Part II of the multi-part post from Summer 2007.

Part II

On Thursday the 23rd I showed up at the East Austin clinic, to attend a mindfulness class given by my case worker. This was actually extremely helpful, and taught me some relaxation and breathing techniques.

I’d had bus trouble and was afraid I’d be late. As it was I was early, and got to spend some quality time in the lobby, where I saw, among other things, a woman with no arms. Her hands hung from her shoulders like epaulets, and flopped like rubber kitchen gloves.

I ate lunch downtown at Las Manitas; that’ll probably be the last time I’ll get over there before they move. Afterwards I explored the new “Second Street District,” which is quite chic.

I then was seized with the powerful need to take a dump, but couldn’t think of any buildings in that part of downtown that had bathrooms that were either clean or open to the non-paying public. Finally, I went to the new City Hall, and went through the laborious process of emptying all the crap from my pockets and putting that and my backpack through a metal detector, but was rewarded by a delightful, knee-weakening bowel movement, expressed in tax-payer-funded luxury.

I was feeling ambitious, and eager to help myself some more. And anyway, what else did I have to do with the rest of my day off–go home and cry? So I hopped a bus south to go to the South Austin clinic for another group session.

I showed up at least an hour early for the group meeting. It was listed under the generic label of “Support Group.” I wanted to sit down and read, but the main room was filled with a really desperate group of homeless men watching a supervised movie.

I was finally directed to a room full of couches, where I was told my meeting would later be held. A group of men were loudly discussing the particulars of their treatment. I found the cleanest section of a dirty couch, and sat down. The upholstery felt greasy to the touch.

I opened up “Hadrian VII,” my latest volume of bus/commuting reading, a 1904 novel about a bitter, anti-social, unsuccessful writer who, by virtue of some strange twists, gets elected Pope. I remember I bought the book years ago after reading its last lines: “Please pray for the repose of His soul. He was so tired.”

Eventually most of these Jaspers cleared out and I was left alone with a talkative giant with jack-o-lantern teeth, a Benjy Compson to my Jason Compson. He was holding forth on movies, saying that “‘Fantastic Voyage’ was a masterpiece of movie-making.” “Dear God,” I thought, “this is just like talking to James!”

The group started 30 minutes late and ran for 90 wretched minutes. I had considered walking out before it began. The group leader was a current or possibly former patient. And the meeting turned out to be for Bi-Polar sufferers. But they didn’t have a sign-up sheet, and I later learned this group wasn’t even part of the program I’m signed up for.

This group turned out to be the most useless I have attended. They even spent about 10 to 15 minutes exchanging lame jokes. I didn’t talk much. The meeting was dominated by one woman who, whenever someone would try to talk or bring up another topic, would invariably interrupt and talk about herself. She had a really downer personality. I couldn’t help but wonder if I seem like that to other people.

After this fiasco I walked over to San Jose Church down the street, and explored the buildings and grounds.

Friday the 24th was a typically stressful day at work.

For several years now I’ve been seeing things out of the corners of my eyes, often at night. These seem to be figures darting around. I think they’re just optical illusions. James says these are a supernatural manifestation called “shadow people,” and in fact, once commissioned me to research and write an article on the subject.

Since I’ve been seeing these things a lot lately, I mentioned this to one of my co-workers (the unstable one), and she said very matter-of-factly, “Oh, that’s just the Devil you saw.” “The Devil?” “Oh, but that’s a good thing!” “Why is seeing the Devil a good thing?” “Because that means you’ve caught him—he can’t do anything to you.”

On the morning of the 25th I rose from the breakfast table and was seized with an incredible pain in my back, as if I’d been kicked there violently. It hurt so badly I let out an awful scream. I moved stiffly and with great difficulty all that day at work, yet my fucking manager saw fit to make a sarcastic joke about it at the end of the day, implying that I was faking it. That night I took a Vicodin for the pain.

