FORTIFY

on top of gravity:
I asked one of my (male) friends to stop using the phrase “man up” and he has been using “fortify” for the past two weeks instead and it’s just a little thing but honestly it makes a difference
and tbh it’s also pretty funny when I start to deflate in the library and he leans over and goes “FORTIFY”

Seriously try that. J and I use it now and it’s awesome. Sometimes when I’m whining, even though he knows I have every right to (CENTER CIRCLE, BITCHES), he will just grin and shrug and say, “Fortify.” And I will flip him off the best I can, and we laugh and go about our lives.

There will be a real post soon – I know I keep telling you this. But Monday is Clinic Day so there will be lots to report on that front. Meantime I thought I’d check in with just a quick thing about the weekend.

It wasn’t particularly kind, if I’m being honest, but there were moments of goodness interspersed, for certain. I mean, it started with a road trip to Olympia to see a black metal show. How is that not awesome? I’m not generally in to black metal, but Wolves in the Throne Room are an exception. They’re not so much Black Metal as…Black Folk? It’s more melodic than the usual stuff, and they have been properly described as “atmospheric black metal”. None of the cheesy SATAN666OMG stuff. I like it. It was two and a half hours away, on a school night, and the venue was this ADORABLE little place that served surprisingly delicious food and had the cutest waitstaff OMG and delightful bathroom graffiti (next to the signs that declared said bathrooms to be transgender friendly, use whatever restroom coordinates with your identity, and if someone gives you a problem, please report their asses and they will fix it). The music of course, was WAY too loud for the small room, and the geniuses decided that a smoke machine was a good idea so I spent some time breathing through my shirt, and then some jackass decided that you know what this concert needs? For me to blaze up in this tiny room.

So yeah I had a headache.

The show was awesome though, a dear friend in Seattle had joined us, and the opening act was every cheesy stereotype I could hope it to be, including announcing themselves in a Cookie Monster voice “WE ARE BLACK! FUCKING! CANCERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!” And yet, the whole time I was listening, I was so tired I felt like I could fall asleep any minute. Even with Cookie Monster screaming about forests or satan or whatever. I don’t know what the hell that band was about. We got home around 4, because the show was an hour late to open, and had 3 bands, and was two and a half hours from home. I had wisely taken the next day off. I slept until like..3, and then took a nap, and then went to bed early. Working all day and then car ride and then socials and everything was way too much and I was DONE for the whole day.

Saturday I FINALLY got my Fallout 4 install working. I’d had to reinstall my operating system, so everything is cattywampus still, and I hadn’t played in forever because getting everything how I like it was just too daunting most of the time. So I finally got all my add-ins working, got it set up for use in the bedroom so I can lounge and play, annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd…..discovered my hands don’t work well enough to play on the wireless keyboard anymore. My left ring finger seriously droops, and that’s the finger that controls moving LEFT, soooo….unplayable. I tried for a little bit and gave up. I’m going to have to get a controller. Which SUCKS because I am totally a mouse/keyboard gamer.

Sunday I had a friend come over to help me around the apartment. AGAIN – people just…show up! And do cool things! And the hardest part is always just LETTING them help. I’m so grateful I can never even HOPE to say how much. While I was shifting some things around for her arrival, I had a fall. Not a bad one at all, just…wound up on my butt. I got up with little difficulty and went about my day. I continued to think about it, but it didn’t really upset me or hurt me. Just, whoops, on the floor. Get up, move on.

That evening we went to dinner with Gecko for his birthday, and we did Brazil Grill. If you’re not familiar with the place, you sit at a table, and they bring huge hunks of meat around on swords. And they carve you some, and you eat meat until you DIE. And then they bring you cinnamon sugar glazed pineapple and you know you’re in Heaven. I love this place. Only trouble is, when they carve off that beautiful slice of tri-tip, you have to grab it with your tongs and take it to your plate. I had to use my tongs with my whole fist, and still didn’t quite manage to grab it a couple of times. The delightful gaucho (dude with the meat sword) apologized every time, but it was clearly ME dropping it, not him cutting, and I wanted to tell him “It’s not you, my hands just don’t work” but I didn’t. I wound up putting my freakin’ boob in my plate once, reaching over to try and grab the slice properly. And then cutting up the meat was its own challenge, and trying to be discreet when my hands inevitably cramped up with the effort was useless because 1) I have to do a prayer gesture with my hands to get it to stop, and 2) my brother is observant AF. But it wasn’t a huge deal, just a quiet “hand cramping?” “Yah.” and that was the end. I realize next time, I’m going to have to ask someone to grab the slices for me. And probably cut my steak.

Four slaps in the face from ALS this weekend. The exhaustion, the loss of playing video games with mouse and keyboard, the fall, knowing I’m gonna have to have my steak cut for me like a toddler from now on….and yet.

And yet.

Not once did I lose my shit, or even feel like I was going to. Or needed to. Just a quiet acceptance. The exhaustion was to be expected, and things like this are just going to require a full day recovery anymore. That’s how it is. Gaming, well, I knew that it was coming, and I’ve been keenly aware that my ring finger in particular is very weak, so it makes sense that I can’t really do it anymore. The fall, well, they’re going to happen. Until I am no longer able to get up out of a chair, and even then, I’m going to get dropped. Being unable to cut my own food in the future, well, I’m honestly glad I’m still even able to EAT steak. And I have people willing to cut it for me. Gecko and his husband would have done it in a flash, had I asked. And next time, I will.

ALS still sucks. But I’m getting better at coping with the losses, to foresee them happening and bracing myself.

To fortify.

And that’s pretty awesome.

Oh hai.

