Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I wish I had skipped November, too.

I didn't write at all in November.

Usually, I would apologize for my tardiness and promise future entries, perhaps even in a list with bullets. But really, I just want to forget that month entirely.

Pieces of it are missing from my memory. I suppose that's for the best. There are some things that are not worth holding on to. I mourn my lapses in time from depression and pain and disordered sleep - they make me trip and stumble until they're all one and the same. But, really, it's for the best that I can't remember much leading up to my need to go to the Emergency Room to plead for psychiatric help, please, help of any kind, please.

I wasn't admitted. Sure, they admitted that I need help and that I wasn't healthy, but they couldn't keep me unless I physically hurt myself or someone else. Or, if I told them the precise ways in which I would do these things. They can only help you if you have already planned your way out - planning to get healthy is not in their jurisdiction, it would seem.

I got some referrals. I took a few days off of work. I cried for a week in lieu of eating or sleeping. I saw some doctors. I got some medicine. 

And a friend visited. I showed her around this city of mine. This city that felt throttled between the Rockies and the Pacific. This city that felt like its going to slip off of the edge of the country. We explored it together, though, and she made me feel a little less lost.

And then I got some flowers from a friend.

Flowers! From a friend! Who lives on the other side of the country! I didn't know you could do that. I didn't know I could get that. Flowers! How do we have flowers at this time of year, even inside? I wish I had a proper vase for them, or a glass pitcher, even. They make me smile every day.

With help, I'm slowly picking up the pieces of my life again. The ones that are worth holding on to.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I've secured a full-time job. Huzzah! And it's with dogs, too.

The three 12-hour night shifts in a row are a problem, though.

My insomnia works in my favour, but the fatigue and pain from hyperextending and locking joints, sore muscles, and chronic mild tendinitis makes for a long recovery. I'm on my feet most of the shift, and I'm not able to sit or lie down for more than an hour at a time. It's really wearing on my body, and my mind. I had a rough couple of days after I finished that last shift, and today, four days after my last shift, I'm finally feeling human - and I've only taken two installments of pain meds today. The first few days after the shifts, I was taking the maximum five installments, using ice and heat, exercising lightly to keep my joints moving, and sleeping as much as I could, and still being in too much pain to concentrate on anything other than police procedural dramas. And I get to start it all over again tonight.

However, I am really enjoying it. It's great working with dogs, and I can take Elliepup to work with me. She has a few friends there, and I think getting her exposed to excitement is helping her to become more tolerant of busy situations. Plus, the transit back and forth has made her a pro in her carrier.

I'm pleased to have a regular paycheque coming in, and soon I'll be able to start paying down my debt and my student loans. I'll be paying rent and my bills on my own, and, aside from the class I'm taking online (which my father generously offered to pay for), I'll be making it on my own. Doing all of that - feeling like an adult, finally - while having a bunch of permanent disabilities makes me feel good about myself. And that feeling, unfortunately, isn't one that I feel very often. So, I shall do my best to hold on to it, especially on the rough days.

I'm still applying for jobs in library and information sciences, as well as in the writing and editing fields. I've got a few hits in those, and they could lead to exciting places. Even if I don't get any further in those, for now, I'm pleased to have some interest from potential employers. This job market is abysmal, and I'm thrilled to have recognition from employers that my skills and experience just might be useful to them.

And really, on the toughest days, I curl up with some warm tea, some hounds, and my cat, and I try to imagine all of you out in the world, doing what you have to to get by.

What is it that you do to get through the tough days, friends? I'd love to know.
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bunnies and Coyotes and Beagles, oh my!

I feel privileged to welcome a foster beagle into my tiny, tiny home.

I've wanted to foster dogs ever since I found my dog, Ellie, being fostered at a friend's house. Sure, she wasn't my dog then (in fact, she was adopted be another family temporarily before joining my family), but I fell in love with the idea of fostering rescued dogs.
My Elliepup started it all.
Rescuing dogs from inadequate, and sometimes even cruel, environments is a rather romantic notion. Not everyone loves dogs, of course, but I haven't met a person who has said that rescuing dogs from neglectful or abusive humans is ridiculous or a waste of time.  Strangers on the street have been known to hug me when they find out that Ellie is a rescued dog.

But fostering? Bringing a neglected or abused dog who has no training - or worse, behavioural issues - into your home?

That seems extreme to some people. Isn't the pound is a perfectly reasonable place for dogs to live until they're adopted?

Well, yes. Many kennels are alright places for dogs who are awaiting forever homes. However, animal shelters are filled to the brim and most simply don't have room for any more dogs. Dogs are social animals and animal shelters can be stressful environments - the dogs are often better off in home environments than waiting in a kennel.

Since my Elliepup was a puppymill breeder, she had absolutely no socialization skills and didn't know how to interact with other dogs or people. She needed a loving home as soon as she could get one -- even if it was a temporary home until her permanent home (mine!) could be found. I wanted to be a part of that experience for dogs in need.

I also want another dog, but as I'm unable to financially commit to another dog right now, fostering is the perfect option for me. The rescue organization takes care of the vet bills, while I get the excitement of a new dog without the long-term commitment. I get to use and improve my dog psychology and training skills while also helping to save a dog.

Sure, it'll be difficult to say goodbye to the dogs I foster, but it'll mean that they're going to good homes. Plus, every dog I foster instead of adopt is another dog saved.

Both of these red dappled mini dachshunds were rescued from puppy mills!

So, Ellie and I have welcomed a beagle into our lives, for now, and we're loving it. Ellie is a bit annoyed that she has to share her beds (poor pup - she has, like,three, plus the laundry pile) but she's thoroughly enjoying the hound company on walks and having a warm body to snuggle up to.
How could someone not care for these dogs?

Finally, someone else is around who understands Ellie's love for sniffing and tracking. Ellie and the beagle, Alex, found a wild bunny hopping out of the hedge this morning, and they ran into a pair of coyotes on the street last night! They've also found many-a dead rodents, bits of rotting food, and discarded underthings. They're having a ball.

The beagle is learning really quickly and by the time he's adopted, he not only going to be a fantastic dog, but a well-mannered one too!

Alex, a newfie beagle, loves the CBC and is looking for a forever home!

Also, my buddy Zoe from A Giraffe in a Scarf fosters cats. She's such a great kitty mama. She often writes about her fostering experiences, and she always includes adorable photos of her snuggly feline brood.

If you're thinking of adopting an animal, please check out your local rescue organizations as well as the shelters in your area. You can often find breed-specific rescues (like the Beagle rescue I volunteer for) if you're interested in a specific breed of dog, bunny,  horse, or other animal.

Would you consider adopting from a rescue, or fostering?
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Are You Okay?

I've written about my depression and my panic attacks.

Hell, I've written about them numerous times.
I've also written about the importance of a supportive partner and about my low self-esteem. I've also written about the exhaustion of being mentally unwell.

So, I am damn proud of my friend, Zoe, for writing about RUOK? Day. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to open up about that shit, especially when your blog is adorable and the go-to place for cute kitten photos, crafting, and general Aussie awesomenes.

Here's Zoe's brave post:

Please, take the time to check it out. Someone you love, or someone you've never met, could be at risk for all kinds of awfulness, including self-harm and suicide. All they might need is for you to ask if they're okay.

That's all I needed.

It's not very much to ask, and it does save lives.
Sunday, September 11, 2011

I lucked out with my diagnosis.

