Accomplishment, Friends, Food, And Fun

Song: “In The Navy” by The Village People

Mood: 7

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Several

I’ve been neglectful about my posts for a while now. That doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening, though. The last week or so has been pretty interesting.

First things first. The trip to FA’s place that I mentioned in my previous post went very well. No panic, no clawing at the doors trying to get home… it was great! There was a bit more traffic than I would’ve preferred but that’s kind of my own fault – I went there during the lunch rush hour and came home during the afternoon rush hour. But it was okay.

On the way there, I picked up burritos for FA, DM, and myself (which is a first for me and it was very nice to be able to return the favour), and stopped in at a pet store where I went right to the counter and said something along the lines of, “my friend has a new dog, I won’t see it all that often but I want to be best friends with it.” The cashier said she knew just the thing and showed me two different products, I picked the one that looked the tastiest (and had the best name) and got out on the road. Like I said, the roads were busier than I’d hoped but the drive was fine, I didn’t get lost, and I didn’t make a wrong turn and end up eaten by a giant lobster monster.

Had a great time there, too! Beautiful weather made eating outside very pleasant, and the three of us had a really good conversation. Plus, the treats seemed to go over well with DM and FA’s new dog. She already seems a lot more comfortable there and was wagging her tail a lot. FA and I spent a bunch of time geeking out over some electronics stuff and an old ship’s wheel that she has in her garage (don’t ask – it’ll take too long to explain and I’ll probably end up confusing myself), and talking about all kinds of stuff. Then the three (four) of us went to pick up the mail and they let me walk the dog on the way back. I’ve been around a lot of dogs over the years, but that was the first time in my life I’ve ever actually held a leash with a dog at the other end. So simple but pretty neat!

The drive home went well too – again, no wrong turns, and there was no cloying panic getting in the way. I got home with no problem. Pooped, but no problem. Aaaaand… driving out to FA and DM’s place by myself is one of the items on my list of things I REALLY wanted to accomplish this year! And I did it, woohoo!

So in addition to it being a fun day, it was also pretty big for me!

Then, on Monday, J and I both went over there again for a fancy little Thanksgiving visit and meal. The food was delicious – very nicely seasoned beef, dumplings, gravy, and yet another form of cabbage that I not only was able to eat, but quite enjoyed… and dessert was a lovely lemon and chocolate cake. The conversation was good as always, the weather cooperated again (which at this time of year is quite a gamble), and J and I had a fantastic time. Having friends like FA and DM is wonderful thing. They’re good people who are a pleasure to be around, we never seem to run out of things to talk about, they’re able to look past my many and wide-ranging faults, and they make reeeeally good food (which is not necessary to be a good friend but I’m happy to take advantage of it).

We also spent time playing with their dog, which was pretty great. She seemed even more comfortable than when I’d been there a few days prior, and I think the treats I picked up worked some magic because I not only got more wet dog nose in my face, but she was comfortable enough around me to lay down and let me keep petting her while she zonked out for a short while:

Petting a relaxed dogThe four of us humans all grabbed some treats and then called out her name to see how good she’s getting at responding. I think she’s getting pretty good at it but it’s entirely possible that she was playing us and just getting the treats. Still, I think all of us (humans and canine) enjoyed the exercise.

She’s also apparently quite the escape when DM and FA are out, so FA and I set up a little camera to keep an eye on her and see what she does while they’re away for more than a few minutes. Should be interesting to see what she gets up to!

It was another good day and J and I both really enjoyed ourselves. So many things worked out and it was fantastic to hang out and just shoot the breeze on a beautiful fall day (and eat good food (and play with the dog)) with friends.

As for J and I, we’ve been getting back into watching some shows. After finishing The Good Place (and being sad about its ending) we’ve been watching Bob’s Burgers. The first season was a little rough but since then it’s been really good. It’s clever, funny, and pretty uncomfortable at times (kind of in a Napoleon Dynamite way), and once in a while something happens or there’s a joke that makes J and/or me laugh pretty hard. Here’s an example:

As for the rest of this week, there’s not a whole lot going on. Work is still frustrating for J so hopefully things will be calm there, and hey – tomorrow’s already Thursday. I’m not sure how the weather is supposed to go but there are a few things I’m hoping to do out in the garage before it gets all damp and miserable. We’ll see what happens.

Stay safe.

Some Ups And Downs But Doing Alright

Song: N/A

Mood: 7

Nightmares: some

Ghosts: few

Fall is certainly here. It’s been below freezing at night once or twice now, the leaves have all turned, and it seems like most of the geese have already been overhead on their way south. I’m not looking forward to winter but I suppose the closer winter gets, the closer spring gets too.

It’s been a little more difficult than usual to get myself started in the mornings. I wake up, finish rebooting (as FA would say), and then I pretty much just want to go back to bed. I’m not particularly tired – in fact, I’ve been doing pretty well with sticking to the new sleep schedule – but it’s hard to build up some steam to get going on something. It’s a normal swing and not something to worry about but yeah… it’s tough to start working on something.

The bad part about that is that being idle isn’t healthy for me, so I’ve been doing my best to force myself to start in on something and spend at least five minutes doing it. If I can do that, often what happens is I start to get interested, and if I’m interested it’s a lot easier to concentrate and continue doing whatever hobby/task/etc that I’m doing.

