Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Well, that escalated quickly

One of the hardest exposures I had to deal with during my cognitive behavioral work was my pantry. Nothing was allowed to be tidy. I actually got angry and mentally cursed my therapist more than once about it. I hated it. And when I wrapped things up in January I didn't run right home and put all my crap away properly like I wanted.

Today i was looking for something, and put a few things back. And all of a sudden I was lining up cans with all the labels facing straight ahead, and then I got out my label maker to put some beans in tupperware. And then the tupperware cabinet was from hell, so I had to fix that before doing anything else....

Which ended up with me scouring the kitchen sink on the verge of tears. And then getting a wooden skewer out to get the tiny bits of crud out from around the faucet and sprayer.

I feel like I let myself down. I am just so not in control of some things in my life right now. I have to track them, but I can't control them at all. And it's hard. Harder than I realized, apparently.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Is this thing still even on?

I just walk away from my blog for 6 months at a stretch and then always come back with approximately the same not very witty title. I am nothing if not consistently inconsistent.

So, last I typed and you read I was working on cognitive behavioral therapy to get my OCD and panic attacks under control. In September, Team Annie gained a new player. Another therapist, this time a lady, to help me sort out some trauma and PTSD issues. Which is what I thought would happen all along from my initial phone conversation with  D about setting me up for CBT. Because I knew there was a well of pain I had constructed my entire life around avoiding. And right on schedule, once I began to have so much less fear about the minutiae of daily life, some of these bigger and more painful experiences started to slip up to the front of the queue. And they are ugly. And they are shameful. And there were flashbacks. And nightmares.  And awfulness. And instead of hiding, I said I needed more help. So for a few months, I was seeing two therapists weekly and The Man and I were seeing a third every few weeks.

At the end of January, I graduated from CBT so now I am just down to the trauma work and the marriage work. Both of which are going pretty well. The marriage work was to begin to make some new patterns now that I don't require as much care taking. Because being me was hard on my marriage. And as much as he wanted to protect me and keep me from being hurt, it wasn't healthy for him to have to take care of everything all the time, not healthy for either one of us. The trauma work is hard. There were times last summer when I was touching a bathroom door handle at Target, or watching the puke scene from Bridesmaids for the 500th time and I thought that was hard work. There were times when we began to move toward my discharge where just the thought of it would make me cry, because I was so scared. I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to live my life  without having to tick off banned behaviors. How I would conduct my errands when they weren't assignments? How would I stay accountable when I was the only one I had to be accountable to? Because I haven't done so hot when I am the one left in charge of me and I felt very sure that I wasn't going to be able to keep my shit together.

Those were hard things, but now they seem like a cake walk compared to the work I have to do. And there isn't much homework for this. Except that when something painful comes up, I can't pack it away in a box and put it away at the back of my brain. I have to live with it. I have to let it suck. I have to help my brain find context for the events so that it can be properly refiled so that I stop reacting to anything similar with full on panic. And I have to use grounding techniques sometimes to keep from flashing back or dissociating. At any given moment I can be somewhere and trying to appear calm and inside I am looking at the walls, the floor, listening to the music, whatever things I can see, hear, smell, or touch to help me stay grounded in 2014. And it works more often than it used to.

And as I repair damage, I sometimes feel at loose ends. I got so good at being broken that I forgot how to be anything else. Not that I felt like a victim, in fact I never felt like a victim. Which is part of my problem, because there were times when a victim is exactly what I was, but I was so unused to being allowed to feel my feelings that I stuffed it down and convinced myself it was my fault. Because I deserved what I got, because I should have known he was a bad person before it got to that point.. I refused to admit that this sort of abuse was something that happened to me. I wasn't sitting around feeling that the world had done me wrong, I was just broken. And now I am patching up the damage a little bit at a time.And I have begun to try and get on with the business of having a life. I meet with friends. I stay responsible for social contact. I run errands. I do stuff. And every day it gets a little bit easier.

My life has turned around nearly 100% from where I was last year at this time. I have plans. I have some good things happening. I am participating in my marriage as more or less an equal partner. We look forward to what the future may hold for us. I am beginning to sometimes feel normal. That I don't have to be other. That I am not only a pile of broken and sad and yuck, no matter what was drilled into me from a very young age. I can be sad and I can feel hurt and I won't have to cut off the world or cut or scratch myself to control the pain. I am a person who is learning to have a life, to allow myself to have hope and dreams again. And I am so late to the party for so many things and just trying to make up for lost time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

This is photoblog!

