Tag Archives: agoraphobia

Daddy, your peaches blossomed again

peach tree blossoms
peach tree blossoms

Many things happened since I could last come actively here. I did try to blog from the phone, but that proved very challenging due to troubles with touch screen displacing and erasing things I wrote. It somehow didn’t seem meant to be, me and the WordPress. My mom was severely bitten by probably some spiders and developed a horrific reaction, we had a totally crazy tour of the clinics which would make a great story by itself. Now, almost 4 weeks later her leg seems a bit better, but it will obviously take a very long time to heal completely. My dog got bitten by two very mean dogs, the second time this year. My mom overdid with Easter preparations, but she wanted to do it as if dad were still here. It was somehow solemnly good, yummy and special, yet extremely sad. And on the top of it, tired like hell, I managed to cover half of the road to my dad’s garden by bus. Yep, I actually ENTERED the out of the city bus somehow. I don’t think I would have dared if my uncle who was spending Easter in the area didn’t mention that he would go half the way towards the city to by some fertilizers and that we could get of the bus and cut the road much shorter by his car. Having that as a chance to “escape” in case I panicked, I agreed – under sedation, there is no question about it. Every time I get there, my mind badly needs to pull my dad out of somewhere – out of his little wooden house, garden, from behind the trees… I watch and watch, but he’s nowhere to be found. Getting on the bus was hard also because my heart sinks when I see those little half broken buses, because in the last years my dad gave his best to use exclusively them to get to the garden and not the car in order to save. It was hard and strenuous, it is even for a much younger person, and I was nowhere to be found to help. And he had cancer, who knows for how long in these last years previous to the diagnose. Now I’m punished, he’s nowhere to be found. I constantly live in pain and have nightmares. I wouldn’t ask for any sort of help from him, just for his mere presence, to see him glad that I’m in the garden. That won’t happen, ever again, I’m punished for life. It’s been 7 months, and now I know – it will never stop hurting, as long as I live. It will just take many faces, that bundle of grief, some days will be a bit better, some much worse, but I will never be the person I was even just last July. We all change I know, even when nothing so extremely bad happens and we can never be who we used to be before, but my change is drastic. It affected so many areas of my life that I feel that I literally became somebody else, that I don’t belong to any of the places or among the people I once knew. I keep going in circles in the dark, searching for an answer who I am today and where and how to go from here. I so desperately want to understand, as if I could do something nobody alive ever managed to do – understand death.

There are many hurdles along this road and one of them is that nobody in my immediate surroundings want to talk about the dad or even just mention him. They feel that it is a wrong thing to do and that “distracting” me and my mom completely will help. Well, it doesn’t. It takes just one look in the mirror to remember, I am the infallible living proof that he existed. I want to talk, talking about him helps, it is all the part of the grieving process. Maybe some people feel better if they pretend nothing happened, keep it all inside and just go on minding their business when someone dies, but that’s not me. I need to verbalize emotions, to bring back old times, to remember things he said and did. People resist, I still say what is on my mind. Maybe they mean well after all, but they just don’t know how to talk about this kind of things. I know that they want an affirmative answer when they ask how I’m doing, but I’m not ok. Not even close. It’s all problems and pain. Saying that I’m ok won’t change that, but that’s all people accept to hear.

My aunt and uncle preferred to focus on the digital disaster part of the disastrous story, and as I explained that everything failed on me – computer, printer, scanner, phone charger etc. they remembered that they have an old laptop nobody uses which should still be in working state.

So we got this old, long asleep device going again, which caused many mixed emotions. I got used to not having a computer any more, so it both made me happy and sad somehow. It’s very old and half broken, but still it’s one of the nicest gestures towards me in months. I should have been happy when I got it going because that meant that I could blog again among other things and I accumulated ideas to talk about over time, but I was just blocked. Almost didn’t feel like coming back. Didn’t know what to say. If anybody would be interested. Also so much happens that I never have time for myself to properly concentrate on verbalizing thoughts. Then I came here and let the words flow, that was the best I could do. Also, I’m still getting used to this laptop, I can’t explain it, but things don’t seem the same from here, everything feels awkward, typing included. It has quite a bad screen, colors are very unreal which is not photo-friendly thing at all, but I still hung up a picture. Feels like having some form of color and contrast blindness, but who knows, maybe somebody out there will like it. It’s one of my dad’s peaches, I cried when I saw the bloom. He would love it. I wish I could know if he can see it.

