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It feels like forever since I posted last. I’m also terribly behind on Dannan’s blog, and on replying to the heap of email in my inbox.  However, I am beginning to allow myself to be the awful correspondent that I always have been, but which I have fought against. Three cheers for self-growth!!

At any rate, things were pretty rough here at The Muse Asylum.  The “trial” med that I was stuck on for three months wasn’t doing me any favours.  Neither was my psychiatrist’s office assistant, who couldn’t find me even a minute of his time.  But that’s a whole other rant, which I might actually have already ranted.

On February 19th, I rounded the corner, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.  That was the day I made my first trip to OneSouth, our local psych ward.  To sum up how I got there (because I’m too lazy to edit):  I was on one heck of a lot of meds, which all had nasty side effects that got together, had a party, and increased exponentially.   And as I’ve mentioned,  my past year has been rough in terms of access to a psychiatrist;  when my original Psydoc closed his practice in December of 2007, he referred me to a great female psydoc named Dr. F.  She was super, except for the fact that she and her husband decided that they didn’t like it here and moved to the Lower Mainland in June of 2008.  Long story short, I didn’t see anyone from June until November, and that was too long.

In November, my new guy (Dr. W.) saw me. I think he will prove to be fabulous if a person can actually get in to see him.  We decided to try a(nother) new med, on the theory that I would see him once a month for at least a year.  Except that he is supremely busy, and I am on the cancellation list until July of 2009.  (From then on, I do have a monthly appointment with him, if I can actually make it until then.)

From mid-December, no matter what we told the office assistant, I couldn’t get in to see Dr. W.  It didn’t seem to matter that I ended up moving home with Mom and Dad because I didn’t feel safe at home alone all day, or that my mood had absolutely plummeted on the new med.  Nothing would get me an appointment.

Finally, The Therapist suggested we tell her that it was “urgent”, which is apparently a code word that opens doors as if by magic.  Except.   Except her response was that their office doesn’t handle “emergencies”, so if it was urgent, I needed to go to the ER or to my GP.

Finally, on February 19th, Mom took me to my GP.  By this time, I was in a very bad way.  GP said she couldn’t do anything except admit me to OneSouth.  I didn’t want to go (OH, how BADLY I didn’t want to go), but I told Mom and GP that I was in no position to be making decisions for myself.  And this is how I came to be admitted (involuntarily, despite both my consent and Mom’s – the only way to get a bed was to go involuntarily), and how life started to be a bit brighter.

I have always been terrified of going to the hospital.  I have never been in the hospital overnight, other than for two sleep studies.  And when I practiced law, a number of my firm’s clients were folks with various mental illnesses.  Often when they called, it was from the psych ward.  And did they ever have awful things to say about it!  It’s quite ironic, actually, that their descriptions would foster this great fear in me.  When I think back to those days, one former client in particular comes to my mind, and I wouldn’t have considered here to be a credible witness on any other issue.  One of the more prominent features of her illness was that she was delusional;  most of what she told us was considered to be questionable in terms of it’s actual basis in reality, until further investigation was done.

However, the lasting effect of her (and others’) accounts of life on the psych ward was that I became extremely afraid of the place.  Certainly, at the beginning, a big part of the fear was probably that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, be admitted to the very ward ward where my clients could be.  (My whole adventure with mental illness began in Victoria, and it really was a possibility that such a situation could have happened.)  Thus began more than nine years of absolute refusal to be admitted to any psych ward (even after I left Victoria), and absolute terror of what would happen to me if I were admitted.

Despite my terror, OneSouth is a good place.  Even the isolation ward (where one wears yellow baggy pajamas and has a bare cinderblock room with only a bed, a pillow, and a blanket) isn’t so bad.  I was terrified when I got there, even under the influence of a hefty dose of Haldol. At GP’s office, I literally begged my mother not to send me to OneSouth.  I even at one point promised her that I wouldn’t be ill anymore, I would be better, if only I didn’t have to go.  In the circumstances, I am very proud of her for having made the decision to have me admitted anyway.

