Pandemic – Week 5

Well, it still sucks, but it’s getting easier?

It took a good two weeks before I stopped needing mindless distractions on Netflix to distract me from work anxiety, pandemic anxiety, and just general anxiety until it was time to sleep. It was rough.

My bestie has been so good to me during all of this; she’s found my low-carb bread and left it on my doorstep, she’s made me masks so I can go out for groceries with a little less fear…she’s been awesome, and I can’t thank her enough. But man, for those two weeks, even when I knew she was dropping stuff off for me, even when she was offering me a ride to the dealership when my car needed service (what a time for my Check Engine light to come on), I couldn’t. The thought of seeing her face and knowing that she couldn’t come up and hang out for a while, or I couldn’t give her a hug, reduced me to tears. Just the thought of it was enough.

That’s gotten better.

I’ve gotten better acquainted with my neighbors through all of this, and we’ve offered to get groceries here and there as we head out on our food runs. That’s been nice, knowing that I’m not alone. One of my neighbors and I have kind of bonded as bird nerds as we both tried to figure out which birds are in our neck of the woods, especially the morning songbirds (btw, the white-throated sparrow is the bane of my existence).

I’ve done a little retail therapy – it’s hard not to shop in a situation like this. I did receive my chair and it’s been a GODSEND for my back and my butt and my neck as I continue to work from home. I’ve also gotten some new work clothes jammies when they went on sale. After I got my stimulus check I backed a couple kickstarters and bought some art directly from the artists to help them out a little too. The rest has gone into savings and will stay there as best as I can keep it there.

My work anxiety has eased off a good deal and I can approach my day with a little more chill than before. With  my boss’s okay and encouragement, I’ve even put in for a couple vacation days next week. I’m still grateful to be able to work from home and earning a paycheck without worrying about the near-to-not-so-near future. It’s a little disconcerting working for a juggernaut of a corporation, but in these times, the job security is worth a little discomfort.

I’m still worried about getting sick, but I’m doing my best to maintain social distancing and only going out for groceries or the occasional I’M SICK OF COOKING AND NEED FAST FOOD run. It’s been a month without Starbucks; there may be a latte run in my near future, or I may order an espresso machine.

I get out for walks every day to get some sunlight and fresh air; my community is quiet enough that I have a route that lets me avoid most people. I’ve also (weather permitting) taken some time each day to just sit on my balcony and either knit or read or just enjoy the milder weather with a cup of coffee.

I’ve watched Tiger King. Hoo-boy. Enough said about that fascinating train wreck.

I’ve relaxed enough that I’m knitting again. I’m almost done a super cute cowl that I’ll post pictures of when I’m finished.

I’m still gaming! Our tabletop group has started gaming via video chat, and that’s done a lot for my mental health to see friendly faces and catch up about what’s going on with all of us during quarantine.

I’m considering relocating my workstation from the living room to the guest room in order to create some mental separation from my “office” to my home.  I may do that on my long weekend next week. I can still watch Critical Role during my work day without having to have it on the big screen.

I avoid the news. I get the headlines from my social media feed and that’s enough to keep me informed without sending me into a pandemic panic spiral.

I took a needed chance this week and went to see my physical therapist, as the two weeks of anxiety meant I wasn’t doing any of my exercises for my Achilles tendinitis, and my calf had gotten so tight that I knew I needed to hit a “reset button” by getting dry needling. Oh my god, it hurt like fuck but it’s already doing better two days later.

Overall, I’m doing better than that first week, but it’s still stressful here and there.

I miss being able to go out anywhere without mentally hitting the 14-day countdown clock of, “Will I develop symptoms because of this trip?”

I worry about my mom or extended family getting sick.

I wonder what the end of this is going to look like, coming out of this safety hibernation and trying to readjust to the new routines, to say nothing of what our new normal is going to become when those in power try to get us “back to the way things were”. This is a defining event for our country. I’m scared to be living in it but I’m still hopeful that we come out of it with some positive changes.

Stay home, everyone. Stay safe, stay healthy.

Pandemic – Week 1

God, that sucked. This couldn’t have come at a worst time for me emotionally. I’m in the throes of PMS, I was going to call a therapist next week to start dealing with my occasionally debilitating anxiety, and I fall into one of the high-risk health categories with 2 chronic illnesses that mess with my immune systems.

Did I mention my anxiety is triggered by medical issues?

The irony of that is that hermiting up for the foreseeable future isn’t that terrible a prospect, at least right now. I have a job that allows me to work from home, I have internet, I have a home that I enjoy, a whole stash of yarn to knit with, and a cat to keep me company. I cobbled together a workstation in my living room and I was ready.

