A Simple Heart- My Struggles with Insanity

No one ever really sets out to lose their mind. The hardest part is trying to piece it back together, particularly after ECT. Yeah shock therapy, yeah they still do that. It helps a lot of people but it didn’t really help me. It just made me confused and depressed instead of just depressed. I had 14 of those motherfuckers, so you can imagine it left me pretty confused afterwards. It makes you lose your memory which you’re supposed to get back over time or at least that’s what everyone tells you. I’m still waiting.

I’m not really sure what happened. I’d lived in Brooklyn fifteen years running a successful dog walking, training, and pet sitting service, which I loved. But managing people as it grew was a constant source of stress. As you can imagine the turnover rate is pretty high and people drawn to the profession aren’t always the most responsible. I had one guy lose a whole set of keys twice and then quit and then try to claim unemployment so I’m getting audited by the department of labor which is a nightmare of paperwork.

I was (am) happily married, we had an apartment in a nice neighborhood, Park Slope, until they built the fucking Barclay Center which totally ruined things. They started throwing up high rises left and right and every rich douche from Manhattan started moving in. It became crowded, expensive, and unbearable. I started wearing earplugs just to leave the apartment, sometimes in the apartment along with the fucking white noise machine so you can attempt to sleep through neighbors and sirens and the like.

So we moved to Clinton Hill, a little quieter neighborhood which it turned out was kind of a transportation nightmare with the old neighborhood and work. The G train isn’t the best line to be on. And when you work from home and your business is based in another neighborhood, and parking subway are pretty much ridiculous what do you do? If you are me you have a nervous breakdown apparently.

It wasn’t just that, it was like life was this giant game of Jenga and the pieces kept getting pulled out until the whole thing just fucking toppled. You’ll have to excuse my use of the F-word, I’m hoping at some point this whole thing becomes a spiritual experience but right now it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and there is no other word to adequately express myself.

So one of the biggest Jenga pieces happened that February. We had been renting a cottage upstate a few hours to get away near Saugerties and Woodstock. We paid for it by bringing dogs up for a country get away. We’d sometimes throw 5 dogs in the car and take them up. It was ridiculous. Some of my happiest memories (that I can remember) were there. The dogs loved it and we did too, the simplicity, the nature, the small town.

One time we went to the movies in Saugerties and we got their 30 minutes early to make sure we could get seats like you do in the city. The theater wasn’t even open yet. Turns out they don’t open until like ten minutes before the movie starts because unlike the city doing a normal activity isn’t a shit show you have to plan for as if you’re going to battle. After the movies we’d go get pie at the local diner or visit our friend Rae who runs a kick as chocolate shop/ café that she lets us bring our dog into. We’d take the dogs on nature hikes and send pictures to their owners who were ecstatic because their dogs seemed so joyful in nature.

The cottage we rented from a really great artistic couple of NYC ex-pats who lived in a bigger house on the property. The cottage was small but the land was big, we had a few fenced in areas but were also surrounded but a hill, woods, and a creek. We tested the dogs on a long line always to make sure they would stay close and listed if we let them off leash. They’d swim in the creek chase each other around and basically have a blast. The cottage this place was our safe place our sanctuary from the cares of NYC until February 2015.

norms rock

Norman king of the creek

Norman running free Norman creek

We took my dog, Phoebe, and another terrier mix Norman upstate for the weekend. Norman had been up several times and listened really well so we had no reason to not let him off leash. Phoebe is a smart somewhat mischievous dog who kept testing the boundaries of how far she could go from us. She particularly liked going up the hill on one side of the property to try to find deer poop to roll in which was it’s own joy to deal with. She took off that day up the hill and Norman followed her. We followed them immediately not liking any of the dogs to be out of eyesight. We kept calling for Norman. Phoebe finally came back without him and I knew then something was wrong. I heard a hawk screech above us. I got in my car and started driving up the road to look for him to see if he’d just gotten lost or something. Dennis kept searching the woods. I rounded the corner and there he was dead on the side of the road. Some motherfucker had hit him and didn’t even stop. I screamed and burst into tears. I put him into the car and drove back to the house honking the horn and yelling for Dennis.

