Tag Archives: depression

The imperfect power of lists

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It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe.

No. It feels like a fist clenched around my heart, witch-claws digging into meat that struggles to beat.

No. It feels like an itch – a million separate itches in every cell inside my skin, too deep to scratch, although grinding my teeth helps.

No. It feels like no. It feels like urgent – hurry – too late. It feels like loss. It feels like quickquickrunaway! It feels like weep, bite, refuse, fail. It feels like hide, disappear, do not be.

Distressed woman

I am a maker of lists. On my phone, with a linked copy on my laptop, I have Evernote, and it is full of lists. There are several shopping lists, and a list of organic ways to deal with pests, and a list of natural cleaning products. Most important, though, are the to do lists. They are like gears – I engage them, and my day, and thus my life, moves forward.

  • There is my list of things to do every morning, and
  • another list of things to do every evening, and next to each item on both these lists are seven boxes so that during the week I can check things off as I do them, and see that they have been done. That gives me pleasure.
  • There is a list of chores I’m supposed to do every Monday/ Tuesday/ Wednesday/ Thursday/ Friday/ Saturday/ Sunday, and another for JFMAMJJASOND. They have check boxes as well.
  • I also have a list of things I want to do as soon as possible
  • condensed into a list of things I want to do this week (which I check off as I do them, to delete at the end of the week)
  • and backed up by a list of things that aren’t urgent but I want to do them someday, so I write them down in order not to forget them
  • and then there’s a list of improvements and projects I want to get done around our home and our farmlet
  • and a list of topics I want to blog about
  • and a list of characters in the book series I started writing just before I got stuck.

The lists stopped working about last November. First, I signed up for NaNo, and instead of starting something new I decided to have another whack at the novel I started writing the last time I tried to do NaNo, and for a while it was kind of like magic because suddenly the characters and the story line coalesced. Then it went from magical to miraculous, because I realized I didn’t have only one book; I had an entire series, something that would be fun to write, easy to sell – not great literature, but fuck that. I used to think I had a Great Novel inside of me, but now I just want to finish writing something that people will pay to read. So for a few joyous days I wrote and wrote, and it was wonderful and glorious and happy and enough.

But the gears locked up and I got stuck. Sometimes, looking back, it feels as though I’ve been halfway stuck for years. Scrolling back through this blog there are so many posts about new beginnings and fresh starts and shined-up resolutions – years of take a step, drag a leg, take another step, drag the damn leg again. And at some point around about November, I stopped. I began to sleep nine, ten, even twelve hours a night. It was never enough; I was always tired. I told myself to eat better, but I was too tired to cook. I told myself to take Argos for walks, to stretch in the crisp crunch of snow and oxygenate my blood with clean, cold air, but it was just too damn hard to get out of bed.

insomnia

Every morning I peer at my phone (scrunching my left eye shut and holding the phone a few inches from my stronger right eye, because to put in contact lenses I must get out of bed, and I don’t want to get out of bed, not ever – it always feels impossible to push the dogs and duvet aside until impelled to do so by the pressure in my bladder) and I look at my to-do-every-morning list, which I have pared down to the bare bones of home functionality. I pick three things to do. I tell myself that if I do those three things I can stop for a while, reward myself before deciding what to do next. I think about what I might use as a reward, to motivate myself to get out of bed and begin. And then I click on Cortana and read the news.

Sometimes it takes three or four hours just to get up, clenching against leakage as I hobblescurry to the toilet for the lovely relief of the first pee of the day.

depression-entropy-definition

How soon dishes pile up on kitchen counters and dirt coats floors and tables. Vegetables compost in the refrigerator, sheets turn gray, blankets smell of dog, piles of laundry consume all the socks and underwear. Some days a to do list yields a joule or two’s worth of energy, but it’s like pushing ectoplasm or blowing away a miasma. You can burn it off and, briefly, catch a glimmer of clarity and order, but the miasmic ectoplasm always oozes back. The only escape is via the secret garden of another book, and another, and just one more.

