Friday, March 30, 2012

Losing a Pet

Yesterday afternoon we had to say goodbye to Piglet, our loving and faithful kitty of 17 years.  She was a real sweetheart.  She was always there for me when I needed comforting.  If she were here now she'd be on my lap purring and letting me cry into my fur.

Losing a pet just sucks.  Part of it is the lack of understanding on the part of non-pet-owners; they may be sympathetic, but in a lot of cases you can see that in the back of their minds they're thinking, "it's just an animal".  It's their loss.

It also sucks that animals can't tell us how they're feeling.  I don't know if Piglet was in pain in her last days.  For that matter, I don't know why she wasn't eating for the last two months.  I couldn't ask her what was going on, whether there was a food she wanted or could tolerate, or where the discomfort was.

The biggest part of the suckage, though, is the foreknowledge of the loss.  I wished so much that Piglet would just stop breathing and peacefully slip away.  I hated calling and making an appointment for her death.  Knowing that we had until 3 pm to spend time with our cat was a hard thing.  On the other hand, her last few hours were clearly hard, so it was also a relief when the vet showed up.  That also sucked.

Now I go back to a life where I'm not spending half my time and energy feeding my cat.  I have to adjust to not having her in the house.  If she were her right now, she'd be in my lap, purring, letting me dry my tears in her fur.  My other cat, CC, has a shit-ton of personality, but sweetness and comfort aren't really in it.  I lost the most comforting thing in my life yesterday.  And there are no two ways about it.  It just sucks.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

FML: More Impending Loss

A few weeks ago I rejoiced to learn that Piglet, my feline companion of nearly seventeen years, does not, in fact, have cancer.  She has IBS, which caused fatty liver disease.  If a feeding tube were put in, and she could tolerate the food, she could make a full recovery.

Well, she can't tolerate the food.  Even though it's food she tolerated a few weeks ago.  Even though it's bland as hell.

Obviously, a cat who can't eat isn't going to make it.  I've decided to stop all procedures, like the feedings and the subcutaneous fluids, because they're only making her miserable (she's actually started hiding from me for the first time in her long life).  I don't want our last days together to be filled with me doing things to her.  The only meds I'm continuing are the anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory drugs that are likely to make her more comfortable.

This was a tough decision, but it helps that I have the strong sense that Piglet is just Over It.  She's ready to go.  That makes it only slightly less devastating.  This cat has been a loyal and loving companion for nearly 17 years.  She's the sweetest and most easygoing cat I've ever met; if you wanted her on your lap, you just put her there and she'd settle in.  But chances were she was on someone's lap anyway.

I could always count on Piglet to support me when I was sad or upset.  She'd bump her head on my arm or my leg, rub against me, and generally carry on cute until I at least had to smile.  Then she'd crawl into my arms and purr until I felt better.

She's no longer well enough to do that, and I think the feeding tube makes it difficult for her to purr.  But she's still nestled nest to me on the couch, providing what comfort she can.  I can't imagine my life without that love.

I've lost so much in the past two years.  I lost what I thought was a promising job.  I lost my mind and my mental health, and therefore the sense of efficacy I'd worked so hard to build throughout my adult life.  But hey, I thought to myself, at least my relationship is strong.  Then, last fall, my marriage crashed onto the rocks.  I thought to myself at least I've got my cats.  I also thought, but they're old ... and the way things have been going lately ... they're two of the few things I have left to lose.  And now I'm losing one of them.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Am Not Having Kids, But Not For Your Ableist Reasons

I am not planning to have children.

This may not come as much of a surprise.  If you've read many of my posts, you know that I'm living with a severe mental illness and multiple learning disabilities.  People like me don't have kids, right?  People like me don't want kids.  Maybe, you're thinking, people like me shouldn't have kids.

If you're thinking that last one, I hereby call you out on your ableist bullshit.  Ableism is the idea that those of you with a Normal (tm) way of being in the world are superior to those of us who don't conform to the norm.  Our way of being in the world might mean that we can't count change.  It might mean that we hear voices.  It might mean that we get around in a wheelchair.

