Tales from the Infusion Clinic, Special Edition: The Sound of Fury, Part 2 of 4

CONTENT NOTE: Essentially, all the warnings and alerts for readers, especially those who feel they are in a precarious emotional and/or mental state. Bookmark this for later. Or never. Whenever is best for you. In this multi-part post I address various forms of domestic violence and reference other forms of violence. I get personal. I do not write about any abuses in graphic detail, but oftentimes the muted, even mundane details can be the most triggering. And I write about some lasting effects, including mental health/illness crises and self-harm. Take care of yourselves and thank you for reading.

Part II. Dis Closure … a MyGoodWolf exclusive

This time it’s personal! As in, truly personal history. Note cautions above. (Was not easy to post this.)* Continuation of Part I. Did you hear what I Heard?

I am a survivor several times over. Meaning I’ve endured multiple traumas and lived to generally not tell the tale, except in therapy. (And even then …) I have hinted at my trauma history here and there in this erratic blog and some people know bits and pieces of my history, but very few know the whole picture. Those who do are my husband and a couple psychotherapists. So yeah, I can keep a secret! Almost as well as those who took certain information to their graves. My PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has surged to crisis levels more than once these past few/several years, most recently over the roughly 6-month period this last November-April.

This is not a digression.

Here’s a listing for the first time all in one place. You’ve been cautioned. Not all on this list are traumas in and of themselves, but contribute to an overall environment of instability. Some stuff listed below may be the result of trauma. Some … just needed to be on the list.

◦ I’m the child of parents and a guardian with largely untreated mental illnesses. (My mother was also a victim of malpractice in this regard.)

◦ I’m the child of parents with likewise untreated eating disorders.

◦ I’m the child of a parent and a guardian with debilitating and on a few occasions life-threatening alcoholism. (Also untreated/under-treated)

◦ I’m the child of domestic and sexual violence. I was witness to and subject of these abuses, perpetrated both in person and from afar. Our abuser had a diverse portfolio of tactics. Abuse enabled in part through legal and medical systems.

◦ I was the victim of a sexually and emotionally abusive teenage relationship.

◦ I grew up in an economically depressed area with an undertow of racism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and stark classism. Sometimes, I was the target of prejudice. More often I was witness to bigotry directed at people I liked and folks I loved.

◦ I was a victim of sexual harassment before I knew what to call it. Colored my education, from junior high through college, with the worst offenders being teachers and professors. During my dance career, I also experienced harassment from strangers disguised as fans.

◦ I’m a survivor of suicide loss several times over. Most notably, my mother died by suicide. And a couple mentors. A colleague. The list goes on … surpassing numbers of loved ones who died due to AIDS.

◦ I am mentally ill. Clini D,** bad nerves, and shell shock; i.e., Clinical Depression, Generalized Anxiety, and PTSD. I’ve “entertained” suicidal thoughts more than a few times throughout my 59 years. In therapy/treatment for last 40 years and counting.

◦ I’m a recovered bulimarectic. (Yes, autocorrect, that’s the proper term for a person with bulimarexia, so stop already!) I do still suffer from body dysmorphia. In between is my self-harm … thang. Manifested in different ways. (Mostly past tense. Working on it.)

◦ I’ve lied more often than I care to admit. Usually to keep “secrets” related to the above, at the behest of others, stated or implied, and out of a terror I often could not name. I tend to get caught in other kinds of lies. Except, of course, lies to myself.

◦ I’ve worked with and for victims/survivors of sexual and domestic violence in various settings for half my life now. Somewhat diverse group of adults and teenagers, though majority were female and white. I am an advocate/ally/activist for survivors, doing what I can, when I can, now from my altered reality of early retirement due to disability.

◦ I have no children. I have had no children. I have had 3 miscarriages, an oophorectomy, and a complete hysterectomy (entire uterus, cervix and all). One-ovary menopause was awful! I don’t recommend it.