About two weeks ago I was fingerchatting with my bestie, Twiglet, on Skype, and I started to cry. I wasn’t especially sad – in fact, chatting with her always lifts my spirits – so I wasn’t sobbing or even feeling a need to blow my nose, but after a while it occurred to me that the steady flow of tears down my face wasn’t entirely normal. And then I remembered times in my life that this had happened before, and what I had done that helped. So while I was waiting for Twiglet’s response to something or other I had said, I called my doctor’s office and made an appointment. “What is this for?” the appointment-making person asked. “I don’t think Prozac is working for me any more,” I said, as my voice wobbled unexpectedly like a finger-clutching toddler walking along a wall.

I saw the doctor on Friday, and now I’m weaning off Prozac and have started taking Wellbutrin, and the pharmacist said I should expect to feel worse before I feel better. Specifically, she asked: “Do you have someone to talk to if you have suicidal thoughts?” so I passed that along to the Hubbit. He’s not much of one to be talked to, being more a fix-it kinda guy and also deaf, but he knows which of my friends to phone.

And, you know, I guess it must be working, because I’m dressed, and instead of obsessively clicking round and round between Facebook, Lumosity and the latest piece of insanity spewed from the White House, I’ve written this blog post. It’s not about a topic from my list, but I wanted to write something, and then I did it.

It feels good.

 

 

 

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Running ahead of the storm

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When I came home in mid-February, I was exhausted but optimistic. Marmeee was okay, for a couple years at least, probably. The Old Buzzard was losing his marbles but at a rate of only two or three a week, and his Alzheimer’s medication had transformed him into a happier, pleasanter person than he’d been in years. It was good to be back in Washington, and not too painful to be gone from my people in South Africa.

It didn’t matter that we were seven weeks into the year. I named 2016 My Year Of Reclamation, convinced that 10-and-a-bit months was all I needed to finally, at last, once and for all, turn my life around. This was the year I would have a productive vegetable garden, get serious about training Argos the Madcap Malinois, lose weight, start riding again, get our finances under control, and clean my house from top to bottom and end to end. I had a great idea for a series of fun, lightweight (but, of course, also thought-provoking) novels and I was going to start writing every day, and make money from it. And blogging. I promised myself I’d start blogging regularly every week about my fascinating life and amazing insights – you know.

collapsing like a house of cards

House of cards. (Source)

Yeah. That was the plan. I even signed up for Evernote and started a whole new super-efficient system of to do lists.

Plans are like card houses. You build them ever so carefully, handling each card with the most delicate touch as you add it to the structure. And then someone opens a window and a draft blows in and all your cards go flying.

So here it’s the end of July, and I’m looking back at the year to date and shaking my head and wondering what the fuck happened. I have been in such a horrible funk! I’ve been gobbling my way through books, most of them lightweight, easy reading or stuff I’ve read before – because even the most two-dimensional borrowed life has been more appealing than the one I’m living. I’ve been eating way too much crap, and suffering the usual consequences. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep, and when I do I wake up tired.

Depression? Well yes, but I’ve had reasons to feel sorry for myself, even without tripping over the Trump of Doom or Shillary every damn time I log onto my computer. (Seriously, America? I cannot believe that’s the best we can do!)

First, in February I accidentally overstayed my US passport’s welcome in South Africa by a whole 22 hours, and was declared an Undesirable Person and forbidden to return in under 12 months.

So then I tried to renew my South African passport, and learned that I had accidentally forfeited my South African citizenship by becoming an American citizen. I’m still trying to figure out why this was devastating, apart from the practical difficulty it caused. As someone who fears and distrusts the patriotic impulse, I should simply shrug it off with a casual “Whateverrr” … but in fact I feel robbed, and also homeless, and I’m sorry but the Land of the Free just can’t get my heart soaring the way it does under an African sky.

