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Friday, March 16, 2012

My first marriage.. for the love of my girls

In October 1997 I met a guy, who I will call Mel since I do not know anyone with this name.  He was only 19 and I was 28 but we were engaged two weeks later and married at the beginning of December of that same year.  I have to admit that before I "walked down the aisle" at the county courthouse I had many doubts but chose to ignore them.  Had I told my mom what I was thinking I'm sure I would not have gone through with the marriage, but what was done was done and I had to live with it.

Mel and I had adopted our first cat at a local Humane Society the day before we were married, who I named Simon.  He was a 14 lb. tabby, but he was not fat in the least.  He was just big!  Simon had huge, almost tiger-like paws and would go completely limp in my arms so I would call him my Noodle, since he reminded me of a cooked spaghetti noodle.  We had also rented our first apartment, so we were ready to move in with our cat, even though pets were not allowed, so it was a challenge making sure our Simon didn't jump on the window sills.
Mommy and Simon
By February, just two months into our marriage, I experienced my first nervous breakdown.  I had been working full time while Mel worked only part time.  I did all the cooking and housekeeping.  Mel played video games.  I had MS.  Mel played video games.  I tried my best to save money.  Mel went out and bought more video games.  I was fighting a losing battle and he didn't even care.  I ended up as an in-patient at a facility for mental health for almost a week and when I returned home, nothing changed.  My so-called "home" was a living hell and I didn't know what I could do to make it better.

The only thing Mel and I seemed to have in common was our shared love for cats and in March of that year we adopted Emmi Sue, who is still me to this day.  But after adopting her, it became even more difficult to keep our cats out of the windows so we were asked to vacate our apartment.  Mel's parents lived in Alabama and this is where we decided to go, although I was hardly excited with this decision.  I had never met his parents, Alabama was hot (the worst thing for MS) and I would have no one to talk to.  I was not looking forward to the move.

Emmi Sue!
If I remember correctly, we were in Alabama for a total of a month and a half, give or take a few days.  After meeting his mother I could see why Mel was as irresponsible as he was since I refused to place the blame on his age alone.  His father was alright but he was a truck driver so he was mostly on the road which meant we were left with his bitch mother.  I don't remember his parents' story but I know they were not together their entire marriage and while they were separated, her way of taking care of responsibilities was to move to a new location to avoid paying for things, so Mel thought it was alright to do this.  How is the right thing to do.. ever?  That way of thinking was beyond me and I knew we had to get out of there before I lost my mind again.

When we moved back to my hometown we stayed with my parents until we found our own place, which was our first house.  Wow, it was beautiful!  It was a small house, but it was OURS.  My parents helped us by paying off the loan for the car we had just bought for him as long as we made payments to them each month, which we of course promised.  They ended up paying a total of $7,000 towards bills he had accumulated BEFORE he had met me (plus the car, which was $10,000) but being that he had just gotten a very good full time job that paid $11 per hour, we knew we'd be fine.

It was probably a week or so before we bought the house that we went to the same Humane Society where we had gotten Simon that we adopted Allie and Jinger, our sweet kittens.  Since we had nowhere to keep them at first, a close friend of mine kept them at her house until we were ready to move into our home.
Jinger and Allie when they were kittens.. now they would take up most of the sofa!
When Mel and I first moved into our house, I loved it.  I spent a lot of time decorating, especially the bathroom.  I wish I had taken pictures of it!  It had been a huge, plain white room but by the time I was finished with it.. ugh, you'd have to see it to believe what I did with that bathroom.  I was also obsessed with mopping the kitchen floor since that was the main entrance into the house (or at least the easiest way in) and Mel insisted on never wiping his muddy boots before entering.  The house was truly lovely.. at first.

It probably took me all of six months to teach the kittens what the word "no" meant so I could pull down the curtains from being pinned up and no longer worry about them jumping on counters or scratching the new furniture.  It annoyed, bothered and made me want to burst out in laughter when Mel would say what a great job he had done in "training" the cats when he had done nothing of the sort.  I had been the one to teach them the rules of the house but didn't need to be praised.  Even as babies, my girls listened to me, came to me and loved me while they mostly ignored him and he resented me for it.  Even Simon preferred me over him.

