To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-Steve Prefontaine
Make it simple, but significant.
- Don Draper

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How Do You Even Title a Post About Suicide?

I was walking from my accounting class to government. It was early January and we were bundled in our coats hurrying to get to class. As I did nearly every day, I met up with 1 of my 3 closest friends. Normally we had fun conversations during our walk. This time our pace slowed. He wouldn't speak. His head was hanging down. I tried to ask what was up since this was not at all typical. He just mumbled and wouldn't really say. We parted ways at the Arts building and I never saw him again. If that building still existed I could show you the exact spot I was standing and who was standing by, almost giddy with excitement to see my reaction to the news.... my closest male friend shot himself. It was noisy in that room, but it was like a movie where everything around me went silent. And I felt so mad at those people who were standing there waiting for my reaction. Are you kidding me? I hear something so horrid and you have to be there like a TMZ reporter wanting to get the scoop? Clearly, over 21 years later it still irritates me.

At his funeral I couldn't sit still. My hands and knees wouldn't stop shaking. I remember my program falling to the ground and trying to reach down to pick it up. And I recall looking around at all of the students in attendance. And again I was so mad.

I remembered the conversations we had not long before he took his own life. We were up all night laying on the floor in my grandparent's living room and he was venting about how mean all the "popular" kids were to him. They had gone to school together forever and he was so frustrated with how fake they were to him and how he suddenly didn't exist, yet a while ago they were all friends. I suppose that is normal. In grade school everybody gets along. At our high school? Ugh, the groups.... I totally understood what he was saying. And now the exact names he said to me were there supposedly sad. I say "supposedly" because that's how high school senior Ronda felt... that they were there to be seen versus mourn.

Did I understand how much this bothered him? I guess not. Before we met I thought he was a freak and he called me an ice princess. Our teacher forced us to sit next to each other which was mortifying. Our first assignment was to merge DNA and make a baby. Who knew that this was what would cause us to immediately bond with each other. What if our baby had a mono brow?? No! We can't let that happen. We will change the DNA!! From that project on we were fast friends. We would talk on the phone for hours at a time. School stuff. Crushes. What will we do next weekend. Venting about home life. The norm. Looking back, maybe there were more signs, but it's not like suicide is the standard thing a high school girl things her dear friend would be considering.

* * * * * * *

It was a Saturday that I was on a road trip with my mom and aunt to meet my bridesmaids and buy my wedding dress. I've already written about this in detail, so I'm glossing over it now.

On the way up she told us that directions for her funeral and what she wanted done were on her refrigerator. She told us what she wanted in her casket with her. There were a few other instructions as well. We laughed it off telling her she was being silly and she would be fine if she follows doctor's orders. After all the conversations we had, I remember a few distinct moments where I paused to remember them well because I had a feeling it would never happen again. When she left my house and have me the biggest wave and happiest smile, I memorized it. I had a gut feeling I would never see her again. Tuesday morning, as I followed along on the phone and social media, my aunt took her own life the same way my friend did.

* * * * * * 

I see all this talk about 13 Reasons Why. People for it. People against it. I had already written in my head my response. I decided that nobody will care about my opinion if it is different from theirs. I didn't take the attitude of having a strong opinion against it without ever watching it or reading the book, as I have seen some do. I didn't even watch it for any sort of reason other than interest because it was all over Facebook and I was heading to bed with my laptop and Netflix. It showed up, I recognized the title, the subject matter intrigued me given my experiences, so I watched. And I couldn't stop. I thought it was quite creative how it was done and the small details I would pick up on waiting for them to rear their ugly head later on. I've read that some think this sensationalizes suicide. That if you commit suicide people will glamorize you after. Really? They got that from watching this? I saw it as people hating this girl after she died. Certainly not saying she was a beautiful, wonderful person. And if you make it through the end and episode 13 ... you tell me exactly what you saw that made suicide glamorous, Painful. Lonely. Sad. Deliberate. Cold. None of this seems appealing. I cried. I could barely watch, but I forced myself to so I could live in that moment with the character, and live in that moment with my friend and aunt. I hugged my baby tight. I saw nothing of glamour or sensationalism in this. If anything, maybe this show will help people see that you don't always see someone considering suicide as a person walking around every day looking depressed. They could appear on the outside to be happy and dealing with life. But there might be signs. And MAYBE you can help them or guide them to help. Maybe you can't. Maybe this show will show someone that suicide isn't the best or only answer. Maybe it will show someone considering suicide how much if affects the family and close friends of someone that takes their own life. Does suicide change things in the lives of those closest to the person? Oh heck yes. 

