First Volunteer Session

Song: “Get Over You” by The Undertones

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Several

I was feeling a little rough again yesterday but instead of going to bed really early, I stayed up for a while to see if it would help me get to sleep, stay asleep, and avoid nightmares. Unfortunately, I stayed up far too late trying to get some memory modules to work with an Arduino.

I think I slept pretty well, though. No nightmares last night (soooo much better), and while I woke up three or four times, I only had to check my phone once and didn’t have to get out of bed at all. I also felt a lot better today – pretty much back to my normal 28% I think.

J took today off to handle the new windows we got installed this morning, and it was wonderful having her home. We don’t even need to talk – it’s just… really nice when she’s home and we’re together.

As the morning went on, I started to get a little nervous about going to volunteer just down the street. By the time I left, I was doing the flop sweat thing again. I got there a little late, made my way into the church, and was met by the people I was there to see.

We went down into the basement and found some seats around a table in the dining hall area. I unpacked my bag, made sure everyone was okay (more for my own peace of mind, really), and then we got started. The people I’m working with are very nice, and they seem pretty patient which is great. We had some communication difficulties at times, but they’re determined to learn and I’m determined to help, and between us, a pile of blank paper, and some pens, I think things went pretty well. Well enough at least that they thanked me many times and told me they’d like me to come back.

I got home almost two hours after I left – tired, but feeling pretty good about how things went. The highlight was when I gave them a laptop. It was one of two old machines that FA had kicking around and was gracious enough to give to me (THANK YOU!!!) to see if I could whip them into shape so they could go to a good home. It’s not often you see tears over an old laptop… but yeah.

I think it was two hours well spent. Plus, it was raining so I drove there… although if I’m being honest with myself, I’m pretty sure I would’ve driven there anyway since I was carrying a bag full of stuff. I think that is really good, too.

I started watching The Expanse, and I’m afraid that I’m going to be hooked on it. Spaceships, slightly more realistic-ish (i.e. no ray guns or hyperdrive or insane robots), Space Mormons, and some hapless ice miners who watch as their big ship gets the beat-down from a much better ship from another known faction that in turn gets the beat-down from a MUUUCH better ship from a mysterious new faction. To me, spaceship battles – unless it’s between little fighter-sized ships – should be much more like WWI and WWII naval engagements. Two ships face each other, move around a little bit, and then just beat the crap out of each other until one of them either blows up, falls apart, or runs away. I’m a big fan of Star Trek, but the idea that a ship that has a mass of four or five million metric tons is going to zoom and swoop around… well, it looks pretty cool but it’s not right. Now, take one of the slug-fests in the 2004+ Battlestar Galactica show. While these huge ships are pummelling each other, the captain gives orders, which take time to execute, and the ships slowly pivot or roll and lumber around each other.

Okay, scratch that last part – I just spent waaay too much time talking about how I like the realism of one particular thing versus another thing, neither of which exist.

So yeah, today went pretty well. We have new windows, I think I may have helped someone today, and J was around. Not too shabby at all.

I don’t think I have any appointments or anything scheduled for tomorrow, and I’m not certain what I’m going to do yet. Probably spend too much time watching TV and not enough time doing other, more useful things.

Stay safe.

If Sleep Is So Important, Why Is It So Finicky?

So I went to bed early again to try to catch up on more sleep. I had a little trouble getting to sleep but after a while I finally dozed off. Then I woke up and had to get out of bed to make sure the back gate was closed again. Then I woke up from a nightmare (tent), and then a second one (tent). Is there a way to hypnotize yourself to have different nightmares? Waking up ready to freak out after the same three nightmares for three and a half years is getting really, really old.

So now, I’m wide awake and I have very little inclination to go back to sleep. I have a funny feeling that I’ve now gone and messed up my sleep cycle (such as it was), and that worries me a bit because I don’t do well on very little sleep.

On a somewhat related note, FA showed me quite a while ago how to set the blue light filter on my Galaxy S7: swipe down twice and tap the “Blue Light Filter” icon. I don’t know if it makes much difference for how well I sleep, but I’ve read a couple of articles that say that the wavelength of the blue light that comes off certain kinds of displays can – over time – be harmful to human eyes, and I’m a big fan of my eyes. Anyway, I just discovered a similar setting in Windows 10. I don’t know if it’s always been there, but go into Settings and then search for “night light”. I find a value of around 60 makes the screen much more comfortable.

