Blog Awards Series #5: B is for Blog Awards

I am not saying “B is for Bedbugs,” because supposedly things are “happening” with that. The home is hiring a new exterminator to come tomorrow and – again supposedly – is going to deal with the code violations that resulted in the scary green notice. I’m not sure how much faith I have in either of these things, but there’s not much I can actively do until I’ve given them a chance to fail all on their own.

Having learned entirely too much about what to do to keep bedbugs out even before an exterminator comes by when a complex I lived in during graduate school got them – and finding the agency rather lackadaisical about learning from my lived experience – I’ll share it with you all. Food-grade diatomaceous earth lining the walls and furniture is a great way to stop bed bugs and other nasties from getting in if the neighbors have an infestation. It’s also a cheap and surprisingly effective after-care product once the exterminator does treat. I did my research as soon as I discovered my neighbors had them, bought that, and was the only person in a ten-unit apartment that didn’t get bedbugs back in the day.  I don’t think it was strictly allowed by my lease to do my own treatments, but at the time management didn’t care since it worked.

There’s no point in putting it down in my sibling’s room until the infestation is handled with entomological nukes first, but I keep hoping the agency will at least allow me to do the same after-care measures for my sibling’s room later. I’m not quite daring enough to just do them anyway as I did in grad school, because I’ve seen agencies use any technicality to boot someone, they barely wanted someone with a trauma history to begin with, and there aren’t really any other openings.

So instead B is for Blog Awards like C is for Cookie. If I have an enforced sit-on-my-hands week, I probably should get back to that “mental health sabbatical” portion of my not-FMLA. I’m hoping to do some baking. Baking too often seems incredibly overwhelming and not worth the spoons when the world is falling apart. But, I’ve always deeply enjoyed it when I can manage it. My original “balanced scorecard” included playing with inventing recipes as a thing that made me feel more like me.

Today’s other balanced scorecard questions are courtesy of Fibronacci:

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Where’s Whoopsie #11/Improv #7: Potty Mouth

What can I say? It’s been a bit of a $h177y week. Trauma guilt (see comments on that post if you want to hear about the new turd that dropped this week) is a dirty job. Dirty jobs call for Dirty Jobs.

I’ve been watching a lot of reality t.v. this week because that’s where my brain is at. I have been gravitating towards things that are less about people – because eff people – and more about the situations they are in: Naked and Afraid (survival skills), Deadliest Catch (crab fishing) and Dirty Jobs (hopefully self-explanatory.)

I just learned from the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs that, in the historical Middle East, bedouins would consume fresh camel dung as a treatment for dysentery. Apparently, it was kind of like an old-school fecal transplant: top up the substandard human gut bacteria with some powerhouse camel bacteria and kick dysentery’s @$$ before it kicks your own. (Note: this only works with fresh camel dung. Using the older stuff just leads to more problems!)

I buy the concept. I do have to wonder who in history, however, first came up with that idea in the era before you could test such things in a sterile lab environment without any actual consuming required. Who was that human who first looked at the wrong end of a camel and asked, “I wonder what will happen if I eat the things that came out of this animal’s butt? Oh, hey! Maybe it will make things no longer come out of my butt!” This feels like it should have become a cautionary tale for a girl who claims to be down to try anything once that there is sometimes such a thing as being too adventurous.

That said, our assignment for Improv class this week is to be incredibly mindful of how we do everyday activities. Like, how we don’t grab a wine glass with a fist like a cup. We don’t even truly grab our cup like we often pantomime that we grab our “cup.” We actually flip our hand upside down and hold a wine glass underneath the wide part of the glass. We do ham-fist our mugs, however. It’s the little details like these distinctions in object work in Improv that really distinguish the professionals from the amateurs. Realistic pantomime is so much more believable than sloppy pantomime. Immersion is so much more fun for an audience than constantly breaking the Fourth Wall. Our assignment is thus to slow down and really pay attention to how we do the things we do each day. Mindfulness: it’s not just for trauma drama anymore.