Sure, a diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome isn’t particularly lucky, as it’s a chronic, progressive physical impairment marked by joint pain, dislocations, muscle spasms and neuropathy, and everything from swallowing difficulties to bladder problems. It also is often saddled with dysautonomia, which is modern doctor-speak for what used to be called “hysteria”; essentially, the autonomic system goes haywire. It can affect lots of other bodily systems that one might been thankful that their particular presentation of EDS had skipped over, resulting in low blood pressure, rapid or slow heart beat, dizziness, excessive thirst, and anxiety. Fun times, I know. (And I do know.)

No, having those rare diagnoses isn’t lucky. However, I came by them relatively easily, which is rather fortunate.

I have friends who have gone out of the country in order to be diagnosed and treated for their EDS and related ailments. I also have some friends who are currently fighting for the opportunities to be able to do so, since our Canadian health care system is great for many things, but treatment and funding for under-diagnosed rare genetic diseases are not some of them. I also have friends who came to their diagnoses after dealing with a hell of a lot more pain than I can even imagine, and I wish that their paths to diagnosis could have been easier for their bodies and their spirits.

I presented information on EDS to my General Practitioner. He, being a rather smart and compassionate obstetrician/gynecologist and family physician, understood that this was far beyond his knowledge base, so he offered to send me to a rheumatologist of my choosing. I chose one in the university town I was living in, despite knowing that my town needs at least another three family physicians, and that it certainly isn’t a hotspot for specialists either. I impatiently waited six months for the appointment. I went to the appointment, said very little;

“I’ve been experiencing joint and muscle pain that keeps me awake every night.”
“Yes, my brother is also known to be flexible. We call him Gumby.”
“Why yes, my mother does have arthritis. Yes, she did just have an MVP repaired. How did you guess?”
“Why yes, sleep apnea and swallowing difficulties do run in our family.”

And then was told that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and probably dysautonomia as well. The rheumatologist was very nice and tried to answer my questions. She suggested I attend the conference in Baltimore next fall, and, if funds allow, consider a pilgrimage, of sorts, to the United Kingdom, where there are lots of doctors who specialize in EDS. She said that I need to have genetic testing done before I consider having children. It will determine which type of EDS I have – mostly, though, it’s to rule out the super scary vascular type in which organs can rupture and awful things can suddenly threaten one’s life. I also need to have my heart monitored regularly to see if I have a mitral valve prolapse or blood  pressure problems. She ordered xrays of my neck, as she was curious about the lack of mobility in my shoulders and neck. Sure, it’s probably from my hypermobile shoulder blades jabbing into muscles and tendons in places where they shouldn’t, but I might also be missing a vertebrae or something, and it’ll be good to know. Just in case.  Or something.

So, all-in-all, a relatively easy road to a diagnosis that is more of a relief than anything else.

I hope all those of you out there that are searching for a diagnosis have a simple time of it as well. 

Good luck!
Friday, August 19, 2011

Packing it in

My father helped us ship some of our boxes today. We have also already taken a load of boxes to my mother's place for safe-keeping, since we can't afford to ship much. Upon returning to my house and saying goodbye just for now to my father, I promptly burst into tears. I broke my strict no crying! rule for moving. I curled up onto the bed with my partner and I allowed my dog on the bed just-this-once, and I sobbed. And when I was finished sobbing, I dried my eyes, and then I sobbed some more.

Peterborough, I really am going to miss you. All of you.

I will miss the people, first and foremost. I have made the greatest friends here. Seriously, the greatest. The sure, I just met you last week, but I'll go in late to work because you're having a panic attack and you can't get out of your house and I'm worried about you kinda friends.

I know the underemployed and underhoused by name. I also know the names of all of the dogs that visit the three closest dog parks. I still don't know why people come to Peterborough, aside from attending school here, but I do know why they stay - it feels like home. My partner has been affectionately nicknamed the mayor, since he seems to know everyone. He can't walk down one block without running into at least a half dozen people that he knows.

I know where to get the best deal on raw dog food and where to get awesome clothes for cheap. The servers at all of the downtown restaurants and at my favourite cafe know what I'm going to order before I do. I know which bookstores to go to for particular kinds of books. I know which grocery stores to go to for my favourite foods and for the cheapest prices. I know the operating hours of the fifteen closest convenience stores. I know 3km of walking trails, 8 parks, and more heritage buildings that I can count. I know the last four business attempts in a storefront before the local deli was successful.

In short, I know this town. And I love it. And I don't ever want to leave it.

I found the oldest part of Vancouver and a 100-year-old mansion to live in, in order to replicate my experience working and living in this old city of mine. I want to wake up, see an old radiator, and remember the awful year that the radiator in my third-floor attic room didn't work. I want to wash the original hardwood floors with cold water and gentle dish soap and remember lugging the mop and bucket up two flights of stairs at work and not feeling satisfied until the entire hardwood floor glistened, dust-free. I want to have tiny pieces of Peterborough with me, until I can come back.

 And I really hope that everyone I love will still be here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On letting go.

I have been researching many things regarding my upcoming move to the other side of the country.
  • apartments
  • public transit
  • air fare
  • transporting the pets
  • health coverage
  • jobs
  • furniture on the cheap
  • hell, everything on the cheap
And, sure, we've packed up two large bins of stuff that we can get rid of (which we haven't actually removed from our apartment). I've been dragging my heels on selling a few extra items, though. I haven't been able to say goodbye to them yet, and, well, I don't want to say goodbye to anything or anyone. Selling a sewing machine, table and chairs, saddle, and typewriter, well.. that seems rather final.

I've only had 6 weeks to live in this apartment with my partner, and it feels too soon to say goodbye to this chapter of our life together. Yes, yes, we're moving together across the country, but, well, we're moving together across the country!

It's also looking like my partner is going to move back to BC before I do. He's going to look for an apartment for us, prepare for school, spend time with his sister, and, I don't know, whatever else he needs to do without me. I'm fine with flying alone - I've been doing it since I was a child - but saying goodbye to my family and not having him there to remind me of what I'm moving towards, rather than just what I'm moving away from? Uncool.

Sigh. I can't control everything. I've got to learn to let things go. I suppose it's easier to move when you're not loaded down with baggage.

I just wish I knew what great things await me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Zebra Sleepover

I promised to write about the Zebra/bendy sleepover that I had with the Ontario group of friends with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. My friend, Nakki, already wrote a fantastic recap of the evening, so please, please, check it out.

It didn't matter that I haven't been diagnosed with EDS, or that I might never be diagnosed with EDS. For them, understanding, support, and a willingness to learn was enough.

It didn't matter that I only knew one person before I arrived at Tiffany's house for the sleepover. Hell, it didn't even matter that I had never spoken to Tiffany before showing up to her house to sleepover. I felt closer to these women than I do to most of my friends -- I felt like they were family. Tiffany and Michele, especially, felt like the big sisters that I never had (although Michele is tinier than I am. Heh.).

It didn't matter that we don't all have the same symptoms. There were women there with Classical EDS, Hypermobile EDS, and Vascular EDS, and it didn't matter that I don't know what type I might have, or even if I do have it.

It didn't matter that I preferred to sit on the floor rather than in a chair or on the sofa. It didn't matter that someone preferred to lie down. It didn't matter that someone had to stay hydrated via a feeding tube. It didn't matter that we had to shift positions every few minutes or have our joints crack and pop when we moved.

It didn't matter that we're not doctors or that we can't diagnose anything. We  could share our experiences about the medical system - we shared info on which doctors are great and which ones make our lives harder. We could also share our experiences of interacting with friends and family - we shared our fears, our disappointments, our triumphs, our anger, and most of all, our laughter.

