juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
(Previously discussed here.)

Went to Devon's for a week, spent four days on Tramadol (three doses in three days, two days off, one day on; timing was largely happenstance, but it worked out well). It was a lovely trip for obvious reasons—Tramadol is by far my favorite drug—but also did what it needed to do and essentially hit a reset button on my pain cycle. My back is still bad, and I'm unsure what degree of bad or what this sort of bad indicates in the long-term, but it's a sort of bad I can treat, now; before, nothing was touching it.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Sometimes I want to give people a sign that says I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE DEPRESSED (slash ANXIOUS slash MENTALLY ILL) and then have them wave that around instead of talking.

This is directed at no one; it is a whispered response to a complete internet stranger that wasn't even talking to me. Just so as that you know.

I'm still not doing great. Two weeks ago my sister graduated from the University of Oregon, so I went for that—and Father's Day, as it was the same weekend; and attendant extended family (uncle and his family, grandfather with wife) activities. To my surprise I was happy for her almost entirely without jealousy/resentment (on account of my failed college experience), although graduation itself was mildly triggering. The whole weekend went fine and it was absolutely exhausting, in part because events like that always are, in part because of some specific circumstances, in part because I'm still just not doing well.

It's depression, mostly at this point. The back is still bad, more or less, but it's plateaued at this new level of always this bad and so I'm learning to live with it. That was hard to do over the graduation stuff, so I ended up trying two new happy pills. Verdicts: Vicodin (hydrocodone/paracetamol) was moderately effective but had more side effects, largely spaciness—intense, emotionally non-responsive spaciness. Neurontin (gabapentin) was extremely effective, rendering all my muscles (all of them! even my shoulders, which hold tension, not pain) into limp noodles and me likewise; I experienced some moderate unsteadiness but Devon, who would better know, says it did less to my cognition. Neither were as awesome as Tramadol, but 1) they were out of Tramadol and 2) much of my love of Tramadol stems from its side effects, which worries me. Would I take Neurontin again? Yes, but I'm not constantly thinking about how badly I want to take it again, which makes me think it's the better drug for me.

After graduation I stayed a few more days in Corvallis and just spent time with Devon, and they were good days, but the monotony of depression is a mire, it rises over anything good and renders the entire landscape a bland sort of miserable. It's been months of this now, it's dull and not worth recording, and I invite it to fuck off, please and thank you, at its earliest convenience. This time around it's killed my appetite, which is fantastic because I just didn't have enough food-related neuroses; but no one wants to hear about how hard it is to shower or do laundry, and I don't want to write about it.

Dee and Devon both have been angels, in their limited possible capacity—further "it's not you it's me." I could write about August but I don't know how to do her justice. No spoons these days, so evenings when she's whining for food can be torture, but when I got back after a week in Corvallis ... she always demands immediate snuggles, and we had that, but seeing her again also rekindled this love affair and we've been head over heels for each other since. She is my cat in this devastating, heartfelt way, and I have never known a creature so beautiful. That doesn't idealize her, and I don't think she's half the cat I was expecting when I adopted her, but even at her most annoying I would not change her for the world. Even when the intensity of this love fades down, again, to background noise, the truth of that will not alter.

And everyone should have an overenthusiastic wigglebutt of a puppy come to meet them at the train station.

It's not awful but it's not good either, these days, and at this point I'm just waiting them out, but I might as well mention that they exist and so, still, do I.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Last night while trying to sleep I composed a lengthy Tumblr post in my head, one which should more properly be a number of posts because, well, it's Tumblr—go tl;dr and go home. Yet writing an LJ post, lengthy or otherwise, seems difficult these days. I know in large part it's just that my daily distractions are focused around content that ends up on my Tumblr, namely Let Me Tell You About My Video Games.

It's also that I think my back has reached a new level of suck ... probably since the start of this month? Time is fuzzy. It's that sort of stealth/background pain that I think I don't actually know I feel, which makes all of this sound like the worst sort of bitching: behold, the suffering I experience because I can't tell I'm suffering! But it ruins my mood and my patience and tries do to the same to my brain; I don't know how there can be pain I don't recognize (freakishly high tolerances? loss of feeling in my back? skewed expectations? yes to all of these things), but it's no better for that, I still get almost all of negative repercussions of pain with even more limited ability to treat it.

I was worried about this before the trip, and stuffed myself full of naproxen sodium on the train, and could tell the exact moment that the pills wore off. I hate medication; the only reason I'll take this one is because it treats cause as much as symptom, relaxing muscles instead of just dulling pain. I used to be able to get away with just one happy pill every other month, as a sort of system reset. Because I never take meds, that little blue pill was so effective. Now I can feel it as the effects wear off and behold, it all comes back.

