Slowly Getting Back To Normal

As you may have guessed from the previous post, things didn’t go quite as J and I (or anybody, for that matter) expected when we got the dog. I knew things were bothering J but I didn’t realize how much she’d been hiding and how wrung-out and miserable she was. I’m very grateful that she said what was going on so we could try to figure things out and fix them.

It turned out we didn’t have much time – J’s distress had well exceeded her limits and she was on her way to a big crash. And frankly, I probably wasn’t the most effective help for her at that point. Fortunately, a few texts and calls later and family and friends were at the door wanting to help. I won’t reiterate what J said in her post but there are some people who really came through for us – THANK YOU VERY MUCH. My sweetie means more to me than anything in the world and seeing her slowly get better over the past week has been wonderful.

Other things are slowly returning to normal, too. In addition to taking care of herself, J has been pounding the virtual pavement and submitted some more job applications, and has gone to visit and help out her aunt a couple of times. As for me, I’m back to puttering around with some projects I may or may not finish, working with the personal trainer (which is going surprisingly well), and trying to keep getting out more while the weather is still pleasant.

Speaking of which, J and I got out to see DM and FA the other day. We had a delightful burrito supper and just sat around and shot the breeze. I took advantage of the time to play with their dog and also lay down on the floor so she comes over, floomps down, and lets me pet her for… I won’t know – I lose track of time. And today, I met FA at a dog park and we walked for an hour and a half and watched her dog sniff around, say hello to other dogs, and (my favourite) chase thrown balls and frolic in the river. It was a good time with a good friend and a good dog and I enjoyed the conversation. And today was some of the best driving I’ve had since I got sick. There was construction, but traffic was pretty light, most of it was highway, the truck ran like a champ and I could feel the miles melting away as I drove with interesting and weird music blasting away. It was one of those days where you feel almost like you could just skip the turnoff you’re supposed to make and keep driving and driving and driving. It was a good feeling.

This coming week… Well, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I have an appointment on Tuesday evening which I’m not particularly looking forward to. J and I are also considering taking a day trip on Wednesday, and I have another session with my trainer on Thursday. No plans for Friday yet but something in the back of my head is saying “are you sure”? So no, I’m not sure.

I hope you all have a good week and may you not have any nasty surprises!

Stay safe.

GUEST POST – Just When You Think You Prepared For Everything: The SampleSizeZero Dog Update

Guest post by J (Mark’s wife).

We got a dog!
We have a dog!
We had to return the dog.

The human brain is really weird. Almost as soon as we had the dog home on Sunday, I began to get anxious and more anxious and more anxious. I began to panic, and I spent 3 days either panicking or on the edge of panic until I had a panic attack that lasted an hour on Wednesday night.

Note: None of this is the dog’s fault. He was a perfect good dog and did nothing to warrant this reaction.

Of all the things we’d prepared for…me have panic attacks triggered specifically by the dog was not anything we’d ever thought of. Where the #$@@ did that come from?!?

Fun Fact about J: Prior to this week I hadn’t had a panic attack for 15 years – thanks to coping techniques, therapy and medication.

Through everything, Mark was calm, as helpful as he could be and tried to do everything to make this easier for me. We have complimentary anxiety disorders, so we seldom panic at the same time about the same things.

Wednesday night I said I couldn’t do it anymore. Such a hard decision so we were both a mess. We called FA and she rushed over to support us (thank you FA – thank you DM) and as we told others in our support system everyone offered help. I forget that we have people who care for us that much, and I often forget to ask for help.

Mark was/is heartbroken that we couldn’t keep the dog (and I feel really bad about that). But he and FA worked together on Thursday so that I could go away without worrying about Mark and come back to the house later after the dog had left for his new home. FA talked to the rescue organization on our behalf (thank you thank you thank you) and arranged everything.

On Thursday morning I saw a therapist and together we located at least 5 separate things that were being triggered and causing me to panic. (I’ll be investigating those more in the coming weeks and months). I spent the rest of Thursday with my aunt seeing my doctor and then relaxing at her house.

And then Thursday night I came home, Mark had rearranged the house into its pre-dog state and BAKED A CAKE. My sweet husband knows me so well. And he really doesn’t give himself enough credit for all the ways he looks after me.

