Mango, Migraines and POTS

Sorry, this blog post is going to be kind of all over the place so much has happened in the last month! Also sorry for no updates but I have been having a rough month healthwise and have not had much energy at all. Anyway, the above picture is one of the most recent I have of Mango. He is doing so well! He’s growing really big though he is still a lot smaller then most kittens his age would be. He is now eating dry kitten food (Hill’s® Science Diet for Kittens) and has been for a while. He’s such a feisty happy little guy and we are so lucky he survived. Marmalade is buried with another pet cat we lost (well, mom and dad did) back in June, Pumpkin in my parent’s backyard and mom made a beautiful memorial to them. Overall it’s been rough but I take comfort in knowing that he is there with Pumpkin and that he was with me for his last hours and I am doing really well mentally with it.

Physically I am not doing so hot. I have been having symptoms for a while which I thought might be some sort of dysautonomia and it turns out I was right. My family doctor is pretty sure I have POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) which we are now looking further into. I have not been clinically diagnosed by a Cardiologist as I am still waiting to see one but I have been diagnosed with the “poor man’s tilt table test” in both his office and in two different ER’s on 3 different days all of which led them to say it seems to be POTS.

This has led us to talk about a lot of things, including mobility aids such as a wheelchair and other things. I’ve also been diagnosed with severe migraines as well. I have been having issues for a long time with vertigo upon standing or even sitting up  (I have years and years worth of posts about it here), issues with my digestive system including an IBS diagnosis (in my 20s). I have been diagnosed with both chronic idiopathic urticaria and dermatographia. I don’t know exactly when but it was since Eddie and I have been married. Now we are thinking that it might be more along the lines of POTS and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome which makes sense.

Everything seems to be making more sense lately when it comes to my health. Things are starting to fall into place, unfortunately as my health seems to decline a bit. I am now not able to walk very far. I can not walk around a store (sometimes I can get away with it if it’s quick and I use a shopping cart to keep me upright) or go for walks or hikes. Not because my legs don’t work. They work fine. I just get so dizzy and blackout or almost blackout. I have not fallen in a while but only because I know not to put myself into that position, which means doing nothing and going nowhere.

I am back in school and doing well with it and only going up to the city once a week (sometimes twice) but we have been trying to get it to be on days Eddie is off so I have company. Right now the biggest struggle is walking through the campus to class. I haven’t seen my doctor in person in a while because of covid but I might ask about a handicap permit. I am seriously considering what to do because I am missing getting outside. Over the summer we mostly drove the car right down the path to the camp so I wouldn’t have to walk and I crawled up the steps to the pool and got in, once in I was okay. For winter though I am seriously concerned about falls.

I have been put on a medication called propranolol which should help with the POTS symptoms. It’s brought my heart rate down from being about 100 when resting to about 65 and it’s helped steady my blood pressure. I was warned it could make it go too low though so I have been keeping an eye on that. We bought a shower chair because the heat in the shower was making me blackout. By blacking out I mean basically my vision going completely black. I can still hear (though sometimes it seems muffled) and I don’t always actually fall. I try and grab onto something till I feel better and that works around home as my house is not that big and I always have something to grab onto but it’s made outside activities such as walking, hiking, camping, etc impossible to do.

It’s also left me sleeping all night and most of the day. I am getting upwards of 18 hours asleep and it still does not seem to be enough. I fall asleep anytime I sit down and lay even the slightest back. I went from never sleeping during the day to have to take 2 naps a day. I always feel like I have no energy and every single thing I do seems to take double and triple what it should out of me. I still feel like I am getting somewhere though as this time the doctors are actually seeing it. They are witnessing me falling asleep while talking to them, fainting when I stand, etc and now they are taking it seriously. I just hope that covid doesn’t mess with a clinical diagnosis too much.

Not that it matters much, one of the main treatments of POTS is the medication I am already on and also using a wheelchair which I have no insurance for so if I get one it will be out of pocket anyways and will not require a clinical diagnosis or prescription. My doctor suggested a custom one so that I am not doing any more damage to myself and I will also be able to just keep it with me and walk when I can since I should still walk as much as possible. So I guess we will see. I’m not convinced yet.

Why going back on meds for mental health issues is not failure

Warning: this post may be triggering to some and deals with the topics of mental health, depression, anxiety, medications, therapy, and suicide. Please do not read this post if you are sensitive at the moment to any of these topics or unsure how you would react. Please reach out to your local helpline if you are having thought of suicide or of harming yourself or others. I am not a mental health or health professional and this is just my own opinion. I am not advocating one way or another for the use of medications or therapy in mental health, just my own observations.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I was able to come off medication for depression and anxiety in the mid-2000s, I swore I would never go back on them. I hated the stigma. I hated the side effects. I hated remembering to take them. I hated everything about them. I was not ready, not willing, and not able to come to terms with my diagnosis and start the path to healing. Should still have been on them? Was it the right decision? Probably not, but since I refused to take them properly my doctor was more concerned about them causing harm to me, or me causing harm to myself with them and so she took me off. I had moved back home at the time after a couple of years of living away from my family. When I moved back I had good support so I think this might have been part of her thought process at the time.

Surprisingly I did okay for a number of years, after the initial rocky few months of withdrawal symptoms. So I don’t know, maybe it was the right decision at the time? I guess I will never really know. Six years later I ended up back on medication after trying to take my life for the second or third time. At the time I was going through some tough stuff and in a relationship that was very abusive. I felt like a complete and utter failure when I was told I needed to go back on some sort of medication by my family doctor. He prescribed me Paxil and referred me for a second time to a psychologist. I again was having a hard time with my diagnosis and with the idea of taking medication which I felt just compounded the situation. I talk a bit more about mental illness & me in other posts.