But listen up, "normal" folks, our way of being in the world is just as valid as yours is, and the extent of our deviation from the norm has absolutely nothing with our value as individual human beings or as members of families and communities.

The idea that those with mental illness, ADHD, and learning disabilities "shouldn't" have kids is all too prevalent, even among those who have these disorders.  A few years ago, when I was hanging out on Dyscalculia Forum, someone asked who on the forum wanted to spawn, was planning to spawn, etc.  I'd say a majority of the younger, currently childless women on the forum were firmly in the "no" camp.  Which would be fine; it's their choice, and I support their right to make it -- except that the reason they didn't want kids was because they "didn't want to pass on their horrible genes".

Yeah.  That's right up there with other terrible things, like littering.  Or being one of those people who has really loud cell phone conversations about last night's episode of Jersey Shore.

What these folks were saying is that it would be somehow doing their progeny, and possibly the whole human race, a disservice by giving birth to a kid who might be ... *gasp* .... bad at math.  The whole thing made me really sad -- all of these intelligent, caring people had internalized society's ableism, and believed that somehow they'd be irresponsible to share that with the world by having children..

The thing is that genes merely provide predisposition, not predestination.  Someone who's inherited a gene for a disability like a mood disorder might never develop one.  If they grew up in a loving, secure environment, their disability might never be triggered.  Or, if you want a different example, someone who's predisposed to alcoholism is at no risk for the disease if they never take a drink in their lives.

Even with all my problems, I think I'd be able to provide a child with the kind of love and support that would help her avoid the family tendency toward depression.  While I clearly I've got a few crappy genes,  I've also got a damn lot of really excellent ones.  And if my children did wind up with my ADHD and LD, well, I'd be in the perfect position to advocate for her and understand what she's going through.  It hardly sounds like a horrible life.

So why am I not having kids?  I love kids.  I enjoy them a lot.  But when it comes right down to it, I like having someone put them away when I'm done playing with them.  Parenting is 24-7, and I just don't want to deal with that.  It's just that simple.

Monday, March 26, 2012

More About Meds and Tooth Decay: Brush Several Times A Day

One of my most popular posts is the one about the dental problems that can result from taking meds for your brain.  As I said in that post, tooth problems aren't something that most pdocs even know about, let alone warn us about when we start taking crazy meds.  So you start a bunch of new meds for bipolar, depression, or ADHD, and suddenly your previously cavity-free mouth looks like that of a meth user.

I was at the dentist last week and learned something interesting, and a little counterintuitive, that I thought I should share with y'all: Drinking more water doesn't help your teeth.  I'd sort of assumed that it would.  I mean, if the problems are caused by your mouth being dry, wouldn't it make sense to make your mouth wet?

The problem with my hypothesis is that tooth decay, of course, is caused by bacteria.  Your mouth fights bacteria not with water, but with saliva.  Saliva has antibacterial properties.  Water does not.  Saliva also remineralizes your teeth, filling in any tiny pits that could develop into cavities later.  Water does not.  As my dentist said, "It just means you have to pee a lot".

My dentist recommends a lot of ways of dealing with this.  There's the high-flouride prescription toothpaste.  There are the mints and gum with xylitol in them, which stimulates saliva production.  Then there's plain old brushing.  By brushing your teeth several times a day, you get rid of that bacteria, and that prevents cavities.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Daylight Savings Time and Fun with Sleep

If you've read much of my blog, you've read that my personal journey with my mutant mood disorder involves a downswing in the mid-afternoon.  If my meds aren't JUST RIGHT, I get severely depressed between the hours of 3 and 7.  Depressed as in crying my eyes out because of the tragedy of the human condition.  That sort of thing.

My meds have been straightened out for some time now, so this mood swing is pretty mild; I may get a little pessimistic or cranky about things, but I'm not on the floor.

Since the switch to Daylight Savings Time the mood swings have been replaced with utter exhaustion.  Many days this week I've been compelled to take a nap around 3 or 4, and I'm not generally a napper.  Don't get me wrong, this is infinitely preferable to mood swings, but it still cramps my style a bit.