Then my precious Marmeee went into a downward spiral. Just before I left South Africa the oncologist told her she probably had a couple years to live … but apparently without me there to keep reminding her of this and force-feeding her chocolate milkshakes, she just … got tired, I guess. And then she died. And because of the bloody bullshit with my passport, I couldn’t be there to hold her hand. I know this was a “God thing” – I’ll explain why in another post (probably) – but it still aches.

I did manage to get through the border in time to help with her memorial and to figure out What To Do With Increasingly Dotty Dad, but while there I got sick with a deathwish-inducing flu that I didn’t shake for nearly a month. It made the 25 hour trip back a lot of fun.

Before I left we got the Old Buzzard into a home – a pleasant, homey sort of place – but instead of continuing to dole out his marbles one or two at a time he started throwing them away by the fistful. In a matter of months he went from affectionate, forgetful and occasionally grumpy, to aggressively uncooperative, to unwilling to walk and unable to speak coherently. He died a couple weeks ago. I’m not going back for the memorial, which is this coming Saturday … there’s no point, really. Today I have to write a tribute to go into the order of service, and I have no idea what to say.

I haven’t been able to grieve either of them. And mixed up in all that unexpressed grief is another deep sadness over the loss of my brother. He’s still walking around, breathing, saying things to people … but somewhere in the middle of everything else that’s been going on I learned that he hated me, has hated me for more than 30 years, has badmouthed me to people I care about – and they believed him. His claims about the way I treated him, his perceptions of who I am, have been woven into the fabric of our family dynamic – and until a few months ago I had no idea of it because the one person he never spoke to about it was me. I learned that the man I thought he was didn’t exist, the relationship I thought we had was a figment of my imagination. He has morphed from the sibling I loved most deeply and missed most painfully (even while he made my eyes roll) into The Stranger. Even if the latest nastiness “blows over”, the kind of confidence borne within mutual affection is gone. Trust is broken, and the loss feels like a death.

Sailboat in front of a tsunami

Fleeing the tsunami. (Source)

So grieving has become complicated, and I’m trying to stay ahead of it for now. Every now and then I feel tears starting to well up, but … I’m so busy, you know? If I could run away for a few days, just me and my dog, maybe then … but right now my to do list is simply too long. I don’t have the time – I don’t have the capacity – for a tsunami.

Oh – and I nearly forgot: earlier this month the Hubbit broke his arm. He tripped over his own feet, but of course he blamed my dog. Then he insisted he didn’t need xrays, didn’t need to see a doctor – so of course he ended up needing surgery. And bad tempered? Let me tell you, my guy is a generous fellow. When he’s in pain, he shares it. We all get some. So even though I got to say “I TOLD YOU SO” on several satisfying occasions, life would have been better if he’d managed to stay vertical.

Oy … this post has turned into quite the pity party. I’m sorry about that. I’ve been gone for a while, and I thought some sort of explanation was in order.

Also, here’s the thing – and I need to write this down so that I can come back as often as necessary and read it: I know that tsunami is coming. I know I can’t escape it. But I am reclaiming my faith in God – not that I lost it, but I’ve been angry, confused and resistant. I lost myself for a while. That book series I mentioned? It still looks promising, and every day I see my heroine more clearly. I like her a lot and hope you will too, when I set her loose upon the world. And the weeds didn’t completely win in my veggie garden this year. I’ve found tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and onions lurking out there.

As for right now this minute … I’m here, right? I’m blogging, aka writing. I’m not sure why that matters, but it does. It gives me hope.

In other words, to hell with the funk – this is still My Year of Reclamation.

So … how’s your summer going?

 

Still reaching for that elusive high

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Ketosis continues to elude me, It was so easy the first time I tried the ketogenic approach to eating, shortly after Thanksgiving last year. I wasn’t concerned when Christmas derailed me – I figured that was to be expected – although it was annoying still to be derailed several weeks into the new year. But I figured okay, I’ll just get back into the whole low carb / medium protein / high fat thing, and in no time I’ll be buzzing along on a high, burning up flab and feeling fabulous.

Not so.