◦ I’ve literally survived a few near-fatal asthma attacks and one burst appendix yearning to be free! Thank you, AMA medicine! I’ve also been a victim of medical gaslighting and malpractice. Dammit, AMA!

◦ 28 years ago, a man, seemingly under the influence of a psychoactive substance, crashed onto our front porch, shattered a glass lamp, and sliced open my husband’s forehead. While I was on the phone with 911, our dog Joplin chased the man away, saving the hubster! Assailant never caught by authorities. Hubs stitched up nicely. Thanks, AMA doc!

Ornate box turtle spotlighted by sunlight and shadows of wheel spokes
Studs Turtle in a contemplative mood

While there’s much more to me than this list, I have been undeniably shaped by trauma since infancy. (Adverse childhood experiences correlate with later development of autoimmune diseases; I intend to write about that.) I’ve also been molded by directives to keep secret “personal issues” like alcoholism and depression and to deny abuse outright. Not only do I view the world through the lens of one who has survived domestic and sexual violence, but also as one who has endured and witnessed other forms of violence that are pervasive and still largely tolerated, although they’ve become progressively less acceptable over these last 6 decades, at least according to public policy.

As with the George Floyd murder, I began paying much closer attention to the Depp/Heard trial after the small group, come-and-go drug-lounge that is how I like to think of the infusion clinic. Full disclosure: I did not go back and watch any significant portions of courtroom testimony. I read and watched as much as I felt I could safely consume. Then one night, my husband and I saw a clip of Heard’s exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on the evening news.

“She’s just so … odd.” [Hubster, aka my life partner]

And there it was. First comment from the love of my life, who to that point had seen but a fraction of the trial coverage and commentary I had. Celebrity scandal is even less his thing than mine. And he’s been concentrating his energies on recovering from hip replacement, as he should. (He’s progressing quite nicely!)

Hub’s comment caught me by surprise. Since when have we been fans of normal? Is watching the evening news a sign of our descent into normalcy? Do we need an intervention?

Up to now we’ve been casual fans of Johnny Depp. We like his weird movies, but not the Disney pirate franchise. Despite eschewing tabloids, celebrity gossip shows, et cetera, we’ve heard tales over the years of Depp behaving in ways ranging from inappropriate to clearly abusive. Tales often spun later to portray Depp as a harmless eccentric, framing his hurtful actions as aberrations, made possible only by consumption of impressive amounts of alcohol and/or drugs. No lasting damage!

Because that’s how a male celebrity off the rails and in the throes of chemical addiction is presented. Especially, a proven cash cow like Depp. (Major misnomer there, eh? Shouldn’t that be cash bull?!) Instead of being painted as a drunken, drug-addled freak lashing out, or an alcoholic/addict in need of anger management and intervention, he’s pictured as a lovable eccentric, hailed for both his macho ability to remain standing after consuming inordinate amounts of alcohol/drugs and his manly stamina through multiple rehab stints. Such heroic personal work! Yet, little to nothing about how any of this affects the people in his life. (We’ll come back to this later.)

Celebrities of lesser stature are painted with an entirely different brush. Women and girls on a separate canvas altogether.

Yes, Amber Heard is a little odd. Plus, some say, she is not a perfect victim — whatever that is. Johnny Depp, who looks great at 59, is extremely odd. His talent, good looks, gender, connections, and well-channeled weirdness have made him a wealthy man, adored by millions around the world. He may also be a very accomplished (spousal) abuser. Not perfect, mind you, just really, really good.

Do I believe Amber Heard? I don’t want to sift through the testimony from the UK trial and/or this US one and risk a major PTSD episode so that I may play pretend juror. I have enough on my plate with my memories. I have reservations, mostly, I think, because I (kinda) hate that the Washington Post op-ed at the center of the US trial was written by folks at the ACLU. Even so … yes, I am leaning in her direction.

Do I believe Johnny Depp?

No.

I mean, are you kidding me? No!

Fuck no!

