24/7 home business known as AirBnBeeber. Not to mention the whole traveling with a 2-year-old… talk about pretending to be parents.

Let me just start with the basics, to travel with or without your own car seat? That IS a question. If you rent a car in Michigan adding a car seat is like an extra $15 USDOLLARS a DAY! Are you kidding me? I could purchase a new one and then auction it off, donate it, return it?, and be better off financially. Why are you penalizing human beings for procreating? Do you actually want the human race to fail? Should we just not travelwith children?

If we left our baby at home with a sitter while we, Jason and I, travel that would be a couple thousand dollars and a lot of heartache, because what’s the point of visiting Grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins if the wee ones aren’t with you? Rhetorical. I can tell you with certainty that once we had a child no one, no one, but our friends care if we, Jason and I, visit – just as long as the baby makes the trip. And shocker, 2-year-olds are not allowed to travel solo… yet, but in all honesty, if they were, that’s like a whole lot cheaper and then parents everywhere could ship them off to family while staying back and enjoying a peaceful, clean, tantrum free home again – that’s what I would call a Stay-cation, but I digress.

Let’s jump back to those dogs, WTF dogs? Sure, there may be fancy dog hotels and kennels, but only a barbarian (or someone with money, not the Middle Class) would dump their pre-baby, babies off to the unknown while going away for a week or two. No, our furbabies must be treated as the children they are, we will have someone stay at the house full time. Nurture them, walk them, feed them, hug them – basically our dogs get the vacation I want. Meanwhile, I’m schlepping around two cities, taking multiple flights which keep me locked in stale-recirculated-air filled airports for too many hours, while carrying my 30lb toddler because he’s tired of walking and the new “light-weight” (HA!) umbrella stroller we bought for the purpose of travel (add another $60 bucks to the trip) is just not the same as mama carrying him. Not to mention the several carry-on bags that are filled with necessary distractions for said toddler and all our work files while we travel, because hey, we do have jobs and they do require our attention and no, we don’t get vacation days, but that one is probably on us, since we own our own business and all. And being a small business owner (and I’m not talking about AirBnBeeber) is a lot of work, it has its perks, but it’s also 7 days a week and a lot of hours, but again, I digress.

Then yeah, there’s the AirBnBeeber and the guests all the guests that book their trips months in advance. We aren’t going to cancel on them for our vacation. Nope, instead we’ve hired a friend to manage and care for our guests while we’re gone. It’s a nice gig if you can get it! I think we pay pretty well.

Okay, so just to get to my sister’s house in Michigan we’ve spent money on, flights, rental car, child car seat, travel stroller (this may be a splurge, but if you have kids you get it, if you don’t have kids trust those of us that do – this is necessary), dog sitter, AirBnBeeber manager, and car parking at the airport which is about the same as an Uber ride there and back, but comes with a Car Seat for the kid – that’s like SO MUCH MONEY and we’re not even on vacation yet.

I could go on, but I won’t because at the end of the day we’re getting away and while I will worry and fret about the costs, and the business, and my pups I think it will be worth it, right?

I’m laughing like I’ve lost my mind, because I think maybe I have. Please, laugh with me so I feel like I’m not alone. 

~Xo

My Day In Court

By the time we arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 AM, I had already been up for four hours. And thanks to my new NO COFFEE diet, I was also tired as hell. I still managed to dress well, shower, comb my hair and apply some decent color to my face.

Now, based on my experience of binge-watching The People’s Court and the multiple times I’ve been called to Jury Duty, I know there are two kinds of people that go to court: Those Who Dress Professionally and Those Who Don’t. Today there were more people in the Those Who Don’t category… which, based on my aforementioned experience, seems to generally be the case.

Why was I at court? Well, it wasn’t for Jury Duty this time. No, on this occasion I was standing in line waiting to enter the metal detectors of the rectangular, boring-as-watching-cement-dry building as moral support for my friend during her custody case.

It is the first hearing for my friend in what has been a long and agonizing two years of single parenthood. She’s been working two full time jobs to survive and provide. She is educated, talented (gifted in the performing arts), and a really good person. She is smartly dressed for court in freshly pressed, khaki colored slacks and a bright blue button down that makes her skin glow softly and disguises the sleepiness under her eyes. Her hair is swept back into a neat bun and her lips are gently glossed. Her look is put together, smart, and approachable – the woman you would ask for assistance if you needed it, and she is an example to everyone on HOW TO DRESS FOR COURT.

