Need To Keep This Short

Song: N/A

Mood: 8

Nightmares: 1

Ghosts: Lots

Let’s see:

  • Weekend was good.
  • Fell asleep on couch last night, I really need to stop doing that because it messes up my sleep.
  • Today was alright in the morning but got much better as the day went on.
  • Lots of sounds outside today, very distracting.
  • FA reminded me of an ad-blocking system called Pi-hole (https://pi-hole.net/). I set it up and have been pretty pleased so far.
  • I might be volunteering tomorrow, not sure though.
  • Have a Dr W appointment on Wednesday and a Dr C appointment on Friday.
  • Making a lot of progress with some of my electronics projects.
  • Did some cleaning upstairs today, hauled two and a half bags of garbage out to the bin.

Stay safe.

Listened To Some Records, Watched Some TV

Song: N/A

Mood: 6

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

I didn’t sleep well again last night, but it was my own fault for falling asleep on the couch again.

Today was a better day, though. I’m still quite bothered about what happened yesterday, but I sat myself down in front of the record player and played a bunch of good stuff loud enough that people walking by outside probably heard. Those James Last collections are sooo bad but at the same time they’re wonderful. And The Undertones – you can’t go wrong with The Undertones.

I watched another two episodes of The Expanse, which were very good. The guy who plays Amos does a very good job of the “crazy eyes” thing.

My parents got home from their trip yesterday and gave me a call this afternoon; we talked for almost an hour. It was very good to chat with them and find out about how everyone is doing. Mom was glad to have gone but it also made her sad because her brothers aren’t in the best health (particularly the one with ALS). Fortunately, they’re all in good spirits, which counts for a lot. I haven’t seen my folks for a while – I hope a visit is in the works.

Sent out my video texts today but my phone mangled them beyond recognition.

A package arrived for me today full of electronic doodads that I didn’t remember ordering (I did, it was just so long ago I’d forgotten). So I now have even more parts that will let me build some stuff (particularly things with radio modules, flash memory, or any other 3.3V module) easier and with fewer parts. So that was good.

Tonight J and I watched an episode from the third season of The Good Place. Not too bad so far, and I really like that “American” restaurant they visited in Sydney.

Tomorrow I may be going down the street to volunteer at that church again but I won’t find out for sure until tomorrow morning.

That’s about it.

Stay safe.

A Bad Panic Attack Today

Song: N/A

Mood: 5.5

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

I didn’t sleep very well again last night – spent far too much time in the dark worrying about things I have no control over (and some I do have some control over).

When I got out of bed this morning, I felt worn out, like an old lawnmower engine that’s hard to start and makes a lot of noise and smoke but doesn’t do much mowing. I had breakfast and went through my usual morning routine, just slower than usual.

I had decided yesterday that I was going to drive to my Dr C appointment today. I left the house, the truck started right up, and I headed out with plenty of time to spare. Still, I wasn’t feeling quite right – pretty unsettled. About a third of the way there, I started to feel pretty bad but figured that having my therapist’s office as a destination was pretty good luck.

I don’t think I was halfway there when things went badly. There were too many other cars on the road and I was arguing with myself over whether everything was okay back at the house, and despite knowing that things were okay and having taken pictures proving that things were okay before I left, there wasn’t any kind of reasoning I could use on myself that worked and the panic set in.

I pulled into a parking lot, put on some Undertones, and did what I could to try and get myself together, but unfortunately it was a bad one so I sat there sweating and gasping and shaking while school kids and customers walked by. I used my phone to send an email to Dr C to tell her I wasn’t going to make it to my appointment. Whenever things would ebb a little bit I tried to work in some grounding to try and tamp things down and be done with the horrible feelings quickly. It went on like that for almost 40 minutes, then a couple more where I did some test breathing and thinking to make sure things were done before I started the truck back up and went home.