Laughter really is the best medicine. We spent most of the evening and the next morning laughing, and the wee hours in between, too. I even cried - twice - as I was so touched by the energy in the room. It was an incredible experience, and it is one of the few things (along with the upcoming arrival of a niece or nephew) that makes me really consider not moving across the country.

Since the sleepover, three of my zebra friends have had hospital stays. One, that I felt particularly close to, kicked ass at recovering from a life-threatening condition. It was extremely scary there, for a little while. Well, it still is scary.

But we keep moving.

We stretch our overly stretchy ligaments, pop our crackly joints, we deal with the pain, and we keep moving.

Or we keep swimming, as Nakki says.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brace Yourself

I gathered up enough courage to see an orthotist.

No, no, not an orthotist for shoe inserts (although, that wouldn't be a bad idea). Shoe orthotics are actually only one type of orthotics. A trained orthotist addresses all sorts of support and bracing needs -- from compression socks designed especially for diabetics, to neck braces and foot braces.

I saw an orthotist to see if a shoulder brace would be helpful. I'm currently doing my physio exercises and being mindful of not hyperextending my left shoulder, but it's not helping enough - I'm still getting a fair amount of numbness and weakness in my left hand after a long day of doing nothing in particular with my arms. I currently tape up my shoulder to limit its range of motion when I know I'll be doing yardwork or carrying things, but it's cumbersome and I get weird skin rashes and blisters from the tape. Well, the almost-doc (he's in training, and consulted with the experience doc on staff) said that what I really need is an entirely new shoulder, but that they don't make those. Ha. Thanks. Also, that the braces they do have would only be helpful if I want to immobilize my shoulder completely. I may need that in the future, he said, but that it's probably not helpful right now.

I also asked about my left knee. I wanted to know if it really is as unstable as I perceive it to be, or if I can correct that with more physio and targetted exercises. The orthotist said it shouldn't be anywhere near as unstable as it is, and that my kneecap shouldn't float around. He lent me a knee brace to try out for a few weeksto see if it helps. If it does, then I can consider investing in one. So far, I definitely feel better with it when I'm bending and moving around. Moving chairs and tables at work, and going up and down stairs was much more comfortable and sturdier. It also helps me keep from bending my knee backwards when I walk, which seems to be helping my back pain at night. I can't be certain, though, and I still don't know if it'll be worth it.

While struggling to pull the knee brace on, I also asked the orthotist about my fingers. And I watched his jaw drop, before he asked me to stop what I was doing. Okay. Then I tried again to pull the knee brace on, and he watched my fingers, and then hurried out of the room to, I suppose, talk to the guy in charge. I waited a few minutes, bending my knee, and enjoying the stability. And I worried.

The orthotist (in training) returned, apologized, and asked to examine my fingers. He asked what I specifically had problems with. I showed him how my fingers bend too far, apparently, and make it really difficult to hold a pencil and write for more than a few minutes without pain. I showed him how I hold cutlery, and how it's difficult to cut things with a knife. He examined my fingers again, and then left the room, again. Upon his return, he smiled and said that he could most certainly make me a custom finger splint to help me keep my index finger from hyperextending. Huzzah! And that I most certainly need one. I asked about the other fingers, but as this custom brace will likely run about $75, I probably won't be able to get them for more than one finger. Yikes. He said I definitely need them for all of my fingers, though, and when I showed him my toes, he cringed and asked if I had any way of seeing my rhuematologist earlier than planned. Smooth, guy. Really smooth. Heh. He was nice, though, and I felt better after seeing him.

But, that's good news. A: That I wasn't crazy about the hyperextensions, and B: that I will likely be able to find a solution for my index finger. Woot.

I have another appointment next week. I'm going to bring some information on Oval-8 finger splints, as well as silver ring splints (which are waaaaaaaaay out of my price range) to give him an idea of what's available. I don't really want to be his engineering guinea pig if I don't have to.

So, that's the update. I have a chiro appointment tomorrow morning, which is overdue, after subluxing some ribs a few weeks back. All of the dog walking I've been doing though has been strengthening my legs and my core, and I've even built up my lower back muscles to straighten out the excessive curve in my lower back, so I haven't been having as many problems with that. Yay!

I'll be dog-sitting for the next week, which is exciting. It'll test out if I'm up for fostering dogs in the fall. I hope so! I better hide the knee brace so the loaner dog doesn't eat it. Heh.

I hope you're all doing well and conquering your fears too. Asking for help is certainly scary, but it also shows just how strong you are. Or, so I believe.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

one step at a time

I've been missing you, blog. I have. In many ways, as the polysemy of the word missing could indicate.

I've not only been absent, which has become more usual than I'd like it to, but I've also been writing posts in my head. While dog walking, mostly, but it's tricky enough to calmly stay alert and in charge of a few canines while writing in my head, much less writing on a computer or a piece of paper.

So, I have posts, but I don't have them here. One step at a time, I suppose.

I've been taking many things one step at a time.

I'm getting stronger, one step at a time, by doing my physio exercises, being conscious of my posture, and listening to my body. I rest when I need to rest, but certainly not one second before. I have pain, sure, but it's nice to feel the pain from muscles as they develop and strengthen instead of just the pain from tendons and joints stretching farther than they should.

I'm setting up the apartment, one step at a time. I've acquired and painted a dresser for my partner to use. That'll give him the resources needed to unpack.. just in time for us to move again in August. Oh well. I've also acquired a great wingback armchar, hung a few pictures, and set up the record player. My partner has been setting up the study (also known as the second bedroom, minus a bed). It's mostly his domain, as he uses it as an office the mornings, working at the desk, while I sleep in. It also houses his collection of images of sacred spaces along with half of our large book collection. The apartment isn't ready for a housewarming party yet, but it's coming along.

And the moving thing.. I'm coming to terms with it. I researched family doctors and health cooperatives and found some that are accepting new patients. I still need to find a rheumatologist in the area, but I've found a geneticist. And I'm confident that we'll find an apartment and make do. Acquire more used furniture. Paint it. Put away our books. Walk the dog. Worry about the future. Life will continue.

I just wish I were a little steadier on my feet.
Thursday, June 2, 2011

I got eggs today, as well as a job. Part II

Okay, well, I didn't get eggs this time, but I did use eggs to make bread. And I did get a job. Hurrah!

It's a summer posting at that lovely 114-year-old turreted building that I already know and love. I'll still be wardening, (cleaning, readying rooms for events, being a teeny tiny security guard) but I'll also be planning and implementing programs to get people to enjoy the space, especially the lawn. I have a few ideas that I'm pretty excited about. I'm absolutely thrilled that I'm able to spend all summer at a job that I am passionate about, and with coworkers who feel like family. Plus, I can continue to bring the pup to work, as long as she helps and isn't in the way. Silly dachshund. She's getting more confident, which is lovely, but it also means that I have to be sterner with her. Growing is fun.

Speaking of growing, I'll be planting my seedlings in a friend's garden tomorrow. We started them a few weeks ago, and most of them are doing well. The beans and squash are begging to be given more room, and the tomatoes definitely need some more space. The spinach sprouted early but has been touch-and-go since then. I'm not too sure about it. The peppers and basil are surprisingly coming into their own, as well. Yay!

My partner has moved in, and my (ex-)roomie has moved out. Our place is still pretty messy, as we don't have nearly enough bookcases or dressers. It'll be a good excuse for me to go through all of my clothes and other items to see what I can sell or give away before packing to move to Vancougar for September. Also, it'll be an interesting social experiment, of sorts, as I've never lived with a partner before. I've done some chores around the house - laundry, cleaning, baking - and have unpacked what I'm able to, and even moved the bed into the master bedroom. I hope it's enough to show that I care about our shared space, but that I don't want to dominate it. I know it's difficult enough moving into a space that someone already inhabits, without having to navigate heartstrings and such as well. Eep. I shall have my fingers crossed.