((Narrator: She was not ready.))

The thing about working from home is that the higher-ups are watching your productivity like a hawk, and the lower ups are reminding you of that every day, so make sure you stay productive. But what about when the workload is normally pretty light?

Audits. The tedious bullshit tasks that I usually live for. Only now I’m trying to be so thorough that I’m not making it through the daily lists of things in time and, even when my boss tells me, “You’re fine!” There’s still that brainweasel that says NO, ONE SLIP AND YOU’RE FIRED and I’m plunged right back into memories of my soulless crazy micromanaging boss and REMEMBER IT’S PMS WEEK?

I’ll get better. As soon as my period hits this will be more manageable. As soon as my new chair gets here and sitting stops being so painful, I’ll be able to settle into the new normal. But right now, when I’m working every second of every day with no coffee breaks, no pause to chat with my team, and pushing to just get through that list before the end of the day leaves me so drained that I can’t even enjoy the evening because I’m thinking about the unfinished work all evening? Working from home is even more stressful than it is when I’m at the office. I don’t even have time to think about the pandemic, until it’s time to sleep, and then I need to distract myself enough to fall asleep.

(just got the notification that my new chair will be here Sunday – here’s hoping!)

Positives to social distancing:

  • Working from home means I can sleep a little longer.
  • I can watch Critical Role while I go about my day.
  • I’m cooking for myself a LOT.
  • I’m saving money by not getting Starbucks or eating out.
  • I can pet my cat whenever I want through the day.

Negatives to social distancing:

  • I miss my bestie and our Friday nights with Picard and CBS silliness.
  • I don’t like the way my routine’s been disrupted.
  • I worry that I’m exposing myself every time I go out for groceries, even though I don’t think there are that many reported cases here in my area.
  • I really miss Starbucks.
  • I miss being able to relax at work.
  • I worry about food shortages, especially when the diabetes means I can’t have the usual carb-laden staples.
  • I worry about increased panic as this goes on.
  • I worry for my friends and their families potentially being infected.

Despite all this, I’m trying to stay positive. The first week is over. I have faith that we’ll get through this. I’m going to be gaming via Facebook video chat with friends this weekend. I’ll have a better chair (or at least a cushion!) to get me through the coming weeks of working from home.

At least I hope so. Stay safe, everyone!

 

Balance

Sleeping Dog.jpg

So I’m back in college part-time in hopes of getting either a Career Studies Certificate or a full-on Associates Degree. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been at college while also working (previous college was on-campus residence with jobs in the summertime).  While I’m only taking two classes at the moment, the one class is from 7:15 – 10pm Mondays and Wednesdays, which leaves me an hour or so to come home, make and eat dinner, and pet the cat for a bit before heading out to class.

This semester is going to be an exercise in balance between work, school, home life and social life. With my new schedule, the only day that I don’t have a commitment during the week (work, school, or social) is Tuesday. Monday and Wednesday I have class, Thursday I have Stitch & Bitch with my knitting group, and Friday is Friday Night Writes with my writing group.

This isn’t going to be good for my introverted little brain. Though both my social commitments are fun, they require social energy that I may not have after dealing with work and classes and homework. Also, I don’t like leaving my kitty alone for so long. Doing it on Thursday and Friday is one thing; having it be ALL WEEK is way too much alone time for my little diva.

So I may be dialing back the social commitments for a while and maybe have people visit at my home or meet one or two for dinner here and there for the semester. Smaller, planned things that are less frequent or in my own “territory” will be better for me mentally than pushing myself past my social limit.

Balance. We’ll see how it goes.

Momentum

That seems to be the word of December for me.

I’m using the momentum from NaNoWriMo to look back on my 2014 novel. I’m editing now and hope to start posting the first chapters in the new year.

The momentum of my diet and exercise changes that I began in November has really started to show, both on my glucometer and the way my clothes fit. I’ve stepped up the exercise and see the doctor on Monday for a check-in. I hope that my A1C (to be checked in February) will also show the results of my efforts.

There have been some shake-ups at work, and I’m planning to take steps towards assuring either my value to my current employer or my marketability in case I need to look elsewhere.

Lastly, I start my college classes in less than a month. I’ve ordered my textbooks and look forward to returning to school and remembering what I started during my ASL classes back in the Philly area 🙂

As atrocious as 2016 has been, and as rough as it’s going to be with the current political climate, I hope that 2017 is going to be a better year.

Jesus, it has to be.

