Friday, June 20, 2014

The hardest post

I've written this post over and over in my head.  It's easy for me to talk about Tourette's.  After all, nobody tells me to just suck it up and stop ticcing.  But talking about some of my other health problems isn't as easy.  It's harder to explain why I'm sick to my stomach with anxiety over nothing.  Why I can't leave my house except to go to work. 

To anybody whose texts/calls/emails/etc. I've ignored in the past 4 months, I'm sorry.  If I was short-tempered with you, I'm sorry.  If I told you I would do something and never did it or took too long to do it, I'm sorry.

I alluded to this on Facebook a few weeks ago, and promised an update once new medications had stabilized.  So here's the deal, since about early March I've been battling depression and anxiety.  (And if you know my history, no - it was not like that - but that's all I'm going to say about that.  Some stories don't need telling.)

I have a history of depression; my (more recent) history though has been that I get depressed, but if you give me enough time - and sometimes homeopathic medications - I snap out of it on my own.  This time though, I wasn't snapping out of it.

I am in chronic pain.  In the last year, I have had more days with pinched nerve pain than without.  And I know that there are lots of people in worse chronic pain than I am.  My pain is not bad enough to warrant pain medications (most days), but there were times at work very recently where I cried from pain, almost left early because of pain, or suffered through meetings with heat packs borrowed from the nurse's office.  I believe that the pain was the catalyst for what happened next.

My depression stemmed from being in pain all the time.  It's difficult to want to do anything when doing anything hurts.  I spent nights and weekends with heat pads and ice packs on my back, afraid of going anywhere because it might cause more pain.

The pain also caused my anxiety to spike.  I was scared of doing anything that would cause more pain.  I have always had anxiety - and I tell people that most of the time it's mild and I can control it with CBT techniques (ironically, the same things I teach my students in social skills).  But my anxiety spiked bad.  I had a panic attack for the first time in 7 years.  I'm talking, full-blown hyperventilating to the point of almost passing out, doubled over trying not to throw up, panic attack (Owen did awesome by the way).  I began having anxiety about everything; social anxiety that began to turn into fear of going anywhere where I would have to interact with people.  Owen causes more attention out in public and I was too anxious to take him places, but still needed him to be able to do things.  I didn't work out because the last few times at the gym my back had gone out and I'd dealt with severe pain as a result. 

And of course with worsening anxiety, came worsening OCD - this time in the form of intrusive thoughts.  Intrusive thoughts are a form of OCD that I didn't even realize was OCD for the longest time - I thought I was going crazy.  It's not voices in your head or anything like that; it's just the overwhelming urge to do something you know you shouldn't do.

          OCD: Your head hurts, you should stab yourself in the eye with the crochet 
          hook in your hand.
          Me: No, that would make it hurt more.
          OCD: Fine, why don't you put your hand on the hot burner.  That would           
          really hurt.
          Me: No, that would be stupid.
          OCD: What about intruders?  Maybe there's somebody hiding in the closet?
          Me: No, there's nobody in the closet - I already checked!
          OCD: What about under the bed?
          Me: There is no "under the bed"!

Now know this; I never ever would have acted on any of the harmful intrusive thoughts.  Sometimes, it is just easier to shut them up by checking in the closet (my rule is I can check once to shut the thoughts up, but refuse to check anymore than that).  But the other intrusive thoughts?  I can't shut them up - I just ride them out until my brain switches gears.  But they're annoying and distracting and upsetting.  And I was tired of dealing with them.

My trip to Chicago was a litmus test of sorts.  If the mental health problems I was dealing with would improve on their own, they would improve in Chicago.  It was a break from everything in my "normal" depression-anxiety-OCD-fueled life.   My dad had booked the plane ticket; my friend had booked the hotel; all I had to do was show up.

Instead, I had to talk my anxiety down twice, just on the way to the airport.  Once because I thought I'd forgotten Owen at home and once because I thought I'd forgotten my keys (even though I was driving my car down the highway doing 70 mph).  On the airplane I had to talk myself down no less than 3 times because I was convinced that the plane was going to Fall Out Of The Sky and I was the Only One Who Knew and we would all die unless I did something about it.  And the coup de gras was when I landed in Chicago and was convinced in the taxi on the way to the hotel that I was in the wrong city and would be stranded for an entire weekend with no friends, no conference, and no hotel reservation.

Clearly, I had to change something.

When Owen and I got home from Chicago I made an appointment at my doctor (after some tough love from my friends) and I have been happily medicated for a little over a week now.  I have been riding out the medication adjustment period, some days are really really good, and some days I spend the whole day on the couch crying watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix.  But I'm having more good days than bad lately.  I'm going to the gym, taking Owen to the dog park, and cooking again.  I'm insanely dizzy if I do anything strenuous, but no longer dizzy just sitting down (side effect of medication).  I'm sleeping better at night (with Owen in the kennel as I've become a very light sleeper on the pills) and am able to wake up in the morning.  I'm no longer sleeping 12+ hours a night.  I am finally feeling like myself again.

