Parasthesia, Prozac and other Poppycock

Parasthesia, Prozac and other Poppycock

This is my third attempt at writing this post; maybe it is the charm this time?  How do I make a post about illness funny or readable?  I thought I would try alliteration and show you the real sign at my front door.  It certainly breaks the ice with new neighbors and solicitors (not lawyers…)   I bought it in Colorado and knew that it was perfect for me.  Life is funny.   As most of you know, I have a mental illness  – variously diagnosed over the years.  It was managed for many years with gritted teeth, therapy and alcohol.  Then we moved to Egypt and I have been on Prozac or something similar since 2003.

For the most part it has been a lifesaver although a much maligned drug.  If it is properly prescribed, it is a fantastic modern medication that my sad mother would have benefited from.  There are side effects, for sure.  The best was stopping my compulsive eating/habits; the worst was ghastly nightmares every night.  Flash forward to late 2018 – I had been having sensations of tingling and numbness in my hands and feet for about 3 years.  I went from pillar to post ending up with an eminent neurologist at a university teaching campus.  Even he could not come up with a diagnosis after three hours of painful nerve tests.

Here is what I do have –

  • An abnormal gait likely caused by an untreated club foot at birth
  • Weakness in my hands and feet
  • Hammer toes
  • Pes Cavus – abnormally shaped feet
  • Tingling and numbness in my extremities – hands and feet
  • A weird mental illness (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Anxiety)

Here is what I don’t have –

  • Nerve damage in my hands or feet
  • Marie Tooth Charcot
  • Any other obvious neurological condition
  • Any vitamin deficiency

I left his office having been examined by some initially excited medical students who finally looked as perplexed as the Professor.  Did they think it was all in my head?  The irony is that Parasthesia , a sensation of tingling or numbness can be caused by anxiety.  After Googling until my hands went numb (some Parasthesia humor there…) I discovered that it can be a side effect of PROZAC!  Onto my next psychiatry appointment where we decided I would taper off and then quit Prozac while staying on a small dose of Xanax which is an anti-anxiety medication.

It has been bloody awful; not helped by attending a transatlantic family funeral mid tapering.  I didn’t even want to come off Prozac although I don’t miss the nightmares.  It has been a partial success.  The tingling and numbness has decreased although too much or too little exercise can exacerbate it.  Poor Teddy has borne the brunt of my sudden emergence into the real world.  I told him I wanted to stab in the heart when he baited me one day.  He just moved on as though I had made a comment about dust bunnies.  Wise move from a man who knows me intimately.  Road rage overwhelms me, as does life.  It is in vivid Technicolor and I don’t like it without my hazy filter.

With Teddy’s support, I am moving forward slowly like a lizard after winter.  He pointed out that I dealt with the transatlantic funeral, our elderly cat’s slow waltz towards the ever after and some minor household crises.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to write anymore but writing the Tumbleweed Fairy was a breakthrough.  Pragmatic is my middle name, so I know that I might have to try another medication or treatment and I am darned lucky to have healthcare.  For someone so unhealthy, I try to keep far away from doctors but I am willing to see one more neurologist to see if we can figure this out.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  It sounds like a minor problem but imagine it every single day, so debilitating at one point that I couldn’t twist the deodorant tube.  When I worked as manager of a mental health project in Scotland, I was so sympathetic for patients who had physical side effects (tardive dyskinesia) from anti-psychotic medication.  I don’t know for certain what is causing my tingling and numbness but now I have walked a mile in the shoes of many, many people.  On a final funny note, I will never be able to do a sobriety test.  Two doctors had to hold me up while I put one foot in front of the other.  How could I have lived to this age without having known this??  Straight to the breathalyzer for me then…🍾

 

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Love at first sight…

“I love you!”
“I love you more!”

I was working in the countryside last weekend and I met a lovely horse.  It took me ages to persuade the horses, calves and donkeys to come close to me.  Then it gave me great pleasure to show my colleagues how to handle livestock.  Did you know that horse’s eyes magnify images so you are much larger and scarier than you think you are?  We gently blew into the cattle’s noses and they blew back.  The delight on my city friends’ faces was a joy.