Stay safe.

Might Be Catching A Bug

Song: N/A

Mood: 6.5

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

I didn’t feel too bad yesterday morning, but as they day went on, I could feel myself starting to feel bad – like I was catching a cold or something. By the time J got home, I was all shaky and had the sweats and I had to sit down. J asked if I’d taken my medication and I was pretty sure I had, but maybe I hadn’t. Maybe the medication changes Dr W and I made caught up with me. Maybe I was catching a cold or something.

Anyway, I took it easy but was dragging really badly so I went to bed around 9:30PM, then slept for almost 12 hours. I remember waking up once worrying about the back gate, and I woke up around 7AM to use the washroom, but otherwise I think I slept straight through.

I feel quite a bit better today but still not myself so I’m going to go to bed early again tonight and see if I can get more sleep. We’ll see what happens.

Otherwise, things are fine. Got a letter from the insurance company yesterday, which never makes me feel good, but J took a look and it wasn’t anything bad.

I tinkered around with some electronics and the SDR today, and played some good music pretty loud.

It feels like it wants to rain again, but it doesn’t feel like summer rain. Feels like fall is here. I know that it is officially here, but it feels like it now, too.

Made arrangements to try out a short volunteer session on Thursday afternoon. It’s right near the house so I won’t be far from home if anything happens, and it’s not any kind of life-or-death volunteering. I’m not scheduled to lay sandbags or take a turn working the winch to haul a baby deer out of a well. Just going to visit and talk, and I’ll be able to leave whenever I want.

I’ve been quite enjoying texting with my nephew. He’s been sending me silly pictures and really bad jokes, but it makes me feel quite good to be in touch with him.

Nothing planned for tomorrow but if it’s not nasty out I think I’m going to clear out the garden and see what our final tally of potatoes, onions, and carrots is. I kept up with the watering this year so hopefully it will have been worth it.

Stay safe.

Grounding – Updated September 23rd, 2019

Having runaway anxiety and panic sucks. Most of the things I worry about have either already happened or haven’t happened yet (and there’s no proof they will). I shouldn’t be worried about them or catastrophize – and yet, due to the anxiety, I can’t help it.

The good news is that there are techniques that can help short-circuit the anxiety before it becomes full-blown panic. It can also help shorten or even stop a panic attack in progress. The tool is called grounding, and it helps to bring you back to the here and now instead of events from the past or possibilities from the future.

There are many grounding techniques. Some work for some people but not others. Some also work with different levels or types of anxiety or panic. Sometimes they’ll work and sometimes they won’t, which is why it’s good to know a couple of them. They all take practice but for me, it is really worth it.

Here are a few of my favourite grounding techniques:

1) The 5-4-3-2-1 method

Dr C taught me this one in one of our early sessions. It has helped me immensely and is usually my first go-to grounding technique when I’m in trouble. Here’s how it works:

  • Look around you and find five things that you can see. The more detail, the better. “I see a wall” isn’t as effective as “I see the little indents on the inner circle of a paperclip that’s sitting on the desk”, or “I see that the store down the street has used an ‘F’ in place of an ‘E’ in their sign”.
  • Sit (or lie) still, and find four things that you can feel. Again, more detail is better. “Butt on chair” isn’t as good as “right sock has fallen a bit and is lower than the left sock” or “I can feel the gentle breeze of the ventilation system moving the hairs on my right forearm”.
  • Now focus on your hearing and identify three sounds you can hear. “Cars” isn’t as good as “the Doppler effect of the cars going by” or “the whirr of the computer fan.”
  • The next thing is finding two things you can smell. If you can’t smell two different things, then think of two smells you really like. Again, describe them as well as you can.
  • The last step is to think of one good thing about yourself. Be honest. If you’re feeling down, this can be difficult, but remember that everyone has at least one good thing about them.

If you think about it, each of the steps is harder and requires more concentration, which helps push what you were worried about over to the side. With luck, doing this once or twice will help break the cycle of anxiety/panic at least for a little while.