I've been giving a lot of thought to my blog and in what direction I want it to go.  I think for the time being, I might stick to Facebook updates while I tinker around with my blog and decide what kind of posts I want to be focusing on.

For now, I just want to be able to enjoy being able to leave my apartment to do things I want to do for the first time in months.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Warmer weather is coming...

Winter is Coming - Brace yourselves warmer weather is coming 

It's no surprise that I've become engrossed in Game of Thrones recently* (it hits every highlight of what I love as a nerd), so this meme seems very appropriate.  In fact, as long as I live in Texas, I think these will become my "house motto".  You see, warmer weather brings dastardly blood sucking bastards fleas.  Here is what I have learned about dealing with a flea infestation.

First, do not believe people who tell you that you are imagining fleas.  That "if you had fleas, you would know it".  That, if they don't jump they aren't fleas.  That dogs get lots of fleas at once, not just one or two.  These, my friends, are all lies.  My poor baby has had fleas since Thanksgiving.  That was when the itching started and when I started seeing one or two black specks on his back legs.  I also had a wicked concussion at the time and couldn't see straight.  People told me I was hallucinating, that OCD and anxiety were creating a problem that didn't exist.  If you live in Texas and think you have fleas, you have fleas.

Fleas can be suffocated (slowly and painfully is best).  When you don't have a flea comb, bathing your animal of choice and letting them sit with suds on them for a few minutes before rinsing is normally enough to drown the fleas, at least most of them.  Your animal in the bath will (1) look pitifully at you and give you kisses, hoping you will let them out or (2) howl incessantly.  Owen spent 30 mins in the tub (and got soaped up 2 different times) before I felt confident enough to rinse him off and run to the store to get a flea comb and topical flea treatment.

Don't call your vet in a panic the minute they open about fleas in Texas.  They'll (likely) put a sticker on your chart that reads "crazy".  (The amazing person who answered the phone talked me down and explained about why, even though Owen was on a preventative, I was still seeing fleas.  And she scheduled me an appointment to come in the next day - because apparently fleas don't constitute an emergency here in Texas... go figure.)

Inexplicably, for every flea you find on your service dog who goes everywhere with you, there will be half-a-dozen more on your indoor cat who has never set foot in the grass as long as he's been alive.  And your cat will take so much better to getting dunked in the bathtub.  There were multiple escape attempts followed by me chasing a wet, soapy cat around the apartment.  Thankfully the only witness was Owen.

Know how your flea preventative works.  Owen is on Sentinel - a flea/heartworm/etc. preventative that is great for living in Texas.  Here's the thing though, it doesn't actually kill fleas.  Any fleas that bite Owen are "altered" so that they cannot reproduce - it makes any eggs they lay infertile and the flea life-cycle stops there.  However, they can still bite and live on your dog, and hop to your cat (who is not on preventative...).  Ugh.

Owen is now double-dipping.  He's going to get Sentinel and Frontline monthly, this way I know all fleas will be dead.  And for good measure, Toby will be on Revolution.  (I can already hear my wallet weeping.)

Your cat will be completely inept at grooming himself.  Without getting too graphic, you will likely spend an entire Friday night soaping up his chin and combing dead fleas off of his chin.  And he will be so thankful for this treatment... *achem*

Raid goes a long way towards peace of mind.  I don't think we ever had an infestation in the home, but after staying up until 1:00am washing every single thing in the apartment that could fit in the washing machine, it was very satisfying to spray every available surface with Raid (flea/egg killer).  I went through one-and-a-half cans between my one-bedroom apartment and my car.

Owen is feeling much better as a result of all of my newly acquired flea murdering knowledge.  I thought he was having seasonal allergies after moving to Texas, turns out he likely has a flea allergy - which means all it takes is one flea to turn his skin bright-red and itchy.  (We initially thought he had allergies so I was giving him weekly oatmeal and aloe baths, and while it probably made him feel better initially, it was disguising the real problem at hand.)  

I know fully accept that fleas are something I will deal with year-round while living here.  But I'm hoping that with being very strict about preventatives, I can keep it under control and out of my apartment for good.

*My health is starting that decline that happens this time every year.  I'm losing about two months of productivity here y'all...  From that first week of April until the end of school I have to accept that nothing productive will happen.  Doing so results in weekends like I've had the last couple of weeks - drugged up on the couch in unimaginable pain binging on new television shows, or ticcing myself into oblivion.  I suppose I'm supposed to be grateful that with Owen these weekends only happen for short periods of time instead of every week of the year, but right now it's hard to be grateful for that.  The list of things I want to do this summer continues to grow...  including resurrect my blogs - look to "Losing It" in the next few months to read about the new gym I've been going to and my (fingers crossed) foray into healthy food preservation.