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13 Is My Happy Number

We at The Band do understand that a lot of our subject matter can be very dark and dense. This, however, is not a story of sadness, but of rebirth, finding a place in the world, and knowing just how valuable you are. 
We encourage each of you to tell us one of your stories – happy or not.
This is her incredible journey:

13 has always been my happy number.

Today is no different.

13 years ago today I left my first, abusive marriage. I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, or how I was going to survive or take care of my two boys (and their sister who was due in five months. But I did know this: the best place for all of us was NOT with their father.

Leaving was the first hard decision I’ve made as an adult, the first time I felt like an adult, the first time I ever felt like I had the ABILITY to make a decision for myself or my children.

a photo of carnival people on swings

Life after his abuse was not an easy time. it was easily one of the three hardest times I’ve ever experienced in my life.

I am so thankful that a support system came out of the woodwork when I needed it and helped us get through the transition and helped me feel secure enough in my choice to leave that I didn’t end up going back.

I can’t imagine where my children or I would be today if we hadn’t had that.

Mike and I met shortly after that fateful day, in a chatroom. Two years later on August 20th we found out we were having a baby! Baby Eliza blessed us with her presence on April 21st.

I know that it’s no coincidence that today would also have been my father-in-law’s birthday, may he rest in peace. I wish I’d had the chance to meet him.

Today has so many memories, meanings and significance for all of us. This is truly a day we will all cherish forever.

a crowd of people hands shaped into a heart

13 happy years of freedom, 12 years knowing my true love, and so many other memories. Amazing memories.

Before, After, and Between.

Today is a good day every year, and always will be.

How about you? Do YOU have a happy or lucky number or thing?

Remember Your Purpose.

Losing a pet can be as awful as losing another family member.

Please, share your stories of your wonderful animals.

Sebastian was a foster fail. My fiancee and I took in he and his two kitten brothers after they were dumped in box outside our Humane Society. Sebastian and his brothers were tuxedo cats, their black fur so shiny and soft. Sadly we lost one of the brothers, George, early on from a terrible respiratory infection.

The other brother, Bellamy, stole my Love’s heart. Another foster fail.

But Sebastian…Sebastian was mine.

pet loss tuxedo cat

While we were supposed to be fostering them until they were adopted, we just couldn’t let them go. Our family of 4. So 4 became 6 – we’d become a foster-fail family, and we loved it.

Alex and I were outnumbered by cats but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We got them fixed and they settled right in.

Sebastian became affectionately known as “Bash” or “Limp Noodle”. Whenever you picked him up he went limp and let you hold him however you wanted.

Sebastian wasn’t quite two years old when we first started seeing signs of lethargy. One day, that same lethargy led to a temperature check. While it was supposed to be 99.5-102.5 Fahrenheit.

It was 106.

We raced to the emergency vet only to hear the devastating news of Feline Leukemia. We were distraught. but It was a road we had been down before and understood. We lost my fiancee’s first kitty love to feline leukemia.

The emergency vet suggested that we put him down. We just weren’t there yet.

We felt he still had more time and we wanted to look into to doing something, anything that might help Sebastian. As he was also fighting a secondary infection due to the lowered immune system caused by leukemia we started my sweet foster fail on antibiotics. His regular vet suggested an immuno-reglan booster –  $26 a shot on a strict schedule. Not a problem.

We were willing to go into deep debt for this guy.

The first several shots brought on massive improvement; it was like he was a kitten again, jumping and playing around with everyone. We thought that maybe, just maybe, he could have some quality of life. Then came another secondary infection.

He spent 3 days in the hospital fighting it. Got to come home and continued his shots, but they were no longer working. He was spending his days sleeping and hiding in cabinets.

Not two weeks later, his infection came back and back he went to the hospital.

This time he stopped having any interest in food.

The Thanksgiving holiday was coming up and after three days in the hospital, the vet thought it might be getting close to time. He gave us a choice, put him down or wait through the holidays and see if his appetite returns.

We chose to wait.

I look back on that now and wonder just how selfish I was being. We just kept hoping that our pet wouldn’t die.

The following Monday there was no change. We took some final precious moments with our baby boy. He lay on us and meowed at us when we spoke to him. He was tired and he had fought all he could. He was letting us know it was okay and that he knew it was his time. He went quietly and peacefully.

tuxedo kitten before pet loss

I had been through the loss of fosters before, but never one that became a pet. He was my first foster fail.

I loved him so much; missed him so much, that I cried for three weeks almost every day.

It’s late August and I’m crying as I type this.

Pain can lessen, but it never fully goes away. Not when the loss is so intertwined in your heart.

