July 17, 2015: Three Good Things

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Been a while since I’ve done one of these. I’ve been running out of spoons late at night and I just can’t be bothered to expend the energy to come up with three things about the day that were good. Today has been a total wash, moodwise, but I’m going to force myself to get something down in print.

1. Tonight’s dinner started to smell … off … as it was cooking, so rather than ingest was was very likely chicken that had gone bad, my wife went out for burgers (since we’re at the end of the week grocery-wise, and there’s not much else left in the house to eat). I had already started the cauliflower steaming, so we had McDonald’s with steamed cauliflower. (I do not recommend this. Fries are the appropriate side for a burger. Always.)

2. I came up with what I feel is a good analogy for depression. It works like of like color blindness for the mind. People with color blindness see the same world the rest of us see, but the colors are so muted and dull, a lot of what they see looks similar. In depression, we experience all the same emotions everyone else does, but they’re so muted, everything feels the same, and it takes something really vivid to break through that dullness. I’m going to write more about this tomorrow, since I think I’m onto something.

3. All I have to do is brush my teeth before getting to bed before 2:00 am and I’ll have completed my checklist for the first time in almost a month.

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I Won an Award!

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I was chosen by brightonbipolar to receive this award, my first, and I am humbled by her considering me for this accolade. I haven’t been blogging long and it’s nice to see that my words have touched her in some small way.

The Rules:

1. Post the award on your blog.
2. Grant up to 5 other bloggers the award.

What you cannot do:

Abuse or misuse the logo.
Claim that it is your own handmade logo.

What you should do after receiving the Encouraging Thunder Award:

1. Enjoy the award!
2. Give thanks via comments, likes and/or by mentioning the blog that you received the award from.
3. Explain your purpose in blogging.
4. Well done and good luck.

I’m new to the blogging community and so I don’t have a lot of people that I can nominate for this award. But it does state that I have to pass this along, so I nominate The Persistent Platypus; MWGS: Mom, Writer, Geek, Superwoman; and inventoryofirina for this award.

I started this blog to have someplace besides Facebook to put my more personal thought and struggles with both physical and mental health – then promptly set it up to where everyone that follows me on both Facebook and Twitter get to see these words. It’s morphed somewhat in that rather than being just an outlet for myself, I hope my blog might contain some passage or experience to let those who suffer from mental illnesses know they aren’t alone, and those who don’t know a little about what I go through on a daily basis.

One Small Step for a Man …

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… one giant leap for his mental health.

In the SCA, I’ve taken on the position of Event Support Services Coordinator for the region I live in (Texas and Oklahoma). This is a new position that I’m developing from the ground up, with practically everything involved with it a new function of our organization. While I came up with what I feel is an excellent proposal for this position, I first presented it at a time when I had a lot of energy for this job. The proposal was accepted almost a year later when I didn’t have much energy and still am struggling with daily tasks. So the end result is that I haven’t accomplished much, and had to report that to my boss.

The issue here is that my PTSD is highly triggered by reporting any sort of shortcoming or failure on my part to a person in a position of authority to me. I freeze, I get panicky, I lock up. It explains why I don’t have the most stellar employment history – I become so paranoid that I’ve screwed up to the point of being fired that I make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So it took me the better part of a week to come to the person I report to – I can’t really call him my boss, although he is the one that “hired” me to the position – and tell him that I haven’t managed to accomplish much this quarter. My health hasn’t allowed me to concentrate on the position to the point that it deserves, and admitting that was the hardest thing I’ve had to do all week. Even now, knowing that he’s okay with it and prioritizes my health over the office, I’m still panicky about having to admit I’ve fallen short.

But I didn’t check with him to see if I’ve fallen short in HIS eyes – only mine. I’m kicking myself for having to report that I haven’t lived up to my own standard for my potential. And making THAT realization is a big step.

I’m slowly calming down now. Things are returning to normal, and starting tomorrow I’ll be setting aside a little bit of time every day to accomplish something on the office. It’s a new part of my checklist, and it’s an important one. It starts showing me that I’m capable of doing a task for others instead of myself for a change.

In short, mental illness sucks, and there are days that I wish I didn’t suffer from a litany of them. Today is one of them.

A Question of Want

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“What do you want to do?”

This is a hard question for me to answer most of the time. I either want to do something that I know my anxiety won’t allow me to do, want to do something that we don’t have the money for, want to do something that I don’t know how to go about doing, or (most likely) can’t bring myself to admit that I want or deserve to do anything.

Sometimes it’s an issue of not checking in with others to see if what I want to do is alright with them. I just assume it won’t be, because otherwise why wouldn’t they suggest it themselves? Sometimes it’s a question of trying to figure out what the other person wants to do so I can suggest it to them so they know that what they want to do is okay, which requires psychic powers I haven’t (yet) developed.

