#WeekendCoffeeShare (June 20, 2021)

Hi everyone on this sunny and comfortably warm Sunday. I didn’t join in with #WeekendCoffeeShare last week again. In fact, I haven’t been motivated to write much at all over the past week or so. Today though, I’m trying to get out of my rut and join the Coffee Share community again. I just had my afternoon coffee and will probably take a soft drink break midway through this post. If you’d like a drink, feel free to get one and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the weather over the past week has been beautiful. It was even a little too hot for my liking on Wednesday and Thursday and the nights were uncomfortably sweaty. However, I’m liking this much more than the rain we had over the month of May. We did get some thunderstorms during the night though, which scare me.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I went to the doctor with my lower abdominal pain that I’ve had for about a week now. I wrote about this on Tuesday, but hadn’t been to the doctor at that point. I went on Thursday and, even though the urine sample I’d sent off for checking, didn’t show an obvious UTI, I did get antibiotics just in case while the sample is being further cultured. The doctor explained that it’s unlikely I’ll develop resistant bacteria, as I hardly ever take antibiotics. I am also to take paracetamol for the pain.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve been in a bit of a crisis over the last few days. On Thursday, while I was still in quite a bit pain, my care facility’s manager came by to inform me that I cannot get more support than I get now. I realize it may seem silly to get into a crisis over this, but I’ve been struggling with major anxiety lately and was really hoping that more support could help me.

With respect to the anxiety, my husband tried to be supportive, but I ended up being triggered by some of his words. Like, he said he thinks I might have dependent personality disorder. This was the exact diagnosis I got in the psych hospital in 2016 and which was used as an excuse to kick me out. I don’t want to be kicked out of long-term care. I guess that proves I’m just being dependent though, as like I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t dying living with my husband.

My husband tries to encourage me to do more things independently. While really I would like to be able to, the activities he mentioned (showering, for example) give me a ton of overload even now that my staff help me. Then again, who knows this isn’t just anxiety and dependency either? Apparently I’m not able, in my screwed mind, to make that judgment myself.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I’m almost certainly going to start taking the topiramate in early July. I started the depo-Provera injectible birth control last Thursday and I will be able to start the topiramate once I’ve been on this one for two weeks. Now I’m only hoping the antibiotic won’t mess things up again.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would share that today, my one-on-one staff took me to visit her family’s horses. I loved petting the horses. One of them kept reaching for my lower abdomen. The family member whose horses these were, explained that she goes for the person’s body part with the most tension. I guess she’s right.

How have you been?

June 2021 Health and Wellness Update

I am feeling kind of worried about my health lately. To get myself a more realistic picture of how I’m doing, I thought I’d do a health and wellness check-in. I am hoping I can make this a monthly habit.

Firstly, the reason I am worried is one abnormal result on the annual bloodwork I had done last week. I get an annual blood test for fasting glucose, cholesterol and other indicators of metabolic syndrome. This is because I take psychiatric medications that can influence this. Last year, my mental health agency ordered it, but this year, my care facility’s physician did. This means I could see my results in the patient portal for my GP surgery that same evening.

The good news is my fasting glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides were all within the normal range. The one thing that wasn’t, is an estimate of kidney function. It should be above 90 and was 81. Because it is an estimate, one abnormal blood test doesn’t say anything. I may need to be retested in a few months.

I looked up what to do about decreased kidney function, hoping to find that if I drank plenty of water, I could get it back to normal. I’m still not sure that’s the case. I mean, I try to drink at least two liters of fluid each day, but can’t figure out whether that should be enough. Other than that, I do try to watch my salt intake more closely. That’s pretty hard, of course – harder than drinking more water.

I do worry that I might not be able to tolerate the topiramate though, because if I remember correctly, that medication is eliminated through the kidneys. I’m not sure though and will leave this to the doctors to decide.

Like I said though, all my other results were within the normal range. My fasting blood glucose was 4.3. It should be between 4 and 6 and was 4.2 the last time, but I’m not drawing conclusions about it increasing as of yet.

Today, I did send off a urine sample for checking for a UTI, because I’ve been having lower abdominal pain. It came back alright. My staff will likely call for an appointment for me to see the doctor, as the pain is still pretty intense.

As for some good news though, I stepped onto the scale this morning and am back at my average weight for the past six months or so. My weight usually goes up or down a few pounds. I’m now 72.1kg, which means 2kg to lose for a BMI under 30. I am unlikely to reach that goal, but it’s okay.