Instead, it seems, my vile body is on high alert, making every carb do double duty, hammering me with headaches, cravings and mood swings, rationing out my energy in tiny little packets that take me nowhere. After two weeks of faithfully consuming plenty of fat, not too horribly much protein, and lots and lots of dark green leaves, I needed some encouragement so I stepped on the scale … and the number was UP. It was up a whole damn pound!

Is it normal to feel that I’m at war with my own body? I’m ambushed by Easter eggs and bludgeoned by depression and that thing our mothers told us (not mine specifically, but mothers in general) – that “you have to suffer to be beautiful” – well, according to all the messages my crocodile brain is sending me, that’s just propaganda. I have suffered mightily, and I have brought suffering upon Himself, and I’ve even not been especially nice to the dogs, and I’m still bulging.

So what to do? Do I admit defeat, embrace despair, accept that I’m doomed to a (probably drastically shortened) life of being in pain, uncomfortable inside my own skin, never to accomplish any but the most banal, foundational items on my bucket list? Do I shrug off the hours I’ve spent researching this, and pretend that the fantastic sense of YES I experienced just before Christmas was a silly illusion? Do I, in a word … quit?

Fuck that

Completely off topic, but I have to insert a brief aside here. I’ve mentioned before how much I love modern technology. Do you know you can find literally anything on Google? Here I was, bashing out this post, and it occurred to me that I didn’t actually want to write the word “fuck” – I mean, not that I don’t say it when sufficiently deeply moved, but it makes for lazy and sloppy writing. On the other hand, no other phrase said what I wanted to say as well.

Clearly, this was a good outsourcing opportunity. So off I went to Google, and I typed in “fuck that”, and next thing I knew I was listening to this audio by someone called Skrillex. (Why??? I mean, why be called Skrillex? And also, why would anyone choose to listen to this? Either way, fuck me if I know.) So anyway, that wasn’t good, but then I remembered that I recently acquired new headphones and subscribed to Spotify (technology! Yeah!) and so I’m now reformatting my synapses with Mozart’s horn concertos – yes, all four of them. (And for some reason I felt it was necessary to google “ear synapses” and … my goodness. Amazing! No – come back – you can go look at it later. And everything else on Google. It’ll still be there when you’re done reading here!)

After plugging a Mozartian horn into each ear I went back to Google for another go at the “fuck that” question, and contemplating the answers kept me happily googling for almost long enough to forget this post entirely. Then I found the GIFs, and oh how I hate when bloggers plaster their posts with these beastly things that jiggle about and distract me from the words – but aren’t they just nifty? Take this one, for example … It lacks the succinctness I was looking for, which is why I decided not to use it, but I know exactly how the ferret feels, and also how does one resist the cuteness factor? There’s not a lot of cuteness happening on this blog, and maybe that’s an area that needs work.

Fuckity ferret

I was hung up for a bit deciding whether to let Snooki or Dave Grohl say “fuck that” on my behalf, but after I’d googled Dave I decided – without in any way being tempted to switch from Mozart to Nirvana – that I’d rather be represented by him than by some skinny bint on a “reality” show that I have no intention of ever watching. Apart from anything else, he looks more like me – not quite as pudgy but still with not a lot in the way of cheekbones. And the beard is yummy – on him, anyway; I tend to give my own chin hairs short shrift. Ha ha – you think I’m joking, younger-female-followers-of-this-blog? Just wait – menopause will get you too!

Which brings me back to my original point: the war between Me and My Bod. Thus endeth this aside…

Nope, I am not quitting. Rather, I am reviewing my options, revising my strategies, and reinforcing my range of tools.

First, the strategy …

Number 1: Love Myself. This is hard! Maybe I’ll settle for just not hating myself… and forgiving me my trespasses…

In a spirit of Moving On, I am also forgiving myself for this ... although some may not forgive as easily. But that's a topic for another day. Right now all I'll say is that it didn't even taste good, and it left me feeling sick, although I'm not sure whether that was due to changes wrought by weeks of cutting carbs, or by my awakened conscience.