Dad, they blossomed again, see how beautiful they are. It’s spring again, nature goes on as usual. Everything’s as it used to be, everything’s there where you left it, we just can’t find you… and we miss you so much, we would have so much to tell you. I hope you’re well, I wish I could just know you are. Love, Tanja

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Nothing ever stays the same

I’ve had a PC in my home for exactly 14 years. It was the summer of 2000 when I more than willingly traded my usual summertime trip to the seaside for a big plastic box full of metal, strange boards and interesting wires, something my parents couldn’t understand at all. I had already had some computer knowledge of course, if you take into consideration that I absolutely adored my little ZX Spectrum and loved playing on my cousin’s Commodore, moving on to TIM computers of domestic production installed at my mom’s office and connected to a server that took a whole room to function, requiring carefully maintained dust-free environment. After that, a whole new world opened in front of me when I could use those very first 286 and 386 computers bought exclusively for my high school, which was followed by a certain digital delay in my life due to horrible economic sanctions my country had to endure in 1990s, but I still used computers wherever I could – in libraries, offices, internet cafes… until that day when I finally got hold on my first very own, precious and perfect little desktop configuration. I felt like Golum in the Lord of the Rings, no question about it. 🙂 I remember how I personally chose each part of that configuration to be assembled and surprisingly enough, I did an excellent job. My father said that it was probably a totally useless expensive purchase as the “thing”, screen included, would probably serve just to gather dust in my room as I would grow out of it in no time. To his complete astonishment, there wasn’t a single day without that box any more and he couldn’t understand what happened, nor he has ever understood it to this very day. He simply hates computers and can hardly realize how many different areas of human life they essentially deal with in today’s world. Nevertheless, I was and still am very grateful to him for that first configuration that now lives only in my memory, apart from its box case which is the only thing I preserved from those distant and much happier days.

My peaceful digital days abruptly ended with one unusual power outage a couple of years later. Even though the computer wasn’t turned on at that moment, it was still plugged in and when the power came back, something simply “popped” out loud in quite a disturbing way. The power surge was much stronger than allowed and my shock was indeed tremendous, I just sat on the floor and stared for a long time at the box that wouldn’t turn on any more. My warranty had expired and the store where I had bought it didn’t exist any more, so I didn’t know what to do. I desperately wanted my programs and my data back, and the solution arrived as usual from my mother – sometimes I do wonder what would have become of me if it wasn’t for her in my life. I distantly recall that she knew somebody important from the IT sector in our Telecom, so we took the box with us to that at the time big and fancy Telecom building to be “cured”. We sat in a separate room drinking some juice and waiting for the “verdict”. It’s just power supply, we’ll fix it in no time, no worries. Wonderful, I sighed with relief. The box was supposed to arrive back to the room where we sat in any minute and we could go home. Instead, there was this guy who fearfully appeared at the door, rambling something about my desktop icons that for some strange reason got enlarged 10-fold and couldn’t be opened any more, all this after 15-20 minutes of completely normal work. He was hushed up by another guy who confirmed that the problem was very serious, but avoided any discussion on who or what caused the problem. Judging from their faces, it was them who did something, but didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t push things any further, the damage was done and there was no way back. The second guy said that there was this man – and he wrote his name and address on a piece of paper – who could help with such a problem. I will never forget what he said – if there is anybody in this town who can fix it and preserve your data, it’s him. I was skeptical about the whole thing, but I simply had to give it a try. It was just a piece of paper, but it made an enormous difference.

That was how I met my PC handyman and his family, which changed my digital life for the better in million ways. He sat with that computer for 3 straight days and nights and simply didn’t let it die. Everybody else would have given up much sooner, but he was persistent to some incredible point, which is one of his traits that I admire with astonishment to this very day. He saved all my data, refreshed my configuration, supplied me with surge arrest power cords and UPS, all at really modest costs. This humble and modest man would have made a fortune in a different country with his IT knowledge, yet he struggled and still struggles to secure a decent living for his family because of his decision to remain in Serbia. We met on several more occasions, either to upgrade the system or the configuration because there were times in my life when I foolishly aspired to become a successful graphic designer and wanted the best computer I could afford, or simply because of some minor conflicts I couldn’t solve on my own. We stayed in touch and exchanged all sorts of season’s greetings for quite some time, but eventually this ended just like everything else ended in my life, it vanished in the darkness and silence with the arrival of the worst PD episode I experienced so far. I remotely remember that I needed some sort of his assistance at some point less than 5 years ago, but it was my parents who took the box the box to him and brought it back as I couldn’t go anywhere. And that was it.

The box worked, slower and slower as the time passed, but it never failed on me, till that previously mentioned “the end of the world” that occurred 2 weeks ago. I should have known better and I should have worked on preventing that thing from happening, but I simply got lost in the vicious circles dominated by my own demons, that I failed to see the reality around me. When I was rightfully punished for yet another neglected job in my life, one more time I simply didn’t know what to do. I was all caught up in my photo-blogging routine and now all of a sudden I was facing this system32 fatal error… all I could think of was the true realm of data that system used to control and how indeed fatal such loss could be in many ways.

