Friday, January 27, 2012

Cancer Sucks

Rainy, dreary, foggy, unclear. It’s been like this for a bit... I haven’t been updating this site because my dad is sick right now and in the hospital. The family and I have been huddling around dad’s bed smiling so he can’t see the many tears held back for him. While we know the diagnosis and grim news, dad smiles, with hope, because some of the ‘truth’ has been hidden. But, I do believe in miracles and praying for one right now. I haven’t been able to write or think for the most part. My mind’s been so occupied. I guess if it was sunny outside, it would seem as though the weather was mocking us in some twisted way.

If you could say a prayer for my dad and ask for a miracle somehow, we’d appreciate it. I miss that crazy Italian telling us awful politically incorrect jokes and stories. It’s strange, after a year of being ‘out of it’ and not himself, while at the hospital this past week, his positive spirit came back somehow. I can’t explain it. We all said, “He’s back!” But while the doctor gave him a “sentence” for his life, it makes it that much harder to laugh with him, even though we’re trying.

I’ve posted this once before, but today, I just need to repost it to watch it again to remember how funny dad is. It was taken with my phone cam, so I'm sorry for the fuzziness. I don’t want my mom to lose her best friend. I don’t want dad to suffer anymore, but selfishly, I want him here for another thirty years...happily. In the footage below, he was 100 lbs more than he is now.

If you can't see the video above, click here.

I'll be back soon, when my head is back together...

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Friday, January 20, 2012

False Allergic Reactions: Getting My Life Back

All throughout my life I’ve always enjoyed seafood, especially shellfish. As I’ve written before on this blog, my father owned a fish market at the South Street Seaport in NYC and brought home every type of fish you could imagine. Wednesday was our seafood night. We had everything from calamari, clams and spaghetti, shrimp, lobster, crab legs - you name it, we had it. Every Christmas we heed to the old Italian tradition of The Feast of the Seven Fishes. We still do it, however I tend to steer clear from it these days. About ten years ago, my sister started developing severe allergic reactions to seafood - mostly shellfish. Symptoms varied from rashes to face swelling, which is an indicator of a possible anaphylactic shock, which could be deadly. Soon after, I began to notice every time I ate shrimp, lobster or crab, I would get hives inside my mouth -- nowhere else. I quit shellfish immediately, but was able to still eat clams and mussels. No one could figure it out. Some would assume it was the iodine in certain types of fish that I was allergic too, while others told me to just stay away from it. There on after, each Christmas eve, I would say “no thank you” to the lobster, or the shrimp cocktail that was calling my name. Instead, I ate the other stuff, chips, pigs in a blanket, cheese or whatever pasta dish they were serving. While having dinner with friends on the night Mad & I got married in Provincetown, I was eating oysters on the half shell. In the picture over on the left, you can see my lips blowing up like balloons while I tried so hard to drink my martini (which burned them even more). Days later, I realized that I had exfoliated my face and lips, exposing them to 'raw skin' basically, which made them even burn more because of the salt brine. My friend that's sitting next to me in the picture above was concerned. Her face is priceless in this photo. She kept saying, "Do you think you should finish that appetizer, Deb?"

During the time of my new findings of my “allergic reactions”, I was at work one day when the cleaning lady asked me to dial 911. She got stung by a bee while she was outside having a cigarette. She said she stuck herself with an EpiPen that was in the first aid kit and needed an ambulance. I quickly got an ambulance for her and while waiting, I started to see her face turn purple and her breathing getting worse and worse, like someone with bad asthma. Ever since that day, I feared bees so much that at times if I see a bee hanging around the patio area - that was it - hell if I was gonna sit out there and risk my life. After seeing what I did, I wanted no part of bees. If they can kill with one sting, then that was enough reason for me to fear them with everything I had. It made my life miserable for years, watching everyone enjoy the outdoors while I stayed inside wishing I was out there. I remember watching my sisters and friends outside by the pool while I sat inside in the air conditioning wishing I was with them instead. It was pure torture. I stopped going to parks, fairs, wineries and any event that was held outdoors. There was one day when my company made me run a booth at one of our local town fairs. I had to stand there all day in the heat giving away prizes and setting people up with new products. There was a trash can nearby that drew all the yellow jackets swarming near me. I told my boss my stomach was torn up and went home.

It didn’t stop there. It trickled into every aspect of my life from fruits, nuts, and animals. I feared them all. I would only eat vegetables, fresh fish (like sushi, salmon, tilapia, etc.--not shellfish) and meat. I would take supplements to make up for the lack of vitamins and chose the wrong foods, which led me to gain weight. My life became a theme of limitations and fear. I couldn’t go through this anymore. I hated reading ingredients in the back of stuff that said, “may contain tree nuts”. Instantly, I would put the product back on the shelf. When I went to parties, I’d eat beforehand so I wouldn’t have some weird reaction at their house and embarrass myself. I wouldn’t go into people’s homes who had pets because of my asthma-like symptoms that I developed. Last summer, we had a huge bee problem and I couldn’t enjoy our beautiful property or deck. I was a prisoner of my own mind. I was depressed and mostly angry at myself over the possibility that it was all in my head. Why did I do this to myself? Why can’t I live my life without fear and enjoy the things everybody else was?