One of the things I failed to notice at the time and honestly so did everyone else around me, was that I was still not taking the medication properly. I didn’t think much if I missed a day here or there. There were days I just didn’t feel like taking it. I would start taking them, have some bad side effects and then stop taking them for a few days or weeks and then I would try again. This was the worst thing I could have done. I can’t say that I wasn’t warned because I was, in passing, by both the psychologist and pharmacist but no real emphasis was put on what this would do to me, to my mind, to my body. So I continued on taking them whenever I remembered or felt like it. I wondered why I felt so horrible. I wondered why I had continued thoughts of suicide. I wondered why I felt so down and felt like it was absolutely impossible to function day in, day out. Again I started hating the medication, hating the stigma of being on them because misguidedly I felt like people knew I was on them because of the side effect like falling asleep at work. I swore to myself again that I would never ever go back on them.

Fast forward another 5 or 6 years and once again I am back on them after losing my job and having a car accident. This time around however has been completely different. After talking with my new psychologist who is wonderful, we both agree that I am now ready to face the truth, willing to admit that I needed help and that I was struggling. With help from her, my husband, and my parents, they helped me realize the truth, that taking medication is not failure, instead, it is success. I am now willing and able to keep track of my medication, to use an app to ensure I don’t forget them. I have my husband to remind me as well, but I am learning to take control myself. The road ahead may not be easy. I may have setbacks. I may even feel again that I’m failing but the truth of it is, is that I am not failing. I am succeeding.

I am taking control of my life in a way I have never done before or only ever attempted at. I am accepting therapy in person (well, via zoom at the moment), I am doing the homework I am given. I am taking the medication, Cymbalta this time around. Beyond the initial side effects the first 2-3 weeks I am tolerating the medication rather well. I am feeling better. I am feeling hopeful. I feel refreshed. I am taking them on time and every day. I think I have only missed one day in about 6 months, which really didn’t affect me because I am taking them properly. This has made such a huge difference in my mood, my attitude and how I am processing things.

I still have a ways to go, but another difference this time is I am coming up with my own goals, my own things to work on and accomplish rather than waiting for other people to suggest things in my absence of being able to. In therapy when she suggests setting goals I come up with a lot of them myself. I participate and give suggestions on what I want to work on and how I want to improve my mental health and tackle my anxiety. All of these things make, for me, going back on medication a success. Do I still hope one day to get off them? Of course, I do. However, I no longer look at being on them as a failure, as being a necessary evil but instead as a tool to help me be the best me I can be. If I am able to come off of them again sometime in the future then great, and if not, that’s perfectly fine too.

My success is measured by who I am as a person and how I treat others and not whether or not I am on medications for mental health issues. I am so much more then that

Sims 4 – Cats & Dogs

I did up our tax returns this past Tuesday and because we have both only been working part-time and because I spent over half the year technically unemployed, along with the over $2000 I spent in medication this year and diabetic supplies we are getting a hefty amount back, that plus I got approved for EI and also got from December 22nd to now all at once. Somehow once again we managed to avoid a sticky situation as we were concerned financially when I ended up unemployed again. We are going to be able to be back to owing nothing at all except the car (even the credit card will be paid in full) once we get it. Edward also is getting cross-trained in another position, that coupled with me working until I start school we are back in decent shape again and even can start on our savings again. Talk about relief!

So we decided to treat ourselves, he got Red Dead Redemption 2 and I got a bundle for the Sims 4 of Cats & Dogs, Realm of Magic and Backyard Stuff. I had previously purchased Get to Work and Tiny Living for Christmas and never really played with the content and worlds in either yet. I also have some others like Island Living, Seasons, Outdoor Retreat and some of stuff packs. So needless to say I have tons of new content to explore in the Sims 4. I have been a huge Sims fan since the original The Sims back in 2000. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years! Wow, I feel old. I was only 19 when it came out! And I have been hooked on the franchise ever since. I played SimCity as well before The Sims. I think I started with SimCity 2000. Anyways, enough history, I have been playing since I bought the expansion packs yesterday and it is so much fun. I have really only been playing in Brindleton Bay and with the cats. I have not really gone into any of the Realm of Magic stuff yet. I will save that maybe for another day.

I made myself a tiny house last night, a micro actually, 32 x 32 and decorated it. I did base it off a house I tried downloading and using from the gallery that I really liked, but for some reason my Sim had issues moving around the house even though I had the move objects cheat on and I even moved some of the furniture around and tried to get it to work. Finally, I gave up and sort of rebuilt it, sort of made it my own. I love to build but I am not very great with ideas. I do like to try and re-create micro and tiny houses from real house plans and decorate them. They don’t always turn out the way I want though. Just need more practice building I guess. I now have a bit more than half the expansion packs, game packs and stuff packs for Sims 4 now. I don’t want to even think about the amount I have spent on them over the years (we won’t even talk about The Sims or Sims 3, didn’t get into Sims 2 much).

I’ve never really been one to make up an elaborate storyline and record or do much other than play but I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of that, maybe some of the challenges people have come up with as well. The only mod installed right now is the one that stops the damn murphy bed from picking off my Sims one by one. It’s killed so many Sims it’s not funny. So I was glad when I saw the mod. I am going to look for some more mods and cc (custom content) at some point but for right now I am just enjoying what the game itself has to offer with each expansion pack.

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