Lots of Nightmares Last Night

Song: “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band

Mood: 7.5

Nightmares: 3+

Ghosts: Several

Last night was strange. I didn’t have much trouble falling asleep, but nightmares woke me up three, four, maybe even five times last night. I even woke J up a few times because I was talking and moving around in my sleep so much. The nightmares that I remember were the same ones I’ve been having all along (tent several times, life jacket once), and one of them left me sitting on the couch in the living room having a panic attack.

I know that some days will be better than others, but usually there seems to be something else going on when I have that many nightmares. Trouble sleeping, a lot more anxiety than usual, OCD being particularly bad… usually there’s some kind of correlation. I’m going to keep thinking about it but right now I have no idea. Hopefully it was just a one-off and tonight will be much more calm.

One of the things Dr C and I have been working on is the time I go to bed. I’m a night owl and usually feel much more creative later in the evening than I do during the day. It’s not because of my medication – I’ve always been that way. Since I was in the hospital for that headache, though, I’ve been going to bed at a much more reasonable time. I guess when I got home I was still very tired and was spending most of the day in bed anyway because of my head, so I just started trying to go to sleep when J did.

So far it’s been working out, although I sometimes have trouble with my brain thinking of things and wanting to get up and go work on things, but after I do some of my exercises things calm down and I eventually nod off.

I’m still keeping myself busy with lots of projects. My back is still pretty sore and I’m not supposed to lift things so some of the stuff that I wanted to work on outside isn’t going to get done right now. I will get to it, though! Lots of puttering around with electronics and some old stuff that’s been kicking around. It’s very satisfying to be in a mind place where I am able to use a part in a permanent project, instead of being unable to commit to things like that. I should talk to Dr C about that sometime, hmm…

The big news today, though, was that J’s mom and aunt stopped by to have supper and visit today! There’s a new restaurant in town that they wanted to try and they were nice enough to pick up the food on the way over. I stuck to a pretty simple rice dish but I was pretty amazed with how good it was.

It was very good to chat with J’s mom and aunt, too – always fun to share stories and catch up on all the juicy gossip. Plus, they’re both really great people and I find them comfortable to be around, which makes things fun and not awkward (unless I say something particularly dumb).

So yeah, that’s been the day. It’s getting close to bedtime again, so I should probably get going – no screens before bed! Fingers crossed that I get a better sleep tonight.

Stay safe.

Tracking Medical Professionals

Everything leaves evidence of its presence. Bears, birds, plants, even dolphins leave some sort of tracks. People who work in medicine are no different. Here’s how you can track them.

1 – Anesthesiologist/Anaesthetist

These are tough critters to find, as they are very good at minimizing the tracks they leave and/or covering up their trail. Often found administering medicine with a very fine gauge needle in exactly the right place, sometimes the only way to prove that an Anesthesiologist has been there is by finding no trail at all:

Hand with site where IV was inserted by anasthesiologist2 – Emergency Room Nurse

An ER nurse will often leave its mark on the largest and/or most accessible vein. Not too difficult to find if located soon enough after they’ve been by, check for a single pink dot or – if you’re lucky – the tiniest bruise.

Site on arm where ER nurse inserted IV3 – Trainee Paramedic

These are rare but fortunately they leave very vivid and long-lasting trails. The Trainee Paramedic can be found using any gauge of needle on any part of the body they think could possibly have a vein running through it:

Site on arm where Trainee Paramedic inserted IVsThe Trainee Paramedic also has a very distinct call that is almost always one or a combination of the following:

  • “Okay, I think that’s a vein.”
  • “It’s in but there’s no blood coming out.”
  • “I’m really sorry if that’s uncomfortable.”
  • “Did I go right through?”
  • “Just hold this gauze here, I’m really sorry about that.”
  • “I think I need to go in a little further.”
  • “I definitely got it this… wait, nope.”

Keep this list handy so the next time you’re in or near a hospital or clinic you can easily identify what kind of medical professional has been starting IVs on the people around you!

Stay safe.

Sweet Jesus I May Pull Through

This will be a very short post. Today is the first day in nearly a week that I can tolerate looking at a screen.

That “headache that’s not like a regular headache” ended up with me passed out on the basement stairs and back in the emergency room where I laid in agony on a bed for close to 24 hours because they couldn’t do anything until they consulted with an anesthesiologist… who then said he couldn’t do anything. Apparently when you’re a quart low on brain fluid there’s not much they can give you that will help the pain/noise/bright flashing/sensitivity/nausea/whole body on fire.

This event will occupy a place on the list that’s worse than appendicitis but not as bad as a stuck kidney stone.