Thank you isn’t enough, but THANK YOU Mark, FA, my wonderful aunt for all coming to our rescue Wednesday & Thursday. THANK YOU to everyone else in our support system (parents, DM) who have helped us this week too.

Writing this out was hard, so time for me to relax again.

Anxiety And Excitement At The Same Time

We are getting a dog! The shelter called yesterday and all of our references checked out (thank you all so much!) so we officially got approval and the pup we really wanted (and went to meet) is ours!

We were supposed to pick him up in a week or so but we got a phone call last night and were stunned when we found out we could pick him up on Sunday. That cut a week of preparation out of our schedule but we were fortunately mostly prepared anyway.

So we spent the morning and early afternoon getting ready and shopping for dog stuff, and then met FA, DM, and two more people (one of whom is that trainer I’ve been working with) at a dog park with DM & FA’s dog, and we spent the next two hours just walking and talking around the park while the dog had a grand old time. I had a grand time too – it was interesting and informative and fun to talk with everyone, and we had quite possibly the best dog park weather that one could ask for.

This evening, J and I were rushing to get stuff figured out, put together, and washed as necessary, and we are both pretty confident that we are ready. There are parts of the house that are disaster areas but they’ll be behind gates and/or closed doors.

FA and their dog came by on Friday to hang out, have lunch, and shoot the breeze whilst checking out our dogproofing. Things went very well and FA gave us some really good hints (thank you both!!!).

So yeah, I’m really excited for tomorrow but also pretty nervous. My stomach’s been all knotted up this last week or so, and I haven’t slept well at all. I still can’t figure out how the excitement and nerves can both show up at the same time like that.

Stay safe.

Kind Of A Whirlwind Summer

Well, it’s September the 2nd and I have no idea where the summer went. I’ve been keeping busy and there have been some ups and downs over the last while.

One of the big things I’ve started doing is working with a trainer. Since I’ve got a few things left over from surgeries and stuff that I need to be careful (and since I appear to have been built out of used and/or cheap parts), I didn’t really know how to get moving and exercising again. I was pretty sure that if I’d just picked up weights and went for runs like I did in my 20s, I’d probably end up back at the doctor, needing to get yet another part fixed.

It’s only been a week but the trainer has worked out even better than I’d hoped. Completely different from the guys I used to work with who said they were trainers – I haven’t been asked to buy supplements or fancy weights, which is great. I still don’t enjoy the idea of exercising and sweating just to exercise and sweat, but my trainer is very good and I have found the exercise she has me doing to be doable and actually kind of rewarding. I think parts of me (particularly in my back) that haven’t moved in years are actually creaking around a bit again. So that makes it easier to motivate myself to spend the time doing it.

The other big news is that J and I have decided to look at getting a dog. We’ve been talking about it for years but we weren’t in a good place to do it. Now that J and I are home most of the time, we have the resources, and I’m at a point where I can drive myself to most of my appointments, we want to go for it. We’ve found a couple that look nice but there’s one that we went to meet last weekend and he just felt like a perfect fit. Relaxed, likes people and treats, and somehow managed to lean against J and me at the same time. He really took a liking to J, and she really took a liking to him too. So we’ve sent our forms in and now it’s just a matter of time to find out what’s going to happen. So we’ve been working on dog-proofing parts of our house a lot lately.

I’m still doing the appointments with Dr C and Dr W. Dr C wants me to go to her office for her appointment next week. That’ll be the first time in around two years I’ve been there. I don’t really want to go – I really prefer the video chats – but she wants to make sure that I don’t turn inward and stop going out, which makes good sense.

As for Dr W, I was having a lot more nightmares again for a while so we increased my prazosin a bit. That helped a lot (and helped J because I’m talking and moving around in my sleep less now), so we’ve reduced my venlafaxine a tiny bit again.

Otherwise, things have mostly been going pretty well. Like I said, ups and downs, but that’s kind of how life goes I guess.

Anyway, I should end this here – the trainer will be over in a bit and I need to do some tidying before she gets here.

Stay safe.

