Thursday, September 20, 2018

Having Breakfast With Aunt Batsy Never Dissapoints

Today my cousin Dish picked me up and we went to visit Aunt Batsy. There is never a dull moment at her house. Ever.

She starts by asking us what dentist Dish's dad used when he was in that car accident that knocked his teeth out.

Disclaimer: Uncle Tom died a few years ago. And this accident she's speaking of happened when he was 22 years old. Uncle Tom would have been 75 now. I don't think even Google can help us with this one.

She says, "Oh, I know it was a long time ago. But weren't those teeth nice?"

"They had him on a cart at that goofy hospital. And it was St. Patrick's Day and wouldn't you know it there was an I-talian woman giving birth. Wouldn't you know it, on St Patrick's Day."

I honestly can't believe they even allowed that back then.

The fact that an O'Connor managed to wrap their car around a pole on St. Patrick's Day in the 60's is not lost on me.

She goes on. "My father wasn't happy. He said, get in the ambulance. We're leaving. We're getting him to the good hospital."

They showed them.

Our convos are all over the place. Dish and I spend our time fact checking. We are having side convos, but that doesn't stop the Bats from going on and on about someone neither of us know. But it always entails something along the lines of this.

"Oh, she's got the bucks. Don't let her fool ya. She's got the bucks alright." According to her, everyone's got the bucks. Except her.

Not only do we have no clue who "she" is, but we are also not interested in her finances.

So just to have a little fun we tell her, you know what we heard? We heard you've got the bucks.

Her eyes turn wild. She looks directly into my soul and says, "Now who'd you hear that from? Who said that?"

I said everyone is saying that.

She is crazed. She looks like Nick Nolte's mug shot. She can't get the words out fast enough.

"Shit, I don't have the bucks. I don't even get a pension. And that one has two pensions now because her husband is dead. I don't have the bucks. Now where'd you here that? Me with the bucks. Now that will be the day."

"And let me tell you something else. She looks a lot better now than she did 50 years ago, wearing that red silk blouse." This sounds like it should be a compliment. But somehow it is not. It's a real insult. She told her.

"Now you two get off those things and stop talking."

We're not even on our phones. Nor are we talking.

"I got ya something. But now don't go telling anyone else about this. I got these just for the two of you. Because you're my favorites."

Even though she had no idea we were coming. She's good like that.

She has two boxes of Fannie Mae. Just for us. They were on sale. And whoever would have walked through that door first was getting them. So I'm glad it was us.

"Now you listen to me. I have a secret to tell you. Now don't going telling anyone about this. This is between me and you."

It always is.

She goes on to tell us about someone we don't know. "Turns out he died of the drink. Now no one ever talks about this, but that's what happened."

"Can you believe that? He just couldn't stop with the drink. Can you believe that?"

Um yes. Yes I can believe that. What I can't believe is that I have never died from the drink. And what I furthermore can't believe is that I haven't had a drink yet listening to all of this.

"There are so many old people that are sad. Isn't that sad?" Dish and I try to school her on depression and anxiety. She's not having it.

Her rebuttal, "I just like to think nice happy thoughts".

Okay, I 'll keep that in mind the next time I'm in the throws of depression wanting to end it all. Lalalalalala.

And from there we go right into, "The Catholic Church has got some problems, huh?" OMG. I can't even go there with her right now. But glad she's aware!

The whole point of the visit was to take her out to breakfast. Turns out she just so happens to have left over pancakes and an omelet from yesterday's excursions. So of course we help ourselves.

"Look at you two eating like vegans and here I am the fatass eating the pancakes." She's always accusing us of being on one diet or another. You're either too fat or too skinny. There is absolutely no in between. But believe me, you'll know which one you are before you leave her house.

Then she turns to Dish and says. "You know who my favorite person is? Your husband. Oh isn't he just the nicest?"

I'm. Literally. Sitting. Right. Here. And I have a husband.

"Did you hear about that one? She got married on a beach with a lady minister. Now figure that one out. But I think she's on the dope."

Pretty much everyone is on the dope. Even her. I love when we're at a party and you ask her if you can make her a drink and she yells, "Now go easy on that, I'm on the dope!"

Batsy is 84. She's proud of her age. As she should be. She is definitely an independent woman. But then she says something like this.

"Oh yeah he was here the other day. He said he had to go home and scrub the floor. Where the hell was his wife?"

She's not impressed with the degrees we hold. She doesn't care that we work full time and have a handful of kids. At the end of the day, we should be home scrubbing the floors.

We were only there for an hour. I had to go home and take a nap. My head was spinning.

On our way out the door, with our Fannie Mae in hand, she says, "Oh now wait a minute. I saved the Brighton Park Life for you." The paper of the neighborhood she grew up in. It was actually a copy of the Beverly Review, the neighborhood we currently live in.