I finally broke down.

One morning, (and this is kinda funny) I got so angry that I could not enjoy this delicious almond milk that Madelene puts in her coffee. (Doesn't that look good on the left?) It smelled so good, and I’m not one to put anything in my coffee. I have it black with no sugar. But this smell - this delicious (almost hazelnut scent) kept wafting through the air. It was driving me nuts. I went on the computer and looked up everything regarding allergies and how to know if you’re sure you’re allergic to something. I called an allergist nearby and he said to come in and he would give me a blood test and skin graphing for every. single. thing. that I “feared”. I was so scared to do this with the ‘possible’ chance of a severe reaction - but I was too pissed off from limiting myself from everything I love. I went in. I got the blood test and had to wait for one week to get the results and then do the skin graphing. As the nurse pricked and prodded my skin for fruits, nuts, shellfish, mold, pollen, dog and cat hair, I wondered if I would be needing my EpiPen soon. I waited for the results and noticed my upper arm was swollen like a bitch. It was welted up. But which allergen was it?

The results: I’m only allergic to dogs, strawberries and dust mites. Nothing else. All five breeds of bees in my backyard were “safe” for me, if I ever did get stung. All shellfish, lobster, shrimp, crab, etc., were fine for me to eat. Not a single reaction to it. I can also eat every type of fruit or nut available, even strawberries but in moderation. I may get a slight rash but that’s it. I asked the doctor why I was getting hives inside my mouth every time I ate bananas, mangos and avocados. He said that when people have anxiety, our bodies can mimic a reaction I also asked him why Madelene and I got a severe allergic reaction (face, mouth, tongue swelling) after eating a batch of sushi. He said that it must have been some type of dressing or sauce that they had put on something. He calmed all my fears from the past ten years in ONE week. As he went down the list of things I can eat or be around, I felt like I was getting my life back. The only unfortunate thing is that I am severely allergic to dogs, which was the one test that had given me welts all over my arm. At the time of the dog testing, he didn’t tell me what it was. I said to him, “I feel funny and it feels like I have hair in my throat” - which happens when I’m at someone’s home where they have dogs, but thought he was testing me for pollen. He checked my arm and said, “Wow, you are severely allergic to dogs.” And to think, Madelene and I were going to get a dog this week, which is kind of sad, however the benefits weigh out the negative. So if you're like me and avoiding certain things that you "think" you may be allergic to ----please go to an allergist and get it tested so you can know for sure. It doesn't hurt at all and when something does react, it's very minimal, perhaps the size of a quarter at the largest. They either mark up both your arms and test for each allergen or they do it on your back. Everything is completely sanitary. I literally missed a lot of my life because of all my fears. I have my life back. Tonight I am celebrating by eating things I couldn’t in the past years....of course not all in one sitting. (I hope!)

"Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed."
-Michael Pritchard

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anxiety & Depression: Why Are They Related?

Yesterday I received a comment on an older post of mine entitled, “Trying to Eliminate Anxiety & Stress”. It read, “I'm a mum of two, under two & I have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and postnatal mood disorder. I'm so freekin frustrated by my stupid symptoms that come on completely out of the blue and leave me completely exhausted and unable to keep up with my kid. I'm only 26 so I feel like I should be able to keep up, but these disorders have claimed my sanity!! It took 5 months for a diagnosis after I eventually asked if it could be anxiety they I am now convinced drs know very little!! Anyway sorry for the rant but I'm glad a came along your blog and now don't feel as alone.” I can totally feel her frustration about the lack of understanding from doctors and psychologists. It took me over twenty years to find the right psychologist to start making me feel better, but through coping skills. Doctors aren’t magicians. They’re supposed to teach you how to cope and handle your anxiety and stress through management skills. Some give suggestions (like mine) and others leave that up to you to decide, which kind of frustrates me. It’s so important to find the right doctor and one that you genuinely like as a person and trust their advice. If not, you’re going to be in this anxiety limbo for a long time.

Most doctors diagnose people with “generalized anxiety disorder” - a blanket diagnosis for “you’re stressed out”. Who isn’t? And especially with this commenter, has two kids under the age of two...? I’d be stressed too. So I’m going to address this post to the commenter that went under, “Caketopper”... Give yourself some credit. There aren’t many people who can carry the load of having kids, no less raising them. Being the mom is the hardest job in the world. I’ve seen my mom raise four children and my friends having litters of kids. They’re the strongest people I know. Your symptoms appear to “come out of the blue” because it’s underlining all the frustrations you have. What I have been taught to do is to acknowledge your anxiety - do not ignore it and try to ‘make it go away’. Tell yourself that this is just anxiety, it can’t kill me and it’s going to pass in a few minutes. I was told anxiety is like the riptide. If you fight it, you’ll get sucked in more. Have you heard the saying, “Whatever you resist, persists?” Same concept. The best technique that I was taught was very effective. While having the attack, sit down in a quiet place, or even if you’re at work. Just take a few seconds out to do this. Make two fists and squeeze them tightly, as tightly as you can (until it actually hurts) for about 30 seconds. Take a deep breath, hold it in for 5 seconds....and let it out slowly while opening your fists slowly. Do this about 4 times. You’ll feel like there’s a warming sensation coming over you. Not only is this technique letting you breathe properly, but it’s mimicking your tensed physical state as well as your “ahhh relaxed” state. (My descriptions are one of a kind, eh?)