Yesterday Was Kind Of Rough

Some people use pill organizers, some people get their medication done in bubble packs at the pharmacy. This is how I organize my medications:

Picture of medications arranged in a small blue box

Keep in mind, we have no kids and our only pets live in an aquarium

Morning stuff is on the right, right side up. Evening is on the left, upside down. In the middle is a little shot glass that I count each into before I take it. When I take my morning medications, I turn the glass right side up, and when I take my nighttime medications, I turn it upside down.

This system works very well because it’s easy to see how much of what I have left at a glance and on the “occasional” day when I end up at the hospital for whatever reason, it’s easy and quick to just dump the whole thing into a bag and take it along.

Two days ago I was feeling kind of off. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but there was something a little wrong. It wasn’t bothering me too much, though, so I didn’t give it much thought. It got a little worse throughout the day but again, could’ve been a cold, could’ve been something I ate or didn’t eat, who knows.

When it was time for me to take my nighttime medications, I found myself a little confused because I looked at the glass and it was upside down. I went back through the previous hour or two as best I could (thinking was definitely not my strong suit at that point) and was almost entirely certain that I hadn’t taken my nighttime medications – I must’ve turned the glass upside down by accident when I’d taken my morning medication.

The following morning (yesterday), I woke up and felt GHASTLY. I was shivering and sweating and no matter how much blanket I wrapped around myself, I couldn’t stop shaking. My brain wasn’t working well, either, and I had a nasty headache and my eyes hurt. After a while of trying to figure out where and how I could have possibly caught covid, I hauled myself out of bed and discovered another thing: my entire body hurt. I have many parts that hurt all the time anyway, but it felt like every cell in my body had tried to do one of those fancy exercise schemes that that only have capital letters and numbers in the name. There were weird little painless but annoying jolts of what could almost be described as electricity bouncing around in my head and back.

I squinted at the bathroom mirror and the face that looked back at me looked pretty rough. Like a version of me from a movie where I’d just woken up after getting completely hammered and starting (and winning, of course) an enormous bar fight. One of those bar fights where people get hit with pool cues and chairs but the band keeps playing. But that’s when I figured out what was going on.

I was in withdrawal.

The glass had been upside down the previous evening not because I’d accidentally turned it that way when I took my morning medications, but because I hadn’t taken my morning medications that day. That explained everything – how I’d felt weirder as the previous day went on, and why it even hurt to pee. Not in the “it burns because you need a round of penicillin” way, but in the “I don’t think I’ve felt my bladder muscles ache before” way. It also explained why I was having trouble rounding up a couple of brain cells to help me put together some sentences so I could communicate with J.

J agreed with my assessment and asked if there was anything she could do. I immediately took my medication (the usual amount) and two PRNs for good measure, then sat on the couch and shivered and sweat under a blanket for a while. My resting heart rate at that point was around 115, and after a little while I decided I’d try to distract myself by working on something until things kicked in and I started feeling better.

I went down to the basement and started to staple some screen onto some scrap wood to make a flat-bottomed bird feeder, but it got harder and harder to both concentrate and do anything. When I realized I was on my knees on the floor with sweat pouring off me while I tried (and failed) to hold a piece of screen still, I gave up. Went back upstairs, talked with J for a couple of minutes, and then went back to bed.

It took me a long time to relax enough to fall asleep but it seems I did at some point. When I woke up, I felt like a brand-new person. No aches aside from the usual ones, no more sweating or shivering, and my brain was back to being able to put simple sentences together.

I’ve read a number of horror stories about people quitting SSRIs and SNRIs cold turkey (often without the approval or supervision of a physician) and based on my experience yesterday, I can only say that I’m VERY lucky to be Dr W’s patient because he is a firm believer in small, gradual reductions.

Stay safe.

Confidence And Wasps

It’s hot out today, and what was supposed to be a short trip to fetch something out of the garage turned into a half-hour long sweaty battle between me and a whole bunch of angry wasps.

That’s not normally something I’d mention on this blog, but after the insects finally coordinated and got the upper hand and I fled indoors to cool down in front of the fan, it occurred to me that standing outside and chasing wasps down with a garden hose is something that the old me would have never done before. Never.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been nervous around bees, wasps, hornets, yellowjackets… pretty much anything that has yellow and black stripes on its butt. I’m not allergic – I’ve been stung quite a few times over the years and while it’s annoying (and painful), I’m lucky to not need to worry about being in any mortal danger. But still, they made me nervous.