It’s uh…been a month. Soz.

I have a lot to say, as usual, but typing is getting hard, and when I get home I usually don’t want to sit in front of the computer at all. I have a lot of things I wanna talk about but yeah, I have a thousand excuses why I haven’t. They all suck – the reasons, hopefully not the things I wanna talk about. In short, it’s like this:

There’s the general health update – the short version is that I have graduated to the walker full time, my hands are decidedly weaker, still no breathing or speaking problems. Headaches are still a thing; got a Cefaly device and it doesn’t seem to be helping. I wanna do a video about the device. It’s weird.

Housing, short version OH MY GOD WHY IS THIS SO HARD. I don’t wanna be adult and do this, I wish someone else was doing this for me, I wish there were even any places AVAILABLE to buy, I wish Portland wasn’t becoming the second Bay Area. It’s complicated and dumb.

I’ve decided to hold a Living Wake for myself in April next year, adjacent to my birthday. The announcement on Facebook concerned some people, because they thought I was throwing a Goodbye Party instead. Naw, dawgs, I just want to see you guys while I can still talk and hug you.

I’m sorting through a lot of emotional shit, as you can imagine, but mostly the idea of BIG CONCEPT vs little concept and how they can screw with you in their own ways. “I’m Going to Die” is a BIG CONCEPT but it isn’t nearly as disruptive day to day as the little concept of “I’m not going to be able to pack my own house when I find a place to move”. Both of them screw with me in their own ways, but the little ones are the ones that usually ruin my day.

I need to check in with y’all about having house cleaners coming over. That’s a bundle of something.

My 22 year old cat was dying, and then he wasn’t, and then he was, and now he can’t figure out what’s going on. It’s been incredibly hard dealing with his impending death, harder I think than dealing with my own in a lot of ways, and I want to talk that out.

Work has been chaotic, lots of organizational changes and looks toward the future. I’d originally thought I might be done working by the end of the year, but now I’m planning on things happening into next spring and beyond, so we’ll see.

I have a lot going on, as you can see, but mostly I just go home after work and watch TV I don’t care about and eat food that’s bad for me and sleep. My time is limited but I’m sleepwalking through it. And I’m…kind of okay with that.

Anyway, love you all, and I hope to post something real soon. <3

Saddiversary

*cough* Hi. Um. *taps mic* is this thing still on?

Yeah. Sorry guys. It’s been very nearly a month. I haven’t had much to report, for the most part, and I FREELY admit that I was hiding from everything on April 1st. Diagnosis Day. My second Saddiversary.

Two years ago, I sat in Dr. Goslin’s office and stared at the carpet, nodding slowly, repeating the words, “definitely a motor neuron disease of some kind, and very likely ALS.”

“In a nutshell,” she’d replied.

At the time, my hands were unaffected. I could still stand up without assistance, and walk unaided. I couldn’t stand on my toes, but I could stand on one leg. My breathing was fine, speech was fine. I had periodic muscle twitches, mostly in my thighs, and sometimes harsh cramps in my calves. I could still slowly wiggle my toes, though my mutant ability to wiggle my left pinky toe was gone. I weighed 175 pounds, up from the 160 I’d finally managed to hit when all these troubles started.

I was devastated, of course. No shit, right? But I had a fierce optimism about it all. It didn’t really matter, I knew to my core that I’d be okay; it’s just that OK was going to gain a new definition. Someone else’s broken and busted is someone else’s awesome mobility day. I had amazing people at my back, I had a NAME at last for what was wrong with me,and with that name came a roadmap. As long as I have a name, I can have a loose plan. With good people on my team, and a discovery of a whole organization of people dedicated to help poor bastards like me cope as best as we can for as long as I can, I had this thing in my pocket.

Two years have come and gone, and they’ve taken my ability to stand without assistance. They took my ability to stand on my own without leaning against something. They pretty well chewed up my hands by now. I’m losing the ability to wiggle my fingers independently, which KILLS the joke when I try to make sarcastic air quotes. I no longer type as fast. I no longer fit in my cutest clothes, because I’m now 200 pounds. Still eating and breathing fine, though, so again – the things that will eventually kill me have not yet begun to kill me. They took their toll on my energy levels, which is the second worst part of all of this I think. I can cope with being able to type with difficulty, I can cope with relying on a cane to get around, but doing any of these things just completely WRECK my energy levels for the rest of the day and probably the day after. It’s getting hard to get out of bed both because my energy levels say no, and part because hauling my now 220 pound ass out of the bed is not an easy task. Specially with a cat who just will NOT GET OFF OF YOU but he’s 22 so I have to be super nice and NOT toss him across the room. I fall sometimes, occasionally because I forget I’m not a normal person and can’t multitask walking AND adjusting my backpack. My cats are three obstacle course experts, and they drag their toy obstacles in new configurations every day. To keep me on my toes. Except the little fuckers don’t seem to get that I can no longer stand on my toes, and if I fall, we are ALL gonna regret it.

Those two years have seen some relationship changes, too. Surprisingly, mostly for the better. Amazing people have come out of the woodwork to support me, I hear stories about me that I never would have known, heard the effect I’ve had on people that I never realized. That part’s been awesome. And some people have gone, for many different reasons, mostly that it’s just really fucking HARD to be around someone with a terminal disease. You know the relationship is doomed. It’s difficult to watch someone you care deeply about struggle so much. And THAT is the worst part of having ALS. Watching how it affects those I love.