Surprisingly enough, I forced myself to visualize the worst case scenario and I didn’t fall apart. I did cry a bit when I was alone, but not for a long time. I felt some numb acceptance of my fate, convinced that if something should have vanished from my life, it was good that it should be only that box. I couldn’t recognize myself, that’s not how I would have normally reacted to a digital disaster in previous years. I still can’t name exactly what changed me in the course of these last several years, but I know for sure that it must be a combination of things.

I’ve dealt with so many vital losses in my life so far that I think that this trained me how to behave in case of another one. So many things in life are about practice, I don’t see why it should be any different when dealing with a loss – the more you practice surviving it, the better you get at it. Apart from losing entirely my freedom, all my friends, boyfriend, any possibility of having a family and children of my own some day, jobs, income, I also survived a cancer threat 2 years ago when my newly discovered thyroid nodule was eventually diagnosed as benign – such things make you reevaluate your whole life and reset you system of values, making you form totally new priorities. My nodule was and maybe still is benign, but it’s still in my neck. It can always turn malign for some reason as long as it’s there, and that’s something I’m aware of every single day. My parents are both in their seventies and I deeply fear being left completely alone in this world, being the way I am. I take care of two precious dogs and I know that in spite of whatever I do, something can happen to them which would be indeed a devastating blow, because I have no friends or children, they are like two babies who apart from my parents are the only beings that greet me with sheer happiness every single day. I went through some very deep PD pits and climbed some small way back up, but it can surely worsen just about any time – once before I made the error of thinking that I had seen the worst of PD and that it surely couldn’t get any worse, but I was brutally shown that oh yes it could get MUCH worse, so I’m quite aware that I must be thankful even for the moments when things are bad but at least without changes for worse. Or simply – maybe it was none of this that changed my attitude, maybe it’s simply time that passed, maturity I gained, life experience I collected… maybe it’s just depression resurfacing and I just don’t care any more… or maybe after all those horrific flood events I realized that I had no right to complain as I still have a bed where to sleep and a good ceiling above my head.

Taking all this into consideration, losing some “box” simply should have to fall off the list of life priorities for good. Yet, we’re not talking about just any box. This box still contained my precious data from as far back as that famous year 2000, it carried on its disks so many moments from my dear long gone and lost past, files that flash in my mind so many people, places and memories so dear to my heart which was an excellent reason for me not to erase them. There were tons of e-mails, tons of valuable business related data, tons of creative files I made while I attended the Academy of Arts, tons of photos, special songs, video clips, valuable manuals, language courses, translations, books, installed programs – killing it in an instant would definitely equal killing a 14 year old brain that gathered so many information and connections in its lifetime. OK, somebody will definitely say – oh stop the rant, weirdo – have you ever heard of the magic word BACKUP??? Yes I did, but up to a little while ago I didn’t have enough space to save so much information, I had two not very large flash discs and I burnt some DVDs, but that was hardly enough. I recently got a quite large external disc and wanted to start this massive backup, but things rarely turn out the way you planned, at least it’s that way in my life.

On the other hand, losing something for a mentally stable person is one thing, while such loss for somebody like me is something entirely different. If you’re healthy and well and have means, you’ll go on from the point of the loss and build yourself a life again. In my case, I’ll probably never be able to function the way I used to ever again and I have to live with it, but at least when took a look at my data I could have a sense of dignity, knowing that I could document with something tangible that I was not always the useless person I became due to my illness. I could open a file and motivate myself by saying – there, I made this – if I could do it back then, maybe I could try again. Fourteen years are quite a long time, there were so many people who left marks on my computer but are not present in my life any more – nevertheless, by just looking at those marks I could bring them back to my life in my memory, the same way as when you take a look at an old photo and travel back in time.

Among the last things but not the least by any means, that computer had on it my full size photos of things I published here, and those weren’t simply blog posts and nothing more. I took up my camera after a very long time, and it took a certain courage to do it and believe in myself. There were people here who liked my photos and inspired me to go on, making me believe that I was doing it well. I was building some creative meaning into my days after so much time and it was a step further up from the bottom of the pit I fell in. Taking that dignity away from me would be quite painful to say the least.

I was sitting on the floor once again, staring at the box. I needed badly my handyman again. To save my computer. To save my dignity and my nerves. To save that large portion of my lost life. To make everything the way it used to be. To make that familiar dolphin reappear on my desktop and convince me that everything stayed the same. To take away the tears and the pain. To restore the system, to restore hope. Hope of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel even just one more time before I die. To give me a second chance to motivate myself to give my life a meaning. To help me regain the illusion that I didn’t fall as low as I actually fell. People sometimes really have no idea what can be hiding behind simple “things”, just like they have no idea that PC handymen can sometimes heal human souls as well.

