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Cheating Death, Again, and Again, and Again

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 4, 2015

Got knocked down by a car the other day. It made me think about all those times in my life when, but for one thing, I would have died. As an infant, and later as a two-year old, I had pneumonia. I was saved by penicillin, by science, technology and society, twice. Before penicillin, I would have been dead as an infant.

As a six-year old, I fell into a house under construction. The incomplete basement had no concrete yet, the floor was mud with pools of water. Me, my brother John and Eddie Knight were bringing  the biggest stones we could find and carry, climbing the foundation wall, and dropping them into the pools of water. The object, of course, was to get a huge splash. We dropped in our stones, enjoyed the splash, and set out to find bigger stones. I dropped a nice one in, hit the water nicely, and turned to see Eddie plop the biggest stone I’d seen all morning on the floor level of the foundation, so he could use both hands to climb up. Somehow, I couldn’t help myself. I ran over, grabbed the stone, and dropped it in. I think it made a big splash. I say think, because all I remember is perhaps a sense of movement. Eddie, pissed off as all hell, had come charging at me, I think. The details are vague. Because I was standing by the edge of the hole in the floor we were using (it was for the stairs to come), I must have gone right over. I woke up some time later. Two adults were carrying me through tall weeds in the huge field behind my house. I had cracked my head against one of the stones, maybe even Eddie’s big one. Lying face down in the muddy water, I would have drowned. My brother pulled me out. Eddie, meanwhile had gone for his parents, who were carrying me home. I never saw Eddie again. He never came by. I would guess that he felt guilty, or his parents simply forbade him to play with us again. Life saved by my younger brother, although medical science repaired my cracked skull.

Lutheran Hospital I turned eight years old during my stay at Lutheran Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland (formerly the Hebrew Orphan Asylum). My appendix had ruptured, and I remember being told later that I had peritonitis (literally an inflammation of the stomach lining), although today the term used is blood poisoning, or sepsis. In septic shock, weak, and barely able to shamble, with support from my mother, who drove me to the hospital in a borrowed car, the staff there knew I was in trouble from my blood work. An x-ray did not show cause, so I was taken for exploratory surgery. The appendix was hidden behind an organ, and hadn’t been visible on x-ray. Again, medical science, through surgery and chemistry, had saved my life, although I was hospitalized for four weeks, and convalesced at home for another week. Happy Birthday!

Soon after that I developed bronchial asthma, and survived by using steam and a towel over my head, or a prescription inhaler. Sometimes I simply couldn’t catch my breath at all. I didn’t know where it went or why it was running away. The asthma attacks went away sometime after my 12th birthday.

Of course, not everything I did was life threatening. I slipped trying to repair a leaky roof in a tree house and fell to the ground, breaking my arm. Excruciating pain came with that one, and a cast on my arm, and notoriety at school. It was hard to brag about falling out of a tree. I was just embarrassed.

I must have developed an acute sense of caution, because I didn’t get hurt again until I was an adult. I got creamed by a huge beast of a car as I had been pedaling down a nice hill. It hit me broadside, and dragged the bicycle across the street, but I had been thrown forward by my own momentum. I bounced, and passed out. Passers-by thought I was dead. I heard them say so as I came to. They’d already given up on me and were comforting the driver! I was in shock, didn’t know who I was or what had happened at first. I was thoroughly amazed that I’d survived, because my last thought before the impact had been that I was going to die. Traffic had been thick and heavy, and I could have easily been run over by some other vehicle. As it was, my own momentum had carried me in a high arc straight forward, and the car was so big, a Lincoln Continental Mark III, Lincoln that it had blocked enough of the lane to keep the other drivers away.  Saved by the eighteen-foot car length. Nothing broken this time. I had a major sprain on the top of my left foot, which had been hit by the car. The heavy Schwinn bicycle pedal arm had been bent, back into the spokes.

Bicycles on highways or city streets are accidents waiting to happen, and I had a few more. Once my shoe was simply ripped off my foot. Once I skidded on gravel on a mountain road and slid down a long section of blacktop, taking a lot of skin off my chest and stomach. Ouch. Another time, a car side-swiped me as I pedaled down a city street right on the edge of the road. It appeared as though the car had passed another car on the right, illegally, had not seen me up ahead, and clipped me. The impact left a huge bruise on my ass and thigh muscles. I was stunned at first, and lay on my back, staring unblinkingly into the light rain that was falling. I worried that I was paralyzed. The driver didn’t stop, but someone else did after a few minutes, and an ambulance took me and bicycle to a hospital. Bruised and scraped flesh was all I received then, but it could have been worse. Somehow I had fallen without breaking my neck. Somehow the car hadn’t broken my hip or run over me. Little things.

Given my history, buying a motorcycle was not a very smart thing to do, but at least it put me out into the drive lane at speed, instead of paralleling the other vehicles, riding bicycles in the gutters full of storm-drain grates and broken glass. It didn’t take me long to lay the bike down: the first time taking a corner in the rain, slipping on icy roads, or hitting a crazy dog on a curve. I was never hurt, but I went through a few turns signals and mirrors which stick out to the sides. I learned to anticipate accidents, to always brake the front and rear wheels simultaneously, and even ride on icy or snow-packed streets. I got good. However, as I neared my house one fine day, I decided to pass in front of  a stalled car blocking my lane, and he hit the gas microseconds before I got there. I t-boned him, and sailed over the car hood. The bike was totalled. I was sore and bruised but none the worse for wear after a few weeks. Everyone in the neighborhood said I must have said my prayers. I didn’t pray anymore, so that wasn’t it. Given my moral turpitude at the time, I could have thanked the devil instead, if I’d still believed in such things.

