Ch-Ch-Changes (Turn and Face the Strange)

Where did the summer go? Time flies when…you don’t keep track of it.

I had my Functional Capacity Evaluation as foretold. I did what I could. The very first test was a grip strength test of both hands. The right hand can grip for up to about 25 pounds; the left, 35. A woman of my age should be able to grip 57 pounds. So I pretty much failed that first off. I sat, I stood, I picked things up and moved them around. I turned over wooden discs in a tray with first one and then the other hand. I walked, I knelt, I squatted. No, that’s a lie. I cannot squat. I can TRY to squat…but I will fall on my ass and never be able to get back up again in one smooth motion. So I demurred…because I didn’t want to fall and hurt myself, let alone have to scramble like a turtle, turning over and then kneeling to rise back up to standing. So everything I didn’t do because I knew that I would hurt myself trying…got recorded as “self-limiting”. I like to think that if I had gone ahead and done things, I would have flustered and upset the therapist administering the evaluation…blood has a way of doing that to people. Part of the reason I didn’t want to fall is not just having to get back up–but all the pointy hard objects I could fall into on my way down.

If you have nothing to do and want to waste 6 hours of time…find something other than a Functional Capacity Evaluation to do. But even with all of the “self-limiting”, the end result was pretty much what I’ve been saying all along: I am disabled, given enough medication and therapy (like literally years of it), I might return to some semblance of “normal” (at least as normal as I’ve ever been) but that is not going to happen any time soon. The evaluation itself was bad enough. The therapist had recently completed a course on a new therapy, “Dynamic Neurological Therapy” I think he called it…he described it to me in great detail. Not just once. Not just twice. Not even just three times. Oh no, he explained it to me in excruciating detail FOUR times. And he explained it using the same words to introduce it each time: “Now, your pain is real…but…it’s all in your head!” Then he’d go on to explain about the chemical process of thought, sensation and pain levels. Well, I had just finished my Introduction to Psychology a couple of weeks prior, so I understand about using mindfulness of the moment as a therapy, without any religious/spiritual context. My unhappiness with this is not just the repetition. When you say a sentence, then say the word “but” and add whatever, you have just negated the original statement. “Your pain is real…BUT…it’s not really, it’s all in your head and you’re just making it up.” Is what his statement ended up meaning.

But I did the evaluation and it’s over with now. I don’t expect to ever have to do it again. <fingers crossed>

That was in June. July…we stayed in for the 4th because it was overcast again this year. We went to the fireworks show last year when it was overcast; “ooh look, a red glow in the clouds! OOoooo!. We didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy the rest of the month either. Doctor appointments, swimming (pool therapy) for both of us, game nights. Eating out occasionally, going to the store, doing laundry. LOTS of time on the computers, since that’s our major form of entertainment / connection to the outside world. August also flew by at the speed of light as well.

I did finally make it to our local zoo one nice Sunday. I was restless and not wanting to stay in; Beloved was tired and not wanting to go out. So I gathered myself together and rode over to Sequoia Park which holds the zoo. It’s about a 10-15 minute ride to get there. As a veteran and a resident, I got $4 off the entrance fee! Woohoo! It’s not a large zoo, but what they do have is well done and the animals all look very healthy. There are some raptors–a couple of bald eagles and a falcon, all living at the zoo because they were injured (car strike) and couldn’t return to the wild. The biggest thing there are the two yaks. They have a decent flock of flamingos, a couple of gibbons, some spider monkeys, and some other small and harmless creatures. One of the most popular displays is the “river” area–there are tanks of salmon, looking at with their fishy eyes–or, as I like to think, staring with horror at the animals across the path from them: the River Otters. The display is built in such a way that there is a plexiglass tunnel under the river part, so the kids can go in and look up, at the otters swimming overhead. Very cool. I got some sweet potato fries at the zoo cafe (open to the public!) and perused the gift store. I was out for about 2, 2.5 hours–all on my own!

The wheelchair continues to be a godsend. I can ride it over to Henderson Center, about 2 miles NW of us, which I’ve done a couple of times now. I had to take my laptop to the computer repair store as the memory sticks were dying and things were not running well. Both sticks needing replacing, but now I have a computer that works, yay. I also got a chance to look in the “Big and Tall” men’s shop and will take Beloved there when he needs new clothes. The manager was telling me about the store, I asked how large his sizes went up to…he told me 10X. He asked me if I wanted to see a muscle shirt in a 10X; I pointed out that it would look like a tent without poles, haha. Fortunately my dear is not that large…and they did have a bathrobe a size larger than he that I think he should have. He’s okay with his robe being bigger…and aren’t we all?

