Saturday, February 26, 2011

Talking about it.

I went back to work for a couple of days at the end of this week, and boyoboy is there a lot going on there.  Our workplace is being audited and inspected by an authoritative organization next week, and everyone is scrambling to get ready.  On top of that we are starting to work toward going paperless; that'll be a major project for the next 6 months.  And I'm dealing with an employee who is great in many ways (reliable, pleasant, professional), however she's not detail-oriented.  I'm working with her to see if her accuracy can be increased to acceptable levels, but I'm not counting on it.  I'll be spending most of my time the next couple of weeks double-checking all her work and providing corrections.  At least we'll be able to say that we tried if things don't work out.

The bottom line is that I'd better get well and do it quickly, because there are things to be done that cannot wait.

When I went back to work I took some time out with a couple of the other managers whom I work closely with to let them know about my health situation.  I figure the people who have to cover for me or suffer inconveniences during my absence have the right to know why I've been out of commission.  I also wanted to line up their sympathies in advance in case should I need more time off.  These managers are all women I've worked with for years, who know me well.  We have mutually trusting relationships, and they know that I'm not the type to slack off because of laziness.

Two of my co-workers were concerned and sympathetic.  Interestingly, it was the one woman who has her own chronic health issues who irritated me with her response.  She felt compelled to remind me that it's important to think positive and to push through feelings like "I can't do it" and just carry on.  I found this annoying, although I know she meant well, for several reasons:

1)  The last time I pushed through my fatigue because I was thinking positively, I ended up in the emergency room because I had overexerted myself.  The hard lesson that I have to learn is to not push myself, but to listen to my body.

2)  There is an implied accusation in there that I've been a Moping Molly and need to be told to pull up my socks, keep my chin up, and put on a happy face.  While I've been situationally grouchy because aches, pains, and fatigue tend to do that to a person, I have successfully not wallowed in self-pity or pessimism (this time).  I find it condescending that this woman should feel compelled to tell me how to think or what to feel, especially when I don't need that type of reminder.  I can remind myself, thanks very much.

3)  I find any statement that sounds even remotely like "It's all in your mind" to be offensive.  Just because I don't have a diagnosis for my recurring fatigue, fever, and tender/stiff joints doesn't mean that I made my symptoms up out of the clear blue sky, due to wrong thinking.  I used to be quite depressed for years on end, and at that time it seemed plausible that my symptoms were related to the depression.  However, in the past three years I have not had any prolonged feelings of depression.  Certain elements of my job do generate some appropriate anxiety, but there has been no correlation between my anxiety and my symptoms.  If that had been the case I would have been disabled last year when I was responsible for moving the entire company to a new location.  I got through that OK with nothing more than a 2-day-long head cold to show for it.

The New Age movement has gone too far, in my opinion, with the "you create your own reality"  business.  Yes, there is certainly some truth to that statement.  But we cannot control everything in our lives with our intentions, and that kind of thinking results in people blaming themselves for things that aren't within their control.  It's not my fault that I'm sick.  Whether it's caused by a virus, an auto-immune dysfunction, or by environmental sensitivities, it's not my fault.

I spent today searching up blogs written by people with CFS and fibromyalgia, just to feel less isolated and freakish.  I know I don't have either of those syndromes because I'm not as disabled as people who earn those official diagnoses, but it still helped.  I also read on one of the medical sites that for every person with full-blown CFS there are around 10 who have milder versions of the problem. There are a lot of us, although people tend not to talk about it.  Right now, I can't not talk about it.

I'm still achey and running a low fever.  I know that I'm not well yet when I get up first thing in the morning and put my feet on the floor.  If my feet feel sore when I stand up, that means the episode isn't over yet.  It's not over yet.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In which I meet two Elvises

In Canada, this past Monday was a statutory holiday recently added to the calendar by our government.  It's called Family Day.  I guess they figured that makes it sound nice; better than the "Civic Holiday" we get in August.  Yay random long weekend!

Knowing I'd be able to sleep in on Monday, I accepted an invitation from a friend to go to karaoke night at a dive bar in the east end.  My friend is a regular there, and was in fact a finalist in the seasonal karaoke competition on Sunday night.

We were warned that the venue was sketchy, that it's the type of place where people get thrown out for brawling as a matter of course on Fridays and Saturdays.  Sunday are supposedly quieter.

The place was pretty big, and looked like exactly what it was: a big, functional space for lots of people to do some serious drinking.  There was no decor to speak of.  It was dark.  There were no cozy, upholstered booths and no fake British pubby-type paraphernalia.  All the surfaces were made to be easily wiped down and disinfected.  There were rows of plain, dark tables flanked by plain, dark wooden chairs.  Everything was old and worn.

Val had arranged to meet a big group of friends there, so we pushed a bunch of tables together.  At the front, a large woman in a red satin shirt was setting up the karaoke stage, along with a single led lamp which cast multicoloured, moving patterns on the ceiling.  I got a can of ginger ale and sipped it all night.