Along with that, I’ve had the feeling that something is terribly wrong. No matter what I try, I can’t put my finger on what’s causing it. It varies in intensity but has been following me around like a little dark cloud for the last week or two. I’ve checked in with everyone, checked around the house, and have gone back through dozens of conversations and nothing seems to be the trigger.

I’ve also had a few nightmares (life jackets mostly, some tent) lately, and more of them than usual have sent me out to to the light in the living room to fight with myself to calm down. I don’t know what I’m doing differently – could be related to my mood or the shortening of the days or whatever. At least I’m able to get back to bed and I’m not losing too many hours to nightmares right now.

Had a Dr W appointment today. We talked a lot about my nightmares and how I feel that something’s wrong, and Dr W mentioned that a lot more people that usual are having trouble with mental health issues because of everything going on nowadays. Virus, politics, climate, economy, protests… all kinds of things are putting more pressure on people and making it more difficult for them to go about their regular routine. He didn’t have any answers for me aside from making sure I use the tools I’ve learned, keep in touch with him, Dr C, and my family and friends, and keep busy. We talked about medication for a while too, and we decided together that I’d lower my quetiapine another 25mg, so I’m down to 100mg of that per day. Not bad, considering I think I was at 700 when I first got out of the hospital. As always, Dr W said that if I’m having problems I can call him anytime, which I really appreciate.

As J’s job winds down, it seems to be getting sillier and sillier. I think one of the other supervisors she works with is having a lot of trouble with the whole situation, as she’s rarely making any decisions and the decisions she makes are increasingly erratic. J has been putting in a lot of work trying to keep things running smoothly and then this other supervisor just suddenly decides to ignore what’s been decided and documented and go her own way, without so much as an explanation or warning. I can see J getting frustrated and angry but she’s doing an amazing job of staying classy and professional. I’m really proud of her but I’m also worried about her, too. I wish I could go into her work and point and yell at that other supervisor, but I’m starting to think she’s having trouble keeping things together and talking to a professional would help more than someone yelling at her. Buuuut… she’s making my sweetie sad and I REALLY don’t like it when my sweetie’s sad. So I’ll just sit here and if J wants anything I will do my best to help.

Tomorrow I am getting together with FA for another geek-out session. The big difference this time, though, is that I will be driving over there by myself. J and I went over a week or so ago and hung out with DM, FA, and their new dog (who is such a sweetheart). I drove there and back and it was fine, so I think going there myself will go alright. I don’t need to worry about whether I make a wrong turn or miss a particular street – I’m familiar enough with landmarks in the area that I’ll be able to recognize it if I make a mistake and be able to turn around or change my route or otherwise correct things. Last time I checked the map, it did not look like this:

Old map with sea monsters as a map to FA's house

Public Domain + scribbles by Mark

FA and DM are also right up there on the list of people I trust and J will be at home, so that’s a lot of stuff off my mind right there. Plus, their dog is very calm and not jumpy and/or bitey (did I mention she’s a sweetheart?)

So… I’m not feeling my best right now but I’ve got a lot of good stuff going on. Tomorrow should be fun and interesting, and hey – I may get to play with a dog!

Stay safe.

Home Alone

Song: “I’m Running After You” by Major Hoople’s Boarding House

Mood: 7.5

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

J had some furniture to deliver so she headed out yesterday afternoon and is staying with her parents this weekend. So I’ve got the house to myself.

Some great news first – J stopped at my folks’ place to drop off a chair and visit for a bit and she heard that my uncle who has a lump on his liver got the results from a scan and it’s just in that one spot! He’s been through a lot already and he’s a really good guy, so I’m very happy about that!

Other great news – FA and DM got approved to adopt a rescue dog and she arrived yesterday! They’ve been talking about getting a pup for years and I know they’re going to be fantastic puppy parents. I’m so happy for them! From the sound of it, the dog is already doing a good job of training them to get what it wants. 🙂

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting more unpredictable so I took advantage of the clear, warm air and light breeze and stained most of the deck. I’ve been meaning to do that for years now, and the original treatment is worn and the wood is starting to weather in places. It went really well… aside from the hour plus that it took me to stir the goop at the bottom of the can back into the stain. I don’t think one of those paint stirrers that go on a drill would’ve been much help – it was like hard margarine at the bottom and I had to scrape it up layer by layer. It was fine, though, since it was so nice I just sat on the deck steps and watched the wildlife go about its business in the yard while I slowly scraped and stirred.

Geez, that was a long paragraph. Anyway, the little paint sprayer we just bought seems to do the trick quite nicely and the majority of the wood is protected now. Depending on the weather I want to get back out and finish it up soon.

With J being away, I’m having a little more trouble with ghosts than I have lately. There are lots of folks outside doing things, too, so that often catches my attention (in a bad way). Not a huge problem, though.

Otherwise, I’ve been keeping myself busy with my usual puttering kind of stuff and watching some movies. Nothing too fancy, but that’s how I like things right now. I’ve got water boiling on the stove to make some perogies for supper and I think this evening will be pretty quiet-ish too.

Stay safe.

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.