2) Water Over Hands

This one I discovered myself when washing my hands one day. Turn on the tap and put your hands into the stream. Now just feel and watch. Feel the water running over your hands. Feel the tiny variations in temperature. Watch the bubbles as they form and run over your hands and down the train. Look at the paths the water takes as it flows over your hands and how easily you can move it around with subtle movements of your hands.

I like this one because I can use it in public restrooms without looking too weird.

3) Ice in hot water

Get a cup of hot water from the tap and drop an ice cube into it. Listen to the ice crack and watch as parts of it thin out and become translucent, then transparent. Does the ice move to a particular side? Does it move around at all while it’s melting?

4) Listening to music

This one worked quite well for me yesterday when I was in a slump. Get some uptempo music that you really like or find interesting, put it on speakers, and crank it up (but not so high you hurt your ears). Let the music wash over you. Try to pick out and listen to each instrument or voice one at a time. No ballads, no slow music. Something fast that you can tap your toes to.

5) Sit in front of a fan
Sit in front of a fan that’s turned to a low setting. Feel the air buffet you, feel the hair on your head and arms move. Notice the cooling effect the moving air has on your skin.

6) Watch and/or count leaves in a tree
Sit comfortably where you have a good view of a tree. Look at the whole tree, then the trunk. Follow one of the thick main branches upwards and outwards, and at some point follow a thinner branch, then a thinner branch, again and again, until you end up at a single leaf. Watch the leaf sway or dance or twist in the breeze. Notice how it reflects light differently as it moves. In the event that there is no breeze, pick what looks like the highest leaf on the tree and going from side to side, methodically start counting them.

7) Pour water between cups
Take two medium to large (preferably plastic) cups and fill one 3/4 full of water. Get a towel and place it on your lap, then sit comfortably at a table. Pour the water slowly from one cup into the other. Note the sounds and the feeling of weight lessening on one hand and increasing on the other. Vary the speed – try to do everything from slowly trickling the water to dumping it back and forth. If you’re comfortable with it, try closing your eyes a few times and concentrating on the sound and feeling. If you spill a bit, it’s not a big deal – you’ve got a towel ready on your lap.

8) Dice

If you have a few dice kicking around – regardless of how many sides they have – pick one up and place it in your hand, then roll it around using the fingers of the same hand or with the other hand. Feel the surfaces, edges, and corners, and watch the light reflect and bend around the edges and in the indentations where the numbers or dots are. Add a second or third and do the same thing. Observe the feeling and the sound as the dice come together and their surfaces rub, making clicking and squeaking sounds.

9) Run the dishwasher
This one’s great because it can help get two things done at once. Load up the dishwasher, put in the detergent, and start it up. Sit close enough to it that you can comfortably put your hand against the dishwasher door or lean a knee against it (don’t sit right against it because it’s not good for the seals). Listen to the dishwasher fill, the valves open and close, and the rhythmic swish-swish as the dishwasher arms and jets spin inside. Feel the vibrations as the water jets pass and the water splashes around. Try to visualize what’s going on inside, from the water spraying, down to what’s happening to that single little piece of mashed potato that was on one of the plates.

This is just a tiny sample of the many grounding techniques out there. I highly recommend having at least a couple of them in your toolbox to help you cope.

I hope that some of these work for you. If they do, or if you know of any other techniques that work well, please share via comment or the Contact form as well as a name or nickname so I can give you credit!

Stay safe.

Good Stuff

Song: “Hello Mary Lou” by The Statler Brothers

Mood: 7.5

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Several

Today was a good day. It’s late and I’m having trouble focusing so I won’t write much, but today was good. I had a really great time with FA, we had storms today, and J and I took it easy this evening.

I’d like to write more but I’m pretty pooped and I don’t want to fall asleep on the chesterfield again.

Stay safe.

Tired But Good

Song: “Paper Rosie” by Gene Watson [it’s a sad song]

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Pack

Sleep seems to work out a little better for me when I’m sleeping in bed. I was very careful last night about paying attention to how I was feeling, and as soon as I started to drag I got ready for bed. As a result, I slept much better, didn’t dream about empty prisons in other countries, and I didn’t have a sore throat or headache when I woke up. I even woke up a couple of minutes before my alarm, which was both great (hey, I’m awake!) and annoying (but I could’ve slept for a whole four more minutes!).

