Life, And Other Four Letter Words

Depression. Anxiety. Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension.

And then, because my spouse believes sharing is caring, a cold. Ugh. It has been nearly 10 days since I first felt the nasal drip start, and I am SO over it. All this coughing makes my headaches worse, which is fun.

In spite of all that, I feel like I’ve been pretty productive over the past couple of weeks. At the start of this month, I really wanted to withdraw, retreat from the world and be a hermit, have some ‘me time’ – all that jazz. Instead, the Universe decided I actually needed to be kept busy! So I’ve had doctors appointments, and therapy sessions, and group meetings, and outings and so on.

Last Friday was spent helping my dad pack up his stuff and move house… to my place. Yep, we’ve got a flatmate again.

Finally picked up last years financials from the accountant… at least I made it before this year’s are due, ha.

photo of a baby girl lying in cribWe’ve celebrated three birthdays this month: my BIL’s partner turned 32, my MIL turned 56, and my newest niece made an early appearance on the 27th. She’s my brother’s second child, first daughter – and has added an Aries to their household of Capricon + Leo parents with Leo son. That is a lot of fire signs in one house… and some stubborn women. Good luck to ’em! Anyway, that many b-day gifts means I am BROKE and it sucks. Time to start hocking my junk on Trademe.

Hubby and I had planned to go see the whānau this weekend, but my cold has ruled that out. I don’t think I’m contagious, but it’s not worth the risk, as my new niece weighed in at 5lb 14oz at birth so will be delicate for a while, and no doubt the fam will be in and out visiting her and/or her mother. It does mean I’ll be here when BIL and his fam swing back through, so hopefully we’ll catch up and I can give the kids their easter eggs. We don’t celebrate easter for religious reasons, but any excuse to give chocolate to people is a good excuse in my opinion!

photo of black and white cat facing cameraMy furchildren are both well; Bucky is growing in leaps and bounds. Lilo chases him around the house, but we’re no longer worried that she’ll actually hurt him if she does manage to catch him. That’s unlikely, though; he’s fast! And liquid when he wants to be.

He’s still adorable, and we’re pretty sure we’ll be able to teach him to fetch. He loves carrying things in his mouth, and will often bring toys to whoever is around. However, he’s also become something of a mischievous little shit – trying to jump out windows, chewing his food mat, beating on Lilo, pinching things from hubby’s office and stashing them in odd places. So naughty, so cute. What can ya do? When he rubs against you and purrs, you’ll forgive him anything.

Well, Lilo might not. She’s not so easy to win over.

Favourite Things: Films

These are a few of my favourite… movies. By favourite, I mean that I’ve watched them many, many times and each viewing brings me some sense of fulfillment. I’m no movie buff, so I can’t say whether these are objectively good movies, but that’s not the point. There’s lots of sci-fi, horror, some comedy and action. I reserve the right to change this list at will, but here it is so far:

“That’s a bomb!” And Other Things You Never Wanna Hear From a Plumber

Hubby got home from work at 2.00am Monday morning and found that our hot water cylinder had leaked, creating quite a nice wee lake in our laundry. He had a look to confirm it was the heater, then we dammed it with towels, emailed the property manager with an urgent request for a plumber and went to bed.

The next arvo, the plumber showed up to quote on the job. Full credit to our property manager for rousting out a plumber for same day service! However, when the poor guy walked into the laundry, he took one look at the cylinder and said “Fuck me, that’s a bomb! I’m outta here.”

Reassuring, right?

Eventually he got brave enough to take some photos, in part for the quote but mostly to send to a plumbers journal, and then he retreated to his van where he had a very animated conversation with someone.

Turns out, our cylinder (installed 8 years ago) is warped, bulging, leaking by the electrical panel, and has been plumbed incorrectly. The only pressure release is manual. The good news is that due to the breach, it’s unlikely to explode.

We don’t know what he quoted – it went straight to the property management company. However, clearly the landlords were not happy. One of them showed up here today, with parents in tow, wanting to look at the cylinder herself. We’d been notified that she was coming, but were expecting her to turn up with her own plumber, rather than sightseeing parental units! She took a few photos and left, then liased with hubby via text to arrange for her plumber friend to get a new cylinder and do an install tonight at 7.30pm.