I had to find his phone number and his address again. It’s been almost 5 years. Where is he? Is he working? Is he well? How is his family? The words from the beginning of this story – if anybody can fix it in this town, it’s him – resonated in my head over and over again. I didn’t know what exactly to say to him if I found him after such a long time. Will he remember me? He lives way out of my comfort zone, and even though I’m doing better, that’s not something I can handle well. How will I do it? Who will help me? And… is there hope? His mobile phone rang and there was some weird operator’s automatic machine voice talking in some incomprehensible way till I got a word or two. He wasn’t available, but the phone was – in Greece, that much I figured out. Many Serbian people go to the Greek seaside during summer, nothing strange about it, I was convinced in my heart that it was just a vacation. His home phone was changed and I didn’t remember the address any more. I forced my brain till it came up with the street, but I couldn’t squeeze out the home number. Fortunately even just a street name was enough to locate him, and I dialed the phone number. A female voice informed me that he was on vacation in Greece and that he was coming back – the following day! I think that I shouted something like OH GREAT, leaving the girl totally puzzled. It must have been his daughter, but I was too anxious to realize that I didn’t even realize who I was talking with.

I left him two days to recover from the trip and time zone change, then I pulled together my anxious mind and dialed his number. Right there something happened, something that goes far beyond this whole situation, something perhaps small but immensely precious for me – I said who I was and he shouted – ohhhhhhhh it’s youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…… in such an incredibly happy way, as if he heard again from a long lost, but very dear old friend, it virtually brought tears to my eyes. It’s been literally ages that somebody was happy to hear me, let alone – that happy. And he said a strange thing, that he and his wife were talking about me a couple of days prior to leaving for Greece, wandering what had happened with me – telepathy? 🙂 He asked what computer I had now, and I said – the same as the last time you saw it. He replied – no way, no way, impossible… I would never believe that that PC was still alive, it outlived at least two times its own generation! He added that so many things had happened to him and his family since we spoke the last time and we agreed to meet at his place.

Deja vu continued, it was again me and my mom, one more time together, we put the box into a bag and dragged it to a taxi. The trip was more than unpleasant for me even though I was sedated for the occasion, but we made it. And there we were, in front of his building and images started coming back at full force – all the moments when we were there, what we did, how we did it… the building looked the same, the playground in front of it as well and it was comforting, as though I didn’t miss out that much of life in these last 7 years… but then the illusion inevitably vanished when I pressed his doorbell. There was that man, the face looked the same, but he gained a lot of weight, he smiled much more than he used to, he let me in and there was that room I remembered, only drastically changed. New, modern and stylish furniture, new TV set, new working point. “Waking up from a coma after a long time” effect started choking me again, then I saw his wife – at least she looks exactly the same, I thought with relief. We sat and started talking, and his wife confirmed that many things changed. Then she added in some automatic, seemingly careless and ironical way – among other things, we had cancer as well… I was like – wait, wait, what did you say?? Cancer, she repeated. Who had cancer? I did, she said. Breast cancer. What in the name… Yes, she added – I had the operation, radiations and chemotherapy, full pack. I took another better look at her and there was that face that I remember from before, not changed in any possible way, yet the woman went straight to hell and back again. Her mom died of stroke shortly after the end of her treatments. My handyman had bad issues as well with some huge blood vessels that burst somewhere in his respiratory tract which resulted in heavy bleedings which led to hospitalizations and all sorts of procedures. But I didn’t see any of that, I saw two positive and smiling beings, appearing strong and cheerful and really happy to see me and my mom again. I simply had to mention to my handyman that he seemed to me much more cheerful than I remember him, to which he said something that struck me deeply and still does – I am more cheerful, I have to be, I realized that life is very short.

I can’t define exactly how I felt after these words – humbled, ashamed, sad, angry with life, ready to pick up the box and dump it to trash outside…
Life indeed is very short, life is about us, people, about what we carry in our heads and souls and not about files on some discs that can vanish at any time. Suddenly it all lost weight and meaning, and I was just happy that we were all still sitting there, alive, talking, feeling more or less well at this moment in time. Me and my mom left the box at his place and wandered away in the night, burdened with many thoughts and questions without answers, yet I was for some reason convinced that it would all be well. I had a panic attack on the way back home because I wanted to be “brave” and use the public transport, I had to get off the bus and get back onto another one, but that was by far the furthest I went somewhere with the bus in the last 7 years, especially at night.

If somebody can fix it, he can…

It took him two days at his place and at work and another day at my place, it took us several additional phone calls during which he instructed me what to do, but we did it. Files are alive and kicking, Windows was repaired without re-installation which means that all my programs are still here, the dolphin is looking at me from the background… but most importantly, I got another huge lesson in life priorities. It makes me think again that everything happens with a reason, maybe that digital disaster was necessary because I had to realize something important and be pushed to the limits to see how much I can do.