I lived in the countryside for many years and part of my heart is still there.  In my last post I said I wasn’t blue but it took an appointment with my psychiatrist this week, to realize that I am low.  Dang those chemical imbalances!  A medication has been added to my daily potion for a short time and I hope to be back to my old self soon.  Every time this happens, I am taken by surprise; perhaps it is a self protective mechanism in my brain.

There is no particular reason for it other than working more hours than usual and being stressed.  The change is seasons affects me too and the stupid daylight savings time.  The additional drug makes me sleepy but I can feel it’s influence already.  Aren’t we lucky to live in the modern age of medicine?  Teddy was so ill recently with a systemic infection that they gave him antibiotics that are used to treat the Plague!  That scared the life out of me.

I may not post or read blogs as much as usual but I will be back (Arnold Schwartzenegger voice).  Sometimes this medication elevates my mood more than it should, so my posts might be more interesting than usual…

Hasta Luego!
donkeys.jpg

Mental illness is a REAL illness


This is not a political post; I am all too aware that the Affordable Care Act was anything but. Unless something miraculous changes in the Senate, mental illness will no longer be included in the new health plan. So…not only do I have a variety of pre-existing conditions but the one that makes me most ill (and yet is least expensive) will not be covered. For some reason, addiction and mental illness has been put in one category. From my work and personal experience, mentally ill people often self-medicate but they are not the same. I have a clearly inherited condition, much like heart disease, and there was no element of choice. I am not criticizing anyone who has an addiction – there is enough blame to go around.

Let’s take this past week. It started on a high with Teddy’s birthday and then rapidly went downhill. Why? Even I want to slap myself because it was no good reason at all. Our roof has been leaking and the contractor took three days to repair the ceiling, leaving me trapped in the master bedroom which has a large bathroom and closet. Toffee (my elderly cat) and I had to go there so that she wouldn’t escape or get in their way. I had great plans; I would write blogs and binge watch girly TV shoes. Mentally I was paralyzed. Thoughts started spinning in my head about how fat and useless I am. I am neither of those things. I couldn’t watch anything other than old Bones episodes because I couldn’t concentrate. Then the physical pain started to set in. When you sit in an anxious state, you start getting cold and stiff – it was almost 90 degrees outside but the air-con was on for the contractor.

I was determined to do better the next day but the anxiety was rising. My thoughts were, “what do I really need to prioritize in my life?” My ridiculous conclusion was that I would be really happy if I got back to 1** lbs. (about 6 lbs. less than I am now). I joined a free weight loss internet club which told me I was already within my BMI range and that I would have to eat 700 calories a day to lose 2 lbs. a week. This is a glimpse into a world of disordered thinking, especially with eating. Then the sciatica kicked in. I was fully aware that I could have sat in the yard, watered the garden or tidied my filing system but again – paralysis.

By the third day, I had drunk a small glass of vodka with anti-anxiety medication because the paint didn’t match (our ceiling has not been painted in 13 years). I spoke to poor, long suffering Teddy who could hear a panic attack coming on and he agreed that we would ask them to leave. Teddy would finish the painting after our roofs have been replaced in the next few months. As soon as the contractor left, I sprang into action, steam cleaning tiles, polishing our leather suite and assembling everything back in the room. My sciatica really hurt after all that but endorphins got me through. All throughout the 3 days and nights, I had horrifying nightmares that meant that I was really sleep deprived despite being in bed most of the time. My eating deteriorated to almost nothing except snacks and vodka. Perhaps I should revise my thinking about putting mental illness and addiction together?