Harry and Catherine our landlords came out to see what all the commotion was I was sobbing so hard there was snot running down my face. I could barely speak. I love animals more than people because they have a simple heart unlike people who always have their hearts covered and cloaked by the things they’ve had to live through. There’s none of that with dogs. They just love you. I called Norman’s owners hysterical they couldn’t have been more understanding of the accident. I asked if they wanted me to bring him back to the city or bury him up there. They told me to bury him up there. Harry got a shovel and helped us dig a hole. I wrapped Norman in my favorite Walt Whitman T Shirt and said some prayers. I can’t stop blaming myself.

I was in shock, this couldn’t have happened in our one safe place to one of the dogs I had loved and cared for for years. But it did happen. I haven’t been the same since. If you told me I would lose my mind over a dog dying I would’ve told you to fuck off. I’m from Brooklyn I can handle that. But like dogs I have a gentle heart as much as I try to act tough.

The depression started soon after. First I didn’t want to go up to the cottage, then I didn’t want to be in the city. I started having trouble getting out of bed, leaving the house, basically functioning and showing up for life. Then the suicidal thoughts started coming. I’ve been on meds and in therapy most of my adult life for depression but it had never been like this, it had always been manageable. The hospitalizations started and endless series of doctors in the city and upstate. The darkness came and went but was always there. My mom came up and stayed with me for a while upstate since Dennis was working in the city. I put one of my trusted employees in charge of things for the most part and attended about a month long partial hospitalization program. That helped and the people of Kingston/ Benedictine hospital are very kind.

I decided I couldn’t go back to the city. And even got a receptionist job at the local SPCA. I decided to sell my business. I worked out a deal with another dog walking company I knew. But then after a few weeks I started to feel better and I also started to get scared. How could I let go of the business I had worked so hard to build for a part time job in a city my husband wasn’t even in yet. I went back to Brooklyn and that’s when it got really bad. I asked for the business back and the buyer obliged but I couldn’t run in I could barely function yet again. So I wound up selling it to her again for a smaller percentage. I didn’t feel like I had a choice I was painted into a corner and didn’t exactly have the time or energy or sanity to go looking for another buyer who would keep my employees and customers in tact and happy.

I went back upstate, my mom came back. They put me in the hospital again. They changed my meds again. Nothing but darkness, an empty hole where I used to be able to feel things. I kept asking my mom to kill me. We didn’t know what to do so I drove back to Florida with her. We were scared if she left me alone up there I’d try to kill myself.

A day after we got to Florida they put me back in hospital. Psyche wards are just not a place you ever want to be more on that later. I can’t remember much about that hospitalization because that’s where they gave me ECT. They would put me under 3 times a week and shock me. I’d wake up confused, but I guess they thought I was getting better because they kept doing it. Then they released me on like six different medicines I needed a chart to keep track of. They enrolled me in a Partial Hospitalization Program. On the third day I told them I was having suicidal thought and they kicked me out. They said I had to go back to the emergency room. Fuck that the first time I waited 28 hours to get help there and so far I was still fucked up. They referred me to a shrink who referred me to Wakiva another behavioral treatment hospital.

At this point I had what I know now is called Akathisia which is an inability to stop moving. I was pacing, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still. Apparently, this was a side effect from all the medicines I was on. They admitted me at Wachiva to a ward where a woman wouldn’t stop screaming cuss words all day and night which I can tell you doesn’t do a whole lot for your depression. They took me off all the meds then called me bipolar (which no one ever had before) and put me on lithium. I thought it was working cause the shaking and pacing stopped so they discharged me. But then seven nights went by without me being able to sleep. I stayed up all night pacing. (Add More about hospital homeless and starting an AA meeting)

This time they put me in the hospital at River Point (which is nowhere near a river I can assure you). There they took me off lithium and put me on prozac. They eventually, discharged me to their Partial Hospitalization program even though I kept asking if they thought I was ready because I was still crying and having suicidal thoughts. They told me to let the meds kick in. They didn’t so the new doctor I started seeing put me on Brintellex. Which mad me nauseous and gave me diarrhea. I’ve been on it 3 weeks, with lamictal, and kolonopin. I had a good week when I was going down on the prozac and up on the Brintellex but then he tool me off the Prozac. Suicidal thoughts again.

