Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Normal People Go Camping, Right?

Yeah, looks like a nice horse, doesn't it?  Don't be fooled ...
Hello Friends: 

So this is a sort of rhetorical question, because I've already done a lot of camping, myself.  So I know that there are plenty of people who consider camping to be a normal, wholesome activity.  It was something I really enjoyed as a kid, and I still want to be able to camp as an adult.  I want to do what the normals do.

Of course, when I was a kid, the water didn't have Giardia, the mosquitoes didn't have West Nile, and the ticks didn't have Lyme.  Ah, those heady by-gone days ...

Continuing my overall plan and lifestyle of Doing Things Even If I Think They Are Going To Kill Me, I went camping with a group of friends last week.  Problem number one is the need to protect oneself from the previously mentioned mosquitoes and ticks.  The best way to do this is to spray oneself all over with DEET.  Which is, ahem, poisonous.  This is really part of my problem with a lot of things - I am afraid of condition A, but condition B, required to fix condition A, also scares the crap out of me.

So, I weighed my fear of bug diseases against my fear of spray poison - ended up deciding I'd rather be covered in DEET than in ticks, if only from the aesthetic perspective.  The problem (as if there is just the one) is that there is no guarantee.  Never a guarantee, and as you know, if there is one thing OCD really, really wants it is a guarantee.  If you use the DEET, then you don't get Lyme disease - but it is just not that easy.

Still, I sprayed down my shoes, socks, pants and a bit of other territory, and made sure I was wearing light colored clothing and a white hat.  That's supposed to be so that you can find the ticks easier, but I have to say I was trying really hard at first not to see any bugs at all.  Not productive, I know, but it is what it is.

Things went generally okay, with us doing some nice hikes, lunch, side stop at a brewery, etc.  I was struggling a little, but hanging in there.  And then we made our way to the campsite.

We were camping in a place I'd only heard about, but never seen.  I'd always wanted to go there, ever since I was a little kid and all my friends were reading "Misty of Chincoteague" and "Misty of Assateague."  I was amazed to realize that there were wild horses really living on an island on the East Coast.  At that age I'd hardly even learned about mustangs in the West.

It has always been an evocative image ... wild horses roaming about the beach sands.  We arrived, pitched our tents amidst about a bazillion other campers, and I wondered if we'd be lucky enough to see a horse.  We'd only be there one night.  I imagined these majestic ponies, shy, timid, startling at the least sound, running in small groups in the distance, backlit by the sun as they passed by the sea grasses.

OMG.  Have you been there?  Wrong.  Wrong wrong wrong.

The horses travel in gangs.  They travel in gangs of five to ten, right up the road of the camp, plodding away, $h!ting and pissing as they go.  They have utterly no fear of humans, and waltz right up to tents and cars, looking for goodies.  They have learned how to open coolers, and tear open bags of chips.  I know this because one of our group was forced to fend off an invasion as the rest of us went to see the sun over the ocean.  Fortunately she had actually helped raise horses as a child, and had some idea of how to get them out of the camp.  In the end, she actually had to push one out of the food.

That was the point at which the rest of us came back, and saw horse poop all over the place, torn bags, and the ruins of blue corn chips all over the ground.  And my friend there, telling us the story and PICKING TICKS OFF OF HER SHIRT.  Yes.  She wasn't even surprised.  She said, "Oh, yeah.  The horses are covered with ticks.  I had to put my hand on one and the ticks jumped on me, instead."

I sort of lost it at this point.  I was capable of dealing (marginally) with relatively known risks.  The ground has bugs, so use a tarp under the tent.  Mosquitoes fly, so use some bug spray.  The outside world is gross and dirty, so use lots of handiwipes.  Whatever.  But the horses added a dimension I was not prepared to cope with - a moving, changing dimension.  So, you've checked to make sure there is no horse poop behind you?  Well, that's going to change.  Was that a good place to put the tent?  Not anymore, because there is a horse standing on the tarp.  That kind of thing.

So I had the choice of taking some Ativan, drinking a bunch of wine, or leaping into the car and not coming out.  I chose the wine.  I steadied myself with about 2/3 of a bottle while making dinner and also making sure I had someone watching my back.  It was getting dark and the %@*&% horses can actually SNEAK up on you.  I mean it. 