Kind of awkward, since hubs works nights and so he had to shift stuff around because my anxiety is high at the moment and I’m so not up to dealing with strange people in my house alone at night.

And then, at the last minute, she let us know that they couldn’t get the cylinder after all, so it will have to be tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon. Le sigh.

So the towel dam is still in place. I guess we’ll have to see whether the water & power bills are affected by this whole affair, because I’ll be damned if I’m paying extra. And this plumber friend better do a damn good job. I’m not super keen on the idea of a bomb in my laundry.

Treating IIH

Okay, so I have previously complained about my IIH headaches and the fact that they can’t really be treated with most forms of pain relief medication, but I didn’t really explain that in any depth.

There’s some evidence that opioids like codeine can raise intracranial pressure, and I can testify to that. I’ve tried both immediate release and prolonged release versions, and neither were helpful. Last time my headache reached 7/10 level pain, I went to the emergency department at the hospital, and they tried me on codeine… an hour later, my headache was worse, more like 8 or 9 outta 10! So yeah, flag that.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen, when layered correctly, can take the edge off, but as you’re not supposed to take them continuously, having non-stop headaches for over a month has these less efficient.

So here’s my methods of coping:

  • I take 25mg of Topamax three times daily. It makes me sleepy, which is fine because when I’m unconscious, there’s no pain. 😉
  • I sleep on a ramp of pillows, so that my head is elevated. This helps prevent my ICP from rising and making the headache worse.
  • I use ice packs, including a gel eye mask that hubby searched multiple pharmacies for, to cool everything down whenever I have a chance to sit.
  • Every 3 days, I take a pain break and use Panadol & Nurofen to get some relief. I also have some harder stuff for when the pain is 8/10 but I’m very wary of opioid addiction, so I avoid it if at all possible.
  • I practice breath-focused meditation, which is fantastic for surviving chronic pain.
  • I’ve made a herbal-infused massage oil that either I or hubby can massage into my temples, forehead or neck & shoulders to ease tension and some pain.
  • Kitty snuggles. It’s amazing how much better you feel with a purring kitty cat on your lap.

IIH – Irritatingly Impairing Headaches

Okay, I admit, that’s not really what IIH stands for. In actual fact, it’s Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, a.k.a. Pseudotumor Cerebri and it means that there’s too much cerebral spinal fluid in the subarachnoid space in the brain, causing high pressure that results in all sorts of fun symptoms.

For me, it’s currently showing itself as non-stop headaches that rate on a pain scale from 4/10 all the way up to 8.5/10, and are immune to or made worse by most forms of pain relief medication.

0-10 scale of pain severity

With the head pain comes nausea, pulsatile tinnitus, and increasing difficulty with vision as the pressure gets more intense. It’s… less than ideal.

I was initially diagnosed in 2013, after a visit to the optometrist ended with a referral to the ophthalmology clinic. I’d been having headaches for a while, but put it down to needing a new glasses prescription. Turns out my optic nerve was swollen, which is one of the symptoms of IIH (as well as a bunch of other stuff which had to be ruled out, yay). After spending an entire day at the eye clinic, I was referred to the neurologist, who prescribed me a medication called Diamox while he put me on the wait list for a lumbar puncture. I was also recommended to lose weight, as one of the suspected triggers for IIH is sudden weight increase and/or obesity. The Diamox, otherwise known as acetazolamide, gave me an incredible pins & needles sensation in my hands, but didn’t do much else. I lost more than the recommended weight, but with no relief. And then came the LP.

I was lucky enough (she says, tongue firmly in cheek) to have a medical student there for my LP, so he gave it several tries – to the point that a 10 minute procedure became a 90 minute one, still unsuccessful. My poor hubby, never great around needles, was waiting down the hall, freaking out as the longest 10 minutes ever stretched on and on. When I finally gave up and asked them to stop, he came in to find me curled, crying, on the bed, covered in marks and iodine. It was not a great day.

So, back on the waiting list I went, until April 2014 when a slot opened and I was able to have a fluoroscope-guided LP. It still wasn’t easy – even getting a line into a vein required the doc to use an ultrasound machine and the procedure itself took 90 minutes – but I was zoned out on pain relief for most of it. I say most, because the worst part for me was the 2 hours I spent post-LP, having to lie flat so as to avoid a low-pressure headache. I’d forgotten to use the toilet beforehand, and by now my bladder was close to bursting, but I was damned if I was gonna use a bedpan or have a catheter inserted!

