My Two Sons, and Their 3 Dads

We just celebrated Father’s Day. As is the standard on the holiday, social media was full of the praises of… Mothers? Yes, but also of fathers. 

It got me thinking: what kind of father am I? An imperfect one, with no doubt. But I wonder if one were to aka my sons, what would thier answer be? Split, I think.

So let’s talk about that.

Dad 1: the loving dad. This is the man who was there at their respective births. The loving father who beams with pride at the successes of his learning sons. This is the man who has shared his love of books and reading. The man who’s strangeness has rubbed off on boys who would rather read Percy Jackson than green eggs and ham. This is the fun dad. I’d love to think that this is the dad my sons will remember and emulate when I’m gone.

Dad 2: the broken dad. This is the dad that my toddler runs to “help” stand up when he falls. This is the dad whom my sons have learned to ignore his grunts and whimpers of pain. This is the dad that my sons are eager to serve, to help, to support… But that feels exhausting shame that any of those things are needed from mere children. This is the dad that has to constantly renig on planned fun because his body has given out long before his desire to play with his children. This is the dad that my boys will remember.

Dad 3. the emotional dad. Years of medications have removed all but 1 or 2 of the dad’s emotions. The remaining emotions include anger and loud. My boys don’t like this dad…. And neither do I. He’s a jerk. He yells altogether too much. He can be cold, and unbending. He is the disciplinarian dad. He’s the one to whom my children give a wide birth. He’s the one I resent the most. I wish he’d go away and never come back (read that in Smeagol’s voice).

And here I sit, the broken dad wishing I could always be the the loving dad. Wishing that I could kill the emotional dad. I am my son’s 3 fathers (lest anyone assume the worst of my wife). I have realized that my sons have to deal with the 3 distinctive personalities of mine (these are not like… Split personalities… Or anything…. No coats are needed for me, thank you very much. No pills to make “the voices” stop, or anything. This is a proverbial conversation, not a literal one).

There we go. Kind of a lame conversation ending. Hopefully the whole of the conversation didn’t fit into that category.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow imperfect dads. You perfect dads should write a how to book: it’d sell well.

Oh, and a bonus “we’re actually sleeping,” selfie from my sons:

Late Night Productivity – Insomnia and Caffeine – Current update

I’m going to ramble a bit. Well, maybe not ramble, maybe it’s more of a rant. Maybe it’s just a silly post. I guess we’ll see the outcome at the end.

It seems like I really only get things done in the middle of the night.

By “get things done” I really mean, “not getting things done with more efficiency than normal.” The thing is, I don’t sleep, but in the middle of the night, when everyone else is sleeping, I get the ‘deepest’ thinking done. Sometimes I get my grocery shopping done (much to the chagrin of my landlords, I’m sure), and a lot of my writing happens at night.

Tonight is no exception. I was sleepy at around 10, but I also was experiencing an excruciating headache. I have to make a choice: try to sleep with my head trying to pop, or take headache medicine (which is loaded with caffeine), and not sleep. Tonight (or last night, I guess, as it’s now early morning) I chose to have my head stop hurting, a bit.

A bit after I took the medicine, I had a lovely panic attack. So I sat, holding Bruce, hyperventilating and weeping to myself, waiting for the panic to stop. There was no cause. Well, maybe there was, I was hurting pretty bad. The headache was ebbing, but my arms and legs felt like they were about to burst (that’s the fibromyalgia). Maybe that caused it, but the anxiety is pretty new to me, so it’s difficult to identify the triggers. Anyway, after that passed, the caffeine kicked in. So here I am, wide awake. I’ve gone to the store (we needed cotton balls and light bulbs). I’ve planned out some learning tools for Ezra. I’ve figured out a fix for a problem with my trike. I’ve killed a spider (shudders). I’ve learned to cook stroganoff (our next dinner). I’ve listened to some podcasts. I’ve explored the deep places of the mind that are usually only tapped by the stoned. I’ve gotten a lot done… The problem is, that I have a lot to do tomorrow, but I will have no sleep. Ezra will be up in the next hour or so to get ready for school.