I’m feeling pretty beat about the whole thing. I know that there will be ups and downs:

Recovery GraphBut things have been going pretty well lately and I guess I wasn’t… prepared/ready for/expecting a panic attack to hit me out in the open in broad daylight like that. I guess that panic attacks wouldn’t be so much “attacks” if you knew they were coming, but I’ve become quite a bit more comfortable in my little truck and it’s really discouraging that this happened. It was also very, very, very embarrassing to be sitting there with my whole body clenching and my head on the steering wheel while people wandered by. And I’m kind of angry that this is still happening, or that it happened to me at all. I swear to anyone who’ll listen that I promise I’ve been working on this stuff. Things have been a lot better lately! I don’t know why this happened.

I don’t know what’s going on tomorrow yet. I kind of hope that there’s nothing happening because right now I would really like to sit down and listen to some records.

I sent an email to Dr C while I was stuck in the parking lot, and she replied very quickly and was very understanding and supportive (although I don’t think I actually read her reply until I got home). I know she’s a therapist and therapists aren’t supposed to be mean and demanding, but I appreciated it a lot.

Stay safe.

A Productive And Fun Day

Song: “Hazy Shade of Winter” by Gerard Way, feat. Ray Toro

Mood: 8

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Several

I didn’t sleep well last night. Mainly my own fault – I fell into the “I think I’ve got a little bit left in me so I’m sure I won’t have any problem if I sit on the chesterfield” trap and woke up a few hours later with a sore neck, sore throat, and a nasty headache. I went to bed for the next couple of hours and almost cried when my alarm went off.

I somehow got out of bed, took my morning stuff, then did some cleaning in the house and got myself prettied up.

J had gone to work this morning with the looming darkness of horrible workplace HR stuff to look forward to; I was very happy to get a text from her saying that things had gone so much better than she’d hoped!! Whew! Hopefully now there won’t be as much pressure and silliness – at least for a while!

FA came by this afternoon! We had our traditional burrito lunch (which was delicious) and talked about more things than I can remember – it was great! Then we started in on her project again, and made a lot of progress. The new display (an IPS panel vs the previous TN one) looks sooooo much better and the picture doesn’t go all weird if you’re more than a couple of degrees off when you look at it. Plus, the screen has some other things that make it a good screen for a Pi – USB power, mounting screws that fit the Pi so you can bolt it right on. And it’s built in a way that’ll make it a cinch to install in a cabinet.

We also talked about roosting boxes and birdhouses and I think we’re going to make some out of clean scrap lumber we have kicking around. And… there may have been one or two other projects we talked about but right now I can’t remember what they were. I knew I should’ve written more stuff down… regardless, lots of good work with results, a fantastic time, and potential ideas for even more projects which will have their own burrito lunches, chats, and great times. I’m so lucky to have a friend like FA – I have such a good time with her, we can laugh even when things are pretty crappy, and things are never dull when we’re working on stuff or even just hanging out.

It was a really great time, and after FA had to head home for supper (you should’ve stayed – we had pizza!), J and I talked about our days, which were both good (I’m still so happy that her day went so well)!!!

We watched what turned out to be the last episode of the first season of The Umbrella Academy, and while that show has been somewhat predictable, it sure is great. I like a lot of the characters way more now, too. Klaus in particular. And the person/people in charge of finding songs to put into that show… they’re not being paid enough. Fantastic music, like Guardians of the Galaxy. Great stuff!

My time so far being a Grand Marshal with that new fleet in STO is going well, too. I’m in charge of the fleet bank, but I also do some recruiting for new fleet members and manage the fleet holdings. I realized yesterday that I’m now spending a bunch of my “gaming/recreational” time as an HR person, accountant, paper pusher, and complaints desk. I still enjoy it!

Tomorrow I have a Dr C appointment in the afternoon. I am very intent on driving there again. I’m not trying to wind myself up, but I just really REALLY want to keep the momentum going. I would really like to be able to drop some stuff off at DA’s place, and it would be fantastic if J and I could hop in the car and go see DM and FA for a change, or even if I could drive my own butt so FA didn’t have to come here every time to hang out.

I also need to write down the things I’ve done and want to talk to her about. I used to have a pretty reliable memory for things, but if I don’t have something written down now, I’ll forget it. There are dozens of used envelopes and scraps of paper all over the place with thoughts and ideas on.

Whooo… getting pretty tired so I should get going. Had more I was going to talk about but I’ll try to remember to jot it down tomorrow.

Stay safe.

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.