I have done nothing for the last five days aside from move very slowly, avoid light and sound, and do everything J has told me to do, and it looks like I may actually live. I am so, so lucky that my wife is such a patient, amazing angel.

I am also so lucky to have family and friends who care. I hope you know who you are – thank you so much!

Stay safe.

Very Good But Oh My Poor Head

Song: N/A

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Few

Everything went very well yesterday. The day started with the hospital calling and asking if I could come in earlier because they were ahead of schedule. Of course I said yes, and J and I scrambled to get everything ready.

We got to the hospital with time to spare, I went in (current rules don’t allow anyone to accompany you), got asked a bunch of questions and told to sanitize my hands and was then directed to another place that asked me the same questions and told me to sanitize my hands… they sent me to yet another place that went through the same routine, then told me to sit and wait.

I’ll spare you the details of my hospital stay but will say that it was probably one of the best hospital experiences I had – I was in, surgerized, and back home in… eight hours? Something like that. Staff were excellent and there weren’t any hiccups or “oh, and by the way” kind of things. So yeah, I spent last night in my own bed and have been shuffling around.

One thing that kind of sucks, though, is a side-effect of the spinal block thing they gave me. The anesthesiologist warned me that I could have a “headache that’s not like a regular headache”. Vague, but late yesterday evening I began to understand what she was talking about. You know those cartoons of a brain, spine, and eyeballs? Well, those parts of me are aching like crazy right now:

100% authentic MRI image (T2-weighted) of my brain, spine, and eyeballs. Note the pronounced pain waves.

It’s like I got into a fight with one of those Predator monsters and lost, but then he realized he fought the wrong guy and put me back together. I’ve had a lot of headaches in my life, but this is the first time the strings that go between my eyes and by brain hurt. Weird.

If I lay down it mostly goes away but I can’t lay down all day because it’s boring and I get creaky and it’s bad for me to just lay there. Good news is it should clear up in while (a few days to a couple of weeks).

But don’t get me wrong – this isn’t me complaining. I’m very happy with how things went. I’ve been waiting for this particular surgery for a long time now, the surgeon was great, and I can already feel an improvement. Plus… I spent eight hours in an unfamiliar location, with unfamiliar people, without my sweetie, and I got through it without any significant anxiety or panic!

More later. If you’re looking for me, I’m probably laying down somewhere.

Stay safe.

Going In For Some Repairs

Song: “Dancing Queen” by ABBA

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Few

I’ve been pretty busy this last while. Zombie Mark has made a few more appearances, but nothing quite as bad as when I ate all that junk food. Nightmares are down, and I’m still doing well with the ERP stuff.

With all the stuff going on at J’s work, I offered to help her if I could. This past weekend, she brought me along to her office and the two of us went through a dozen years’ worth of dirty, broken old equipment, got an inventory of it, and stacked it nicely on pallets for when the disposal folks show up. We were there for almost seven hours and I only sat down a couple of times when we took breaks; the rest of the time I was hauling crap around by hand. Not bad for an old fat guy, AAAAAND… my anxiety didn’t get in the way! It was only J and I in the building, but still – I’m pretty pleased with that.

That night, though, I was asleep on my feet by 11PM and went to bed, and I slept pretty well. Got up once at 5AM, then back to bed and woke up again at about 9.

My appointments the other week all went well. I was surprised by my GP – when I got up to leave the room, she said, “You look good – you look so much better than you did when we first met. It’s very good to see.” I thanked her for her help (as she has been a significant factor in my recovery) and left the room with a smile on my face.

Oh, and I asked at the clinic if I could use their livestock scale and they said sure, so I weighed myself. Looks like with the dietician’s help and the medication reductions, I’m finally starting to lose weight – and more that can be explained by whether I’ve got my wallet in my pocket – actual, measurable weight! At the rate I’m going it’s still going to be around March 2057 before I’m down to where I should be, but hey – it’s an improvement!

Tomorrow I’m going in for some surgery on my back. I’ve been waiting for this for almost two years and when they called last week saying they’d had a cancellation, I said yes without hesitation. If it goes well, it will solve a lot of problems, the biggest of which is my inability to comfortably walk for more than a few minutes at a time. I expect being able to go for walks and wander around in comfort will also help with my weight and fitness level.

So I’m excited for tomorrow but a little nervous at the same time. Those of you who know me (or who have been reading this blog) know I’m not a huge fan of people, and I’m even less of a fan of people touching me. But these are professionals, and in less than 48 hours I’ll be fixed up and back home.

Stay safe.

