A Work in Progress

Friday, May 22, 2015

Staycation fails and wins

Wednesday was mostly a combination of packing, working out, and getting the house cleaned up for a new appraisal inspection. We're refinancing on the advice of our financial advisor. (Also, it's weird having a financial advisor.) Nate was insistent that it didn't matter if the place was a little messy, but this inspector took photos of everything, unlike the last one, so I felt better for not having the bed unmade and such.

Thursday was the beginning of our staycation. We drove up through the East Bay, stopped at Saul's for brunch, then went tasting at a series of wineries on the way to Sonoma. First stop was Buena Vista, which must be owned by a dude with a giant ego, because the place was comically pretentious. Check out the cardboard cutouts of famous "heroes" throughout history on the front lawn. Holy Christ. Their wines on the tasting menu were hit and miss for me, but we did get two bottles. A stark contrast to that was Scribe, a private winery we made an appointment for. It's very well-hidden; we couldn't figure out where to park for the tasting. While they finish restoring an antique building on the grounds, they hold their tastings on picnic tables outside their office overlooking the vineyards. Our tasting host was a little stoned, and someone's dog wandered around eating cheese and crackers off unattended plates. It really fits with the vibe of their wines, though. This is one of the few places I've been where they're proud to tell you they partly ferment their grapes in cement vats. Cement and steel do things to the grapes that you don't expect, which made for fun and surprising wines. They're a new winery and their grapevines are young. I'll be curious to come back every now and then to see how their wines evolve. Last up was Gundlach Bundschu, well known and loved. I found their Gewurztraminer to be just okay, but loved several of their reds.

I may have made a tactical error; I had a vague clue that my intestines might have been having trouble that day but I assumed that I would be well enough to drink. I wasn't. I got as sick, sick like the worst sick I'd been back when I used to binge drink. I don't know what happened. I was fine through the afternoon when we did the tastings and then suddenly went straight to terrible in the evening. We had to get our dinner boxed so I could come back to the hotel and be sick. I nursed myself back to health overnight with generic Pedialyte and saltines, incidentally a trick I learned from Fox. I ate my leftovers from the Portuguese restaurant the next morning, and they were still delicious.

Today we went hiking at Jack London's ranch in the hills. It's beautiful country out there, one of the few places where I've seen so much native hazelnut in the oak and redwood forest mix (I'm a little obsessed with native hazelnut--I want to plant it at home but it's very hard to find in the trade). I think the general image of Jack London tends to skew towards the rugged, manly adventurer, but the guy had some kooky ideas too. He wanted his property in Sonoma to be an ideal farm, and he had some lofty ideas for it that didn't pan out. The remnants of what he tried to build there, from the Pig Palace to the eucalyptus groves to the uber-home that burned to the ground just as it neared completion, all come off a bit half-baked. Maybe the fact that I can relate to that a little too well put me in a bit of a mood.

When we came back we had a spa appointment at the hotel. I really should get massages more often. Or maybe I should get that silly relaxing music that they play in the spa. For some reason I'm really liking it these days. I think my brain's having a hard time getting enough dopamine, and it's rare to have something break through the depression and let me feel normal again. Also, I really need to exfoliate. All my sunburns from weeks previous are finally sloughing off at once.

We had dinner at a surprisingly good Italian restaurant in a strip mall and then walked around downtown Sonoma for a bit. I'm still surprised at how early the town rolls up, but I guess outside of tourist season no one's really here late at night. There are so many silly little shops with whimsical (or whimsicle) decor items in them. I used to be really into that shit, but I don't feel the need for that stuff anywhere near so strongly now. We saw some fake candles in a display that had a plastic reflective "flame" that waved instead of a flickering LED bulb, and Nate seemed to like them, so I'll have to find those somewhere when I put together a driftwood votive piece for the living room. I'm worried that we'll have to get rid of real candles when we get cats, you see...

Another thing the silly decor stores reminded me of is that I should really paint something for the living room. Maybe a scenic triptych. The Milky Way, or maybe a mountain and clouds. Is that too generic?

I love/am weirded out that this hotel room has turn down service. (TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?) I'm still not used to this class of hotel yet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Saturday was a full day. We stopped in Palo Alto for brunch and then hiked the short trail around the satellite dishes on the hills of the Stanford campus. We made a quick stop back home to pack for the night before we headed into Oakland to celebrate Fox's birthday at a great little tiki lounge that really knows their rum and does cocktails in a very old-fashioned way, skipping a lot of the superfluous fruit and flavored syrups. Got to see a lot of people I hadn't seen in a while. We crashed at a hotel around the corner that I swear was not worth what we paid for it and the next morning took a walk around Chinatown before we grabbed brunch with Fox at a nearby diner.

As it turns out, alcohol lifts my mood but still puts a load of pain on my body. I can't remember much for what I did Sunday; it was probably supplement research.