I calmed myself down once I was in the “cell”, mostly because I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to go home if I was hysterical.  (Suffice it to say, I could never have actually calmed myself if it weren’t for the shot of Haldol.)  I was, at first, determined to go home as soon as humanly possible (hopefully the next morning, if not sooner).  As time passed, I began thinking that the isolation ward wasn’t such a bad place to be. (I may write more about this in another post.)

I got to see Dr. W. the next afternoon (Friday).  How do you like that?  Three months of begging for a moment of his time…  Admittedly, I wasn’t begging him, but rather his office assistant.  Anyway.  He transferred me to the open side of the ward as soon as we had finished meeting. Our decision was to take me off all of my psych meds so we could start all over again. No better place to do that than in the hospital.

I’m now on a med called Remeron (mirtazapine), and I was in a good place to go off everything else. And I finally got to see for myself what the psych ward was all about.  I have a friend who told me once about one of her other friends who called her times in the psych ward a vacation.  I couldn’t imagine before how anyone could say such a thing, but it is in reality a very nice place to be. Rooms of four, a richly-appointed lounge with a pool table, a table-top curling game, a ping pong table, a piano, board games and puzzles, and lavish comfy chairs. An open kitchen where a person helps herself to whatever she want at any time. A TV room, nurses to look after anything a person needs, and time to do whatever a person wants. I had a grounds pass, so I wasn’t confined to the ward.As long as I wrote on the chalkboard by the nurses’ station that I was going for a walk, I could do it.

I was there from the Thursday of the GP appointment until the following Monday, and it was the best decision I never made.  (I have thanked both my mother and GP many times for finally overruling my fearful protests.)  And, so far, the new med is working well (knock on wood). Not too many side effects (and most of myformer side effects are gone!). I am very sleepy all the time (somnolence being the #1 side effect), and I’m pretty dizzy most of the time (the #2). My appetite is also way crazy (another side effect), but I’m trying to keep my eating in reasonable check.  I had also decided that if I had to choose, I would choose sane and balanced over keeping my girlish (ha ha!) figure.

The big thing:  my mood is better than it has been in many months, and my anxiety (which had become almost unmanageable) is well in control. I haven’t really been doing well since June of 2006 (when I went off all meds to do my second sleep study, which in the end told me absolutely nothing), but I think that I might have turned the corner.

Wow, what a long story.  All to get to the point of writing this:  as I wrote, I am doing better than I have in a very long time.  I nap a lot;  nothing like compulsory napping to make a person feel four years old.  But when I was in my very bad state, having to nap everyday sounded a hell of a lot better than the way I was feeling.  So I’m holding to that memory, and I’m also happy to say that the somnolence is lessening as time passes.

The dizziness, not so much.  I did a trial drive to the grocery store yesterday, having decided that I was okay to be on the roads.  (Fortunately, the grocery store is quite close to my parents’ house, and I can get there and back on roads that are virtually empty of people at the time of day I tried this.)  Turns out, sitting around all day and only moving around the house is a misleading test of how dizzy I am.  I drove home very carefully, on the deserted roads.  So I have to give up some of my independence and allow other people to drive me places.  (Have I mentioned that public transit makes me very anxious?)  And I even have to ask people for rides, which is an exercise that The Therapist will be very happy to hear about.

My appetite is still enormous;  indeed, it seem to grown everyday.  I could eat the world, that’s how it feels.  So we’ve stocked up on fruit, veggies, cereal bars, rice cakes, cheese and crackers, and the like.  I’m not trying to diet, but if I’m going to eat the world, I might as well start on the healthier part.  Get some of my recommended servings from the food pyramid.