In case you were wondering, reading back through my back pain tag is one of the more depressing things I do to myself.

There's two things about my back problems which are soul-sucking: the permanence and the progression, in short: it will continue to get worse for the rest of your life. Every now and then it does this, it climbs a little higher, gets a little worse, hurts a little more more often, until it finds a plateau further up the mountain which seems nice and has a good view, and decides to rest there for a while. The climb hurts in an active sense because pain one isn't used to is always the hardest to stomach, and adjusting to the new plateau is effortful: deciding how much of the pain I can tolerate, and figuring out what tools and pills may hold it at that point. And, atop that, knowing that not only am I settling for "how much pain can I tolerate," but that the cycle will continue and I will learn to tolerate more and more, forever—that's almost as hard. It may be as much of what destroys me as the pain itself.

Which is to say, as I think I had a point under all that:

This isn't a climb and plateau in my usual sense because it's almost all been stealth pain, but I think the cycle is repeating once more. I don't like it. I don't like it in a way I have no words for but hyperbole. I'm in an awesome place with an awesome person, and I'm distracted by ... this. This little view into "maybe this isn't just a bad week, hell it's been a lot longer than a week, maybe this is the future." This reminder that that tend to be exactly how it works and guess what, self! there's shit all you can do about it. I'm also a bit restless and grumpy on account of pain doing that to a person, but there's something more, insidious and miserable, my little whisper into a void about something bigger than this moment. I don't want this, I really don't want this, and I know that in a universal sense all of this is so small and I just don't care. I don't want this anymore.

And let's be honest, writing about that doesn't make anyone happy.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
At the risk of jinxing myself again: a little better day by day. Today I cleaned Kuzco's cage and came down for dinner, which is actually an improvement, and I feel like a living Amanda Palmer song (let's, er, ignore the slideshow). I'm also in a wrist brace for repetitive stress issues (just the right for now, but the left should kick in soon if pattern follows), but an anti-inflammatory has helped reset the back pain, which probably helped to alleviate my mood; bless Devon for forcing me to take one. Good is relative—three spoons instead of none—but, aside from my usual if-I-were-really-depressed-then-I-would-never-feel-better emotional veracity/self-doubt anxiety, any good is welcome. Maybe someday soon I'll be able to figure out what day it is and/or wash my hair.

I've been sleeping crazy hours (no really Juu you don't say), which is disturbing August's schedule. She still sticks to me like my own small shadow—except much fluffier. A few early mornings ago I drifted out of a doze with a cat pressed to my chest, warm and soft and full of purrs, nudging and snuggling me until I was awake enough to check the time and serve her a slightly belated breakfast.

So some of this, some of that, I guess. The idea that this too shall pass raises my hackles for too many reasons (first above all at this particular moment is the above anxiety of emotional veracity), but it's still true. Misery, and a warm black cat. It could be worse.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
You've read this post before.

These last few days I've been feeling particularly depressed and spacey, the type of depressed and spacey that makes it hard for me to do or care or feel any joy, the type that makes me a little pissy and a little hard to live with. Yesterday my hands started trembling and my neck was almost too stiff to move. Yesterday evening before bed I took Tramadol. During the night I woke (as always) to those singular side-effects which fill me full of white noise: tingling fingertips, itchy cheeks and nose, surprisingly pleasant static in my head. Those side effects persist this morning, but they're fading. And, magically, I feel alive again. My muscles are squishy (Devon says it feels quite strange) but my mind is freed too—I've had things which I've wanted to say, but trying to find the energy to say them was exhausting and depressing and so I just turned on another TV episode and tried to disappear out of my own thoughts for another hour more. Now ... I can speak.

You've read all this before because I keep doing this, goddamnit. My back problems these days are sometimes the sort of thing you would expect: tight muscles, aching, stiffness, spasms. But it seems like when they get bad, really bad, there's almost no pain at all, none that I feel. I just grow increasingly miserable and unmotivated, and I don't know why—I know my back is bad but then it's always bad, and it doesn't feel worse than usual—l just feel worse than usual, I, me, my entire mind and self. Then the pain gets so bad I start to tremble, and Devon finally makes me take something, and miracles occur.

I know why it's so hard for me to recognize this pattern as the persistent issue that it is. I don't believe the brain crazies are real, still, even though I know they are; I only half believe the back problems are real, and when they don't seem to cause physical symptoms it's even harder to believe in them. I think it's all in my head (even the shit which is, well, in my head) and so I can't take it seriously and treat it earlier—but whether or not I admit it, it is serious, and the longer I go without treating it the worse it gets.