From my perspective, shaped by surviving and witnessing intimate violence, the image of Johnny Depp presented at trial fits that of a domestic violence offender to a nearly comical degree. He was calm and charming. Personable. Confident and relaxed. Unwavering. Absolute! He never hit her! Never assaulted her! He never started anything; he only defended himself. He never hit her; she started everything. He was always the victim. Excellent use of the DARVO tactic: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim/Offender!

Johnny Depp easily “justified” abusive and violent language about/or directed to Amber Heard by simply dismissing each as irrelevant, out of context, mere fantasy, a joke between friends, etc. So comfortable were so many with him, that when he admitted to assaulting cabinets and joked about excessive alcohol consumption, many in the courtroom laughed, smiled, and/or nodded. Yes, they were entertained!

And the jury was won over. Somehow the jury felt they “abused each other” and that canceled out the harm, just like double technical fouls in basketball. He was more believable, stable throughout, as you’d expect from a victim. (Say what?!) Amber Heard would sob one minute and turn ice cold the next. The deliberating jury of 5 men and 2 women didn’t know what to make of her. She made them really uncomfortable.

Yup, that’s what we victims/survivors do. Our existence makes you all uneasy. And when we break our silence and speak about our violations and our abusers, we make you all very un-fucking-comfortable. Female types, especially. Trans and other gender nonconforming folks take that discomfort to levels off the charts! Thus, the current hateful legislation around the country.

(I will suppress political rant/digression #4 for now.)

Artistic drawing of woman's lower half of face and chest, tinted blue. Bright light with green tint emanates from mouth, erasing all facial features.
Unspeakable by DÅL|é

*I’ve experienced an array of internal backlash — ridiculous thoughts, awful rashes, hellacious migraines, etc. —between writing and editing this post. And then again, from editing to posting it. Yes, the extreme heat is a factor. As is this — this thing right here I feel the need to do.

**Thanks, John Moe! John Moe is the creator of the brilliant podcast The Hilarious World of Depression and author of a memoir with the same title. After a pandemic-related hiatus, Moe’s podcast resumed in 2021 on a new platform as Depresh Mode. I recommend all! Even if you don’t have Clini D — you poor bastard!😁

Coming up … Part III. When Barry Met Sally

Tales From the Infusion Clinic, Special Edition: The Sound of Fury, Part 1 of 4

CONTENT NOTE: Essentially, all the warnings and alerts for readers, especially those who feel they are in a precarious emotional and/or mental state. Bookmark this for later. Or never. Whenever is best for you. In this multi-part post I address various forms of domestic violence and reference other forms of violence. I get personal. I do not write about any abuses in graphic detail, but oftentimes the muted, even mundane details can be the most triggering. And I write about some lasting effects, including mental health/illness crises and self-harm. Take care of yourselves and thank you for reading.

Part I. Did you hear what I Heard?

The infusion clinic is often my touchstone on how those outside my immediate circle feel about current events. I just happened to go in and sit there, soaking up the hard-to-fully-comprehend juices for a couple hours, the day after George Floyd was murdered, when all of us with assorted chronic maladies brought together by varied infusion needs were still in denial. Most, myself included, couldn’t yet watch the whole 90-second clip being shown then and had no idea the fatal assault lasted over 9 minutes. We could barely say Mr. Floyd had been killed, much less murdered. White and Latina women in the clinic that day, including nursing staff, as most days.

Occasionally, there will be a Black or Asian or Indigenous person in the chairs. That’s primarily based on appearance and my assumptions. Mostly women, the occasional man. Again, just assuming. Could be trans. Non-binary. Intersex. Infusion clinic relationships are like those “single-serving” ones referenced in Fight Club. Except for the nursing staff. Although there’s been some turnover there. There are a couple nurses I quite miss. Ah, the comings and goings of medical personnel.

[Digression #1: One major oversight in Breaking Bad casting: no Native American medical personnel or support staff. In Albuquerque, New Mexico?! Really strains credulity.]

June First I went in for infusion, just hours after the decisions and awards were announced in the Johnny Depp defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard and her counter-suit. We all confessed to not watching the daily trial proceedings, available for live streaming.

