Yeah, pretty sure that’s the case.
So, a quick look tells me the last time I posted here was August 6th, 2020.
Some things have happened since then. No doubt in your life as well, but let’s not forget we’re here to talk about me. 😉
Like you, I’ve been living through this COVID bullshit and, if you live in the US, the stupidity and greed of way too many of our elected representatives – but that is a rant for another time.
So, let’s do some updatery from yours truly, shall we?
About a month after my last post, The Wife had brain surgery. (Don’t worry, I got her permission to talk about it here. We’re all safe.) My wife has a condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia. It’s a chronic pain disorder involving the Trigeminal Nerve. It’s also known, colloquially, as “Suicide Pain.” Some descriptions I’ve heard, from The Wife and others, is that it can feel a lot like biting down on aluminum foil while being struck by lightning. There’s also the version where it feels like your lower jaw is being ripped apart like something out of a horror movie.
You can imagine, this takes a bit of a toll.
For months, we went to various neurologists, had various incorrect diagnoses, and she’d been prescribed enough drugs to make a hippy jam band envious.
(Seriously, whenever I have to take her to the hospital, or a new doctor, the look on the face of whoever is taking her medical history is priceless. You need to understand, my wife is ex-Army, but she’s literally the average height and weight for a female in America. I outweigh her by significantly more than a hundred pounds. And when medical professionals read the list – we wrote it down to make it easier – they, to a person, ask my wife how she’s still awake, much less able to move about and speak coherently. It’s a lot of drugs – mostly muscle relaxers and whatever else they try to use to dampen nerve pain.)
Anyway, lots of doctor visits and consultations, and we were told her best chance for relief was something called MVD (Microvascular decompression), where they drill a hole in your skull and insert a Teflon mesh between the nerve and the artery that may be pressing against it.
So, we did that.
She was in ICU/ MCU for more days than I or her doctors would’ve liked, but she came through ok. Then it was another month before she could reliably move around under her own power without supervision. (My anxiety ignored that “without supervision” shit at every possible turn. She may have tried to get better, faster, just to get me to leave her the fuck alone for 5 minutes.)
The general consensus is that a brain surgery of this type usually takes around 18 months to completely recover from, but she should have seen some relief from the nerve pain within 6 weeks or so – once the generalized swelling subsided.
Brain surgery. Risky. Expensive. And Completely. Fucking. Useless.
So, that started a new process of trying to get seen at Vanderbilt, which we eventually did. We’ve been driving the 2 1/2- 3 hours to Nashville on a semi-regular basis since this past July. She’s had a few procedures. They don’t seem to be working either.
She has good days – where the pain is just a constant 2-3 on the 1-10 scale we’re all used to nurses asking us about. And she has days where the pain runs a steady 5-6 baseline with spikes that jump up to 30 or 40. Sometimes these episodes last for days. Once one lasted a little over a week. I know it was more than 7 days, but how many more I couldn’t say because I was too busy trying to take care of her to count.
Incidentally, she went back to work something like 3 months after the operation. She was working from home, which was good on several fronts, not to mention the ongoing goddamn pandemic.
You thought I forgot about that. You’d be forgiven for slipping into that mindset. (I’d forgive you, anyways, for whatever the fuck that’s worth.)
She worked from home for a solid year, the first couple of months because of the surgery, the rest because of COVID. By all rights, she should still be working from home since they proved it worked just fine, but her employers – which I won’t currently name – are asshats.
As an aside: Everyone who can work from home should be working from home. Same with schools of every variety.
But the fucking economy?!
Yeah, fuck the economy. Make rich fuckers richer? Not interested in risking my, or anyone else’s life for that bullshit.
Hey, I understand. We’ve evolved a system where some underpaid minion of the state has to watch like 30 or 40 of your brat children so you, and your partner if you have one, can go make some rich fuckers richer. Cool.
Maybe we shouldn’t be okay with that system?
Maybe we should do something to change it?
Sacrifice your children, your youth, your dreams, and your very life on the altar of Capitalism so the Masters of the Universe can continue to buy one – of whatever the fuck they want- in every color!
