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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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Yes, in Canada, today is Thanksgiving Day.  It is much the same as American Thanksgiving:  turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, family getting together…  But it’s not nearly as important to Canadians (as a generalization) as it is to Americans (another fine generalization).  It is my impression that in the US, Thanksgiving is considered the most important holiday of the year.  Families will come together at Thanksgiving and not at Christmas.  I would venture to say (in another sweeping generalization) that Canadians will tend to gather as a family at Christmas, and consider gathering then as more important than gathering at Thanksgiving.  And my impression is that the opposite is true in the US.  (Feedback?  I’d love to know if my sweeping generalizations are true or not. :o)

Big Hair Envy asked if I’d share some of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions.  Well, my family is not a real traditional family.  We’re an Air Force family, which means we’re spread out a lot.  (Less at the moment, as three of my siblings live within four hours of each other in Alberta.)  This means that at Thanksgiving, whoever is within a reasonable drive of each other will have dinner together.  So I went to my parents’ house (across town) yesterday, and my siblings all gathered at Sis1’s house.

I almost always spend Thanksgiving with my parents.  I am usually the one who lives closest.  I’m also single, and there seems to be an expectation that single folks will do the family thing.

We used to have the full-on traditional T’giving meal:  roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (‘cuz we’re Irish-ish and the world would end if we had a meal without them), a second vegetable (usually brussels sprouts since I tried them and developed a preference), pumpkin pie.  Sometimes we’d have yams.  My mother used to always make it a big, fancy meal, using the “good” china, putting out “pick trays” of cheese cubes, pickles, tomatoes, carrot sticks, celery sticks.  We also used to have Jello salad, which was either green or red Jello with small cubes of apple mixed in before it solidified.  (I have never liked Jello salad;  I have never understood it.  Anybody else know what I’m talking about?)

This is the first year that we have not had at least some semblance of the turkey dinner.  My mother has a stomach condition and can’t eat turkey anymore.  She hasn’t been able to for quite some time now, but until this year, she has always made turkey dinner for my father and me.  She took an uncharacteristically selfish (in a positive way) stand this year and said we were having steak.  So the tradition for a “fancy” steak dinner includes sauteed mushrooms, some sort of potato (again, it is a requirement in my parents’ house), brussels sprouts, and pumpkin pie.

Another part of our family tradition is that we have the family dinner on the Sunday, rather than the Monday (which is, I believe, the actual Thanksgiving Day).  I asked my mother about it the other day, and she said that they started doing that because people could travel on the Saturday, have the big meal on the Sunday, and travel home on the Monday.  Since it is only a three-day weekend in Canada, this makes sense.

We don’t have any other family traditions associated with T’Giving.  Many families will go around the table to share what they are thankful for.  We don’t do that.  I don’t think my father understands why people would do such a thing.  (My father is a conundrum.  Another post for another day.)  Some families play touch football.  We’ve never done that, either.  We do all eat too much, which isn’t so much tradition as it is inevitable.

Sometimes, one of my siblings will call to wish us all a Happy T’Giving.  Or more than one.  But this is not mandatory with T’Giving, the way it is at Christmas.  At Christmas, we all must talk to each other.  Someone starts things off (one or the other of my sisters, usually), and calls another person.  Who then must call another household, who must call the first household.  A happy little round robin of phoning.  It doesn’t all have to happen on Xmas day;  it is acceptable to wait until Boxing Day.  (Which is the day after Xmas.  I’ve heard that there is no such day in the US;  maybe I’ll blog about that sometime.)

I can’t help but think that this is a bit of a disappointing post.  My family just doesn’t do traditions, for the most part.  My father really dislikes them, and nobody else pushes it.  I know my sisters have their own family traditions, but I don’t really know what they are.

So the fact that we don’t really have many traditions probably says a lot about my family.  As I commented to my parents last night, our biggest tradition for holidays like T’Giving and Xmas is being together.  Usually not all of us, but whoever is close by gets together and shares a meal.  And to me, that’s what those days are all about.

Here in Canada, this coming weekend is our Thanksgiving weekend.  So, instead of doing a TT about pet peeves, I decided to do one about things I am thankful for.  I can always bitch about my pet peeves next week.  🙂

1.  I am thankful for my parents, who are strong, wise, generous, and who love me so very much.

2.  I am thankful for my best buddy, Dannan, the little brown dog.  He makes it possible for me to get up every morning and smile.

3.  I am thankful for my sisters and brother (Sis1, Sis2, and Brother Bear).  They are possibly the best siblings in the world;  certainly better than I deserve sometimes!

4.  I am thankful for my best friend, Roomie.  She is a strong support, and has been instrumental in my recovery.

5.  I am thankful that I had my breakdown, because I am much better off than I would have been if it hadn’t happened.

6.  I am thankful for my counsellor, DD, who is exactly what I want and need in a therapist.

7.  I am thankful I live in Canada (sorry, non-Canadians), because I am Canadian.  (If you happen to be Canadian, I think you know what that means!)

8.  I am thankful that I have a warm, secure place to live and food to eat when I’m hungry.

9.  I am thankful for all of the wonderful people who work on behalf of animals and children, who need others to be their advocates.

10.  I am thankful that my mother instilled in me a love of reading.

11.  I am thankful that I started my blogs.  I have met wonderful people, laughed A LOT, seen some absolutely amazing photographs, and managed to write fairly consistently.

12.  I am thankful for memes like Thursday Thirteen, because they lead me to new blogs that I might never have otherwise discovered.

13.  Finally, I am thankful that I have so many wonderful friends, who make me laugh, let me know I’m loved, and keep having faith in me.  And are there to be my support when I would just fall over without them.

For more Thursday Thirteens, check out Beth’s super site!

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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