Personal History

Critters, Health, and Hating English Class

(The photo above is my family, taken in 2007.)

What You Didn’t Know About Me
…and Who is Lucy?

I’ve been writing publicly on mental health for well over a year now, but there’s more to me than mental health struggles. So, here I am…sharing personal anecdotes.

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I love birds.

It began with owls as a young’un and has become an obsession of sorts over the years. To me, they are a symbol of wisdom, strength, and inspiration. However, I really do love birds in general. Their beauty, their sounds, their freedom. In 1999, I spent hours upon hours on a computer “game” called Bird Watcher. I learned to identify birds by sight, and eventually just by sound. I’m a self-proclaimed bird nerd. Why I don’t spend much time birdwatching in the great outdoors, you’ll find out later.

Bird

I once collected bumblebees as temporary pets.

While growing up, my older brother taught me how to pick them up by their wings. I wouldn’t do that today, but I never did get stung! I enjoyed putting them in jars, with air holes in the lids, and naming them. I remember one, in particular, that I named Snuffleupagus. It was a big bumblebee. Later, I would release them.

Bumblebee

My family once adopted a feral cat.

We arrived home one day and noticed footprints in the still-drying cement of our new walkway to the front door. Turns out, it was a cat’s. Against our parents’ wishes, my older brother and I would sneak a saucer of milk to her from time to time. Eventually, our parents gave in and took her to the vet. We officially adopted her and named her Miner (She was gray with white spots…as if she had been in a coal mine.) Sometimes she would bring home trophies from the forest across the street…usually mice or rabbits. Sometimes, we’d find her sleeping in a patch of catnip in the neighbor’s yard. My family eventually moved from Nebraska to Texas. We no longer had any wilderness nearby, and she chose to stay within our backyard. My younger brother and I felt sad for her…she no longer had the opportunity to hunt. Thus, he and I would walk a bit less than a mile, to a creek. We’d catch minnows and transport them back home. We were so proud to be able to place them in a bowl on the back porch for Miner. She could now “hunt” for fish. We watched as she swatted at them and ate them. Unfortunately, there were leftover parts, too, that we ended up having to clean up off the patio.

Miner the cat

I’ve suffered third-degree burns.

When I was a year old, curious me decided to pull a container off the counter. Its contents…hot bacon grease. My mother immediately pulled my shirt off, ran with me to the neighbor’s house, and their sixteen-year-old sped us to the hospital (she was the only one home). I had been burned on the right sides of my neck, shoulder, and chest. I underwent skin grafting at the time. Once in college, I underwent reconstructive surgery twice to reduce the scar on my neck.

Post-Surgery
Younger brother and me after reconstructive surgery, 1994.

I am allergic to everything outdoors, which worsened as an adult.

I’ve had allergy testing, allergy shots, medications upon medications until I couldn’t take it anymore. The medications and shots just weren’t working. I was sick 75% of the time (or more) during the year. One day, I just broke into tears in my immunologist’s office. Finally, sinus surgery was recommended. What a lifesaver! Yes, I still get sick, but nothing like before. Still, if I spend even an hour outdoors, I will often run a fever that same day. Oh, how I wish I could sit and relax on the patio and watch my dogs play and listen to the birds sing.

Severe Allergies

I hated English classes in junior and senior high school
even though I was in honors classes.

I enjoyed creative writing, but struggled with some of the literature. My senior year, I remember failing yet another quiz. When it was returned to me, the teacher had written, “63%! You are improving!” So…I was failing better? I was humiliated. It wasn’t until my college years that I fell in love with my English classes. I had hated reading Beowulf in high school, but I’m sure it helped having read it previously when I had to reread it in college. Plus, my English professors were phenomenal. They had such passion and love for the subject and were able to connect it to our lives. It was during those years that I decided that I could be the English teacher I never had and help students learn to love it, as well.

Open Book

During my high school and college years, I was super-freakin’ organized.

I knew where every item I owned was, including a piece of paper with a note written on it. Enter motherhood / bipolar / depression / attention-deficit: My environment is a disaster. Clutter galore, I lose things constantly, and I don’t keep up with the necessary chores. My anxiety doesn’t like this. I want to throw everything out…minimize. I’ve unloaded a multitude of boxes with the Salvation Army. More “digging out” to do, but SQUIRREL! Enter ADD.

Pixar Up

I struggle with word recall.

I can be in a conversation, knowing exactly where it is going…then stop…because I can’t recall the word I need. It’s often something quite simple, and I can feel the essence of the word, but I cannot figure it out. So, I resort to describing its meaning in order to move the conversation forward. When writing, I will often include “XXX” where I cannot recall the word. Later, I attempt to Google simple descriptions of when the word may be used in hopes it will pop up in the results. Sometimes this works; other times, I’m calling for my husband, hoping he can help me. Having difficulty with word recall can be embarrassing when in a conversation with someone outside my family (such as a parent of a student, a job interview, or the like). Unfortunately, this is a side effect of a mood stabilizer I must take. The medication’s benefits far outweigh this hindrance.

Pixar Dory

I have tinnitus.

Tinnitus affects 1 in 5 people, most often men, and is the sensation of hearing sound in the absence of sound. Mine is a ringing, or sometimes roaring, irritation. Perhaps it began after my near-fatal MVA in 1995. Perhaps it began due to chronic sinus and lung infections. Either way, it has perpetuated over the years. During conversations, I sometimes have to ask for information to be repeated. It is what it is.

New Girl, tinnitus

My parents call me Lucy.

Is Lucy my name? No. It’s not my first nor middle name. What initiated this life-long moniker? I’m not sure my parents even know! It’s as natural as a name can be. I don’t even think about it until a friend is around and asks, “Did your parents just call you Lucy?”
Yes, yes they did.

Famous Lucys
Famous Lucys

I’ve enjoyed sharing these tidbits about myself. I’d like to know more about my readers, as well. Please, comment with something interesting in your own life!

Copyright © 2018 Alicia T-Rust. All rights reserved.

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