In a spirit of Moving On, I am forgiving myself for this most recent failure, especially as  it didn’t even taste good, and it left me feeling sick, although I’m not sure whether that was due to changes wrought by weeks of cutting carbs, or by my awakened conscience.

I also betook myself to Catherine’s yesterday and restocked my wardrobe … for the first time in about two years. Yes, it’s been two years since I bought clothes – because every time I think of doing so I think, “Well, but I can’t stand to keep buying things in that huge size! So I’ll lose weight and then I can go shopping.” Comes a point, however, when your underwear is disintegrating and the seats of your jeans have worn through and the holes in your tee-shirts are too large and too numerous to ignore (what causes those stupid holes? Moths? Fabric-chewing planned-obsolescence nanobots?) and you just have to say stuff it and go back to the damn Fat Lady Shop (because all appearances to the contrary I am SO NOT a Wal-Mart Person) and try stuff on and look at yourself in a three-way mirror and buy at least three of whatever fits so long as it’s on sale because you really don’t want to have to come back again too soon. And actually I found out that I had dropped a size – yah boo thumb-my-nose at the bathroom scale! Which meant that this morning, when I was getting dressed, I didn’t have to put on any of the scary new doesn’t-feel-like-me stuff sitting in shopping bags in my closet; instead I could fit into a pair of shabby-and-bleach-stained-but-not-actually-disintegrating jeans that I hadn’t tried on for a while. And then I hung up the new stuff, mixing it in with the older stuff so that I could get used to seeing it there and forget that it’s new.

So much for nurturing a sense of self-worth … Let’s focus on food.

Apparently I am exceptionally sensitive to carbs – so I’m cutting them out altogether, except for celery. Even my imagination isn’t wild enough to conceive of a situation where celery can be fattening. But I read a comment on a ketogenic lifestyle blog recently from someone who said she was, and I quote, “kicked out of ketosis by kale”, and here I’ve been glomming the stuff down in bunches. So I’m cutting out vegetables entirely, even avocado and the dark green leafy ones. I’m not doing this forever, of course; just for as long as it takes to get into ketosis – at which point I’ll gradually start reintroducing vegetables to see just how much carbohydrate I can tolerate. I’m also cutting out nuts, milk (alackaday – no more lattes!), and the delicious gravy Himself wraps around stews and pot roasts. (Yes, girls – I’m married to a King Of The Kitchen! It took me a while to get over my indignation at his contempt for my own kitchenly efforts, or to acknowledge how very much I dislike cooking – but I can now confess that I’m greatly blessed among wifekind!)

I am gritting my teeth, ignoring years of anti-fat programming, and keeping my fat intake high. Jimmy Moore’s book Keto Clarity contains several recipes for high fat treats … so, ugh, I guess that means I’ll be pulling kitchen duty after all. The benefit is that it doesn’t take a lot of high-fat snacking to leave one feeling quite satisfied – compared with sugary snacks that invariably seem to trigger a craving for more.

I’m also cutting back on protein, big time. No more protein in snacks, only two protein meals a day, and I’ll weigh the damn stuff if necessary to ensure I don’t take more than 30 grams at a time. Apparently if you eat more protein than your body needs it turns into sugar – and the amount you need is directly related to the amount you exercise. Because my overloaded feet and ankles hurt and my energy is still lacking, I’m not exercising a whole lot.

So that’s also got to change – which brings me to …

Second, the tools …

I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money, mainly because we don’t have it, but when I realized that getting into ketosis was going to be a challenge for me I bought the tool that everyone recommends: a meter to track my ketone production. There are three ways to measure ketones.

