Sunday, February 22, 2009

Boing, Boing, Boing!

You know, sometimes unhappiness can be a great motivator. The mood I was in when I wrote the last post was me hitting bottom, and all this week I've been bouncing back up off that bottom. It's quite pleasant and invigorating.

I think some of it is the new medication... though only a week and a half into it, now that the horrible-nightmare-side-effect is gone, I am seeing some results... but just being on a new medication feels like "doing something."

And since I love a theme, when I started the new meds, it seemed like a good idea to add more "doing something"s to the mix. So when I was at the Kaiser pharmacy getting my lithium prescription filled, I bought this cute little book they had at the counter, a ten-week food-and-exercise journal from Calorie King (a damned useful website, with a food info database that can't be beat), in which you record all the food you eat, counting calories and fat grams as well as carbohydrate grams and protein grams; you also record your exercise for the day, and take body measurements every week and summarize your food/exercise averages.

On Monday I sat down with the book, not long after finishing that last post, and read through some of its suggestions and figured out what I was going to do to lose some weight. Now, I knew from previous diets that if you cut four hundred calories off your daily intake, you should lose three pounds a week; and if I manage to lose three pounds a week for the ten weeks of this journal, that would be a satisfyingly substantial thirty pounds. A person of my size should take in around 2400 calories a day to maintain weight, so I'm trying to limit myself to 2000 calories.

Thus far it's been a smashing success. All this week I've been averaging 1600 calories (food minus exercise), and taking in perfectly healthy amounts of protein and vitamins while I'm at it. I'm eating a lot of vegetables (and I mean a lot, like four servings just for lunch), replacing dairy with lean meats (turkey is a great night-time snack), avoiding empty starches and getting my carbs from whole grain whenever possible (like multi-grain bread instead of white), and drinking absolute gallons of water every day. I've almost completely cut out sweets, only indulging if it's a special occasion (like a birthday) and even then having only the tiniest sliver of cake or pie. And I'm trying to get to the gym for at least twenty minutes of cardio every day, though so far I've only managed three out of seven days.

I haven't weighed and measured yet (I intend to do that in the morning), but even if I haven't lost weight or girth yet, I have to say that I feel a hell of a lot better. I'm standing up straighter, I'm sleeping better, I have fewer headaches, and my mood is dancing on the verge of actual happiness.

Hopefully, it will last and isn't just a temporary side-effect of the new meds... but even if it doesn't last, I think I'm developing some really good habits. I'm learning a lot about food, too... like, I never would have guessed that pork loin is lower in calories, equal in fat, and higher in protein than beef loin... DuBuque canned ham in particular is surprisingly low-cal. And I'm finding a great deal of satisfaction in eating a steam-bag of veggies with sliced turkey instead of a sandwich for lunch... more filling and I have more energy in the afternoon. And I discovered that the treadmills at the gym each have their own personal TV attached! No more ESPN and MSNBC with subtitles, I can watch whatever I want!

So anyway, that's what this week has been like. I'll check in again next week, or sooner if something interesting occurs to me.


Monday, February 16, 2009

In Which Cthulhu Ruins a Perfectly Lovely Party...

I'm very unhappy right now. The last two days, it has really been borne in on me that I have an incurable disease... treatable, perhaps, but a disease that will be with me for the rest of my life. I mean, I knew that, but I just didn't realize it, if you know what I mean. And if I wasn't already depressed, that would certainly depress me.

But then, I do have some experience with treatable but incurable diseases that don't show on the outside... I mean, I've been living in recovery for alcoholism for fourteen and a half years. But with the alcoholism, the treatment is simple and holistic... don't drink, go to meetings, do the steps. There's no chemical medication to screw around with, no doctor and pharmacist to see, no inability to function in the day-to-day world (at least there wasn't for me).

So I guess I'm going to have to work on moving from realization to acceptance. I thought I had accepted the bipolar disorder, but I guess I hadn't considered all of its facets and depths. Maybe I should think of a better phrase than "incurable disease"... how about "PermaNut"? Or maybe "The Eternal Consistent"?