Years passed with my replacement motorcycle. As I was near home again, in a different house with a wife waiting for me this time, I misread a red traffic light. I thought it was still green, but the sun was directly behind it as I topped a hill. I sailed into the large Route 66 intersection at about 40 mph. There was a pickup directly in front of me; I looked up – the light was red. Never even applied the brakes. Totalled that bike too. I was again bruised and scraped up. My arm was a bit sprained, so I wore a sling for a short time. The driver of the pickup told my insurance company that I had bent his truck frame. Really? Well, no matter. I got another bike, number three in a series, and I never wrecked it. Since it was old and leaked oil, and always needed repairs, I finally traded it in.  Success! I had ridden a motorcycle the entire time I had owned it without damaging it or myself. However, the newer bike was not so lucky. Within two weeks I had laid it down, negotiating a turn, I didn’t understand what had happened until it happened again. This time I took it in to a shop. They found a spacer missing from the front axle. Such spacers keep the wheel centered on the axle, but without one, the wheel was sliding to one side as I turned, causing the wheel to lock up.

Of note in all this mayhem is that I paused in June of 2013 to have a minor heart attack. The large descending artery on the right side was partly clogged when I first got to the heart hospital, but within minutes, the clog had moved to completely block the artery (sudden minor pain). Fortunately, I was already hooked up to an IV and heart monitors, and my wrist was prepped for sticking a balloon up to my heart to clean it out and leave a stent behind. They went ahead and did that, and I felt relief immediately. Recovery was rapid and complete. Four months later, I ran a half marathon in three hours exact. A year later I ran it in 2 hours, 46 minutes. Cheating death. Again. Heart before

So, I’ve dodged any motorcycle accident for many years now. I am very aware of my surroundings. I always know where other vehicles are, and I keep a constant eye out on side streets and pedestrians. I hit nothing, and nothing hits me. I have a car now also, and my motorcycle habits have transferred. I have no accidents, because I am always acutely aware of my surroundings. So, it came as a shock last Friday evening to find a moving car pushing against my body, again.

I was crossing a street at a slight angle to reach my car. It was a cold night, and I was worried about an approaching storm, so I had opted out of riding the bike. I was in the southbound part of the street as I saw a car approach the intersection from an eastbound lane. I sped up so I wouldn’t be in its path. It was about 50 feet away, so I had plenty of time to reach my car before it even reached me. Wrong. She had turned wide, and sped up as she straightened out, but not where she should have been. She was squarely in the northbound part of the road. Her right fender was pressing hard against me. I noticed the rest of the car was ahead of me, instead of behind me in the empty southbound lane. She never said what she was doing. Was she just turning wide? She later said she only saw me at the last moment before hitting me. Had she tried to avoid me? swerving around me? She never said much else. Liability issues, I’d guess.

Fortunately she did see me plastered against her grille, and stopped. I was thrown forward and hard onto the asphalt. It hurt. So, there I was again, lying in the street again, wondering how the hell I’d misjudged that situation. How the hell had she caught me? I hurt all over it seemed, but I thought I should get up. My right hip area had impacted the street, and it was in considerable pain, but after a few minutes, the pain went away. We exchanged information. She is an artist with the gallery whose open house I’d just left.

I went home, took two Advil Liquid capsules, applied some Blue Emu cream, ate a late dinner with some chokecherry wine, and got some sleep. The pain was back next day, but so far, so good. The hip only hurts to the touch. “So don’t touch it!” I know, I know, but sometimes ya gotta roll over in bed, or ya bump against the side of a chair. It’ll heal. There’s skin scraped off again, but no bruising. The pain seems to be deep, and just behind the hip bone that juts out there. Worked hard yesterday, did a lot of heavy lifting and shoving at the winery, with no pain, so I think I’m OK.

Again.

Posted in humor, Life, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

And, Suddenly, a Heart Attack

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2013

Sandia view I hike in the mountains, nearly every week. Sometimes its a three to four-hour jaunt, sometimes six hours, with a lunch break. The elevation gain can be 1000 feet or 2000. I’ve done much harder hikes in the past, but found that I was having too much trouble keeping up with the other hikers. Instead of getting stronger with more stamina over time, I was having a hard time finishing 12 mile hikes up and down a mountain trail at all. So, I began hiking with a Meetup group, hiking just the three or four hours at a leisurely pace. I tried snowshoeing to the peak of one mountain, Mt. Taylor trail Mt. Taylor, at 11,301 feet. I had hiked it on two prior occasions, and snowshoed it once before, but didn’t make it that day. I had to stop to catch my breath a few times. Once I leaned against a tree and felt like I could fall asleep right there, standing up. I fell so far behind that the hike leader, tired of coming back to look for me and unwilling to wait for me in temperatures near zero degrees F (he was not warmly-enough dressed), relayed a message to me that I was to turn around. I had never failed to complete a hike before, so that was upsetting. I knew I could get to the top, but just needed more time. The hike leader had also cancelled our scheduled lunch break at the top, which is when I felt I could have caught up to them. I missed the wonderful sluicing through the deep powder on the back side of that climb. Well, so  it goes. However, on the way home by car, I had trouble breathing. My chest actually hurt upon taking a deep breath. That was very troubling. Back home, I saw my doctor and he said I had exercise asthma, and prescribed an inhaler. I used it a few times before hikes, and had no trouble. However, on several hikes with rapid elevation gain, I had felt strange and weak when we stopped for lunch.