I don’t think that my handyman will ever realize how much all this meant to me and how much he has helped me in all these years that we’ve known each other. I thank him and thank him and keep saying that he did a lot for me, but the story is way much deeper that he’ll even imagine. The only point is that as long as we’re all alive, computers will live as well, in one way or another. If we’re no longer here, the box will be nothing more than that mass of metal, boards and wires from the beginning of this story, useless object somebody will dump to trash without thinking twice about it. I don’t blame that person who will come after me and do it, life indeed is short and he or she will never have time or interest to go through all the bits and pieces my life consisted of, his or her time will inevitably come as well.

I got a second chance to go through my data and travel back in time with my programs, and even if it doesn’t last, I will at least hopefully have some more time at my disposal to come to better terms with those days behind me, which account for almost half of my entire life so far.

Agoraphobics hate leaving their comfort zone, but they loath change even more. However, no matter how much you try to run away from change, no matter how long your life remains frozen in time, that big life out there still goes on with or without you, it simply doesn’t care. And nothing ever stays the same. So take good care of precious people, beings and things in your life, because you never know how long you’ll have them by your side.

Life must go on…

It’s needless to say, I’m not doing good these days. And it’s not a rant, it’s a simple fact. I’m somebody who’s battling with high anxiety day in day out, even at the best of times, so it’s really hard to keep going when the worst of times bring out the worst of what anxiety has to offer. It was already hard for me to take out the camera again after I can freely say years of “silence” and start shooting some pictures again, and when I finally got there somehow, once again it lost sense after the tragic events in my country. Taking camera out is hard because it is literally painful. It reminds me of where I used to be in life, why and how all the good things stopped, it makes me think of what I endured and where I could have been now if it weren’t for what happened… also, the camera’s shabby, neglected look infallibly reflects the amount of time that passed since I took it in my hands for the first time. It is run over by time, and in a way so am I, because I don’t really belong right here and right now. So many things changed while I kept sitting in my house and I feel as though I entered the state of coma back in 2007 and continued sleeping, while life naturally moved on without me. Now I’m probably sort of semi-awake, by there is this gap in time that is very hard to fill, sometimes I feel like an alien in the world that surrounds me. I started shooting things that my dad grows in his garden trying to reconnect with a place that for me lives only in my memory and with nature itself, it was my need to reach out to something beautiful and colorful that represents the better side of life, something that can represent me in a better way. And what happened? The floods came. Not only that beautiful and colorful pictures became insignificant, pointless and out of place in a tragic and very depressing situation, it also turned out that what could have been memorized with my camera literally vanished to a great extent. My dad’s garden suffered significant losses because of all that rain and the orchard will hardly give anything this year if it doesn’t recover. He replanted some of the things although it’s quite late for doing it, but the bottom line is that he’s been there twice in the last 3 days and hasn’t brought anything home. It’s God knows what time that my patience is at test because of having to stop something that I started or going back to square one, but I decided not to give up this time. There are so many people who lost their lives or everything they had in life, so I have no right to complain. I just wish I could suffer a bit less because of everything that happened here and be instead a bit more useful, but I can’t change myself. I can only try to be the best version of myself of today, do some good, help somehow, and look for a grain of hope for the future of everybody out there, as well as for myself.

Today I’d like to share a small photo story of the previous days from an agoraphobic’s point of view. This person couldn’t grab the camera and shoot in the critical places, I had only my immediate surroundings at my disposal.

1. THIS IS HOW IT STARTED…

kisobran

This photo was taken on the first day of the rain from my window… it was so dark and gloomy in the middle of the day, but ISO 1600 helped me to get something more than a blur of what was going on outside. There was quite a lot of wind at some point as well, and it brought along a small, smiling umbrella into our muddy pond. It did seem interesting and cute at the time, but thinking back from here, there was some very bitter irony in that smile as we couldn’t even dream of what was going to happen.

2. THE SECOND DAY OF RAIN, TERRACE

Lepi-Jova

We have a semi-covered terrace and rain hardly ever touches the flowers planted in boxes, but this time it just unleashed all the anger on smaller plants, ISO 1600 was a must even here and the camera got pretty wet in the process. I liked these little flowers, I picked them and planted myself… now they are gone, drowned in the rain. There is only this photo left.

3. HOPE

bozur

Instead of collecting vegetables from the garden, my father picked up this flower that was floating in water. He has shrubs of these flowers in 3 or 4 different color shades, but there was only this one left, looking bad and half dead. He brought it home anyway, and after more than a whole day of “recovering”, it incredibly regained both beauty and vitality, standing bold and upright. Life must go on, in one way or the other, it’s always been that way and always will be. We have to have faith that strength will rebuild beauty.