Zombie Mark Is Back :-\

I took my evening medications earlier last night, hoping to get to bed earlier, too. I don’t remember how things went but I think I’ve figured it out.

Had a bunch of weird dreams (no nightmares, just weird dreams) last night and woke up early this morning feeling pretty gross. Took a couple of antacids and went back to bed for a little while. Got up a while later, still feeling gross. Made a tiny bowl of cereal for breakfast, and while I was in the kitchen I noticed something written in my handwriting on the shopping list on the fridge:

Shopping list with "Choc. Chips" on itThat wasn’t a good sign. I checked the cupboard where the chocolate chips (for baking) are… or should I say “were”.

Okay, eating a bag of chocolate chips could easily upset my stomach, especially if I forgot to take some lactase enzyme first. I looked around and found the bag… inside ANOTHER bag:

Potato chip bag and chocolate chip bagYeah, so sometime after 1AM I polished off an entire bag of chocolate chips AND an entire bag of potato chips. That certainly explains why it feels like I’ve eaten two pounds of desiccant packs and they’re burning a hole in my gut.

I don’t eat chips (or most foods) in front of my computer, which means I sat on the couch, which means I probably watched a show or two while I was snacking (the headphones on the couch confirm this). For the life of me, I can’t remember what I watched. I mean, I can get the history and figure out what I watched, I’m just going to have to watch it again.

I think I’m going to have to start setting a timer when I take my evening medications and make sure I’m in bed no more than an hour after that point.

The worst thing about this is that with the medication reductions and help from the dietician, I’ve finally started to lose weight. Pounding back 2500 calories of junk food in the middle of the night isn’t going to help that.

Those were MY chips. Zombie Mark sucks.

Stay safe.

More Progress!

Song: “Stay With me” by Faces

Mood: 7.5

Nightmares: 1

Ghosts: Few

One nightmare woke me up last night but it didn’t get me out of bed, I didn’t have to change my shirt, and it wasn’t too long before I was asleep again. Nightmares have been trending downward from when they were really bothering me a few weeks ago. Two Thursdays ago I had a pretty rough night but otherwise things have been calming down. I think I’ve even been able to catch up on some sleep, which has been great.

I’m still doing my ERP homework and I’m happy to say that the front door is much easier to deal with at night again. I’m going to keep working on it, though – hopefully this will be the last time I have to hammer away at the front door. It may not work for everything, but ERP is a really good tool to have in an OCD toolbox. It’s difficult and painful (and kind of horrible) to use at first but it’s been my experience that once there’s progress, there’s also some “momentum” that helps keep things moving forward.

I’ve also had a lot of success with not taking a picture of the stove on my pre-bed loop around the house. I hope I don’t regret saying this later, but it’s actually not bothering me at all. Not too shabby!

J went to visit her parents last weekend, so I was doing the bachelor thing for a couple of days. I kept myself busy with my usual hobby puttering, but also spent some time outside watching the wildlife and caught up on some of the shows I wanted to watch. I was up a little later than I’d usually be, but I slept pretty well and everything was fine. It was very nice to have J back home, though!

FA came over on Monday and we worked on some project-y stuff, shot the breeze, and went for a wander through the hardware store. As usual, it was a good time full of thinking, hanging out, and joking around. I think some of the best work we do is when we’re trying to figure something difficult out – we have very different ways of approaching problems and usually the best solution is somewhere in the middle.

Had a Dr W appointment yesterday. It wasn’t too bad but I think Dr W was in a bit of a hurry. He wasn’t rushing things, he just… sounded like he was in a hurry or harried or something. We talked quite a bit about my medications and for the first time in months (January? February? It’s been a while) we decided to reduce some of my medications. So now I’m back to 8mg of the prazosin at night (went up to 9mg when my nightmares got bad again) and quetiapine is down 25mg to 125mg. I’m particularly pleased about the quetiapine, as there is correlation between it and weight gain, and I’d like to shed some of the weight I’ve put on since I got sick.

I made the changes last night and I don’t think I noticed anything. At one point I was on 700mg of quetiapine a day, so getting rid of 25mg now will hopefully go unnoticed by the little chemical receptor things on by brain cells.

Oh, and I came across this somewhere in my travels and thought it was a funny and accurate portrayal of some of the things my OCD makes me grind my teeth over:

OCD picture with gas pump price at $39.99 and gallons at 10.000I always try to get the gas to a full dollar value. If I miss it, I’ll go to the next dollar up. If I go too far and obviously can’t fit another dollar worth of gas in, I’ll go to the nearest $0.25… but I won’t feel right about it for the rest of the day. I don’t know what I’d do in the situation in the picture, though!