Recently our Humane Society shut down. We’ve affiliated ourselves with another rescue and have continued to foster cats. We end finding a lot on our own through people who reach out via Facebook saying there’s a kitten here or a litter there. We’ve also started working with a group of people who TNR ( trap/neuter/release) feral cats.

Our city here in Arkansas has a horrible cat overpopulation problem.

One night after doing “surveillance” on an area we are hoping to trap some adult cats to TNR we noticed a tiny little kitten head poking out from behind a bush. We stopped and spoke to the kitten who became very chatty with us. He was not a feral, he was entirely too friendly. Someone had dumped this poor baby.

Alex opened a can of wet food and approached him. He was apprehensive at first but eventually she was able to pick him right up.

Alex came back to the car with him and was nearly in tears. “Look at him,” she said.

It nearly took my breath away.

This four month old baby looked exactly like Sebastian.

He’s been with us for three days now. He’s a goofy thing. And I swear walking through our apartment and running into him I think it’s Sebastian. I don’t know that we will keep Cooper but I will be forever grateful to him, for reminding me of my sweet boy and that I serve a purpose here.

Tuxedo kitty pet loss

Save and fight for those who have no voice. Love the forgotten and uncared for.

Ask the Band: How Do I Handle Childhood Anxiety?

Got a burning question that you need to crowdsource? Look no further than The Band. Click here to add your question.
Now it’s time to help this woman with her daughter’s anxiety: 
 

ask the band childhood anxiety

Hey The Band,

Does anyone in the group have a child with anxiety? My daughter is six and we are trying to get her back in with a child therapist to see what is going on and how to help her best manage her anxiety.

I am stressed about it all and I would love to hear from someone who has been through it.

Thank you!

 

 

Holding Space In Crisis — Published

I almost lost my best friend last weekend.

She tried to die by suicide. I received her text that she was in the hospital while I was tutoring.

“Call me ASAP.”

“I need you to come to hospital and spend the night with me.”

“No joke.”

My response: “I know. Still working with a student.”

She: “Ok please get done soon! I need you.”

I: “What hospital?”

She: “I’m at ******. I had a suicide attempt. The nurses know me and hate me here, so they’re doing small mind tortured. Waking me every five minutes–saying duragatory things. They told my parents I’m hallucinating–I’m not, please come stay with me–I don’t feel safe.”

“Can you stay the night?”

I: “Yes, I can.”

She: “With me, please? ***** (her husband) won’t.”

I: “Yes, of course.”

She: “OMG- get here now!! Room **.”

Meanwhile, I am trying to do my online tutoring job. I can see the look of horror on my face on camera while the texts are displaying on my phone. I tell my student I have to talk to his dad. I inform him that I have to leave immediately due to an emergency. I explain while his son is out of earshot. He gives his sincere emotional support. I give a quick run-down of what his son needs to complete for the assignment, then I start packing. I text my husband to let him know that I have to help my friend, then I tell one of my twins that I’m leaving for the hospital.

My brain is racing at the speed of light. I am trying to cover all the bases: what would she need from home that she did not get since she was directly transported to ER? I text her to ask if she needs anything from home before I leave. She would like headphones. I grab my earbuds, but first I have my son help me find an extra set because I would like my own set. After trying a few sets (why is it that teenagers blow through so many earbuds?), I decide to bring my own to share. She might be too tired to listen to music.

I text her to let her know I’m finally on my way. I arrive and remind myself of several things: put on your own oxygen mask first, stay strong, and be her advocate.

She is in the ICU. She has a central port PICC line as well as two IV lines because the medical staff had a hard time getting an IV started. She’s bruised all over. She overdosed on a plethora of medications at her parents’ house while she was housesitting there, including painkillers and her father’s injectable insulin. Her kidneys shut down and the medical staff had to pump her stomach. The medical team pull her labs every two hours to make sure that her levels are improving. Thankfully, the PICC line is a saving grace.

My friend makes comments about the nursing staff. She says that they make comments about her, saying that she OD’d to get attention, that she is a princess and she is going to call her daddy, but when she confronts the nurses about it, they say that my friend is hallucinating. The hospital has a one on one person for suicide watch. This person has to document every little thing that the patient does while under their care. On Saturday night, the one on one person documented all of the unprofessional conduct.  While I was there, she said that the nurses were commenting about her again, as well as me. I went up to the nurse and asked her about it. She denied it and said that my friend was “hallucinating and making things up”. I said, “You may say that, but when you talk about patients, others can hear it and that is breaking patient privacy. Everyone else can hear it, and that is not acceptable. It is not professional. You need to stop it.”