Meanwhile my husband Dennis up in NY and I guess I (don’t remember) decided to sell our apartment and move upstate. He got a job and moved everything. Himself with the help of some of our friends. I want to go back but I have to get stable enough. I had a dream the other night that I hung myself at the cottage which was enough to scare the shit out of me. I don’t know what to do at this point. I’m sleeping on my parents couch and going to partial. I’m scared sometimes to leave the house or drive but I’m making myself.

I’m in AA for 18 years so I go to meetings and call people. I do step work. I’m trying to change my belief in God to something more positive working the second step “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” but I’m so fucking mad at God right now. All I’ve done for the past 18 years of my sobriety is try to help other people get sober, do service work, even in my job I just wanted to help people and when I really, really need and am begging God for help it feels like he’s nowhere to be found. I suppose he’s in the people who have helped keep me alive until now. But I just keep begging for this depression to lift. I want what’s left of my life back. I miss my husband. I’ve been in Florida for four months trying to get well. My poor fucking parents. They are saints of patience. I just keeping praying for God to heal me. There are days I feel like I can’t go on but I can’t just kill myself. It would hurt too many people, and I know this is just my diseased mind.

NYC pissed me off a lot but I don’t know if I was ready to leave my business, apartment, and friends. Not in this way. It didn’t feel like much of a choice. It seemed like survival. Sometimes, I wish I could’ve stayed there and gotten the help I needed and gotten through it. Maybe I could have but that isn’t what happened. When I get well I don’t know what I’m going to do in rural NY. I suppose I can do some pet sitting, I want to learn dog grooming, and I can still train dogs. That part of my memory seems to be coming back. I don’t know when this will lift. I’m hanging on by a thread, hopefully someday I’ll be able to help someone else with this experience. If I make it through. I’m a goddamn warrior though, I’m not going down with out a fight.

normanface

Here’s a poem I wrote for Norman and his folks

Pay Attention!
for Norman

You had so much to say when I met you barking, Look a dog!
A pigeon!
Look a lady smiling!

Would you look?!
Do you see?!
Barreling breathlessly along with an occasional hop Your short legs struggling to keep up
With your riotous exuberance for every creature Under the wide open sky. Shiny under-bite smile Electric shock of white hair and brown eyes beg Pay attention!
Do you see that hawk over the hill?!
River rock juts up and out, a perfect perch
for you to survey all of God’s creation.
Pay attention!
Don’t worry, just run through green fields
Chase me or I’ll chase you!
Pay Attention!
Remember to play, and jump, and tease despite The cold November freeze and chest aching.
Cold has come and grey has settled into winter.
I will always remember what you taught me
to delight in the trees and wonder at the flowers, insects buzzing. The Spring must come again
with new life blooming, and we will pay attention.

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2 Comments

Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, God, NY, Poetry, Spirituality, Upstate

2 responses to “A Simple Heart- My Struggles with Insanity

  1. thislifeontheedgeofparkslope

    Dear Susie,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through this horrendous rough patch. This is a rough patch though. It’s the worst of the worst but your life will change for better. Things don’t ever stay bad forever.

    You don’t know me but I’ve been a fan of yours for years. I’ve been trying to get my own dog walking business off the ground, in Park Slope South, for years. You’re achievements in life have been an inspiration to me.

    I just want you to remember that all you’ve done in life is huge. People spend their entire lives trying to do all you’ve done, with no success. You made this incredible, successful business, you became a published author, and you found happiness.

    What’s going on now is just a bump in the road. Many of us have life hand us more than we think we can handle and we find ourselves in a kind of hell on earth…like what you’re going through now. Like so many of us have, you’re going to get back on your feet. When you do, you’re going to be even better than you were before. You’ll be a force to reckon with.

    From one dog walker to another, I’m wishing you all the best and I’ll always keep you in my prayers.

    With warmest regards,
    Sharon

  2. Reblogged this on Goals Go Global and commented:
    From one of the most amazing, talented dog trainers — who helped us to see the best in our rescues, and to find our home. Susie, you are brave, you are such beautiful heart.

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