A terrible habit Mel got into was going to the kitchen, getting a can of Durkee French Fried Onions (which I needed for different recipes) and eating them straight out of the can.  Then he'd eat one onion and give one to Simon until the can was empty, even though I told him I had read that onions were toxic to cats.  But Mel never listened to anything I said.  At the beginning of November 1998, Simon died of almost complete liver failure and I attribute it to the damn fried onions Mel repeatedly fed him.

In 1999, I was hospitalized again for yet another mental breakdown.  Life with Mel was too difficult to put into words and I didn't even know what was happening to me at the time.  I was appalled that Mel had become like his mother in that he refused to pay one cent back to my parents for the loans they had paid for us to get the house loan, so I had to get to the bank account before he had the chance to drain it with purchasing more video games.  It was a monthly battle and it drove me insane.  But he told me one day that he never had the intention of repaying them and that response made me cringe.  Who had I married?  

One of the worst parts is that even though I had two very close girl friends, I didn't feel I could tell them what was going on in my life, so I suffered in silence.  His main priority was himself, his video games, role playing games, buying more games and them maybe me.  His games even came before buying my insulin, which is what led to the worst night of my life.

It was August 1999 when Mel called me from his work telling me had just spent $70 on some shirts since a shirt rep had gone to his job selling them.  It really wasn't a terrible buy, but I needed money for my insulin which he said I could get the following week.  The following week?  Are you kidding?  So I hung up on him.  He called me back and yelled that I wasn't allowed to hang up on him.  So I hung up again.  We did this for at least 10 minutes and I knew we would have a huge fight when he came home later that night.

Emmi Sue had a slight ear infection and we had to put a gel into her right ear each evening and he was the one who usually did this, but knowing he would come home very angry, I gave her the medication that night before he came home.  When he arrived he went straight to the medicine, grabbed Emmi Sue roughly and tried to apply the gel when she bit him.  His face turned red and he threw her across the room, where she landed flat on her back and stayed that way until I jumped up and picked her up and rocked her in my arms.  I couldn't believe he threw my baby!

He then turned his anger to me by spouting all sorts of ugly words until I got up and called the girls to go upstairs, which they did immediately.  Once I was in the bedroom, he followed me and it surprised me that my little, shy Allie stayed sitting on the bed next to me.  She had always been so afraid of Mel since he yelled at me any chance he got, but there she was, standing defiantly in front of him as if saying "you're not going to hurt my mommy!"  He picked her up, shook her and said something like "why can't you like me!"  Allie bit and scratched him simultaneously, which angered him even more, so he threw her very harshly on the bed.  I think he wanted her to hit the headboard but he missed, but her little body bounced off the mattress and hit the headboard but not as hard as he would have liked.  I swooped her up off the bed and kissed her as I said to her "good Allie.  You're such a good little baby."  Mel then hit me me in the face, as if to make sure I understood he was still in charge.  He stormed out of the room, but not before unplugging the phone.

When Mel came back upstairs, I was beginning to feel afraid for my life and the lives of my girls.  The biggest problem I was facing was that my MS was crippling me severely at that time.  I could not drive.  I could barely walk.  I could not get away.  What would I do?  For some idiot reason, I thought I could still beat him down the stairs to get to the kitchen phone.  Well, I got to the phone, but once I got to it (a cordless), he unplugged it and I knew that was it for me.  I turned to him and cried "I just wanted to call my dad!"  Out of frustration I threw the phone straight down to the floor but the back of it opened and the battery hit him in the leg, causing his rage to hit new heights.  He came to me at full speed.  I tried to get away as he shoved me so hard that my feet lost contact with the carpet and I flew across almost two rooms, finally landing with my face only inches from our coffee table.  As I lay on the floor, I will never forget his words.  He stood over me and laughed, saying "look at you.  You can't even get up."