Another thing I used to be confused over was when the doctors would tell me that I had anxiety and depression. I said, “I’m not depressed - I’m a walking nerve!” I didn’t realize that after the heightened state of anxiety my body went through, it had to shut down for a bit. For each person it can be different. For me, the entire next day I would be shot. It felt like a tractor trailer ran over me. I was absolutely useless and exasperated. I would always say that I was coming down with a cold or something. It was the “depression” phase. Depression isn’t always sadness and tears; it’s the state of which the body tends to shut down for a little while to rest from all the chaos your mind put it through. So, that’s why doctors correlate anxiety with depression. They go hand in hand, which is another reason many doctors prescribe antidepressants for people with generalized anxiety disorder. I’m absolutely against any form of antidepressants because I don’t feel comfortable with anything altering the chemicals in my brain, except maybe a bit of wine (not professional advice), but antidepressants has much more negative side effects than it does positive. I am only saying this because I had a very bad experience while on an antidepressant which left me convulsing and in the emergency room. Just take a look at the list of possible side effects. It may be a (CYA) type of thing, but through experience, I’d rather be strapped up in a straight jacket than taking those evil pills. Ativan (Lorazepam) was the only thing that ever helped me and has minimal to no side effects. Please do not take this as professional advice. I am not a doctor.
Another huge source of relief was delving into my relationship with God - praying and meditating more. I’m not sure what religion you are, but if you have faith in a particular religion or you’re just “spiritual” - I would definitely tap into it much more when you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety. By practicing it every single day, the symptoms lessen for me. Each person is different though. I find that cooking helps me to relieve stress. When I cook something complicated where you have to spend a couple of hours preparing, I find that I’m in a ‘zone’. I always knew whenever my mom was stressed out. She would cook a dinner for an army and I’d walk into her kitchen and say, “Wow, what happened?” Many people cook when they’re stressed and now, I can see why. You may not have heaps of time to delve into your favorite hobbies, but whatever it is you enjoy doing - make some time for it. Try to rustle up your routine and make it different. I just recently started exercising at 6am and found that it gave me incredible “positive” energy throughout the day. When we’re agitated and have so much angst, especially in the morning, it pretty much dictates the rest of the day and evening. (At least that’s what I found.) I hope this helps. Again, this is just what works for me and I sincerely hope you find the right doctor like I did to help me with coping skills, instead of just tossing me a script and saying, “See ya next month.” I wanted to take the time out to respond to your comment in a separate post. Anxiety, if not taken care of, can absolutely ruin your life. It can escalate into other types of anxiety, like agoraphobia, and fear of a variety of things that will eventually develop. I know because I had them all. I’m still working on a few ‘phobias’ of mine due to my anxiety disorder. Good luck and please let me know how you're doing. Keep in mind, anxiety and panic attacks are not a sign of weakness. They are signs of having tried to remain strong for way too long.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Regrets

The other morning I was fumbling around on my iPad scrolling through my Twitter timeline and saw an interesting quote from an “author unknown”. It read, “If you carry bricks from your past relationships to the new one, you will build the same house.” I can’t tell you how many times I have done this in the past and should have looked back (hindsight 20/20 type of deal) and said, “Not again!” Instead, I ran around the same mountain over and over and over again. It’s like the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I do believe Einstein quoted that, but someone challenged me on that insisting that it was Benjamin Franklin. Anyway, all of these quotes and sayings are very inspiring and rings true on many levels, but how many people will listen and actually put them into reality? Sometimes I read a quote and nod in agreement while being in an opposite scenario. I’m human, but I’m a human who makes mistakes and ‘tries’ to learn from them. Most of the time, the one common denominator that everyone carries along with them to some degree is the feeling of guilt. They either have regrets or they feel guilty for what they did in the past. As my wife put it so brilliantly: “Take guilt, put it in a bag and shoot it.”

For me, guilt separates me from God. It makes me feel “too guilty” to pray or to delve into my spirituality. “I have no right,” I tell myself, as though God’s furious with me. But when you really think about it -- God knows that we’re all human and we’re bound to make mistakes. The guilt is something the devil wedges in between you and God. Guilt, fear, anxiety and depression are all emotions that separate us from our spirituality (God). It distracts us and makes us feel unworthy of God’s presence, but that’s the time when you want to be closest with God and admit to your shortcomings. I had a hard time trying to grasp this idea, but once I finally stepped out of the box and looked in - I can understand and accept that God loves me the way I am: messy, sinful, irritable, etc., etc., etc.... God loves his messy creations and doesn’t expect you to be perfect. Don’t get me wrong - having a decent conscience is a gift of God, because as we all know, there are many sociopaths running rampant and those who just don’t care about other people’s feelings. I’m talking about past wrongs you have done that are still haunting you today as well as mistakes made today. Guilt is like a cruel punishment we give to ourselves.