“Not a fan of drunken pirates!”

“Yeah, no, but the first 2 movies were good!”

“Who’s got the time?”

“Who’s got the spoons?!”

“He’s so weird! But … I don’t know …”

“I do like the Scissorhands movie! Winona Ryder was so young!”

“Not a good idea for my mental health.” [That was from me]

Some had caught snippets here and there, but over the six weeks of the trial — 6 weeks, FFS! — even those of us who vowed to stay away could not avoid the barrage of sensationalistic press coverage and social media frenzy surrounding it.

Yes, truth be told, the others actually said “total circus” as in media circus instead of “barrage of … media frenzy.”

[Digression #2: As a lover of circus and a disabled/retired aerialist and teacher of circus arts, I object, as modern circuses are well-organized multi-level entertainments that have an overall astounding safety record, considering their activities. Especially if you look at the ones that don’t involve wild animals, which admittedly is the real stain on the modern circus reputation. That and exploitation of artists, the latter being a problem throughout the performing arts world. The elephant in the tent, as it were.]

[Digression #3: I miss # being primarily known as pound or number sign — or for extra geeky credit, octothorp — instead of nowadays first assuming it’s denoting a hashtag, something of fleeting significance on the World Wide Web. I’ll get over it.]

Back to Johnny v. Amber …

“So, Johnny won, right?”

“Pretty much. He gets 10 mil. And another 5 mil. Except he won’t get the 5 mil. Amber gets 2 mil.”

“They didn’t believe her.”

“Did you?”

“She pooped in his bed!” [Delivered as a stage whisper followed by restrained giggles]

“Um … did she, though?” [Me]

“I thought she said she did it as a prank.”

“I don’t … I don’t know … I think she said she didn’t do it. But …” [Not me, for the record, though such were my thoughts]*

*Confirmation: Amber Heard indeed denied having defecated in said bed.

Coming up … Part II. Dis Closure

Sandhill cranes in a field with speech bubbles denoting bits of conversation. "Move it flocks! Rez for 40 downfield! Damn! Where’s Craig?” “Who’s Craig?” “I’m so hungry I could eat Craig!” “Hold up, Celeste! Charlotte is way behind — again.” “Charlotte! Come over here by me!” “Uh, no thanks, Chad.”
I don’t know if all sandhill cranes have names beginning with C; this is just what I overheard that day! Obviously, Chad is a jerk.

There is no title

I’ve officially lost track of what I’ve actually posted and what I’ve let languish in my drafts folder and elsewhere. I am finishing what appears to be a 4-parter on domestic violence that started as a Tales from the Infusion clinic post on June 1st. I’m debating posting that biggun serially. Might discourage endless editing and encourage finishing…

Meanwhile, June 30th infusion clinic topics were a)Dogs and Fireworks and b)Patients and Infusion Copays. As to the latter, insurance companies are doing their usual shenanigans and claiming inflation is forcing them to burden patients with more than their fair share. So, many patients are canceling and going without. Was lonely last week. As to the former, we got both herbals and pharmaceuticals for the comfort of our canine pals!

Dog with pleading look. Text reads, “Happy July 6th! Please say you’re DONE with the LOUD NOISES for a while! Thanks!!”
Generously gave y’all an extra day to shoot off any stragglers! (No, Roo did not enjoy his “first” July 4th. He thinks firecrackers are not smart!)

ROOgele Recipe

Makes one unique, very sweet* and exuberant puppy dog!

Ingredients:

  • 36% Australian Cattle Dog
  • 13% German Shepherd
  • 11% German Shorthaired Pointer
  • 9% American Pit Bull Terrier
  • 6% Golden Retriever
  • 5% Australian Shepherd
  • 4% Rottweiler
  • 3% American Staffordshire Terrier
  • 3% Siberian Husky
  • 3% Chow Chow
  • 2% Labrador Retriever
  • 2% American Eskimo Dog
  • 2% Chihuahua
  • 1% Dalmatian

Mix and match the 14 breeds above to exact specifications, somehow, someway, over who knows how many generations. Abandon black pup with white bib at approximately 7 weeks of age. Season liberally with ticks. House at Albuququerque Westside shelter. Add parasitic infection for extra early hardship.