I like to think of myself as tolerably bright. This chronic inability to learn from my own experience is starting to get on my nerves.

The upside, though, which in this moment is enough to counteract all of my frustration, is how much better I feel now. Perhaps I am getting a bit of euphoria off the Tramadol (I hope not, because I don't look forward to crashing when it wears off), but oh: to come out the other end, to be able to move without whining and to think without growing discouraged. It feels good. It feels so good.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
[livejournal.com profile] kaimetso asked for "a deep and thorough explanation on your thoughts and feelings of alcohol/drugs, use, and people," so all of you get to hear, or at least see it blip up on your flist—because I don't mind at all if you ignore it. This is a personal, private thing and I know almost everyone has a different view—many held just as strongly. But I was asked, and this is a good "about me" to have out there, so I answer.

I don't use any sort of alcohol or drugs. I've had no more than two sips of alcohol in my entire life (one at a religious event, one before knowing the contents of the drink I was served); I've never smoked and never taken any sort of recreational drug. It's taken me years—and a lot of pain—to consider taking medication, and I limit my use to the bare minimum (rarely more than once a month). Obviously this is a important issue for me, but I don't often talk about it for the same reason I don't talk about my vegetarianism: I hold strong views and it's a personal choice and issue; it's not my business to change anyone else's life, so it's best I keep my views to myself and avoid, rather than speak against, the behaviors of which I don't approve.

I'm a depressive—which is my primarily and most rational reason for avoiding anything that could possibly be mind-altering. If I used drugs or alcohol it wouldn't be social or intermittent: I would use them in order to change my mental state, and I would want to continue taking them in order to maintain my changed mental state. And that right there is a recipe for addiction.

I know I would do this because I have. Any time I take medication, I have this urge—which was most obvious (and most recent) when I took Tramadol (see posts: one, two, three). Just one pill is enough to give me cravings for more, and if I have access to medication I will begin to take it daily rather than when I most need it. This became enough of a problem when I was living on my own in Portland that I stopped keeping Aleve and Benadryl in the house. For years I used self-injury to change my mental state—relying on the euphoria of cutting to break the numbness and disassociation caused by my depression, using the endorphins and lightheadedness of starvation to escape my usual mental state for days at a time.

The simple truth is, the world inside my head isn't particularly enjoyable. I have a low emotional baseline, I'm prone to moodswings and have experienced long periods of severe depression, and I have daily anxiety. I also have chronic pain, which is relevant here because of the link between pain and mood disorders and because many of the medications I'm exposed to treat pain. I'm at a good place right now, but these problems persist to lesser degrees and always have the chance to reoccur in their worst forms. Artificially changing my mental state is twice-dangerous: I enjoy the improved mental state enough to wish to preserve it, and when I return to my usual mental state it's so painful in comparison that I'm even more anxious to return cutting, or taking pills, or going another three days without food—whatever will change my mental state again. I know that this problem and cycle exists with OTC meds and self-injury. I assume that it would be similar for alcohol and recreational drugs, based on simple common sense and on the behavior I've seen in others. I could be wrong. Perhaps I could indulge socially, for the taste, or in moderation. But I don't trust myself enough to risk addiction in order to find out.

This is a personal, intense decision on my part, and it creates some unavoidable bias against the alcohol and drug use of others. I think it's stupid and dangerous, a bias no easier to shake for the fact that I've seen people use mind-altering substances for precisely all the reasons I've just discussed—and because most of the people I've seen drinking or using drugs are college-aged kids who get drunk, blare loud music, make out with strangers, and then vomit in the toilet. That creates rather negative associations.

Furthermore I don't trust people under the effect of a mind-altering substances. Inhibitions exist for a reason: they keep tongues civil and pants on; they make a person responsible for and in control of their own behavior. I require that the people around me have self control and that they remain themselves. It takes a lot for me to trust someone; if that person's mindset changes (which is what drugs and alcohol do), they are no longer the individual I trusted with my emotional and physical welfare. I feel like I've been thrust into a situation with a stranger, and that scares me. This issue begins close to home: when my mother drinks she becomes louder and confrontational, changing her from the woman I know and chose to be around, turning her into someone who's partially a stranger and partially reminiscent of how she acts when she's at her most angry and upset.

And I simply don't like to be in the presence of alcohol. I've decided not to use it precisely because part of me really wants to—and I don't want to put that part next to a bottle of booze.