Another post

Two good things about these diagnoses and meds happening just before Thanksgiving week is that I could start taking all the new meds one at a time and I had a four day weekend to gauge if there are any intolerable or dangerous side effects. I didn’t have to drive anywhere, didn’t have to even leave the house if I didn’t want to. It was also kind of a blessing in disguise that I didn’t go back to Philly for my usual Thanksgiving festivities with my cousin and his wife.  Facing her Thanksgiving spread with a diabetes diagnosis would have been TORTURE.

“Can I have half a slice of turkey and a green bean please?”

“One scoop of green beans?”

“No, just one green bean.”

Now after seeing the doctor two weeks prior, she’d asked me to start limiting my diet: cut out the refined sugars, high fat foods/dairy, more whole foods to basically start working on my cholesterol (LDL was borderline high). Once I saw my A1C levels on my bloodwork and realized that I’d been tootling along for the past three months at an average of 200+ blood sugars (!!! under 100 is ideal), I took the next step of starting to limit my carbs and definitely up my exercise level to at least thirty minutes a day. I got some nice walking sneakers to help as well.  I’d try to take two twenty-minute walks after each meal; thankfully the weather has been nice enough that these walks are hardly a hardship, and I found a route that circled me back home rather nicely.

Another thing that helped was the return of my energy! The vitamin D deficiency had seriously depleted me to the point where I had to come home from work and take a NAP just to get through the three hours before bedtime. I hadn’t really given it much thought other than, “Wow, this is weird but I guess it’s my life now,” but when the doc said that the vitamin deficiency (as well as the hypothyroid) might be causing my fatigue, she prescribed megadoses of vitamin D supplements to take twice a week.  Within two weeks, my energy returned! I didn’t want to nap so much anymore, so I had the energy to come home and cook dinner for myself. I didn’t want to nap in the evenings, so I was sleeping a lot better at night and it was easier to take my walks after dinner and not feel exhausted.

Yet more things that helped were the advent of technology when it came to health tracking! I found an app that will log my blood pressure, an app that will help track my meds and remind me when to take them, and an app that tracks my blood glucose!

With the diabetes diagnosis, of course, came the need to track my blood sugar. My doc wanted me to only check it once a day in the morning, to see what my fasting level is before I start my day. If I had my way, I’d be checking it way more often, but at least this gave me a baseline.  I got a fancy schmancy glucometer that connects to an app via Bluetooth, so it transfers my results directly to my phone. The first time sticking myself to test my blood was a little nerve-wracking, but thankfully easy to handle after that first stick.

So, after two weeks of limiting my carbs (I’m not as focused on the fats/sodium/cholesterol for the moment, but am conscious of my choices), increasing my exercise and taking my meds, I started testing my fasting glucose in the morning when I take my Synthroid.  Keep in mind that a month ago my fasting glucose was 195.

Saturday: 100

Sunday: 109

Monday: 99!!!

Seeing these results that show me that everything I’m doing to get and stay healthy is paying off was super, super gratifying. My feet, eyes, and kidneys are all very pleased with me. If I can get and keep my glucose levels down and under control, my A1C will come WAY down when I get it tested in 3 months. If my A1C comes down far enough, there’s a chance I can cut back on the Metformin. I still have to call my doc and ask if they want me to go up to two pills a day, seeing that my fasting BG is trending this way. I may have to have a bedtime snack to keep my sugars from crashing overnight.

Incidentally, I’ve lost some weight. I had to tighten my Fitbit another notch around my wrist. I don’t see so much of my belly when I wear my dresses. Right now it’s not a concern or a focus at all. What matters are the habits I’m developing to keep me healthier and hopefully eliminate the need for some of these medications.

So that’s where I am health wise. I’m officially on all of my meds on schedule. The side effects have been thankfully minimal. I’m working on getting to see an endocrinologist to hopefully be diagnosed with Hashimotos (thyroid antibodies are SUPER high while everything else seems normal) and keep working on the diabetes.

People have told me that they admire my attitude through all of this, how I’ve immediately adapted to the changes I’ve had to make. The thing is, this has been the story of my life. When adversity hits, I don’t have a choice to do anything else. I have to deal with it, and I do to the best of my ability. In the case of diabetes, if I want to keep my feet and eyes and kidneys, I have no choice but to make these changes and stick with them.

Once I get a handle on these changes and stick with them until they become second nature, then I can allow myself a few indulgences here and there. I’m lucky in the fact that I don’t ordinarily crave sweets, and I’ve stepped away from the salty snacks I usually crave because they haven’t agreed with me as I’ve gotten older.  I’ll miss pasta for a while, and pizza, and some of the desserts I love to make, but they won’t be gone forever. They’ll just be treats, enjoyed here and there without gorging myself.

