Tag Archives: recovery

Spring Storms and Black Dogs: Joy takes a day off.

DISCLAIMER: I am okay. I am posting this as a glimpse into depression. This is one day. Not every day. I know these are lies, to a degree, that the disease tells me.

The Black Dog* is visiting today. It is snapping at my heels with frightening fervor.

I am sitting in my truck watching as a storm threatens while on a break from cleaning up after other people.

A bit of trash skips like a sandpiper along the drift line. Takes a piece of me with it down-shore, past sleeping skimmers and gulls.


This is all I can think in the moment. Where is my heart? My joy?

A howl sets up through the slight opening in my truck door, the wind mourning the passing of day after day of seemingly purposeless existence.

I lean my forehead to the glass, the cool lets loose a torrent of tears. Where is my heart, I wonder again?

I lost most of it nine years ago when he “put [his] foot down” on my existence. I recently buried what tiny, insignificant fragment I lost in the wake of a confusing friendship.

I have no room now for a heart that loves. There’s an ugly, pitted stone in that space.

I cannot see myself ever truly loving anyone romantically again. I tried and got it wrong too many times. I am the common denominator, as my ex would gleefully point out, no doubt.

It’s risky business, love. Frightening and pointless at this age. I am too old and soon to be undesirable at any rate. Better to enjoy meaningless fun with an FWB. Better to be a stone.

I push the truck door ajar. Feel the damp, warm air tickle the almost impossibly fine, invisible hairs on my calves. Feel the salt find my lips and eyes. Feel the sand blow up with a quick storm gust. Prepare to do battle with discarded Styrofoam and plastic bags again.

I often think of leaving this island. Is there anything here for me?

Birds. I will always have the birds. If I love anything, it is these denizens of the coastal sky: gulls, pelicans, terns, herons. All are frequent guests of the rehab for which I volunteer. All at one time or another, have been passengers in my truck. Raccoons, opossums, alligators, have also found their way into “Betty’s” cab at one time or another.  I live for them: the animals.

I know my child needs me in that way adult children need us even though we don’t actually do anything but burden them after a point. I know other family would miss me. I know the dog loves me but, doubtless, someone else would make a better pet owner.

So, I live for the birds.

Someone well-meaning said, “You only get one life.”

I was supposed to grab that and stop mourning my losses, I guess. Stop missing someone I care about. Stop being sad that my marriage failed. Stop regretting losing my job skills. Stop fearing a future that looms, money-strapped and unfulfilled.

Instead, I thought, “Well, thank the Universe for that, because I’m tired and I don’t want to do this sh*t anymore.”

I know I can get past today’s bereavement. I know, somehow, I can find purpose again. I have no clue how. Picking up peoples’ trash, saving animals other people willingly destroy, walking an unruly dog, and burdening my child with my loneliness do not seem like valid purpose and only slightly better than those my ex always tried to comfort me with: “but you keep the house clean and cook for us.”

So, how? How do I find purpose in this storm of mediocrity?

The Black Dog snaps. Growls, “you are worthless,” in my head. I am unsure how to tame it today.


Saving the Wounded: Balancing Independence and Support

I know.

I know that this will get better – this masked, COVID-19 isolation after seventeen years in a desolate bubble.

I know because I began to break that bubble in the last two years and walk a path of personal growth.

I began to rescue and transport animals in my community in 2018. In the collage above are (clockwise from top left: baby raccoon, immature Northern gannet, White-tailed deer fawn, Screech owlets, baby opossum, and immature Brown pelican).

By spring of 2019, I had done several transports and releases. Transportation of smallish wild animals is fairly straight-forward: go to someone’s home or business, scoop up a box, get a form filled out by said person, drive animal to rehabilitator. All done with minimal contact with people.

Rescue, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking at first. I had no formal training and the one rescue I’d helped with was that of a sick and weak pelican that wasn’t up for a fight. Complicating matters, I have always been shy and called myself an introvert. I was uncertain how future rescues would go if I was working without a fellow rescuer.

On my first solo pelican rescue, the pelican was hungry and wanted my shad. I lured her in and grabbed her by myself. Other pelican rescues were a mixed bag. Some went great (for me, not so much the bird). Some failed completely as the birds could still fly enough to escape even four or five well-intentioned, but sometimes intimidated, helpers I recruited on the beach.

But always, if there are people on the beach, I have learned to recruit. I’ve done so with other sea birds and Black vultures, as well. In so doing, I’ve learned I’m no introvert. I am shy, yes, but I actually like working with and getting to know people.

In turn, people are almost always willing to help even if they find the larger birds a bit frightening. I am not prideful. I don’t have to do things myself to prove that I am capable or special.

If a large bird can’t be lured, it sometimes has to be rounded up by several of us like closing purse strings. We try to do this quickly to reduce stress on the bird. Sometimes an injured bird can be flushed toward me by one or two helpers so I can then grab it easily. And sometimes, it’s just helpful for someone to distract a sickly, scared gannet so I don’t lose a finger.

Other times, rescues fail and the bird flaps away. The bird will either heal on its own or it will get worse and we may catch it later.

Whatever the circumstances, I always prefer to work with people nearby. This makes them feel good, teaches them about the animals, and gives me a better chance for success. It also connects me to the community. We have a cheerful exchange as they bubble with the excitement of having helped a little furry or feathery life and I love seeing them brighten with joy and pride.

In all rescues, I treat all parties, the animal in need of being saved and the “recruits,” with respect and I work to gain the trust of both.

We all, volunteers, me, and animal, have to work together.

In recent years I have sought personal autonomy (self-government) and some in my life have interpreted this as a need on my part to do everything single-handedly.

I don’t want to stand alone.

I don’t want to walk this life without support. I simply want the right to choose when, how, and who I ask for support.

If I am lonely or hurting, I would like all the normal things lonely people need. Affection, attention, someone who has my back.

If I am angry, give me space. My spicy language will give you a clue and I may say outright, “I’m angry. Back off.”

If I’m grieving, well, grief is a strange monster. I’ve been dealing with a great deal of grief in the last several years. I have tried to communicate my needs. I have sometimes succeeded, sometimes failed. People have sometimes just failed me.

Grief has at times closed me off to people and yet opened me up to rediscovering who I used to be.

I can tell you it is harder to know how to help the grieving. I can tell you that leaving someone to flounder in their grief is not a solution. Nor is making promises you can’t keep.

I can tell you that I give what I get: Respect. Trust. Honesty. Love. Friendship.

Respect. Trust. Honesty.

Sometimes, as I grieve now, it seems I am the bird healing myself or waiting for things to get bad enough to be caught. Perhaps I just need to be distracted (socialized) so someone can grab me and help me. And, probably it is a bit of both.

I’m still learning how to socialize my shy self after many years of being hidden and wounded. I will figure it out—with help.

Even if I have to do it with a mask on.

I know.