I hope you all are doing well, readers. I still feel like the good things that happen to me aren't real. Do you ever feel like that, like things are too good to be true?
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Please let this month be over.

I haven't uploaded the Vancougar photos yet. Surprise, surprise.

I feel as if my whole life is filled with things I am failing to do. School. Employment. Dog stuff. Family stuff. Lover stuff. Friend stuff.

Despite that feeling, I am making progress.

I handed in some school stuff. On time. It's not anywhere near what I'd like it to look like, but it's in. And that's a huge step for me. I'd usually just not hand it in because I'm not satisfied with it.

I also am getting some clients for a dog walking and behaviour business that a close friend and I started. We haven't met any of the clients yet, but we're definitely booking up quickly. I pick up the flyers and brochures from the printer's on Friday, and we'll paint this town red. I don't know if we'll make enough to quit our day jobs (er.. or, in my case, what day job?), but I'm optimistic and feel like I've already accomplished more with it than I thought I could. I'm proud of what we've done so far, and I'm eager to meet people and help them with their dogs.

Roomie is moving out on Wednesday. Lover is moving in. I am terrified. I hope it will improve both relationships, but I'm worried that it'll ruin them. My worry is likely unwarranted, of course, but that doesn't make it any less present in my mind. I am eager to make a home with my partner, putting up our artwork, realizing we don't have any dishware, debating over purchasing things that we need but don't want to move across the country with us in a few months - it'll be interesting. I shall help him keep from accidentally giving us food poisoning, and he shall help me keep from eating that delicious food in bed at all hours of the night.

And, here's a short list of blog posts that I must remind myself to write soooon:
- Vancougar, with photos
- Zebra/EDS sleepover awesomeness
- my very green thumb
- physio, the sequel
- chiro update
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Things we encountered on our afternoon walk:

  • Two adorable cats. One of them played with Elliepup. Purr!
  • Two adorable doxies. One of them was a piebald puppy. Ellie loved them.
  • A chicken bone, which Ellie sniffed out amidst some tulips. She wanted to take it home.
  • A blues guitarist. I danced a little.
  • A blonde squirrel. Weeeird.
  • A balmy 18C. I'd love summer if it wouldn't get any hotter than this. Glorious! 

Some piebald & longhaired doxie eyecandy: 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm baaaaack

There needs to be a serious vacation post, and there will be one.
With photos.
Of trees.
And mountains.
And marine life.
And general British Columbia awesomeness.

Just.. not today.

Also, I have a good secret, but that will also have to wait. A good one. I swear.
No, I'm not knocked up. That, friends, would be bad secret. Seriously.

Moving right along..

I've only been back in the province.. oh.. for five days now? Less than a week. And already it feels like it has been years since I was away. Eep. Luckily, the vacation also seemed to last for years, so perhaps it'll all even out.

Things I have done since returning:
  • fed my sausage-dog sausage
  • worked a shift at my beloved Queen Anne mansion
  • given my mother orchids
  • called my grandmother and my father
  • submitted journal articles on time
  • canoed!
  • played guitar
  • gone on a dog playdate
  • dislocated my shoulder (but all is well!)

Most of those things are fantastic,  and I shall celebrate them as such.

I hope you're all celebrating things too.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lotus Land

Well, internets, it's time to bid you adieu.

Just for a little while. Only for a little while.

I'm on vacation, you see. Hurrah! Vacation! And it's a true vacation - I'm going away! I haven't gone away on vacation in years - not for anything that wasn't centered around family events. So, I am quite excited. Even if I do feel that I haven't earned it. Oh well.

I'm heading to British Columbia for a week. I'll be leaving the pup with my brother and his gal in their new house. Oh, the nerves. I sent a much-too-long list of instructions to them, and I'm sure the pup will have more luggage than I will. She'll be fine, though, and I hope they have good weather for the dog park. Ellie and I even went on a dog date and went to an off-leash dog party this week. It was fantastic! I should've taken pictures. Next time, I promise.

We (my partner and I) will be visiting his parents on the Sunshine Coast for most of the trip, but we'll also be spending a day or so in Vancouver. We have to visit his family in Van, as well as hit up the aquarium, sea wall, the public library, and probably a tea shop and a typeset and stationery shop. Eep. Excitement.

I'll take far too many photos. I promise.

Which reminds me - I've gotta get packing!

Talk to you soon, folks. I hope you all have a lovely week.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And oh, the run-on sentences.

Errg. Everything is not okay. Work and the dog are doing well, but that's about it. I suppose that's a lot, though it doesn't feel like much, considering.

I feel like I've wasted another year and that I haven't learned anything - that I've let everything fall apart again, despite all of the great supports that are in place.

I didn't feel that my work on a paper was worth handing in, and I had difficulties even putting those thoughts in print, as I was so certain that I hadn't prepared myself properly or given myself enough time. For those reasons, I didn't hand in the final exam/paper and didn't feel that it was fair to ask for any more time. I felt awful about my work and myself, and as I'm unable to separate myself from my illness, I felt that there wasn't much to say..

I screwed up. I am a screw up. The semantic differences in those statements is lost on me, and that doesn't seem, to me, to be an adequate reason to give me more time or (yet) another chance.

As I survey the wreckage, it just seems like I should either learn to clean up after myself or stop making messes. I'm exhausted at the thought, but I know everyone else is too, and they're going about their days and handing in work, so I should be too.

I stupidly scheduled a therapy appointment and then picked up a work shift on the same day. I spent the day in the fresh air, which was lovely, save for worrying about the papers I haven't handed in because I think everything I write is awful, despite ample proof to the contrary, and the sleep that eludes me because of the worry and the joint dislocations and the concern that I won't do well anywhere if I can't behave like a normal human being for more than six months at a time or without expensive pharmaceuticals.

And oh, the run-on sentences.

So, that is how I am doing. And not doing.

I hope that all of you are doing infinitely better.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In the eye of the storm

It is crunch time, Internets.

I have four papers due this week, along with oodles of academic paperwork, plus two exams to write next week. Eep.

So, I'll keep this short.

I just wanted you all to know that I am, indeed, alive. I'm keeping on keeping on, as one of my former therapists would say, and I'm doing my very darndest to keep my head above water, both metaphorically and literally, as the snow melts and the streets flood.

I'm counting down the days until I can hightail it to the other side of the country. I'll be vacationing on the West Coast with my partner and his family later this month, and we have a move scheduled to the Lotus Land for the autumn.

The pup is doing well, aside from desperately needing a grooming to keep her long hair from dreading. She's in good spirits these days and is becoming more relaxed as she learns to trust and to follow commands. We're always working to socialize her and get her used to strangers and sudden noises and movements, but we're doing so with renewed commitment, as she could qualify as a psychiatric service dog. We just need her to be able to perform a few tasks that help me with my disabilities, as well as make her generally bomb-proof in public. That last part will be the hardest, I am certain. It may never happen, but it's a goal we can work towards.

Well, back to paperwork, and then we're off to work. Take care, internetland.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Physio and other developments

I have needed a bit of breathing room lately.

Aside from the usual stresses of mental health issues, school, and work, I've been dealing with some physical health issues.

I've started physio to strengthen my back muscles in an effort to stabilize my joints, and it has shown me just how out of shape I am. Eep. I also have to concentrate on walking normally, rather than subluxing my hips, knees, and ankles as I walk, and that's taking a great deal of strength that I didn't foresee.