  • Ketostix pee strips measure the ketones in urine. By all accounts these are pretty useless, because they measure only the ketones you eliminate as waste. As your body adapts to running on ketones rather than sugar, you stop eliminating them – so the more keto-adapted you are, the less they have to measure, leading to a false negative.
  • Blood ketone meters are highly accurate, but they’re expensive and the strips cost around $5 apiece for the Precision Xtra meter, which is the one that gives readings at a level that are relevant to nutritional ketosis
  • Breath ketone meters are new technology, but several experts, including Jimmy Moore, say Ketonix is accurate and reliable. That’s the option I chose, because although the meter cost a little over $100, it’s a once-off investment – no expensive disposable strips. I bought mine on Amazon but have just learned that it’s no longer listed there. A word of warning: delivery is SLOW. I ordered mine on February 21 and I could wait until mid-April for it to arrive – presumably because the developer is battling to keep up with demand. But the reviews were good, so it seemed worthwhile.

And then there is exercise equipment. Given that it’s too cold to swim, it hurts too much to run/jog/skip/jump/walk, and my horse will either break or kill me if I heave my bulk onto his ancient and saggy back, I’ve decided to focus on muscle-building exercises. Apparently muscles burn more calories (i.e., fat) than flab, even when you’re not using them. Also, supposedly, if you have muscles you have more energy. To this end I have bought a yoga mat and an exercise ball … and we have resistance bands from the time I needed physical therapy – I just need to dig them out of wherever they’re hiding. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll have to do more than pile this stuff up in our bedroom to see any benefit. Argh. Well, I’ll keep you posted … maybe.

Third, just quickly, supplements …

Although my experience may not encourage you to try the ketogenic lifestyle, just in case you do, you will probably need supplements at least while you’re adjusting to the new way of nourishing your body. I found this link helpful.

  • Extra salt is key. You can add it to your food, but comes a point that just doesn’t taste good and I’m not sure it’s healthy. I take one Thermotab every morning – because if I forget, I feel washed out and weak by noon. It’s cheap and readily available, but there are side-effects so do your research. Most importantly, you must drink plenty of water when you take one.
  • Green tea capsules seem to improve my energy levels. I’ve been buying them from Costco but it looks like they’re a lot cheaper online. I’m not sure whether it would be better just to drink green tea – haven’t had time to research this – but for the time being I’m taking two every morning.
  • I take a daily multivitamin, although in time I hope to meet my needs from actual food.
  • Potassium and magnesium are two essential minerals, and if you run short of them you’re likely to feel spacey, tired and ill. I’m taking supplements while I restrict my intake of vegetables.

And, of course, drink water. Just glug it down – it improves your energy, mental acuity and general bodily processes.

So is anyone else out there struggling to love and nurture themselves into a state of good health? Does your body repeatedly sabotage you? What works for you? Also, do you think I need to inject more cuteness into this blog?

Forever home

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When I met Mr. Eebs he was chained to a broken down doghouse inside a jury-rigged run in an untidy backyard. His two brothers lived in similar conditions, but where Eebs was merely defensive, they had turned dangerous. Inside the house were two more stiff-legged, hackled-up dogs, and a large litter of puppies had taken over the kitchen.

I heard about this situation from a neighbor. She had adopted one of Eebs’ sisters several months previously, on an impulse that she later regretted, so she called our little rescue group to ask for help. When I went to pick up the neurotic mess that was her dog, she told me about the over-population problem next door. Being a sucker for punishment I asked her to give her neighbor my card, and a couple days later I got a call. This was a pleasant surprise; it’s sad how bitterly people can resent an offer of help.

I liked the woman who called. I like to think that if we hadn’t both been drowning when we met – I in dogs, she in being the single mother of three angry teenagers – we might have become friends. This is not to deny that her situation was bad. The three dogs in the backyard were hungry, scared and miserable, and I later learned that one of the kids was beating them. There was poop on the kitchen floor. The puppies had fleas, and all the dogs were stressed and skinny. It would have been so easy to set myself up as judge, jury and executioner – as she clearly expected.

Instead I asked, “What happened?” and the story spilled out. She’d started out with one dog – a beautiful big pitbull. Money was tight so she put off neutering him, but it was okay because he was the only dog. Then a stray turned up on her front porch – a scared female, dumped by some loser. (Let’s be clear on this: I don’t care what your “reason” is or what hardship you’re going through – if you dump an animal, You Are A Loser, and I do judge you, and if I ever catch you there is no limit to how far I will go to make your life hideous.)