You have to read that title in your best County Fair Demolition Derby Announcer voice. You do have one, don't you? Doesn't everyone?

I am too lazy to do a real blog post, but need to exercise these writing muscles just a wee little bit. NaNoWriMo will be here again before I know it and I have no idea if I am going to go for it again this year or not, but I need to get into a much better writing practice.

So let's dive right in, shall we? With a photo.

Looks a piece of bread with jam on it, right? It is. But this is why it's a big deal for me tonight: I drove alone to the grocery store wearing no makeup at all on my face to buy that bread. While I was in the store shopping I went from one entire side of it to the other, stopping to go up one middle aisle for oatmeal. I stopped by the alcove for the bathroom to put my palm flat on the wall for one second and then checked out and came home and put my home canned jam on this bread and am now sitting here eating it with wall germs on my left hand. Because I can't wash my hand yet. And when I do finally wash my hands? I have to make a tally mark on in my notebook of banned behaviors to keep track of how often i wash my hands. Because on Thursday? It was 18 times that I remembered to mark it. And that didn't even seem like a lot to me at all.

Why do I have to do these random weird things? Because before July 2, 2013 my driver's license had been expired for 5 years. Because I didn't go anywhere by myself because I was too frightened. And then I stopped going anywhere at all pretty much for around 2 years. And I don't ever want to get back to being that sick again. So I touch walls. I make random small talk with strangers. I eat pretzels from a bag that my husband put there for me because he isn't a good hand washer and I don't like to eat food he has touched unless I have inflicted my OCD on him. I don't get to ask him to wash up before he touches the pretzels, and he can't do it right after he showers. I mentioned before that these are my troubles, and this is how I am tackling them. One weird task at a time.

Also? I'm not allowed to knit in public for the time being. Coping mechanism, ritual, barrier...blah blah blah words. I get it. I don't like it, but I get it. When I sit in a waiting room all I want to do is knit, the calming motion of the needles, yanking yarn up every row or so with my right hand. Instead I sit there and let the awkwardness just roll over me. I look at the magazines and mentally alphabetize them. I imagine them being in a tidy pile on the table. Or at least not left wide open on the table, Jesus Tapdancing Christ, people, REALLY? Close the magazine for fuck's sake!

If it's really bad, I can knit. But I am suppose to dole out the knitting in public like Klonopin: sparingly on an as needed basis. And I am tenacious and don't like to give in, so I just knuckle down and don't whip out the knitting. Sometimes I take it in with me in case I need it, sometimes I leave it in the car. Or even leave it at home.

But there has been knitting. I actually feel a renewed interest in knitting at home, possibly fueled by excellent shows on Netflix. I finished my Shalom. I love it. If I get my shit together tonight I may also finish my September Swing cardi and then can see how fast I can knit up Juliet.

Oh and while I am here, my liver seems to have passed muster as of earlier this month. I still have to be careful, but my numbers were within normal range for the first time this year. It's promising.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm still swimming.

So where to really go after that last blog post, right? Yeah, I don't have any answers either. All I really know is that motherhood looms large in my thoughts and has for the past several months. We still don't know exactly what we want, but we know that if motherhood is something I need to do, we will find a way to focus some of that energy, there are so many ways to nurture beyond giving birth. It's a pretty confusing time for us, so much has changed. Yes, I change the rules we had laid down. But the entire game was turned upside down for me. And there is a timer running.

A small red and white sundress hanging on a rack the other day at Target hit me like a physical blow, just knocked the wind out of me like a belly flop off the diving board. A small boy with reddish curls in a tee shirt with a homemade cape sewn to his shoulders crossing a parking lot in front of us has been on my mind for weeks. Sassy tweens no longer repulse me (much). I no longer see a baby and think that is what I want. I see a child and think I want to parent, to nurture, to help create a grown up. And this is new for me. Maybe it's a result of having such a tumultuous six months. Maybe my biological clock finally kicked on. Maybe it's some cockamamie notion that by being a decent mother, I can repair myself in some way. I don't know. These are things I need to get to the bottom of as I work on my mental and physical health. All we are sure of today is that we aren't making any major decisions for six months.