These are things I’ve said before when I’ve tried to do Weight Watchers. Making these changes to adjust the size of my body was not good for me. Making these changes to keep my feet and eyes and kidneys is crucial. The size of my body is irrelevant.

I have a lot to unpack about that last sentence, but that’s another blog post for another time.

The Homestretch!

As NaNo wraps up for the year…

This last quarter of the year has been a rough one.  I stressed through a lot of October about the election, needing an idea for NaNo, and health issues that I needed to address. Thankfully, towards the end of the month, I got an idea for NaNo (thanks, Londa!) and I finally saw a doctor and started addressing my health concerns.

I went into November fired up about my NaNo idea and started writing, keeping to par for the first week like a BOSS.

Then election night happened. My follow-up appointment with the doctor about my bloodwork was that night, I’d come down with a cold, and when they took my blood pressure the nurse was VERY concerned. I wrote about my adventures in medical panic that eventually landed me in the ER in another post that I haven’t posted yet, but I got on blood pressure meds after that and thankfully that’s been steady and the side effects have been minimal.

But my creativity stalled for a WEEK thanks to the election and my health concerns, and my word count suffered until I was almost 7K behind where I should be. I started writing again, but it was half-hearted; I was trying to push through so when I got to the overnight writing event that our local NaNo group hosts, I would be ready to close that gap to something manageable. I was getting there too!

And then came the diagnoses (yes, plural): Type 2 Diabetes. Hypothyroid (possible Hashimoto’s Disease). Hypertension, Vitamin D deficiency. All like a ton of bricks, and I went from being on no medications at all to taking five different drugs to manage these conditions, all of which could potentially have ALARMING side effects. More on this in another post.

So my health has been on my mind a LOT over the course of this month. That, plus the disaster that was our election took over my brain for a while and squashed my creativity, replacing it with this dull fear and despair of what will become of our country, which until now had made some real strides towards equality for everyone and not just white people. I did get some of my energy back to plug away at words here and there, but until the overnight event I just didn’t have it in me.  I’d lost track of my story and was having trouble finding my way back to it, but I managed to write almost six thousand words of pre-history and flashbacks and lots of sex and lasted until three a.m. before heading home and feeling more accomplished. I still wasn’t quite back on track, and I watched as my word count gap widened again over the next week and I just didn’t have the energy to do more than focus on my new diet and exercise plan. A couple hundred words here, a hundred words there, and it just hadn’t been happening. The gap widened from four thousand to six, then to eight.

And then yesterday, when I had all day to write and a goal of 6K words, by six o’clock that night I had 500 to show for it. The scenes just weren’t coming. Again the despair crept in. So many of my favorite celebrities died this year. This garbage fire of an election. All of my health diagnoses and new medication schedule. THIS YEAR NEEDS A HIGH POINT.

And I already ordered my “Winners” shirt.

I put out the call to my friends, all of whom know what I’m writing and most of whom know the fandom. All I need is a little nudge to get me going, and my peeps know just how to either ask the right questions or suggest the right scenarios, and BAM. 2K words before I finally went to bed.

So this is where I’m at. Health balanced for the moment.  Three days to go. Ten thousand words to write. At least three scenes in the queue and ready to go.

I can do this.

Alex O'Loughlin - crazyface

Look, Ma! I’m growing creatively!

snoopy

So I’m at the Panera Friday Night Write-in (what I call Friday Night Writes), and I’ve been thinking about this blog post all day. Of course I have it in Scrivener, because words are words are words in NaNoWriMo 🙂

Every year I do this, I seem to learn something new about my creative process and growth. Once all of the stresses that had previously overtaken my creative energy were gone, I’ve really gotten in touch with my creativity and the way I approach my writing.

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NaNo idea: Acquired and Outlining!

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You guys, I am SO STOKED. Thanks so much to my friend Londa who plot-stormed with me and gave me that spark I needed to fan into a flame of inspiration. I’ve already set the story up in Scrivener and am working on an outline that expands with every person I tell about said idea.

It’s gonna be H50 fanfic, a shifter AU (because shifters are my JAM), and this is the first out of the other ideas I’ve thought about that I can see reaching 50K words. Here’s the basic premise:

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Winding up to NaNoWriMo – HALP!

Okay, folks, it’s NaNoWriMo time! I could really use your input. I like the first two ideas, but I just can’t see how I can get 50K words out of them. My old chestnut, the TW/Sherlock crossover, has promise, and I can definitely get 50K words, but the characters’ voices are very faint in my head. I haven’t watched Torchwood in over a year and, while Captain Jack is truly unforgettable, I worry that too much time has passed for people to want to read it when I eventually post it.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall here’s the list so far.

One of the ideas is slightly NSFW but not overly so, just letting you know!

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