As my husband reminded me when I told him about the abnormal blood result, small steps go a long way. I am already trying to cut back on my snacking on the weekend. I also make sure to eat enough veg and fruit. I mean, the meal delivery company isn’t great on putting veg in its pasta and rice dishes, which I eat most days. However, I make sure to eat some cucumber, tomatoes or raw bell pepper with each lunch. For the upcoming month, I’ve also selected some potato dishes from the meal menu, since they usually are richer in veg.

My husband also pointed out that I get enough physical activity. I could go on the elliptical more often, but my walking is pretty good already.

I did feel a little depressed when my husband told me that it’s obvious that I’m not as healthy as the average woman in her thirties. Then again, he reminded me that I turned the tide on my weight gain in 2018 and am healthier in some ways than I was before. Besides, a century ago I wouldn’t have lived past infancy. That put things into perspective.

When I Can’t Sleep

Today, Sadje asks in her Sunday Poser what we do when we can’t go to sleep. Now I must say I only occasionally suffer with insomnia nowadays. As a child, teen and young adult, I’d suffer with it a lot more often. When in the psych hospital, I even tried a handful of different sleep medications until they all stopped working and I just accepted lack of sleep. The one sleep medication I remember that actually worked for a relatively long while if I didn’t use it more than twice a week or so, was zolpidem. I liked that one best, but I actually still have a kind of psychological longing for the floaty feeling it gave me.

Anyway, now that I only occasionally suffer with insomnia, I usually still don’t like to just lie there and do nothing. The nice, floaty feeling on zolpidem would’ve helped with that at least. Rather, I usually get up and do some reading on my phone. Of course, I know that electronics are supposed to keep you awake and this may be the case for me even without the blue light (being that I keep my screen completely black). Indeed, I don’t usually find that reading helps me fall asleep, but at least it helps me pass the time until I’m naturally tired enough to fall asleep. Or until it’s morning.

I wanted to go off on a tangent here and talk about other sleep issues too. The most annoying of these is finding myself in a half-sleeping, dreamlike state where my mind seems to want to do things but my body won’t. This experience, which some people I know have said might be sleep paralysis, is extremely frightening. It usually happens when I take a nap, which is why I avoid taking naps if I’ve had this experience recently.

Which gets me to fear of sleep due to nightmares. I experience nightmares that actually affect my daytime functioning at least a few times a week. I don’t always remember my nightmares exactly and I’m not even sure those I do remember count as nightmares, as sometimes when I’m in them they aren’t fear-inducing. They however do trigger my PTSD flashbacks, if that makes sense. They usually are very vivid. I have had this issue more since starting on my antipsychotic, but now that I think of it, it’s probably more of an anxiety or PTSD symptom. I am really hoping the topiramate, which I’ll hopefully be starting within the next week or two, will help with this.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (June 4, 2021)

Hi everyone! I didn’t participate in #WeekendCoffeeShare last week, but today, I really want to. Even though it’s nearly 9PM, I honestly still crave coffee. So let’s grab a coffee or other drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would share that the weather has been great here over the past week! I mean, right now I’m almost soaking in my own sweat and wishing it could be a little cooler, but it’s much better than all the rain we had during most of May.

If we were having coffee, I would share that, due to the warm weather, I was able to meet my step goal every day of the week so far. In fact, by yesterday evening, I’d gotten in more steps than during the entire week last week. Woohoo!

If we were having coffee, I would share how much I’ve been enjoying nature lately. On Wednesday, I heard a chorus of frogs when walking beside the local canal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my phone with me and, when I did later that day and yesterday, they weren’t as loud. I still fully intend on capturing some nature video sometime soon.

If we were having coffee, I would share that today, the water system in my care home had to be cleaned professionally because legionella bacteria had been found. It scared me a little, both the contamination and its associated risks, as well as the method of cleaning, which apparently involved chlor gas. I mean, we weren’t allowed in the building while the cleaning took place, but I somehow got it in my head that I’d be forgotten. I wasn’t, of course.

While we had to be outside of the building for the day, some of my fellow clients went to the day center. The staff proposed I go with some other clients to a monkey zoo called Apenheul, which is in the city of Apeldoorn, about a 45-minute drive from Raalte. I initially didn’t want to go, as I felt I’d just be overloaded. Since I would have one-on-one support for the entire day, my staff said I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to and could decide this morning to sit in the day center or do other activities. My husband tried to persuade me to go anyway and so I did. I didn’t join my fellow clients and took a shorter route through the zoo. Overall, it was a good experience. My one-on-one took some pictures with my phone. Unfortunately, the monkeys didn’t make many sounds.