The nurse called her supervisor and she came down to talk with all of us. My friend finally voices how she feels. The nurses, of course, covered their butts and say that my friend had been hallucinating from her OD. I interject and say, “Even though that did happen, it is not professional for you to discount how she feels. Nor is it professional of you to talk about her while other people can hear. She does have recipient rights.” The minute I mentioned the term “recipient rights”, the two immediately changed their tune and started apologizing. My friend apologized as well for things (even though in my opinion, she didn’t have to, but it is part of healing the relationship). I asked if my friend could be moved to step down critical care since her levels were improving, and the nurses agreed. Two hours later, my friend was moved to a quieter, private room with a more caring team. Ironically, the bitchy nurse stays after her shift end to help us move.

We get settled in, and my friend finally has the best sleep she has had. Her levels improve so much, her kidneys are normally functioning, and the medical team clears her. The next day, she gets her PICC line removed. My friend keeps telling me to go home, that she is OK. All of a sudden, we learn that Community Mental Health (CMH) is on their way to start the intake process to find her a facility. Things start accelerating at an astronomical rate, and my friend has no idea how to process this. I stay to help her process things and to be her advocate. Her parents come to the meeting, as well as her husband. I ask the CMH representative if it is OK if I stay during the meeting to be her advocate and he said if it was OK with her it was OK with him.

Here is where I see mental health stigma magnified. Thankfully, the CMH person is neutral, asks all the appropriate questions, and takes my friend’s requests seriously. I was floored when my friend’s stepmom was blaming my friend for what happened. She said, “Your dad is so angry at what you did to him.”

I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I said, “I’m sorry. With all due respect, when you make comments like that to her, you are blaming her for her illness. We need to help her instead of telling her what she did wrong. She didn’t do this to you.”

The stepmom got angry at me and said, “Well, with all due respect to you, you haven’t been here for the past eleven years.”

I responded, “You’re right. I haven’t. But, you need to understand that constantly telling her how bad she is isn’t helping her heal.”

When her parents left, my friend said, “That is the first time that anyone stood up to my stepmom.”

I pack up to go home because my friend’s husband is there. I feel that she is stable enough now. Her husband made the comment, “Well, I would have come earlier, but I had a half talk of gas and no money.”

I looked him and smiled with my sweetest Southern smile and said, “I had only the change in my pocket, a quarter tank of gas, cancelled my tutoring job that I was doing, cancelled my other two tutoring jobs and packed up to stay the night with *****.”

He looked at me, laughed and said, “What is wrong with you?”

I said, “Nothing is wrong with me. My priority is taking care of those I love, and I love ******.”

I was hurt for my friend. It is hard enough battling mental health demons, but when you are alone with no emotional support from your family, it is almost insurmountable.

Once I got to my car, I video chatted with one of my friends, and I finally cried. I let it all out. I cried body rocking sobs for my friend, the pain that she is shouldering on her own, the fear of the unknown that she is facing, and the aching of wanting to heal. I sobbed in anger against mental health stigma, the blame people put on those with mental illness, and the broken system that is failing so many. No one should be blamed for his or her mental illness. It would be akin to being blamed for having cancer, diabetes, or asthma.

I received a text from my friend’s husband. It read: “Thanks for being such a good friend to ******. I don’t think I have ever witnessed such devotion from a friend of hers. I will try to keep you in the loop as much as possible ok” I responded, “Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I appreciate that. We all need to rally around ***** and help her to recovery and wellness.”

This is my prayer. I pray that we work on our recovery and wellness, be our best advocate, and remember to put on our oxygen masks first.

 

 

 

 

 

Ask The Band: Post Abortion Coping

I’ve decided to have an abortion. It was a very difficult decision, but I know it is right for my partner and me and he is fully supportive. We have a 6-month old, we are completely financially strapped, and having a baby was so out of the question for us right now that I actually had an appointment to get an IUD inserted 6 days after I peed on the stick.

The decision is made, the procedure is rather straightforward, and I’m not worried at all… until the moment I have to leave the clinic after my abortion.

I’m most afraid of how I will cope emotionally after the all is said and done. I’m sure I’m doing the right thing for our situation, and us but I don’t handle emotional stress well.

My first pregnancy was plagued with severe antenatal depression and I worry how that will play in.

For all of you going through infertility treatments and struggling with all the emotions that go along with that, I’m so very sorry and I don’t mean to be insensitive.

Have any of you been in this situation?

How do you handle the inevitable emotional fallout after an abortion?

Did you regret it?

Because, oh my goodness, I’m so scared I’m going to regret it. Choosing abortion is, in part, choosing the path that will be the least psychologically damaging for me in the long run. But I’m still so scared.