I watch you watch me struggle, and I feel your helplessness coil off of you in tentacles that hover and sway as you debate coming forward to ask me to let you help. I watch panic burst from your chest like a gunshot wound when you witness me fall, and you bleed in little droplets of ‘what do I do what do I do’ while I assure you that I’m okay, and scan my surroundings for ways to get myself up. You do a little “I wanna step in and help but I don’t know how” cha cha at my side, tentatively reaching down with those useless tentacles, hands offered but of no use to me. “Unless you can deadlift 200 pounds,” I warn, “you’re not going to be any help to me.” I can’t help you help me, you see. It’s not simply a matter of grab my hands and help me to my feet; there are no longer muscles to flex and bend and counter my weight. Getting off the ground is a matter of leverage, I have to find a solid footing and something sturdy and tall like a chair that I can use to wedge my legs into straight lines, and then lift myself off of the chair. My legs are stilts, made of useless skin and fat; the muscles are out back protesting. And so here we are in an incredibly awkward situation in which not only did you have to witness gravity force itself on someone you like, being able to do nothing, but now you have to watch as I humiliate myself by exerting an insane amount of energy to belly up to the chair and lock my legs in position behind me, shakily lifting my body upright, hissing to myself “come the fuck onnnnnnnn just stand up. STAND UP.” and when I get up, swaying and panting,k we are all of us worse for the experience. My humiliation and out of breath sweating will stop, though. You, you never really stop feeling helpless. And I see that knot of internal pressure, maybe it’s rage at the unfairness of the situation, maybe it’s fear that something might happen to you. You have a lot of reasons. Just as I do, watching my friends in situations I can’t control. It’s the worst place to be, and I don’t blame people for realizing they can’t handle it and stop coming around.

Hell, I actually respect you for recognizing your limits and putting your own health and life first. I WANT that for you guys. I appreciate everything you do, and I love you for who you are, and that includes knowing your boundaries, setting them, and keeping them. It’s hard to make those decisions. And keep them.

I’ve..lost track of where this post was going. It’s been two years of actual factual ALS. Life proceeds, as it always does, and so many things have become the new OK. Humans are amazingly adaptable, and I’m still having enough good days to make sticking around worth it. Having the world’s best excuse for not getting out of bed at ALL on a Sunday, nested in cats and blankets, playing video games with no guilt. It’s a recovery day/I woke up with no mana/I just don’t want to Adult today and this “I’m Dying” card says I don’ t have to. Having amazing friends who will bring me dinner, to my bed, because I don’t want to expend the energy to dislodge the cats, pull back the fortress of blankets and pillows, wriggle out of bed, and wall surf to the front door to meet you. And I’m not even dressed.

So that’s pretty much what I did on April Fool Day. Poisson d’Avril. Diagnosis Day. Saddiversary 2: Electric Boogaloo. I hid. And I cried, and I distracted myself with cats and video games, and slept a lot. And then it was okay. I’m still figuring out the new Normal, cause that keeps changing on me.

I really am sorry about being quiet. I do still have things to tell you, and things to show you. I was just being all Emo McCryface for a little bit. I hope you guys are having great days. I love all y’all.

Merry Christmas and all that

Sorry again for radio silence. It’s not like things haven’t been happening in VashtiLand, it’s just nothing really to do with ALS so much. It’s been normal. The new normal, not normal. Notmal. Born of a typo, I am adopting that word forever.

Last week I went to California to visit my mom for Christmas (surprise, mom!) and reconnected with an old friend, and got some awesome presents and made a fruitcake. That’s the TL:DR version.

First off, I want it clearly on the record that my little brother is out of his mind. Those that know him will not meet that statement with surprise. Nor is it the first time I’ve ever said those words, in that order. We drove down to Cali in a rental car, because it is much easier and cheaper to haul five people in a car than on a plane, especially when one of them is an infant and one of them is five. My little brother drives a tow truck on the night shift, he loves to drive – seriously loves it – and loves to drive at night, sepecially; he adores the quiet when there’s no one on the road. That’s not why he’s crazy. No. He is crazy because he did a full shift of towing, got off work at midnight, and then decided that NOW IS THE TIME THAT WE DRIVE TEN HOURS TO CALIFORNIA.

Out of his tiny little brain.

So despite concerns about driving tired and insisting that he was fine and promising on the souls of his children that he would pull over if he got tired, we piled into the car (literally; my poor sister in law was coccooned in the back seat with a toddler in his car seat, a baby in her baby seat, and blankets and pillows) and started the drive. We got fast food for the road, talked a little, and he drove, until we needed to pee or feed the baby or change the baby. With him complaining the whole time about this is why he likes to drive at night, you don’t have to stop for pee breaks when everyone’s just sleeping. It’s weird for me to sleep in the car – for ten years I was with a dude who needed a copilot to keep him awake when he drove long distances, like a NORMAL person, so road trips have always equaled THERE WILL BE NO SLEEPING. On this trip I was expected, encouraged to, and that was weird. It was nice though, I will always prefer traveling by car because it’s just SO MUCH LESS HASSLE. No security checks and long lines and fussing about where is the disabled entrance, just the occasionally dodgy public bathroom. And little brother annoyed that we have to stop, AGAIN, because it didn’t occur to his wife to breastfeed when we stopped for potty breaks.

THE NERVE OF THAT WOMAN AMIRITE.