Monday I made the mistake of trying my B complex vitamin again. I had quit it because I thought it aggravated my anxiety in the evening; turns out I was not wrong about that hunch. It's hard because the flipside is that it really boosts my mood during the day. I straightened the yard, worked out, and did errands and it really felt like it was doing me good. I got a touch grouchy in the late afternoon but it dissipated quickly, and felt so much better at bedtime I thought I had made it through the day. And then I couldn't fall asleep. So here I am. Sigh.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Should I keep doing this?

I realize this journal only has about two dozen entries in it. Maybe it would be better to transfer all of them over to the other blog, for continuity's sake. It's really bothering me to have entries split across two blogs. But if I transfer them, can I backdate them? (Apparently, yes you can.)

Today I made the mistake of trying to get a green papaya for salad from the corner store. I picked the least ripe looking one I could find, but it was still very ripe. It shredded into mush, and the salad didn't look real pretty, although it tasted pretty good. Aside from cleaning and working out, not much more to report. My anxiety seems to have been a little quieter today and yesterday. Not sure why, or if there's a correlation there with relatively less busyness in the day.

Got complimented on one of my Pinterest boards by someone who is writing a book on a similar topic. I'm glad that putting better info out there has been helpful to a bunch of people. The amount of misinformation and non-information circulating on Pinterest is annoying, but I love their format. 

I've been dragging my feet on finding a therapist. Essentially, every time I start having anxiety, I start looking for a CBT therapist, and every time I settle back down I doubt myself and start looking for a psychodynamic therapist or a psychiatrist. Sometimes I worry that all medical professionals are vastly overstating the efficacy of the drugs they use for treating mood disorders; sometimes I am just about ready to take anything to make me feel again. Mostly I lean towards distrusting going back on drugs, because contrary to what most professionals insist on, anhedonia can exist independently of depression, and if they can't even get that right, they're going to suck at treating it. I'm trying to research what I can, but this persistent bias in the field has simply meant that not nearly enough research has been done on this issue in the first place. Sigh.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Setting up again.

This morning was mostly spent re-publishing my blogs. Unfortunately, I had no way of telling which posts had originally been left in draft form so I had to go through all the posts with no comments or linkbacks and check to see if they were complete or fit to be published. That was insanely tedious but reading through my past entries did help me feel a little more connected to my past self, which is something the depression/whatever has been robbing me of lately. My short term memory these days is not so good, which is why I've decided to start blogging about my day again.

It started pouring intensely in the late afternoon, the day after I had watered all the plants (of course). I like gray weather, but I had to head out in the pouring rain at the end of the day to meet Nate and our financial planner. Did I mention I finally convinced Nate to have a financial planner? He was on the fence about it, but I think it's been good to have someone professional handle that.

After that, Nate had a D&D campaign to attend. I tagged along because it would be better for me to sit off to the side and type up these blogs than to sit alone in the house. Annnd they're wrapping it for the night.

Bridging the gap, part 2

Fast forward to summer of 2014. I decided it was time to give up on my meds. My doctor was being increasingly idiotic and clueless, which would lead me to go to specialists for second opinions more frequently. I went to my rheumatologist to ask him if it was time to go off Cymbalta entirely. He agreed, and prescribed an unusually steep tapering down routine (which I ultimately did not follow. Protip: open your capsules to fine-tune your taper down routine). I figured I would be in for several weeks of pain. It ended up being one of the most harrowing months-long experiences of my life. I had brain zaps, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

And then my mom died, unexpectedly. Unexpectedly to me, anyway. No one in my family had bothered to tell me just how much worse my mom had been getting. I'd talked to her two weeks before and she seemed pretty out of it, but that had happened before. No one called me until she slipped into a coma after some long-shot surgery, and at that point, holding vigil as she went, my dad's ego really didn't allow for any sort of sincere reconciliation or resolution. I wasn't really expecting it, I have no illusions about my family. I had already mourned never having an actual maternal relationship with my mom, so it was sad, but not the standard course of mourning by a long shot.

Travelling to the East Coast at the end of the year kicked off a fresh bout of gastrointestinal trouble for several months. My primary physician, being an idiot, told me nothing other than that I shouldn't worry. At the beginning of the new year, I got an appointment with a gastroenterologist who told me, essentially, that I'd had IBS for years and didn't know what it was like because it had been masked by the Cymbalta. He put me on the FODMAP diet, now the first line of defense when anyone gets diagnosed with IBS. Three out of four people who go on this diet show signs of improvement. I am not one of those three. After the elimination phase did nothing for me, I quit. I then got significantly sicker. I honestly started to fear for my life, sure that at any moment I would develop the fever that would signal a serious infection that the doctors had missed. My gastroenterologist recommended a CAT scan, but there was nothing abnormal, so he said to wait it out and see if it got worse. Waiting it out was hard, as I was starting to have panic attacks every night. I wanted nothing more than to go to the ER, but I knew it was probably the sort of thing that gets laughed at there, so I didn't. But I felt so incredibly alone those nights, with Nate fast asleep by the time the panic attacks would hit.