Somehow, I managed to get up and get to the bedroom and wonder what else would happen that night.  I was so frightened.  So when Mel came to the room one more time, I did the only thing I knew I could still do, which was annoy the living hell out of him until he allowed me to use the phone to call home.  He forbade me from speaking in Spanish, which was fine with me, so I called my dad and told him what had happened.  I think it took my dad all of 5 minutes to arrive, when it should have taken at least 10.  Mel had also left the house and for this I'm very glad.  My dad would have killed him.  So with my dad's help, we packed up my girls and I said good-bye to a life I should have never lived in the first place.

I've learned that the abuse started long before he laid a hand on me.  When I returned to my house to get my things, when Mel wasn't there, I sighed as I looked at the odd places I had hung things on the walls.  He had the habit of pushing me against the wall and punching, just a few inches from my face, making holes in many walls.  I would hang pictures to cover the holes so I wouldn't have to explain the damage.  I never told anyone of this until years later.  For some reason, I was too ashamed for anyone to know of this until I allowed myself to really remember what it had been like.  I was always too afraid to admit to myself that I had been terrified of this guy nine years my junior.  The abuse had been mostly mental because they have to do that so you allow it to continue.  Had I been in my right mind, I would have divorced him before he ever laid a finger on me.

I could have gone into far more details and I may still do that someday, but for now, I'll leave the story as I wrote it.  I can honestly say I would do it all over again for one, and only one, reason.  My girls.  My girls have made everything worthwhile.  I would walk on hot coals for the love of my girls and for me, that marriage was worse than hot coals.  It was a living hell.
Mommy, Emmi Sue, Allie and Jinger (as it will always be!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

MS.. heat intolerance and what happened to my curls?

Ah, it seems spring is on the horizon and I can feel it in every inch of my body.  You'd think I would love the change in temperature but it affects my MS so much that it's difficult to enjoy nice weather anymore.

Yesterday, Wednesday, March 14, it was a beautiful and unheard of 79°F (26.1°C), when the average temperature for this time of year is closer to 45°F (7.2°C).  I enjoyed opening many windows in my house and driving with the windows down but soon had to turn my air conditioner on, but only on my feet since this is where the MS attacks me first.
It seems the Tysabri has given me a very strange side effect that I can't find listed on any website, but I tend to be prone to effects that few experience.  My body is quite sensitive in this way.  What have I experienced?  Well, some of you may laugh, but.. my hair is no longer curling as it used to do.  I have extremely curly hair and all of a sudden the part closest to my scalp is still very curly, the middle part is almost straight and the ends are slightly wavy.  What on earth is happening to my hair???  It got to the point that I was so infuriated that I got the scissors out and cut my hair and I am regretting that move every day since I did it, about a month and a half ago.  I miss my long hair!  I really hadn't attributed the loss of my curly hair to the infusions until I spoke with a stylist yesterday afternoon, but it made sense.  It's the only new medication I'm taking and she mentioned that this does happen to many people when they begin taking something their bodies haven't become accustomed to, so this could very well be the case for me.

While at the stylist, I chose to have a deep cleaning and deep conditioning, which seems to have helped my curls a bit, even though I take very good care of my hair.  She was also impressed with how evenly I had cut my hair, especially the back.  She kept saying I should have been a stylist!  Little did she know that I had wanted to be one, back in the day, but my legs and back stopped me from pursuing this career.  But at least now my curls look slightly better and I'm hoping they'll continue to bounce!
March 15, 2012
At the moment, we are "enjoying" 81°F (27.2°C) and I feel as if I'm dying inside my house.  My feet are swelling, they're tingling like crazy, my legs are hurting, my hands are weak (the only thing I'm able to do is type without difficulty) and I need to use the bathroom but my body can't remember how to push, so it will be a futile journey down the hall.  UGH!  I only hope that this trend will not continue as March turns into April and the temperatures get warmer.  What will the summer hold for me and others with MS?  I truly dread summer every single year as it cripples me far more than the cold could ever hope to.
Last night, my feet exploded in what I would have to call the worst pain I have felt in years.  I was sitting at my computer when the sides of my feet, near my little toes, felt as if they were being stabbed by a billion very thick needles.  The pain was very intense and lasted a good ten to fifteen minutes and as much as I tried to fight it, I couldn't help but scream as tears rolled down my face from the pain.  It was horrible.  When the stabbing finally subsided, I was left with severe tingling and extremely swollen ankles and feet.  I don't think I have ever seen my feet swollen to that extent!  Thank goodness I didn't wake up to that pain today and a few minutes ago, I decided to turn the air conditioner on since the thermostat was showing the temperature in my house had risen to 87°F (30.5°C).  I did NOT want a repeat of last night!  So far, today hasn't been too bad but it's not even 5pm so we'll see what the evening has in store for me.  Ugh!  It's the waiting and anticipating that's the worst since I know the MS is just looking for the right moment to attack me again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

