Thursday, March 31, 2011

the winter that keeps on giving

This was the view from our porch when I woke up this morning.

The paper lanterns are from last summer; I never seemed to have the chance to take them down in the fall and they ended up staying up all winter en lieu of Christmas lights or something. I can't believe that delicate paper survived. The lanterns must have been sheltered by just enough of an overhang from the roof.

I had been looking forward to spring: to streams overflowing after the thaw and a yard overrun by puddles, to the first smattering of green and our quirky daffodils. For whatever reason, though, it's still soothing to be shrouded in one of this winter's last attempts, and to watch the snow fall calmly in fat, slow clumps.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

my pharmaceutical cornucopia

I've become the noncompliant patient. I stopped taking most of my meds about two weeks ago.

"It's classic bipolar," my doctor said, "to just stop like that."
I pulled my hands inside the sleeves of my sweater, squirming. "It started as an accident. I was taking Seroquel and Klonopin at night, and Lexapro and Wellbutrin in the morning; I kept forgetting to take the morning meds, and I started to feel better."

I knew that it would be obedient to get back on track despite the missed doses, that I was putting myself at risk for some kind of depressive relapse or whatever -- by stopping without tapering, but I really didn't care. I felt so much better.

Anyway, if discontinuing some of my medications is viewed as being "bipolar" at least I kept taking the one that would actually be appropriate for that diagnosis (the Seroquel). I don't know. Maybe I am a nut.

Good thing I like nuts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

cheater's limoncello

Beer making, sadly, is going to have to wait for the bills. There is a lone large bottle of cheap vodka that I bought in the fall to make infusions and a bag of organic lemons that I splurged on a few days ago, so I decided to make limoncello (or more accurately, a sweet lemon infusion, since I guess authentic limoncello is made with grain alcohol).

Limoncello is typically made with lemon rind, alcohol, and simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water). The vodka that I had was only 40% alcohol by volume (not nearly as strong as grain alcohol), but it's all I have, so I decided to make my limoncello without using a simple syrup (i.e. not dilute the already "too weak" alcohol with water from the simple syrup). I've done this before in the past with other infused alcohols, and eventually the sugar dissolves on its own.

So, here's my recipe:

~4 cups cheap vodka
1 heaping cup sugar
5 lemons (organic unless you like to eat chemicals)

1) Wash and dry lemons.

2) Remove the zest from of all the lemons. I used a microplane grater to do this, and grated the on top of a piece of parchment paper, since my wooden cutting board likes to share its garlic flavor with any host (you could use also foil or wax paper). Try to avoid grating any of the pith (white stuff). Alternatively, you can use a sharp vegetable peeler and peel off the rind in chunks.

3) Put zest and sugar in a quart-sized container (I used a mason jar). Cap and shake well.

4) Fill halfway with vodka. Cap and shake again.

5) Top with vodka. Shake some more.

6) Let the mixture sit in a cool, dark place. You can agitate it occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.

7) After 45 days, filter the mixture four times using a coffee filter (or a tea towel or clean t-shirt if you don't have coffee filters lying around). Stick it in your freezer. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ferment with me

Okay. Maybe the post title is a little deceiving. Only two of these products are truly fermenting (from the left: our own maple syrup, lacto-fermented dilly carrots, sauerkraut with caraway and mustard seeds, pickled turnips and beets, pickled turnips with cumin and paprika).

For the past few years, my husband and I have been members at a nearby CSA. Our CSA has summer shares and winter shares, and we've done both for a while now. The winter shares for us are primarily preserved root crops (that were harvested in the fall and then put into cold storage), but also some greens that were still in the fields (did you know that you can harvest kale even when it covered with snow?) and some others (spinach, salad greens) in passive greenhouses. Anyway, the winter CSA just ended, but I had an abundance of gold ball turnips, daikon, beets, and celeriac.

This resulted in some uh, exciting projects including a batch of celeriac fries that boiled over and started a grease fire that reached past the hood over our stove. Surprisingly, nothing was damaged and no one was hurt (including the fries) thanks to some baking soda for the fire and a larger pot for the fries. The celeriac fries were surprisingly sweet and not dissimilar in texture from sweet potato fries.