The switch to DST has also messed up my sleep in another, minor way.  I can no longer wake up without an alarm at 8:30.  I was trying to wake up with an alarm, but I think I'll give that up and wake at 9:15 as I did in my pre-Soltsice all-night-vigil watch-the-sunrise says last winter.  I'd like to do another vigil, but I've been too tired to think about it recently.

And given my body and brain, it wouldn't surprise me if getting up 45 later means I don't need a two hour nap in the afternoon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Equinox, SAD sufferers!

Today is the first day of Spring, and one of the two days of the year when day and night are of equal length.  From here on out -- until the Summer Solstice at least --  there will be more daylight than darkness.

Spring is always a time when I have a lot of energy to get things done.  As it is, I've felt dramatically better since Daylight Savings time.  There's something about that extra hour of daylight in the evening that improves my mood and productivity.  I love DST and I wish they'd do away with standard time altogether.

Happy Equinox, and Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

DST, Mood, Cognition, and Sleep

I love Daylight Savings Time.  Even though it doesn't actually add more daylight to the day, that extra hour in the evening does a lot for my overall well-being.  

That being said, It's a week later and I'm still a bit jet-lagged.  I'm having a bit more trouble falling asleep at night, and getting up an hour later than I would like -- 9:30 instead of 8:30.  When I have to get up at 8:30 it's a struggle.

When I stayed up all night and watched the sun rise on the Winter Solstice, I reset my clock so I was getting up without an alarm, at 8:30 every morning.  This is by far the earliest I've ever gotten up without an alarm.  In former days, I would sleep until 10 or 11 at least.

I wonder if I need to watch another sunrise to let my body reset?  Or if I have to pull another all-night vigil?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Does Lithium Work by Resetting the Body's Clock?

Biplolar Blog featured a really interesting story about a recent study of lithium.  Lithium, of course, is one of the go-to meds for bipolar disorder.  Scientists at Manchester University have discovered that the drug inhibits a "clock protein" called GSK3 (damn that GSK3!) which inhibits the the body's circadian rhythms.

This finding is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, it suggests that bipolar disorder is due in part to a dysfunction in the body's natural wake-sleep cycle.  Second, it provides a refined target for possible new medications.  Potentially, these medications may lack the side-effects of lithium -- side effects that often cause people to give up on the drug entirely, triggering another bipolar cycle.  Finally, it sheds light on why so many people find light therapy, which also affects the body's rhythms, to be so effective at treating mood disorders.

Given all the problems I've had with my internal clock, and all the crazy shit I've had to do to regulate it, I gotta say this makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.  You can read the whole article here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Comment Problems Fixed (Hopefully)

Mo has told me a couple of times that he's had problems leaving comments here on this blog.  I finally looked into it, and learned that somehow the comment settings had changed so that only people logged into google or people with OpenID could leave comments.

I realize that this can pose a serious privacy problem for anyone leaving a comment on a blog about mental illness.  I have attempted to return the settings to where they used to be so that anyone and everyone is allowed to comment anonymously.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Worn Out, OR: Gotta Have Heart

I am officially sick of taking care of myself.

Why bother to limit my alcohol intake?  Why should I avoid sugar and caffeine?  Why make the effort to exercise?  I worked so hard to instill these habits four years ago because I wanted to get healthy.  And where has it gotten me?

Fuck-all nowhere.

OK, it worked for awhile.  I lost 60 lbs.  I got in shape.  I got organized.  Let me say that again: I, that is to say, Addy Bell, got organized.  If you'd seen my report cards from elementary school you'd know what a miraculous feat that is.  Anyway, as a result of working my ass off, my depression lessened, my ADHD symptoms improved, and I felt better than I had in years.  For the first time in my life, I was in control.

That is, until I wasn't.  Until I went nuts.  Until I had to spend an entire year rebuilding my brain from the ground up.  So much for control.

Lately, I haven't been moody, and I haven't felt sad.  I just feel tired and pointless.  Why put in the effort when past experience tells me that no matter how hard I work, I will fail?  And not just fail, but burn down, fall over, and sink into the swamp?