That whole disaster must have left an impression on my psyche. I haven't been able to shake the anxiety since then, although I haven't had a full-blown panic attack for a few weeks. Since I recovered from the more debilitating aspects of being sick, I've gotten back into cleaning up the house and working on some of the handyman projects we've had planned. I cleaned up the studio, getting rid of a significant portion of what's left of the hoard. That felt good for a bit, until I hit the post-cleanup drop that happens for a lot of hoarders. That may have contributed to my mood being rotten since then. I'm contemplating getting a therapist to figure out what's going on.

So that's where I am now.

Bridging the gap

I had shut this blog down and reverted everything to draft-only several years ago because I no longer had the enthusiasm to write. I'm not sure I've rediscovered that enthusiasm, exactly, but after an honestly terrifying recent bout of depression and anxiety I've decided to try this to see if it helps like it did before.

I had initially intended this blog to be a crafting-only blog, with the other blog being more general. But I gave up on both entirely for several years. The last time I wrote anything significant about my life in either of the two blogs I started was 2009-ish. I had been living with fibro for a year. Zoloft would help for a few more months, until it started giving me sexual side effects and I realized that a higher dose was changing my personality in a very artificial way. I switched to Cymbalta, which seemed to bring my personality back in line and handled my pain quite well. For a while, anyway. It wasn't doing as much for my cognitive fog, however, or my coordination. I was getting clumsy in the lab, and I knew I couldn't be in biotech for too much longer. The company was going down the drain anyhow, it was only a matter of time before there were mass layoffs. And indeed, I ended up training my replacements in 2009 before being shown the door with a severance package. At least I was a full employee at the time. I wondered if this was it, if I was finally going to do something creative with myself now.

As it turns out, no. My mom got sick at the end of the year, in a way that I knew had to be something serious. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and started chemo. I spent a lot of that year going back and forth between hospitals and trekking up to my parents' house to clean it. And spent the rest of my time trying to clean up my own mess at home, occasionally drawing. I was involved in the Regretsy community, won some stuff, co-illustrated a book on Finland. It was a welcome respite from all the other dreck in my life, but I realized that I was having issues not only with completing assignments on a deadline, but also with having the same kind of enthusiasm for creating that I once did. Maybe it was the Cymbalta. My doctor was too cavalier about jacking up my dosage, and I, stupidly, didn't push back hard enough.

Work wanted me back, after a year. I don't know why I said yes, other than in the hope that I would make some money. It went way worse than anticipated, even working part-time. I was exhausted and things were so much harder than they used to be. At the end of they year, I got laid off again. Or politely fired, maybe. My immediate boss wanted to keep me over one of the permanent employees, but it was against procedure and I don't think her boss ever felt good about hiring my crippled ass in the first place. Between the cost of meds and the adjustments in my life I had to make during this time, I actually lost money working again. I figured that was a sign I should be done with it.

I spent far too much time on inventorying my hoard at home before I could finally admit that it was a hoard, and I was a hoarder. I was doing whatever I could to actually stall on creating, because I didn't want to face my fading will to create.

Somehow, in the middle of all this chaos I actually met someone. I'm forever grateful that Nate saw in me something other than the mess I was in at the time. I was a little worried at first about dating someone who was so similar to me, because I was used to dating someone who saw things differently and could give me a reality check from time to time. But I thought I had finally reached a place in my life where I had grown into myself enough that I could handle it.

My mom was in and out of remission for the next few years. I don't have any happy reconciliation story to report about us. I knew that was unrealistic. She was the same as ever, and I had given up on hoping for something different. My dad was straying farther from reality every time I saw him, still making up stories about how he's the victim of everyone else's incompetence or inferiority. That shit gets old, man.

And then the deaths came. Nate had reconnected with a branch of his family on the West Coast, only to have the two people who had welcomed him in die within several weeks of each other. His childhood best friend's dad, who was like a second father to him, passed away suddenly. My mom's childhood friend, my "auntie", died suddenly. My dad's sister died, and the shift in family dynamics as a result of this was palpable. It made me do a lot of thinking about life and relationships, especially about the difference between the good ones and the toxic ones in my life.

I moved in with Nate into a very nice apartment complex with completely nutty management, to test if we could stand living with each other. After a little more than a year, we decided that the living together thing was working quite nicely, but renting was bullshit in this area. He had been saving up to buy a house eventually, and the market was only just starting to recover from the recession. We found a place that had been overlooked by most bidders because the listing photos looked terrible, but in person it was much closer to what we wanted than anything else we'd seen. We ended up paying nearly twice as much as anyone else in the neighborhood had ever paid for theirs, but such is life in the Valley.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I've been sick lately, in case anyone is wondering (no one is, of course, because I've been so slack in updating this thing).