London and Me, or Two Ships that Almost Passed in the Night: Part 1

I’ve touched some heavy topics like depression, racism and the impact of Richard Armitage’s facial hair. It’s time to move on a lighter topic: London!

I left off blogging about the suspenseful 4th week on medication. Ordinarily this would have been only me and my shrink heaving a sigh of relief as Winston morphed into a pug and hid in my bag. But I also had a long standing problem demanding resolution. In January, I purchased tickets to see two performances of Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant (my Other Squee) and Catherine Tate in London for the third week of June. In March, my computer fell ill with a virus, causing me to lose about everything including my ticket reservation code and dates. I tentatively planned to leave Saturday, June 18th and spend a week there. But as Winston dragged me down, it became unlikely I had the mental wherewithal to do anything, much less vacation alone in a foreign country even though I’d been there many times. I renewed my passport and had it expensively expedited. I moped and procrastinated and despairingly checked the expensive air fares. My friends asked how I would cope if something bad happened? (My backpack with passport was stolen on an earlier trip.) I suspected not well. Still it galled that I would miss seeing DT and the city I loved.

The 4th week when my medication kicked in was the same week I’d planned to leave. As I sat talking to my shrink on June 16th, an inner voice I’d not heard in a while spoke up. Not sure whether Freud would have called this my id, ego or super ego, but I call her Jada. Jada suggested that since I was so much better the trip could still be salvaged; I could get there in time to see the second show (I was convinced the tickets were for the following Tuesday and Thursday. Remember that, dear reader.) Dr. G. thought this an excellent idea. I thought my chances of finding a relatively decent air fare on short notice was as good as getting the stars’ autographs – meaning nil. (Remember that one too.) That night I found the cheapest fare yet and a Bed & Breakfast to boot. So I booked everything. This was Thursday, June 16th. I was to leave Tuesday night, June 21st. This was my shortest turnaround for a trip ever. I’d never been on a trip alone so that was a bit scary. But I would see DT onstage again and London after all.

I was a happy camper through better chemistry, so I was chuffed.

Next: Travel Trauma!

The Other Dog Goes to the Vet or Better Living through Chemistry

Two days ago I announced the return of the new and improved blog.  Actually it’s the new and improved me.  Although I’ve been graciously maintained as a blogger in blogrolls here in ArmitageWorld, many of you probably have noticed long gaps between periods of writing.

In a post over two months ago, I blogged about my problem with my other dog I’ve since called Winston.  He’s named after Winston Churchill and is the metaphorical black dog of depression.  I mentioned he was quite the shapeshifter, changing from a big Great Dane to a small Chihuahua and back at any time.  I had hoped Winston would stay teacup sized but that wasn’t the case.

It turned out to be the lull before the storm. As shown by posts shortly after the beginning of June, I was incapable of writing anything substantive and before long, incapable of writing.  My memory and concentration left me.  I grasped for words, couldn’t retain thoughts, and failed to correct mistakes because I was unaware of having made them.   My paralysis extended to work where extended decompensation was not an option. I’m my sole breadwinner with no back-up support so I didn’t have the luxury of sliding into the stereotypical Victorian “nervous breakdown.” Winston had grown to the size of a Mastiff and was crushing me.  Clearly it was time for action and fast.

Fortunately my job in the federal government made getting help as easy as picking up the phone and going.  There’s nothing inconsequential about depression.  It’s a bitch.  There’s nothing easy about clawing of it either.  Clinically depressed people cannot “snap out of it.” Counseling will not immediately make us better and medication is not a cure.  It’s amazing to me that so many people don’t understand this, even while experts state depression is the most prevalent mental disorder in here in America. Having dealt with this most of my life, I knew things would get worse before they could get better; that’s the way it works.  And it seems every transition into new stages in life creates new kinks, requiring me again to address and cope with depression in new ways.

So Winston and I went to the doctor.  Returning to counseling and medication has been no picnic while learning to deal with Winston instead of resenting the hell out of him.  Medication doesn’t mean taking a pill and everything is alright; it takes 4-6 weeks to determine it’s effectiveness and that isn’t guaranteed.  Different dosages must be considered. Then there’s the side effects.  Some people have known; others don’t have it so good.  For me it was awful and might have put me off it except the physical illness distracted from the mental distress. So I persevered as my body struggled to adjust.

Then sometime in the 4th week, I noticed something different.  On previous medication, I functioned but still had breakthrough symptoms.  This is why you see commercials for drugs such as Abilify, a secondary medication for people taking anti-depressants who are still depressed.  Yes, I felt better but there was something more. I felt not only an absence of misery, but an absence of depression.  Except for a very short period caused by another physical issue, I’ve been depression free for over a month.  This is a completely new experience for me. Winston, now a cute black pug, stays out of my way. Memory and concentration have greatly improved, although they might never return to previous levels. But I can work and write again and solve problems like fixing this blog’s technical problems.  I’m not cured and never will be; this is a lifelong disorder.  Counseling will help me realize my potential as I move into later middle age.  I’m hopeful.