Then, last Sunday, while puttering around a winery I help out at, I felt the same strangeness, more like a tightening of my chest or pressure on my chest. I had only been cleaning up, putting equipment away, and climbing up and down a short ramp when I felt it overtake me. I sat down in a chair with a  glass of cranberry wine and relaxed. I felt better after a short while, so I finished my duties and went home. At home I was comfortable and relaxed and slept well. The next day, however, was far different.

In the morning I awoke early, had coffee, and picked my step-daughter up from her home, dropping her off at her job. She doesn’t drive, due to a problem with her peripheral vision, so I take her to and from work most days. This day I also had a blood donation appointment, so I went there after dropping her off. The blood donation went well – no unusual blood pressure, pulse normal. Afterwards I stopped at a breakfast buffet, JBz and for $6.49 had bacon, sausage, eggs smothered in red chile, a bit of carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile), small slices of french toast, and fruit – hey, the blood place said to eat a big breakfast, so I did. I dropped off a package at Fed-X for my step-daughter and went home. It was a slow day after that. I messed around at the computer: reading news, checking blogs, Facebook, eBay, an art site (Deviant Art), and then sat down to quietly read a book.  In mid-afternoon, however, I felt that strange pressure in my chest. I used my asthma inhaler, but to no effect. I took two aspirin. I stretched out on my bed for a bit, but without improvement. I felt odd, perhaps a little anxious. I was sweating, so I turned on the evaporative cooler. I went back to reading. I still felt that something was wrong, and I still felt hot. I increased blower speed on the cooler. I began to worry. It was getting late, after 4pm, so I wasn’t sure if I could get to the clinic my doctor worked at before it closed. Suddenly I decided I was going to go anyway. Enough uncertainty! I had to find out what was wrong; I might even be having heart problems. I decided not to take the motorcycle, opting instead for four wheels, should I become weak or unsteady. However, I changed my mind as I was backing the car up, and went back in. Something was wrong and I was getting worse fast. I called 911.

It didn’t take the EMT guys long to get to my house, as the firehouse was less than two miles away, but they had to search for my house in this compound so I got up and flagged ’em down. They came in, asked questions, took vitals and decided I should go to the hospital. An ambulance had arrived after they came in their firetruck. By this time I was sweating profusely, felt weaker, and didn’t mind lying on their gurney. I’m not sure it was a good idea to attempt an IV while the ambulance was bouncing over the speed humps, but I got to the hospital OK. They sent me to the cardiac lab, and five or six guys went to work, taking pictures, repeating vitals and finally deciding that I was, indeed, having a heart attack. There were options, like drug therapy, but the best idea presented was to do an angioplasty, where they run an inflatable device up an artery into my heart to open the artery there. X-rays had shown that the artery was indeed almost completely blocked by a clot. Heart before

I agreed, so the team went ahead. I felt a pain after they began. I said “Ouch!” just as somoene was sticking a needle in me, and he apologized, but it was the sudden sharp pain in my heart that had gotten my attention. The pain increased, but, miraculously, as they worked and the catheter reached my heart, the pain subsided; the pressure that had been building stopped, and I felt great! They had used the balloon-like device on the end of the catheter to ream out my artery, Heart after and then released a stainless-steel tube from there that expanded to fit to the walls of the artery. It’s called a stent. stent It’s an odd, meshed device. To me, it resembles those old Chinese finger puzzles, but on a much reduced scale. The stent will remain with me now. Stent 2 I must take a drug for one year to prevent my body from rejecting the stent. Ha! I wish I only had to take one drug. I must also take aspirin, a small 81 mg dose, every day. I am taking a drug to lower my blood pressure, even though my pressure is normal. I am taking a statin drug to lower my cholesterol even though my cholesterol is not high. I am taking a drug to block blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots. I am taking a drug to lower the acid in my stomach. And I am taking a drug that lowers my heart rate, reducing strain on my heart, which was only minimally damaged in all this.

In short, I survived, and in good shape. I’m certain I do not need all of these drugs. My blood pressure is now lower than ever, at about 118 over 70, as I just measured. I already eat fairly well, so my cholesterol is not dangerous, but I welcome the assistance of the drug, for now. I think some of the others are a bit too much, as I would like to be as drug-free as possible. One drug can be interfered with by fish-oil supplements, which are in my daily multivitamins already. If the fish oil has the same effect, I don’t know why I can’t just take that instead of a drug.

Ah, well. I’m lucky to be alive, and damn lucky to have had that cardiac team work on me. They worked very quickly, efficiently and smoothly, each one performing certain vital tasks, and being watchful of changes in my status. Without them, I wouldn’t have survived. I need to take them some wine.

I received lots of messages from friends and family, and my step-daughter visited me while I was confined to the hospital for two days. My friend, who is “not a girlfriend”, declined to visit me in the hospital because, as she put it, “…hospitals freak me all the fuck out…”, but she said she wanted to see me to verify that I was alive. We went to a movie and had dinner Friday afternoon. Life goes on.