If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I might finally start my topiramate next week. At least, the GP figured out my options for going on a different birth control (because topiramate blocks oral birth control) and okay’d my going on the depo-Provera injectible birth control. She said that she’d get back to my staff next week to make sure I can start it. Thankfully, a nurse at my care facility will be able to administer it. Please everyone pray that this means I can start the topiramate soon. I really could use some relief from my PTSD.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would however share how effective learning to be present has been for me lately. This is an exercise I found in the book Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation and it’s really quite helpful. I haven’t yet been able to practise it when very distressed, but when I’m at a moderate level of distress, it does help.

How have you been?

Just Rambling

IWSG

I really should be posting my Insecure Writer’s Support group post today, but I’m not fussed. I didn’t write as much over the past month as I’d liked to and the optional question doesn’t appeal to me. For this reason, I’m just going to ramble. I will post the #IWSG link and image on this post, but I won’t really be sharing much writing-related news.

I mean, the optional question is how long you let drafts sit there before redrafting. The short answer is that I don’t really do drafts. I write my pieces in one go usually and publish them onto my blog right away. Of course, I do have freewrites and some works-in-progress that I haven’t published anywhere, but even my one published piece that I wrote back in 2014, I wrote in one sitting.

Okay, now that we have this out of the way, let me ramble about other stuff. Today, like most of the past month, has been mixed. I was okay for most of the morning and afternoon, but in the evening, I’ve really been struggling. My feelings that, if I drop my mask (figuratively speaking), everyone will run from me and no-one will want to care for me anymore, are intense. For those who might be visiting from the IWSG: I live in a care facility due to my multiple disabilities, including challenging behavior. Lately, I’m spiraling more and more out of control and this seems to create a vicious cycle of anger, shame, self-hatred and more anger.

Yesterday, I had an appointment with my psychiatric nurse practitioner. We decided there that I won’t go the diagnosis route for dissociative disorders, but that off the record at least we agree that I have dissociative identity disorder (DID). We won’t do a whole lot of system mapping. Not only have I done this already, but it seems counterproductive to the idea of needing to practice being present.

Speaking of which, I looked up the learning to be present exercise in the first chapter of Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation and had my staff write it down. The book is in English (at least, my edition is) and my native language is Dutch, so I translated the exercises and where appropriate, adapted them to suit my needs. After all, one of the exercises is naming three things you can see around you. As I am blind, this won’t work. I do find that other exercises do help me. One in particular is the butterfly hug.

Tomorrow, my GP will get back to me about my medication. I would’ve gotten topiramate prescribed to me for my PTSD symptoms, but found out last week that it’d block my birth control pill from working. My nurse practitioner would originally have prescribed the topiramate, but now I need to work something out about getting on a different contraceptive first. This will hopefully be sorted tomorrow or at least then I’ll know when I can come in to see my GP about it. I really hope this medication (the topiramate) will help, since I’m on quite an emotional rollercoaster.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (May 23, 2021)

Hi everyone on this rainy Pentecost! Today I am joining #WeekendCoffeeShare once again. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would share that the weather is still quite gloomy here. Like I said above, it’s been raining most of the day. It’s also pretty cold. Man, I can’t wait for summer to start!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this week was rather emotionally draining. On Tuesday, I found out that I won’t be able to start my new medication until at least this coming week. My care facility’s physician will be back from vacation on Tuesday and should be asked to look into the topiramate then. With some luck, I will be able to start taking it later that week.

Due to the disappointment about this and due to other triggers, I was intensely dysregulated Tuesday evening. Same yesterday. Thankfully, during the rest of the week, I have been able to stay at least out of crisis.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I’m contemplating seeking a re-assessment and possible therapy for what I think may be dissociation. I mean, I’m still unsure whether I’m making the alters up or not. Of course, on some level, I made them up regardless of whether I’ll be diagnosable with a dissociative disorder or not. What I mean though, is I’m not sure whether they are trauma-based or some result of escapism. I’m not even sure my “trauma” is real. I mean, of course it was real, but maybe it wasn’t as bad as I feel it was, or shouldn’t be affecting me as much.

I E-mailed my nurse practitioner about this on Thursday and am hoping to discuss it at our next appt.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I went to McDonald’s for lunch on Friday. I had a crispy chicken burger and fries. It was delicious!