Panic vs. Freedom

I was once in a situation when I had to represent my life artistically. Being an amateur photographer with some experience (I used different cameras in my life, I developed black and white photos myself and took a two semester photography course during one of several bachelor degree programs I attended, but I still feel I have so much to learn), I thought I might use photos to explain where I am in life and where I would like to be instead. It was last year that I turned this idea into reality, but as nothing has changed since then, it’s still very current and expressive. I shut myself up in every sense in these last 7 years, which means that I also virtually stopped taking photos. I lost interest in all my passions, in everything I used to love. But as I said in the previous post, maybe it’s better not to let my creations sleep on the hard disc of my computer covered with oblivion, it’s nicer to share them with people. Maybe it can help me find some way back out to the life I would like to have. Maybe. Or maybe not. Let’s hope for the best…

meda

I live in Serbia and this picture was taken at the Belgrade Zoo during my last remission, a little bear unsuccessfully trying to chew his way out to the freedom. It’s an artistic representation of my struggle to break down the invisible walls of my world confined by panic.

ptice

On the other hand, this picture represents my dream of being able to enjoy freedom in open space once again some day, if ever…

Farewell to my dear three-legged friend

Panic disorder is a very debilitating condition, in many different senses. While it’s not that much physically crippling, it certainly alters and eats up numerous aspects of your personality – your psychological strength, your belief in your own abilities, your self-image and your social life, to name just a few. It builds up a rock solid, invisible prison walls around your existence, cutting you off from so many things ordinary human life consists of.

The stronger the disorder hits, the more your social contacts are doomed to be at risk. There is always a chance for good odds in life, and somewhere among us there are certainly great people who can accept us without question exactly the way we are, but we were not all equally dealt fortunate cards to run into such individuals in this both amazing and horrible life. It’s been almost 7 years since my last, extremely dramatic PD relapse from which I’ve never recovered. Although my condition is much more stable now than it was 7 years ago, there are some consequences that I’ll probably have to deal with for the rest of my life. Lack of human friendship is certainly one of them. Not because all other people are bad or mean or ill-willing, absolutely not. And definitely not because I’m some very bad person myself, but simply because a true friendship needs nurturing, physical presence and tangible support at both good and bad times, a shift of focus from your own feelings to other people and their needs. This seems to imply that one simply needs to be healthy, strong and above all mentally stable in order to be a true friend for others, at least this is my experience.

There are less than 5% of people on this planet who developed this condition to such a bad extent as it happened to me and unfortunately, with all do respect, those who never experienced it will never be truly able to understand how I feel, no matter how hard they might try to do it.  It’s almost impossible to explain to a human friend why I, fully physically functional person, can’t go with them to a concert, cinema, restaurant, bars… People don’t understand why I can’t meet them somewhere far enough from my home and why they have to come to visit me instead within the limits of my comfort zone. It’s virtually impossible to give a reason why I can’t travel anywhere, even though I would really love to. People like me deeply suffer when we get mocked because of our inability to drive, attend big family reunions, celebrations, weddings or funerals. Sometimes we even get despised because of not being able to be physically there for others. We do our best to explain, we suffer a lot, fight to please, swallow hurtful words… but at some point, it gets too much. And we simply retreat, so that we don’t have to explain anything anymore. We’ll anyhow either end up being considered totally crazy which we are not, or even worse, lying bastards who just pretend for some reason, because looking from the outside, it usually seems that there is nothing wrong with us. Not good at all either way. However, the moment we retreat, others retreat as well. And this distance inevitably grows with each new day, until we become aware that our phones haven’t rung for several days in a row. Loneliness creeps in slowly but steadily, and loneliness is a very sad and heavy burden for anybody’s soul.

This massive panic attack 7 years ago that turned the course of my life in a completely unpredictable direction wasn’t the first one for me. It didn’t catch me unprepared or ignorant of what was happening. I knew I had to fight, in spite of my body that was rebelling against me in the worst possible way. It was either the fight or sinking down to the bottom of the life pit, and I chose not to give up. I was paying a fortune from my modest savings to taxi drivers, but I continued to move around, trying to pretend that nothing had changed. I forced my rubbery legs to carry me around, even though I had to lean on walls and clench to tables and chairs with sweaty hands in order not to run away and save myself from some seemingly inevitable non-existent doom.