Posted in health, hiking, medical, My Life, wine | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Dreaming of a Woman Again

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 10, 2011

Haven’t had many dreams that I remember in some time. Maybe it’s because I sleep poorly. At any rate, my ex-wife was in my dream this morning. I hadn’t seen her in four years until just recently, when I spotted her dancing at a Salsa event one night. That was something we always did, mostly every week for fourteen years, so it upset me to see her dancing, knowing we could never dance again. She was on my mind for weeks after that, almost all the time. Spending time recently with my siblings and cousins, and laughing with them, broke the spell, and I hadn’t thought about her as much.

Suddenly, I’m dreaming about her this morning. In my dream, I run into her at a party at a friend’s house in the mountains. She asks me to go home with her, so we are driving up this steep mountain road to her place, somewhere deeper up in the mountains. She was always a drinker, so she has concocted a way to drink while driving. She is wearing one of those camelback water bags that hikers use, except that it is filled with wine. She attempts to take a drink from the tube but is having a hard time getting it to stay in her mouth. She is driving, and I realize she is drunk when she swerves across the road into the opposite lane of traffic. It is very late at night, so there is no other traffic, but there is some light snow on the highway, left over from an earlier storm. I am not concerned, as she has slowed way down, aware she is in the other lane. When she gets the wine tube in her mouth and takes a long swallow, she attempts to move back into the right lane when we see headlights behind us. So, she stops the car, on the left side of the road on the shoulder.  When the car passes, I look at her, realizing that she never used to drive when drunk. It was always my job to drive her home. I am wondering why I am not driving. I am wondering why I am with her at all, except I know I am still sexually attracted to her. Jokingly, I tell her that drinking WHILE driving will make them throw the book at her. She tells me to get out. It is cold, the wind is blowing powdery snow around the highway. I can’t believe she is serious. I tell her I was only joking. I want, after all, to go home with her.

All this thinking wakes me up: wrong part of the brain for dreaming, I guess.

I am left wondering why I would have a dream like that! Of course, the car ride could have been a metaphor for our marriage, but I don’t know why I would invent such an elaborate story. Perhaps I am correct, and it was a metaphor.

In a car = in the marriage

Worried about car ride = worried about marriage

Not in control of the car = not in control of marriage

Unwilling to get out of car = unwilling to get out of marriage

Warning her in car = telling her I was unhappy, wanted counseling

Cold, snow, mountain = there be monsters outside marriage

Pissed her off; she says get out = pissed her off; she said I had to go

I guess I never resolved that whole thing. I need to let go; thought I had.

Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, relationships, sex | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What IS depression anyway?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on October 26, 2010

Just what the fuck is depression anyway?  I tried researching it, after experiencing it for a few years.  Got medication simultaneously with counseling. I was definitely depressed.

Depression, which doctors call major depressive disorder, isn’t something you can just “snap out of.”

Symptoms

  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
  • Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
  • Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping

Major depression disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.

Depression can appear as anger and discouragement, rather than as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. If depression is very severe, there may also be psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms may focus on themes of guilt, inadequacy, or disease.  It is thought to be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals and other factors.

However.  Hmmph.  However, none of this says what depression is, or where it comes from. Obviously, trauma can bring it on: the loss of a loved one, a pet, a friend, or the end of a marriage, love affair, or even a job. Many things can trigger depression.  If it is caused solely by a chemical imbalance, then it would be entirely random, in my opinion.  People in all walks of life would be depressed for absolutely no discernible reason, whereas most of us can attribute those feelings to something that happened. Everyone deals with these things in different ways, and, in fact, it is common for everyone to be depressed at some time.  So, to follow the medical opinions, I should talk about major depressive disorder, that thing that just doesn’t go away for some people sometimes.

I think I know what it is, and where it comes from.  I’m not a doctor, neither an M.D., a psychologist nor a psychiatrist.

Now, Wikipedia says: “The biopsychosocial model proposes that biological, psychological, and social factors all play a role in causing depression. The diathesis–stress model specifies that depression results when a preexisting vulnerability, or diathesis, is activated by stressful life events. The preexisting vulnerability can be either genetic, implying an interaction between nature and nurture, or schematic, resulting from views of the world learned in childhood.”

Blah, blah, blah.

I think it is nothing more than our reaction to pain.  Pain, as many of us know, decreases in intensity after we suffer it for a time.  Runners, torture victims, accident victims, and victims of disease know what I’m talking about. There may be a variety of things involved, but we all commonly think about endorphins kicking in, numbing us to pain after awhile.

Endorphins (“endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.

Well-being after sex, yeah, I know that one pretty well. I also like chile, red or green, and sure enough, a blast of really hot spicy food brings about a lessening of the hotness after a short time. I can then eat hotter chile, but I pay for it later.  So, one thing to notice is that this morphine-like substance we produce in our bodies doesn’t last very long. But, we can produce it over and over again, in response to various stimuli, including stress.  Some of us experience stress daily, so we must also be producing endorphins daily.

Here’s what I think: depression is our bodies’ response to psychological pain.  Depression is our psychological morphine, producing analgesia.  We go numb in response to psychological pain.  We cry, or grieve deeply, sometimes feeling an overwhelming crushing weight.  We can’t function that way.  We have to go to work, or continue our normal routines, so we have to push those feelings aside just enough to function.  Depression is the result.  If it was a relatively minor pain, we may work it out through continuing our normal routines.  Sometimes, however, the pain was severe, or was perceived as severe, and continues to recur. We may keep brushing it aside.  I think this is a normal mental defense, allowing us to continue our life until we can deal with the cause of the pain, similar to the production of adrenalin or endorphins, which give us temporary options for survival.