MS.. Fatigue from doing nothing

My Tysabri infusion was rescheduled from last Wednesday to yesterday, which is why I didn't write anything in my blog due to being extremely tired afterwards.  Before the infusion I had an appointment with my neurologist to discuss how I had been feeling since starting on Tysabri, three months ago.  I don't think I've seen much of a difference in my MS, aside from getting incredibly annoying headaches on an almost daily basis which I mentioned to him.  I had already been taking Topamax (3 tablets in the morning) and he increased my dosage to 3 tablets in the a.m. and three tablets at bedtime.  We'll see if this diminishes the headaches.

When I arrived at my neurologist's yesterday afternoon, I became tremendously exhausted and had trouble making my way to the nurse's station to have my vitals checked.  And then came the almost half hour wait for my doctor to call me back to his office, which didn't help.  He mentioned that we were experiencing a drop in pressure that afternoon and asked if changes in the barometer affected me.  Yeah, absolutely!  Whether it drops or rises, when the barometer shifts my MS acts up on me and shows up in different ways.  Sometimes I can feel it in my hips and pelvis as they become very tight and then, all of a sudden, they have spontaneous spasms at the worst moments.  Other times I have pain from head to toe and can barely peel myself out of bed.  And then on other occasions I feel weak and tired and am not motivated to do a damn thing, other than feed my three girls and.. yeah, that's about it!
Non-MS people try to understand what it feels like to be fatigued, but it's not so simple to do.  We're not really "tired," we're exhausted for no damn reason at all except that we're conscious.  It would be easy to confuse us for being lazy but nothing could be further from the truth.  As for me, I haven't worked since around 2001, yet some days I feel as if I've worked a 10-hour shift, run 7 miles and am still expected to cook a 3 course dinner!  When in reality all I probably did all day was get up, went to the bathroom, fed my cats, made some coffee, had a bagel or oatmeal for breakfast (at 11am), took my daytime meds, went back to bed so I could do my physical therapy exercises for 10 whole minutes, then off to sit on my butt at the computer while watching television (or just listening to it) until 5pm, heated up a Lean Cuisine dinner, played with my cats while sitting on my butt (they have their own chairs close to me so I don't need to bend down), more computer time... and this is basically most of my days, only interrupted with doctor's appointments and occasional visitors.  And THIS is what exhausts me?  My parents, who are 69 and 70, have much more energy than I do and I find this rather pathetic but it's hardly my fault and they really do understand my limitations.

Life with MS is hardly an easy one and I've learned to adapt to it over the years but this doesn't mean I like it in the least.  My priorities are taking care of myself and my sweet little kitties and I've made peace with this.  They take me as I am and this is something that makes my life so much easier.  They don't care if I'm having a bad hair day (which, unfortunately, happens far more often than I'd like) or if I hurt too much to take a shower that day or if the litter box stays unclean one extra day.  They take me as I am.  Ahh, unconditional love!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy 15th birthday, Emmi Sue!