So Dr. Shrinkimadink went all old-school on me and prescribed Lithium as a mood stabilizer. It's like the oldest psych med still on the market... and I figure if it's still around, it can't be that harmful, so why not give it a whirl?

Of course, it's a little early to tell if it's working, but in the five days since I started, it's manifested some side-effects already that I could really live without... I keep waking up in the middle of the night and am unable to get back to sleep. Worse, I had the most horrible and incredibly vivid nightmares on Sunday night.

With the waking up, the nightmares were divided into three distinct parts. In the first one, I was in a mansion with some people I didn't know, rather like the characters from Clue (the game, not the movie) but not exactly them; during the course of a week spent in this mansion (which was so vividly real that I could draw you a floor-plan of it), each night a malign creature from above reached down into the house with dozens of long tentacles (sometimes squidlike, sometimes metal), plucked one of the guests through a window or skylight, and then destroyed the part of the house we had been standing in. There was this terrible sense of hopelessness, of wondering when I would be next, trying not to get too attached to my doomed fellow guests, grieving for the destruction of lives and the beautiful house.

The second dream was the exact same story, in the exact same house, but more vivid, with more lifelike characters from movies and from my own writing. The malign creature was more specific and realistic, a thing from outer space with a zillion long tentacles and these huge claws (the only parts of the creature we ever was only after I woke up that I put the name Cthulhu to it, in the dream it was just there), and it didn't limit itself to one victim but rather plucked as many as it could from whatever ingress it could find, completely at random. And like I said, it was vivid... it was like it was really happening, the details were perfect, the horror was real, it was so terrible that it's haunted me all day.

The third dream was rather more dreamlike and surreal, but somehow sadder and more painful. There was another house, but this one was a huge overcomplicated Victorian by the sea, in which someone I loved was trapped (I didn't know who, exactly, I think it was Shiloh but it might have been one of my fictional characters); trying to get to him, I was being pursued by a malign entity that could assume any form and could alter my location, even the time... I would be in a room, and it would morph into another time and place in which something horrible was about to happen, and from which I had to escape before it happened. The entity would take human form and torment me in the shape of strangers and friends and family. And no matter how hard I tried to get to that room, I kept getting further and further away.

Anyway, it upsets me to just write about it, to remember it at all... but I've been afraid that if I didn't write it down, it would just haunt me, take up room in my mind, keep bothering me.

I hope this isn't going to be the usual thing with the Lithium... I will go stark staring mad if I keep having nightmares like this.


So anyway, what else is there to talk about? I had a really great day on Saturday, Caroline and Jason and I went to the RGDC King & Queen of Hearts Show. I was one of the emcees, so I couldn't back out at the very last minute like I've been doing, and so though I was feeling depressed and anxious all day, I went anyway.

And I'm so glad I did! I had a fantastic time; after a few minutes of near-panic anxiety, I just perked right up and did a great job emceeing, and had a very good time all evening. I usually do have a better time if I'm more involved in what's going on, that something I have to remember next time I'm feeling icky at an event... just get involved, and you'll feel better.

Unfortunately, I then spent Sunday in a complete crash, weary and weepy and suicidally depressed... not helped at all by the fact that it was pouring down rain all day. I tried to distract myself with reading, but the stories (short historical murder mysteries) seemed terribly sad; I put on a DVD, but the violence (I was watching the second season of HBO's Rome) made me even sadder. The whole day was just a ghastly mire of sadness... even comedies and porn made me sad. But oh, well. I didn't kill myself or anybody else, so I guess it worked out OK.


In other news, I am in the grip of a new obsession: kilts!

I was browsing around on the JUB message board, and somebody mentioned Utilikilts, how sexy and comfy they were, and there was a link to the website. So I went to the website and thought they looked kind of neat, but then I saw the prices... upwards of $150! So I went on eBay to see if I could find them cheaper (because that's what I always do when I'm offended by a price, regardless of whether I want the thing or not), and found that they still went for really high prices, even the used ones.

But while I was dawdling around, I started looking at traditional Scottish kilts, and suddenly got hooked on them. I learned a lot about plaids, particularly generic tartans that don't signify any particular family or clan, such as the Pride of Scotland, the Saltire, and various other such. I learned about lengths and construction and how and with what to wear kilts (such as the fact that the boy above is wearing his kilt wrong-way-round... the pleats go in the back!)