Dose of Happy: I Fought The Man ‘O’ War and The Man ‘O’ War Won

One of the weirder phobias I have–aside of my fear of tomatoes touching my food–is that I’m terrified of fish. I don’t mean that if I see an aquarium, I’m going to break out into a cold sweat and start crying, no, even I’m not THAT insane.

But since I can remember, my parents have been taking us to tropical places–I know, poor baby, right?–and along with tropical places = snorkeling.

When I was 4 or 5, my parents bravely took us to Mexico and in a stunning fit of idiocy on their part, they left my brother and I to swim alone while they leisurely relaxed in a cliff-type thing above us. Out of sight, out of mind, I think, was the idea. Having three kids of my own, I understand the urge. But I’m still unsure what the fuck they were thinking to leave a 14 year old in charge of a 4 year old in the ocean.

Because my brother promptly ditched me to go and strut his lack of muscles in front of a couple of bikini clad babes.

I could swim, though, so I just waded into the water.

What happened next has been replayed over and over in my mind for the next 24 years.

The fish, accustomed to friendly humans who might feed them delicious treaties, swarmed me. Since I wasn’t underwater myself, I couldn’t see their beautiful swirling colorful fins. Instead, I saw a bunch of black THINGS just swarm me.

I screamed so loudly that pretty much everyone at the beach–including my lazy parents– came running. Maybe they thought I’d been half eaten by a Jaws-like shark, or perhaps I caught sight of a fat hairy dude in a Speedo. Who knows.

All that I do know is that for years after this, I had to force myself to go into the ocean, shaking and terrified, every time we went on vacation. The fear would subside the moment I was under the crystal blue water, but up until that point, I’d be silently shaking in my swimsuit.

Our last family vacation happened in 2000. My brother–recovering from a nasty divorce and full-on taking every bad feeling out on me–was 30, I was 20. My parents made the grave error of leaving us alone to share a room where we fought like it was 1999.

This is likely WHY this was our last vacation as a family.

One of the days that we were there in Cozumel, we went to some renowned beach to get some snorkeling done and generally laze about the beach. By this age, I can assure you, I wasn’t upset that my parents didn’t watch me swim. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to get the fuck away from everyone else and have some relative solitude in the waves.

I’m a decent swimmer, so once I got past the rocks and coral at the mouth of the beach–where, of course, in my normal good gracefulness, I fell and cut the shit out of my foot–I got pretty far away from the lip of the beach where I could get in and out of the water. This beach wasn’t really full of sand, you see. It was more the coral and other stuff that will cut a bitch (like me) up.

But I relished the soft whooshing of the ocean in my ears as I snorkeled about, following a family of yellow and blue fish around and trying to forget the hysterics of the morning. My brother had called me a worthless piece of shit for the 437th time that hour and I crumpled into a pile of tears outside of our villa. The 5,000 feral cats who’d been following me about swarmed me as I cried. It was strangely comforting.

It was wonderful to feel so free. There’s something so comforting about the soft lull of the waves, the ability to be a voyeur into another world, and after my initial fear, I am always reluctant to get out of the water.

Out of nowhere, as I was admiring a particularly delightful looking puffer fish, my body caught fire. I was electrified, my body searing in pain and I began to hyperventilate.

I popped my head above water to see if I’d run into some electrified fence (I was in pain and terrified. I know how dumb that sounds now), nothing. I forced my face down under the water to see what I’d obviously run into. If it were a school of jelly fish, then I’d do well to make sure to swim AWAY from it rather than into the swarm. Still, I could see nothing.

I swam choppily back toward shore, hyperventilating and panicking, now noticing just how fucking far away I was from the beach. I looked down at my arms and legs and saw with horror that I was now a mess of criss-crossed red welts, from my legs to my arms and my chest.

Finally, after what had to be at least two hours (read: 3 minutes), I grabbed hold of a ladder and hoisted myself shakily up to the beach. I sat at the edge of the cliff-type, surveying the damage and trying to catch my breath, crying heavily. I was breathing so shallowly that I was starting to white out, and using the last bit of my common senseI crawled back away from the edge, lest I fall to my watery death below. This time, I really could have used a chaperone.

I passed out for I don’t know how long, and when I woke up, the welts had turned to bleeding blisters and I had uncontrollable goose bumps without being cold and a good case of the shakes. I was now officially fucked up.

Eventually, my mother found me and helped me back to a towel and gave me a medicinal Pina Colada. The rest of the vacation–including the following day which was a snorkeling boat cruise sort of thing–was uneventful by comparison. If that horse bucks you and all that good boo-yang, right?

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What’s attacked YOU, Internet whom I love beyond compare?

Post originally published on Mommy Wants Vodka