It took quite a lot of time (and many exasperatedly hissed “QUIT WAVING AROUND” warnings over the years from Dad) but by the time I was in my mid-teens I was finally able to see a bee without running around, windmilling my arms. Most animals don’t bother me, although some of the highest speeds I’ve ever made on foot were whilst running from an angry Canada goose and an angry badger. But wasps… they’re different. I’m not sure why. Could be that I can’t relate to how they think. And there’s never only one of them. With a goose, you know when it’s time to run. Badgers require no thought – just run.

With bees or wasps, though (especially wasps), I often find that I have no idea what I’ve done to rile them up. Yes, I realize I’ve gotten too close to their nest/hive/whatever, but I usually can’t see it, so I don’t know which way to go to fix the problem. Plus, it always seems like there aren’t any around, then I see one on my arm (which makes me nervous), and then it takes off again and joins the swarm that I then notice is buzzing and diving at me.

A year or so after J and I moved into our first house, wasps built a large nest hanging under the deck in the back yard. I set up a little zapper in front of the hole to hopefully take care of the problem, but once they realized the zapper wasn’t friendly, they attacked it in such numbers that the zapper wasn’t zapping them anymore. Next up was one of those wasp killing foam sprays that’s guaranteed to shoot 15 feet or whatever. I soaked that thing down until it was a giant marshmallow, then ran back inside. It killed a bunch of them but once it dried up the wasps were out again and angry as ever. So I asked a neighbour if he’d be interested in working as a team to go at night and take care of the nest permanently. I had one of those white zip-up suits with the hood and goggles and all kinds of stuff so I was prepared.

He said sure, then immediately hopped over the fence wearing nothing but shorts and sandals, grabbed a garbage bag, walked up to the nest, closed the bag around it, and broke if away from the joist it had been attached to. He tied the bag shut and handed it back to me. It had taken him maybe 45 seconds to do the whole thing. I was shocked. Delighted, but shocked.

So… this whole post up until now has been to show you how much of a chicken I am when it comes to bees and wasps and insects like that. Which brings me to today.

A little while ago, I noticed the odd wasp landing on and crawling behind the conduit that holds the power line going into the house. I didn’t think too much of it – something to avoid, and something to keep an eye on. Today, though… I don’t know if it’s how dry it’s been lately, or the heat, but when I went back to the house after picking stuff up in the garage, I noticed steady traffic leaving and arriving at that conduit.

Normally I would’ve gone inside and at least waited until dusk when the wasps tend to be a little calmer, but instead I grabbed the garden hose and started knocking them off the conduit and siding and onto the ground. Oddly, the water didn’t pool on the ground, it was disappearing into a hole on the ground behind the conduit, where many, many other wasps were now crawling out of and flying around, trying to figure out what was going on. I stayed out there, spraying here and there, knocking them out of the air and forcing them into what was becoming a rather large mud puddle at my feet. I turned off the water and waited for some more to group up, then sprayed them again and again. Half an hour later, there were lots of dead and dying wasps all over the place, and the hole in the ground had finally filled up. Unfortunately, there were still lots of wasps in the air, and they’d figured out that the sprayer head was where their problem was coming from so they were attacking it en masse. I figured that it was only a matter of time before they realized there was a squishy, stingable, sweaty pink human at the end of the sprayer, so I carefully put it down and scampered into the house.

Now that I’ve written it out and I’m reading it, it’s not nearly as impressive as it felt at the time, but considering that I wasn’t running around the yard screaming, I think things went pretty well. I hadn’t planned to do any of that but I saw an opportunity and actually took advantage of it. Is it because of all the work I’ve been doing with Dr C and Dr W? I certainly would’ve handled things differently five or ten years ago, and I’m in a place now where I actually care what happens to me. Regardless of the cause, I think it’s a good thing, and I’m seeing other areas in my life where I’m feeling more confident about things, too. More on that later, though – I hadn’t planned to spend an hour writing about how I’d spent the previous half hour…

Stay safe.

Rolling Thunder

It’s been a while since I posted. Quite a while, actually.

I didn’t have plans to post now but I’m sitting here in the dining room with an earache and there’s a steady rain and a low rumble of thunder that doesn’t seem to stop. It makes me think about things and reminds me of when I was a kid, watching storms with my family, or the amazing storms that would happen out at DA’s cabin.