However, it's going well so far, and I'm exhausted at night (and during the day, but what else is new?) and am sleeping better. I awake before my alarm does, feeling almost refreshed, and ready to start the day. Sure, I need a nap in the afternoon, but it's a relief to feel.. relieved.. so I'm not complaining. Being physically sore is trying, especially since I haven't noticed the benefits of physio yet. I have faith that it's a good step for me though - especially while I have health coverage. Heh.

The chiropractic treatments are also going well. I'm definitely noticing improvement in my gait and posture, and my headaches are becoming less severe. My shoulders, especially my wonky left one, are still causing enough pain to warrant ice when they're inflamed and heat when they're a mess of knots and trigger points. I had inflammation in my neck at the start of my chiropractic treatment program, but as the muscles in my neck strengthened to support my head in its new healthy position, the pain lessened, thankfully. There were a few days in which the maximum dosage allowed of of anti-inflammatories couldn't keep me from crying in pain. But, as I said, that has passed, so hurrah. I have two more treatments before I get my next assessment and a report on my progress with the chiropractic treatments so far.

I also had a rather awful run-in with an ableist professor. She abused her position as a senior tutor with access to academic records and said some terrible things to me in a meeting that was not in any way constructive. It would have driven me to the psychiatric crisis centre in the hospital if I hadn't already been on the way to the mental health outpatient clinic, so.. lucky for me? Sigh. I feel betrayed by my academic department, my university, and even, a little bit, by the people who thought she would be just and encouraged me to meet with her. I'm so angered by the situation that I don't want to recount it, and, besides that, I don't feel that it's appropriate to go into details in such a public forum. It will be dealt with through the proper academic channels, to be sure. For now, my energy will be put to better use working on assignments and getting healthy.

I have a doctor's appointment with my general practitioner on Friday. I'll introduce him to the idea of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and share the physiotherapist's opinions with him. I am definitely hypermobile and exhibit all of the symptoms of hypermobility syndrome, but it has not yet been determined if it's in fact EDS hypermobility type or not. My stretchy skin, digestive problems, and family history suggests that EDS should be considered in the differential diagnosis. I'll have to visit a rheumatologist to get an informed medical opinion on the matter, and genetic testing and a skin biopsy could also be useful. It could show a deformity in my collagen cells, and it could narrow down the potential EDS diagnosis to a specific type.

So, that's the plan for this week.

And on the horizon: moving plans, new housecat, and a DJ gig at a cupcake contest.

Yep. You read correctly. It'll be delicious.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When Panic Attacks.

The flu sneaked up on me on Friday and took me out with one fell swoop.

I've been going about my daily business, mostly. I went to work on Saturday for my first solo shift, I went out for dinner with my partner (after a much-needed nap, though), I prepared for a presentation, and I executed a radio show. Hurrah. The rest of the time, though, I took turns finally being able to sleep when tired, or being worried about not being able to keep myself awake. I couldn't worry enough to keep myself awake, though, so the sleeping and enjoying won (along with the awful aches and pains, fever, cough, and sinus stuff).

Monday, I went to my 9am lecture and a seminar that scared me as much as the idea of surgery without anesthetic.* I prepared some more for my evening presentation. I alerted my prof in advance to my flu-like condition, and she, reasonably, requested documentation.

Therein lies the problem. Doctors at my university do not provide documentation for the flu or the common cold, yet they also advise students to stay at home rather than attend classes or, higher power forbid, visit the health clinic. Grrreat. So, upon being called on for documentation that I am unable to get, I had a panic attack. I am inclined to say that it was one of the worst I've had, but they all feel like the worst attack ever, such is their nature, so I will just say that it was awful.

I concluded that I was the stupidest, slackest, and smarmiest student that ever existed, trying to weasel my way out of a presentation when I was obviously in the best health of my life. People probably present on Jane Austen when they have cancer, or sepsis, or are in early labour, and here I was trying to fake my way out of it. I should not only get a zero on the presentation, but I should be docked even more marks for behaving so unethically, and I definitely deserve to fail that Austen class and all of my other classes and not graduate even in my sixth year of working my ass off through this stupid illness that causes me to believe such unreasonable things as these.

My body determined that the painful state I had worked myself into must surely be death, or something close to it, and told my heart to race, my palms to sweat, my throat to narrow and go dry, and my diaphragm to jerk in a hiccuping-fashion while I sobbed and choked and pleaded with body to give up.

My mother phoned me and talked me through it, getting me to dress, wash my face, cross the street, walk into the academic building, and even to look into the classroom. However, I couldn't get any closer than that. I couldn't walk in, apologize for my tardiness and appearance, and present. I sunk to the floor of the hallway and tried to stifle my sobs as people walked by. I tried to hide, but I couldn't convince my legs to move, and a sobbing sick woman with a cell phone is not all that inconspicuous in a quiet academic building.

So, now I'm picking up the pieces.

I'm unable to get documentation for the flu, since I can't even get my GP on the phone (and he's in another city, and I didn't visit him on the day in question to prove I have a common illness that won't excuse me from class anyway). However, I can get documentation that I'm a crybaby freak who is undergoing treatment for numerous conditions that render her into a inconsolable mess when she should be able to walk into a room and shoot the shit.


I'm tired again. And I need to do housework. And nap. And do homework. And get over this stupid flu.

Whine, whine, whine. Sigh.

I'll try to post some photos of my cute dog next time. She's adorable and worth visiting.

*Interesting: I have had a scope done in which the anesthetic didn't work properly, or, perhaps, quickly enough. Who am I to know which is true? All I know: the nurses said I shouldn't be in any pain at all. One alerted the doctor because I had been trying to hide the pain behind clenched teeth, and she apologized three times for the pain, baffled that I was feeling anything more than slight discomfort.
Monday, March 7, 2011

Flu Panic

I do need to post. I do.

I need to work through what happened - and didn't happen - today. That is important to process. I need to be able to find my triggers and what I could have done to overcome them, and how to work around the biggest problems.

But, as I try to introduce The Day That Panic Won, I freeze up, just like I did today.

I'm even getting the tunnel vision right now, and the headache is hovering around, looking for the proper place to land.

I'm too exhausted and sore from being all infected with the flu to go over this right now. I'm sorry.

I need some space and I need to process it.

And right now, I really need to sleep now that the Ativan hangover is here. Pleasant.

Thank you to all of those that helped me out today. I cannot explain how very blessed I am to have such kind and generous people in my life.

Thank you.

So, to sleep now. Debrief later. Maybe a game plan in between. Exhale.
Monday, February 28, 2011

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

These days, I must remind myself to breathe. To inhale and exhale.

I inhale well. I am excellent at taking in the chilly almost-spring air deep into my lungs, which seems to clarify so much more than I expect it to. I can stand still and almost feel human when I am out in the snow with just my little pup. It makes me feel as if maybe, just maybe, getting lost in the woods and never returning would be unfortunate, or at least inconvenient. I am so great at inhaling that sometimes I inhale quite rapidly, and repeatedly, but it seems to lack the intended effect, for I feel dizzier than ever.

I'm not very good at exhaling. I hold my breath during times of exertion, physical or otherwise. When I feel ohso out of control, I try my best to control my breathing. I don't always execute it well, though, for impeding exhalation goes against everything that my brain is built for - everything, except for what I am conscious of. It always seems like a smart idea to stop everything, if only for a second. Except it's never only for a second. I wait with bated breath for something to change. Without oxygen, though, a second feels like an eternity. It is difficult to be observant to change when one is trying desperately to stop one's body from doing what it is meant to do.