For the rest of the night, gangs of horses would make circuits around the campsites.  Morons (i.e. people who had just shown up, i.e. my group two hours previously) would gush and take pictures until they realized the horses were in their coolers and pulling food right out of their children's hands.  Then they started swearing like us and trying to put up moats and other defensive fortifications.  Eventually, we were in our tent, and yes, every few hours you could hear the gangs go by.  One of them came right up to the tent, farted loudly, and whinnied in what I can only assume was appreciation.  All I could think was, "Please don't piss on the tent."

That morning I couldn't get out of the place fast enough.  I felt badly about it.  After all, these were indeed the 'wild' horses of the islands, and there is something pretty cool about it.  The coast was lovely and sunrise and sunset over the beach was glorious.  But my general appreciation for the place could not stand up to the need to LEAVE.

The trip was capped, in a way, by me really spotting my first tick up close - on the inside of the car, hanging from the ceiling, right over my head.  I fought a brief battle with myself, since normally touching one would be out of the question, but I could hardly just let the sucker roam around.  So I managed to corral it into an extra ziploc bag.  So I got a really good look at it.  Deer tick.  Yep.  No question. 

Needless to say, I am really @#&*% nervous.  Really nervous.  Sometimes this whole "doing what the normals do" is really ... well.  Hard.  Stupid.  Scary.  But, well, makes for a good story, anyway.

Your Hostess With Neuroses
Image credit/info:  From our trip to Assateague State Park.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Love an Owl and Please Tell Me What to Read

Boggle the Owl gives a hug
to an anonymous icon
Hello Friends:

Just when you think you have a handle on the new platforms, more platforms show up.  I've only just gotten comfortable with Twitter.  (Facebook keeps changing so you can't actually get comfortable with it even if you use it every day.)  Then I get forwarded a link for something on "tumblr."  I do not know what to do with this platform, really, and would ignore it for another couple of years - except that the link I was sent had something in it I really, really liked.  -  A certain owl.

I like it so much I figured I'd share it with you.  The 'blog' or whatever it is is called "Boggle!" and the taglines are "Boggle is worried about you.  Boggle is also an owl."  I do not know who is drawing the illustrations or writing the blog, but they are very informed about mental illness.  The author speaks primarily through the owl, giving out good advice and lots of warm fuzzies to people who really need them.

It is an excellent gimmick, and I don't mean that in a bad way.  By speaking through the owl, the person who is writing the blog comes over as approachable and non-threatening.  The author can say things through the owl that they would not be able to say otherwise, since it might be taken oddly.  (For example, the owl can say, "I wish I could come over to your house and make you dinner and listen to the whole story" and have it be taken perfectly innocently.  Some stranger online says the same thing, and it might feel a bit too ... familiar.)

And this owl is just so freaking cute.  I read through pages of responses that Boggle gave to people who wrote in with problems, and liked the blog more and more as I read.  The owl doles out much more than advice, he offers encouragement and a kind of unconditional love that is amazingly appealing.

Which got me thinking ...

I wonder what other really good blogs are out there that I'm missing?  Generally speaking, I like to read personal blogs from other people who deal with their own mental illnesses.  I like blogs that don't shy from the hard truth, but at the same time are focused on healing.  I like blogs that express the fact that just getting through each day is a triumph, and yet still talk about how life can be so much more than just surviving.  This Boggle blog was a surprise to me, since I generally stay away from blogs written by "authorities" in mental health.  I'm generally more interested in the sufferer's perspective.  Apparently that's not a hard and fast rule since I like this one so much :)

So how about this - give me three mental health blogs you read that really resonate with you in some fashion.  Maybe they make you feel like someone understands, or they feel very truthful and authentic, or they give great advice, or they help you feel positive and uplifted, or whatever.  I know we all have many more than three blogs we'd call favorites, but I'm hoping to give a visit to every blog that is suggested.  A really big list will probably just overwhelm me :)  FYI, I generally avoid blogs with ads.  I know there must be a lot more great blogs by and for people with MI than I've found up to this point.

Looking forward to seeing your suggestions!

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Boggle blog on Tumblr - Boggle hugs an icon.

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