I’m doing well. Lots of stuff has happened over the last while and I’ve had some ups and downs but all in all, things are trending upwards. The novelty of being stuck at home because of covid has long worn off but I’m keeping my brain and hands quite active. Even did some welding a week or two ago – first time in ages. Then I actually went outside and barbecued supper for the first time in two years? Even did it twice this past week.

My hands are working again and I had my last followup with the surgeon a few days ago. My hands are weaker than they were before but I can use my fingers again and doing things like soldering or welding or picking up a screw aren’t frustrating ordeals anymore.

Another thing that’s helping my hands stay steady is that between Dr W and I have reduced my medications further and I haven’t suffered any ill effects. I also think that I’m starting to shed some of the weight I put on since I got sick. I’m not counting on it but I wouldn’t complain if it happened.

Tried to get in touch with WG to see how he’s doing but haven’t had much luck. That’s too bad – I miss him quite a bit. I miss a lot of people, actually. Family, friends, even people I don’t normally think about like the hairdresser I used to go to. I hope everyone is okay.

Still raining, still thundering. I think I’ll end this post here and go sit and enjoy the storm as much as I can.

Stay safe.

Time Is Really Getting Away On Me

Song: “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Several

I don’t know if it’s the whole “being stuck in the house” thing or what, but time has pretty much ceased to have any meaning to me. It’s been two weeks since I got that surgery done, and three weeks since I posted last. On the good side, things have been moving along not too badly.

The surgery went pretty well – it was the second run at this particular problem, and the surgeon was much more positive about things this time. On the downside, I ended up having to stay overnight for observation because my O2 levels were lower than they were comfortable with. They’ve always been low – I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, “okay, I need you to take a few deep breaths” by nurses once they put that little clip on my finger – but aside from really wanting to get home and being uncomfortable, I was happy they were being more careful than less careful about things.

During the night at the hospital, I had a pretty bad nightmare (tent) and ended up wandering over to the nurse station to ask if it was okay if I stood out there for a few minutes because being in the light and around a living human being helps me a lot. To my surprise, she was FANTASTIC about it and went out of her way to help me calm down and talk to me while I fought off a panic attack.

So yeah, that’s pretty much the big news… and that happened weeks ago. Oh, Zombie Mark has made a few appearances lately. He hasn’t done anything particularly dumb but he’s fallen asleep on the couch and woke J up with his snoring (sorry about that).

As usual, I’ve been doing my best to keep busy. I’ve actually been making progress with some projects and have even finished a couple of them.

Went to do some laundry just before I started writing this post and right after I hit start on the machine, J came downstairs and brought this to my attention:

Brown water running into sink


Some of the covid restrictions have been relaxed around here so tomorrow’s going to be a good day – going to have a visit!

One last thing – this is my first post on this site that I haven’t written up in a word processor first and gone over repeatedly before posting. Hopefully it’s not full of errors…

Stay safe.

Things Have Improved

Song: “Wasn’t That A Party” by The Irish Rovers

Mood: 6.5

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Few

In the days since my last post, things have improved markedly. As I mentioned, Dr H called later on the same day and told me she’d spoken to the surgeon and got me an appointment the following day. I was tired and quite worried, but J was allowed to come in and ask the surgeon questions, and after the appointment I felt a lot better about things. Non-essential surgey is starting to open back up around here, and the surgeon asked her assistant to get me in as soon as a slot was available at one of the hospitals.

That helped a lot. This will be the second run at fixing this particular problem, and the thought of waiting another two years was really bothering me.

Other good things have happened. FA was in touch and told me about some new hobby stuff that piqued my interest and got me excited about something, which helped drag me out of my funk. My mother-in-law was in town and visited twice over the weekend. It was really, really great to see her and hang out and chat. I don’t know if she’s much of a hug person or not but I gave her two very big hugs. Hopefully I didn’t squeeze too hard…

But two big things happened yesterday that also helped to improve my mood enormously. The first was that the surgeon’s office called and my surgery is scheduled for a little more than a week from now! Part of me still can’t believe it, but the surgeon’s office emailed the paperwork and I printed it up so I can actually feel it in my grubby little hands. What a relief!