I should be taking slow, deep breaths.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

But as my body is repeating, so is my mind. It is repeating all of the things that I am trying to hold back. All of the thoughts that are incorrect and unhealthy and disordered. Apparently, taking over subconscious acts such as breathing actually makes my subconscious grouchy and less willing to help me out with this whole keep calm and carry on thing. Sigh.

Sighing is one type of exhale that I am really good at. It is a sign of defeat. It emotes sadness and disappointment or, on a good day, simply exhaustion. I cannot remember the last time I sighed from relief. That would require being relieved. I wish I could be relieved of all of.. this ..just for a little while. Body, mind, and spirit.

I used to be spirited. That's another thing that I have to retrieve from the depths of these illnesses.

As soon as I catch my breath.
Friday, February 25, 2011

Reading your own X-Rays? Yup. There's an app for that.

It's time for another show-and-tell. This time, it's about my progress on slowing the progression of my possible Hyper Mobility Syndrome/Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Yes, progress on slowing progress. That's right.

In English: putting, and keeping, my joints in their places in order to:
  • immediately - decrease my clumsiness & help me sleep better
  • near future - decrease my pain & fatigue
  • far future - decrease my chances of early arthritis & need for braces and other aids to help me do everyday things
I'm not sure whether these goals are achievable or not, but they seem reasonable to me, and I do have to start somewhere.  I'm enlisting professional help, while I have some health insurance, in order to see if these goals can be reached.

Here are a few of my recent x-rays, which show that this isn't all in my head.

Ohai, fused vertebrae!

Ohai, misaligned ribs!
 I'm going to the chiropractor twice a week for 5 or 6 weeks, and then I'll decrease the frequency of the sessions. The chiropractor is one of those new-fangled ones with all sorts of devices and ways to make adjustments as relaxing and as simple as possible for me. That's good news, because these newer methods make for a gentler visit and keeps my joints happy. So far, my body is adjusting really easily (probably due to the extra elasticity, ha!) and my neck is holding in place fairly well. My ribs and hips don't like to stay in place, but they feel fantastic for the first hour or so after the adjustment. Once they go back into their normal routine, I can feel that it's more difficult to walk and that I'm clumsier and not as strong.

I'm also have a physio appointment booked for two weeks from now. I'm going to get an assessment and see what they recommend. For now, though, it seems odd: they only work on one joint or problem at a time. Um.. sure.. that's one way to do it.. I explained that every joint in my body is hypermobile and that most partially dislocate every day, which causes me pain, stiffness, blah blah, but they asked me to pick one joint to work on. So.. left shoulder it is. They'll have fun with that one. I partially dislocate it whenever I move it, so it'll be a good test of the physio's chops to see if she can make sense of it.

In an attempt to prove that this isn't all in my head, I asked my chiro for temporary solutions for shoulder instability. He suggested seeing if a physio recommended taping my shoulder into place, like athletes do to prevent injuries.  I jumped the gun, found a good physio website, and followed the instructions to tape my shoulder into a stable position with sports tape.

The taping looks awful, because it's remarkably difficult to tape your own shoulder, I've discovered, even if your other arm is super bendy and can extend in odd angles. I got my partner to retape my shoulder the next day, and his tape job was much neater than mine.

During those two days, my left shoulder felt fantastic! My neck wasn't as tight or sore, and my left shoulder didn't feel anywhere near as stiff and tired as my right shoulder did. It improved my posture a bit, and I don't think it limited my range of motion much more than is the normal range for people. I couldn't reach in ways that I usually do, but I was able to sit in a chair for much longer without becoming uncomfortable, and I knit for hours longer than I'm usually able to. (I was listening to an audio book for school while knitting. It wasn't a completely frivolous use of my time!) I also slept really well, and was actually very comfortable in bed - which is rare for me. I usually toss and turn, changing my position every half hour or so. Therefore, I was a quick convert to sports taping, and was eager to see a physiotherapist to learn taping techniques and to get official medical approval.

So, last night: I had been wearing the tape for about 8 hours, and my shoulder had felt a little itchy during the day, but it wasn't enough to concern me, and certainly wasn't enough to outweigh the benefits that the tape afforded me. That was, until I took off the tape off and was greeted with this:

Eek! I was super itchy, but instead of scratching it, I put some lovely moisturizer on it. The moisturizer I use is also used for hospital patients with sensitive skin - like those undergoing chemo. So, it's good stuff and didn't cause the irritation. I still wasn't too concerned because, well, I had just removed the tape and I figured that a certain amount of itching was normal. I'd let it breathe for the night and retape it in the morning, even though I knew that sleeping without it taped up would mean that I would have a tricky time getting comfy in bed. But, I had to follow the cautions and not keep the tape on for an extended period of time (the tape packaging suggested 12h as a max).

Regardless, I woke up this morning to this:

So, no more sports taping for me, I guess. At least not unless the physio suggests kinesio tape, which a friend recommends as the least likely to give EDSers a tape rash, or, perhaps, just a minimal rash if your other EDS symptoms are mild, like mine are.

Good thing I only bought four rolls of the tape. Sigh.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I got eggs today, as well as a job.

Actually, I got the job first, and then I picked up eggs on the way home, as I told myself that I could afford such a frivolous purchase now that I am gainfully employed.

I have worked at the establishment before, but in a different capacity. I've been a library assistant in their library, and I also worked for three years as the library coordinator for a different organization under the same green roof.

I will get as many hours as I'm able to handle, (more, even, perhaps) until the end of April, thanks to a grant through the provincial government. They've gotta use the money or they lose it, and I fit the very specific criteria to fulfill the requirements for the funding. Hurrah!

I am going to be a house warden. I will do regular cleaning and set up rooms in the house for events, take money and give receipts for events that are booked, and make sure that nobody is setting anything on fire or scratching the hardwood floors. In my downtime, I can do homework or pet my dog because the pup is allowed to come to work with me! And she can walk to work with me because it's only a 15 minute walk from my house (or one stop on the bus route).
It is pretty much the best job ever. Yep.

I have a rather comfortable level of general unease about it. I am feeling as if the world has slowed down, and that I am walking in pace with it. Perhaps this odd feeling is peace, or contentment, or some twisted form of accomplishment. I am uncertain. I just know that it rocks, and that it is infinitely better than the panic I felt earlier -- I was sure that this was some elaborate scheme to make me look foolish and to prey on my sympathies.

Silly, I know.

So, lesson learned. I should do stuff even if it scares me, because it may enable me to purchase eggs.

Oh - and I didn't know that convenience stores in Ontario regularly carry eggs. Where have I been for the last decade? I have been in a hole where one does not purchase eggs from a convenience store, it would seem. Eggs are purchased, and they are neither cracked nor rotten. Good work, convenience store! Good work, Cara. Good work all around.
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Better late than never..?

Hey, interwebs,

Sorry to leave you hanging there. I've been busy with the same ol' stuff, and I dont' feel much like talking right now. I spent my evening at the radio station, and last night I was over to a friend's place for dinner, so I'm pretty talked out.

I'll make up for it soon, I promise. I'll have x-rays up and a debriefing of my appointments with my chiropractor.

Thrilling, I know.

Stay tuned.
Sunday, February 6, 2011

Down and Out

Why didn't I post this week?

Because Depression got the better of me. I skipped some classes (some were canceled, though!) because I reasoned that the class would be better off without me, or because I would not have anything intelligent to say and would start crying. Those things sound silly now, but they made perfect sense at the time. Sigh.

Yes, I was taking my meds. I even picked up some more vitamins and added a few supplements. Here's a list, because I'm in the process of making lists for an assignment, and I'm all listy and whatnot. Yep.