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I was touched to the core by today’s edition of Hour of Power NL. Bobby Schuller’s sermon was on the Biblically-originating saying “Your days are numbered”. It really got me inspired to try to make a regular habit of Bible study and prayer again. I mean, I’ve so far lost only one day in the YouVersion app, two weeks ago, over the past five months. However, I notice that I’m not taking the Bible as seriously as I should and would like to.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that my husband would’ve come to visit me this weekend, but he has a headache. I hope it’s gone soon. Tomorrow is a holiday too so he can come then if he feels better.

How have you been?

Scars Remind Us #WQWWC

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” ― Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Today’s topic for Writer’s Quotes Wednesday Writing Challenge (#WQWWC is “Healing”. I originally intended to post another quote, but then I had to address the fact that the source person isn’t an author. Not that I’ve read anything by Cormac McCarthy. Frankly, I just stumbled upon this quote on Goodreads by looking for quotes on this topic. However, the quote really speaks to me.

My psychiatrist’s appointment last week opened me up to a whole lot of trauma memories. Up until that point, I hadn’t thought that anyone would ever believe me again, after my dissociative identity disorder and PTSD diagnoses had been removed and everyone had basically decided I wasn’t a real enough trauma survivor at least until or unless I got re-assessed. That’s how I interpreted my psychiatrist’s insistence that I get evaluated for dissociation when I was still living with my husband. She was a great psychiatrist, but she never quite considered helping me with my trauma symptoms without a diagnosis. Then again, neither did I. Now I may even be ready, sort of, to ask for the re-evaluation myself.

The memories have been coming flooding back at me over the past week or so. I mean, I had flashbacks before, which is why the psychiatrist proposed I start topiramate, but they weren’t as bad as they are now. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to start on the topiramate until next week, as my care facility’s physician is on vacation and she needs to okay the prescription.

That being said, the fact that my psychiatrist is willing to prescribe me this medication specifically for my trauma-related symptoms, to me means she takes my trauma seriously. No-one before has ever suggested I try any medication or therapy for my trauma without my first going through the assessment process. Which, to me, means needing to prove my past and the resulting experiences are real first. Well, I can’t, because my dissociation makes me doubt my own reality.

Besides, one of my core traumas is not being validated for who I am. This has meant I’ve had to wear one mask or another, or sometimes several at once, my entire life. For this reason, I do not know who I am at all and constantly doubt my reality of experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms.

In this sense, it is rather hard to process that most of my trauma didn’t leave physical wounds and that the traumas that did cause physical wounds, aren’t the worst ones. If my traumas had left physical wounds, there would be physical scars to remind me that the traumas were real. Now, there are mostly just emotional scars. I am still learning to validate the experience of my emotional wounds.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (May 15, 2021)

Hi everyone on this partly cloudy but thankfully not too rainy Saturday! Today I’m once again joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. I just had my afternoon coffee for today, but there’s probably still some left. Or you can grab a cup of tea or a soft drink. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week has been rather eventful. It started out with my psychiatrist’s appointment on Monday. Like I said, I was overcome with disbelief at how seriously the psychiatrist and my nurse practitioner took me.

Over the entire week, I’ve had a lot of emotional and visual flashbacks related to my trauma. I’ve also experienced some form of near-psychotic-like symptoms where I confused the past with the present. My inner life feels like a rollercoaster ride of dissociation, anxiety, paranoia and more. I really hope that I can start the topiramate soon and that it will help. I did try to take my PRN quetiapine a few times, but it hardly really helped.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my mother-in-law visited me on Tuesday. We went for an hour’s long walk and got fried fish at the marketplace near my neighborhood supermarket on the way back. Unfortunately, it started to rain just when we’d finished our fish, before we were back to the care facility. Thankfully, the rain wasn’t too heavy.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, despite not meeting my step goal of 10K for several days so far, I’m still on track for this week. The reason is the fact that, early in the week, I surpassed my goal. I even got in 17K steps on Wednesday.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my sister had her birthday on Thursday. I sent her a present (a book) already last week, but she wouldn’t open it till her actual birthday. My mother posted a picture on my sister’s FB of the card she’d sent announcing my sister’s birth. It showed me as a toddler and my sister as a newborn. My sister commented with a recent picture of my niece in which she looks just like me in the card, saying that toddler (leaving it to interpretation whether she meant me or my niece) is more beautiful.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m seriously considering buying Apple Airpods Pro. I really want in-ear earplugs so that I can listen to soundscapes or soothing music when going to sleep. I also badly want them to have noise-canceling functionality.