Tiny Emmi Sue.. small but full of cattitude!
Fourteen years ago today I adopted my first little girl.. my adorable, feisty, lovable, one-of-a-kind Emmi Sue.  I remember that day so clearly, which I re-tell her every single year on her birthday.  I was at a local No-Kill Shelter with my first husband and was ready to leave the cat room since I hadn't seen any cat that had caught my attention to the point of wanting to adopt him or her.  I was in my wheelchair and was been pushed towards the door when I heard a very faint "meow meow meow" over and over again, so I asked the attendant who was meowing at me.  She pointed to a tiny black kitty in a cage and said her name was "Donna."  Donna?  Why would they give her such a name?  She explained they had first thought she was male and named her Don Juan but had changed it upon discovering she was female but I knew she needed a better name than the one she had been given.
Emmi Sue thinks she's a princess because she is.
As I eased my way toward the cage and put a finger in the cage, little "Donna" began to lick and rubbed her face on it.  I simply had to hold her!  Once she was in my arms, I knew she was my baby.  She was a tiny little 5 lb. "tuxedo" cat who wouldn't stop purring and rubbing her face on mine.  I was in love.  If she had not stopped me from leaving by getting my attention with her little meows, I would have left without meeting my first daughter.  She chose me as her mother and I am forever indebted to her for this.  Another amazing thing about Emmi Sue is that she rarely meows.  The only time I hear her voice is when she brings me toys, usually in the middle of the night, and it's with a deep, growling sort of meow, so it is hardly a sweet sound.  But on that day, she KNEW she had to get my attention.

Even though I was told at the time I adopted her that she was already full grown, Emmi Sue grew quite a bit after I took her home, so I highly doubt she was already a year old.  She's not a large cat, but weighs closer to 9 lbs. than the 5 lbs. when I had first held her in my arms.
Emmi Sue's famous tongue.. she's still a licker!
A few months after adopting Emmi Sue, I was watching The Sound of Music and as I was singing along to "Eidelweiss," new words popped into my head.  Eidelweiss and Emmi Sue both have three syllables, inspiring a song all her own!  It's a sort of lullaby I sing to her all the time and I know she loves it since her name is mentioned quite a few times.. and here is the song I wrote for her:

Emmi Sue, Emmi Sue
Every morning you wake me
Small and black, little brat
You look happy to lick me.
Little baby may you run and play
Run and play forever
Emmi Sue, Emmi Sue
Bless my angel forever.

Emmi Sue tends to be the one of my kitties who most people get close to the fastest.  She is very much a lap cat, even though she sheds something fierce!  She is the kindest, sweetest kitty towards people but it pains me to say that she isn't this way with her cat sisters.  Whenever she gets the chance, she walks by them and whacks them over the head with one of her paws and looks the other way as if to say "it wasn't me!"  The good thing is that I can usually catch her before she does this and all I have to say is "be nice.. please be nice..." and she walks past her sister (s) without incidence.  Yes, I've learned to "read" what she will do before she does it, as most good mother do!
Probably staring at her sisters, planning her next attack.
I discovered rather quickly that Emmi Sue absolutely HATES water, which made teaching her the rules of the house that much easier.  If she jumped on the counter or table, I would get my squirt bottle out and get her quickly, saying "Mommy said no" at the same time.  Now, all I have to do is say "no," and she will stop whatever it is she is doing, no water required!  And the truth is that she is a very well behaved kitty, as are all my girls.  All it took was a lot of love and patience and the rewards have been astounding.


Emmi Sue is definitely my jealous girl.  If I'm holding her in my arms, or even just petting her, I'd better not even say one of the other girls' names because it greatly upsets her.  It's as if she's thinking "but MOM!  Aren't I enough for you?"  So I've learned that when I'm with little Miss Em, my time is for her alone.  And I truly love having her in my arms.  She lays back, as if she is a baby, and stays with me for sometimes up to a half hour or more.  She loves attention and if I get the kitty brush out.. OMG, she's in ecstasy!
I love you, Emmi Sue!
I can't imagine life without my Emmi Sue.  She has added so much love, happiness, security and a sense of being needed to my life that I had not known before.  Emmi Sue is my needy, jealous, clingy, sometimes bitchy.. yet so very sweet, loving, intelligent, gentle and comforting little girl.  I love you so much, Emmi Sue, and thank you for choosing me to be your mommy.
Taken the year I adopted Emmi Sue as she lays in my arms like a little baby, 1998.