At 8 weeks Rood Boy will look like an Australian shepherd mix of twice his age.** In a good home with proper nutrition, exercise, a plethora of toys, and a pughuahua playmate, he will grow exponentially and start looking like a … ? Um … I mean, maybe … By 5 months RooPert will have acquired various nicknames and will resemble a German shepherd crossed with a pointer in a fur tuxedo. With an extra long, white-tipped tail.

At very nearly 7 months, más o menos,^ Scooby-Roo won’t be fully cooked yet, but teething promises to be a thing of the past (Hallelujah!) and his growth rate will have slowed considerably. DNA test results from WisdomPanel.com will prove what a truly mixed blessing is Sir Roo Longtail! Endowed with a rich, deep bark and a comic falsetto, he will continue to develop into an excellent watchdog, despite (in tandem with? because of?) his devotion to playtime. His goofy demeanor may belie his intelligence: He will teach himself to fetch the newspaper and to open the back door via the lever handle. At times he will move with the grace of a fox. Other times … not so much.

At one year of age, Roo will have matured^^ into a long-legged, active, handsome, log-loving cuddle-monster exhibiting several shepherding, retrieving, and guarding instincts. He will stretch as a dancer and stand at the kitchen counter as if a human kid ready to help with the dishes. (If only!) He will be absolutely obsessed with his toy squirrels, which he will toss, catch, retrieve until a human cries, “No more!” He will relate to the high-def TV as an interactive device.

The Yearling by DÅL|é

*Sweet in a loving sense. Do not eat! He will protect you! If you haven’t gone vegan amidst the zombie apocalypse, your doom is imminent!

**Truth by teeth be told!

^More or less. Approximately. Thereabouts. Close as makes no difference. As good as it gets based on the information we have.

^^Yeah, I said it and I’ll say it again: Matured! Matured, matured, matured! We estimated/decided on June 13th as Roo’s birthday.

Black and white puppy sitting with head cocked to the right looking at camera with irresistibly adorable look!
Just one more …

In the Merry Old Month of May

May is Lupus Awareness Month. May is also Myositis Awareness Month. Mental Health Awareness Month, too.

First is May Day (big to the Germans who raised me), plus our doggie Draymond’s birthday. On the Fourth everyone becomes a Star Wars parodist; May the Fourth be with you! Followed by Cinco de Mayo, on which day far too many Americans pronounce beers something very much like cervezas. Then there’s Mother’s Day, of course, and World Lupus Day a few days after that.

And about two weeks after that is the anniversary of when I took the plunge and bought the domain for this blog with high hopes — or maybe slightly elevated hopes — and various ideas and a plan of sorts. George Floyd’s murder was broadcast two days later, I think.

Black and white photograph of a cliff side. Digital pencil enhance shadows to create appearance of face with prominent nose, dark sunglasses, and neutral expression.
The Hills Have Sunglasses by DÅL|é

So, yeah, May is a busy month for me! I’m having a flare of my type of myositis (the best, most interesting type, obv) in honor of the occasion. I’m not being facetious. Well, I am about dermatomyositis being the best of the muscle-depleting autoimmune diseases, but not so much about the timing of this flare.

Events were set in motion last May from which I have yet to recover. We’d suffered so many losses at the end of 2019 and in 2020 — pets and people — and were enjoying a slight respite early 2021. We adopted a puppy. He chewed his way into our hearts for a month. Then he was stolen on May 5th. Never found. Many folks were supportive and sympathetic. Some, not. Some, really not. Because social media is truly bizarre. It can easily magnify both compassion and cruelty. A double-edged sword type thing. Reminds me of prednisone.