As to why I picked up so many turnips at the CSA, I'm not really sure. I've never liked turnips very much, so I decided to grab a bunch and try pickling then to see if I would like them that way. So far I've only tasted the ones with the beets (which have taken on their vibrant pink hue), but they're pleasant, not oppressively turnipy, and taste, well, pickled.

Sort of at a standstill with the whole work thing. I need to get a doctor's note before I can come back yet again, so tomorrow I guess I'll figure that out. I've been thinking that if I really can't figure out a schedule that works in the fall (i.e. daytime job and a daytime class) that maybe I will just stop working. I think that if I stopped working but my husband didn't, we'd be just poor enough for state-subsidized family health insurance. Money would be tight, as it is now, but life would probably be more pleasant. Plus, I'd have more time to cook (and make beer).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

berserk work

I had yet another very exciting meeting with HR this morning. The prospect of it all wasn't quite as nauseating as it was the last time. I guess this means I must be making progress.

I think I might try to take a temp job which is mostly recording minutes for the IT department. They're implementing a new electronic medical record software change, and so there are meetings up the wazoo with every department in the hospital. I would be able to keep my benefits, but it would also buy me some time to figure out how to take classes in the fall, and I wouldn't have to buckle down for a long-term commitment.

As relieved as I am about not having to work overnights for the long-haul, and as nice as the prospect of having a paycheck again and breaking even with the bills, I still feel sort of like an idiot. After all this (my failed attempt at working overnights and taking classes, going nuts, etc), I'll probably be in basically the same situation I was in a year ago, except with a more idiotic, more useless job. In the fall, I'll be faced with exactly the same challenge I had before: how do I take my classes? I'll either have to a) not take my classes, b) switch to another job with a different schedule (i.e. work evenings, nights, etc.), or c) stop working.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

back from the abyss

I haven't been writing. It seemed like there wasn't much positive news to write about, so I just didn't bother. My husband read my last entry and uh, it didn't go over too well, and I started to wonder if posting in a public setting was not such a great idea.

Not a lot is going on over here. I'm supposed to meet with HR in a few days and look into working in another department. I have this creeping feeling that I am going to end up in accounting. I guess that would be okay.

Meanwhile I've been hanging out at home, slowly considering all things fermented. The wild yeast starter is happy and making some good bread, and recently I made some yogurt. I think next fermented item on the agenda may be beer. Hmm. Beer makes everything better.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

everybody hurts

The indigo sky is becoming black. I pull into my driveway after a long doctor's appointment. I can barely open my car door, the snow is so high. I manage to gain a few inches and plunge a sneakered foot into at least a foot of snow.

I open the door, remove my sloppy shoes. The house is dark, unusually quiet.

"Hi guys!" I set down a few groceries on the floor.

I hear MiniMan upstairs watching reruns of Dinosaur Train on Netflix. My husband eventually walks down the stairs. He wears huge weary circles under his eyes and a look of defeat.

"I was just about to grab MiniMan and start looking for you. I thought you were dead."

I take my husband into my arms and hold him awkwardly, stroking his head. I pull him closer, listening to ragged sobs. He doesn't collapse into my arms. Instead, he just stands there, stiff, alone. I don't know what to do. He almost never cries. I'm blank, empty, somewhere else. I should be more empathetic. He has every reason to lament but it makes me squirm. A better wife would know what to do.

It must be my turn to be the sane one, or at least the strong one, but instead I just want to bolt. How fucked up is that?

"It will be okay. I'll figure this stuff out. We'll figure it out. It will be okay." I say, unconvinced. I rub his back.

I don't know how to comfort him. I don't know if he'll ever stop worrying, if he'll ever trust me. Maybe he shouldn't. Sometimes I wonder if I'm like a contaminated water source, slowly introducing my filth to fester in him.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I got discharged yesterday from the psych ward. I thought I wanted to get out, but now that I'm out, I feel worse. I had almost become comfortable locked in that cocoon, I guess.

You would think that something would have changed -- that I would change after spending a week in there; that maybe I'd feel better; that maybe I'd be more motivated to repair myself. I don't feel much differently at all. The gorge is still as tempting as ever. I still just want to sleep all day, all night, ad infinitum.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I've been coping
with cocoa

"only 90 calories"
it boasts-

I wonder
what's really
in there?

my white
styrofoam cup
insults the world

the tear
of a thin wrapper
reveals a heap of dark dust
by steaming hot water
from the mineral-crusted tap

chocolate powder
struggles to float
in the vortex
imposed by a flimsy
wooden stirrer

I pause
take a sip
of the chaos
in its warmth

my life exploded: the aftershock (part ii)

6:45 p.m.

