Don’t Let The Bedbugs Bite

*In the 9th Circle of Hell, bed bugs warrant a CW. Respect your mental health when reading.*

I have a standard caveat on my blog that I will change minor details or abstract timelines for the sake of maintaining anonymity. Despite that claim – sensible though it probably would be to actually do that – to my knowledge, I have only actually changed two tiny details about my life for my blog. Both have been about the specifics of what my workplace produces and to whom it markets it, which are probably sensible precautions given my bully-of-a-boss’s penchant for firing people. The 9th Circle of Hell seems to think themselves so far above the law I probably could call out the abusers by name and they’d just laugh that they were still invincible, but my boss might just be the kind to fire a person on suspicion alone because he thinks a random anonymous blog with less than 1,000 followers could possibly be about him.

I’ve not changed any details about the 9th Circle of Hell. All the crap I’ve written about it – past and present – is true. It really is that bad. In fact, if anything, what I’ve written to date on my blog remains only a sanitized version that leaves off a lot of the nitty-gritty everyday horrible things I’ve experienced dealing with that state in favor of sharing the biggest atrocities. I’ll stay anonymous forever for my own and others’ veil of pretended protection, but it turns out I can’t actually alter details of my life when talking about the 9th Circle of Hell. I can’t even always be as vague as my PTSD hypervigilance thinks would be prudent. My PTSD brain simultaneously wants to protect itself by maintaining a veil of “generic everyman-ness” to my story, yet also keeps demanding I share details that are very specific to my story. It can no longer contain all of the things that have happened within and because of that state without the refuse overflowing, and my blog seems the safest place to dump the trauma wastewater.

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Blog Awards Series #4: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Blogs Grow Up to Be About Cowboys

Anyone who ever thinks that the ADHD brain can be turned off has never had to deal with one while blind for a week. The days of wearing an eye mask on doctor’s orders did help me get more sleep than normal. It’s logical to fall asleep when it’s dark all the time anyway, but that didn’t necessarily make that sleep any less, um, “active” than my waking thoughts.

I had some bizarre dreams during my enforced lack of vision. For instance, have you ever seen those megachurches along interstate highways in the Southwest or Midwest – or just in California, period! – that look like ranches and have testosterone-laden names like “GUTS Church,” “Cowboy Church,” or “VIVE Church?” They feature boxing matches, baptisms in stock tanks, and battle-ready women’s weekends? Well, my brain created one for the horses those cowboys rode in on! It was called the Whipped Church and was led by Rev. Tacky, who preached that if parishioners were obedient to the Triple Crown in this life they’d roam free – unbridled and unwhipped – in the next. It had a food court where you could literally make hay about your faith and even a bookie onsite. (The horses, too, needed to get in on the betting action to be able to afford their “suggested” church donations.) Of course, as in many megachurches, Rev. Tacky was also known to stirrup some political diatribes alongside the entertainment!

I first assumed I should be ashamed for admitting to such a rowdy dream itself, but my Partner discovered a show called BoJack Horseman on Netflix uses a similar premise – horses running Hollywood – to satirize current events. Rather than being ashamed that my brain is so far out there as to produce that dream, I should instead probably be ashamed that my dream wasn’t quite far enough out there. I managed to somehow subconsciously mind-meld with Will Arnett and Amy Sedaris without ever having so much as received a Netflix recommendation about their show. (I actually kind of wonder how Netflix hasn’t ever suggested it? What demographic profile don’t I fit? Will I have to subvert Netflix’s impression of me by watching the show just because?)

My brain also decided it needed to write a YA dystopian novel. Full-length, with eight named characters, a beginning, middle, climax and denouement. And, of course, because my life is ruled by trauma right now, it decided that YA novel needed main characters who were more realistically affected by mental illness and the impact of worldwide trauma – that’s what dystopia is, after all – than most dystopian fiction I’ve read. I’m pretty sure the dream was prompted by the fact that the first book on tape I listened to during my week of no vision was one of those progressive feminist novels (not YA at all) that was clearly very proud of itself for including characters that were neurodiverse, but whose characters hit me in the uncanny valley about their mental illness portrayal. I couldn’t figure out why the book unnerved me so much initially, but my Partner agreed with my assessment of it after listening for a bit. He’s becoming a connoisseur of the trauma experience himself, sadly.

My subconscious apparently felt the need to continue considering the problem and ultimately determined that the characters felt like DSM-V checklists of their supposed diagnoses rather than people. They displayed all of the symptoms on the diagnostic questionnaire, but with none of the messy bleed-over between diagnoses or unique expressions of those symptoms built upon their own personality that have characterized my experiences and most of what I’ve read from other bloggers. It felt like the author did a lot of research, but she had no lived experience to make her symptom portrayals convincing. My brain is still so stuck on its soapbox about how we further stigmatize ourselves within the mental illness community by claiming some diagnoses are worse than others or that a person is better off if they are “high-functioning” vs. “low-functioning” that it had to create an entire book in my brain about the impact of within-group stigma in a future world with even more inequitable and ineffective mental health care to further prove its point.