I am slowly starting to get back to my routine.  I’m going out to dinner with The Roomie tonight, and tomorrow I am going to a Chamber of Commerce social for the SPCA.  I’m posting here, and I’m catching up gradually on the many posts piled in my Google reader.  I’ll post something soon for Dannan, too.  It’s all so much better than it’s been in so long, I can’t even begin to tell you (even though my 1800 words so far are probably far too long of a start!)

That’s the update.  Now for the next part….  Elton John gives me shivers!

I was watching the last episode of The Bachelor last night (no, I’m not going to bother linking to it;  Google it if you need to find out what I’m talking about), as well as their post-competition wrap-up shows.  (Yes, I watch terrible t.v.  You don’t have to watch it with me, so let me have my vice in peace.)  During the commerical break, I was channel-surfing, and I found this:  Elton John: Live at the Royal Opera House.  As long as I can see him perform songs like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Your Song”, the world is a wonderful place.

Seriously, hearing him play these songs with a 90-piece symphony sent shivers through me.  And at the time, I was thinking:  I must always remember that life is worth living so long as there is music out there that can send chills through my entire body when I hear it.

Music is so powerful, such a gift to humanity.  For me, many pieces of music (from all sorts of different genres) evoke this kind of response.  Elton John (at least his older work) is an example.  If death metal, hip hop or even Marilyn Manson give you chills, then I’m glad for it.  Even if I don’t understand it, I’m glad for it.  If there’s someone out there with this kind of musical taste who can tell me that it makes you shiver, please leave a comment.  For me, this is the magic of music, and I’m curious to know if you fans feel the same way.

Enough for today.  I’ve got many other ideas for posts bubbling away in my brain, so hopefully my next post will be soon!

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Okay, let me start by saying that I love my Dad.  We haven’t always had a very close relationship, but that’s changed in the past ten or so years.  We have started to understand each other better, and since my breakdown, he has done a lot of personal growth.  (“Done” doesn’t seem to be the right word here, but I can’t find one I like any better.)  I do love him, a lot.

But today was one of those days where I wanted to shake him, or smack him, or something.  It was such a small incident, but yet it illustrates one of the most frustrating things about my father.  Hang in for the full story, I think you’ll see what I mean in the end.

Today was Wendy’s Dreamlift Day, which is a fundraiser where all of the local Wendy’s restaurants donate all their proceeds and the staff and management donate all their wages to help local children with life-threatening illnesses or severe disabilities go to Disneyland.  It’s a super-worthy cause, and my parents always support it.

So Dad says he’ll go pick up supper, and we should write down what we want.  I made the list:  an Ultimate Chicken Grill and a baked potato for me;  chicken nuggets and fries for Mom;  and I left it to Dad to figure out what he wanted.  So off he goes to pick up the food.

He comes home, and tells me that he ordered us each a combo meal, with fries and a Diet Coke.  I got my chicken sandwich, but Mom got chicken strips, not nuggets.  I didn’t get my baked potato, and aspartame gives me a migraine.  I asked him, what was the point in giving him a list, if he was just going to choose something else for us?  He said that he’d just decided that the combos were a good idea, and so easy to order.  You’ve got a friggin’ list, what is hard about that???  I pointed out that Mom didn’t even order chicken strips, that she had deliberately chosen to order nuggets.  And reminded him that I can’t drink diet pop.  He just shrugged and said something like well, I decided to do this.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Maybe I’m over-reacting, but this is an ongoing thing with him.  He doesn’t listen, and when he does, he just does whatever he wants anyway.  He was so matter-of-fact about it, and wasn’t bothered at all that he had completely disregarded what we wanted, substituting his own choice for ours.  He was positively cheerful.  Father knows best, riiiiiiiiiiight.

Petty example, because it’s fast food, right?  Not something that, in and of itself, made any real difference.  But the thing is, he would do this no matter what the issue was.  It is so frustrating.  If he had been going out to buy medicine, and was told to buy Tylenol because the sick person was allergic to aspirin, he’d come back with aspirin if it was on sale, or if he just happened to prefer aspirin himself.  He does things like this all the time.  I am so frustrated with the larger issue that was spotlighted tonight with our food order.