I've deleted most of my opinions because I have no desire for debate. I've heard the news of suicide 3 times now. Twice I had to tell my mom. Once, she told me. I know exactly when and where I was for all 3 and the quiet, numb feeling that happens when you hear it. I figure if I go off too long on the subject then I'll be told how wrong I am and blah blah blah. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and feeling. My opinion is that this is a really good show. It gets you thinking. That's a good thing. It is getting people talking. That's a good thing. If it helps anyone decide to get help, or helps someone see that their loved one needs help... this is a good thing. 

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Life With Meniere's

​​Last week someone I talk to all the time saw me for the first time with a cane and was rightfully confused. I figured why not use this as an excuse to wake up my sleepy little blog and share my story of a pesky little sidekick of mine called Meniere's Disease.

I will start by saying it is not contagious. If you stood up too fast and got lightheaded, no, you don't have it. No, laying in some funky contorted manner on my bed with my head hanging off isn't going to cure it. Although it might make me fall off the bed and/or vomit. And everyone that does have it will have a completely different story and experience. It's a charming thing, this Meniere's Disease!

Back in 2003 I was working on a turntable every day. A spinning turntable, navigating myself through tons of guests getting in and out of rafts, and flowing water next to me. This had been my norm for a couple of years and was never an issue, but suddenly it was really throwing me off. I found myself starting to walk a little farther away from the water so I wouldn't accidentally fall in and cause an E-Stop. Guests would be quite angry if their ride experience was halted because some dizzy blond fell into the Chakranadi River! I managed to deal with it, expecting it to just pass, and was soon saying Namaste to my home in Anandapur and moving backstage to the Labor Office at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Now at a desk, I figured these strange feelings of uneasiness were sure to be gone. I was so wrong. In fact, I think working in a quieter, non-rotating area actually helped me see how much really was going on. I'd get so dizzy I would have to hold onto my desk or chair for support. As the new girl, when coworkers asked me to lunch I accepted the offer and then felt so uncomfortable at the table when I had to use my hand to casually hold my head upright because I felt I was tipping over. I had no idea what the heck was going on. At my desk one time a fellow cast member asked why I was ignoring my phone. What?? My phone was ringing? Sure enough I had a couple of missed calls. I had been sitting there the entire time and couldn't even hear my phone ring. At this point I knew I needed to call the doctor.

First I went to the world's worst family doctor. After this visit I never went there again, thank goodness. He referred me to get a CT scan. Insurance denied that and said I needed to see a neurologist first and get a referral. So back to Celebration Hospital I went, this time to meet with a neurologist that I really liked. He was able to trigger all of my crazy symptoms in no time at all and actually listened to me! Soon I was getting an MRI done on my head. Very strange to me, I had to go actually pick up the results and take them to the doctor. I have them all still. So if you want to see my brain, my eyes, the enlarged part of my brain in the back of my head, come on over and take a gander! From there I was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. Those visits stressed me a little more. It wasn't at the nice hospital I like, it was crowded, and the exam itself was ... I don't know. I had to close my eyes and march in place once. Put yourself in a clock... if I started facing 12, by the time I was done I was facing 4 o'clock. The former marching band girl in me was mortified. I was certain I wasn't moving, so to open my eyes and see what happened was a little disconcerting. This doctor had me get some blood work done and a hearing test. Here is my issue with that... my hearing isn't always bad. It never fails, when I have had my hearing tests it is on a good day. Not once have I been having Meniere's issues when a test is done, so still I look like I have great hearing. Oops, I'm jumping ahead....