A creamy white puppy sits on a ramp with back to camera and adorable face looking over right shoulder at photographer.
Data, the Great Pyrenees-Saint Bernard puppy who wreaked joy on our lives April of 2021.

The day before that violation, we realized there was no way we could sell our unique, beautiful business property, the erstwhile AirDance ArtSpace, to the guy with the community art center idea, as we had hoped. We had a pretty good offer with a hitch from people wanting to relocate their church. Community didn’t really need another church in our opinion, but … We made a counteroffer, sans hitch. Like you do.

They accepted our counteroffer the day after puppy Data was stolen. Or same day? I don’t have the energy to look it up. Point is, we were locked in by May 6th. Rather long, confusing, ugly story, short; we closed nearly 4 months later on August 25th.

Building with mission style adobe façade surrounded by blame of snow. Under a minimalist clock are silver block letters which read “AIRDANCE ARTSPACE”
The one and only AirDance ArtSpace, November 2000-August 2021

And then there’s Mother’s Day and the ever-so triggering onslaught of ads on what to buy and do — and, I dare say, think and feel — to honor and cherish one’s maternal parent. I’ll try to write about my mother in another post soon. She died in 2004. Yes, I think about her quite a bit, even now, nearly 18 years later. She really hated Mother’s Day.

I have agonized over how to “make a comeback” to my blog. My drafts folder is full of rejects. My new motto is Good Enough. Let go of perfection. And super high standards. And other people’s standards. Not as easy as it may sound to some of you. I feel guilty for things I’ve dreamt about. For questionable acts other people have done over which I’ve had no control. At 59 years of age I still worry about getting/being in trouble!

I’m going to close out this post with a tale of my trip to the infusion clinic. I was a week overdue, which makes a noticeable difference for a drug given monthly. I’ve experienced various delays over the last several months, mostly due to shipping issues. The fallback is prednisone. And that’s a whole other epic saga of tears and compromises.

Closeup of four bright yellow flowers, open in broad cups, sit atop green succulent cactus.
Prickly pear cactus in bloom

To get to the clinic I had to get out of bed, brush my teeth, dress, eat a little something, take meds, get in the car. Monumental achievements! I gave myself pep talks; took short rest breaks between tasks. Balked at the thought of styling my hair. (But the winds of May currently dictate the style for all who dare outside. In other words, Mess is in! It’s good enough! Thanks, Wind!) My thighs barely propelled me up the ramp. By the time I reached the counter, I was done, my hands and shoulders complaining about using the rollator.

Here’s where it comes together. I was signing a form at check-in and asked for the date, just before realizing it was the Fourth. The staff member and I chuckled and said, “The Fourth. May the Fourth be with you!” at the same time, much to the delight of the waiting drug rep. Then I asked the year. And I meant it. Because even as I wrote 2022, my brain, exhausted by the symptoms of my active myositis, lupus, and mental illnesses, was not convinced all those two’s were in the right order. I did not want to get in trouble for putting the wrong date on an official form! Doubly so with medical insurance involved! But did I have the energy to get out my phone? Plus eyeglasses?! I just want to sit down before this nausea gets worse.

Large black dog with some white markings lies on side cuddling toy squirrels under chin. Looks endearingly at camera.
This is Roo, a young dog of many passions. He’s way into these squirrels! He likes them two at a time. Such a Gemini! (First birthday on 13 June)

Infusion helped, by the way. Along with slight uptick in prednisone. And a great deal of sleep, which, of course, led to a blinding migraine, causing me to cancel on a couple folks (or hubster did; literally blinding), which naturally intensified my feelings of guilt — as if I am in control of the many and varied factors that contribute to the courses of my still little understood and largely unpredictable diseases — and now I’m just talking to myself …

Maybe I’m always just talking to myself? Not sure. Whether yes or no, it’ll have to be Good Enough.

Small short-faced black dog considers/noses a small rectangular toy which reads #SPOILED
Draymond celebrates zer fourth birthday with a new squeaky toy! Spoiled is synonymous with deserving in our dear Dray’s dictionary!