After a lot of shopping around and thinking things over, I ended up buying a plain black kilt, with matching hose and a Glengarry cap and a kilt pin and a rabbit-fur sporran. Then from another vendor I bought a long-sleeved black T-shirt with a gorgeous white Gaelic design on it, and a silver and amethyst thistle brooch for the hat. So far this little folly has set me back over $200, and I haven't even started on belts and shoes! I'm also looking at some other things to round out the outfit, hell a whole Scots wardrobe... Prince Charlie jackets and ghillie shirts and fly plaids and...oh, it's just endless!

But whence came this sudden and overwhelming fascination with all garb Scottish, I have no idea. The funny thing is, I'm not even remotely Scottish, not a drop of Scots blood in my whole body. My mother's adoptive mother was born a MacDonald, and I suppose I could claim that if I wanted to... though the MacDonald plaid isn't really to my taste (too much orange); and of course there are Irish tartans, which are by county rather than by name, and I have plenty of Irish ancestors.

And in case you were wondering... I intend to wear boxer-briefs under my kilt, despite tradition's decree that one wear nothing underneath. I'm all for traditions, but not when it means getting a breeze up my hoo-hoo.

So that's about it for me... I'll check back in next time I have anything of interest to say. Toodles!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dancing Through Life

So that great mood I was in, which I discussed in the last post? The one I thought might be the beginning of a manic episode? Well, my fears proved correct, and the last week and a half I've been absolutely miserable, anxious, depressed, fidgety, sleepless and exhausted at once, a "mixed state" episode that made me want to open a vein and bleed the ick away.

But I didn't open a vein, I just rode it out, and I'm feeling OK now.

Something that was recommended to me by a coworker, and which I think helped me through the terrible rigors of last week, was kava-kava capsules. Her homeopath recommended them to her for anxiety, and since I was feeling so much anxiety that I actually had to go home early on Tuesday because I thought I was going to have a panic attack, I thought I'd give it a try. I don't know if it was the pills, or just a placebo effect from simply having something to do about the anxiety... but it didn't make me sicker, and it doesn't taste bad, so I'm now a dedicated kava-kava fan. Better than gin, which I was seriously considering for my next go-to.

I have an appointment to see my psychiatrist next week, so I'll be bringing this up with her. In the meantime, I've decided to stop taking my meds altogether until I see her. I'm inclined to believe that part of my feeling good right now is because I've been off the Prozac for three days... exactly how many days I've felt good. Longer-term effects might not be so good, but hopefully by then I will be on some other medication, or no medication at all. We shall have to see what good Dr. Shrinkimadink has to say about the matter.


Funny vignette... Caroline and I were out driving in the Downtown Oakland area (we'd had dinner at The Fat Lady, and it was fantastic), and I was heading down 11th Street to go home; on the way, Caroline wondered what had become of the old Bench & Bar, the place I drank away most of my youth, the club that moved a couple of years ago to a newer, larger, much nicer location... and would you believe? It's now a Chinese church! That strikes me as very funny, from gay bar to Chinese church... I am soooo tempted to go there some Sunday morning, just to see how they redecorated! But they might look at me askance, and it's not pleasant being looked at askance by Chinese people... useless to explain to them that I'm a quarter Chinese myself.


So, I had this really fantastic weekend. When I got up on Saturday, I was still feeling Shitty McTitty, depressed and weary, but Caroline had inveigled me into driving down to Santa Cruz with her. I really didn't want to go, but she wanted me to go so badly that I gave in and went. And it wasn't too long into the journey that I became glad I did.

The weather was beautiful, sunny but with a softening haze, fresh with cool but not cold breezes. We started off with an Egg McMuffin breakfast, and drove down the inland route with very light traffic. On the way down, we talked and talked and talked, really good topics, a useful vent of feelings and ideas. Then we did some shopping at a leathercrafts store (the reason we went down there) and poked around in Santa Cruz for a little while.