I also discovered the Japanese market, 3 doors down from the clothing store. Yes, I bought stuff, yes I bought stuff I didn’t need, but you should see the adorable baby tongs I got for picking up tsukemono (Japanese pickles). I also got the makings for miso soup, which came out real well. And yes, I will be going back.

Tsukemono is a new thing in my kitchen. It is the catch-all term for any pickled (vinegar or salt cured) vegetable dish that accompanies Japanese cooking. A bowl of rice, a little piece of fish and some tsukemono can be considered an entire meal. The idea is to make small amounts of fresh pickles–none of them will keep very long, unlike Vlasic or Claussen’s. And because they are fermented, there are probiotics and so they are a good way to get raw veggies. My entire family has a *thing* about pickles–we eat them, we eat pretty much every kind, and we will devour them to the last–so I am enjoying trying out various ways of making them. (That don’t involve lime, cooking, mason jars or pickles for an army.) I made a sort of cabbage/carrot/ginger salad with a soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar dressing; I made a salted pickle out of baby bokchoy and green onions. I also took thin slices of Persian cucumbers and rubbed a little miso and water over them, then let them sit about 6-8 hours, and rinsed the miso off very well. They were good–salty and sour. I want to make some with Daikon radish, although I have some regular red radishes now that I could slice thinly and do something pickle-y with. Hmmm.

So Beloved has lost about 3-4 of his Friday night gamers…and set about to recruit me. Yes, I caved in and agreed to play. So now I shall be gaming two nights a week. This game is based on Dungeons and Dragons, (Pathfinder to be precise), so there are lots of dice with lots of dots to count. I am Rowan Morhana, a Shoal Elf arcanist. (Think sorcerer or wizard without elemental or religious associations for the magic I can do.) Beware, evil doers! He’s still looking to get 2 or 3 more folks in, so we may have a quiet couple of weeks as the 3 of us still there do minor things while waiting for a party of adequate size to go back into the dungeons after the good stuff. The Star Wars game continues to be fun. We’ve added another female gamer–one of the guys’ girlfriend, who we cajoled and pushed into playing instead of just watching. The two of them might be interested in playing on Friday as well…

Turning now to more medical things. I have mentioned being in therapy (have been for most of the past 3 years); I think I also mentioned that my therapist had identified my parents’ methodology for child-rearing as abusive. I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around that. I can understand it logically, but to really have it apply to me seems…like overkill. I mean, it was abusive. AF. My parents were, and still are, very controlling, very authoritative and still trying to tell me how to live my life–after I left their house almost 40 years ago. Sigh. They stayed in Corpus Christi for Harvey and frankly, I didn’t worry too much about them. Yes, they survived, and better than a great many other people…my mother was bitching about having to clean out the fridge and freezer because of the food all spoiling…I pointed out that she still had a house. Shaddup. I can’t get too choked up about their dying because I know that it’s the very thing they are hoping for.

Although my mother did inform me that she wouldn’t be dying, Jesus was coming back and getting her Himself, when he comes for the Rapture. In her lifetime. I pointed out that every generation had thought Jesus was coming back at their time, since the Apostles’ time. She insisted that the “signs are all there, if you just look”. I didn’t try to point out that every generation had said *that* since the Apostles. And now, get ready for the sneaky screwball pitch she threw next: “I’ll be gone, Daddy will be gone, your brother and his wife–and their sons–will all be gone (in the Rapture), so you’ll go to Texas and take care of our house and stuff, right?” Pardon, what? Actually, what I replied was, “You’ll never know, will you?” and let it go. Regardless of just how the world ends, regardless of when the Rapture takes place, if ever, regardless of pretty much everything else, one or the other of us may be very surprised at what the afterlife actually looks like. I’m betting it will be my mother. But don’t take my word for it.

From psychology to psychiatry: the new psychiatrist is trying to kill me. He tripled my Wellbutrin (bupropion) to 300 mg and upped the Cymbalta (duloxetine) from 90 to 120 mg. So when I was having visits with my primary care doctor, and they take my blood pressure…it’s going up and up, to reach a stunning 167 over 92. WTF??? I get put on Lisinopril (high blood pressure med) and HCTZ, a “water” pill. I’m taking my blood pressure every day and it’s still pretty damned high. A dim lightbulb went off over my head, and after I wiped all the dust off of it…I went over to WebMD and looked up the side effects to my two psychiatric meds. Both have HUGE warnings about not (that is “not” as in, Don’t Do It) combining those two particular drugs. Because (wait for it) they will cause high blood pressure. I’m happy to not be suicidally depressed, but I don’t want to stroke out and die–or worse. And yes, there are worse things than dying after a stroke and I’ve taken care of people who have survived theirs…but are now hemiplegic (paralyzed down one side) and require a lot of assistance–and may not be able to speak or feed themselves or go to the bathroom alone. I’d rather not.