I’d roll my eyes at myself for being that preachy in my dreams – literally and satirically – but I had my first generic PTSD nightmare last night since the spate of randomness. Even an entire YA “novel” about a terrifying possible future is a refreshing change from a replay of my real past. I got to at least direct the terrible things happening to my characters instead of having to (re)live them myself as the captive actor. I’ll happily stay diligent about wearing my eye mask for an hour daily to rest my eyes – my neuro-ophthalmologist recommended it after reviewing guidelines for eye care with Ehlers-Danlos – if it will continue to bore my brain into re-deriving better comedians’ ideas or playing novel writing instead of endless nightmares. My brain has already demonstrated that it can write trauma from re-deriving my own story. Anything my brain creates that isn’t a variation on my own trauma is a treat.

That said, my answers to Mackenzie’s questions prove why, nightmares or not, I would rather trust my own brain to write my story than anyone else’s.

Today’s questions courtesy of Life with an Illness:

Continue reading “Blog Awards Series #4: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Blogs Grow Up to Be About Cowboys”

I Love You More than Salt

Today has been lousy. There’s no other way to say it. Its lousiness has stemmed primarily from two causes: dysautonomia and C-PTSD. (I will write dysautonomia and C-PTSD officially, but I could just as easily have claimed dysautonomia and office politics. The two are kind of synonymous when C-PTSD views any perturbations in power dynamics that result in strong words being exchanged as an existential threat. The bully-in-my-brain helpfully comforts me while triggered with the alternative idea that office drama doesn’t always have to mean that I’m not safe. It could just simply mean that I am safe but suck.)

I’ve been in a dysautonomia flare the past three days. (Have we established yet if it’s appropriate to call an uptick in autonomic nervous system symptoms a “flare” when it’s not necessarily an inflammatory response?) I’ve been cycling rapidly between blood pressure extremes for the past couple of days. Today, I started out borderline high and watched it tumble after completing the rather physically demanding requirements – aka getting up and walking around for fifteen minutes as a break after a couple of hours on the computer – of my job. I usually don’t faint until I dip below 90 systolic, which fortunately is relatively rare with my meds now, but tumbling from 145/70 down to 92/54 in about fifteen minutes isn’t fun even if I do somehow manage to stay upright. (Also, yes, for those asking, I do keep a wrist blood pressure cuff at work. Those are real numbers. Not my worst, by a long shot, either. One of the two final numbers was technically in the human normal range, after all!)

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Where’s Whoopsie #4: I’m Aware that I’m Rarely Aware

Huh. Dysautonomia, ADHD, and mental health share an awareness month! (Mental Health Awareness Week this year was October 1-7. Oops. I guess I missed that one!)

It’s a pity that migraines get June for their awareness month. I was this close to only having to remember one month on this blog. That would have been incredibly handy for a girl with ADHD. Now, I know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and June is PTSD Awareness Month, but couldn’t I really just stick with the week, not the months? It’s hard to be aware with a disorder in which lack of awareness is a core diagnostic feature.

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Liebster Awards

Liebster

I talked in a recent blog post about how I have been able to deal with a family crisis (read: a new flavor of an old 3h!7 sandwich) this past month while still maintaining my career, Improv class, and general head-above-water appearance. I may have slightly exaggerated that in one capacity: I have been terrible at social media and communicating with people in general.

I realized I haven’t been on Facebook in over a month?! I’ve written blog posts, but they have been off-the-cuff posts. Some time ago, Jen from Inside of Jen’s Head nominated me for my first Liebster Award. I knew I’d procrastinated a bit, and that, after procrastinating for a bit, I was developing The Fear about just writing it at all. I was embarrassed I hadn’t done it already, so I was even more afraid to start. I overthought who to nominate, I hung my head because I hadn’t responded earlier, and I developed a bit of analysis paralysis. (I think analysis paralysis is even worse in women with ADHD who also happen to analyze things for a living!) I didn’t realize/acknowledge how long I’d been sinking into that form of social anxiety. Couple social anxiety with a bit of old-school ADHD time blindness and it has been, erm, “a bit” since my first nomination. It has been long enough, in fact, that I also received a second nomination from Ali from The Nut Factory.

Clearly, I have rejection sensitivity. It would be nice if RSD always spurred me into action when people did the opposite of rejecting me. Maybe by itself, it would. (Or maybe not, ADHD/RSD + a touch of social anxiety in one-on-one relationships, which fortunately I don’t have in anonymous crowds like in Improv, is tricky). Throw in a crisis? I basically withdraw so far into myself that I don’t remember how to reach out socially after it’s over. I especially don’t know how to connect while it’s still ongoing, as it is currently. With everything being so stressful this past month, my blog has been a source of mental health support (and an unofficial answer to both Jen’s and Ali’s first questions!) My readers are a big part of why. Every reader who takes the time to nominate me or comment on my blog is a tiny bright spot in a lousy month. Knowing that, my deepest apologies to Jen for taking so long to respond, and my heartfelt thanks to both Jen and Ali for their nominations.

