Liza with a Z.

A couple of years ago I met Larry.  I was in the Neuro-surgical department of the hospital. The surgeon clicked his mouse and up popped Larry in all his tangled glory.

It was the surgeon’s advice to name him, after all Larry had been living in me since birth.  So it made perfect sense to be on first name terms. Manners maketh the Man. So Larry was named after the infamous gay comic Larry Grayson.

Larry is an AVM. An arteriovenous malformation, to be precise. He’s a tangle of blood vessels and veins that had  been covertly operating under the alias of Mrs Migraine (I don’t name all my ailments, but they do seem to take on a life of their own).

Mrs Migraine had been paying  unwelcome visits since I was about thirteen. She liked to pixellate my vision, numb my fingertips and occasionally (when she felt she wasn’t getting enough attention), deliver skull splitting headaches.

According to the Dr, Mrs Migraine is incredibly common, lacking in manners and very, very loud. I have meds prescribed and that was that.

Thirty years later I’m on the phone to my Father when suddenly I start slurring.  Dad thinks I’m loaded (again), only now I can’t feel the phone in my hand, I also can’t feel my left leg.

As my husband catches the phone receiver falling to the floor he notices it all. It’s my face that really freaks him out, it’s dropped on one side.

I’m thinking Stroke, Husband’s thinking Stroke, Paramedics thinking Stroke, Dad’s still rambling on about the rapid decline of toilet paper standards, blissfully unaware that his son is having  a full on seizure.

But by the time the Ambulance reaches the hospital all my symptoms had completely eased off. I can’t say I was normal as my face was still threatening to merge with my neck and never return.

Apparently, the very common Mrs Migraine had a sophisticated trick up her sleeve, she can impersonate a full on Stroke. Turns out she’s not such a common woman after all, she’s a highly versatile performer, a medical triple threat – she’s Liza Minelli.

So for the first time I am scanned. I end up in a revolving tube and the nurse gives me headphones, she says it can be a bit uncomfortable and noisy. Enya is warbling in my ears to the muffled backdrop of the scanners Industrial Techno. Ghastly.

I’m swiftly ushered into the surgeons office.

Enter Larry. The neurological cross dresser, an enigma, wrapped in a brain, impersonating Liza Minelli.

He’s been outed from my  brain closet. He’s been sucking the life out of my right occipital lobe, probably since birth. Oh and he brought a couple of male escorts! Brad and Jeff.  Two un-ruptured brain aneurysms forced into existence by Larry’s constant need to be fed. Greedy Queen! What can you do?

I did say right occipital lobe didn’t I? Yeah, that’s the part of the brain that controls your eyesight. The thing is I’m heavily involved with the creative arts, specifically visual.

Fate. Cruel. Irony doesn’t even cover it.

So to cut a long medical procedure short, I have two prize boxes to possibly open on this gameshow. Iv’e already won the bonus round, Brad and Jeff have got to be removed, that’s compulsory. (Brad’s already left and Jeff is living on borrowed time).

Box 1.  Have Larry Evicted, only while he’s gathering up his feather boa and high kicking out the door he’s highly likely to take 50% of my eyesight with him.

What’s left of my vision will resemble a Kaleidoscope. I would have to learn how to see again in a whole new way.

My eyesight could return in a year or it couldn’t. Either way, career wise, life wise and financially I would be in no uncertain terms, Fucked.

Box2.   Empty. That’s right, do nothing.

The logic  being that apart from Larry’s dreadful Liza Minelli impressions over the past 45 years, he has, in fact, remained in tact. He’s a hoofer and a trooper.

Larry could  put on a  show tomorrow, or when I’m 95, reclining with a martini in Cannes.  No one can tell me. He’s a Guerrilla performer.

So, monitor Larry on a regular basis and when I’m financially secure enough (Don’t be fooled into thinking creativity equals affluence, even for those that have survived for 30 years), re-cast Larry and send him to the twilight home of retired medical celebrities, a.k.a the incinerator.

The quandary is that no one can tell you what to do. Not even the surgeons. They aren’t allowed to here in the UK, they can just present you with choices.

I choose prize box two. It’s my first grown up decision, no, really. The first time I have been presented with such serious consequences.

I figure, if I can keep Larry under control, restrict his performances with meds and ban all male escorts, I’ll get through the show.

Jeff is being evicted in three weeks. He’s a deep character, can’t be dealt with via that wondrous artery that runs from your groin to your brain. No, this time it’s full on craniotomy, I will have a scar the size of a Tennis Ball.

Husband says if that’s the case I can have a facelift. It won’t hide the scar but it might make me feel a bit more fabulous. Every cloud kids, every cloud……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The absolute joy of not giving a crap.

It’s marvellous isn’t it. Getting older. That’s right, today, right at this minute I’m on the right side of my mid life crisis. I can see the benefits, not one moan, not one gripe shall litter this entry. Negativity is but a distant dream today.