Speaking of, physically, it's been a mixed bag. After beginning to treat my shitty thyroid and settling into the diabetic lifestyle, a lot of my health numbers have improved. And then there is my liver. My liver is once again a little pissed off about things. I need to have another hepatic panel drawn in a couple of weeks. That is fairly concerning. My doctor speculates that I took ibuprofen a bit too often in June. I maybe took 5 or 6 gel caps over the course of a week, this is hardly taking much of it at all, that is how persnickety my liver has been since the pancreatitis. It's an angry liver. I don't know why it has to be such a dick about everything, it's had a pretty cushy life. I haven't had a drink in probably a decade and I never even was a big drinker, I just never got any good at it and then I decided that with my genetics, getting good at drinking? Was a very Bad Idea. I have never done recreational drugs, either. And I have been eating pretty clean for years. So a few advil might be enough to piss it off. I don't even know.

And why did I take all the ibuprofen? For cramps. Because (TMI WARNING!!) one of the meds my endocrinologist put me on was The Pill. Specificaly he put me on a 91 day cycle pill, the kind where you only have a withdrawal period every 3 months. It is anti-androgenizing, so would help to counter balance some of my excess masculine hormones. Which seemed to help right away with the hair loss. My hair was coming out by the wad pretty much since I got sick. I was going through a very large amount of 10-minute hair clog remover, about a gallon a week. Even after chopping all my hair off into a 2-inch pixie cut. But the perk of keeping some of my hair came with the price of a really painful period that began in my second week of being on the pill. And continued for the next seven weeks. Much of it was more like spotting, but it was still seemingly endless. After going to my GP/GYN (she does both, and she has tiny little hands, WIN) for a thorough rummage in ye olde junk drawer and getting the all-clear I finally had to wave the white flag of surrender to Quasense. The endless bleeding was really the least of the side effects I was experiencing. My depression was right back up where it hadn't been for weeks, I started getting zits, lots of zits. I was a raging bitch pretty much nonstop, I had more intrusive and alarming thoughts and compulsions, and then sexual dysfunction joined the party. There is only so much I can endure even in the face of keeping more of my hair.

So I went off of that nearly three weeks ago, took a course of progesterone to try and reset things and have a new Rx for a new variety of pill with a traditional 21/7 day schedule. I am hopeful that it will work for both the hair loss and to help regulate my cycle.

None of this was particularly helpful for my mental well being and balance, let me tell you. Keeping the cheese on my cracker has been a job this summer. I am doing cognitive behavioral work for treatment of panic disorder with agoraphobia, with a surprise guest star of OCD. I didn't expect that one, either. And much to my chagrin it's not the tidy kind. It's the all or nothing kind where I have to be perfect label-maker organized, or everything just goes to shit. It's exhausting being terrified of pretty much everything in the world and having to obsess about whether or not my spices are still in alphabetical order (they so are). So, I go to therapy. I do homework. I conduct exposures where I have to read, or say, or look at, or do something that upsets me over and over again (spoiler alert: everything upsets me.) to try and wear down my panic response. I watched Cameron Diaz barf into a dancing trophy around 45 times this morning until seeing someone vomit didn't make me look away from the tv or even flinch. My silverware drawer would give Joan Crawford an aneurism.
The yellow thing is a citrus reamer, not a marital aid.

I have to open that and look at it 5 times or more today while recording how I feel about it. How I feel about it right now is twitchy. I want to nest them all together properly in their own cubbies. But I want to not feel this compulsion even more and today it's winning.

I have what feels like a million things going on like this around me. Things are half cleaned, half painted, and half put away. It's harder work that I thought it would be. But it's also more rewarding. And this is why I do it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Well, this is a thing that happened.

So since I was sick in January, I have acquired a fair number of medical professionals that I tend to think of as Team Annie. I have a new GP, a psychiatrist, a therapist and as of May, a new endocrinologist. It isn't a secret among those close to me, but I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for most of my life. In my thirties, it got worse. While in hospital for my evil gallbladder, I requested a psych eval while I was essentially stuck with no place to hide. Kind of a roundabout way to do things, I know, but I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. All that matters is I finally asked for help. And I am getting help. And I'm no where near better, but the world is a tiny bit less scary than it was for me 6 months ago. I am sure I will talk about this more in the future, but it's some background on how these particular members of Team Annie were involved in this latest chapter of WTF Theatre.

Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. There are different forms of it, if you have ever heard of it before it's probably been  the classic form where girls are born with ambiguous genitalia and the sex of the baby cannot always be determined by looking. It's more than that, though. The classic form can be fatal because it can cause salt-wasting. The non classic form, which I was told that I had, has symptoms like irregular menses, hair loss, weight gain and other delights. The symptoms are very much like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome but PCOS is based in insulin resistance while NCCAH is based on a body that doesn't make enough of the hormone cortisol and in trying to stimulate the adrenal glands to make enough, too many other hormones are produced and things get out of whack.