But, it has to be dealt with sooner or later.  Just as an injury can be ignored while adrenalin or endorphin pumps through our bodies, eventually the injury must be treated.  Depression is our temporary defense against psychological pain, but at some point, we have to deal with the “injury” that produced the depression in the first place.  How we deal with the injury is what our mental health industry is all about.  Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants slow normal brain function. In higher doses, some CNS depressants can become general anesthetics.  Temporary.  These measures are temporary, and can actually worsen depression.

An interesting tidbit I gleaned from the research literature is that endorphins attach themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions (limbic and prefrontal areas).  Perhaps endorphins are involved in the onset of depression? I do not know, nor care.

Do I know how to “cure” depression? No.  Various treatments, combinations of certain drugs with counseling, are said to allow our minds and bodies to slip out of depression long enough to allow us to reprogram ourselves out of it.  The length of treatment, types of drugs and types of counseling vary widely. The results vary widely.

Having just come out of a three-year long depression (at minimum), I have some observations:

1.) Depression is temporary.

2.) It does not occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

3.) In all likelihood, we prolong our depressive state ourselves.

4.) Whatever caused the initial depressive response must be overcome.

Yeah, I hear you: Overcome? How? Beats me.  Drugs and counseling will help in some cases.

My best guess?

Here ’tis.

1.) Recognise that one is depressed.

2.) Trace the cause. This may take medical and psychological help.

3.) Eliminate the cause. This one is tricky.

I know that there are techniques often applied, common sense approaches, that may or not be accepted by all.  For example, I have read that grief cannot be overcome unless one goes through various stages, like denial, and anger, leading to acceptance.  I’ve found this to be true for depression.  One cannot wish depression away – that is simply denial. Accept that one is depressed. And then get angry.  Avoid violent solutions, because the depression will worsen, and be prolonged, but anger? Anger is good.  Get really fucking angry. Maybe one thinks it was all their own fault. Let me tell you, getting angry with oneself doesn’t do a whole lot.  What hurt you badly? What was the thing that drove you over the edge? Was it your boss, your spouse, your ex, your lover, your sibling, your parent?  Hate them. Your injury? Hate it.  Give it all you’ve got.  Hate your boss, your spouse, your ex, the negligent driver, the government regulation, the politician?  Hate them.  Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.  Give into it.  Feel the vindication, the release, the shifting of the pain from yourself somewhere else.  When you’ve gotten the focus off of you and onto the cause, let it go.  Forget? No.  We can never forget.  But we can let the anger go, and the pain goes with it.  Then focus on change.  Get away from the source of the pain if you can, or confront it. Attempt to change the situation that caused the pain in the first place.  We all know what we have to do.  If we don’t, the pain will hit us again, and we will be depressed again.

In my opinion.

Posted in depression, health, Life, madness, medical, My Life, opinion, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Deep Creek Youghiogheny

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 31, 2010

With nothing left to live for, no joy in my life, no pleasure in waking, breathing, eating, or even being, I knew I had to just get it over with and die.  I went through all the options: gun placed in my mouth to fire upwards, blowing the top of my head off – way too messy.
Razor along my vein, for maximum loss of blood – too slow, and painful.  What of pain? I shouldn’t care, but, it’s because I tired of pain that I no longer feel anything at all. No sense having pain be my last memory.
Jumping? What if I survive? What if I’m paralyzed? unable to die? kept alive for nothing?
Pills? so I can wake up choking on my own vomit?
Jumping in front of a bus? Same problem as jumping.
I really couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t involve some kind of pain, slow death, or public display.  I didn’t want anyone to know I died, or how I died. I had no one to impress, no one to feel sorry for me, no one to send a message to.  I just wanted it all to be over.
I found a solution: drowning.  I knew it would be unpleasant.  I had a plan for that. Nitrous oxide.  I would feel myself drowning, trying to pull air into my lungs, trying to breathe, but I wouldn’t care.  I’d laugh my way into death, gulping in whole lungfuls of water.  Then peace, with a smile on my face.
The water was deepest near the dam, about 75 feet, so I’d plunge deep into the numbing cold water. I wanted to sink, and sink fast.  I found four twenty-pound ankle weights.  It was hard walking with them, but I practiced until I managed to just look like I was just drunk or high or old. And jeez, was I ever old. Too old for life to hold any interest anymore.
With a small canister of nitrous oxide, I crossed Deep Creek’s concrete bridge leading to the dam.  It was 3:00 am.  I walked, slowly and silently. There was no traffic that time of morning.  I’d been there often enough to know.  I climbed the fence to the dam, clumsily, but without making a sound.    There was a maintenance ladder on the dam itself.  As I grabbed each rung, my legs felt dead.  It took a lot of effort to pull them up with me.  I was sweating in that nearly freezing air.  Those weights got heavier with every breath.
The water was calm, and inviting.  I opened up the canister and let it fill me with gas.  I had a small mask to cover my mouth and nose.  It took longer than I thought.  I hung there on the ladder, a few feet from the top.  My legs were tired. My feet were hooked uncomfortably in the rungs.  My hands, wrists, and ankles ached from the climb.  After awhile, I didn’t care much about the slight pain anymore.  I didn’t care much about the cold night air.  I was really happy, for the first time in many years.  I didn’t feel like laughing, but I was smiling.  I dropped the canister into the water.  The splash was reassuring, calming, a funny preview of my own fall.
I threw myself out as far as I could.  I was taking no chances, but there was little danger of hitting the dam wall, as it curved inward at this point, near the long tunnel that takes water to the powerhouse.  The water flows past the turbines, back into Deep Creek lake, back into the Youghiogheny river, continuing on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.  I hit feet first, as I expected. There was pain, pain to my feet, despite the thick hiking boots I’d worn, pain to my knees, pain to my hips.  But the water was so cold, and I was so excited, it didn’t matter.  I sunk quickly.  I opened my eyes, surprised that I’d had them shut so long, surprised that I was holding my breath.  There was not much to see. It was dark, but some light from the power plant was reflected down into the depths.  I had expected to touch bottom, but I seemed to be drifting down incredibly slowly.
It was time.  I pushed my stomach in with my fists, expelling a lot of air.  It blooped out of my mouth and nose.  When it seemed I had no more air left, I held myself still, trying not to breathe until the last possible second, when my reflexes would kick in and force me to.  It was peaceful.  As I faced death, I realized I was ready.  She was gone forever. There was no one left to care for, no one to mourn my passing, no reason for my existence.  I was now useless.  I’d had a good life.  I’d loved, and lost, and loved again, and again.  I’d worked many jobs, some I’d enjoyed, some I hadn’t.  I had done all that I had set out to do, and I was content with my lot in life.  Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t want to die out of regret.  Hell, if I’d still had any regrets, I’d have wanted to keep on living, kept on trying to overcome those regrets for the rest of my life.  No, I had no regrets. It was just time to go.
My lungs burned with the beginnings of pain, so I opened my mouth and swallowed, deeply.  I sucked greedily at the water, blowing some residual water out my nose.  Then, then there was only water, and I was afraid. Fear stabbed at me like an ice pick through my heart.  I wanted to breath!  I wanted air.  My brain felt funny.  It was hard to think, but I kept trying to breathe. There was a heaviness in my head, a feeling of darkness.   My lungs struggled, again and again, for air.  The water was too heavy, too thick. I kept choking.  I started retching, water into water, and water back in again.  It hurt.  It hurt bad.  Worst of all was the feeling of panic, of absolute fear.  I thought I’d wanted to die, but now I wanted to breathe, to live, to think again.
Too late.

Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, misanthropy, My Life, rambling | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Do I Ever Leave My House?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on July 7, 2009

What is it with me and pain?  How is it I seem to mess myself up so often?  I went hiking Saturday the 4th of July. It was fun. 070409 (52) We took off-the-map trails, found four geocaches. 070409 (13) Along the way the trail was about a 60 degree angle, down and up again. Going down I managed to slip on some loose rock and spun all the way around before I caught myself.  Ripped my middle finger open a little, bled on my backpack and shirt. No big deal. The hike was worse going back up; had to stop often to catch my breath, as we gained a bit of elevation as well as the distance climbing.  Made it.  Then, on the way back, it hailed!  In July!  Pea-sized bits on our faces and arms. Stopped under some trees by the last geocache and put on our rain gear, as it was pouring too.  Stayed where we were for a while, as lighting and thunder were arriving simultaneously.  We didn’t want to get into an open area where we were the tallest things around.  Finally headed on up to the top of the mountain where there was a porch around a gift shop that people drive to.  We had coffee and brownies, courtesy of one older hiker.  Not a bad day all in all.  I was sore in my upper legs later, and then sore on Sunday still, and then sore on Monday.  It didn’t hurt to walk upstairs, but downstairs was difficult.  I was not used to scrambling down such steep trails with loose footing.  Different muscles used, and they complained until today.  Today, the pain and stiffness was gone.  The cut on my finger was healing nicely.

I had to stop by the auto dealer on my way home. Friday had been a holiday from work, so I had driven my car for once, looking for a new desk chair, and a few other things that don’t fit on the motorcycle.  The ’96 Mercury Cougar is a good car, but I’d recently had to spend over $800 getting the mass air flow sensor fixed, and having the engine tuned up with new plugs and valve covers, filters, new battery terminals, etc.  It was running smooth and quiet.  All of a sudden, on my way home, it had made a funny noise, and the steering crapped out.  It’s power steering, but I could still move the wheel just enough to turn.  Found out the belt had disintegrated.  It was broken and shredded all over the engine.  A lot of coolant had boiled out too.  serpentine The belt is a serpentine one, snaking around various pulleys that operate the power steering, the air conditioning, the generator, as well the water pump.  Well, that was where I was going after work today, to the dealer for a good, reliable serpentine belt.