He does it with Dannan all the time, too.  Dannan is a three-legged dog.  His missing leg is his front left.  All of his weight rests on his front right leg, because his centre of gravity is at the front of his body.  The vet has repeatedly emphasized that Dannan has to stay very trim, or the stress on his joints will be disabling.  He cannot become overweight, not even close.  It will affect his mobility, lead to arthritis in his joints, all kinds of awful stuff like that.  I have explained this to my father at least fifty times.  (And yes, I am one of those people who exaggerates all the time, but this is no exaggeration.)

So my father likes to share his food with Dannan, and he wants to do it.  So he does.  Even though I’ve repeatedly asked him NOT to do it.  I have explained the reasons why so many times that he should be able to repeat with me, word for word.  I have shown him what a proper portion size is for a piece of apple, which is the only thing he is allowed to feed Dannan.  Dannan gets a piece of apple about the size of my thumb nail.  Dad gives him a third of his apple.  I have asked him not to, I have threatened to not bring Dannan over to the house, I have scolded, and I have become so angry that my voice cracks when I talk.  He doesn’t care;  Dad wants to feed Dannan people food, and so he will.

Fortunately, I seem to finally have gotten through to Dad, at least on the “apples only” front.  I haven’t seen Dad feed Dannan anything but apple in quite a while, even though Dannan and I have been staying at Mom and Dad’s house for a couple of weeks.  I shudder to think what happens when I’m not around.  But I’ll be satisfied with a third of an apple, if that’s all he gives him.  Dannan loves apples, and they’re not bad for him.  I just can’t believe that it took my father almost four years to get the message that this is a matter of health and mobility for Dannan.

Okay, father rant is over.

In other news, my stalker ex did not try to contact me this past weekend when he was in town.  I didn’t even run into him anywhere.  Perhaps he has finally moved on?  I asked my roommate if I was being too paranoid to be so concerned, and she said, “No, after all, we’re talking about The Stalker.”  I’m just relieved and happy.

My other almost up-to-the-minute news is that the house three doors down from my parents’ house burned down this afternoon.  My mother’s friend, Joan, lived there for thirty years before moving to an apartment when she couldn’t handle the yard anymore.  We don’t know any details about the fire, or even if there was someone home when it started.  But the entire city’s fleet of fire trucks were there, ambulance and police in accompaniment.  I hope we hear more about what happened tomorrow, but the media in our city is just plain incompetent.  The t.v. station itself could be on fire, and the story would never appear on the local news.

Finally, I have a big decision to make, and I’m in a quandry.  I might write about it tomorrow.

Howdy, all.  I’m doing a bit better today, for which I am thankful.

But I’m not writing about all that stuff today.  The important matter that I must address concerns luncheon meatCold cutsReady-to-eat-meat products, if you will.

So up here in Canada, we have had one news story for the last week or so.  Perhaps longer.  It seems longer.  But maybe that’s just because it is the LEADING story on the news, and has been for, I don’t know, the last hundred days.

One of our Canadian luncheon meat plants, Maple Leaf in Toronto, has had an outbreak of listeria.  Now, I’m not expecting that you’ll have ever heard of this evil little bacteria.  I myself have seen some documentary on it (you know, of those shows that talks about e. coli, or ebola, or multi-drug-resistant-tuberculosis…  I am fascinated by these shows, so I know all about the little deadlies that are out there.  But I know that my obsession is a little weird, so I don’t expect anybody else to share it.  Although if you do, let me know;  it would be cool to know that I’m not the only really weird one.)

As a public service, I will list some fast facts about listeria, courtesy of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

What is foodborne illness?

Foodborne illness occurs when a person consumes food contaminated with
pathogenic bacteria, viruses or parasites. This condition is often called
“food poisoning”. Many cases of foodborne illness go unreported
because their symptoms often resemble flu symptoms. The most common symptoms of
foodborne illness may include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and
fever.