We got to the hotel around noon, napped, got some In N’ Out for dinner, went out to see some friends, looked at lights, came back to the hotel, and settled down for a proper sleep. Which of course meant things had to go wrong. And by wrong, I mean someone hitting a transformer at 3:30AM and knocking out the power grid which triggers the hotel’s fire alarm. And by wrong, I mean the hotel’s emergency lights also do not work for some reason. None of which I knew, of course, just OH MY GOD EMERGENCY NO LIGHTS GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!!! Cue me, woken out of a dead sleep in a strange hotel room with no clothes on, in complete darkness except for a flashing strobe light and an alarm so loud it is literally impossible to think. They put me in an accessible room (yay awesome hotel manager!), close to the exit, but first I had to get some clothes on, which meant stumbling around in complete darkness punctuated by blinding flashes with the most piercing, annoying screaming in my ears the whole time. I wound up outside barefoot in 34 degrees, in jeans and a backwards tank top, sweatshirt and boots in hand, hobbling through gravel to find a place to sit and put my boots and braces on by a blissfully near-full moon. I found the rest of my family, in the car keeping warm, and we sat in the parking lot, watching the pattern of flashing lights in the three story hotel (which were kinda cool looking from a safe, sane distance), my five year old nephew freaking out because he’s scared as hell and hates loud noises, my brother telling me how he went to check for me and didn’t know if I was still in the room and had fallen down or something so he was relieved that I was okay, and he is MUCH cleverer than I am, because he flipped the safety lock on his door so it didn’t shut all the way. Which meant that, unlike me, he could get back in to his room when the power came back because I’d left my wallet and phone and everything in the world in my room except pants, shirt, sweatshirt, boots, and cane. The fire department came and checked everything out, the power came back on while they were inside, we were all let inside when the firemen gave the all-clear, I had the poor night manager (freaking out because everyone was freaking out at HIM like it was his fault personally that this happened, on the phone with the alarm company because why didn’t the emergency lights come on seriously what the hell) let me back in to my room at around 4:15 or so, and got back to sleep at about 4:30.

Which is when the alarm went off again.

Just once, probably because the manager had finally gotten hold of the alarm people and they reset the system. But still. The punch line to all of this is that I’m doing a sleep study program at the moment, and it records audio while I sleep to see if I talk in my sleep, or what kinds of interruptions happen to disturb me (looking at YOU, Parmesan), so I have a recording of myself when the alarm went off. Turns out, when startled out of a dead sleep by a panic inducing noise and light show, I make a startled little “Oh!” sound like a cartoon.

And with that, it was Christmas Eve!

When I woke up after all that, I messaged my Squirrel Buddy Jim. You know, that buddy you have that you can just get together and squirrel around with. Mine is named Jim. I confess I was nervous about the meeting – I hadn’t seen him in person in too many years and I was/am completely self conscious about what the disease has done to me, how that affects people that haven’t seen me in awhile. Hi, last time you saw me I was 50 pounds lighter and didn’t need a cane and could step up on a curb just fine, how you doin? I guess I’m allergic to people feeling sorry for me? More like, it hurts me a lot when my condition hurts someone else. I get sad when I have to tell someone about it, because they get sad. And Jim has been a happy distraction in my life for almost 25 years and the last thing I want is to make him sad because I love him a lot. And he was not disturbed at all, outwardly, and was the perfect mix of casual ‘let me help you with this’ and ‘this is totally normal no big deal’ about it all, and I could cry, I’m so grateful. I should have expected as such from him, but I was still nervous, and I’m so happy I had no reason to be. We hung out like old times, we showed each other awesome things, I met his kids again, since they were wee and just born the last time I saw them, and we ate cookies he’d decorated and ate miracle fruit and tasted sour things and had a marvelous time as always. We talked from our hearts on the 45 minute drive back to my hotel (he lives in the middle of nowhere), and reconnected as always, and everything was normal and good.

And then Christmas was with my family so that was all just weird. Because family. I’m glad the aunts and uncle and cousins drove up to meet with us at my mom’s house, because I don’t know when I’ll get down there again. Traveling in general is getting harder, and soon I won’t be able to travel at all without special accommodations, which will make me less likely to travel at all. I told them all it’s their turn, now, to visit me.

And then we got up and out of the hotel on Saturday and my crazy brother drove us all home. And it was good to be home, and sleep all day Sunday except when blowing up Raiders in Fallout 4 or dodging Parmesan’s icicle feet because oh my GOD he would not leave me alone all day. And it snowed, just a little, and I slept through it, but that’s okay. It was a good Christmas.

I hope yours was grand.

Quick Check In

Hey! I’m in Guadalajara, Mexico for the week on business. It’s been an unproductively busy week so far and every minute’s been planned out so I haven’t had time to check in.

In Mexico, I find, disability ramps are only ramps by technicality. They’re barely wide enough for a wheelchair, and usually a really steep incline. The ramp to the hotel lobby is about three feet long and a 45 degree incline. The porters have to get a running start to push the luggage trolleys up. NOT easy for a chick with a cane.

I’m feeling particularly FAT while here, it’s muggy and walking is hard, so I’m constantly a sweaty gross mess. There’s a LOT of overweight people here so it’s not like I am out of place, but the sweating is really stressing me out. I wish I were able to be in Mexico and be cute and walk around. I haven’t been able to see any of the city, really, except as we drive from the hotel to work to the restaurant we’re all eating at back to the hotel. I’m trying to scheme a way to go out tonight and play. If I were healthy, I’d just go for a walk and see where it takes me, but walking is slow, and a huge effort, and I don’t want to be looking at a store while sweating buckets on the merch, you know? HI DON’T MIND ME I’M JUST SWEATING AND SHAKING LIKE A TWEAKER.

It certainly made going through security very interesting. I SWEAR TO GOD I AM JUST A FAT SWEATY PIG I AM NOT NERVOUS OR ANYTHING.

Being here has hastened my want to travel while I can. It’s been difficult, already, and I need to see what I can while I am still somewhat able. But planning that has to wait; I have to get back to work.

I hope you’re all having a terrific time.