They had moved far up the interstate, and I had to fight traffic going north.  I got off near where they said the new place was, but didn’t see it.  It was supposed to be on the frontage road, and I hadn’t passed it yet, so I went down the side road a bit to turn around.  Pulled into a turn bay, but hit gravel.  The bike went down fast.  Picked it right up, although someone had stopped to help.  He even offered to put my bike in the back of his pickup, and take me to a hospital, but I thanked him and told him I was OK.  He had seen the bike spin out from under me.  The bike is OK, a little scratched up, especially my brand new windshield.  Crap.  Anyway, I got back on the frontage road and went through the intersection this time, and found the dealer about two blocks away around a curve.  Parts guy took my order for the belt, but he didn’t have a cash register in his work area, so he sent me out to the garage.  I told him about the accident.  He said he’d get me some gauze too and meet me up there.  The lady at the register gave me some wipes to clean myself up a bit, baby wipes of all things.  I didn’t know how my face looked, but I had seen and felt blood running down near my left eye, and my sunglasses were full of blood too.  I paid for the Ford Motorcraft belt, $52.81 and they gave me some bandages.  I went into their men’s room to clean up. 070709 (1) Nice gashes near my eye, and the eye was already swollen and dark.  Probably have a black eye tomorrow.  Scrapes on my left knuckles, my right thumb is torn up, both palms are scraped and full of gravel bits.  My left knee hurt, as well as my left shoulder, where my new heavy-duty cotton shirt was torn open.  I bandaged what I needed to in order to grip the handlebars and clutch and brakes, and headed home.  When I got there, I found a 1 3/4 inch diameter scrape on my shoulder, almost round, looks like the skin had been taken off with a belt sander, and still weeping. Oddly, it is not bleeding much except around the edge, and it doesn’t hurt. 070709 (7) Smaller scrapes below it, right into the tattoo.  Both knees are scraped, but the left one is bleeding a lot.  Bandaged everything else up that I’d missed at the auto dealer, after cleaning with a little peroxide.

Damn, only one Advil left too. I had wanted two.  Added four aspirin.  I don’t even know why I’m complaining.  I didn’t break anything, and the bike still runs. People go through worse every day.  Still, I wonder why I’m so damn careless and accident prone?  I ride every day, so I suppose the odds were against me.  Just can’t believe I was so stupid.  Should have slowed down more before getting in the turn bay.  Should have been looking for hazards.   Should have taken the car in for scheduled maintenance – perhaps they’d have caught the bad belt?  and then I wouldn’t have had to go there, but I rarely even drive the car. I didn’t think it needed more maintenance so soon. Of course, it’s 13 years old.

Oh, man, my neck and shoulder area hurts now. I sure hope I didn’t do any damage to my collar-bone or neck.   More and more, I feel like I just want to be home and stay here, never going out again.  Work is a real pain with the budget problems and the move to a new lab space.  I really don’t want to deal with any of it anymore.   I’m tired.  And, so what?

Posted in Life, madness, My Life, rambling | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A New Bike