It’s the American way!
And you might be rich yourself one day, so…
[You won’t. In case you were wondering. It’s a lie the wealthy perpetuate to sell you on those jobs you keep dragging yourself to every day, during a mother fucking worldwide pandemic no less! But that is definitely a rant for another time. Oh, you wait. It’s fucking coming.]
Often, nowadays, I have to remind myself to stop and breathe. It works better when I’m not driving, but hey, you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do right?
By now, because you are perceptive, intelligent, and frankly quite good-looking people, you’ll no doubt be asking yourself, “Jeezus, is he even angry-er than before?”
And that answer – thank you for asking, by the way, is emphatically:
Yes, I am. But more on that in a different post. Today we’re here for updates. So, let’s get back to that.
So, we’ve covered The Wife for about as much as is safe for us all. Trust me. She will cut you.
Let’s get back to talking about me – my health and writing and such. As I’m sure you’ve noticed in your own lives, everything is interconnected and interdependent.
So, before the neo-plague took hold in the US, I’d started writing book 3 of the 3rd Eye Detective Series, (working title: Dead Man’s Party. Because who doesn’t like Oingo Boingo? Sociopaths, that’s who.)
I’m about 20k words into the first draft. And I’ve been there since March of 2020.
I’ve written copious notes – when you’re in the third book in a six-book series you need many notes. But I haven’t written any narrative, well, nothing in the stream of this book’s particular plot. Or maybe they are and I just don’t know where they go yet. That happens sometimes. They might just be bits to help me understand a facet of a character or relationship and may never make it into a book at all.
That’s what I mean by I haven’t written anything.
I’ve said before, I’m a writer because I can’t not write. That reality has taken some weird roads to get out over the last too-many-fucking-months. A few of my Instagram friends can attest to this, as they have been the recipients of poems, micro fiction, song lyrics, incantations, etc… in the comment sections of any pics they post that spark anything in me. (I haven’t asked, but no one’s told me to stop, so I’m not.)
I’ve also been working up notes, characters, locations, etc for 2 other books, unrelated to Caleb and his misadventures – or each other for that matter.
Back to the actual nitty gritty of the thing: I wrote roughly 20k words of book 3 before book 2 was released.
Book 2 – “The Hungry Dark” – was released on the vernal equinox in 2020. That was March 19th, a Thursday. I know this because I went to karaoke for the last time that night, and the next day when I was going to have my release party at my favorite local geek bar, Green’s Tavern, about noon-ish the government of Tennessee finally got off its dusty ass and declared a lock-down. That was about 6 hours before my party. I still have not been able to reschedule that party, but in the light of *gestures around at everything* it hasn’t felt like a priority.
One of the many problems the canceling of my release party caused was this: I learned my lesson from my first release party: have more books to sell. So, I bought a little more than twice the amount I had at the signing for Drawn to Flame. That was about $1,000.00 USD. Had I been able to sell them, I’d have made that all back plus enough to run the online ad campaign I’d been working up.
Those books are still in their boxes, stacked up next to my desk. They’ve basically become office furniture now.
I ran a short ad campaign. Didn’t make enough back to even keep that going. And, apparently, word-of-mouth advertising works less efficiently through masks.
So, that was the end of March 2020, for my writing.
And my job, then as a community health worker, got real interesting as a number of my members caught COVID.
Another aside: between talking with medical staff, members, and members’ surviving families I can not fathom how anyone can call COVID a hoax. In fact, it really pisses me off when people do.
So, just know – you’ve been fucking warned.
(Not that any of you would do anything so ignorant and insensitive. I have the coolest readers. I’m pretty sure there’s a peer-reviewed scientific paper somewhere that proves it.)
So, being neck-deep in the misery caused by this fucking virus was super stressful. And, while I’ve known some artists who work better under that kind of strain, I am not someone who can operate that way.
And then 60k Americans died.
Ok, so like most people, I can push shit aside to get my business done or keep my sanity, whatever.
But we all have a limit.
Mine was 60,000 Americans.
I heard the number on the news during a lunch break.