I started with a new pain specialist last week. With high co-pays, I’ve put a lot down. I started with the initial evaluation last week. I was excited to get a hopeful update. There are apparently some treatments that can help remove some of the pain in my back. Then I’d just be dealing with the headaches, the fibromyalgia, the stomach pains. The back pains would be significantly reduced, if the treatments are effective. I just about cried. Seriously, to have a little hope in terms of my pain is a big deal. It’s been a while.

I started this week with a physiological evaluation (necessary before any pain medicines can be prescribed). That was a couple of hours on Monday. Tuesday, I had a a couple of hours training class with a few other new patients to learn about the uses, effects, and dangers of certain drugs. I get tomorrow, er, today… today off, and tomorrow. I have physical therapy on Friday. Next week, I’ll go in for some tests on my back to see if the treatments will work, followed by a follow-up at the end of the week.

These guys aren’t kidding around! All of these appointments are with a team of doctors that work together in their independent specialties and communicate about their patients to create pain management plans that are more significant than “take this and call me in a week.”

They did start me on Lyrica. I’m a bit worried about that, because one of the side effects is ‘significant weight gain,’ which would be… bad… as I’m already 65 pounds overweight. Oh, wait! 55 pounds! I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last month! I’ve had to go hungry, a bit (which is hard for me. I like food… a lot…)

So I guess that’s the basic update. No great topic, no great story. Just a bit of a rundown.  If you’re still reading, thanks! I hope it was somewhat enjoyable.

Bruce: The Smelly Helper – Why He’s an Emotional Support Animal

Bruce is pretty calm. We got him as a pound rescue a couple of years ago. He was 9 or 10 at the time, and a full bred miniature schnauzer! The only problem with him was that the pound workers knew him by name, and had known his previous 2 owners. You see, Bruce is a runner. He will dart away at any given chance. He likes to explore. He likes to take long walks on the beach… or, I imagine he would if we lived near a beach. The previous owners gave up on coming to the pound to get him. Each, in turn, decided he wasn’t worth it.

That’s sad, but that means that we got him, and that’s happy.

Being an older dog, Bruce mostly just lays around, he’ll come and put his front paws on someone’s lap if he’s hungry or need’s to go outside. He jumps and howls like a hound dog when he’s excited, but mostly, he sleeps… that is, until he senses something is wrong.

Dog’s have an uncanny ability to detect when something is wrong or even different. Our previous Miniature Schnauzer followed Julie everywhere during her pregnancies. It was at about month 7 that she realized the reason he wouldn’t even let her go to the bathroom alone was because he was protecting her. He could smell that she was pregnant, (or at least that something was different) and he was making sure she was safe.

Bruce can tell when one of two things is happening. I imagine that he knows the difference, but his response is this:

You won’t be able to tell from the picture, but he’s jumped up on my lap, climbed onto my chest (bypassing the computer that is usually on my lap)  and stuck his nose right into my business. I imagine him saying something along these lines: “You’re not okay, but I am here for you.”

Bruce can tell when I’m having panic attacks (all too frequent since the anxiety started a couple of years ago), and he can also tell when my hands and arms are seizing up from the fibro-pain.  The thing is, I can’t always tell when one of those two things is happening (at least not until it’s WELL into the process). Julie laughs a bit at my ignorance (in good humor). I always hurt, I’m always in pain, and I can’t always tell what hurts, or what’s in pain, because it’s always there. Bruce knows, however. And then he stays on my lap and holds me. He just will snuggle onto my lap and let me pet him. (When it’s hot, he’s determined to pant in my face, just to ensure that I know how much he loves me). I don’t understand how it works, but petting him helps keep the panic attacks from really taking over. Petting him will usually keep my hands from completely locking up in pain, though I have noticed no significant reduction in the pain.