So what’s put such a spring in my step?  15mg of  Mirtazapine.

Now if you had told me I’d be on chemical enhancements a couple of years ago I would have looked down my nose and fluttered my eyelids, the way Madonna does when she’s pissed off in an interview.

But shit got real a few weeks ago. Full on mini meltdown.

I was sitting in a meeting with some clients, they were discussing a new project. I start getting tired and angry for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Eventually all I can hear is “Blah-Blah-Blah”. Then suddenly I hear a voice, remarkably like my own, shout out “WHO GIVES A FLYING FUCK!!”.

Just Awful.

These are good people. I’ve worked with them for so long I can categorise them as friends. Thank goodness. They all burst out laughing but I was horrified. Swearing is one of my favourite hobbies, but never have I ever swore in front of a client.

Afterwards I was having a coffee with the M.D. She was studying me, head cocked, her lips pursed as I struggled to make my lips reach my mug. I was shaking, couldn’t stop. She reached down into her Prada handbag (the one I helped pay for) and produced a bottle of pills. She unscrewed the lid and gently tipped a small white pill into the palm of her hand.

“What’s that?”, I asked.

“Valium”, she said.

She didn’t need to tell me twice. It didn’t even touch the sides.

“You sir”, she said, ‘Are Depressed”.

Was I? I didn’t feel sad.

Except when I thought about life. Or my work or my family, my marriage, the news, the state of the world, cooking dinner or how absolutely fucking tired I was due to the fact I couldn’t sleep for more than three hours at a time.

But apart from that I was absolutely fine.

O.K, so she had read me like the cheap blog I am. She ordered me to go see my Doctor.

I did, but not before consulting my husband. He’s old school, brought up in a tough Jamaican household. They never suffered with depression because they were always high. His words – not mine.

“How many years have I been telling you to chill out and calm the fuck down”.

Because that’s exactly what you need when your’e super stressed, to be told to calm down. I ran to the doctors before I ended up in handcuffs and a spit hood.

My Doctor is awful. That’s not a negative entry, it’s just fact. She doesn’t like the Gays.

My husband came with me to my last appointment and she kept referring to him as my “Friend”.  So I try to explain how Ive been feeling and she’s doing her best attempt at concern, patent Dr frown – check, glazed look of sympathy – check, the odd nod and chin stroke – check. She’s got that shit down to an art form. Then she gave me a form.

“Please fill this in and bring it back”.

Are you feeling suicidal? Do you feel worthless? Do you feel disconnected? etc, etc. Please answer on a scale of one to ten, ten being very likely, one being not at all. I put ten for every answer. I mean you have to do that sometimes, right? Ramp it up just to get heard.

Next thing I know Iv’e got these pills. One to be taken every night.

I’m sorry but there is no other way to say this – Fucking Marvellous.

First night, nothing. Second night, still nothing. This went on for a week. Then on the seventh night I slept like I have never slept before, 14 blissful hours.

I awoke, not unlike Snow White to the sound of chirping birds. I smiled in the morning, I actually fucking smiled. I said good morning to my husband, he looked like he’d just been shot.

I bounded in the shower and I bounded out again, not once did I glance in the mirror. Not once did I analyse my middle aged body for more signs of decay.

The veil of shadow that had suffocated my brain was ripped away and underneath was a shiny, new, happy me.

But was I? Wasn’t I just masking issues? I wasn’t sure, I didn’t have any issues anymore. Something felt phoney, artificial and of course, chemical.

I suggested stopping the medication.  My husband threatened to leave me if I did. He was joking, at least I think he was…anyway, I cut the dose down by half.

Slowly my darker thoughts began creeping back to the party. They snuck in the back door and mingled in the kitchen by the stale humous and half empty Rose bottles.

That’s when I discovered mindfulness.

Two Audio books, Eckhart Tolle – The power of now and Ruby Wax – A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled.  God bless the both of them.

Eckhart freaked me out a bit, he’s a wonderful human being but does sound a bit like a Bond Villain/ Peter Lorre. Ruby on the other hand was an absolute delight, firing off quips like bullets from a well oiled gun. Making me laugh and teaching at the same time.

I got it. Instantly. I understood the concept of neuro-plasticity, of training my brain to be better, happier and decluttered.  I cannot recommend these books highly enough, I think it should be taught in schools. It probably is in more progressive cultures, Sweden, they’re always one step ahead socially, I bet it’s standard practice there. (Although their suicide rates are a worry).

It’s an ongoing process, something I have to practice everyday but the results have been amazing.

Today I reached a milestone, a full week on just a quarter tablet. I’m hoping to be completely chemical free by the end of the month.

Absolutely life changing.

So in truth I do give a crap except now it’s just about the stuff that matters. Love, Life , Art and Staying sane.