Despite all of this I do have a certain degree of tolerance for drug and alcohol use, precisely because it's none of my damned business what choices others make. I know that my views are private, extreme, and sensitive. I know there are people who use mind-altering substances without health risk, addiction, or major behavioral change. But however extreme my views, they are my own—I've arrived at them after careful thought, and they exist for my own benefit. This is my lifestyle. I stand by it. What anyone else does with their body is their own business, but I prefer to avoid drugs and alcohol whenever possible and I don't condone using them, which is why it boggles me that anyone thinks I would ever sit down with them and an alcoholic beverage. I'm near as like to sit down with a stranger and a bottle of poison, because in my mind they are close cousins—and I would like to avoid them both.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I love you all. I forget too easily that around me is not a blank void only broken (when we're both awake and at home together) by my wonderful boyfriend. But there are those of you out there who wish to support me, and you are invaluable and beautiful, and I love you all.

I haven't had a major depressive cycle in about two years now, which is a wonderful thing because through most of college I had them for six months, every six months, like clockwork. But that doesn't mean my mood is particularly good or stable. As I've mentioned all number of times, I have two types of depression: clinical, which exhibits in those life-destroying months of complete dysfunction, and dysthymia, a chronic low-grade depression which means that my base mood is lower than average: in short, I am generally less happy than most people. That doesn't mean that I can't be happy, especially when I'm not having a clinical episode; it does mean that I'm less likely to be happy, and that my good moods can quickly slip away.

In particular, these last few months I haven't been doing very well. This doesn't feel like another clinical episode, I don't think it's anything that major, but it's a step below my usual dysthymia; I've had problems focusing and have been exhibiting many of the symptoms of depression: apathy, loss of appetite, sleep disorders (both too much and too little), a low baseline mood, and difficulties becoming or remaining happy. My anxiety is co-morbid with my depression, and primarily exhibits as repetitive thinking—which, after hours obsessing over the same thought or sentence or worry, can be exhausting. I don't know why this is happening, I don't know what it means. It's just what depression does to you, sometimes.

One of the side-effects of Tramadol is euphoria, and I'm susceptible to side-effects. Chronic pain can also impact mood disorders. So for whatever reason, placebo effect or medication buzz, the medication I took the other day did more than make my body feel better: it lifted my mood considerably. I was pain-free, but I was also chatty and happy, a little dizzy and stupid maybe but for hours I was simply in a good mood. It was a surprising contrast, and not one that I really wanted to experience.

Like I am with pain, I'm pretty damn good at being a little depressed all of the time. I have a lifetime of practice learning to tolerate being a little more moody and morose than most people. I have a lifetime remaining of it, so I figure I might as well be at peace. And I am. But it's still not a particularly enjoyable experience, and it's been a little worse than usual lately. Not horrible, not as bad as it could be, but it's making me unhappy and—contrary to perhaps all appearances—I have a hard time saying so. But it's been painfully obvious since the meds wore off, too obvious to ignore. Dev's worried, I'm miserable, hell I'm even posting about it, and so you know now why I'm writing infrequent reviews, failing to send emails and replies, am desperate to lose myself in games and shows ... and why it means a lot, even if I'm bad at responding, to be reminded that I do have friends out there despite my best attempts to self-isolate and my surprising ability to see only the darkness around myself. Friends out there who are kind, and wonderful.

This isn't me fishing for attention. This is just a thank you, an explanation, and and a little notation that I can come back to when sifting through my LJ tags later so I can see if there's any sort of trend or timing in my mood disorders.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
After coming off the Tramadol high, worse than readjusting to the pain (although my shoulder is a whole lot better, so that's good) has been readjusting to my mood. I forget, sometimes, that my baseline is pretty fucking low. It's hard to forget right now.

I feel like shit. It's a wasetland inside my head. I'm sleeping endlessly. I can't stop thinking about how, just a few days ago, I was cheerful for hours on end. Well, this is fun.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
The shoulder/neck pain that I mentioned a few days back has not indeed gone away. The leg pain that started before did, in the course of about two days. But while my neck/shoulder relaxes during the day, it tenses up something awful at night and each morning I have to start afresh. It's not as bad as it was that first day, there's no dizziness now, I've been in significant pain, my flexibility is limited, and it hurts to move.

So, as the pain has continued for about five days now (and not rest nor massage nor vibration nor stretching does much to help it), Devon finally convinced me to take some medication: a single pill of Tramadol, which Devon's father takes for his back pain.

Whoo boy.