Because he’s so helpful, I’m often question why I don’t certify him as a service animal, so that I can take him anywhere. The answer is a bit varied and complex, but I’ll give the basics if I can. Service animals, as defined by the ADA, are DOGS that perform work or tasks for a disabled person. Because service animals are considered a medical device, they are allowed, by law, into any public area (with a few, nuanced exceptions). However, the owner is still responsible for the dog’s behavior, and therefore the dog must ALSO (along with performing work or tasks) be well behaved.

While Bruce “alerts” to my attacks and mini-flares, he’s not actually performing any work or task, he’s just being a dog. A good dog? Yes. A smart dog? Yes. But a medical device? No. Further, Bruce, as proved by his history in the clink, doesn’t have good citizenship. He like’s to jump on people. He likes to bark when he’s excited. He likes to run, and pull, and tug on his leash. He, therefore, falls into a second category of medical animal: an Emotional Support Animal, or ESA. Because he does help me medically, (primarily emotionally, though the fibromyalgia mini-flares are, by the majority of accounts, not emotional, but physiological), he does gain some rights under the ADA, primarily, an apartment complex that doesn’t normally allow pets cannot turn him away. Other animals besides dogs can qualify as ESA’s, though most common besides dogs are cats. Some people use pigs, miniature horses or any other pet. It is this category that is most often abuses by people who just want to keep their pet.

While I almost always take Bruce with me when I leave the house, because he isn’t a Service Animal, I cannot demand his acceptance into any building. I’m at the mercy of the store or shop or place as to whether or not I can bring him in.

If you didn’t know that before: NOW YOU KNOW. If you happen to find Bruce wandering your neighborhood: please call me, I’m probably looking for him.

Naming Names and Anxiety

We’re getting nearer the end now.

I worked at Panda Express. I loved that job. I was good at that job. My boss retired, but before he did, he warned me that his replacement didn’t like me. He hinted that it was because of my skin color, but wouldn’t say it out loud. It was at Panda that I fell and hurt my back, but we may have waited to long to discover it, and we’re still waiting to see if i can get worker’s comp for that injury.

Because my new boss was pre-disposed to dislike me (starting about Feb 2012), and because I was hurting so bad, going to work started to make me anxious… a lot. The anxiety has gotten so bad that, long after my time with Panda is over, I still have panic attacks. I still find myself hyperventilating for no reason. I don’t struggle with Major Depressive Disorder but I absolutely struggle with major Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s crippling. I’m afraid to go into public and be seen falling, or hurting, or wincing or having a panic attack. I have real problems (medically, not morally) with the constant questions about my problems… and real problems (more morally than medically) with “My cousin’s boyfriend’s roommate’s ex-sister-in-law had that problem and she…. so you just need to do that)

Anxiety is a problem. It’s the reason I’ve failed so fully in letting those close to me know what is going on with me.

Panda eventually fired me in a case of (in my opinion) clear discrimination. My attorney though so too, but because a couple of people refused to testify (they still work there, so I understand) and stand for the truth, the lawsuit stands stagnant. I think i have 1 month left to move forward, and then it dies. That hurts, because truth needs to be out there. You won’t see me go to a Panda Express, Haibatchi San, or Panda Inn, not because they fired me, but because they covered up and ignored clear discrimination for months. Their Human Resource Department actively hid evidence that showed the discrimination, and failed to follow up on repeated claims of discrimination from others (not just me) – and nothing is going to happen to them because there are some people who do not have the courage to stand. I’m not saying that I don’t understand their cowardice. But to you of whom I am speaking: know this, your failure to stand means that this will happen again to someone else. I stood. I lost the best job I ever had because I stood. You sit and keep your heads down hoping that mine was an isolated incident. It was not.

Now, unless some of those who have previously reused to testify come forward now, this case is dead. I know. It sucks. It causes panic attacks to talk about it, so i really don’t want to. Yes, they discriminated against me. Yes that was morally and legally wrong. No, without testimony of those who remain silent, there isn’t enough evidence to move forward. The law is really not on the side of the victims of discrimination when the perpetrators are big businesses. I’m not sure the legal solution to that.

I won’t ask you to stop going to restaurants owned by Panda Restaurant Group, but I do want you to know why I don’t.