Dish was confused. But I knew exactly what she was talking about. And that's the scariest part.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9-11 Never Forget

When I was a kid I can remember my mom telling me that she could remember exactly where she was when JFK was assassinated. I never really understood that until September 11, 2001. I will always remember the events of that day. Well, this is is how I remember it, anyway.

It started like any other Tuesday. I got up and went to work that day. Assuming I was a few minutes late. Assuming probably hungover. Because that's how I rolled back then.

At the time I was working for a medical billing company that just so happened to service doctors in New York City. It wasn't long after I got to work, that a co-worker said a small plane just hit the World Trade Center.

Always being up on geography, I said, " Oh no! Where's the World Trade Center?" I was met with an eye roll. Which was typical. I don't think anyone in that room really thought I had what it took to be a serious medical biller. Myself included.

Turns out BCBS of NY was located in the World Trade Center. The same BCBS of NY that I was calling each and every day. For months now. So that's what WTC stood for on all those envelopes I threw in the mail on the daily.

The lines were now busy. Maybe this co-worker knew what she was talking about. And that's when I started to pay attention.

This was 2001. So technology was not like it is today. The internet was hardly working. But the doctors office below us had a television in the waiting room. I got down there in time to see 2nd plane hit.

I still had no idea what any of this meant. In my mind I was thinking what an unfortunate coincidence that two planes would hit two building so close to one another. Amazing.

People were horrified. It was now clear to everyone, except me, that this was an act of war. I still wasn't quite understanding what on earth was going on when the first tower collapsed.

I had no idea what I was even watching. A much, much more mature co-worker, who ate microwave popcorn and tuna like it was her job, looked at me with a blank face and said, the entire building just collapsed. I seriously could not wrap my head around it. I said, what do you mean?

In a not so patient voice she explained that a plane hit the building. Then the building collapsed because of all the heat. And the other building is probably going to do the exact same thing.

I was beyond confused. So when I asked, "but what about all the people inside of there?" I didn't need a verbal answer. Their faces said it all.

Naturally, my next question was, who would do this to us? Who doesn't like us? Us meaning the United States.

Another co-worker, who just happened to be plucking her eyebrows at the time, said in a very condescending tone, Um, everyone hates us. Everyone.

My mind was literally blown. Why didn't other countries like us? What wasn't there to like?

I learned a lot that day. So much has changed since that day. Life as I know it would never be the same.

We were dismissed from work soon after. My mom was very sick and in the hospital at the time. So I headed there to check on her.

I sat with my mom for the rest of the day. Just watching, in horror, all of the images on television.
I can remember finally figuring out what I was hearing on TV earlier. It was people jumping out of the burning buildings. I still have such a hard time with that.

Those people were someone's loved one. A mom, dad, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister. These people meant the world to their family and friends. It was, and still is, so overwhelming to think about.

After a while, I had to run out to my car. When I tried to get back into the hospital, security wouldn't let me back in. Everyone was in a panicked state of chaos.

No one was allowed to go back into the hospital. No one knew what was going on. No one knew if Chicago would be next.

So, I left and went to the grocery store on my way home. It was so weird there. All of the lights were on as bright as can be. And talk radio was blaring the latest coverage of what had happened. It was scary. Because there was so much unknown. Everyone was on edge. Yet so friendly to one another.

Now all I do on this date is answer my kids' questions. They were all born long after 2001. So they do not know a life prior to what happened that day. This is their reality. They'll never know a safer, simpler time. And wow does that make me sad to think about.

Watching all of the tributes today is nice. The importance of remembering all of the lives lost and praying for the survivors is what I really want my kids to understand. Just to have some empathy for what all of those families went through that day.

I hope they'll go to bed tonight better people for seeing what so many others endured that day. People on the planes, people on the ground, people in the buildings. And all of the other people whose lives were impacted that day.

One thing is still unbelievable to me. No matter how many times I see one of those planes hit one of those towers, I still gasp. Even after seventeen years.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

It's Time We Start Talking About Depression as the Common Illness That It Is

When you have the flu, you feel horrible. You lie in bed in the fetal position. You don’t try to hide it from everyone. You don’t try to deal with it all on your own. You let others know that you’re sick and that you need their help.

When the flu knocks the socks right off of you, you run to the doctor, talk openly about your symptoms and have no problem taking any medication the doctor prescribes. Because you don’t want to feel that lousy anymore. You want to feel like yourself again.

There are ways you can try to prevent the flu. Eat healthy. Exercise. Get a flu shot. Wash your hands regularly. Take vitamins. But even when you do all of these things, you can still come down with a nasty case of the flu.

There are many ways to treat the flu. Drink a hot toddy. Take medicine. See the doctor. Self medicate. Wait it out. Just to name a few.