With IIH, a lumbar puncture is both a way to diagnose and relieve the symptoms. My pressure was definitely high, and they removed 30ml of fluid. The next day, no more headaches. Like magic, only science. And maybe a big dose of luck, because it doesn’t work for everyone.

So now I’m waiting again, this time on a different medication called Topamax, for my neuro & LP referral to come through. Tonight is a good night; I’ve only had 2 paracetamol, and my head pain is down to 4/10 so I can actually think.

Reading List 2018 – February

A short month, with a short reading list. I’ve been having daily headaches, thanks to a recurrence of my IIH (whiny post about that to come!) so my ability to read has been somewhat limited. Especially because unconsciousness seems to be the only way to relieve the pain. Ah, bless. Anyway!

There are a few books I need to give the double thumbs up to this month. The first is The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch. More post-apocalypse sci-fi (I don’t know how I end up reading so many of these sorts of books), this is an ecofeminist’s nerdy dream of a novel. I loved it. It was poetic and deep and moving and brutal. I think it would be an amazing movie. One day!

The second book I recommend is Bird Box by Josh Malerman. This one is post-apocalypse horror (ha!) and just the premise is SO CREEPY – a world where you can’t open your eyes because seeing the monster will kill you. Like, god. I didn’t know whether to sleep with the lights on, or a blindfold.

The third is a YA romance, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, that made me feel things. Nice things. For what it’s worth, my depression has been kicking my ass, so feeling nice things is amazing and wonderful. Also, this book is the best bits of being a teen in love juxtaposed with the worst bits of being a person dealing with other people. Plus, fat redhead weirdo poor girl falls in love with a skinny punk Korean rich boy in the ’80s? I’m here for it.

Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
Burials by Mary Anna Evans
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning
Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning
Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
Woman Most Wild by Danielle Dulsky
Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole
American Witches by Susan Fair
For Real by Alexis Hall
Sacred Sins by Nora Roberts
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
The Darkest Corner by Liliana Hart
The Last Mile by David Baldacci
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
P is for Peril by Sue Grafton

18 in total. Thanks to Rebecca T. for the Fever series rec.

Reading List 2018 – January

In 2017, I finished 234 books. Let’s see if we can top that.

I got addicted to Sue Grafton, I admit it. Her Kinsey Millhone alphabet series is really enthralling; a female PI investigating all sorts of mysterious and murderous cases in ’80s South California. The writing style is easy, the characters are recognisably individual, and the plots for the most part flow fast and smooth. They make for a great read.

I also decided to dip my toes into the genre of romance. Primarily written by women for women, it’s a genre that’s often dismissed for reasons that are decidedly unfeminist, so I thought I’d seek some recommendations and give them a go. Certainly, I’ve enjoyed non-genre-specific romantic stuff in the past, as well as things like Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series, the classics by Austen and the Brontes, some YA stuff, and a couple of Anita Shreve novels. So I picked up Kresley Cole’s first book in her “Warlord” series, but it’s not my cup of tea… True to form, I enjoyed her Young Adult post-apocalypse/fantasy novel Poison Princess far more.

Aside from that, I’ve been picking up some tarot gems on Overdrive, especially the Jodorowsky which has made me long for a Tarot de Marseille deck, and then it’s my usual mix of whatever takes my fancy. I would like to especially recommend the sci-fi Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh as it’s really diverse and colourful and dark.

So far this year, I’ve finished:

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh
The River King by Alice Hoffman
Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Eyes of the Tarot by Bruce Coville
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks
D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton
E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton
F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton
G is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton
H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
Who Are You in the Tarot? by Mary Greer
I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
J is for Judgement by Sue Grafton
K is for Killer by Sue Grafton
L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
M is for Malice by Sue Grafton
N is for Noose by Sue Grafton
O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
Blood Red Roses by Lin Anderson
Endless Knight by Kresley Cole
Driftnet by Lin Anderson
Torch by Lin Anderson
Deadly Code by Lin Anderson
Dark Flight by Lin Anderson
The Special Dead by Lin Anderson
The Way of Tarot by Alejandro Jodorowsky

33 in total. Thanks to Jinny for the Kresley Cole rec.