Sooooooooooo Dr. Kate made some med changes. Some MAJOR medications changes. Here’s what that looks like:

1. I went to MediCann and got my 215 card, aka Medical Marijuana. Then I went to the “pharmacy” (real name: The Humboldt Collective, which can be abbreviated as THC, hahaha, get it?)and got me some medical weed… and it’s a freaking miracle.

2. I stopped taking morphine, and have not had any since the end of June. I am back to using Vicodin for the “breakthrough” pain which makes everyone happier. The marijuana actually deals with all of the incidental pains, leaving me to isolate and identify the spinal pain alone–and handle it with Vicodin. I am more pain-free now than I have been in quite literally YEARS.

3. The strain of marijuana I am using is very high in CBD (which is the medicinal property part) and low in THC (the part that gets you high), so this is definitely medicine and not getting stoned. On the other hand, I’d rather be stoned than in pain.

4. I do take some pure THC products –that specifically deals with anxiety and pain. I am generally sleeping better and longer–because I am not being woken in the middle of the night by pain. The doses are still lower in THC than the bud that’s being sold for *ahem* recreational purposes. 

5. I am using edibles. For CBD purposes, I have a little bag of bud, to eat raw; I have a small bottle of an oil-based tincture that is sublingual. I also have a super-concentrated oil that uses a “serving” about the size of a grain of rice and is rubbed over the gums and tongue. For THC only, I have mints and hard candies for when I am out and cannibutter for when I am home. (And “cannibutter” is cannabis and butter; it’s concentrated enough that the 4 ounces of butter has 230 servings. I put about 1/2 tsp on a Ritz cracker (okay, an organic version of the Ritz, from a company called “Late July”) and eat that right before bed.

6. I reduced the Wellbutrin to 150 per day and the Cymbalta to 60. My blood pressure was 116/72 at the doctor’s the other day. No more morphine, no more Tramadol (trazadone, sleep/anxiety med).

With the chain of never-ending pain finally broken, I am nowhere near as depressed as I had been and my anxiety is also a bit lower. I can actually think about what I might have to do if I don’t get approved for SSDI without totally freaking out. I am not as foggy, I’m able to concentrate a little better–although I do have severe mellowness that might seem like being foggy. 😀

Life is definitely at a higher quality than it has been in a very long time.

I see the psychiatrist this upcoming week and will inform him of the changes I’ve made in the meds and why. Hopefully he will help me find a better answer than continuing to take meds that interact so badly–even though the Wellbutrin has worked very well for my depression. (And the Cymbalta was doing good for the fibro…but together in large enough quantities were bad, m’kay?) I saw my surgeon last week about (finally) getting the varicose vein in my left leg taken care of (the procedure is called “ablation”, here: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=varicoseabl). It’s been long enough I’ll have another ultrasound test of both legs, to ensure that there are no deep vein thromboses, and to pinpoint the vein/s that need to be ablated. I have a real problem with swelling in both legs so it will be good to have this done and over with. I have a follow up appointment with my PCP after speaking to the psychiatrist (to adjust meds if necessary after psych meds are adjusted so that I don’t have a massive brain hemorrhage from them) and then my regular podiatrist appointment (he cuts my toenails for me). I am waiting for a new (further) approval of pool therapy to get back into the pool. Oh, and I STILL do not have the wheelchair ramp. One more thing to mention to the doctor when I see her.

How has all this affected my life? Well, I’ve been cooking dinner 3-5 times per week, instead of barely making it once in that same amount of time. I am making meals that are a little more complex; for example, we’ve had Japanese (Tuna ahi sashimi, tsukemono, and homemade miso soup), Mexican (fajitas burritos with frijoles); Chinese (stir-fried rice); and Italian (twice: once it was fresh-made red sauce with Italian sausage, garlic, onions, tomatoes; the other time, white clam sauce on linguine). We went to a BBQ at one of the other gamers’ home a couple of weeks ago and I made fried corn and homemade hummus to share.

Hummus Recipe:

There is no reason to buy hummus. It’s VERY easy to make. It does require a blender…

Use:

1 16 oz can chick peas, drained

1 16 oz can chick peas, NOT DRAINED

1/4 c sesame seeds

1 clove of garlic, or to taste

salt and pepper

2 T olive oil

2 T fresh lemon juice

Blend until smooth and combined. Pour out onto a dish and drizzle a little more olive oil if you like.