On one beautiful, sunny morning two months after this life changing attack I gave up. I had an appointment with my dentist whose office is less than a mile from my home, and I was literally shaking at the thought of having to drag myself over there. As I was reluctantly waiting for yet another taxi to come and pick me up, there was a sudden growling sound followed by continuous dreadful barking that was coming my way at an incredible speed from behind the angle of my building. I remember shouting: “Hey, what’s the matter with you??!” An enormous, dangerous jaw with revealed teeth stopped at an inch away from my leg and the barking almost instantly turned into whining of recognition, as though the dog wanted to apologize for not recognizing me sooner. It was Žuća, a three-legged yellowish bastard stray dog who lived in our little woods and in our neighborhood. I knew that our neighbor took care of him, he was regularly fed and taken care of every single day, I knew who he was and he knew who I was, yet our roads had never seriously crossed till that unusual, crucial morning. We made peace, I went to the appointment and came back home, never to leave it again till some 18 months later.

Many mornings, months and years have passed since that day. I got to know Žuća very well and started sharing the best and the worst moments of my life with him and his two little companions, Maza and Laza, mom and son, stray dogs just like him. I got to know the best that there is in dogs’ soul, all that immense, beautiful, magic, unconditional canine love for me in spite of my disorder and being who I am on one side, and the worst that can dwell in human soul when it comes to attitude towards animals on the other side. I learnt about Žuća’s terrible destiny, about how he used to be a normal, four-legged dog until one night when he was shot by mistake by a mad policeman who was chasing a thief in our woods. The policeman though he had shot the thief hiding behind a bush, disappointed to find out that it was “just a dog”. He didn’t even apologize for shooting the dog. On the contrary, he said that he was glad. And that all dogs should be shot. Žuća’s surgery lasted whole night and there was blood all over my neighbor’s flat as the vet was trying to save his life. Žuća made it, but unfortunately lost a leg. That was 8 years ago, when I knew nothing about this drama. I was well and full of energy, oblivious of the fact that it was only a remission and that my no-PD days were counted. I knew nothing of his battle to learn to walk again on three legs, go potty, guard himself from all other now much faster and stronger dogs. It didn’t seem he could survive with his handicap in this ruthless life, but he fought like a true warrior. He grew to become a mascot of our building, an inspiration, a great and even pretty fast dog in spite of what happened to him.

While he continued to fight his personal battles, my agoraphobia grew worse and worse to finally limit me only to the boundaries of my little room. My life lost much of its meaning and there was no purpose why I should resist the dreadful panic to force myself to come out of my flat. My muscles lost their tone, my face lost color, my cheerful nature vanished and got reduced to an occasional, fake smile when I had to mask my “insanity” in front of others. My mother who never understood my condition and who has always been an improper but my only support in all these gloomy years, started making me try to go out to feed Žuća’ s companions Maza and Laza who at the time lived outside as well. It took me so much pain, so many steps forward and backward, so many days of trial and error to reach at first just the front stairs of my building, then the street and finally the woods across the street, carrying little bowls of food and water for Maza and her little puppy Laza. My mother didn’t allow dogs in house and the pressure of imagining them hungry if I don’t go out was stronger even than the mighty panic dread. For me, this was literally the process of relearning how to trust my nerves and move in life from the scratch, as though I was recovering from some sort of serious brain damage that brought me back to the first year of my life when I made my first steps. Slowly, as our routes in the woods expanded with time, Žuća started joining us in our walks, fighting for his portion of food and cuddling and constantly murmuring in his own unique and unforgettable way, trying to tell us some incomprehensible story. As Laza was growing up, Žuća was keeping him company day by day, teaching him all he knew and getting his protection in return because several years ago Laza was absolutely the fastest dog I had ever seen. If he had been born human, I’m almost certain that he would compete side by side with the amazing Usain Bolt.

Years went by, we survived both crises and happy days, Žuća’s and Laza’s illnesses, Laza’s ordeal when he ended up in an animal shelter by mistake where he was kept in completely inhumane conditions, anger of dog haters, me and Laza fighting against dog poisoning in the neighborhood, painful changes of city policies for dogs… Those were the days filled with massive waves of unlimited love of beings to whom I never had to explain anything in order to be accepted, intertwined with immense worry and uncertainty, but nevertheless I wouldn’t change them for anything in the world. I learnt so much about life and all those things I would have continued to take for granted if things had been different.

We did survive a lot, but unfortunately Žuća grew older and older, losing first his eyesight and then hearing as well, depending more and more on constant care and vigilance. Laza and Maza started living in my flat and slowly lost that previous constant touch with Žuća, with occasional exceptions when they would happily great each other in the woods and take walks together as they used to.  Žuća fought the best he could in spite of his old age, this year’s winter and ice, lack of time of his caregivers for him, walking courageously on his three legs, surviving against all odds. Until March 12th, 2014.

In my opinion, he could have definitely went on for at least a bit longer, but it was estimated that he should be put to sleep, even though he still wasn’t in a completely bad shape. It was a decision that can be questioned and it is still not comprehensible to me why he had to be prematurely killed, but nothing can reverse time and change the fact that he’s gone forever. The only thing that remains to me now is to say the last goodbye, farewell to my dear, poor, amazing, unique, special and above all extraordinarily brave three-legged friend. I’m very grateful for his company during these dark years of my life. I’ll never forget his constant greetings he had for me whenever he would see me and all those times when I would let him into the building and walk down the stairs leading him to the flat where he lived, mastering at the same time the path of my own recovery.