Now it is all over and I am on the way to feeling better. I ate properly, stopped drinking vodka and went walking to help with the sciatica and general good health. Then, I lost my sunglasses. It felt like the end of the world – I searched the house and garage. It culminated in texting my husband in California to see if he had seen them. Finally, good sense prevailed and I ordered another pair from Amazon at $7 – less than two lattes. I am still hugely annoyed at myself for this whole week. Why couldn’t I just deal with it? This is the true cost of mental illness, a life mostly wasted because of tortured thoughts. Mine are benign, as are the majority of people with mental illness. There is real physical pain, too. The only time I felt happy with an illness was when I was in a full leg cast for almost a year. For once people could ask me what was wrong and not be embarrassed about the answer. Sometimes you need sympathy for an invisible illness.

If the act passes without amendment, mentally ill people will end up in and out of psychiatric hospitals or often prisons because they haven’t been able to access regular help at their psychiatrists, psychologists or doctors. In the end that costs more than a quick visit to the shrink.

Superbowl 2017

nfl

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, you will know that the Superbowl is in Houston this year. At the last minute I have VIP contract work with long shifts and I will have to take a sabbatical from WP for a couple of weeks. If I get the chance I will prepare drafts.

I am going to take down ‘Carrie and Kerry’ temporarily and present it as a series and hopefully show that there was a happy ending for Carrie and Kerry. My doctor has also prescribed a new antidepressant (dum, dum, dum) which I will take after the Superbowl. Otherwise, there might be a National Enquirer worthy photo of me working with VIPs. They aren’t really VIPs, just executives from rich companies wasting money on bloody football tickets…

Stop! That is what I get paid for. Please pray for me in a city already overcrowded with drunk football supporters and I will be back in touch. I care not a whit about Atlanta or Boston or football but will be smiling with an old country accent to charm the pants off them (not literally). There are hookers for that…😈

Cersei or just ginger?

cersei2

I dye my own hair both to save money and because it usually turns out a better color than a salon would achieve. Today I used a slightly different mix and as it was processing, my hair started going vivid auburn. Sometimes it does look a really odd color when processing, such as purple or gray, so I wasn’t too worried. Then I rinsed it off. Teddy was in the bathroom and I said, “See, it turned out blonde after all”. His response was, “Cersei blonde, perhaps?” For those of you who watch Game of Thrones you will now know that it turned out strawberry blonde, titian or maybe just ginger. I have dyed it green before and grayish lilac (not the modern Kelly Osbourne style), so ginger is okay. My hair is so coarse that it soaks up all the UV light from the sun and will be a different color next week anyway.

The fact that I dyed my hair at all is a sign that I am feeling better. I had let it go quite white which made me look even more wan and tired than I did before. My last post was about my many miserable birthdays. Quite unexpectedly, this one turned out to be the worst ever. I can’t talk about it because I might consult a lawyer at a later date. Suffice to say, that it didn’t help my current mood. I was convinced that my various symptoms were caused by the menopause and went downtown to the OB-GYN who had done the Vajazzling. Beforehand, I sent her a mini-thesis of symptoms. It was clear that she didn’t really think it was the menopause but prescribed a type of hormone replacement therapy. I have a doctor friend who had suggested this particular combo, so although I wasn’t sure I took the prescription. When I had the script filled, I was horrified that the generic cost $90 per month – this is a drug that has been used for 38 years. I could have said no but thought that a month’s treatment might kick start something. Desperation makes fools of all of us.

That morning I took one tablet with breakfast. I have an element of ADD in my illness, so of course I didn’t look at the contraindications… Later on I did and realized I had just wasted $90. I have a very delicate digestive system from having had undiagnosed Giardia for 5 years (a little gift from the people of Egypt) but the doctor had given me a low dose because of that. The one that horrified me was that I could not be in the sun without sunscreen or being covered up. I need unfiltered sunshine to give me a decent dose of Vitamin D. The next contraindication was that it might cause depression – seriously??? WTF! The next contraindication was acne for which I am being treated by my dermatologist (menopausal acne, of course). I was so angry at myself for not listening to my gut instinct and going to my regular GP who would have ordered some blood work.