Dreaming of a Different Me

Dreams are such fickle things.

I’ve always dreamt strangely. I mean, really strangely. Everyone’s dreams are weird, but I’ve had several people tell me with impressed shakes of their heads that mine are especially so. “Dreams are weird, but YOU, man. YOU dream in another category.”

I learned how to fly by throwing myself at the ground and missing (ala Douglas Adams) but I was really crap at it and could only hover a foot or so off the ground, and it pissed me off that everyone I taught the trick to was so much better at it than I, and then was desperately trying to fly better when Lucille Ball was trying to kill me for some reason, and she was chasing me across the rooftops as I tried so hard to get it right…

It doesn’t help that I dream very vividly, I can draw you maps of places I’ve been, I can remember the tiniest details. And some of them seem…Significant, somehow. Some more important than others. They stay with me for days. I write those ones down, and I try to figure out what they mean, if anything. Sometimes dreams are just dreams. They’re nothing more than your brain’s way of sorting out events and memories and people, in the background, when you don’t have to try so hard. Your brain takes ideas out of the toybox and sees how they work together. Usually it’s a jumbled mess, mine usually have a storyline. ‘m usually a far more powerful person in my dreams, someone with psychic ability or superpower or something outstanding. Someone who can fix things. My brain takes important ideas out of the toybox gently, trying them out for size, seeing how they fit, and usually putting them away before they get dirty. If I dream about work, I know I’m under way too much stress. If I dream about past jobs, I know there’s still some resentments there that I probably ought to work out. Sometimes my dreams show me things that need to be addressed, things that I haven’t admitted to myself, things I haven’t allowed myself to think about.

…And sometimes my subconscious is just an asshole. “Hey, I know you haven’t thought about your dad in awhile, so here’s a dream where he shows up at work and you have to be polite to him because you’re at work and in public and he makes small talk with you and you really want to like him but you just can’t, and now he’s introducing himself to your boss who is saying maybe they can find something for him in your department, yay, father/daughter work day every day isn’t that great!” “oooh, hey remember that girl you crushed on, like, 20 years ago? Here’s a fun little what if scenario where she confesses it’s TOTALLY mutual and right in the middle of happy makeouts your ex husband shows up and sits down even though you are hinting STRONGLY that he should go away and he tells her terrible lies about you, so she leaves, crying. Wasn’t that fun?” “Storytime! Everyone you love is dead and everything is ashes and darkness and you’re all alone and you hear a cat crying in distress somewhere but you can’t find it! YAY!”

I’m usually not disabled, in my dreams. Not yet. It takes a bit of time for something to seep into my identity to the point that it’s who I am when I am dreaming. My tattoos took ages to show up. I There have been maybe a small handful of dreams so far that have ALS in them. Usually it’s a sideline thing. One time I almost got into a fight because they kicked my cane or something, one time I wanted to do something but I couldn’t, because I didn’t have the ability. It’s usually a minor thing, nothing existential or terrible, just…this shows up as a piece of me, subconsciously from time to time.

But last night, in my dream, I sat and watched my four year old nephew happily playing with toy cars on the floor of my apartment, and was suddenly overcome with a terrible grief, that this kid would never know me as anything but disabled. And I woke up crying.

My brain is a DICK.

Clinic Day

Sorry it’s been a bit of time; life has been…interesting. Last Monday I had a Clinic Day. My brother Gecko kept me company. It went like this!

Appointment 1 : Respiratory Therapy

I’m grateful that this was the first one. This one sucks the most. It involves inhaling as much as I can, and then blow out hard and fast into a plastic instrument, and then…keep exhaling. It’s like… I don’t even know what it’s like. It sucks. Try it. Inhale as much as you possibly can, plug your nose, and then blow out hard and fast and keep exhaling for like, a count to five. Feel light headed, don’t you? Now do that two more times. While someone is yelling at you to keep going. She gave me a little plastic clamp to go over my nose while I exhaled to make sure that no air escaped that way. “You are Master of the Nose Clip,” she pronounced. I’ll try very hard to live up to the title and not abuse my newly granted power. In the end, she pronounced my breathing was healthy and normal (yay!) and gently admonished me for not doing the breath-stacking every single night. She didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t using the CPAP after I’d moved, but I ought to.

My brother has video of me doing the breathing exercise. I have to be nice to him from now on or he’ll publish it.

Appointment 2 : Speech Therapy

This appointment was to make sure my swallowing and speech was still as normal as I felt it was. She watched me eat a shortbread cookie, and drink a swallow of soda. It’s weird to have someone watch you intently while you eat, and weirder to have them put their hand on your throat to feel you swallow. It’s like..you start to wonder how you normally do it. But I passed her tests and was pronounced normal. Hooray for me.

So the two things that will kill me have not started to happen yet. This is good.

Appointment 3 : Neurology

Dr. Goslin was out, so I saw her colleague instead. She was very nice and knowledgeable. We ran through the normal strength tests, which she pronounced good, but yes, there is weakness in my hands, but the PT person would know better about that. I’d started a conversation with Dr. Goslin to maybe FINALLY work out what’s been causing my daily headaches for the last oh, 25, 30 years and part of my time with Dr. Sax was spent continuing that talk. Dr. Goslin and I had concluded the next step was going to be to try amitryptaline, which is not only can prevent migraines (yay!), but might help with the daily headaches, and also was a mild antidepressant, and ALSO might help me sleep. (sidenote: holy crap has it ever, but that’s another post) We were taking me off of Wellbutrin last time, and we didn’t want to start a new one until I was off of that. So we put that scrip in. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see Dr. Goslin, but she’d been on call all weekend and I totally get the need for a freakin’ day off. She’s got a lot going on. I was also directed to get another blood check to make sure Rilutek isn’t eating my liver (it isn’t).