  • Prozac for depression
  • Wellbutrin for depression
  • Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D for healthy bones and tissues
  • B12 because I'm not getting enough in my diet
  • (I should also take Iron, but I'm gonna see if I need it on my next doc visit)
  • Buspar for anxiety
  • Levothyroxine for my under active thyroid
  • Septra for chronic UTIs
  • Valerian root, catnip, and lemon balm as sleep aids
  • St John's wort for depression (need to check with doc about this too)
So, I was taking my meds, even though they make me feel like I'm old and falling apart, and also that I am not doing a good enough job on my own. I also dislike having a pharmacy in my nightstand, but it's gotta be done.

Despite these chemical assistants, I was really down this week. I noticed more of my joints partially dislocating, and I've been feeling sore due to a nasty fall on the ice. I sprained my right wrist, and possibly my right ankle. They're not too bad, probably because they're used to hyperextending, but they're not very happy either.

I also had to take my pets to the vet. They even had a sleepover, since the weather report called for a snowstorm and my vet's office is in the rural outskirts of town. I spent money that I don't have to get them all polished up and given their vaccines and have some minor day surgery to improve their quality of life -- and I was a mess being at home without them. I was even a mess without Kitten, who, although presently snuggling me in my bed, which is forbidden, is usually largely ignored by me and loved from a distance due to my annoying feline allergy. Prrrow.

I'm seeing the meds doc this week, so I will ask him about a few things and mention that I'm still clinging to my bed rather than even venturing out into the living room, or, higher power forbid, outside! I bet it's just general malaise from trying to use my muscles and joints as they were designed to be used, rather than how my bendy body has decided to use them.

I'll try to be more cheerful this week. I get to talk to a loan agent at the bank, which will aid in the money situation, and I also am studying topics that I enjoy in my classes. Maybe it'll even warm up enough to take the pup on a walk, or a frolic in the park! I'd enjoy that.

Here's to a better week, readers, and I hope that your spirits are lifted as well.
Monday, January 31, 2011

My brother is nicknamed "Gumby"

I feel relieved. Upon researching a genetic condition that affects collagen, which two of my friends have, I realized that I probably have it too. Yes, I am known to be a hypochondriac, and a wee bit psychosomatic. However, I cannot make my skin stretchier or my joints partially dislocate (sublux) just by imagining that they do. I can, however, make my joints sublux by something as simple as shrugging, rolling over in bed, or standing still. Tonight at Stitch & Bitch, people remarked at how often and loudly my joints cracked. Last week, we discovered that my jaw clicks loudly enough for others to hear. Awesome.

Here are some characteristics of this disorder, called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I have bolded the symptoms that I have, as well as symptoms that my eldest brother and my mother have, as I am suspicious that they have this too. I've taken this from Wikipedia. Not a medical source, to be sure, but still helpful.

  • Highly flexible fingers and toes
  • Loose, unstable joints that are prone to: sprain, dislocation, subluxation (partial dislocation) and hyperextension (double jointedness)
  • Flat feet
  • Joint pain without inflammation
  • Fatigue, which can be debilitating
  • High and narrow palate, resulting in dental crowding
  • Vulnerability to chest and sinus infections
  • Easy bruising
  • Fragile blood vessels resulting from cystic medial necrosis with tendency towards aneurysm (even abdominal aortic aneurysm)
  • Velvety-smooth skin which may be stretchy and is often translucent, with blue veins clearly visible on limbs and particularly in the hands
  • Abnormal wound healing and scar formation (scars may appear like cigarette burns)
  • Low muscle tone and Muscle weakness
  • Early onset of osteoarthritis
  • Cardiac effects: Dysautonomia typically accompanied by Valvular heart disease (such as mitral valve prolapse
  • Unexplained "pins and needles" or numbness in extremities
  • Difficulty regulating own body temperature, resulting in a vulnerability to the cold and heat. Many patients suffer fatigue and dizziness when exposed to hot conditions, eg. having to sit outside on a hot day
  • Severe mouth ulcers. Many patients complain of having several mouth ulcers at any one time. This is believed to be due to tissue fragility and vulnerability to infection
  • Food allergies and intolerances are very common
  • Sensitivity to medications. One of the cruelest aspects of EDS is that many patients experience bad reactions to medications, such as pain killers, making it very difficult to find safe, effective pain management
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Fibromyalgia symptoms: Myalgia and arthralgia
Other, less common signs and complications may include:
And now, for the fun bit. Photos!

I use my pinky to scratch my ring finger.
I usually do this unconsciously.

This is what a friend has dubbed "The EDS Gang Sign"

Apparently hypermobile fingers. Seems normal to me.
Thumb at rest.

Indent = Sulcus Sign. Partially dislocated shoulder.
Notice the road map of veins due to thin skin.

If I were you, I wouldn't trust my bendy fingers,
but that hole is where my shoulder bone is supposed to be.

How I usually stand to feel stable. Partially dislocated knee, unstable ankle.
That blue tinge is from my veins showing through my skin. I also thought that was normal.
This is how I hold a pen because my index finger is super bendy.

Holding a thick marker is easier than holding a thin pencil

I can use my stable thumb to support the marker.
My fingers are "boutonairre" and unstable.

Arm is more than 90 degrees backwards from my torso. I can extend it backwards to about 145 degrees.
Shoulder is partially dislocated at the back.

Inside of elbow up, palm up, dog up.

Inside of elbow up, palm down (and rotated to the right), dog down.

Inside of elbow up, palm up, fingers extended.

Right thumb touching forearm. (Other hand holding camera)

Right arm straight at 180 degrees. It's hard to hold it steady here.

This is how my right arm usually bends - past 180 degrees.

Left thumb touching forearm. This wrist might be partially dislocated. I dunno.
 I have what is considered to be abnormally stretch skin, too, but photographic evidence will have to wait until I

A: get photo booth to work again
B: fish out my awesome DSLR, tripod, and remote, or
C: Solicit someone to help

So. Yeah. According to medical sites, both genetic and orthopedic, I definitely exhibit signs of hypermobility, which isn't necessarily Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but add in my stretchy see-through skin, which scars oddly, and it's more likely that I have EDS. Probably a mild case of Type 3, which classified as the hypermobility type (confused yet? You should be.) rather than a classical type.

The hypermobility type, unfortunately, doesn't have a particular genetic test that can be done to get a positive diagnosis, unlike the other types, which do. Even without a positive EDS diagnosis, I'm definitely hypermobile and walk funnily, so I should at least be able to get a referral to physio to learn how to build up my muscles in ways that don't aggravate my joints.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Honest to blog, I'm exhausted.

I haven't been sleeping well, since Anxiety, Vague Sense of Unease, and their friend, Depression, have been keeping me up all night, and half-awake during the mornings. Let's pay some attention to them separately, shall we? so that they can perhaps be content and bugger off. Hurrah.

I was anxious enough for a few days last week to start taking my Ativan regularly. I've been craving nicotene, so I figured that Ativan would be a reasonable supplement - without all of the awful extras.
In small doses, Ativan can stop a panic attack from starting, or make my body immediately slow down until my mind follows suit. It'll keep my heart from racing, my palms from sweating, my arms and legs from shaking, and my teeth from grinding. It's what makes my brain say, Oh, body, if you're not so worried that our death is imminent, then maybe I shouldn't be so insistent that Cara run away from this situation.
In larger doses, Ativan is used to alleviate insomnia, to calm people before surgery, and, in even larger doses, to stop seizures. It's handy, but also highly addictive because of its ability to tell the brain to not be afraid, even in situations where it is reasonable to be afraid - such as when you're committing arson.
I usually take Ativan once a week, but I've also gone weeks without its seductive calming effects. I had to take it two or three times a day this past week, which is within my prescribed dosage, but it's often enough that I start to worry that I'm taking the anti-anxiety med too often.