Have you ever had anyone ask you what your regrets were in life? I’m sure many people would have a list of things they would say, but realistically, wouldn’t all of those “regrets” build the type of person (or character) of who we are today? If we didn’t have “regrets”, we probably would have still been tossing around the same mistakes. We really shouldn’t have any regrets, because the mistakes of yesterday have made us into better people today. --“I wish I never met him/her”, “I wish I never told her that”, “I wish I could have been there more when my child was younger” “I wish I was a better parent back then” - I wish I wish I wish. Stop. Make it count now. There’s an old Japanese saying, “Failure teaches success” -- so if you think you failed at being a good parent, a good friend a good wife or husband, or even a good person in general -- whatever the guilt trip is coming from, just remember that success comes when we make enough mistakes. Now get outa' here & stop making feel guilty for writing such a mushy piece.

“I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work” ~Thomas Alva Edison

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Amanda Cummings: No Proof of Being Bullied

If you can't view the video, click here.

Back in 2007, I had made a Youtube video called, “Suicide Prevention”. Although the video is more on the darker side, it does send a positive message. It got almost 100,000 hits, full of comments from kids all over the world trying to talk other kids out of suicide. Definitely read the comments on the Youtube page itself. It's disheartening. The video lets you travel into the mind of a deeply depressed person, so you’re going to see some disturbing images. Between the images and the lyrics to the song, you can actually feel the sadness that some kids go through and what some adults go well as what I went through. When a person with depression goes into (what I choose to call it), their dark side - they drift into this deep hole of insecurities, self-loathing as well as resentment for everyone around them, including the one who broke their heart. As adults, we never think seriously enough when a teen (whether our own kid, relative or just in general) gets their heart broken. We think it’s just puppy love. Think back when you were around Amanda’s age. I will never forget the time my boyfriend was on his way over my house so that he could break up with me. I was 16 years old. I remember every single detail. I went into the kitchen to grab some water and while holding the glass, my hand was shaking so much because I knew what was going to happen. And when it did? ....... I. was. a. complete. wreck. I not only got emotionally sick, I got physically sick. My friend was so concerned about me that she brought along 15 other classmates/friends to console me for the rest of the day. I wanted to commit suicide. I didn’t want to live without him. My life wasn’t worth living. I’m worthless. I’m not good enough, and so on and so on... I’m freakin’ 16 for the love of God! If I could just slap that person who was once me in the face to snap out of it ---I would.

These days, you hear more and more about bullying. Kids are cruel as they always were, but with technology, their cruelty has a tool to enhance it to a whole new level. On the news this morning, they were saying that there was no proof of Amanda Cummings’ attacks; no proof of being bullied. It doesn’t make it any better, but it does bring some sort of awareness of what teens go through, which adults may not see, or may not want to see. Reports say that Amanda’s uncle made reports of Amanda being bullied, which seems to be the theme of many teen suicides these days, but now it’s come out of the woodwork that there is no proof of her bullying, and more proof of her deep seated depression. She was hospitalized for cutting, which is a common thing among kids who don’t want to feel the emotional pain, but choose a physical pain and cut their arms, shoulders or chest with a sharp object. I personally never understood this method of coping...or is it coping? Amanda's suicide note had no complaints about being bullied or harassed, but instead, had statements such as, “I’m sorry I got between you and Becca’s friendship” - to a boy she was interested in. “I don’t deserve to live,” was on the last page of her suicide note. They said she went through horrific episodes of depression with each heartbreak. She just didn’t handle them well. (But really, who does?) I just wish her family or friends would have said something if she made claims that she no longer wanted to live. If a kid has already been hospitalized for this already, why not keep tabs on her well-being? Or maybe they have. Some people as much as they love their child, sister and friend -- they just can’t do anything to save them. At that point, it’s all about prayer and faith.

As I remember so clearly as a teen wanting to take my own life, I made suicidal threats so that someone could help me or save me. It was a cry for help. I wanted to be heard and most of all, saved from my own mind. I even went to extremes, raiding my parents’ liquor cabinet drinking as much scotch iced-teas (oof) as I could just to poison myself. Thank God I made it out alive after waking up getting sick and having someone throw water on my face. I remember. I can tell you every. single. detail, because for me, as a teen, and what I was going through - it did matter. It wasn’t “puppy love” - it was my entire well being at stake just because my heart was broken.

If you know someone who is thinking about suicide or if YOU are thinking about suicide, you can call 1-800-273-8255. It’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They’re there to help you try to sort things out. It can be done anonymously and of course, it’s free.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Anxiety, Hypochondria & Apiphobia, Oh My!