And it fell on me like a lead overcoat.
Seriously, I felt my shoulders actually sag.
Now we’re over 800,000 dead, just in America.
I don’t know what your number is, but if you have a soul I know you have a number, and it’s probably been passed by at least an order of magnitude by now.
That day I didn’t want to go back to work. I didn’t want to go outside or talk to people or even try to focus. All I wanted to do was cry, and probably never stop.
There are people who have handled this situation, at least outwardly, better than me. I’m certain of it.
But this isn’t a fucking competition.
It’s 5.46 million deaths worldwide, at the time of writing.
They say the average person knows 150 people (IRL). Imagine every one of the 150 people you know, (again IRL), imagine them dead. Now try to imagine every one of the 150 people that each of those 150 original people knows, dead. Now, do that one more time: each of the 150 people that each of the 150 people that each of the original 150 people you knew, dead. That number is still more than 2 million short of the actual number of dead – at time of writing.
And it should be.
Anyone who tells you different is not someone I’d trust around the collection plate or the children.
If we, as a species, come back from this brink, it will be a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit – and no thanks at all to the Capitalist cocksuckers that keep telling us we should go back to work to get the economy going – the economy that’s fake anyway. But, yet again, a rant for another time. (And a tip o’ the hat to the late, great Bill Hicks.)
So, that stress has been making anything more than cluttering up my friend’s IG pretty much impossible.
And that would have been enough, right?
Around the time of my last post, back in 2020, I got diagnosed with ADHD.
(Some of you knew that already, I’m sure.)
It took a while to find medication that helped. And when we did, holy fuck-balls!
Like, is this what regular people experience the world as? Coherent? Able to focus? Not the constant low level of frustration from feeling like you’ll never be able to learn the rules of this life game that everyone else seems to know already?
When we got the right dosage I felt like myself.
And then I realized how long it had been since I felt that way.
There aren’t words for the emotions involved. But it was quite a bit like being reborn.
(And I don’t mean that nonsensical Christian shit. I mean feeling like someone had hit the refresh button on the browser of my Mind, Body, and Soul.)
And as the first full year of COVID rolled in, I realized I hadn’t had anything like a vacation in 2 years. I took a week and a half off for The Wife’s surgery, but we all know that is just the opposite of rest.
My therapist, and a few other perceptive people, started telling me I was suffering from compassion fatigue.
True story. I was.
Less so now, but back then – about a year ago – a severe case. My work manager at the time let me take a week off, just to decompress. It didn’t cure my ills, but it might have saved my soul.
A couple of years previous, my med manager and I had finally stumbled upon an anti-depressant/ anti-anxiety drug that actually worked without any nasty side effects. Escitalopram. You might have heard it called by its brand name: Lexapro.
Worked like a magic charm, once we found the right dose. The addition of the ADHD meds only amplified the positive effects of the Lexapro. I was, in a phrase, doing well.
And then this past October – the first week actually- I started to break out in these red, hot, itchy rashes. Small spots at first, but they spread quickly.
Lots of doctor visits, steroid shots, a punch biopsy, and about 7 weeks later, we discover it’s a reaction to one of the medications I’m taking.
I’ve developed a sensitivity to one or more of them. At the time we didn’t know which.
By the time we got this information the itchy, burning hot redness had spread to cover pretty much all of my torso, front and back, up my neck, my scalp and face, my pelvis, and was starting to spot-colonize my legs.
I have pictures.
I won’t share them because they are frightening.
The cure for this quite painful condition? Stop taking everything.
(I had to taper off the Lexapro, but still got the brain jolts from it.)
And I spent a month on prednisone.
Oh, the mood swings.
Like goddamn cosmic horror.
And then the panic attacks.
(I’ve had panic attacks before. I’ve worked for a long time to recognize the triggers and learn practices to minimize or even stop them in their tracks. Because of the radical shift in brain chemistry from coming off all my meds, there were no triggers. Just machine-gun, rapid-fire, constantly on the verge of an attack, or waking up not able to breathe because one hit me in my sleep. In. My. Fucking. Sleep.)