So anyway, not long after that there were puppies. Most of them found homes, but Eebs and his brothers weren’t chosen. The best she could do was throw up ramshackle runs to keep them off the street (there was, of course, no money to fence the yard), feed and shelter them (sort of), and try to prevent them from killing each other (because, as often happens with litter-mates, rivalry between the two big boys was fierce, and they both grabbed any opportunity to beat up on poor, scared little Eebs).

Mr. Eebs

Mr. Eebs

Seven or eight months later more puppies came, and they were already weaned and rambunctious by the time I wandered into the picture. The first part of helping out was easy – we brought in food, dewormed and vaccinated everyone, got the mama dog spayed, and rehomed the puppies (who were also all sterilized, of course). Then we hit a wall. The three boys in the backyard couldn’t safely be adopted out – they were all too unpredictable. Himself and I had 12 or 15 or 20 dogs already in our care and no room for another – especially not one (or three) with aggression issues. No one else in our group could take on dogs like these either. So … we had them neutered, and they stayed on their chains, and every time I took food over I wondered what we were going to do about them.

The thing about rescue is, how much you can do is defined by how much actual, practical help you receive. Several times on this blog I’ve mentioned that I “burned out” last year. Burnout is a bit like what happens when you make an engine carry a load that’s way beyond its design capacity. And you don’t give it oil. And maybe you throw some grit into the works. In rescue, burnout happens when you are all there is between an unstoppable stream of creatures in desperate need and an array of ugly options, and you are maxed out and running on empty, and you look for support but your supporters are all off doing other things, and you…just…can’t. And what happens next is all your fault.

One day one of Eebs’ brothers got loose and went into attack mode. After that Animal Control took all three of them away, and scheduled each of them a date with the needle.

Here’s another thing about rescue: No matter how many you help, the guilt over each one you fail lodges in your gut and consumes you from the inside out.

I knew I couldn’t help the two aggressive boys. Maybe I should have acknowledged this from the start, but they were so young, and I’d turned around a few tough cases over the years, and I kept thinking that, if only we could reduce the number of other dogs in our care – in other words, if only we could find more foster homes – I might be able to take them home and pull off some kind of miracle. Well, so much for “if only”. Those two dogs were out of time and there was nothing I could do about it.

But Eebs was still salvageable, and he deserved a chance. I called the animal control officer and told him so.

The ACO was new on the job – in fact, new in town – and had never heard of me or our rescue organization. He told me Eebs was as crazy as his brothers, and releasing him to us was a liability the city couldn’t take on.

I begged. I name-dropped our town’s top vets and trainers, and I promised him the sun, moon and stars if he’d just let me try to save that one dog. Eebs got his miracle – the ACO said yes. And then another miracle – I brought him home and incorporated him into the pack, and the dogs taught him how not to be afraid. And at last the biggest miracle – he went home to people who love, love, love him, even though he’s still neurotic and freaky.

Yes, I’m aware that I’m being overly free with the word “miracle”. But in the context of this dog’s life, what else would you call it?

All this happened more than a year ago, and in the meantime there have been a lot of dogs, and burnout, and my withdrawal from rescue work. But Mr. Eebs is on my mind because I saw him a few days ago. He didn’t recognize me at first and he wasn’t especially friendly, but I didn’t care because really all I wanted to do was introduce him to Cookie.

Cookie, the day we took her in.

Cookie, the day we took her in.

I don’t have a lot to tell you about Cookie. She’s just one more half-grown pup, past the cuddly-puppy stage and well into the if-you-don’t-teach-me-manners-I-will-jump-on-you-with-muddy-paws-and-then-maybe-eat-your-house stage. Just one more pup dumped in our neighborhood by a Loser.