What are Listeria
monocytogenes
and listeriosis?

  • Listeria monocytogenes is a
    bacterium. It is often found in the environment, particularly in soil,
    vegetation, animal feed, and in human and animal feces.
  • Eating food contaminated with Listeria may lead to the development of a disease
    called listeriosis.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms include: flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea,
    headache, constipation and persistent fever. Symptoms usually appear within 2
    to 30 days and up to 70 days after consuming contaminated food.
  • The very young, elderly or those with poorly functioning immune systems are
    the most susceptible. Flu-like symptoms may be followed by a brain or blood
    infection, either of which can result in death.
  • A woman who develops listeriosis during the first three months of pregnancy
    may miscarry. If she develops listeriosis later in the pregnancy, her baby may
    be stillborn or acutely ill.

Wow, huh?  Listeriosis has been described by a microbiologist, tapped by the media as an expert, as the worst form of food poisoning ever.  Well, he didn’t put it precisely that way, but I’m certain that this is what he would have said if he was a subscriber to the Plain English school of language.

Anyway, this has been our national obsession.  Much more pressing and fascinating than the Olympics.  Which, if you were paying attention, is not hard to achieve for Canada.  We are not summer Olympic folks up here, but we’ll clean up at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  Or else look mighty silly, after all the trash talk we’ve been dishing out.

(I just have to add this note:  there were at least three Olympians in Beijing who are from my hometown.  And each one of them finished fourth.  I think that says something, don’t you?  But I digress.)

So, listeriosis.  This manufacturing plant has, at some point, had something to do with nearly every ready-to-eat-meat product in the country.  At first, the company just recalled products sold under the Maple Leaf label.  But yesterday, the recall had expanded to some 34 brand names and restaurants who use those products.  So there are far more dangerous ready-to-eat-meat products out there than we had imagined.

My parents eat a lot of cold cuts.  And they are in their early seventies.  I talked to my mother last night, and discovered that they had a fridge-full of possibly tainted meat products – ahem, ready-to-eat-meat products – that they have been merrily eating all along.  Not Maple Leaf, see?  Burns brand.  Who’d have thought that perhaps the Maple Leaf plant might also process meat for other brand names?  Clearly, it was safe to keep eating them.

The elderly are one of the groups at risk.  I had to explain to my mother today that, at 72, she is considered to be elderly.  Not that I think of her as elderly;  heavens, nooooo.  But technically, the general public do (mistakenly, of course) consider 72 to be elderly.

And they are both sick, with flu-like symptoms.  And in complete denial that the ham and bologna they have been eating might have caused it.  And that they, just maybe, should call the doctor, or the public health unit.  Or somebody.

I emailed my oldest sister last night about it.  She is a nurse, and it’s generally much easier to email her about something like this, than to look it up myself.  Laziness, thy name is Linds.

Sister1 sent me the list of symptoms, which pretty much parallel what my parents are feeling.  And she asked me to make sure that they had chucked the rest of the meat.  She knows them well, let’s just say that.

My mother grew up really poor, and she does not throw *anything* away.  She just cannot bring herself to throw food in the garbage.  And this situation is no exception.  Mom fed the stuff to the crows, which inspired me to tell her that when listeria sweeps through the local animal food chain, she will know it is her fault.  Neither she nor my father had considered that, apparently.

Since I am the child who lives in the same city as the parents, I am the one who keeps an eye on them.  It is a heavy responsibility sometimes.  Mostly because they are so stubborn, and apparently invincible.  I will be watching them closely.

I’m pretty sure they’re fine, but the fact that they are always in complete denial about even the possibility that they might be, even the slightest bit, at risk is infinitely frustrating.  I’ll blog later about an incident with my mother that will help to illustrate this point.  But for now, take my word for it that this nonchalant, blase’ attitude is their M.O.

Anybody else have invincible parents that drive their children crazy?  Just wondering.  Again, am I the only one?

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