It is always difficult seeing specialists and other doctors when you have an underlying mental illness because neither of us can be certain whether it is the chicken or the egg. I think she thought that it was all my depression and I think she could be right. I see my psychiatrist in a few weeks and in the meantime I have stopped caffeine, alcohol and have cleaned up my already good eating habits. After the one HRT tablet my tummy erupted, so that wouldn’t have worked anyway. On a funnier note, another potential side effect was facial hair. I already have issue with middle-aged chin hairs – mine are all white so you can’t even see the buggers. When I mentioned this to Teddy he said (and I knew he was going to say it), “Well, you could always join the circus”. I wanted to slap him but instead I fell on the floor laughing at his bearded lady joke. You’ve got to laugh… 😹

Wednesday’s child is full of woe…

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

This photograph is for Victor Rakmil. His has a fantastic photographic blog on WordPress. His photos inspire me to do better and learn techniques. That said, I took this butterfly with an inexpensive camera, shaky hands, peripheral neuropathy and NO patience!

The title of the blog refers to my birthday which is today! I was born on a Wednesday in San Francisco, many, many years ago. No matter how I approach my birthday each year, it is not usually a happy day. I have spent many birthdays on vacation as our wedding anniversary is the day before and sometimes that helps. Although I am often smiling, it is a social mask to make me and everyone around me feel better.

I am surrounded by people who love me and still receive a handful of cards from relatives and friends. Presents make me anxious – why? Who knows, not me. My mother frequently quoted that line of the nursery rhyme – “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” – and perhaps it is just imprinted on my personality that I cried on special occasions. I still get very excited about events then get anxious and finally sad.

The truth is that I have chronic depression and anxiety. It was first noted when I was 7 and now that I am aged 56 I guess I will die with it. Someone recently mentioned to me that many people in the third world I have no idea of their birth date or exact age. Maybe that would work for me? In which case I would like to be born in August about 20 years later than I was… 🙂

This year, I am grateful that my husband has a job, after 6 months of unemployment. I seem to have chronic fatigue but it could be much worse. Currents global events are making me weary and sad. I volunteered yesterday and someone from Latin America told me in broken English that I was a very nice person.

Anyway, happy birthday to me, Crabby Kerry!

“Oh yes, she’s back…”

Happy Hibiscus

Happy Hibiscus

I have missed everybody and it’s great to be back. I’m not very good at following advice that I would give someone else but this time I did the sensible thing and took a break from everything. Work, blogging, socializing – if I had a cave I would have gone to stay in it.

My slow recovery and continued pain from the eye surgery was contributing to my low mood but fortunately my regular eye doctor has provided huge relief by inserting little collagen stoppers into my leaky tear ducts so that some liquid stays in the eyes. He said I had striations from the dryness which was causing pain up to the scale of 10. When I started researching my eye problem, I reduced a variety of factors that were contributing to my chronic dry eye. I cut back on my essential medication to a manageable level, stopped taking the painkillers and anti-histamines. Then I cleaned my diet – more Omega 3s, less caffeine, less alcohol and more vegetables. I walked every day for 3 or 4 miles and was vigilant with eye drops and cleansing.

It all helped but the honest truth is that I think most of it was a mechanical problem – the tear ducts were just not working properly. This is common, particularly in menopausal women but the less said about that the better… I am not having hot flashes – it just gets suddenly hot in the sub-tropics. 🙂 With more liquid in my eyes the vision is my post cataract eye is much better and I have super spidey vision with tiny writing. It’s a nice plus in a protracted recovery.

Last weekend I knew I was feeling better because I suddenly wanted to go on a solo trip with our air miles. We have been very thrifty (our water bill has increased from $10 to $10.10!) and it was a relatively inexpensive trip with a free flight and a fantastic Hotwire deal on a historic hotel in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This week I will be telling you all about it. Sometimes you just need a literal break away.

This red link “Kerry chatting” will take you to a little video of me chatting in my dulcet Celtic tones – I just want to say thank you, literally, for all the support you gave me. It meant so much.