Given that it is also IBS Awareness Month and I have already once legitimately performed in a scene wherein I was acting as someone straining on the toilet* for most of the scene, I have to wonder how far I should take the method acting?! Is there ever a point in bathroom humor where the pantomime becomes a little too uncanny valley? I mean 10-25% of us have been there. Probably more of us have if we’re spoonies. Ehlers-Danlos and other disorders come along with gut motility issues as a buy-one-get-one-free.

Is it funnier for an IBS-sufferer audience member to see the pantomime done well? Because on stage, at least, it isn’t them languishing in the compromising situation? Or does it just make it sadder to see it done wrong anyway? An actor doing it wrong implies they don’t have the lived experienced to do it right. It implies that even after the actor completed a specific assignment in which they observed how they completed everyday activities, they still never had the opportunity to “experience” what realistic bathroom distress looks and sounds like? I’ll never know. I have had the recent opportunities to observe the real situation in action. I “pushed” my limits in the name of accuracy on the throne and on the stage…

However, if there is a line for realism in Improv potty humor, I’m pretty sure that it stops somewhere around camel dung as a treatment for dysentery. The fact that I now know that fact might very well show up in one of my Improv scenes someday. We are encouraged to draw inspiration wherever we can. I will not, however, be observing how to pantomime that action realistically.

Happy Saturday everyone. Hoping your week ahead – like your stool – passes quickly and isn’t too hard to handle! In honor of IBS Awareness Month, which has periwinkle as its color, “digest” these three offerings and find the mistakes. There’s a periwinkle-and-brown Where’s Whoopsie for the awareness campaign, and I include two others that have brown and yellow. Because why not? When have I ever quit while I’m “behind”?

*For anyone wondering: the Improv game in which I engaged in some potty-mouth humor was a freeze-type game. Actors waiting in the wings would watch a scene until the on-stage actors naturally contorted into some sort of crazy physical pose, then they would call “Freeze.” They would tag out the actors, assume their poses exactly, and start a brand-new scene starting from whatever those poses suggested. I had been partially squatting and looking angry – about to rush a dude in a bar – at the time freeze was called. The replacement actor went with the other obvious solution for what two folks near to each other, squatting, and looking stressed could be. The new scene with him and me involved him coaching me through a “difficult food baby delivery” like a Lamaze coach. I just had to “go with it” it, as they say…

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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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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Trust and Mental Health Treatment (Part 2): Dropping the F(ibro) Bomb

I may or may not have fibromyalgia. Or maybe I should say that I have fibromyalgia if I accept the diagnosis? That will maybe make more sense – well, maybe make some sense – after I explain, hopefully? Honestly, if it ends up making sense to you, readers, please let me know. I’m still confused!

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Rejecting My Diagnoses: Am I Really a Spoonie?

I have ADHD, PTSD, and anxiety. I also have chronic migraines, IBS, food allergies, and I’ve been getting poked and prodded more than normal recently because my physical symptoms may or may not have changed in a way that warrants an additional diagnosis (we shall see). Thinking too hard about myself as a “spoonie” – or sometimes trying to practice self-care in the ways recommended – often embarrasses me and triggers RSD. I’m not ashamed of any of these diagnoses themselves, per se. (I am especially not ashamed of the idea that people with mental health challenges or learning disabilities are “spoonies.” It is a huge pet peeve of mine when people say that people with these challenges aren’t “spoonies.” Just no, readers. Mental health counts on this blog!) I know that invisible illnesses are not an indication there is something wrong with me. I know they are real, even if others don’t always accept what they cannot see.

However, if I’m honest, I’m ashamed to admit to myself that I have most of them because I don’t feel like I “have it bad enough” in the severity of any of them to justify when one or more of these diagnoses causes complications or a bad day. I am the staunchest advocate for invisible illnesses in general, but I know I still don’t always know how to apply that advocacy to myself. To someone – anyone – else, yes, absolutely. Just not me.

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