So I was told I was essentially infertile on my own, and my husband and I would need genetic counseling if we did decide to have children with fertility assistance. CAH can be fatal in infants and children if there is salt-wasting or an adrenal crisis occurs. I was twenty six years old and had been married for three years. I grieved. I always wanted a baby, maybe two. My husband was less certain, I knew he was a fence sitter. But this seemed to close that door for me. But my husband, I think, was in some way relieved, he could now freely state that he was positive that he did not want children.  Ever.

For several reasons it was a rough patch for us at that time. There were growing pains for us. Some typical of young marriages, some maybe less so. And then we found this out and it seemed to help us find some common ground again and we worked out  some issues and moved on confident that not having children was the right course for us, the only course, really, since I was defective.

Fast forward to December 31st, 2012. As I am being triaged in the emergency room I have to make sure they know I have CAH, because I will probably need steroid support to keep me from having an adrenal crisis after vomiting more than I ever thought was possible for one human to vomit. It is noted in my charts, the next few days were a blur for me between dehydration and massive amounts of dilaudid for pain control. Things got more clear after a PICC line was started and I began to get hydrated for real 48 hours after I was admitted. CAH was not brought up again and I kept forgetting to ask. I assumed at some point, I was given steroids.

Seeing my new GP once I was sprung she noticed that I had not been given steroids, she asked some questions and we focused on the issues at hand. It kept kind of popping up in the back of my mind. So after a couple months, I asked my psychiatrist and therapist if it was possible that my adrenal issues could be affecting my anxiety levels. Their answers were a resounding YES. So I asked my GP if we could test that. We did, and holy wow did I open a can of worms. My results were not what we expected. So she referred me to a new endocrinologist.. Which made sense anyway, since I am now diabetic and have a thyroid that has decided to crap out on me as well. So I go. More blood was drawn. Saliva was collected. Again,the results were not adding up. He decided on one more test, an ACTH stimulation test, which would be conclusive once and for all.

It was conclusive, and the conclusion was that I do not have this genetic disorder. I never did. The labs all indicate that I have healthy and functional adrenal glands. My CT scans from pancreatitis were reviewed again to look at my adrenals glands, no lumps or bumps on them. Healthy. Which is good, do not get me wrong, one less thing that can kill me? Yeah, I am more than happy to take that.  Bring that shit ON.

But also, I was probably never infertile. I was never at risk for passing along a fatal disorder. I had choices that I never thought were going to be available to me. But I'm not 26 anymore. And my health has taken a serious hit this year. And my husband is more convinced than ever that he doesn't want to share his life with children. Just when I am realizing it's something I might have wanted after all. But if that door is still open at all, it's closing fast. And there is only one person I would want to have children with, and he is positive he doesn't want them.

How did that happen? There was a shitload of blood work to get that diagnosis, it's a fairly straightforward process. It's not really something that could be accidentally interpreted. And even if it was, I had follow up labs. I had followups after she began treating me with steroids. For a year. I was on corticosteroids for a year. For nothing. Steroids that can impair your insulin response. And that reproductive endocrinology clinic has since closed down and my records were lost in one of the floods in my house, and my new doctor could not get ahold of my original labs to see why I ever would have been misdiagnosed.

So that's where I am now. I have known this for nearly a week and the shock of it all still takes my breath away and makes me cry. What I am most angry about, I think, is that with proper treatment I might not have ended up diabetic at age 38. That we could have treated my insulin resistance and I could have implemented lifestyle changes 13 years ago that would still be benefiting me today. And I also feel like I have some more grief about choices I never had the chance to make. I am sad and I am angry. I am so angry.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Explore Monogamy

Remember in the 80s when George Michael's video for I Want Your Sex had him write that on his beard girlfriend? Or, remember in the 80s when that song was still shockingly risque and was banned from the radio in a lot of places? That seems so quaint now.

Anyway, this post is about monogamy. Sort of. But not that kind. I mean knitting monogamy. Picking just one project and plowing through until it's done. I go in starts and fits with this practice. On the one hand, I can see that when I am faithful to one project then I actually end up with finished knits instead of 85 in progress. And since it's going to stay winter here all damn year this year, I might well be wearing these handknits in July. On the other hand, I get enticed by new yarns or patterns and cannot help myself before I am casting on just one more cowl. Or sock. Or cardi. Or...you get the picture.

Last weekend I looked at my Color Affection and decided it was Time To Finish that bastard. I was sick of the sight of it, so I knuckled down and knit hours and hours on it while watching tv or listening to an audio book. And to my great surprise, I got it done.