We walked through the emergency department doors. I followed Dr. D to the reception desk.

"This is the patient I called about earlier; she is suicidal and having an acute crisis."

I started at the floor. Some acute crisis, I thought. This has become a way of being. It is not a big deal. Hospitalization is overkill.

The receptionist asked me to take a seat.

"I need an insurance card, picture ID... is this still your address?"

I watched as she looked my name up in the computer and promptly slapped a green label on all of my paperwork with "CONTACT PRECAUTIONS" written in bold lettering. My wound with the MRSA that I had contracted in the fall had long ago healed, but according to our hospital policy, any time I entered the facility as a patient my coworkers would have to gown and glove, even if my cultures were now negative.

A nurse met me at the door. It was Meghan. We had taken an EKG class for nurses together when I had first started working at the hospital. We used to sit together, eat lunch together. She sat me down in the triage room and started taking vital signs.

"So, what brings you here?" She asked awkwardly.
"Umm. Nothing." I said. I was at a loss for words. I watched as she turned to the computer and typed in "Nothing."
Dr. D chimed in, "is it all right if I speak on her behalf?"
"Well, that's up to E," Meghan said.
"It's okay."

Dr. D started to present some kind of explanation for my admission that was a little more substantial than "nothing."

A few minutes later Dr. D said his goodbyes and told me that he would call in the morning. Meghan walked me over to a room.

I sat in a chair against the wall, silent, listening to the relaxed chatter of techs and nurses, people gently giving each other a hard time. A young guy in stolen green surgical scrubs, probably not older than twenty, sat outside my room by the nursing station watching me. It was strange, being the patient behind the glass doors in the bed, forbidden to close my curtain. I can't even count the number of times that I have floated to the emergency department and done the exact same thing; observe psych patients awaiting their assessments, one eye on the patient and the other perusing an issue of Fine Cooking.

A knock on the door. "Hi, I'm Beth, I'm your nurse tonight."

I looked at her. She must have just graduated from nursing school. I had never seen her before and she had a new grad kind of clumsiness and lack of confidence to her.

"So, first I'm going to need you to change into these scrubs."
She set a pair of blue disposable scrubs on the stretcher.
"No thanks," I replied.
"Um, okay." She walked out.

Beth walked back in a few minutes later. "About the scrubs, actually, it's our policy that you wear them."
"I'm sorry that I'm not following your policy, but I will be keeping my clothes on."
She walked out of the room.

A few minutes later the young tech came in.
"It would really help us if you would put on these scrubs. Could you do that for us?"
"No. Sorry." I offered an exasperated smile. He walked out.

Beth came back in.
"They're just scrubs. Couldn't you please just put them on for us?"
"No," I replied politely.

A few minutes later the charge nurse came in.
"These scrubs are for your safety. If you don't put them on, I will call safety and security, call the response team, and have you put in restraints."
I was baffled. Could they really put a nonviolent person in restraints? Should I just give up or exercise a little civil disobedience? The whole ordeal seemed so dehumanizing.

I decided to just fuck it and put on the stupid scrubs. What did they think I was going to do? Take the staples out of my Dansko clogs and eat them? Pull the underwire out of my bra and stab myself in the neck? Hang myself with my pants? Saw myself in half with the zipper from my fleece pullover? The possibilities were endless. Then again, I was in a room filled with other things I could harm myself with, cords and tubing, blunt objects, needles from the UA kits (which are not locked up), metal and electrical sockets. Hmm.

A while later, Beth came in to draw my blood. I told her she could do my hands if she wanted. I have pretty serious protruding veins on my hands and they are easy to see and an easy stick. She decided to go for my left AC. I told her that my AC was sometimes hard to see, but very bouncy. Tourniquet on. She probed for a while with her finger. She swabbed my skin with alcohol and followed quickly with a butterfly.

No flush on the butterfly. I had this overwhelming urge to grab the butterfly from her and do it myself, but I sat there passively, even relaxed while she prodded around. She pulled out the needle a few moments later.