The second is that we got a notice from the bank stating that our mortgage is finally paid off! I can’t really take any credit for that – J is the financial mastermind here and did all the math and work shuffling money and balancing budgets over the years – but between where I’m at with my disability pension and where J’s at with her office being shut down in November, not having that monthly payment hanging over our heads is… well, it’s pretty amazing. I am hoping that it will have a big effect on the scenarios I worry about where we lose the house and have nowhere to go.

So yes, things have improved a lot. I am still upset about Dr H leaving but I certainly wasn’t her only patient and there must be a bunch of other people in the same boat as I am. They’ll get by and so will I.

I have a Dr W appointment this week, and on Friday morning I have an ultrasound that the liver specialist requested. I’m not looking forward to either event. Dr W is going to ask why Dr H leaving upsets me, which will also upset me. He’s also going to ask what I want to do with my medications. I’d really like to reduce the quetiapine again but I don’t know if right now is the best time to do that.

Aside from that, I plan to get in a bunch of project stuff and see if I can cross one or two more things off my list. We’ll see how it goes.

I also want to get Dr H a card and maybe some kind of gift. What kind of gift do you give a fantastic doctor who dramatically improves your quality of life and may have even saved it?

Stay safe.

Never Should’ve Got Out Of Bed

Song: N/A

Mood: 5

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Few

Lacking any other way to put it, today has not been good.

I often joke about how my health seems to be a zero-sum game. Last week, I got a call from the liver specialist and she was happy to report that my liver numbers have all gone back into the normal range (all except for one but it’s just slightly off and they’re not worried about it). Adding coffee to my daily routine was the only change I’d made, but the difference it seems to have made is fantastic. Easy, cheap, a little disgusting, but it got results. So that was great.

But like I said, my health seems to be a zero-sum game.

I had an appointment with my GP (Dr H) this morning for a pre-surgery physical. I went to bed early, got up early, but just as we were on the way out the door, one of the garbage bags we were taking outside tore and dumped garbage on the inside landing. So yeah, that was an omen.

Got to my appointment on time, got into the room, and was met by a medical student. He was pretty good, no problems there. I mentioned some concerns I’ve been having with the upcoming surgery, he took notes. Then he left and came back with Dr H. I explained my concerns, she had me hop up on the table… and the two of them did some prodding and poking. What they found was not great and will probably change the approach to my next surgery quite a bit. I also have to start taking my temperature regularly and be ready to zip over to the emergency room in the event I have a fever.

That was pretty upsetting, since I’ve been trying extremely hard to do everything the doctors have been telling me. But then came the little toothpick flag on the shit sandwich my day was rapidly becoming:

Dr H is leaving. She’s not moving to another practice or anything like that, so I can’t follow her around town. I think she’s going to be spending more time teaching at the university. Which is really good for her, but sucks very, very badly for me. When I first met Dr H, I was barely able to utter a whole sentence, and I would sit there, staring at the floor and shaking while she patiently tried to pry what it was I was trying to say out of me. She’s been very patient and helpful with my various physical and mental health issues, and she has truly been one of the pillars of my recovery.

She said she had two doctors in mind who she thought would be a good fit, and she was going to sit down and talk to them about me before she handed me over to whomever ends up being my next GP. She assured me I wasn’t going to be without a doctor, and she assured me I’d always have a doctor at the clinic I visit. She said I was one of her favourite patients (which I’m sure she’s saying to a bunch of people) and said she wanted me to hear it from her instead of being surprised by a letter (which I’ll be getting sometime soon).

I didn’t know what to say. I thanked her profusely, wished her luck, and when the two of them left and I was sitting in the office by myself, I had a good cry before texting J and letting her know I was on my way back out. Then I cried in the car on the way home, then went back to bed and cried for a while before I could feel things starting to spiral into panic so I took some PRNs and did my exercises as best as I could before falling asleep while clinging to J like a drowning man holding onto a log in the middle of a river.

J woke me up a couple of hours later. Dr H was on the phone, she contacted the surgeon I was getting the paperwork done for today and somehow got me an appointment with the surgeon tomorrow afternoon. So once again she proved how great a doctor she is and how hard it’s going to be for another doctor to have the understanding and do all the footwork she does.

This is really hard. Today is not a good day.

Stay safe.