Unfortunately though, I haven’t had the announcement from the benefits authority of my getting my annual vacation allowance, which should be in my bank account later this month. I had originally planned to buy the Airpods (and maybe an Apple Watch too) for that money. However, with the Braille display expense scare last week, I’m a little more careful now.

If we were having coffee, I’d share about the online magazine on cerebral palsy I found out about earlier this week. CP Netherlands created it and it’s lovely. I read in it, among other things, about a radio news reader who has CP.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d tell you that my AFO broke sometime today. I have no idea how it happened, but my staff saw it when I wanted to put it on this afternoon. Ugh, I hate it when my adaptive equipment breaks down.

How have you been?

An Unbelievably Good Psychiatrist’s Appt Yesterday

Yesterday, I didn’t blog, because I was overwhelmed and frustrated all evening. The frustration is a topic for another time. My overwhelm was mostly positive in a way, in that I’d had a psychiatrist’s appointment in the morning and was overcome with disbelief at how understanding she was. That in turn triggered feelings of disbelief at my current life situation in general, which triggered memories of trauma.

I’d seen this psychiatrist once before, last December. Then, she had switched my PRN medication from lorazepam to quetiapine. Now was the time to discuss whether this was the right medication for me. I wasn’t sure to begin with. I explained truthfully that, while the medication helps somewhat with my oversensitivity to stimuli like noise, it doesn’t help with the anxiety and PTSD symptoms. I didn’t mention PTSD as such, but I did mention that my basic level of arousal is already pretty high. She asked me to describe how I moved from my baseline, which I explained was already a five on a 1-10 scale, to a level ten. I explained that I move very quickly and, once I’m at a ten, I’m too overwhelmed and unable to process stuff to take a quetiapine. Then, when I recover slightly to, say, a level eight, I can take the medication and it helps me get back to my baseline level of five.

I can’t remember how we got talking about it, but I assume my nurse practitioner already told her some things about my anxiety. I mean, we got talking about my fear of going to sleep, which I up to that point had hardly realized was maybe an actual fear of going to sleep because of nightmares. Until this point, I’d always assumed it was some form of fear of abandonment, as the night staff isn’t in my home all the time.

The psychiatrist pretty quickly got to her suggestion, which is adding a low dose of topiramate (Topamax) to my daily medications. I had heard of this medication before and a person I know online, had gotten it at his own request to help with PTSD-related nightmares. This person got it only for a few nights when he had to endure a triggering situation though. Besides, I don’t have nightmares every night. So before I agreed to it, I asked the psychiatrist to explain what it would do. She said it’s normally prescribed for epilepsy or migraine, but low doses are also found to be effective for trauma-related symptoms. She explained that some people love this medication and some hate it due to its side effects. At first, I’ll get one 25mg tablet to be taken at night. I’ll notice any side effects I’m going to get within the first several days and can then stop right away if they’re too unpleasant. If I tolerate this medication, the dose can be upped, in which case I’ll need to take the medication twice daily. The highest dose she usually goes to for PTSD is 150mg a day. She said that it should help with nightmares, but also could be helpful in preventing me getting triggered and having flashbacks often during the day.

I loved how understanding she was of my symptoms. I can’t even remember having said that I experience flashbacks, but I quite often do indeed. She said that, though I can continue to take my PRN quetiapine, that one dulls me a bit, while the topiramate should actually make me less susceptible to flashbacks. It reminds me of an explanation of the different effects of antipsychotics vs. anticonvulsants in helping with sensory overreactivity that I once read. It said something like, imagine overload is hearing a hated radio channel at top volume in your head. Both antipsychotics and anticonvulsants change the channel, but while antipsychotics give you headphones, anticonvulsants actually lower the volume of the radio. Of course, I will continue to take my daily antipsychotic (aripiprazole) and antidepressant (citalopram).

A possibly not-so-undesirable side effect of topiramate is decreased appetite. Other than that, side effects include drowsiness, sleepiness, double vision and tingling in the hands or feet. That last one, particularly if it’s going to effect my fingers, sounds annoying, but I’ll get to experience that if it happens.

Since my nurse practitioner will have to talk to my care facility’s physician before the medication can actually be started, I don’t expect this to happen till sometime next week. It’s also been decided I will start this when a trusted staff is on shift.

Now this did get me into an excited yet overloaded state yesterday evening. I mean, seriously, how can it be that someone truly understands? It baffles me but I’m so relieved.