The flu happens. It can affect anyone, at any time. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It doesn’t matter what age you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.

The flu doesn’t discriminate. It’s universal. It can happen to anyone at anytime. And no one judges you if you get the flu. It’s perfectly acceptable.

We need to start treating depression like it’s the flu.

After giving birth, I was screened for depression like every hour on the hour. So much so that I thought, I don’t know, am I depressed? I have had many friends that suffered postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is totally acceptable nowadays. It happens. It’s real.

Doctors and nurses and new moms know what to look for and it’s taken very seriously. That’s how every other form of depression needs to be looked at. And I really think most people do think of it that way. Except the people who are actually suffering with depression.

When I lost my parents at a young age I went through a really rough time. I was depressed for a long time. But that makes sense. I was grieving. And that’s acceptable. But when everything in your life is going great and there is no reason for you to be so sad, it can be so very scary.

This is a tough subject to talk about for a lot of people. It’s hard for people to admit to themselves that there is a problem. Depression is such a crazy illness that sometimes people don’t even know they have it. It needs to stop being referred to as a mental illness. Because that scares people. And that comes with such a stigma. It’s too harsh a label. It’s just an illness. And like any other illness, left untreated, it can kill you.

When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on

It was amazing to me to realize just how many people had gone through similar things as me. But no one knows these things until you start the conversation. So let’s start the freaking conversation.

I am medicated to treat my depression. I love when people tell me they can’t believe I’m medicated. You seem so happy. Yes because I’m freaking medicated. Just like when people find out I use head and shoulders, yet I don’t have dandruff. Think about it.

I have people tell me that they don’t like putting chemicals into their bodies. They prefer exercise or meditation to relieve their stress. And if that works for you, that’s awesome. But stress is not depression. Depression is something that is really hard to get back out of once you’re in it.

The only problem with taking meds is they make you feel so good that you think you don’t need them anymore. I learned that lesson the hard way. I have gone off my meds. Huge mistake.

Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

I was thrown into the worst depression of my life. I visited a place I never want to go to again. I am so very lucky, though. I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t care what others think. I was able to reach out to family and friends and let them know the depths of hell I was in.

I hit rock bottom one day when I was sitting on a lawn chair in my backyard. The feeling of hopelessness that I felt was so intense. It wrapped itself around me and was literally squeezing the life out of me.

I can vividly remember staring at my garage. Knowing I could be out of this awful pain. My kids were there and I honestly remember thinking that they would be fine without me. This did not scare me as much as it should have. But I knew I was in trouble.

I have seen first hand what suicide can do to a family. How it just rips it competely apart. How no one’s life is ever going to be the same. How shattered it makes people. All the pieces can be glued back together, but everyone is still broken forever.

I knew the thoughts I was thinking were irrational. But I couldn’t stop thinking them. I called my doctor from that lawn chair. And then I called Beau and told him how bad I was. I knew I had to tell people. I knew that was my only way out. I called a few more people.

Those calls saved me. Talking about it saved me. Letting people know the pain I was in saved me.

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life, well hang on

I was not alone. I still had this tiny little part of my brain working properly. I was so lucky.

I used to like to keep my depression private. I didn’t want people to know. It was so isolating. I felt like a loser. I thought everyone had their sh*t together except me. I was embarassed.

But not anymore. I have learned how universal depression is. I have come to terms with having to be medicated the rest of my life and I’m totally fine with that. As long as I never feel that pain again. It will be worth it.

I have been in that dark hole. Stuck at the bottom of a well with no way out in sight. It’s terrifying.

When a person takes their life, it always pains me to hear someone say they took the easy way out. Because when you’re suffering from true depression you are convinced your loved ones will be better off without you. In your head it is the only option that makes sense. You are so trapped with your own thoughts. There is nothing easy about it.

Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand, oh no

If you have never been in this situation, you are very fortunate. It is the scariest place that you ever want to find yourself. It’s a feeling of desperation that can’t be explained. You can be sitting there holding your children knowing how much they need you, yet hurting so much that you are considering leaving them forever.

Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

Life is freaking hard. Really hard. There are ups and downs and for some reason we are led to believe that everyone else has it better. That we are the only ones suffering. That is just not true.

Depression is real. It can’t be swept under the rug. We need to deal with it. Now. Before it’s too late.

Doctors should be screening everyone. Not just new moms. Depression can happen at any time. And it needs to be treated. Like the common illness it is.

If you’re on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

Everyone struggles at some point. Start asking your friends and I bet my bottom dollar down that each and every one of them has a story. My friends and I have all shared our stories and it’s saved us all. It’s amazing how similar we all are.

So start the damn conversation. There is no need to suffer alone. There is no need to suffer in silence. There’s just no need to suffer. Tell someone. Anyone. Talk about it. You are not alone.

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes
You are not alone

If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.