The Wife, you know, the one with the suicide pain condition, says she doesn’t know how I managed to keep going – keep working, keep talking, keep operating at all given my condition.
I don’t know either – other than I’m bloody-minded, stubborn as hell.
(Ask anyone that actually knows me. They can testify.)
Oh, as soon as the Wife could take care of herself again, I had to do several months of physical therapy for my shoulder. About 7 months after that, I had to go back to PT for my knee this time. (Had to stop PT when I became a swollen, itchy tomato man. But my knee feels better.)
I also got diagnosed with moderate to mild carpal tunnel in both my wrists.
Thanks to the prednisone and various other injections, I gained about 40 pounds – because I couldn’t work out and was eating everything and the cardboard packaging it came in.
Oh yeah, remember that thing I said about having to stop all of my meds?
That included the Lexapro.
Actually, by process of elimination, so far the Lexapro is the prime candidate for my new drug sensitivity. More on that in a sec.
You know what stopping your anti-depressant meds does? Yep, brings back the chemical imbalance portion of your depression.
I already mentioned the anxiety back-swing of the pendulum. Wanna know what happened with the Lexapro?
I break down into body-wracking sobs – sometimes randomly. I’ve had these episodes last for… the longest was an hour.
I can not express how physically & mentally exhausting something like that is, but if you’ve ever been through it, you know.
And did I say ‘happened’ like it was past tense? My mistake. Still happening. Thankfully not as often or for as long a duration, but still a thing I’m dealing with -every fucking day.
(And, if you’ll pardon another Fuck-Capitalism moment: this is not a thing I feel comfortable telling my boss about. The red, itchy stuff, sure. But mental health might as well be black magic, even to people who work in the healthcare community. If I went blind I’d be less afraid of my employer’s reaction than if I were to explain my brain chemistry woes. And that is because of – well, partially my anxiety, if I’m being truthful – but mostly because of Fucking Capitalism incentivizing getting rid of me as opposed to making any kind of concessions to my condition – even if my condition is, hopefully, temporary.)
So, I stopped everything and the red and itchy subsided.
My med manager put me on Paxil.
I was on it for about a week when the red and itchy returned. As it was the only thing I’d added, it was easy to call the culprit. So, no more of that for me. And we wait while my med manager tries to figure out something that will work, without fucking me up too bad.
Oh, the choices we have to make!
So, has it all been bad?
I switched jobs, got a promotion and a raise.
Because I had to channel my creativity somewhere, I’ve been learning hand tool woodworking and carving. Not using power tools is good for both my health and my anxiety. Plus I like that it’s a skill I’m learning. I enjoy learning. You might have guessed that from the fact I got a degree in philosophy. Also, I like designing and building furniture. Not enough to try to make a career out of it – not every hobby needs to be fucking-monetized. (again, again, a rant for another time.)
Spent a year making a magick box for a friend. My very own Arthurian Quest. Maybe I’ll post something about that – woodworking and Magick – at a later date. Let’s face it, no one comes here expecting to read The Vanilla Times.
We adopted another kitten from a feral cat rescue. Big ole eyes on the tiny thing. The Wife and I had the same thought at the same time, so we named the new kitten Betty – as in Betty Davis. We’ve had Betty for almost 2 years now. She is no longer tiny. Lives up to her namesake, attitude-wise. Makes me happy.
Oh, probably most importantly, in between body-wracking emotional breakdowns over any old damn thing, including random song lyrics, I’m starting to get the urge to get back to book 3.
I started the book, not just because it’s part of a series, but because I have something I want to say with it. That’s the whole reason it’s a series: I have things I want to say that fit well into this particular framework and go together.
So, not trying to jinx it, but I feel it coming on, like a slow-moving storm. It’s still a ways off, but I can feel the change in the air.
Well, I think that should have you pretty well caught up to where I am…
One last thing: The Wife and I are both Vaccinated. She got boosted. My booster got put off for the obvious reason, but I hope to get it as soon as possible.
Already vaccinated? Get your booster as soon as you can.
Do your part to not unintentionally kill somebody.
And stay safe.
Until next time…