One of the last major things I had done was in July 2004. My mom and Grandpa came to visit me for my mom's birthday. One of her vacation mornings was spent going with me to downtown Orlando where I had to go through a slew of tests. I had things attached to my face to monitor everything going on with me. I was in a dark room (or was it dark because my eyes were closed. I can't remember!) and put through all sorts of sensory tests. Hot and cold air in my ears. Noises. Moving. It was probably at least an hour long and I wasn't allowed to drive after that. So my mom got to be my chaperone and get me home safely. Who would have expected that her being my driver would become more and more frequent over the years due to this nonsense.

Since all of that went down I have been given a variety of medications. In Florida, the medicine they gave me would make me sleep for almost an entire day. This isn't practical! I did finally get that CT scan done, but because of the hurricanes that kept coming through Orlando I was never able to go pick them up and in September I was moving back to Oregon. My grandpa was a pharmacist and suggested I only take half of the medication, so I could feel relief but not sleep all day. When I returned to my normal family doctor in Oregon he was great and gave me a lower dosage, which I still continued to only take half of. Some medications were good. Some weren't. When we started trying to create Katura I stopped all medications. I've gotten really good at managing Meniere's Disease without any, and I hope to just stay off the medicine as long as I can. I still pass hearing tests, and haven't even gone to the Ear/Nose/Throat doctor in a couple of years. In Vitro Fertilization ate up all of my time and I just decided to take a break from doctors for a while!

So how does Meniere's Disease affect me? If I say I'm having a Meniere's Day what does that mean? Well, it falls under the category of invisible illness, so I'm sure it seems made up. Ugh, if only! The obvious thing is vertigo. It took a long time to let my ego come to terms with the fact that having a cane would be helpful. I almost always have it with me, folded in my bag, so when I do need it I am ready. Mine is blue with flowers! My hearing is so touching. Some times I CAN'T hear. Sometimes tiny little noises that nobody hears feel like they are incredibly loud to me and they hurt. My ears hurt a lot, and I realized I unintentionally pull on them to relieve pressure when it gets bad. Talking will get difficult, sometimes causing me to stutter or even forget what words I'm trying to say. Um, example ... maybe I'll forget "refrigerator" and I end up having to say "that thing, it's big, and cold with food in it". The room spinning thing gets old. I have actually fallen out of bed from that before, thankfully onto carpet! Another thing that causes me so much anxiety is being in a car. If my Meniere's is doing anything at all to me it will throw off my depth perception. Being a passenger absolutely terrifies me. At this point I do hate to travel, unless I'm driving. But I can only drive if I'm having a good day, which means I'm always a passenger on bad days and get so scared I end up crying. I HATE IT!!

I'm sure there are more things, but at this point I am so used to them. Ringing in the ears!!! If the ringing STOPS then I freak out because I think I'm officially 100% deaf. When it is completely quiet in my house I am very away of the ringing, so I almost always have something on to make noise and help me forget about it. It's like the way you feel after a loud concert, but that's pretty much my standard every day.

How do I fix it? I don't. There is no cure. Many people with this end up getting hearing aids. I'm lucky in that my hearing is doing a good job of staying with me. Where some having that as their big issue, the major vertigo is where I have mine. It is something that tends to progress, so in a few years my story could be very different. Hopefully not. For some it kind of goes away I've read, or hibernates as I call it. I've felt that mine has hibernated before. Bring on some major stress or crazy weather, and you'll be sure to see me whipping out my cane. Why am I part time at work? The biggest reason is because of this! Stress at work got to be too much, I was always sick and I just couldn't do it all anymore. But in the end that worked out, and I get more time with my little girl!

And that's all I have to say about that .... for now! Any questions? I'm totally down for answering! I've been dealing with this for 14 years, so it's just normal for me now. I can hardly remember life without it at this point!

Just for fun, here I am PRE-Meniere's Disease standing at Tiger Face Falls before the flume has started to fill with water!

And I feel I should close with this.... Namaste! Welcome to Kali Rapids Expeditions, the number one rafting company in Anandapur where you WILL get wet and possibly SOAKED!