Health, Physical & Mental

Feeling Better

About three weeks ago, I had another medication change. This is probably the latest in a dozen or more over the last two years. Up until now, my medical professionals have been trying to directly treat bipolar type two disorder.

Three weeks ago, we started trying to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, with a focus on the obsessive aspect. (I don’t really have compulsions in the Hollywood-style.)

This change has been incredible. Usually, we change a medication and I have, roughly, a two week period where I feel better. Then things go back to my “normal.” Normal for me is very, very depressed with no motivation.

The last three weeks or so have seen me without depression. When I say without, I mean near zero. I get a depression questionnaire whenever I go to the doctor (called a PHQ-9 questionnaire). This week is the first time in over three years that I’ve been able to say “Not At All” on most of the questions. Even the ones I can’t say “Not At All” on have been dramatically reduced.

The added bonus is my physical pain has also been reduced. My wife thinks this is tension-related, as in I’m holding myself in a more relaxed manner than usual. I agree with her, as I find I’ve had fewer tension headaches and less jaw pain.

This all leads to: I’m feeling better. More motivated. I’ve been writing more, planning more, thinking of new projects to do.

I’m planning on writing here more often. I’ve been inspired by this interview with Austin Kleon. In particular, the method he uses for a pocket notebook, logbook, diary, etc. I’m going to try to start doing something similar, both to minimize how much I carry on my person day-to-day, and to increase the amount of material I have to use here.

That’s all for now.

Health, Physical & Mental Writing Project Updates

The Ups and Downs of a Day

Down: I had therapy this morning with my new therapist. Unfortunately, this morning is the last session with this therapist. There’s something missing from the sessions and I’m convinced there’s no way to fix it.

Up: I finished a short story. Drafted it by hand and I approximate that it comes to about 1,500 words (it is eight hand-written pages).

Up: I’ve been using the iOS and Mac app Things to keep track of To Do items, iCloud’s Calendar to track appointments and school events, and IFTTT’s iOS app to set reminders for taking medications. Overall, this “outboard brain” (as Tobias Buckell refers to it) is doing much better than my previous hand-written calendar and task sheet at keeping me organized and on-target.

Up: I’m already juggling ideas for a new short story that I’ll start (and maybe finish!) writing tomorrow while the girls are in school.

Health, Physical & Mental

On Being In Pain

I don’t usually like talking about this subject, but I think it’s high time I stretch my comfort zone. Keeping it all to myself doesn’t help, so I’m going to try to get it out there.

I’ve been in some form of pain for most of my life. I started having stress headaches around the age of twelve, right around the time that my mother passed away from brain cancer. Nothing was really done about it; I took over the counter pain killers and dealt. Over the course of my teen years, the headaches got progressively worse until, at eighteen, I was diagnosed with migraines. Then the doctors started trying drug treatments that, to this day, don’t work.

Along with the migraines, I’ve also never slept very well. Most doctors I talk to attribute that to my weight. I’ve been 6’4″ tall and over 250 pounds since I was thirteen. I’ve always hovered higher in weight than I should. Looking back now, though, I can list on one hand the number of times I’ve actually, really slept a full night. Most of the time, I’m caught up  in a cycle that doesn’t allow me to drop into the restorative sleep that people need.

Recently, I’ve developed extreme pain in my muscles and joints. I’ve always had issues, here and there, with a joint or muscle, but, since I’m overweight, most doctors just ignore it. Rest it, take pain meds, get better. Seems logical, but it never really worked for me. Now, I can’t sit in a car for more than an hour before my sees catch fire, nor can I whisk something while cooking, or brush my hair without feeling like my joints are all afire and ready to run away from me.

In essence, all of this culminates into one thing: it takes a lot of mental effort for me to get myself doing anything. Exercise, sitting at the computer, watching television, writing: each and every activity I think about doing has a certain amount of pain attached to it. Some things I have to do: go to work and get things done, cook dinner, do laundry, etc. For those things, I don’t have a choice: I have to accept the pain I’ll be in because, otherwise, those things won’t get done and my wife and daughter would be negatively effected. Things like writing, exercising, reading a book: they all get dumped to the side because the pain cost is too high.

However, I’ve discovered that there is another cost: happiness. Writing makes me happy. Telling stories makes me happy. Reading a story someone else has written makes me happy. Playing with my daughter and seeing her delight in new things makes me happy. Going out to dinner and a movie with my wife makes me happy.

I’m learning slowly that being unhappy and in minimal pain costs far more than being happy and in more pain. Because if I’m unhappy, I get depressed — and the depression enhances the pain I feel. The happiness can fend off some pain, or at least make me forget it for a time. Which is good.

One positive note in all of this is that my newest doctor believes that I have fibromyalgia and is taking steps to get me treated for it. I’m glad that we are on track for a treatment, but I wish it had come along sooner.