I had my breakfast and prettied myself up for the day, then thought about how I was going to approach the things I needed/wanted to get done. Part of it depended on how anxious I was, and part of it depended on whether I was still wandering around in a fog. I worked on the anxiety part by getting everything I needed for the day ready by the front door, then doing some grounding and mindfulness, which helped a lot.

Since my nighttime quetiapine dosage has been lowered, I’ve been finding that the brain fog doesn’t last quite as long in the morning. Between that and getting up a few hours before I needed to go anywhere, my head was clear well before it was time for me to go.

I was very, VERY glad to get home this afternoon, but I accomplished everything I’d hoped to do. I drove to my Dr C appointment, went for those blood tests, and picked up the groceries. The truck started and ran like a champ, and I got a great parking spot right in front of Dr C’s building. I also took a couple of pictures of the locked doors and reminded myself that the fire hydrants were on the other side of the street.

The appointment went pretty well. Dr C is very encouraging about all of the things I’m doing, and she puts me in the driver’s seat and asks me what I think the next step should be. She then helps me with guidance and I can use to achieve it. We talked a lot about how I felt driving and being in her office today, and the difference between now and just a month ago when I still couldn’t get myself to drive. As usual, I was quite tired after the appointment (it’s amazing how much thinking goes into a therapy session – I have no idea how therapists do several sessions every day), but I didn’t feel quite as wrung-out as usual, which was nice.

I made it to the clinic at about 1:20PM, and by that time of day it was empty. That was great, because even before I got sick, sitting in a packed room full of sick people waiting for someone to stab me and put some of my blood in a jar wasn’t in the top 50 things I liked doing. I got in, gave my information, and had just sat down when my name was called. The lab tech was friendly and I barely felt the needle, then I was back out in the parking lot and on my way to the grocery store.

The parking lot at the store was pretty quiet, too, and the weather was nice enough out that I just sat in the truck with the windows open and enjoyed the breeze while I waited for them to bring out the groceries. By this point I was really wanting to get home. Nothing was specifically wrong (everything had gone well up to that point), but I could feel that cramping feeling in my gut that was pulling towards home. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the store employee approached with her cart, and between the two of us it only took a minute to get everything into the back of the truck.

The drive home was very quiet. Being close to 1:45PM, lunch hour was over and the roads were pretty calm. I pulled into the driveway, parked the truck, brought everything inside, and then flaked out on the couch for a little while, happy that I was home.

So yes, things went pretty well, and I’m quite pleased that I was able to fit three things into one trip. It helped that there was only time pressure for my appointment; everything else wasn’t time sensitive so it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if I didn’t get there right away, or even if things didn’t work out and I had to call J. I’m still a little frustrated and embarrassed that I used to be able to do this kind of stuff without thinking or worrying about it, but I’m a different person now and that is okay.

There’s no guarantee that I will be able to drive to my next appointment (or tomorrow, for that matter), and that is also okay. What’s important is that I got out today and did things today. Tomorrow will be tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes.

Speaking of tomorrow, FA is going to come over for lunch (burritos, whoo!) and we’re going to work on stuff, plan stuff, do some scheming… all kinds of fun stuff! I’m really looking forward to it!

Stay safe.

Going To Be Busy Tomorrow!

Song: “Strutter” by KISS

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

I fell asleep on the couch again last night, so I didn’t sleep so well and I’ve had a sore throat and a headache for most of the day. It’s my own fault – I should really be able to recognize when my broadcast day is over and I need to get my butt into bed.

I also had a really vivid, weird dream last night. It’s a little foggy now, but I was taking classes at college and (for whatever reason) had to get into an airplane and fly to get home. Something happened and I ended up in a prison in Singapore. My cell was very small and everything was made of stainless steel, including the mattress and blanket on the bed. The light was very bright and I could hear a loud hum coming from down the hall (which was painted hospital green). There were no signs of any other life in the prison – I couldn’t hear anyone and nobody answered when I yelled. Then I started to worry that I needed to drop my classes because I hadn’t actually been to any, and if I was stuck in prison it was unlikely I’d make it to the next one or two.