"Let's try that hand."
Tourniquet on, alcohol prep, big fat juicy (but superficial) vein. She needle went in. I saw a flush. She continued to push the needle in. She popped a tube into the vacutainer. No blood.
"Pull the needle back a little," I gently prompted her.
I watched as a bluish lump started to form under my skin around the needle.
"I blew your vein, didn't I..."
"Yeah, it's okay." I popped the tourniquet.
"I'll go find someone else to draw your blood."

A few minutes later another nurse came in to draw my blood.
"I think I must have freaked her out," I said.
"Yeah, drawing blood on other healthcare providers never puts anyone at ease." The nurse quickly drew my blood, gathered and labeled the full tubes, and walked out.

I sat in the chair, alert, listening to the rhythms of the emergency department. A crying baby, a screaming psych patient, the scuffle of shoes and EMS radio giving report in the background. Time passed slowly.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

my life exploded: the aftershock (part i)

On Wednesday, I was out for a drive. I had to fill a script for Seroquel and was going to pick up some root vegetables at the farm where we're members. My husband offered to take care of our son while I was out, and there it was again, temptation.

I drove into town. Do I pick up the prescription or do I just drive to the bridge and get it over with? I felt calm, relaxed. It was no longer an option to just jump off the railing; someone had installed perhaps eight-foot high inverted fencing against the three or four foot railing. I had it all planned out, though. I could visualize myself climbing over the wrought-iron bars of the neighboring fraternity driveway and carefully hiking along the brittle frozen shrubbery to climb, from the outside, to the bridge railing. I would inch myself along until I was over the gorge, and then all I had to do was let go. It seemed so simple.

I was, I guess, a little bummed that I was giving into temptation, but my suicide was inevitable, right? I mean, if someone offered you a super-awesome brownie ten times a day for the rest of your life, don't you think sooner or later your willpower to decline it might falter? Most people take it for granted: this conscious choice to keep living, to keep plodding through perhaps mundane, unfulfilling, or despairing lives, day after day, after day.

For some reason, instead of driving up the hill to the gorge, I stopped at my psychologist's office first. I figured it would be like flipping a coin. If he weren't there, I would head to the gorge, and if he were, well, maybe he could help me figure this out.

His car was parked next to the back door. I opened the unlocked door and sat on the landing at the bottom of his stairs for a while. I rested my head against the wall, listened to the noises of energetic children, clanking pots and pans, dinnertime noises. I must have been up against someone's kitchen apartment. I sat there a long time. I watched the sun go down. Eventually it grew dark. The wind blew against the outside screen door. I was becoming cold, my butt getting numb from sitting on the floor so long.

I decided to walk up the stairs. Dr. D opened his office door, startled, and asked if he could help me, as if maybe I was some kind of invading burglar or a lost homeless person. He turned on the lights in his waiting room, his face softening when he recognized me.

"I know you said to call if I needed to, but I didn't have my phone."
"Sit down, sit down." He ushered me to a seat in his waiting room.

He retreated to his office for a moment, and then the door opened and the patient he had been seeing left.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to mess up your schedule." I muttered.
"We were just about done."

I sat on the floor. I don't so much remember what we talked about. I don't even remember if I told him where I was planning to go, what I intended to do. I must have told him something about these thoughts, these burrowing, insistent, relentless thoughts.

We talked, unhurried.

Eventually, he convinced me that I needed to go back to the hospital; that I needed to be admitted again as a psych patient if only to be safe, get some better medication management, take a break.

I hated the idea of all of it. We spent a while kind of passively arguing about it, but in the end, I realized I didn't have a choice. We walked outside and got into his car, and I sat in the front seat, my teeth chattering, as he drove to the hospital.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Running from myself

I don't cry very much, anymore. It was becoming kind of pathetic to have these constant breakdowns. I'm glad they're going away.

I still find myself wanting to be dead, though. Not really in an emotional way, just in a constant detached way. It's starting to be all I can think about again.

I think about it during the day when I'm feeding my kid lunch; I dream about it; I wake up in the middle of the night and start planning. Sometimes I just want to get in my car right away, to drive somewhere and just get it over with. Funny how once you have a kid, you even have to find childcare just to kill yourself.

Most likely things are bound to change, they're bound to become better or something, but I really don't care.

I want to spend all of my days alone, but I don't feel safe with myself. We are not friends. I am out to get me.