Sure, I’m being a little funny regarding how we present ourselves because there is an abundant amount of truth that we are prone to making snap decisions based on appearances. I’m being 100% honest and I will tell you why:

 

My friend, I will call her Eve, is outwardly calm, but her insides are a mess. A mixture of anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger are twisted in so many knots that to distinguish one feeling from the other is nearly impossible, and so she has learned to push them down and smile with false calmness and a bit of self-deprecation to help her and me laugh at an otherwise appalling situation. As Eve would say, “I am thirty-something years old and smack dab in the middle of an episode of Sixteen and Pregnant.”

It’s funny, but the truth is even at an age when we have our shit together and we’re in a tenured relationship, we can end up with a father that, “wasn’t ready,” and “doesn’t love us anymore,” and feels that, “ever since the pregnancy you’ve been a Bitch,” and my personal favorite, “you made me cheat on you.”

I guess when I saw him, Eve’s Ex, show up to court in his new weekend casual sneakers (they were pretty great and I want a pair, but are too expensive and not court appropriate), his easy going polo, and his Los Angeles standard-issued-denim (jeans) I knew I, too, was smack dab in the middle of Sixteen and Pregnant. He definitely presented that he was indeed not ready to be a father, however, he did make sure to be escorted into court by a well-dressed attorney.

Well, if you’ve never been to court for a custody hearing, let me give you a brief run down on the flow. First, the Bailiff checks you in and every body else that’s showed up for a court hearing. And Family Court takes place in Civil Court, so you sit and wait and listen to all the folks wearing their F*ck Off graphic tanks and acid washed jeans rant about the “bullshit” restraining order against him/her. You listen when the young woman in her ill-fitting, years old Homecoming dress tells the Bailiff she’s innocent and shouldn’t be there. You eavesdrop on the planned lying between middle-aged sisters against a landlord. And you tear up and worry a little when you look over at your friend, Eve, and see that she’s praying for this to not be happening to her.

At the end of eight hours of mediation, no agreement was reached. Throughout the entire day Eve asked on three separate occasions for a continuance, which the mediator, an Accident and Injury Attorney in this case, denied. The Mediator sent Eve out to sit in the courtroom while he spoke alone to the Ex and his Attorney.

When the Mediator returned to Eve he looked her straight in the face and told her, “Either you give him what he wants or you’ll end up with the cops at your door. You wouldn’t want the police to show up to your home would you? Nobody likes the cops called on them.”

I know this is exactly what he said because I was sitting right beside Eve when he said it. This officer of the court, a court-appointed Mediator.

The Mediator threatened Eve with a call to the police because she asked for a continuance so that she could employ her own legal counsel. She had been blindsided by the appearance of her Ex’s attorney and she had been blindsided when her Ex, who has not seen his child in over a year – electively­, asked for sole custody so he could leave California and raise the child in Michigan.

Let me say this – all the under-dressed, unkempt, orally dysfunctional (did I make this word up? You get it), white people that filled the courtroom were treated with respect and never threatened with a call to the police, even though I’m pretty sure with the lies, multiple false allegations, and domestic abuse, there probably should have been some mention of police involvement, but no.

Eve is black. And no, it is not a coincidence. 

It’s The Little Things, Ya Know?

IMG_6817I can’t drink coffee anymore.

I love coffee. The rich, intoxicating aroma leads me into a calm, serene state of mind. The purposeful measured “splash” of cream that caramelizes its hue brings a smile to my face. A single sugar cube to sweeten the roast for my tongue is my greatest pleasure in the morning. It’s my ritual, my every morning, and my friend-date go-to.

I worked at a coffee shop. I loved pulling shots of freshly ground, espresso. I loved the smiles and thanks I received when I handed someone their drink. I loved the smell of my clothes that permanently wore the scent of roasting beans. I loved the false bravado of the customer who set-up her/his laptop for a long afternoon of staring at a blank screen.

Coffee can perk you up when you’re down or feeling sluggish, and it will be your muse when you lack inspiration. It’s a treat and I rewarded myself daily.

Now, the Doctor says I cannot drink coffee.

“You should consider yourself allergic,” she rationalized.

Two months ago today was my last mug of the good stuff. Had I known it would be my last cup, I would have cherished it more. I would have sat down, with delicious biscotti, and I would have closed my eyes and thanked it for the lifetime we’d spent together. I wouldn’t have let it get cold sitting on the counter while I changed a poopy diaper, dressed a screaming toddler, and dropped him off at daycare only to come home and resent my coffee’s stale bitterness from being nuked in the microwave.