So, my increased use of Ativan was a red flag that something was bothering me, but, funnily enough, that doesn't help me to narrow down the possible triggers. It's not like I take it everytime I see a spider, so I should know that I have arachnophobia. It's more like I'm about to walk into a jungle and there will be so many things to be afraid of that I panic and do something stupid, like running frantically and falling into a big pit of quicksand. (That's depression, which I'll get to in another post.)

It took a few days, but I determined that I was anxious about:
A: turning twenty-five, which I will do on Saturday
B: credit card debt, and general lack of funds
C: my partner's hesitation to move in with me this very minute
D: being a generally awful person

That's all, eh? Easy. Sigh.

How am I trying to rewire my brain so that it will be able to be productive - bake bread and
edit a scholarly journal - rather than obsess over that list? With lots of hot chocolate, puppy snuggles, easy reading for school (Ohai, Jane Austen!), and trying to look at these problems in other ways. Let's see what I can move around.

A: Can't keep from turning twenty-five. The age thing is inevitable. However, I need to stop thinking about what I haven't achieved and instead look at what I have accomplished. I also need to stop comparing myself to others. It could also help to stop thinking of twenty-five as some enormous benchmark. It could be a pivotal and positive moment in my life, but it certainly won't get that way if I'm too busy crying to bother eating.

B: I paid off my credit card, completely, thanks to my student loan, and am going to leave the credit card at home from now on. If there's an emergency - such as a vet bill - that I need it for, I'll go home and grab it. Sure, now I'm broke (I have money for rent from now until April, but that's about it), but I don't have that debt staring at me. I have options that don't have such awful interest rates as the credit card does. I could get a line of credit with a lower interest rate, or find a job for the weekends. I'm probably too busy to take on a part-time job right now, but it is an option to consider.

C: I talked to my partner. His hesitation was completely reasonable, and I totally respect his decision. He doesn't have a lease, but he still has to give his landlord two months' notice, so he couldn't move in until April anyway. There's little sense in moving in April when I'm doing my final papers and exams, so May would be the earliest. Also, he won't know until March or so if he'll be staying in Ontario for school next year, or if he'll be heading out to BC for school for September, or earlier to find an apartment. So, realistically, no informed decision can be made until March, and then it'll be for a May moving date. So what's ado right now? I have at least two months to wait, and perhaps another two after that to plan things, so that's not what I need to be using my brain power on right now. He loves me. He wants to make a home with me. He is hoping we'll be able to move to BC for the autumn, as he misses his family (he's been away from them for half a decade). And I want those things too. So, Cara, chill.

D: This is just ridiculous. How does one quantitatively or qualitatively determine what makes someone an awful human being? And if one could do that, I certainly wouldn't be able to assess myself - the results would be skewed due to bias and a severe conflict of interest. Sure, I feel like a terrible person, but I already know that my brain is unreliable in the feeling-processing area. I can feel ashamed without there being anything innately shameful in my actions. I can feel guilty without having done anything wrong. I can feel angry about things that I have no ability to control. So, I might feel awful, but that doesn't mean that I'm an awful person, or even that anything particularly awful has happened. More ridiculousness and inaccuracies. Awesome. Something else to stop worrying about.

If I can circulate through these thoughts rather than the ones in my initial list, then I should stand a chance of getting out of bed, eating, showering, and maybe even doing some schoolwork. If I slip back into my old list, then it doesn't mean that I've failed, I am a failure, or that I should fail to try anything. It just means I need to read over my new list, snuggle the puppy, pet the cat with my socked foot, and have some juice and peanut butter to help my brain and body work. I should do that, and then go back to whatever I was doing. And if that doesn't work, then I should distract myself by knitting, baking, or stamping my books with the awesome personalized Ex Libris stamp that my partner got me for Christmas. Yes. That's the game plan.
Thursday, January 20, 2011


Here's a follow-up to yesterdays post concerning bagels.

I bet that if you're an authentic Jewish baker in an authentic Jewish bakery, you'll make the dough by hand. However, I do not claim to be a baker, nor a Jewish one, and above all of that, I am intimidated by baking (with a dash of lazy). So, I made the dough in my breadmaker.

Here's the recipe I used, from
Pizzorno, Lara. The Complete Book of Bread Machine Baking. Prima Lifestyles, 1997. Print.

For a 1.5-lb loaf (my machine makes 3-lb loaves, but this was enough to fill my machine)
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups (10.8 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (5.2 ounces) unbleached flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

I put the ingredients in my machine in the order listed, since my machine calls for wet ingredients before dry. If yours calls for the reverse then, well, do the reverse. Put it on dough setting, or whatever your machine calls for, and turn 'er on. Easy-peasy.

When the cycle is complete (mine took an hour and a half, so I read Austen's Sense and Sensibility while I waited), take out the dough and cut it into 12 even portions and roll into nice evenly-sized balls (teehee). If you'd like larger sandwich-sized bagels, then make fewer portions - say, 8. Don't worry about getting them perfect right now, or, well, ever. Just relax - preheat the oven to 400F and then get yourself a drink, play with the pets, argue with your beloved, whatever, for about 15 minutes. It doesn't have to be exact. When you return, the balls should be puffier and begging to be poked at.

So, poke at them. Er, poke holes in them. Most recipes call for rolling the dough into small cylinders and then sticking them together to form circles, but I found it easier to just poke holes in the balls of dough. Yep. But do whatever you prefer. Make the holes at least twice as large as you'd like them to appear. Get a pot of water on its way to boiling, and let your dough rest for another 20 minutes or so until they look like puffy little doughy bagels. Lightly oil a baking dish, or get parchment paper ready on baking trays. Whatever you like.

Carefully put a few bagels in the boiling water - 1 minute on each side - and then scoop 'em out with a slotted spoon or anything other than your hands and put them on the baking tray. Do that for all of your bagels, and then pop 'em in the oven. After 10 minutes, rotate the tray or trays so that you outsmart your oven and your bagels will be cooked evenly. Cook for another 10 minutes, then take the bagels out, let them cool a bit, and then enjoy.

Remember, they don't have creepy preservatives in them like store-bought bagels, so you'll want to keep them in sealed bags in the fridge or freezer unless you plan to eat all of them in one sitting. That is totally allowed. My book estimates that each bagel will have 4 (grams?) of protein and 2 (grams?) of fat. It doesn't include units, so I'm guessing it's grams.

Oh - and you can dress them anyway you like. I kept mine plain to please my adoring fans with different palates, but you could put whatever you like in them - sesame seeds, fried onions, whatever "everything" is, blueberries, or chocolate chips. Nom nom.

*And my apologies, for I do not currently have a gluten-free recipe. I made these while chatting with a GF friend of mine, though, so I'll let you know if either of us find a good GF bagel recipe. And for those of you hoping to try the GF recipe - remember that you'll have to scrub scrub scrub your bread maker and any pots or utensils especially well if you've previously had gluteny stuff come into contact with those tools. And stay away from wooden spoons and cutting boards - they especially trap gluten, which could mean that all of your hard work making yummy GF bagels to delight and impress a GF loved one could go to waste if you accidentally make that person sick. It's best to make GF stuff in a GF kitchen, for gluten is sneaky and even a crumb or two can make someone with celiac sick for a week. Ick.

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