It would be easier to get off my ass and do something, anything, if I felt like I had any efficacy at all.  But I can't even remember what it feels like to feel a sense of control, to feel like what I do matters, to feel like I can effect the outcome of my own life.  Sure, I can put in the effort, I can work my ass off, but that won't make the Universe take down the "kick me" sign it's had on my back for the last two years.

Maybe if I just lie low, life won't notice me and will leave me alone.

But I can't think like that.  I know I can't.  Because I know that I have to take care of myself, or things will get even worse, and thinking so negatively is bad self care, and is practically a guarantee that things will get worse.  So I need to keep my chin up, stiff upper lip, put on my game face, and all that.  I gotta have heart, right?  Lots and lots and lots of heart!  Gotta keep singing Damn Yankees in my head.

And I guess, for me, for now, that's what success is.  Other people get to feel successful when they land a job, or a promotion, or a raise.  Or when they watch their children sharing a toy on the playground and they think to themselves, hey, I taught them that.  Me?  My success is measured in my ability to talk myself up from the depths of bitter despair, a place where I've landed because, well, my success is measured in my ability to talk myself up from the depths of bitter despair.

Only I can't think like that.  Gotta have heart.  Gotta have heart.  Gotta have heart.

P.S.: Damn Yankees.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy International Women's Day!

March 8th is International Women's Day.  In the United States, it's an opportunity for women to bring attention to the problems we face and the triumphs we have enjoyed.  In dozens of other countries, it is celebrated as a full holiday; in others, in others, only women get the day off.  In some places men give the women in their lives flowers and chocolates to honor them and their work

In most cases, International Women's Day is a "day off" for women.  They have the day off work, and the men in their lives take over whatever cooking, cleaning, and childcare the women usually do.  It's an vivid lesson in the sheer amount of labor that women undertake -- and the sheer amount of work that simply wouldn't get done if women didn't do it.  According to the UN, women do two thirds of the world's work.  What if we went on strike?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lamictal 300 mgs: Travel, Light Therapy, and Delayed Sleep Phase

If you follow my blog, you know that lamictal messes with my sleep.  If left to myself, I would sleep from three a.m. to 11.  I'd be completely out of sync with the world.

And indeed I was out of sync for months.  This changed when I started using a blue light in the mornings.  Pretty soon I was getting up around 9:15 all by myself.  No alarm, no struggle.

Then, I went out east to visit family.  And getting up became a struggle again.  I could usually make it out of bed by 9:30 or 10, but this required an alarm at 9:15 which I would then ignore for as long as I could.

Then, I stayed up all night for my Solstice vigil, and watched the sun rise.  Suddenly, I was getting up at 8:30 ... again, without an alarm.  For a confirmed night person this was a bizarre experience.

Fast forward to last week.  I was in the Midwest, visiting family.  I dutifully did my light therapy every morning, but didn't adjust my body to the time zone.  My family are all night people, and Pacific Standard Time is two hours behind Central Standard Time, so instead of sleeping from midnight to 8:30 I slept from 2 until 10.  I should have had no problem getting back into my groove at home, right?  I hadn't changed my schedule at all.  I would go home, and my body would still be on PST.  I'd go to sleep at midnight and wake up at 8:30.

But no.  Now I'm once again struggling to get up at 9:30 or 10.

I guess the position of the sun really matters (as if I hadn't figured that out by this point).  I may have thought I was keeping my body on PST, but I was getting up when the sun was in it's 10 o'clock position.  And that was enough to hose me.

I guess I need to stay up and watch a sunrise again.  Sigh.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My kitty is going to be OK!

I wrote a few days ago that my cat was very very sick, and I was expecting the worst.  Turns out it's only IBS.  She's on prednisone, an anti-inflammatory that will also make her hungrier, and I need to get her to eat bland food like simply-prepared chicken.

This is such a load off my mind.  Of course, a lot of my time is still spent trying to entice my cat to eat, which is time consuming and frustrating, but now that I know she's improving it doesn't make me as incredibly sad as I was a few days ago.  My mood has improved by a factor of a hundred.  So has my motivation.

Big sigh of relief!