Then we drove back up by the coastal route and had lunch at our favorite restaurant, Sam's Chowder House (home of the very best clam chowder in the whole world) for chowder and oysters... I hadn't had oysters in a long time, but these were delicious (Malpeque, to be precise, from Prince Edward Island, Canada), and I'd forgotten just how exciting oysters are... you wouldn't think six little morsels of bivalve with some lemon and cocktail sauce would provide such a satisfying experience, but I could have stopped eating right then and been fine (of course, I didn't... I had a big bowl of chowder and a massive hunk of bread, and rice pudding for dessert, every bite more delicious than the last).

After we ate, we went for a very pleasant walk along Pillar Point Harbor beach, did some rock-climbing on the breakwater, and made friends with a trio of very wet but quite lovable black Labradors. It was pretty good exercise, and we had a lovely time at it.

Continuing on our way North, we stopped at the Serramonte Center mall in Daly City because Caroline had to pee (she has a teacup-sized bladder, and drinks bottled water all the time, so restrooms are a frequent feature in our travels). While there, we had a good time shopping around; we saw a two-headed turtle in a pet store (sadly it wasn't for sale), I bought a couple of sweaters on a great sale at Macy's, and she got a very cute black froufrou dress at Hot Topic.

By the time we got home, I was absolutely worn out, but I felt great, completely satisfied and happy.

Then on Sunday, Grandmother didn't get up for church... she's feeling a little poorly, I think she may have that weird fatigue-y flu I had at New Year's... and so I planned to spend the morning in bed with a book (I'm reading Charlaine Harris's "Sookie Stackhouse" series, upon which HBO's series True Blood is based) and maybe get some laundry and cleaning done in the afternoon.

But once again, Caroline came charging in and changed my plans... and once again I had a much better day than I thought I would. First we had brunch at Somerset, a restaurant we frequently pass on our way to other places (it's a few doors from where I get my hair cut), and which Caroline wanted to try while they still had their winter menu in play... she particularly wished to taste their pumpkin custard appetizer, which completely lived up to her expectations. She also had the crab melt sandwich (much fancier than it sounds), while I had warm spiced mango bread and an order of baked eggs, fontina, and Black Forest ham with bread and potatoes (I'm drooling down my chin right now, just thinking about it).

Another good long walk was called for, so we schlepped up Claremont Avenue to visit Dark Carnival Books, which not only has an amazing selection of horror and fantasy books, plus an entire section of Edward Gorey books, but it also has the most amazingly entertaining toys...where else can you find Clive Barker Tortured Souls action figures or a rubber frog with visible plastic organs sloshing around inside? I bought a Whitley Streiber book (Lillith's Dream) that I couldn't find anywhere else, and a gay vampire anthology (Sons of Darkness) that I used to have but which has long been out of print, and a really fascinating book detailing (in words and many many color pictures) the creation of the film The Golden Compass. I bought a fourth book, but now I can't remember what it was.

After that, I was pretty tired, but I needed to swing by the grocery store to get some bananas and other staples; I decided on a whim to go grocery shopping at the Lucky in Montclair, instead of my usual Safeway at Rockridge... and of course when I'm in Montclair, I have to stop at Montclair Antiques to ogle their treasures and pet their pug. I even ended up buying something, two pieces of overstock from David M Brian (another favorite store): a gorgeous Christian LaCroix potpourri jar (it's LaCroix, darling! LaCroix, sweetie!) and a pair of silver pagoda salt-and-pepper shakers.

Then I got the groceries and made it home... and by then I was truly exhausted, my feet hurt, my back hurt, I was sleepy... but I still felt great. I finished reading Dead to the World, did a little FaceBooking and eBaying, and was in bed and on my way to dreamland by nine p.m.

All day today (Monday), people have been asking me "How was your weekend?" And it's such a joy to be able to truthfully say "I had a wonderful weekend!"


So anyway, that's what's going on in my world. I've continued to feel good all day today at work (though I am almost ashamed at how little work I managed to get done...though it was more than I did any day last week), and I think I'll even manage to go to the gym on the way home after work!

Here's hoping this lasts... but if it doesn't, I will rest assured that I made the very most of it.