Nothing planned for this weekend, but next week after Tuesday is going to be busy. I have a lot of appointments – an appointment with the nurse at the clinic for a vaccination, one with Dr H, one with the surgeon who fixed my arm, and one with the dietician.

Stay safe.

Making Some Changes, Too

Song: “Act Naturally” by Buck Owens

Mood: 6.5

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Several

It’s been a while since my last post. I’m not sure why I’m not writing more often – there always seems to be stuff going on.

Whether it’s the increase in prazosin, changing my nighttime routine a bit, or any other factor, my nightmares seem to have backed off somewhat. I’m still getting them but not every night again, and on the nights when I have them, I don’t get them one after another after another. Hopefully I don’t regret saying this, but I don’t seem to be having the nightmare with the capsized boat anymore, either. Maybe the other two will disappear over time, too…

Some of my OCD issues have been flaring up again lately, mainly around the garage and front doors – to the point where J has been noticing. It could be related to everything that’s been going on, but when it gets to the point where J notices, it’s very important for me that I do something about it. So Dr C and I have been talking about it and she has me doing ERP on them again. ERP helps me a lot but it’s not very pleasant to do. The idea is that exposing yourself to what bothers you and forcing yourself to not give in to the compulsion will cause your anxiety to rise, but if you hang on and wait it out, the anxiety should drop after a while. Ideally, the anxiety over time curve should look something like this:

Typical ERP GraphAnd as far as the garage door goes, it follows that pretty well (this has four trials on it in different colours):

ERP Graph - Garage DoorBut the front door is a different matter. For the better part of two weeks, my charts looked like this:

ERP Graph - Front DoorI know that from your perspective this is just a little graph drawn by a stranger on the internet, but to me it represents hours I’ve spent forcing myself to feel like someone’s tightening a strap around my chest and I’m grinding my teeth down to stumps. Anyone who says “well, just think about something else” or “don’t worry about it” or “deal with it” may be well-intentioned, but they have no idea what it’s actually like to deal with this kind of thing… and I hope they never do.

The good news is that my worries about the garage door have dropped back to a very manageable level, and the front door is finally getting there now, too. It’s frustrating that I’ve had go back and work on several things now, but Dr C says that anxiety and OCD are like playing whack-a-mole. It’s taking less time to “re-ERP” things now than it did at the start, which is good, too. I should probably also try to be more proactive about these things and catch them before they’re at the point where they’re bothering me and/or other people notice.

Another thing Dr C has me working on is the little patrol I do inside the house before I finally go to bed. I take pictures of a bunch of things in a particular order, and sometimes just knowing that I’ve taken the picture helps me when I wake up worrying in the middle of the night. But it’s not a healthy habit and is likely feeding and/or is part of my OCD behaviour now. So she has given me the homework to not take a picture of one thing during my wander around the house. I’ve started with the stove and so far it’s going very well. Of course I picked something easier to start with but if I’m successful I should be able to build on that with something a little more difficult, then something more difficult again, and so on. If this works out, it’ll save a lot of wear and tear on the SD card in my phone!

With the uncertainty surrounding J’s job (or, more like the certainty now that it’s going away), other things that I’m worried about, and the recent frustration and stress that it’s caused, I decided to bow out of volunteering at the church down the street. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been at the building in the last six months, nevermind the volunteering. While I like the idea of helping people, I’ve accomplished next to nothing there and the effort and worry isn’t worth it anymore. I left the door open in the event things change, but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

Let’s see… what else is going on. Oh, the blood pressure thing, right. That’s actually kind of a funny story. Funny? Maybe not “funny” but probably chuckle-worthy. So my GP had me stop taking one of my BP medications and it immediately made a difference in how tired I was during the day. I still have to “finish rebooting” as FA says, but after that I’m alert and don’t immediately fall asleep when I sit down. But then my BP went up… and up… and up. And that’s when I figured it out.

Remember Zombie Mark? The guy who’d eat cake or chocolate syrup at night and then fall asleep on the couch? Well, we fixed that problem by taking my nighttime medication just before I went to bed, instead of at a fixed time in the evening. Well… making that change ended up moving my nighttime and morning medications to anywhere from eight to six hours apart, instead of the twelve that they’re supposed to be. So I was accidentally stacking my medications, almost all of which are known to have the side effect (or main effect) of lowering blood pressure. Anyway, I called my GPs office back and said to the nurse, “you’re either gonna laugh or yell at me”. She was very pleasant about the whole thing and by the end of the day I’d changed my nighttime medication schedule back to the way it was and was back on the medication I’d been taken off (albeit at a lower dose).