It didn’t wake me up, and it wasn’t a bad dream – just weird. I have no idea where it came from (although the hum may have been from the fan that was running nearby). A stainless steel blanket? Singapore? No idea.

I spent a lot of time today working on that signal generator project and finally got to the point where I can change its frequency whenever I want from a keypad instead of having to reprogram the whole thing. I’m very pleased with it and it’ll be nice to finally have a signal generator for use with other projects!

If everything goes well, tomorrow will be a busy day. I have a Dr C appointment at noon. Ooo, maybe I should ask her about my dream. Hmm. Anyway, I also put in another grocery order this evening and I set the pickup time for after my appointment. I also have some blood tests I need to get done, and the laboratories always seem to be quiet in the mid-afternoon. SO… my plan is to get a better sleep tonight, drive myself to Dr C’s office, then go for the blood stuff right after that and pick up the groceries on the way home. Fortunately, everything is in a pretty straight line pointing to home when I leave Dr C’s office, so I’m not driving away from home after my appointment is done.

I really hope this works out. I don’t do so well nowadays with deadlines but Dr C suggested a little while ago that I call the store and see what happens if I show up after my pickup time has elapsed; turns out they really don’t care as long as it’s not busy. So I think that as long as I can get into the truck and drive to my appointment, things are going to work out okay. J (bless her) also pointed out that if I have trouble to just call her and she’ll take care of things, so I think that will make things a lot easier. Wish me luck!

Stay safe.


Okay, okay… get it together…I needed to do a quick bit of soldering just now so I went downstairs and got everything ready… then dropped the header on the floor. It bounced on the carpet and fell under the shadow of the workbench. In case you’re not familiar with what it looks like, here’s an example (although the one I was soldering was 12 pins long):

Header pins

Image by oomlout – Flickr: 6 Pin Header – HEAD-06, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Of course, when I usually go to pick up stuff off the floor, I fumble around with it… but this time, I picked it up and dropped it in my hand no problem. I wasn’t completely paying attention so I didn’t realize why it felt weird until I was ready to drop it AND IT DIDN’T DROP AND IT WAS CRAWLING AROUND MY HAND OMG I PICKED THIS UP INSTEAD:

Disgusting centipede I picked up by accident

Image by Dee –

J is upstairs sleeping and I didn’t want my legs broken so I danced around and made little squeaking noises until I got ahold of myself and very, VERY carefully found it again and disposed of it.

I’ve got a nasty case of the heebie-jeebies, I feel like stuff is crawling all over me and in (what’s left of) my hair. I need to:

  • Never, ever, go downstairs again.
  • Start wearing my glasses.
  • Not solder after midnight or when it’s dark, dummy.
  • Spend the next three hours taking the hottest shower I can stand, then towel off and do it again.
  • Tear the basement back down to the cement, buy out every last lizard from the pet stores in the city and throw them in the basement to eat the bugs, then fill the basement up with water and make one path that the lizards can escape through, and once they’re gone, throw in a couple hundred kilograms of salt and heat up the water in the basement to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for the next two to three months, then return it to a rolling boil and keep it there until the basement is empty.
  • Buy some rubber boots and tape the tops so they’re sealed to my legs.


No sleep for Mark tonight, methinks.

Stay safe.

Med Reductions OK So Far

Song: “Any Way You Want It” by Journey

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Pack

The last few days have been a whirlwind. FA came over Friday and we had fun working on stuff and having burrito lunch. That local burrito shop has yet to disappoint me, it’s always so good!

The weekend was busy but… not busy? I can’t really remember what happened, other than J and I watched a great documentary about the Voyager program called The Farthest – Voyager in Space. I enjoyed it a lot, and I think I’m going to watch it again sometime. Lots of good footage, lots of interviews with people who actually worked on the program… it was very interesting how the people who designed, launched, and ran the craft almost see them as their children.