I’ve been savoring the rich dark roast since the age of nine. My parents allowed me a cup of their Folgers every weekend. If I visited my parents today, surely I would find a large, plastic, red tub of Folgers precariously shoved into the top cupboard of their 1986 galley kitchen with its light blue wallpaper that’s been peeling at the corners since 1989. It would go without saying that coffee would be made and a large blue tin of Danish butter cookies would be served.

I miss my coffee.

A couple of weeks ago I tried decaf. While the smell that wafted from the hot cardboard was familiar the taste – was off. The warm drink minus the caffeine made me drowsy. I tried to convince myself that the decaf espresso would be better than stale diner coffee, it isn’t. It’s not the same. There’s no reward to drinking decaf, no high, no rush, no momentum.

I went grocery shopping yesterday. I wandered sluggishly down the baking aisle and followed my nose to the coffee beans. I smelled every bag, I lingered at the bean grinder, I stuck my face into the shoot it was still warm and oily from the last grind. It smelled amazing.

I picked up a bag of Breakfast Blend and headed to the express lane. I forgot to pick-up dinner, but we could just order in. I rushed into the house as fast as I could, running to the corner of the kitchen counter I ripped open the coffee grinds ready to pour them into the filter and I couldn’t find the coffee machine. Here, on the white Caesarstone, coffee stained counter there was no coffee machine.

“JASON!” I shouted, not caring if the toddler was sleeping.

“Yeah, Babe?” came his calm, measured response.

“Where’s the coffee pot?”

“I sold it.”

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My heart is racing and my eye is twitching and my leg keeps bouncing, but I am happy. I am across the street at the Coffee Haus writing to you, sipping my café au lait made with fully caffeinated, dark roast coffee. Don’t let anyone tell you, ‘you can’t,’ because I am proof you can.

Where On Earth Have I Been?

I’m writing about where I’ve been.

It feels like I may be tempting fate and risking another One just by writing about Them.

I fear everything right now is a trigger.

But if They’re going to keep happening, I might as well write about Them.

It’s been one week and two days without One, but somehow I know They can hear me, read me, know that I’m talking about Them.

Panic Attacks.

 

It’s been five weeks and four days since the first one gripped my chest so tight I thought, someone help me!

And then I thought I’m not going to make it. Then a stream of thought consumed me:

I can’t breath. My chest is pinched. It’s collapsing. My lungs – air.

 My throat is closing up.

Why am I shaking so violently?

My head repeats I’m not going to make it. I’m not going to make it.

 I’m outside, so is the dog, fuck, “GET INSIDE, DOG, NOW!”

I was surprised any sound made it out of me at all.

I locked the door. I walked to the neighbor’s house, quickly. I pounded on the thin strip of metal that is the screen doorframe until someone heard me.

Her husband answered, why is her husband home and mine is not.

“Is Ruth here?” I asked, shaking, eyes wide and frightened, I must have been a sight.

“She’s sleep—“ he stopped the thought, “yeah one second, come in.”

I spilled the glass of water I’d forgotten I was holding.

Breathe Jaime, breathe. I can’t. You can. I can’t. You can. I can’t. You can.

He’s back, “Ruth will be right out, do you want some coffee?”

“I think I’m having a panic attack,” I may have yelled it. I may have cried it. I was definitely pleading for help when I said it.

 

 

It’s five weeks and four days later.

I finally feel like myself again, which only just happened two days ago. But for the first time in five weeks and four days, I’m not sitting waiting for an attack to happen and that feels like the best gift ever.

I didn’t have just one panic attack – I had one to five attacks per day for a month. It was unbearable. Debilitating. Scary-as-hell. Nothing I’d ever wish on anyone.

I couldn’t be alone for those weeks. I went on jobs with Jason. I dragged Jack to Jason’s basketball games and piano lessons – the ones I didn’t make him cancel, and I dropped the baby off at daycare full-time. I cried in public more times than I can count. I couldn’t drive because I didn’t know when I’d have one or how bad it would be. I couldn’t stay in the house; not alone, not at all.

I’m here, I never left, but I did lose the month of June. I likened it to a really long stomach-flu, but it wasn’t. It was much worse emotionally and physically, not that I want the stomach flu again to compare.

I’m still me. I’m working on getting rid of the attacks. I’m practicing more self-care. And I’m writing. Every experience helps with character development, right? Right.

Every time I tell someone I feel a little stronger, a little less alone, a little more like everybody else. Because I’m not alone and neither are you.