Why is it my mind blocks this pathway to pleasure and contentment? Is it because I was abused and bullied so often in my life? Is my measure of pleasure and reward that badly in need of calibration?

I want to fix this aspect of myself, but I don’t know how. I also don’t know to determine if I’m happy or just distracted. I get distracted a lot, so that I’m not thinking about my problems, and that’s really been the closest definition of happy that I can come up with.

I want to be happy. Why won’t I let myself?

I have a few loyal readers of this blog, and I ask you: Do you ever experience times when your brain tells you that you can’t/don’t deserve/shouldn’t be allowed to be happy? How do you allow yourself to be happy during times that you’re not? How do you swing that pendulum the opposite way? How do you tell yourself it’s okay to gain pleasure from your environment and the people and things in it?

Breaking Radio Silence

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Sorry I haven’t written in a few days. I just haven’t had it in me. And with that, here goes a stream-of-consciousness barrage of words from the last little while.

Thursday morning, I learned a friend of mine who had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer had passed away. I didn’t feel much like doing the truly optional parts of my checklist, and I was particularly sad because of the news, so I didn’t choose to write about it, though I should have.

By the time I’d recovered enough to start my day, it was time to make preparations for my radio show, which this time included something special.

The radio station that I deejay for was founded as a support community for one particular server on a superhero MMORPG called City of Heroes. We started playing the game to stay in touch with my wife’s best friend and eventually we joined the radio station community and, later, became DJs ourselves. I also found my most recent job through the contacts that I made at the station, so I’ve gotten a good deal of life experience out of that relationship.

The game itself shut down in late 2012 and the station went on to support two more games, later dropping one and picking up two more, and eventually becoming “game-agnostic,” meaning that the station doesn’t officially support one game over another – as long as the game has a social component, there’s a possibility that the station could have a show in the game. (In-game shows basically consist of character avatars gathering in one place and roleplaying a dance party, with game-related conversation going on amongst the participants and the DJs keeping the conversation going if and when there’s a lull.)

Our original game, City of Heroes, has a fiercely loyal fanbase. Many players that I know through the station have vowed never to give the game’s distribution company another dime on any future game, and many have never let go of the dream that one day, City would reopen.

Recently, it was announced that a third party had acquired enough of the game code to reopen the game environment of City of Heroes as an XMPP chat server. Roleplay could happen, but powers, even those designed solely for travel, weren’t present. Neither were enemies or NPCs (non-player characters, like mission contacts or random people on the street, for instance). But enough of the game environment was present to recreate a station show in our original format. The new product is called Paragon Chat, a take on the “City” portion of City of Heroes (heroes were all based in a fictional city called Paragon City).

Paragon Chat went live on Tuesday evening, and so I spent part of my Thursday setting up the chat client and preparing my avatar for hosting my show in the game’s nightclub, where the station hosted many of their shows.

The show itself was awash with nostalgia. Characters who haven’t seen one another for years were getting reacquainted, players were still trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. (The chat client’s functionality is being improved slowly over what appears to be a planned timetable, so while some costume pieces and game commands may not be available now, they could be in the future.) I had done special shows in conjunction with in-game events in between City’s sunset and Paragon Chat’s introduction in the other games that we supported, and the most I ever got at one show was seven players and maybe 30 listeners to the station’s livestream. Thursday night at one point I had 24 players at the show, and peaked at 45 listeners. It seemed our community was happy to come home, or as close to home as we could get.

At around 7:30 pm, or roughly halfway through my show, I checked my blood pressure, and it was significantly elevated, so I kept an eye on it every few minutes or so. At one point, it topped out at 200/118. I was determined to finish my show, and besides, my wife was at work and would be until 11:00 pm, so I stuck it out, keeping a careful eye on things and promising both my wife and the DJ that followed my show that I’d call 911 if things got as bad as that 200/118 reading again. (The DJ that takes over from me is local, which is a rare occurrence for our station. Our DJs broadcast from all over the United States, as well as Canada and Australia, so finding multiple DJs in one metropolitan area is rare. The only two cities that we have multiple DJs that aren’t romantically involved with one another are Austin and Chicago. I brought this up because my follow-up DJ was prepared to put the show on autopilot and drive me to the ER herself.) I made it through the show and when my wife got home, we went off to the ER again, for the second time in two days. Once again, I got a Clonidine and was discharged without much fanfare.

Friday morning I saw my doctor for my annual physical and to pick up the results of the bloodwork. And that’s where things get really cool.

A1C is a measurement of blood glucose over the previous three months. A normal A1C for someone without diabetes ranges from 4 to 6, with prediabetes diagnosed for anyone ranging from 5.7 to 6.4. An A1C reading of 6.5 or higher over two tests is indicative of diabetes. My most recent A1C (when I was diagnosed) was 10.4, well into the range of uncontrolled diabetes. The lab that took my reading considers a normal range to be 4.0 to 5.6.