The other day I found a little static bag with a board in it that I couldn’t remember buying and couldn’t figure out what it was. Eventually (and with J’s help), I figured out that it’s a little signal generator module. I hooked it up to an Arduino and somehow got it working, but now I need to figure out how to easily set the frequency by a button or something instead of having to re-program the whole thing. Do I want to use a keypad? A little joystick? Some buttons? One button?

The new stuff I’ve been doing in STO has been going pretty well. I had a chat with the fleet owner and we talked about the kinds of stuff he’s looking to do and I told him my ideas and what I was hoping to do. I’ve puttered around on the internet for over 25 years now, and even when I was a kid and we had a party line we could make long-distance calls… but even now, I still find it fascinating that I’m able to talk to somebody in Tennessee about a video game that has players in it from all over the world.

The roost box printing experiment failed. The front panel came out perfectly and looked great, but after I did some figuring I realized that to print the whole thing would take over two full spools of filament. Whoops. So it’s either back to the drawing board or break down and make them out of (gasp) wood.

The medication reductions Dr W and I made last Wednesday have been fine so far. We dropped my prazosin from 9 to 8mg and venlafaxine from 450 to 375mg… and I don’t think I even noticed it. I had three nightmares (tent and life jacket) over the weekend but I think it was more a coincidence than being related to the prazosin reduction. Plus, now I don’t have to break a pill in half every two nights!

J and I met with some folks at a local church to talk about some volunteering possibilities. The meeting went very well and it looks like we’re going to give it a try. There are still details to work out but I think it’s going to work. A few really good things: it’s really, really close to home, there’s no set-in-stone schedule, and the people are interested but relaxed about it all.

There’s an event going on at a local hardware store (the one that FA and I wander around in) tomorrow morning. I was thinking of going over, but no matter how I work it, I’m not going to be in any shape to drive to get there in time for the free tools. I might go in the afternoon – there won’t be any free tools left but I hear they’re giving out hot dogs, and anyone who knows me knows that I am a (large) fan of hot dogs. We’ll see!

Stay safe.

Need To Keep This Short

Song: N/A

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

I just realized what time it is, and I REALLY need to get to bed. Today was pretty decent, though. BULLET POINTS!

  • I worked on the roost box stuff today, I think I’m ready to start a test print of some of the parts tomorrow.
  • I also did some more electronics stuff, I have a new Raspberry Pi 4 to replace the old Pi 1 that’s currently backing up our home storage, and I also fiddled with some more Arduino stuff.
  • Had the SDR playing airport traffic in the background, it’s pretty great.
  • I got invited to be one of the Grand Marshals in a fleet in Star Trek Online; I looked through the chat rooms and found a music player so I started playing music in it while I was working on other stuff. Turns out the rest of the Armada could hear it, and over the next 2.5 hours more and more people were sending me comments about how great the music was. It’s true what they say – you can’t go wrong with the Undertones.
  • J’s aunt picked me up today and took me to my Dr W appointment (THANK YOU!!!) and we had a really good chat in the car. I’m quite comfortable talking to her about all kinds of stuff – she’s a really nice lady and a good person and I enjoy our talks. We are going to set up another games and potato chip afternoon sometime soon!
  • My Dr W appointment went pretty well. Poor guy has a nasty head cold but he was pretty pleased to hear about me getting to my Dr C appointment and picking up groceries on my own. We talked about medications again and decided to try reducing the venlafaxine and prazosin a bit. I’m a little more nervous about the prazosin because I’m taking it to keep the nightmares away, but it would be really great if I can reduce things and still feel alright. I’m likely going to be taking stuff for the rest of my life and I’m okay with that, but I’d rather take just what I need. So yeah, another medication reduction step!
  • I’ve been really enjoying texting with my nephew and it seems like he’s enjoying it too. Some of that is probably because he doesn’t know all of my dumb jokes yet, but it’s wonderful to be able to keep in touch with him so easily. I hope his experience with his first cellphone is a positive one.
  • J and I have been watching The Umbrella Academy again, it’s pretty good but I think I’ve figured out where things are going…
  • FA is coming over on Friday and it will be a blast to hang out and tinker with stuff!
  • I have tomorrow “off” and I plan to at least get the roost box test print going and the NAS backup Pi ready.

Stay safe.