Interestingly, people have told me they’ve observed a slight shift in my personality.  I seem brighter and more engaged.  I’ve noticed a friendlier attitude in others which probably reflects my own.  When I returned to work after a long absence, no less than three people waylaid me on the way to my office, not to talk work, but just to chat. My close friends have reacted favorably too.  After accepting me and Winston for over 15 years, they seemed happy about the new change. When I asked them how they put up with me they said when I was Better Judi, it made the wait worthwhile.  Aww, I love you gals; you know who you are.

In case you wondered how the improved me would react in a crisis, let me assure that very thing happened during that 4th week on medication.  The drama involved thrills and spills, as it were, across international borders.  I kid you not.  But that’s another post.

Images from Living with a Black Dog by Matthew Johnston


The Watcher: New and Improved!

I’m officially back in business!

After a prolonged battle with first over open comments and then email notification, I can again interact with you properly, dear reader.  Yes, you can now enjoy the instant gratification of agreeing with my extraordinarily erudite and insightful posts as soon as they are published.  No more wondering what I’ve gone and done today, the answer will be in your mailbox.  Isn’t that marvelous?

So feel free to register/subscribe in the side bar to the right today if you haven’t already. I need to see if that is still working too.  There will be a flurry of new posts coming. For once, I have the problem of too much to talk about instead of not enough.  My muse is baaaack.

Next up: THORIN!  Oh yes.  (As if I’m not in enough trouble already.)



The Other Dog

Winston Churchill had a black dog

His name was written on it

It followed him around from town to town

It’d bring him down

Took him for a good long ride

Took him for a good look around

Reg Mombassa: Black dog

Winston Churchill frequently referred to struggling with his “black dog,” his metaphor for depression, in his case as bipolar disorder.  He had a remarkable and accomplished life like other depressives such as Abraham Lincoln and Tolstoy.  There are many people walking around with mood disorders and don’t even realize it. I believe everybody knows somebody who’s consistently talked about “feeling blue,” “down,” or “blah.”  Old timers said they were “feeling poorly,” “took to their bed,”  or “went away for a rest.”   Still there’s a stigma attached to publicly acknowledging the condition.  Fortunately people like Churchill did mention it because he was prescient enough realize that at times it’s better to recognize the elephant in the room before people drew worse conclusions.  So he referred to his black dog.

Like Churchill, I should acknowledge on this blog that I’ve had my own black dog since childhood.  I picture him as a black bull dog in honor of Churchill; he’s unnamed because he’s not welcome.  He can stay away for long periods then sudden spring out of nowhere nipping at my heels, or sitting on my chest licking my face.  He seems as small as a chihuahua when he plays nice or big as that proverbial elephant when he’s a bastard.  He exudes a clinging miasma that saps my energy and causes as clinicians state, “deficiencies of concentration, persistence and pace.”  He’s not menacing; he’s simply annoying.

Several months ago, I spotted him bouncing outside the fence, as it were, until he grew big enough to jump it and give chase.  Last month, he tackled me and attached himself like Velcro.  During these times, all of my energy is focused on keeping the paychecks coming.  Everything else falls by the wayside. I hoped blogging would help keep focus but dragging the black dog around required too much energy, hence the withdrawal from blog-verse.  Finally he’s shrunk to teacup size, small enough to punt out the door.  Hopefully he’ll stay preoccupied elsewhere while I pick up where things dropped and clear up an accumulating To Do List.  It’s daunting and frustrating, but something I accept and work through.

I realize I missed an important email (damn, sorry!) and many posts.  Although I’ve not been commenting on blogs and emails as I would have liked, I have been reading and thinking about them all.  Please don’t think you’re being ignored.

Hope to get back to regular scheduled programming shortly, and to show my good faith, here’s a shiney:

2004 promo, courtesy




Welcome back!

Well, that was interesting.

My IT buddy left after massaging HP back to good health since its trauma at the hands of Geek Squad.  Long story short, after having HP for almost six weeks, they only thing they successfully accomplished was wiping the HD and installing Windows 7, oh, and a new video card.  They did not correctly identify the problem (the possible virus I mentioned six weeks ago); misdiagnosed alleged problems with the old video card, fans and power supply (nothing wrong with any of them); and my favorite – botched backing up my stuff.  In what must be the Epic Fail of Back-ups, I had a restored hard drive full of empty directories and folders.  Yup, they neglected to COPY THE DATA.  Thankfully none was critical but several gigabytes of data are a lot of files to lose and reconstruct.  The moral to this story is: avoid the Geek Squad at Best Buy!

Because of my frustration over the WordPress Service limitations, she also migrated this blog to my own server.  So bye WordPress Service, hello WordPress at Judiang. If you hadn’t noticed, you were redirected to a new URL at You will probably need to bookmark, RSS, or subscribe again to the new URL. Everything here is a la carte as far as personalizing is concerned, so I’ve been adding plug-ins to at least be on par with WordPress Service before I can dabble with the fancy gizmos.

Sadly the move wasn’t damage-free.  While posts arrived basically intact along with comments and links there have been some big problems, the move has stripped paragraph breaks, borked image placement and broken embedded videos.  I’ve been painstakingly parsing and fixing code, although I fear some aesthetics simply can’t be mended.

So, watch out for the boxes scattered around and don’t look at the wallpaper. Be sure to bookmark my new URL, RSS, or subscribe in the right panel.  I’ll get things in some semblance of order while I finish birthday feting.

But I’ve got posters.  Here’s one:

Richard Armitage in 2004 photo shoot