A Writers Group Prompt – Cafe Review

Coffee Club.

When we arrive at the Coffee Club, I’m tired, overheated and sweaty from a particularly hard session with my rehab physio – never an enjoyable experience, today’s workout was made worse by summer heat and lack of air-con.

I’ve stolen hubby away from work to have a quick lunch break, but I can tell by the deep V of a frown line that he’s doing his multi-tasking worrier trick; thinking about projects to be finished, clients to be billed, and packages to be sent, even as he decides on a coffee. I send him to the balcony outside to find us a table, and peruse the cabinet of food.

There’s a trolley parked almost blocking the till, piled high with cardboard and a black bag of trash. I edge away from it, revolted mostly because I’m cranky and therefore prone to revolting.

The barista greets me, but I still haven’t decided what I want, so I don’t reply. Then it registers how rude I’m being, and I remember those good ol’ days when I worked in a cafe and customers ignored me. Good is definitely a euphemism. I try to make up for it by forcing myself to smile as I order, but the smile disappears when my card is declined.

Blushing redder than the raspberry-topped muffins that sit in front of the till, I realise I’m using the wrong card – hubby has the correct one, and now he’s nowhere to be seen. I try the trick of struggling small business owners worldwide, and whip out my phone to transfer money across accounts, but the bank isn’t playing ball today, and my card declines again.

The patient barista takes pity on me, and gently suggests I pay on the way out. She hands me a table number, and I scurry outside, embarrassed but grateful, and trying not to make eye contact with anyone.

I nearly fall over a vacuum cleaner that someone has left in an aisle, so when I make it to our table, I’m short-tempered indeed. But it doesn’t take the staff long to brew up our trim no-whip mocha frappes and heat a couple of muffins, so my grumpiness is quickly turned into delight. The drinks are perfect: sweet and creamy and oh-so-cool. The muffins, one orange poppy seed and one apple & cinnamon, are fresh and delicious. Hubby and I go halves on each, so as I enjoy the feel of poppy seeds popping between my teeth, he drools over the oat crumble that tops the other muffin.

A staff member seems to appear from nowhere, smiling and nodding politely at us as he moves the vacuum cleaner out of the way.

These franchised cafes can be a bit hit and miss, but Albany’s Coffee Club has definitely scored a hit today. When we leave, I’m happy and refreshed, and thank the servers as we leave.

Best of all, hubby picks up the tab.

Written 3 February 2017 for a Writers Group.

A Writers Group Prompt – Matariki + Horoscope

The Little Eyes See All.

Sometimes she thinks that the inevitable end of her union with her husband was heralded by the birth of their children. It was unavoidable that her attention, mental and physical, would be drawn to the care and raising of those helpless babies.

She knows that, and yet in her depths she mourns the loss of that intense connection shared only by the two of them. They had been each other’s entire world, and now the aching distance between them is breached only by the demands of their offspring.

She worries sometimes about her stormy middle child, who loudly and violently expresses his anger over the separation. Alone of his siblings, he is blind to the necessity and benefits of the divorcement. When he throws those fierce tantrums, she soothes him as only a mother can. She knows that he too mourns for those days of closeness. But the others, auē! His brothers and sisters rejoiced when their father finally took his leave, and frequently reassure their mother that it was for the best.

At night she still dreams of her husband’s embrace, and in the morning as she watches the sun rise into the sky, she wonders whether he too reminisces fondly. Sometimes, when it rains, she imagines him weeping for her, and it is a comfort of sorts.

But during the day she works as she always has, and cares for their tamariki as best she can. In truth, she openly cherishes her children as her greatest joy and it is in her hidden heart that she laments the changes they have wrought. And if she never mentions that part of the reason she takes such delight in her children is that they often remind her of their father, it is because that is a blessing she is happy to hold close.

Sometimes she thinks that her children know her secrets anyway, and then Papatūānuku does not attempt to conceal her sighs as she yearns for her husband’s warmth, and the earth heaves and strains to reach the sky.

Inspired primarily by Matariki – the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades which rise in mid-winter. Matariki literally means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). According to myth, when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.

Inspired also by a Scorpio horoscope which warned of an interfering third partner between two people who were unlucky in love.