Appointment 4 : Social Work

Rachelle the Magnificent was my social worker for this appointment, and she had in tow the new director of Assistive Technologies. We had a talk about caretakers and resources, and a lot of other things that gave me much to think about. I fortunately have a lot of time for things, and can coordinate a lot of it myself, but I really do need to have things officially in place sooner than later. We talked about a follow up appointment so she can see my new apartment and see its accessibility. Gecko had some questions of his own answered. Yay!

Appointment 5 : Physical and Occupational Therapy

The two women I worked with in this session were familiar faces, one of them being the PT I was seeing while we were trying to figure out what Godzilla Disease really was. We measured my strength some more, which was predictable results: feet are nearly useless (I can only juuuuuuuuust wiggle my big toe now) and they tend to turn in at the ankles because my tendons are tightening up due to lack of stretching. There’s no muscle there to pull them to stretch. I have a manual stretching exercise that is supposed to help somewhat. Calf strength is going, thighs are still strong. 5s all around on the upper torso, except my left hand. She had me stretch my fingers out and resist while she tried to pinch them together, and they weren’t able to resist much. I still have full range of motion, but there is a measurable loss of strength there – 4 of 5. I am in an every day fight to not let this freak me out. She watched me walk down the hall with my braces on, and with the walker I was borrowing from the ALS loan closet. She agreed I am MUCH more stable with the walker which, on the one hand? No duh. But on the other hand, it’s nice to have it confirmed that I not only FEEL more stable, I AM more stable and less likely to fall.

The occupational therapist measured my grip strength (again, doing something hard while a woman yells at you HARDER! MORE! HARDER! is a surreal experience). She asked about my struggles with daily tasks I’d noticed popping up, and I was making a considered effort to be open and honest and accepting the help she offered. I admitted the toilet in my apartment is CRAZY low (seriously other people have told me so, too) so she offered a toilet frame with bars I can use to haul myself up. I said okay. She offered a shower chair. I said okay. The Zombie Tramp house had a seated shower, so I hadn’t needed such a thing before, but I accepted this for my new place. I don’t need it yet, I can still shower standing, but I lean against the wall when I do. A chair might be easier. She also gave me a couple of pieces of something called Dycem (registered trademark) which is a flexible grippy plastic sheeting that I can cut up and put where ever I need extra grip, like a piece across the back of my phone so I can hold it easier, use a piece to grip jars to twist them open, wrap a glass in it so I don’t drop it, etc. She said once I start using it, I’ll find a million uses for it. She’s probably right.

Appointment 6 : Nurse

The nurse on staff is a lovely woman, I like her a lot. She was basically just there to tell me that if I needed them, they were always around. She gave me the wrap-up paperwork, and said that after the next and last appointment, I was free to go.

Appointment 7 : Registered Dietician

You know how when the dentist asks how often you floss, and you lie, and you both know you’re lying? Yeah I was avoiding that with the dietician, so when she asked how much water I drink a day, I admitted that no, I don’t drink water. At all. I hate the way it tastes (water does TOO have a flavor). I also admitted that I eat like crap and don’t eat breakfast usually, unless you count an energy drink as breakfast, heh heh.

She does not.

There’s not a lot of dietary advice that comes with ALS, because you’re pretty much encouraged to eat whatever you feel like and don’t try to lose weight. She made me promise to swap out ONE soda a day with a glass of water instead. And for heavens’ sake, EAT SOMETHING FOR BREAKFAST. She gave me a cookbook of easy to chew, easy to swallow foods, which she said I do not need to take now, but it has really interesting information about what physically goes on when you swallow, and some other tips in general. So I went ahead and accepted it now, even though I absolutely do not need it yet because my swallowing is fine. It has a recipe for stroganoff in it though, and it made me really want a good beef stroganoff. mmmmm.

And then, after stopping in the lab for the blood test, I was free to go!

Wrap up

No surprises. I’m happy to have it medically documented that my breathing and swallowing are still fine. I’m discouraged about the hand strength loss of course. By ‘discouraged’ I mean ‘freaking out’ but I’m learning to cope. I have a lot of people around to help me out and so far my typing is still awesome. So as long as I can game, we’re good. I’ve since started the amitryptaline, and it is KICKING MY ASS. I have been sleeping SO HARD the last two days, and it’s near impossible to wake up. I hope that evens out. We’ll see. My blood test came back fine, my liver is not imploding. Yay. I have a followup with Dr. Goslin in August, and my next Clinic Day is in November.

So that’s the update!

Complicated

“It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases – one was Alzheimer’s, and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer’s.” -Terry Pratchett

“Complicated.”

It’s become my go-to phrase when people ask how I’m doing. “Life is complicated.” Check off that box on Facebook, I am officially in a relationship with ALS and It’s Complicated.

Nothing is simple. Everything is terrible, and everything is wonderful. I am cursed and blessed. And everything is complicated. I have, as the late and very great Sir Terry Pratchett said, two diseases. Two minds. The ALS mind and the Knowing I Have ALS Mind. I call them Future and Fatality. They argue constantly over everything I do, every plan I make is scrutinized by both sides, every human interaction is watched with both minds. Future is all about the practicality of the day to day, maintaining a sense of normal through all of this chaos. Fatality is about the hard reality that my time is very much abbreviated and some allowances must be made. Future is the one saying I have to work until I can’t, so as to prolong the quality of my life and finances for as long as possible. Fatality is the one saying FUCK THIS, we are DYING, who the fuck wants to work until all quality of life is gone?! Let’s spend our money making the last days AWESOME. Future says, yeah, but we still have to go to fucking work tomorrow, you moron. Disney World souvenirs don’t buy themselves.