It’s amazing how people don’t take you seriously once they know that you have anxiety disorder of some sort, especially doctors. It then becomes a matter of ‘maybe it’s just in her head’ type of thing and while that very well may be the case, they dismiss a lot of things that shouldn’t be overlooked. Yesterday I had an appointment with the allergist. The past couple of years I have been experiencing many reactions from certain foods and products. I experience “physical” side effects, such as bleeding blisters inside my mouth if I eat shrimp, bananas, mangos, berries, apples and sometimes avocados. Sometimes I’m able to eat them, and other times I develop these awful reactions. In recent days, I developed lip and mouth swelling from eating fresh water fish. Nuts and seeds gives me an asthma-like symptom. So all of these foods, which are healthy are out of my diet, leaving me to eat other things that may be not so good for my waistline. I used to love eating cereal with berries or a banana and a nice piece salmon filet or tilapia with white wine sauce, but now, it’s either steak, burgers or if I need to go healthy, a salad. Even then, I have to be careful with tomatoes because they sometimes burn my mouth. A friend said to me the other day, “Well, as we get older, sometimes we can’t tolerate the foods we once used to eat.” My question is: do I have to eat the “bad” food in order to avoid the good ones? It doesn’t seem fair. Our Friday night sushi outing has been turned into Chinese takeout at home. I’m literally afraid to eat at new restaurants. So from fresh fish to greasy Chinese food - my scale hasn’t been the best of friends with me. And on top of that, I can't even enjoy the outdoors without having an over-the-top freak out session when a bee comes into my comfort zone. It doesn't even have to be on me or around me - I just run. It's not a normal or healthy reaction. I am deathly afraid of bees. The thought of a bee possibly killing you with one sting is enough for me to run like a bat outa' hell when I see one.

After much research online, I finally gave up and made an appointment with the allergist. As soon as he heard that I had anxiety disorder, he gave me one of those looks like, “Oh no, not one of these types of patients”, and proceeded to enter into his computer all of my symptoms. The nurse came in and performed a breathing test where I had to take a huge gigantic breath, and with all my power, blow it into the machine as hard as I can until I literally see stars, and then suck it right back up as hard as I can. Let me tell ya - if you ever run out of alcohol, it’s the best alternative. Then she shoved an inhaler full of Albuterol. She took ten tubes of blood from me, which included tests for allergens such as: peanuts, latex/shellfish, different types of fruit and bee venom. Usually they give all the allergy skin graphs to see what pops up on your arm, but they only gave me a few. The doctor told me that I was a ‘high risk patient’ and he didn’t want to see a major emergency in his office, so he wanted to look at the blood first and then proceed with the skin graphs next week. He’s literally going to puncture me with five different species of bee venom. “You’re in a controlled environment, don’t worry. I'm even going to make you eat a shrimp dinner in front of me. You’ll be walking out of here just fine. However, in rare cases we do have medical equipment and staff to help out with any emergencies. ...But it’s rare, trust me.” “Trust me” sounded like, “We’re preparing for your funeral.”

Here’s the most embarrassing part of my visit: Madelene was sneezing and hacking up a lung while she was with me. The doctor was more concerned about her deviated septum than my anxiety over allergies. Each sneeze, the doctor would stop what he was doing with me and ask her a series of questions regarding her usage of nasal sprays and whatnot. I should have left her in the waiting room, but but but, because of my heightened anxiety, I made her tag along with me like a big mother hen just in case I started having some over-the-top reaction from something. (As if she would be able to help.) Then as Madelene went on her tenth sneeze in a row, I heard a ton of laughter over near the receptionist area by the entire staff. One of the nurses swung by the office door and said, “Are you sure you shouldn’t be the patient?” So, needless to say, Mad took my air time and spotlight.

Then the doctor turned to her and asked, “Does your Deb snore at night?” And before she could answer, he interrupts with, “Tell me the truth, she can’t attack you in here.” She looks at me, then looks at him and says, “Well, a very very light purr.” He stared at her for a moment. “A purr, eh?” Then he asked, “Does she stop breathing at night.” Once again, she looks at me and then looks at him. “Well, she wakes up with anxiety attacks.” Then he looks at me and asked, “What happens when you wake up?” So I told him, “I gasp for air.” --- “Ah ha!” he said, as though that was the exact answer he was looking for. So his bet is that I’m not allergic to one goddamn thing, but I did come there for a very important reason: sleep apnea. My sex life is over if I have to start wearing one of those CPAP masks. After the testing proves I’m negative for all, he wants to give me a sleeping test. If the tests to prove negative for all, I can then finally live my life without fear. I can finally go outside and not fear bees. I can finally eat healthy foods again and possibly shed a few pounds. It’s been a rough couple of years with all of these stupid ‘thought-to-be’ allergies (or perhaps real ones), so I’m anticipating negative results with a life well lived.