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 9, 2008

flying.jpg There I was: flying – nothing around me at all. Air – I could feel air under me. I knew I was gonna die. It’s a very comforting feeling – when you know you’re going to die. You just relax, you let it happen, you don’t fight it. I’ve heard that in such moments, your whole life flashes before your eyes. All I thought of was that I was going to be late. I thought about the classes I’d miss. Maybe I didn’t have that much time to think.
I don’t remember anything from the realization that I was airborne until I found myself lying on the ground, wondering where I was. I was lying down, I might be in bed, dreaming. I was outside. I wasn’t in a bed. I wanted to get up, find out. I realized I didn’t know who I was! Now that was scary! I remember telling myself (whoever I was): Just lay here. Relax. Let it come. It was like trying to remember something on the tip of my tongue: think of something else, don’t think about what it was I’d forgotten. I closed my eyes.
I remembered the construction site, the hole in the floor for the cellar steps to be added later, being pushed, falling, waking up to a headache, being carried across a field, blood on my face, getting stitches above my eye. metwo1957.jpg I remembered standing outside the tree house, trying to cover a hole in the roof on a rainy day, slipping, falling, coming to with a terrible sharp pain in my arm, the visiting relatives in our house, the ride to the hospital, the plaster cast.
It came back to me. Pumping my bicycle down that hill, hell-bent for speed. Traffic. Lots of traffic, rush hour traffic. A whole lane to myself. I was keeping up, moving pretty fast. Warp factor seven, Scotty. Suddenly there is a car coming across the lane to my left, pointed right at me. A big white whale of a car. I see a panicked woman’s face through the windshield, her mouth open, her eyes wide. The car is trying to cut across traffic into a driveway I don’t know is there, to my right. It is practically on top of me as I stare into the woman’s eyes, then, I’m here.
So I knew where I was – in the street. Somehow I’d survived. I opened my eyes to a typical Baltimore grey-blue sky. I knew who I was, forgot that I’d forgotten.
Voices. There were people talking somewhere. “Now, don’t you worry about it none. I saw the whole thing,” I heard a man say – I could hear an eager concern in his voice – “It wasn’t your fault. I’ll testify in court for you.” Now, why would someone say that? I wondered. Someone else – I remember a deep gravelly voice – asked, “What about him?”
Another voice: “Him? He’s dead,” with a definite certainty in the tone. Nice!
It was time to get up. My leg muscles were strong from bicycling every day. I usually spring to my feet, like a cat, I imagined. So, I popped up off the street suddenly, wondering why I was alone, why no one had come to help me. firemanrest.jpg Through the traffic I saw firemen sitting in lawn chairs in front of their station on the other side of the street. They weren’t looking my way. It was almost too much. No pain, but my left leg felt weak, wanting to give way, to not support my weight. I spun around on my right leg, and saw a car, the car, the white whale, an impressively long car, a Lincoln Continental Mark IV. lincoln_continental_mark_iv.jpg It was empty, door open. There was a crowd on the sidewalk, maybe ten feet from me. Men, black and white, in denim overalls, with grey lunch boxes, brown bags and silver thermos bottles were arranged in a ragged circle around a white woman with her head hanging down. She was heavy, not fat, but matronly, motherly looking, with blond hair. Her dress looked expensive. As I started moving, she looked up in my direction, staring at me, her mouth open again, or was it still? I limped towards her. She practically jumped off the sidewalk and headed for me.
“Hear, sit in my car,” she insisted, softly, and gave me her arm for support. I let myself fall into the car, sinking into the plush rear seat.
She left me there. I looked around. It was an expensive car. Besides the softness of the seat, the colors were unusual. 73markivpict5.jpg The interior and the seats were all the same light tan color. In 1973, it was the fanciest car I’d ever been in, except, perhaps, for the limousine I’d ridden in after my grandfather’s funeral mass. That had been some car. I remembered playing with the electric windows, thrilled to be in a black limousine, even one going to a cemetery. I was 12. I didn’t play with the windows this time. I was 22 years old. I knew the windows would be automatic. I knew the car was expensive, and I wondered if this woman would take me to the hospital. There was pain shooting up my leg from my foot now. The pain was increasing every moment. The woman’s face appeared at the door. “Are you all right?” she asked. There was a hint of worry, and fear, in her voice. “No,” I replied, “I’m not. My foot hurts. It hurts a lot. I don’t think I can walk on it.” She disappeared again. I laid back on the seat, trying to ease the pain. A fireman appeared. I told him about the pain. The swelling was very visible now. He told me I should go to a hospital, get it x-rayed. I said OK. He left for a couple of minutes, and came back with a piece of plastic. He put it on over my leg like a sleeve, and it filled with air, somehow. The pain seemed to lessen a bit. He asked me if I could walk. I said, “No, my foot hurts real bad.” He told me to lay back down. After a few minutes people grabbed me, helped me up and out of the belly of the beast, into an ambulance.
At the hospital, I lay on a gurney for quite some time. I thought accident victims would get immediate treatment, but I was wrong. First they ask questions: “Do you have insurance? Can you pay for this visit?” Then I get a clipboard with papers to sign. “Sign here, and here, and here.” Then nothing. The pain was intense, like the time I’d broken my arm. It worried me. No one seemed to care that I was in pain. Nearby, I heard children crying. I looked over. One of them had a head wound, another had a broken arm. They had to wait too. I did my best to be patient. When someone finally came to see me, I asked if I could get an x-ray. “Yes, as soon as it’s available.” The x-ray didn’t show a break. The doctor said the upper part of my foot was sprained. Nothing serious. I called my roommates to see if they could come get me. They were very nice. Don and Joan. I walked out of the hospital with an arm around each of their shoulders. I still couldn’t put any weight on the foot. I don’t know where they got the car, because none of us a had a car. Afterwards, the hospital sent me a bill, for x-rays and crutches. I couldn’t believe they billed me for crutches. No one had offered me crutches, or even mentioned ‘em.
I stopped by the Free Clinic where I volunteered and they found me a pair I could borrow. A lawyer called me. He called on behalf of the woman who had hit me. That was strange, as I’d given Mrs. Penn-Central-Fruit-Company my number, and had been expecting her to call. He acted like it might have been my fault, but that’s what lawyers do, I’ve since learned. lawyers.gif He asked me how I was, and what had happened. I explained the situation. He said he’d call me back. When he did, he asked me what I wanted. I told him I’d lost my Schwinn ten-speed – it had been dragged across the lane under the car; one pedal arm had been bent backwards into the spokes, and the 16 gauge steel tubing was impossibly bent in a couple of places. I needed one to get to school. I told him I had a bill from the hospital. He said that his client had already offered to pay that – just send it to her. I told him she shouldn’t pay for the crutches on the bill, as they hadn’t given me any. He said he’d see about getting me another bike. I got a check. It was enough to buy a new ten-speed. I picked out a tough, German-made one, as soon as I was able to ride again. All my friends told me I should have sued the woman, but I had a new bike, and no expenses as a result of the accident, so I never considered doing that.

However, a couple months later, someone stole it from my girlfriend’s backyard, even as I was planning a cross-country bicycle trip. A friend of a friend at the Free Clinic came by with his Gitane bicycle, said I could use it. I told him I didn’t know when I’d be back. He said not to worry about it. It was a really nice bike. I’d had enough of Baltimore, of mildewed row-houses and cockroaches, of bumper-to-bumper traffic and pollution alerts. School was not working out very well. I was studying calculus, organic chemistry and physics, writing for the school newspaper, marching in demonstrations, going to meetings, and volunteering one night a week at the Free Clinic. My grades were terrible. I helped organize a teach-in at my school around the continuing war. We called a student strike, but few people boycotted classes. I missed a key genetics lab. A teaching assistant told me, “You’d better decide what’s important.” I figured everything was important, that I could do everything. The school finally decided for me, dismissing me on probation for six months. That was when I’d decided it was time to go. I’d quit my job to go to school full time. My savings were almost gone; the scholarship and loan were over. My girlfriend told me I could stay with her until I found work, but the idea didn’t thrill me. I didn’t want charity, and I didn’t know what kind of job I could find or when.

I traded my waterbed for a sleeping bag. Bought 5 pounds each of brown rice, soybeans, and granola. Threw in some alfalfa seeds for spouting too – needed greens. Took two pair of jeans, two long-sleeved shirts, some t-shirts, and some basic tools. I asked my mom to repay a loan I’d given her. She came by my girlfriend’s house and gave me part of it. I had about $80 altogether now. I headed west with my Gitane. gitane.jpg A French racing bike. Gitane is French for gypsy. Bike (bique) means penis in French, I’d been told, so I wondered what I could do with my gypsy penis. I didn’t have much else.

Posted in Bicycling, Life, My Life, rambling, Travel, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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