They’re both right.

…It’s complicated.

There is definitely some sense of maintenance of the status quo that’s necessary. Continuing to work not only provides a stronger income than I’ll get on disability, but it’s feeding me a sense of normality, and there’s a great comfort in the routine. I can handle this. Yes. I’m dying. But there’s still work to be done. The floors still need swept, the cats need feeding, and while I’d like to do nothing but sleep, that’s not going to help anything. I can continue because I must, life is moving and so I, too, have to continue to move. Acknowledge that I am not dead yet.

There are definitely concessions that need to be made. Considerations to signing a 30 year mortgage that I know goddamned well I’m not going to see the end of. Allowances to make life fun while I still have the ability to participate. Plans to make so that memories are made and things don’t get left undone. Write your fucking will. Go ahead and spend some money on stupid things because I know in my heart that it doesn’t even matter. Make myself as happy as I can, while I can. Acknowledge that I am not dead yet, but WILL be.

Their key arguing lately has been about living situations. It’s amazing what will trigger me and what won’t, and unfortunately I never know until it happens. I can brace myself for things I think will be problematic, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes it’s the stupidest shit that trips me up. And it changes from day to day. Some days I think living with Danielle will be just fine, and some days I think I will do anything within my power to live alone until I absolutely can’t. It’s not about living with her, it’s about living with ANYONE. Some days I accept financial advice with grace, and some days it’s FUCK YOU I KNOW HOW TO SPEND MY FUCKING MONEY LIKE A MOTHERFUCKING ADULT. I HAVE GOTTEN THIS FAR, YOU KNOW. I AM NOT STUPID. Anger comes up unexpectedly, avoidance gets triggered, there are hurt feelings and tears and anger and misunderstandings, and later you sort through it all and you don’t know what happened, even after.

My main babe and I had a huge thing last week. I wouldn’t call it a fight. It was a..surprise boundary test that went very poorly. Plans kind of got put on hold, and I wound up making a rash concession that I had to withdraw and I feel fucking awful about it. Lines were drawn. Many many tears were shed and for a few days there, ativan was popped like candy to try to stave off the panic attacks that just kept coming. It cemented our need for couples counseling. It brought up a lot of good questions. It hurt a lot of feelings. I really, really can’t accept help gracefully and need to work on that. I need to draw lines and feel comfortable, as the center circle, maintaining them. Even if I’m wrong, I’m in charge of my own care. And even if I’m right, other peoples’ opinions are valid. Even if I choose to ignore them in favor of what I want. And a lot of times, I don’t know what the fuck I want.

It was complicated.

We’re still okay, of course, we love each other to pieces and that’s never going to change. It was a surprisingly brutal and hurtful exploration of caregiver/cared-for relationships and I did not like it one bit. And it’s going to continue to happen, and we’re both going to get stronger for it, and it’s going to fucking SUCK while it happens. I hate making her life hard. But I can’t help but do so. Fucking ALS.

I wound up looking for, and finding, an apartment of my own in the interim. My house closes on the 6th of July, but the housing market is extraordinarily chaotic right now, so finding another place to buy is impossible. Especially when I don’t even know what the fuck I’m LOOKING for, and things I am okay with on paper suddenly turn in to panic-inducing dealbreakers. So I am going to live in an apartment, and continue to be alone while I can, and get through life with my best babe and my awesome planets in orbit as best as we can manage. Looking for an apartment is always shitty, and right now rents are INSANE – I wound up accepting an apartment that is 2 bedroom and less than half the size of my house with 6 square feet of patio and a tiny kitchen for $50 less than my goddamned mortgage. And I’m having a really hard time with it. I sit here, typing this, looking out at my amazing back yard that will be someone else’s in a month’s time. I walk the floors I installed myself, I sleep in the room I had not even finished carving out for myself, I sign a lease with all of these rules and regulations that being a homeowner just didn’t have. And it’s hard. I’m glad I found a place and have a place to land, but losing this dream of mine is hard. I’m grateful the work is lessened, happy to have less space to maintain in my lesser state, but goddammit this was MY HOUSE. Future is happy that I’m being so practical about it and is planning the move, and Fatality is punching holes in things when she’s not crying her eyes out.

It’s complicated.

Yesterday we moved all of the extraneous stuff that had been taken down for staging, all of my books and DVDs and winter clothes and decorations and baking gear. We put it in storage. It was a really hot day and we all sweated a lot. The heat kept my mind from wondering if I’ll ever unpack some of these boxes. My ability is waning every day, and the longer I wait to find my proper space, the less power I will have to make it my own. I sacrifice my future nesting to further my independence today. And the weekend was a constant reminder of my lessening ability. My handwriting, as I filled out the lease paperwork, was atrocious. My hands are suffering and I am trying desperately not to just freak the fuck out all day, every day. My stupid feet grew wrong and I’ve got nasty bunions on both my feet, and because of the muscle loss, the bone is barely covered with a little bit of skin and it rubs and pinches and is excruciating no matter what shoes I wear – but the only real fix is surgery, and do I seriously want to give up even MORE mobility to get it corrected? Every movement costs more energy than ever before, and even though I wasn’t allowed to move boxes, I am physically DONE from this weekend. DONE DONE DONE. I am tired and sad and grateful – so fucking grateful – to my friends and brother for coming to my rescue on a miserable day. I put them all through a rough day, and they loved me enough to stay. And though I was grieving, I was grateful.