My A1C was 5.7. But the news got better.

A person is considered to have high cholesterol if their reading is over 200. Mine has historically been anywhere from 230-250. Triglycerides should be under 150. My highest reading has been over 900. HDL cholesterol (the good kind) should be above 39, and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) should be below 100. Usually my HDL reading has been between 25 and 28, and my LDL has been over 150 at one point.

My cholesterol was 128. Triglycerides were 288, still not within normal range, but far better than they’ve ever been as long as I’ve been checking them. HDL was 33, still not normal, but headed in the right direction. My LDL was 37.

And to top everything off, I’d lost 16 pounds in six weeks.

So I rewarded myself yesterday with a day of not bothering with the checklist at all and just doing whatever was going to make me happy. And I still didn’t feel like writing, so I didn’t.

So that basically catches you up on the last couple of days. It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but with far more good than bad. I just wanted to savor it in the moment, knowing I could report in with the good news when I got around to it.

And I just got around to it. How’ve you been?

An Unexpected Trip

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I take my blood pressure at 8:00 am, 3:30 pm, and 11:00 pm, or thereabouts. That’s when my alarms are set to go off, anyway. Sometimes I forget to take my pressure until later, as I take medications at those times as well. My blood pressure has been holding fairly steady at 160-165/100-105 – pretty high, but nothing to be immediately alarmed about.

My 3:30 alarm went off, and I took my meds first, then took my blood pressure. At 3:33, it read 191/117. So I waited a little longer and took it again.

At 3:39 it was 197/117. Wait a while longer, take again.

At 3:48 it was 195/118. Time to get dressed and head to the emergency room.

Just before climbing in the car, I took it again, at 3:55. It was 198/118.

The trip in the ER was a whirlwind. I got checked in at the front desk, and they told me someone would see me in a few minutes, so I sat down and started writing a Facebook post to explain the situation. I wasn’t even a sentence into it before they called my name, slapped ID and allergy wristbands on my arm, and took me to a seated triage area.

As soon as I sat down, the ER technician checked my temperature, my blood oxygen, and my blood pressure again (195/94 this time). As he was leaving, my nurse came to follow up, and explained what would likely happen was that I would get a pill called Clonidine to lower my blood pressure rapidly. I told her I’d been down this road before and that pill was why I was in the ER. She also asked if I had any other symptoms, and I told her I was starting to get a headache. She said they’d get me something like Tylenol, and then she was on her way.

Immediately following her visit – as in, was waiting outside to see me – was the representative from hospital registration. We went through the drill of getting me registered, but were interrupted by the doctor who came in to ask what was going on. We shared the record of blood pressure readings since 3:30, we explained that we’ve done this before, we told him we expected a Clonidine, which he confirmed they would be giving me. He also mentioned the headache, which I confirmed with him, and he asked if I preferred Tylenol or Advil. I told him I take an NSAID for my back, so it would need to be the Tylenol. He ducked out and registration came back in to finish up with me.

As registration was leaving, another nurse came by with the medications for me to take, and then a second came to assist with that process. One entered my data in the computer, the other scanned the meds and my bracelet, and then handed me the med cup and the water. I downed them, and she said it was up to me whether I wanted to stay, but the discharge papers had already been written. I said that I knew that the medication would work – it had done so before – and so I signed the paperwork and checked with the discharge representative on the way out for her to cut off my wristbands.

We got out into the lobby once again and I sat down to finish the Facebook post. I literally did not have time to look at my phone long enough to post while I was back in the ER. The entire visit was maybe 40 minutes long, if that. It is the most efficient trip through an ER I have ever taken, and I have, unfortunately, been to the ER a lot in my life.

I came home, and checked my blood pressure – it was 182/110, still high, but there hadn’t been time for the Clonidine to really start to work just yet.

And then about five minutes later, it kicked in.

I felt dizzy and lightheaded, and went to lie down for a short little nap, which I had just woken up from before writing this post. Before I started writing, I checked my blood pressure again.

163/102, back to what has been normal for me.

I have a follow up appointment with my doctor on Friday, so we can discuss this in greater detail, but in the meantime the ER doc recommended I double up on my hydrochlorothiazide, from 12.5 mg daily to 25 mg daily, and then consult with my doctor when I see her.

Hopefully we can start to work on getting this down, soon. I really can’t afford for my blood pressure to necessitate a trip to the ER every time it wants to spike a little bit.

July 7, 2015: Three Good Things

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1. I went to go get bloodwork done this morning. I asked a question about how I should be taking one of my medications and was assured that I was taking it correctly. (Wish it were working better, however. It’s one of my blood pressure medications and it’s still really high.)

2. I tried a new recipe for dinner tonight. It didn’t work out well, but it’s the first time I’ve cooked from a recipe in a couple weeks.

3. When the recipe went south, I managed to head off a bout of irrationality on my own, without any outside assistance. This is a big deal.