There is no Žuća anymore, there is only silence and emptiness in the woods. In the meantime my comfort zone has expanded to some 5 miles away from my home and I’m occasionally able to move around that much. Maybe that seems a very little progress in 7 long years, but it means a whole world to me. I’m not sure if I had made it if it weren’t for Žuća, Laza and Maza, and I do hope that I managed to do something good for them and that I’ll continue doing it in return for the good they did to me. It may sound dramatic, but they probably saved my life, because I’m not sure that I would still be here today if I remained closed in my room.

Farewell my dear friend, you who never questioned if I were capable or sane enough to be your friend. Thank you for everything and rest in peace.

Žukice, volimo te i mislimo na tebe…

Ja, Maza i Laza

Glass colors

Maybe I should have picked a better subject for my first blog ever, but when I remember how much I hesitated to start blogging in the first place, I guess that any start is good enough. I’m not completely new to expressing my thoughts in writing, it is just that these thoughts never went online. So no deep minded grandiose beginning in my style, just a little fraction of today’s “fruits of the mind”…

My local on-line office supplies retail store offered a discount that expires this Sunday at midnight. It’s such a lazy, boring, uncomfortable day with tons of autumn-like rain creeping into my muscles, bones, nerves, blocking even the most daring rays of sun to get through my windows and reach my shadowed, limited reality. There isn’t much to do, partially due to a nasty flu that’s been robbing me of my strength and stamina for the 4th week in a row, and partially due to the everlasting crisis that holds its grip and erodes lives of people in my country for more than two decades. There is some work for people like me, temporary, insecure, from time to time. None at the time. I fear what tomorrow brings and try not to think about it. That’s why discounts are always good news, no matter how low they are. So, having unlimited time at my disposal, I went through hundreds and hundreds of items looking for newly displayed, original, interesting things. That’s how I came across a colorful pack of glass colors. Nothing so unusual or particularly interesting if it weren’t for the description that accompanied it: “glass colors for creative kids and those adults that still consider themselves as such…”

My brain almost immediately started its never ending analytic monologue. What does this mean? That the definition of the word “adult” doesn’t include the adjective creative? Or that glass colors are only meant for kids, so only “childish” adults are target customers in this case? I also couldn’t help but shiver at the instant recollection of me of before, a girl that was immensely fond of every creative, artistic expression she could come across, a decent artist, good photographer, someone with an eye for details and expensive taste. A girl that is unfortunately gone. A girl that grew up to become a sad, often bitter and resentful 37 year old woman deprived of many things my former life consisted of due to a disorder that turned all my dreams and plans into dust. A disorder with a nasty, scary and complicated long name. Panic disorder with severe and debilitating agoraphobia. Determined to leave the panic story for some other time, I tried to think about other people I know who never suffered from this condition. About how creative they used to be and how much they alienated themselves from the talents they still possess. What used to be praised as their qualities, became nuisance and time loss in this fast paced life, packed with tons of information, obligations and multiple multitasking vicious circles.

Is it truly only about permanent lack of time, or is it really that growing up kills creativity in us? Is it then obligatory to be childish in order to be creative? I force myself to object to the idea that it’s normal to lose creativity once you become an adult. Maybe it is just about the apathy created by this manic search for better ways to simplify hard things in life. Once you always had to bend and make a hard effort to scrub floors, now we have vacuum cleaners and various other devices that spare us from much of that previous physical effort. Once you always had to get up in order to switch TV channels and turn the device on and off. Now we have all sorts of sophisticated remote control devices, gathered into whole nets of commands in smart houses that even started thinking for us. And it gets more sophisticated every day. Where is the end point? Complete removal of physical effort from human life? Will we turn into flat, immobile beings reduced to only experiencing life performed by masses of robotic humanoids? Pure consumers, capable only of choosing items from the offered menus, deprived from any willingness to make something of our own? Or will we still be able to be creative, but never satisfied with our own expressions of creativity, because someone else got it better, because some factory will always make it more beautiful, neater and more special than we can ever think of doing with our own hands? Will we remain convinced that we are not good enough even for ourselves?

Such ideas fill me with some uncomfortable dread and make me fearful of future. I guess I should order glass colors and make that small contribution for survival of creativity in adults. I don’t mind being considered childish, it’s dull and boring life that scares me a lot more.

Maybe that’s also why I started blogging. To leave some mark. To so to speak, write my thoughts out loud, so that I can squeeze some meaning into me of today.

So, happy start… and until next thought. 🙂