Then I get this message from Facebook. It’s an application called, “Messages From God”. Sometimes they’re really inspiring, and other times, it’s like some bizarre fortune cookie. This morning it says, “We believe God wants you to know that your body speaks the truth. When in doubt, ignore the thoughts in your mind and pay attention to your body - it doesn’t lie.” ---But does it lie when you have anxiety disorder and hypochondria?

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Monday, January 09, 2012


Maybe it’s because the holidays are over, or maybe it’s because it’s getting bitterly cold out there (as January should be), or maybe people are suffocating from the lack of sun and not getting a sufficient amount vitamin D. Whatever the reason is, I’m noticing a lot of cranky little critters running amuck. I had to take a ride to the grocery store the other day to pick up a few things and the place was just swarming with people. I had to go into the aisle where they had the Progresso soups and wait on a line to just see what was available. There was an employee stocking more onto the shelves while some customers were grabbing what they wanted. One lady grabbed a can of soup, looked at it and then put it back down on a lower shelf. The employee looked at her with such intense rage and screamed, “What the hell are you doing lady? Can’t you see I’m stocking these and you’re placing them in the wrong sections!!!?? Now put that back in its right place! I’m sick and tired of customers not giving a shit!!!” His face went bright red and well, so did hers. He looked like he was actually going to hit her. She was so shocked by his anger that she stared straight at him the whole time she was slowly placing the can of soup in its proper home. She looked scared for her life. Usually I say something to people who are absolutely rude to others, but this guy looked dangerous. He was an employee though! Because I was so upset seeing this woman traumatized by his inexcusable behavior, I got a manager and told him the entire story. I was never one to tattletale, but this was just downright psychotic. He should have been walked out in a straight jacket.

Then I thought about it a bit more while checking out my groceries. It seemed as though all the cashiers and baggers were mentally challenged. The cashier took my credit card and started jumping up and down pointing at my card and then screaming, “Pasquella! Pasquella! Pasquella!” When I looked up and smiled to see why he was doing that, he quickly got distracted and pointed outside and started yelling to his coworker who was bagging my groceries. “Look! Look! The sun is coming out Joe! Look! Look!” Now you may disagree with me or not, but I’m not so sure hiring mentally challenged citizens is a good idea for a major food chain. While I think it’s terrific that they’re out there working (sometimes harder than most people who aren’t mentally challenged), I also think it poses a great non-threatening OR threatening awkwardness or moment that can result in a very ugly scene. For example, the guy in my first paragraph that went absolutely nutty on the woman who put the can of soup it the wrong place - I had no idea he was mentally challenged. He was a nice looking guy in his mid-twenties dressed in khakis and a nice dress shirt with a smock. He didn’t appear to be mentally challenged, but as it turns out, he was. There are no social cues. There are no lines that they can see that shouldn’t be crossed. I used to think it was wonderful for stores to hire them, because it gave them a sense of worth and that people need them. They interact socially and perhaps, gain a better understanding of society. But when does it come to the point where we’re risking other people’s comfort zones and overall safety? Am I way out of line with this?

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

RIP Amanda Cummings, Age 15

The one thing that would throw me off the edge and possibly have my face on the front page of the news for murder is if my kid committed suicide over a bunch of reckless idiots bullying my child. Some would say that it would have been my kid’s choice. But what if the torment was so great that every single day of her existence was lived out of fear and the thought of a million malicious and vile words being thrown at her, where she had to just end it all to stop it? This beautiful girl, Amanda Cummings from Staten Island did just that. She was only 15 years old. She literally threw herself in front of a bus two days after Christmas. The awful part is - she was injured at first, but then died this past Monday. She suffered. I can’t even wrap my mind around the agony she went through with the verbal abuse, and then to had suffered so much physically. I can’t wrap my mind around the agony that her family is going through. Her mother wrote on her Facebook wall, “This is to all you evil son of a b*****s that picked on, talked about and threatened my baby, I HOPE YOU DIE and I HOPE YOU SUFFER!” Her sister then wrote, “AS A SISTER, A MOTHER, AND A HUMAN BEING WITH A BEATING HEART THAT IS BROKEN, I AM BEGGING YOU KIDS, ANYONE WITH ANY CONCRETE PROOF OF BULLYING TOWARD MY SISTER, PLEASE LET ME KNOW, PLEASE. I NEED WITNESSES WILLING TO STEP FORWARD TO MAKE LEGAL STATEMENTS. NOT JUST KIDS COMING OUT OF THE WOODWORK THAT WANT TO GOSSIP. THANK YOU!”