(Seriously, what do people think when they drive out into the country and dump a dog? Do they really think “Someone here will take care of it because farmers always have room for an extra dog”? Because, hello, farmers shoot stray dogs. Maybe they think the dog will enjoy being “set free” … because who wouldn’t enjoy being lost and cold and hungry and then shot or hit by a car or torn apart by coyotes?)

Luckily for Cookie, our neighbors [don’t] know that Himself and I [no longer] do the Rescue Thing, so she came to stay with us for a few weeks, and we hooked her up with the rescue group we started, which is under new management and still going strong. And that’s how Mr. Eebs’ people found out about her – because they had been looking for a friend for him. So that’s why, on a bitterly cold morning last week, we met in a lonely field outside a small town. She was so thrilled to meet him, and immediately rushed up to make friends. He was shy at first and needed reassurance – to be expected in a dog who has been bullied – but then he remembered how to play.

And this the real reason I wrote this blog post. I mean, I’ve been wanting to talk about rescue, and I’m sure I’ll do so again. I want you to know that this is something you can do, or at least help others do, and if you do that you will in fact help make the world a better place. But mainly I just wanted to share this video, which Himself shot on his cell phone.

It’s not that it’s great video, or that these are exceptional dogs, or that their stories are unusual. But the thing about rescue – the one key thing – the thing that keeps us coming back again and again for just one more dog – is that it transforms hopeless situations into moments of joy, like these.

Thank you for reading. Now it’s your turn … Please tell me what you think.

Checking in

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I don’t really have anything to say.

No, that’s not true. I have lots to say. LOTS. It’s piling up in notes on scraps of paper, and emails to myself, and half-written drafts. I am standing in an autumn storm of ideas – bright leaves swirling about my head, making me dizzy. Which one to grab next? Oops – grabbed two – let go, two is too many, grab another – no, not that one, how about that one? – No, too big for right now.

That’s how it is. Until I turn away, drift over to the Reader, drown myself in the words written by others – so talented, such interesting lives / ideas / problems, so dedicated and so damn disciplined about meeting deadlines – what can I possibly say that’s worth hearing inside of all that?

I cut back my Prozac dose. Sick of depending on drugs to function. So am I depressed?

Prozac makes you fat. There have to be better ways to deal with depression.

So what have I actually done just lately? I have read a lot of books. Most of them were pretty bad, but there were a few good reads and a couple of real gems.

I have spent time with my friend, keeping her company as she continues to take step after slow, steady step into the Valley of the Shadow. It looks like she will still be with us for Thanksgiving, but Christmas? Hard to say. I hope that the end, when it comes, is in keeping with the gentle dignity of her spirit. For now, she says the pain isn’t bad. She enjoys and actively participates in the life she still has. I helped her rescue a cat the other day – a sweet, skinny stray who managed to spend a few days in our guest bathroom without getting eaten, before I could hand her off to a rescue.

Himself brought home another stray dog, and we’re fostering her for the rescue we founded. Apart from that, I am maintaining my Retired From Rescue status. Burnout is a bitch, and although it’s been most of a year I’m still not ready to get back into that particular frying pan!

Koeitjie

Koeitjie – “Little cow”. She is an absolute sweetheart, and just a pup, who has clearly been well loved. How does a dog like this end up dumped?

Work continues on the veggie garden. Most of the effort lately has been by Himself and a helper, but I am the Inspirational Driving Force, plus when Himself finishes doing one last tractorly sweep of the area I will start building raised beds. Maybe next year I will actually succeed in producing the cornucopia of produce that dances across my dreams every spring! (No, I don’t know whether cornucopias dance, but probably they don’t. Yes, I’m aware that, in that case, that’s a mixed metaphor. I don’t care.)

I have been doing a lot of thinking about God and the Bible and Stuff, and my thoughts are finally coalescing into something I can write about.

Right now I am gearing up for NaNo. Because, when you are struggling to get moving, the best thing to do is to attach a rocket to your arse. So, three days to countdown, and them BOOM! … I hope.

Your turn! Please talk to me.
Do you ever find yourself stuck and overwhelmed by too many choices? How do you get traction? Are you doing NaNo this year?