Using this as a base recipe, you can then have alternative flavors by adding any of the following:

1 T curry powder

OR

2 tsp basil

1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

(when complete, drizzle with oil and sprinkle pine nuts on it)

OR

Make original recipe, then stir in chopped roasted red peppers

OR

2 tsp basil

3 or 4 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in a little bit of hot water and then chopped into pieces; blend with other ingredients and then drizzle oil, add some saved pieces of tomato on top

OR

1/4-1 tsp cayenne (depending on heat wanted)

Put in refrigerator overnight; cayenne takes a little while to bloom!

OR

Increase lemon juice to 1/4 cup; blend as usual, and then add 2 T poppy seeds

OR

Substitute 5-6 roasted* garlic cloves for the fresh cloves and blend as usual

OR

Blend as usual, then add chopped nuts

OR

Use your imagination!

BON APETIT!

And Fried Corn: 

Fried corn:

2 cups of corn kernels (frozen, not canned)*

2 strips of raw bacon

Salt

Pepper

 

Cut bacon into thin slivers across the short side. Put into frying pan and cook until crisp. Using about 2 T of bacon grease, or whatever is in the pan, add in corn and stir occasionally until corn is cooked. Salt to taste, add lots of fresh ground black pepper.

*You can use fresh corn: 2-3 ears, shucked and de-silked. Wrap in a towel that has been wetted but wrung out. Put into microwave for 4 minutes. Be careful taking them out–it WILL be hot. Let corn cool and then cut from cob. (Cut the stalk end to be flat; stand the corn on that end and CAREFULLY, using a sharp knife, cut from the tip of the cob, down to the bottom, cutting just at the bottom of the kernels. Done properly, you should see only an empty cob when done. If not, scrape the knife from top to bottom, dragging out the bits and pieces that were left.

Serve immediately or prepare ahead of time and then reheat. Makes a good dish for a potluck, increasing quantities:

6 cups frozen corn kernels

1/2 pound of bacon, cut into thin strips across the short side

Salt and pepper

Serving size: 1/2 cup, makes 4 servings. (Potluck size makes 12 servings)

So more cooking. I am also actually making some progress on the sorting of shit I mean stuff. I still tire easily; no muscle tone, no endurance. I’ve been told that the changes are obvious, that I am looking better. I guess so, if I’m not sitting there grimacing in pain all day. Apparently I even sound better, as my psychologist and I have agreed that I will continue to see him until the end of the year, and then we will make a decision about whether to continue or not. He may very well retire then, so it may not be much of a decision for me. I think I’d like to find another therapist. I like the guy I’m seeing, but I do get the feeling that I am giving him therapy almost as much, possibly more, than he does for me. And I’m not getting paid for it.

Oh, that reminds me–I have been following a writer on Medium (dotcom) who is blogging about her therapy and new diagnosis of disassociative personality disorder. She’s about 6 years older than I am and we’re talking about trauma that occurred when she was 7 (sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbor) that shattered her and has caused problems for her all her life. It’s an amazing story and I am very much respectful of the effort this requires at any age, but especially at a later one. So I often comment on her writing, and recently I mentioned how my childhood had been and that I was also trying to deal with the idea that my childhood was NOT normal (as hers was not). I told her that “I am an empath”–and she replied to me, saying that when she hears someone say that, what she really hears is that this is someone who had to develop an ability to predict what someone else meant or wanted and to meet (or exceed) their expectations and to never, ever make them angry–in fact, to prevent it at most any cost. So I am also trying to absorb the concept of being an empath as a childhood survival skill. I can’t argue with the idea of it…makes sense to me!

We’ve had some really beautiful summer days–clear, blue skies, 80+ degrees (which is a freaking heat wave for Eureka!!) and have had the house open to let it air out. I just wish the traffic wasn’t so loud–we live right on the corner of our street and the main road, so we get to hear all of the commuting traffic. It’s enough vehicles that they’ve just erected a new streetlight at the next corner. This is the time of year that is particularly lovely here and will last into almost October. Then it will get cooler again and it will be rainy season (or winter) all too soon. Time does insist on moving forward.

That should bring you up to date on what’s been going on. I’m off to make beefy mac’n’cheese for dinner. Laundry to do tomorrow. And then being an elf again on Friday. Just the regular routine of normal (okay, what passes for normal in MY house) routine.

Peace and blessings to you! (Two photos of our beach; one from 2014 and one from 2017. We’ve lost a lot of beach real estate.)

From the van, looking at the ocean, 2014
From the van, looking at the ocean this year

 

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