Amanda was dating a boy that her classmates were all jealous of. So they started bullying her relentlessly via Facebook and texting. This is what scares me about having kids of my own: technology. You hardly heard of this type of thing happening before the days of the internet and smart phones. I have nieces and nephews who are also getting into the gadget world and part of me just cringes to know that yes, a ten year old now has a Facebook account and a smart phone where she can send and receive texts to all of her friends. But what if it turns out to be a bullying type of situation? It’s a double edged sword though. You want your child to learn and adapt to our technological world, but in the same breath, is it worth it? See, kids these days are a bunch of cowards. Instead of going face-to-face and bullying them, they're sending anonymous texts and Facebook messages threatening and harassing them until they can't take it any longer. They don’t need to be brave any longer and say what’s on their mind out on the playground. They can simply go onto Facebook on their smart phones and send messages that may send the victim into a suicidal state of mind. My heart goes out to Amanda’s family. This is such a tragic thing that we should have all learned from. This is happening way too much and I’m afraid it’s going to touch close to home one day. Parents, please safeguard your children. Let them learn technology without Facebook accounts - without smart phones. I blame it on the anonymity that technology has to offer. I also blame Facebook for allowing kids under the age of 18 years old to create an account. Each person who has an account should enter a credit card number.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Hypochondriacal Madness

The hypochondriac was a regular in the emergency room -- so much so that when he didn't show up for a week, the staff took notice of his absence. He finally did show up again, and one doctor said, "Long time, no see. Where have you been?" "Sorry I couldn't make it in," the hypochondriac said. "I was feeling sick."
There are some people in my life who think all my medical issues, ailments and whatnot are ‘all in the head’ - that I’m a hypochondriac, and although that may very well be true, I still plan on engraving, “I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK” on my tombstone. For instance, one night I had chest pains. It felt like what everyone described it as: an elephant sitting on your chest. Then, the pain radiated down from my jaw (a known symptom) and straight down into my left arm. Of course this all seems to happen at midnight and Madelene hops into her jeans and carts me off to the ER. Being in a constant state of hypochondriacal alertness, needless to say the emergency room staff knows me well. “Hey Deb!” Then they whisper and sometimes, you can hear them say, “Give her the usual”, as if I were a regular customer at some rundown diner. The nurses greet me, smile, gently walk over to me as though I was some lunatic and then, take my vitals, smack on about a dozen sticky things for the EKG machine and then roll in this huge chest x-ray machine. (The overuse of the x-ray machine leaves me thinking about too much radiation of course....another mania.) After the blood work to see if anything actually did happen, the doctor comes in about four hours later. And with each visit, he seems to be taking more time. I guess that’s a hint. They all give me the same blanket diagnosis, just like when you get an infection on your hand or foot - they all label you with a “spider bite”.

“You have costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone. It mimics symptoms of a heart attack. You’re fine. Your heart is in great shape. Take a couple of ibuprofens and rest up.” Although it’s a great relief to know it wasn’t my heart, it makes me wonder how many more times do I have to keep attending these ER functions. What if I ignore the symptoms of a heart attack, which for me is this “costochondritis” thing? Many of times, I come in with an allergic reaction. My tongue swells up where I can barely talk and they just wanna throw a buncha’ steroids into my system. I always refuse the steroids and end up popping two Benadryls, but the fact is - I hate taking Benadryl because get this - I “think” I’m allergic to it too. It gives me heart palpitations and it does NOT make me drowsy - it does the opposite. It gives me anxiety where I cannot sleep for almost two straight days. I even carry an EpiPen in my purse. This particular mania started when Madelene and I went out for sushi and both of our tongues swelled up to the point of us lisping every word. We had to get the EMTs to help us because we were experiencing such severe reactions. So it wasn’t “all in my head”, because Madelene had it too. (Yes, this strangely made me feel better.)

Today I have an appointment with the allergist. My biggest fear is the allergy testing. They poke you with whatever they think you’re allergic to, and your skin is supposed to rise up if you are allergic to it. It’s supposed to be a slight reaction, but my fear is, what if later on that “slight” reaction becomes a bigger problem with the slew of allergens that are injected in me? See how my noggin works? They say that for extremely allergic patients, they can actually get anaphylactic shock while being tested. So I’m opting out for the skin testing and doing blood work instead so that they can find out externally and let me live in peace. The doctor ensured me that everything is done in a controlled environment and I have nothing to worry about. Then there’s the internet. What an awful source for information when you’re freaking out about something regarding a medical crisis...or perhaps just having a hypochondriacal episode. In fact, the worst thing to do while you’re having chest pains, allergic reactions or any other medical condition is to Google it. There are a bunch of nimrods out there that’ll scare the living daylights out of you. I once had these sharps pains radiating from the lower right side of my abdomen. I went online and found a message board with a bunch of people complaining about the same thing. One person scared the crap out of me and said, “If you don’t get to the ER fast enough, the poison in your appendix will kill you!” So guess where I ended up fifteen minutes later? Yep. And the results were: a small cyst on my ovary that’ll eventually burst in a couple of weeks. No biggie. And mind you - it was nowhere near my reproductive area - it was exactly where ...umm... Google said it would be.