Madtosh sock in Kelp, Twig, and Mansfiel'd Garden Party
And now that it's done I went to rummage in my other UFO's and started to think maybe I should really give knitting monogamy a serious try. Maybe I should try and stick to one project and one sock for riding in the the car and sitting in waiting rooms. Which I realize isn't totally monogamous but it's not always practical to haul my my main project around with me.

So today is a rainy, cold and generally crappy day and I am on my last dose of antibiotics that seem to give me heartburn. I decided there is really no better day to grab one of those UFO's and see how much I can churn out while snuggled up with some hot tea and a good book on my ipod. So today I will be forging ahead on my Helleborus Scarf and seeing how far I can go before getting bored with it and picking up a cardi. I have around 8 inches of it worked up so far using these yarns. I'm really looking forward to having it done and being able to inject some color into my life while Milwaukee is muddy and grey.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Well, that was awkward.

So I had to do bloodwork today. I thought it was fasting. So of course, it was not. And I fasted for naught. Which is no big deal, but I also did not eat enough yesterday at ALL by accident. I got busy doing stuff and never felt hungry. The end result was I only got in just over 450 calories for the day. Which is not at all ideal and something I try to avoid. And I was concerned about fasting because I sometimes get a low from a calorie deficit with Metformin. But I also knew my anxiety would raise my blood glucose so I was probably going to be just fine for a few hours into the day even with no food at all.

Since The Man has to cart my ass there, I wanted to get there early to get it done with as little disruption to his day as possible, they open at 7 so the plan was to get there soon after. I woke up at 4:30, and didn't really fall deeply asleep again. So I got up as planned at 5 and got ready for the day. Trying to use my mindful breathing as the panicky feelings about going to the doctor's office would bubble up.  Trying to not bite The Man's head off everything he spoke to me. Trying to think calming thoughts and focus on it being over soon. I'm not scared of needles or blood at all, it's just being there that I don't like. Because I know they have to touch me. And I know it's the doctor's office. And so...panic.

But I was powering through. We got there. The lab wasn't open yet, but I had knitting. So it was good. I sat down and got the knitting. The lab opened. They called me in. I babbled about my shitty, shitty veins and apologized. They looked over my chart and saw I only needed thyroid and liver panel today, so I totally could have eaten some breakfast. DUDE. Dammit. Whatevs. Once again, I don't know what magic this place has but they got the first vein in one stick again like a motherfucking boss. WOOT.

Then they handed me a cup and pointed me to the bathroom for a urine sample. Now, for the people who have spent more than 15 minutes in my presence you already know this, I can pee. I usually always have to pee. I pee all the goddamn time. When I gotta pee, it's all my mind can focus on and can't unfocus it until I just go. I have a walnut sized bladder, I swear. I had consumed extra extra water yesterday to try and plump up my veins for the draw. I drank a full glass this morning with my morning meds. I walked into that bathroom and everything just went to hell.

First of all, the towelette they gave me to use first had coconut acid as the second ingredient. FUCK. I am allergic to that. But rules is rules. I used it, hoping that somehow I would not be dosing the hoo-ha with too much coconut. And then....nothing. Really nothing. I couldn't go. I thought calm thoughts. I did diaphragmatic breathing. I thought of waterfalls, rivers, drips, and still nothing. I ran warm water over my hands in the sink. In the end I managed about a teaspoon. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Well, shit...what do I do now? I can't go back into the lab, I can't just leave. I shamefully walked to the checkout area and tried to hide my container from view and just said "I can't pee." She said I could drink water and wait. I said "No, I mean I can't pee here. I just...I can't." She sent me back to the lab where I had to explain myself and my performance anxiety, and my lack of usable sample. So they gave me a to-go bag and instructions for when to bring it back in to them. So awkward, but not nearly as much as the time I had to collect...umm...other samples. While living in a dorm and sharing a bathroom with many, many women. And then when I took it to the hospital to drop off the lab tech knew me from classes. So it was "Oh hi, how are you, you're in my such and such class, aren't you? yadda yadda yadda...." And then there is me "Ummm, so here is my poop, ok thanks bye." There should really be an unspoken rule about lab workers, they should just pretend they don't know you. No matter how well they might actually know you, you should get to pretend that you're anonymous at that moment of handing over the paper bag with your name on it.

So now I am home, pretty much chilled out for the next several hours thanks clonazepam being my co-pilot, already showered again to try and negate any residual coconut acid poisoning and of course, now I have to pee like every 45 minutes from all the damn water I have consumed.