About three years ago Dink bit my finger hard enough to cause excruciating swelling (and three years later that finger still has limited mobility), and I spent a week on staggered doses of Aleve and Benadryl so that I either dead to the pain or dead asleep. I've been known to refer to this as the best week of my life, even if it was proceeded by the worst pain I've ever experienced—because for a full week I was sleeping peaceful and I was not in pain. Chronic pain is a strange beast: mine is often a steady throbbing tightness and ache, so steady indeed that I grow inured. I forget it like you would the thrum of a refrigerator or a computer: a noise which is ever-present but no longer heard. Except you do hear it, even if you don't notice as much; if you pull the plug the silence is deafening. So it was when, for a week, I felt no pain. I only realized then just how much I had been feeling the whole time.

Today was a reprise of that week only even better. Maybe because it was so sudden, maybe because the drug causes euphoria in some users (and as I take medication very infrequently, I'm susceptible to such side-effects), maybe because my back is worse now than it was three years ago, but for whatever reason I have spent the last ten hours floating on air. I do not hurt! I can stretch and twist and nothing is tight, nothing pulls, nothing tenses. Devon compressed my back and I popped in dozens of places, realigning without a twinge of discomfort. My skin tingles, muscles having released their death grip on my nerves and veins. I've been drowsy and my vision is a bit fuzzy, and tomorrow I will probably regret the hell out of today as reawakened nerves and better circulation trigger severe soreness. But oh, I would not trade this for anything.

I am foating, giddy, loose, calm, cheerful. My neck does not hurt, and I am not in pain.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
My back pain has been particularly bad lately. A week and a half ago was Devon's Swedish family reunion, which was a long day spent in Portland; the next morning I went to my house for breakfast and then we ran errands. I got little sleep in between and, in short, the weekend wore me out—and all the standing and sitting set my back pain off in a bad way. Despite hotpads and muscle relaxants and massages, the back pain lingers. It starts in my lower back, creeps up my spine, tenses my neck, and leads to pounding headaches. The neck pain and headaches make it difficult to read, or write, or sit at the computer; the back pain makes it difficult to lay down and sleep.

In short, I've been pretty miserable lately. Some pain, like my sway back or my tension headaches, I can cope with and almost ignore—like I stop hearing Devon's computer fans, always running in the background, I stop feeling those constant pains. But pain spikes are more severe and less familiar, and I don't know how to ignore them. Some—the sudden spasms of my lower back, or the binding tightness of my neck—just can't be forgotten. I'm in pain and I'm sleeping poorly and I can't find an escape, so for now I hide in the bedroom and devour a book a day and try to wait it out. I normally spend a few hours on the weekdays on Second Life, but I just haven't the pain nor people tolerance for that right now.

Meanwhile, far stranger than this pain spike and rather distressing, I spent the past two days shaking and lightheaded—in a state not unlike a panic attack, but without a panicked mental state. I took a caffeine pill (to see if it helped with a headache—which it did) and a muscle relaxant on Sunday morning. I was already shaking, which I attributed to low blood sugar because I hadn't eaten. We went out, and the shaking got so bad that it was affecting my torso as well as my limbs. Half an hour after eating the severity decreased, but minor shaking kept on—and continued, well in to the evening. No matter what I did or ate, I felt increasingly feverish and lightheaded. My pulse was racing. My stomach felt empty. I had difficulty breathing.

I've only had one panic attack (my anxiety usually presents itself differently) but this felt just like it—just like it, except that my mental state was just fine. I was contently watching video games and reading as it all went on, and was cheerful and a bit sleepy. The symptoms continued for about a day and a half, although the last few hours were progressively better. I'm premenstrual, but never had PMS exhibit similar symptoms. There's no way that a single caffeine pill would have such a lasting effect—and anyway, caffeine has never so much as made me hyper. I'm not unduly worried or concerned with what caused it, because it did me no lasting harm, but it certainly was just the strangest thing.

Other than that, I'm fine. Reading, as I said—and some great books, at that (you all should pick up Black Ships). I'm teetering right on the edge of breaking the top 10,000 reviewers on Amazon, and eagerly watching for the thumbs up that pushes me over. I saw my sister, and we went out to dinner and had a grand time. Ninja Gaiden II is borked thanks to an ironic new game patch, so the boy has switched to Halo 3 and Devil May Cry 4 for a bit (this affects me because I am the strange sort of video game girlfriend that rather enjoys chilling out and watching other people game). I am a bit withdrawn and quiet, desperate for a full night of sleep, and the back pain has me a bit short tempered—but on the whole, I'm doing well enough.

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juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
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