And to add onto to this, my own therapist gave me advice. She said, “Turn up the radio.” I was puzzled. She said, “Whenever you feel a ‘symptom’ coming on ---simply turn up the radio and ignore it. It’s your body’s way of trying to get attention. Once you stop paying attention to it - it’ll move on. Just like a baby will throw its bottle on the floor over and over again to get the mother’s attention. Once the mother stops picking it up, the baby will most likely refrain from doing it again.” Interestingly enough, I took her advice. I had chest pains one night, looked at Madelene and smiled. “Nope. Not going to the ER.” She looked concerned and yet, relieved. It got worse and worse and I held my chest saying to myself, “It’s just muscle inflammation or something weird...” And yes, it did go away. But what if, within those minutes it was actually a heart attack? (I guess I wouldn’t be typing right now.) The doctor in the ER always tells me, "When in doubt, check it out." Then my therapist tells me, "We have to stop entertaining our neuroses.” How can someone not respond to a potentially dangerous pain? I guess I’ll just leave it in fate’s hands.

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Monday, January 02, 2012

Resolutions & Expectations

Just like Valentine’s Day, I sometimes feel like New Year’s Eve is somewhat a forced holiday. It’s meant to rise up sales of restaurants and bars, and have people celebrate irresponsibly and kiss an unnecessary amount of people after the ball drops. I remember as a child my parents would hold these huge New Year’s Eve parties and when the ball dropped, every single adult wanted to give me these big wet & sloppy kisses. I ran like hell before the ball even made it down to “5”... But the one thing that gets me is all of those resolutions, and most of all, the expectations. They all lead to one thing: disappointments. My sister put it well while talking with her daughter. She said, “What’s your ‘goal’ for 2012?” Doesn’t that sound so much better? I think goals are so important - to dream about what you want, desire or to become. An unmet goal sounds so much better than a failed resolution. Many resolve to lose weight or exercise more. Why on the first day of January as you’re sitting home eating leftover munchies from the night before watching The Honeymooners? (Ok, so that’s what I did.) But what about say, April 4th? (I know, random.) Any day can be a new day. Just like Valentine’s Day, you can show love to your other half any day of the year. The florists are open all year round.

I’m going to have to admit that people were especially nicer on New Year’s Eve. Perhaps they were all looking forward to the festivities later on that evening, but when I walked into the stores, (especially the liquor store), I found that people were so incredibly friendly. One man saw me struggling to lift my box of wine (and no, not "box wine", but a box full of wines) and he immediately dropped all of his stuff and packed my goodies into the trunk of my car. He smiled and said, “Happy New Year to you!” And as he did, I debated whether or not to give him one of my twenty lotto tickets that I had stuffed in my pocket. Instead, I just said, “Thank you.” I’m getting cheap in my old age. But why can’t people be that nice on any given day of the week? Usually, they’re all muddling around grumbling about life and God forbid you bump into them - they sneer and snarl at you as if you were Satan himself. No, “Have a nice day” or “Pardon me” - and then again I think, maybe it’s because I live in New York...? If you bumped into someone in Savannah, GA, I’d reckon ya’ll would be seeing a different story. You bump into them and they’d help you dust yourself off. Not sure where I instantly gained a southern accent there. I’m coveting now.

The one thing I always notice is, whenever I have a “planned” party, it seems a bit subdued and quiet - not crazy, funny and silly like my usual spontaneous gigs. Every time I have an unexpected event, it’s usually the best ones ever. Again, I think it has to do with expectations and then being slightly disappointed in the results of it. But nonetheless, I had a nice quiet evening, although I was a bit under the weather. In fact, I didn’t even drink. I held a glass of wine around the entire evening and then at 12 midnight, shared a bottle of champagne with my wife watching the ball drop. Oddly enough, we stayed up till 3am and had such a great time together. Madelene never gets bored. She is happy ‘where she is’ - where I get bored at the drop of a hat. She is happy anywhere. I wish I had some of her qualities. It must make life a lot more easier, rather than to be grumpy and disgruntled over busted plans. I remember we went to The Hamptons and rented out this luxury condo. (The photo on the left is my mom, myself & my sister.) We brought my parents and my oldest sister with us. The first day it was sunny, 80 degrees and beautiful. We were so excited to spend time on our deck overlooking the beach and just relax for one entire week. But when nightfall began, it started to rain and ended when we left. While in the midst of these side-swiping torrential rains, Madelene was holding up her glass, turning up the music and dancing around. My sister and I were on the couch...disgruntled and bored to tears. My parents were doing their thing, cooking, eating and somewhat content. But my sis and I? We were gonna pull our hair out. My sister looks at me, while she’s watching Madelene dance around with a cocktail in her hand and says, “She’s gonna live past 100 - I can feel it.” Even when Mad expects “this” and gets “that” - she’s accepting it and making the best of it. We eventually joined Madelene in her solo festivities. It wasn't so bad after all.

Maybe that’s a resolution I should make: making the best of life. Doesn’t sound so shabby, but is it realistic enough for me? And if I make a resolution like “losing weight” or “exercising more” - I instantly gain weight and become increasingly inactive. It never ceases to amaze me. In any event, I hope your New Year’s resolutions, or “goals” reach your expectations, or perhaps, you can make the best of what comes out of it.

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Emotional Self-Preservation

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