Zombie Mark has made a couple of appearances since (most notably to eat an entire bag of chocolate chips and then fall asleep on the couch), but another thing Dr C has been working with me on is getting my bedtime set to a more reasonable hour. It’s working, too… slowly but surely.

Because her office is closing, J has to do a lot of inventorying. Because of the social distancing policies and that it’s easier to do that stuff when people aren’t bothering you every thirty seconds, she went into work last Sunday for about five hours. I tagged along and sat at her desk and puttered with my phone and a computer I brought while she scurried around with a pen and paper. I was glad when we finally got home, but it wasn’t too bad.

I’m also still working on keeping myself occupied at home. Now that I’m not fighting to stay awake all afternoon it’s a lot easier to concentrate and I’m accomplishing stuff again, which is really quite nice. I’m also fascinated and entertained by the rabbits that stop in our yard to relax during the afternoon. I know they’re basically pests, but they can sure be cute.

Bunny stretched out and relaxed in back yardSo if you stop by and there’s no answer at the door, I may be in the back yard watching the bunnies.

Stay safe.

Some Changes Coming

Song: “Midnight Star” by ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Several

So the big news right now is that J just found out that head office is winding down operations at the place she works and she’ll be out of a job soon. With all the stuff going on right now, we were kind of expecting that something was going to happen, but it still sucks. We (and by “we”, I mean 99% J) have our finances in order, though, so with some changes we should be okay. We’ve been talking a lot and throwing a bunch of ideas around, but I expect we will be having several to many thinking sessions with lots of paper and numbers very soon.

Since we found out, I’ve been up pretty late going over numbers and scenarios and thinking up (and dismissing) lots of ideas. I don’t think I’m getting wound up or anything like that, but yeah… lots of thinking.

Went to the clinic on Friday to do a blood pressure test and then have an appointment with Dr H. I’ve been very tired lately (much more than usual) and have spent way too much time trying to keep from falling asleep (or just giving up and taking a nap, which I’m not supposed to do). I have a little blood pressure checker at home and during the day my numbers have been pretty low. Anyway, the nurse did the test, found that my BP is too low (which isn’t great) but it stayed constant when I stood up (which is good). Then had my appointment with Dr H and she told me to stop taking one of my BP medications and to keep an eye on things. I think it’s working – I’m seeing numbers that are much closer to normal, and today is the first day in a while that I haven’t completely zonked out after getting up.

There’s a bright yellow bird that’s been visiting the bird feeder. J and I thought it was maybe someone’s pet because it was so bright and looked out of place. We get blue jays, which are kind of snazzy, but this particular bird is really quite yellow:

American goldfinchTurns out it’s an American goldfinch, up in this part of the continent mainly to make more American goldfinches.

So yeah… lots of changes coming. We’ll see what happens.

Stay safe.

Another Weird Dream

Not a nightmare, thankfully, but pretty weird.

My mother has a collection of fancy plates and cups that she values and takes really good care of.

So where my dream starts, I get a call from Mom that there’s one last piece she needs to finish her set, and it turns out she got a text from Linda Ronstadt (yes, THAT Linda Ronstadt) saying she had a spare and would be willing to sell it to Mom for thirty-five dollars. The only kicker was that Ms. Ronstadt was in China at the time, so Mom asked me if I could go and get it for her.

So there I was, off to China in an old cargo ship. There was a terrible storm and the ship broke apart and I was stranded on an island where my phone didn’t work, but not long after, one of those old PBY flying boats from WWII landed nearby and took me to China.

When we got there, I called Linda Ronstadt but when she answered she said that I was too late and she’d gone to Jamaica but had the plate with her if I still wanted it. I was a little frustrated at this point but the pilot of the PBY said he’d take me to Jamaica for fifty bucks.

After we landed in Jamaica, there was another horrible storm that blew down all the cell towers so I couldn’t get a signal to call Linda Ronstadt. I ended up going to a clinic and putting my feet into two buckets of water that had a galvanometer hooked up to them. Somehow I could control the galvanometer with my mind, and the nice people at the clinic hooked the galvanometer up to the satellite dish on the roof of the building.

The rest of it was pretty boring. I was able to call Linda Ronstadt using the water bucket galvanometer brain scanner satellite thing, she met me at the clinic with the plate, I gave her the thirty-five bucks, thanked the people at the clinic, then got in line at a wharf and waited to board another cargo ship to go home.

I woke up at that point, so I’m not sure if Mom ever got her fancy plate. I hope she did – dream Mark went through a lot to get it from Linda Ronstadt…

Stay safe.