Future is kind of pissed off that I spent so much money for the lease and renting storage space, because that’s money we could be putting away, and it’s really impractical when I know I’m just going to have to give in eventually anyway. Fatality is flipping her the bird and patting my head and telling me it’s going to be alright even though we both know she’s lying. Usually I side with Future, but right now she can fuck off. I have to leave this house that I love, and it’s cruel that it’s so much work to make that happen. Fatality knows we have people who will help and just chill the fuck out and maybe play some video games tonight instead of worrying about it.

I guess this post kind of wandered all over the place. Sorry. My brain is full, I am mourning my loss of independence even as I struggle stupidly to hang on to a shred of it at great expense, I am obsessing over every detail even as I am actively avoiding thinking about any of it. And hopefully figure out the fine line between standing up for what I want and deciding my own fate, and being a goddamned idiot who needs to admit that she’s not as strong as she wants to be. To learn to accept help gratefully while still asserting control over what help I accept. Stubbornness versus weakness, and strength perceived as stubbornness versus self delusion perceived as assertion. And I usually can’t even tell which is which.

All my life, and now so more than ever, I am very, very complicated.

Honk-shuuuuuuus

Here’s something I CAN post about! The sleep study!

It went…yeah wow. OK. So in the morning, the nurse came in at 6:30, I was already sitting up and waiting for her to come in and turn on the lights. “Good morning!” I said.

She looked at me like I was a little crazy. “I dunno….is it? You had kiiiiiind of a rough night there.”

By which she meant I did not sleep at all.

I got there at 7 like I was told, and waited for the nurse to get herself settled and everything checked in, just chilled and read my book. She came in and hooked me up, and I noticed she did it differently than the previous time – there was no drawing all over my head with a blue wax crayon this time. We fitted me with a CPAP machine, and I was given time alone to adjust to breathing through two different kinds of masks to see which one was easier. I was pretty dang tired so we called it around 10, and I crawled into bed. We did the same equipment checks that made me feel just as ridiculous as before. You are lying there in the dark and you’re told to look up and down ten times. Now left to right. Now blink fast ten times. Now close your eyes, three deeeeeep breaths. Wiggle your left foot. Wiggle your right. (I sucked at those). Etc.

And then she bade me goodnight.

And then sleep completely failed to happen. The mask was not uncomfortable or anything, I just could not get to sleep and stay there. I woke up at one point with flutters – something I’ve had happen for years and years, it feels like a low current of electricity just under my skin next to my left shoulder blade. It’s not painful at all, just uncomfortable and they get worse the more I get frustrated because I can’t sleep. Usually I get up and take kava kava or something, but I didn’t have that option during the sleep study. I recognize them now as a weird sort of panic attack, but there was nothing I could do but just lay there, frustrated, not sleeping, until they went away. Which was….awhile. And then I woke up again later, just…awake. No reason. I think I slept like an hour and a half at a time. Twice.

She said to not get discouraged, people often have a rough time their first try, and it will be easier once I get it home. She tried turning up the machine, which made things worse, she said, and she has lots of notes for my doctor.

I’ll see the pulmonologist on the 23rd.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Beautiful Kitten Fish, Sleep Baby Sleep

I have a very romantic weekend planned. While everyone is eating expensive dinners and watching 50 Shades of Sexual Assault this Valentine’s Day, I will be having my second sleep study. We’re going to try me on CPAP as I’ve said before, and it’s likely I’ll get one of my very own. It’s better than chocolates and roses any day!

…I should note that Valentine’s Day means nothing to me at all. Lest you think I’m actually bitter.

I will call the pulmonologist and make an appointment today, they’ll want to know the results of the study before we get started with equipment and everything. I’m hoping it all helps with the exhaustion and whatnot, I’ve been having a REALLY hard time waking up this last week or so. It might be the med change; we’ve upped the dose of Adderall from 10mg to 20. I don’t know that it’s doing a better job than the Nuvigil did, honestly. But we’ll see.

Sleep’s been kind of elusive these days, but that can be written ENTIRELY off to stress. I’m packing for real, now, and going through things to give up for the garage sale. It’s three times as difficult as it should be – I have to fight my inherent laziness, the high cost of physical exertion that ALS brings, and it’s just..SAD. It’s depressing as hell to go through my things with this air of finality. It’s moreso than the usual “Meh, I don’t need this” when you move, it’s “I will probably never have another use for this at ALL and I don’t want someone else to have to deal with it when I’m dead.” So it makes me tired and maudlin and my brain won’t stop even if I’m physically tired. I have a ton of people on standby who will help me pack if I ask, but they can’t go through my things for me. That’s my sad and lonely duty.

Also, I’ll be honest, the thing with the news article about my work and ALS has stressed me right the fuck out. And that conversation continues on my work’s internal news site.

Work stress, too, was about ALS recently.

Life seems entirely about the stupid disease lately, and it’s all stressful, and it’s really hard sometimes to not just curl up and sleep and avoid it all for awhile. I just don’t have the time to indulge in that. It hasn’t beaten me, not by a long shot, I still know everything’s going to be just FINE, goddammit, but it’s harder right now. It’ll calm down and be okay in a bit, but all I see for awhile is deadlines and packing and expenses and pressure. And while I’d like to just sidestep all that, and play Skyrim instead, I know I can’t, and it will be so much worse for me if I even try.

And so I will continue to work, and pack, and sort, and not sleep very well, and spend too long in the mornings lying in bed and snuzzling my cats instead of getting up and getting dressed for work. For now. For awhile. Not forever. There will eventually be an end to the work, and most of this stress, and I’ll be allowed to properly sleep.

Bloop bloop bloop bleep bleep.