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POTSies Against Nazis

I have a colorful new diagnosis. (I also have gastritis, probably as a result of being allergic to everything.)

I’m not inflammatory (IBD), but I’m pretty salty. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is a type of dysautonomia officially characterized by a heart rate increase of at least thirty bpm upon standing. This tachycardia is often associated with a drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension), though clinically OH warrants its own additional dysautonomia diagnosis. There are multiple types of dysautonomia. I seem to be able to catch ’em all.

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Showing Ini-$h*!-ive: Business Meetings with IBS and ADHD

I just came back from a business meeting in another state. A small group of us went. We stayed at different hotels, and we agreed to meet up half an hour before the meeting to make sure no one was late. The meeting was in a city with good mass transit, so my boss encouraged us to take the subway to get to our meeting. It would be “less complicated” and cheaper.

I had a terrible, no good, very ADHD time getting there. First, I got lost on the way to the train. Big surprise!? Then, the train readers weren’t taking credit cards because of a malfunction, and I never carry cash. Using cash means I can’t track my spending on my statement, which is a recipe for frivolous ADHD spending. The only ATM around was one that needed a branded debit card to enter before business hours. Guess who isn’t a Bank of America customer, and thus couldn’t use her own debit card to unlock the doors of the 24-hour ATM? I was on the verge of panic when a passerby finally took pity on me and unlocked the door with her card.

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Presents for Your Loved Ones with Chronic Migraine — The Migraine Chronicles

via Presents for Your Loved Ones with Chronic Migraine — The Migraine Chronicles

My own migraines have been getting the best of me this week. I’m about to go out of town for a business trip, and I’m praying I can get them under some control before I leave. I wasn’t aware before this reblog that pre-prepared gluten-free meal services were a thing, but I now feel like my life has been lacking something critical. I wonder if they also have FODMAP-friendly meals?

I’m sure those prepared meals are ridiculously expensive, but I would accept them in a heartbeat as a gift! They would be especially welcome after my colonoscopy, when I am finally able to return to my normal low-wheat allergy rotation diet. It has been fun in some ways doing a full-gluten challenge in advance of the test. I haven’t eaten this much cake, pizza with real dough, or non-cardboard-tasting pasta in ages! It has also been unpleasant in more ways – even more GI symptoms, random hives, congestion, and nausea! (At least my partner thinks I have “cute little sneezes.”) I already knew I had a wheat allergy. Celiac disease would be worse, and I do think it is important to know whether that could be causing my issues. I’ve been doing my ‘challenge’ meals at home, to minimize work symptoms, but I haven’t been able to avoid them. I’m worried about symptoms on my upcoming trip, though my GI suggested I follow my previous diet during the trip and resume the challenge when I return home.

I already own a lovely quiet immersion blender and I have a partner who acts as my non-robotic vacuum cleaner most of the time. I felt like this list of gifts was speaking to me personally as I read through it until I came to the (sensible) suggestion of migraine-tinted sunglasses.

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CBT and the Statistician

Catastrophizing is an interesting phenomenon when you are a statistician. It’s ingrained in me to work out the odds, even for the things I fear the most. I am the girl who corrects her therapist that, “No, I don’t actually think X, Y or Z is going to happen. I objectively assign only about a 15% probability of X happening in the next three months; however, I fear X enough that even those odds trigger nightmares.” I am either terrible at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or amazing at it, depending on how you view it.

Sometimes the odds are somewhat reassuring, and sometimes times they aren’t. Either way, never tell me those odds unless you can back them up with peer-reviewed citations. I work in public health, and epidemiology is not often kind. I consider myself an advocate because I see in the odds how rough it is for anyone different from population expectations. I see the odds for those who aren’t neurotypical, for those who live in poverty, for those of color. I see the odds, and I both fear and advocate more because I see them. After the first few therapy sessions – wherein I bombard them with the worst of the depressing odds ratios I work with every day – most therapists pursue a different therapeutic direction. CBT is an evidence-based treatment, but I don’t know that anyone has ever evaluated whether it works as well on those who estimate the odds of catastrophe every day to earn their paycheck. I’ve had better luck with therapeutic methods that stress radical acceptance. I know the odds, but I am still learning how to sit with those fearful odds.

So, what does a statistician say to someone else experiencing the same physical symptoms when that person does catastrophize? What does she say when someone states without hesitation that she has cancer? What does she say when the odds are higher for that person, but more tests need to be run? What does she say when she’s been discussing the catastrophic scenario for her own symptoms for hours, and no one is catastrophizing over her?

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Class Discrimination and the Republican Health Care Bill

In my last two blog posts, I have talked about my fears of, and experiences with, medical discrimination. I haven’t talked about medical bills, though they are rapidly stacking up. I was raised in the middle class, and my current income from my numbers-heavy job keeps me there (so far. ADHD isn’t a great thing for my career, exactly, as I may have mentioned.) I am fortunate that right now that I can pay those bills. Too many Americans already can’t, and what we are about to further do to Americans with preexisting health conditions is an abomination.

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