I spent most of the 26th in bed in pain. My in-box was full of awful news. A woman who knows me from the on-line Basset Hound newsletter I subscribe and contribute to has a dog in the final stages of life. Her descriptions of her dog’s condition sounds all too much like those of Fred at the end. And to top it all off this woman just learned she herself has cancer. Then another woman connected with this newsletter went to the doctor feeling poorly and they found two cancerous masses in her brain. They didn’t even let her go home to pack a bag–they rushed her into the hospital that quickly.

Then another friend wrote telling of how her friend had lost her two-year-old son–he’d been run over by accident by his great–uncle. I was saddened to hear this, but lost it when I saw the pictures of what a cute kid he had been.

All this news really wore me down and I started getting crying jags. Bad news and grief and illness make me think of Fred, and so I began bawling all the more. And then I started shaking and feeling very weak and anxious and on edge. By evening I was overcome with panic attacks and physical and mental exhaustion, and unable to face another day of drudgery and being on my feet, so I took another Vicodin and called in sick before I even retired for the night.

Monday the 27th was my 3rd or 4th time to call in sick that month. I called a clinic and arranged for one-on-one sessions with a therapist, to be conducted every Thursday afternoon for the foreseeable future. My case worker had given me brochures on two clinics. One was closer to my house, but allowed a maximum of only 30 visits. The other clinic, the one I decided to go with, has no limit to its visits. I suspect it may take more than 30 visits to get me on the straight and narrow.

That day I received an e-mail from another woman who knows me from the Basset Hound newsletter. She wrote asking if I would be interested in taking a Basset she’s been fostering. The Basset has had some trouble socializing with other dogs and sometimes growls at people, but is over-all very sweet, and despite having apparently come from an abusive home, is desperate to love and be loved. She said the head of the local Basset rescue group thinks this dog would otherwise be unadoptable and should probably be euthanized, but my friend wanted to see if I’ll take her first.

I’m still weighing the case. A few people have advised me that I have too much going on with my own psychological problems to take on a dog at this time, and part of me agrees with that, but I also think a dog would be a good thing for me. Plus I’d hate to have this dog’s blood on my hands.

I should mention that because of my current financial situation there would be no adoption fee for the dog and the rescue group and my friend would pay for the dog’s food and vet bills until I get on my feet again.

This story is still developing….

On the 28th I had a simple errand to run: sort through some IRS papers, go to the bank, make a deposit, make a withdrawal, walk across the parking lot, get a money order at the grocery store, then go next door to a mailing place and mail my payment to the IRS. But this process stressed me out unbelievably, as I tried to sort out what document went where and how much money was to go this place or that. And during the process I saw a cricket in the middle of the grocery store, took pity on him, wrapped him in my hanky, put him in my pocket, and after finishing all these IRS tasks, let him lose in a patch of grass. My exertions were such I went home and slept the rest of the day

On Wednesday the 29th my manager gave me a quick employee evaluation of sorts. Basically I outlined my current duties and he mentioned a few things he wants to teach me before the next evaluation in December. I didn’t bother to mention that I don’t plan to stay that long (God, I hope my treatment schedule doesn’t force me to stick with this fucking job just because other jobs might not accommodate all the time off I need).

But as the evaluation was wrapping up the manager brought up the subject of my calling in sick so much:

–You’ve missed three Mondays in August and I think at least one other day as well; I don’t have to explain what that seems to indicate.

–Yes, actually you do, because I’m not following you.

–Well, generally when an employee calls in sick on Mondays after the weekend on a regular basis it’s a sign of drug or alcohol abuse.

–(Snorting with amusement and contempt) Well, that’s clearly not the problem, but I did tell you I’m getting treatment for Bi-Polar, Level II, didn’t I?

–Yes, but if you call in sick again you’ll need to bring me a note from a doctor.

–Well, normally when I have these problems that cause me to miss work I don’t go to a doctor for them.


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