There were only a couple of rowdy drinkers in the house.  There was a skinny guy wearing nylon warm-up pants and an old white sweatshirt with an oil pastel drawing of a dog's head in profile and the word "Rottweiler" arching over it.  He was sitting across from a woman dressed all in black with long black hair.  They had a parade of beer glasses marching across their table, some full, some empty.  From their behaviour I made a guess that they were also tripping on something stronger than beer.  The woman kept getting up to dance in this weird, drifty way, waving her arms very slowly in the air, and watching her own feet with intense concentration.  The guy was hyper as anything.  He could barely keep his butt on his chair.  Anytime there was music he was all over the dance floor, bashing into people and generally having himself a great time.  Eventually the guy became so irritating that he got kicked out, or rather dragged out by the neck of his sweatshirt by the big woman in the red satin shirt.

The karaoke contest was pretty awesome.  There were two ladies and two men up for the title, and both men were doing the Elvis thing.  They both had the longish black hair and lamb-chop sideburns.  One of them even had a full Elvis-in-Vegas costume: white with a gold cape, gold triangles inset into the flares of the trousers, lots of bling, and a belt buckle the size of a trade paperback.  In the end, the other Elvis won.  The judges had each contestant sing a song of the judges' choosing, and Brown Elvis (he was of east Indian origin) absolutely killed "It's Raining Men".

It was a lot of fun.  I cheered and clapped for the good singers and only slightly less for the terrible ones.  Yes I did get up and sing one song: Thorn In My Side by the Eurythmics.  I was mediocre.

We stayed out until the scandalously late hour of half-past midnight, and then took our time driving home in a thickening layer of slushy snow.  I was in bed before two and got eight hours of sleep.  Why do I mention this?  Wait for it.

Next day I went out with my sister for a healthy, vegan dinner.  I had a sore throat, but I had cheered a lot the night before, so I figured that was why.  I also felt tired, but that was jet lag, yes?  I enjoyed a nice, sisterly bonding time over good food (yay for vegan cheesecake!) and then went out into the frigid cold to wait for the streetcar and froze my butt for a while.

When I got home I felt achey and chilled.  Then my teeth started chattering - after I got indoors.  I took my temperature.  It was up, and kept going up.  It was one of those nights.  I layered on extra blankets and slept in a fleece jacket.  My body was shivering but I felt like my cheeks were going to spontaneously burst into flames.  I didn't sleep much.  (Medical note: no I can't take an Aspirin/Advil/Tylenol/[insert drug of comfort here] because they burn holes in my guts).  So, yeah.  Sick again!  For the love of Pete.   I missed another day of work.  We'll just have to see about tomorrow.  I'm still not sure.

I had not mentioned that I was going to a special doctor tomorrow to find out why I feel crappy 75% of the time.  He specializes in Chronic Fatigue and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and the like.  I was all set to go, until I got sick again, and then I had to cancel, because it costs $500 for the appointment, and if you don't give them 24 hours notice that you're cancelling they charge you anyway, and I didn't want to risk that, so I cancelled first thing this morning.  In other words, I was too sick to find out why I'm "always" sick.  Honestly.  Anyway, it's rebooked for two weeks from now, and I'll let all ya'll know how it goes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Urban Adventures

This morning, for the first time in almost a month, I woke up before my alarm, feeling rested and ready to start my day.  Three cheers!

Getting to work and home again has been an adventure the past couple of days.  Yesterday, a sudden warm spell turned packed snow and rough ice into fields of smooth ice slicked over with water.  During my walk to work, there were several patches where I had to shuffle one inch at a time over precarious footing, and even at that I almost went down a couple of times.  I had to do the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man dance to stay vertical.

This morning the ground was less treacherous.  All the ice on the sidewalks had melted - into giant, lake-like puddles.  At one point I danced my way through a puddle that was eight feet long and, at the middle, four inches deep.  Fortunately, I had my rubber-bottomed boots on, so my feet stayed dry.  Unfortunately, I brought my stuff to work in a canvas granny buggy instead of a handbag, because I had plans to go downtown after work and bring back some substantial shopping.  The wheels of the granny buggy did not quite clear the waves in this mega-puddle, and the bottom of the canvas got soaked.  Fortunately, none of the contents of the buggy sustained any water damage.

My adventure downtown was more exciting than I would have liked.  First I went to see my naturopath.  Then I got back on the subway train to go slipper shopping.  I have been inside in my jammies and slippers so much this winter that I've worn out two of my three pairs of slippers.*

*Yes, I do need three pairs.  They all have a purpose.  Slip-ons to keep by the bed at night, so I don't freeze my footsies when I get up; leather moccasins for lounging around in style; and big, puffy booties for when I'm seriously chilly.

When I got off the train at the slipper shop station, the platforms were packed.  This station is a major downtown hub where two track lines cross.  An announcement had come on the P.A. system a few minutes ago stating that one section of track, covering five very popular stations, was closed due to some poor soul sustaining "a personal injury at track level" at the next station to the north.  The station was already crammed to capacity with anxious crowds.  I could barely weasel my way through the crush to get out of there.

I went to The Bay where I scored a pair of $ 28 slippers for $ 9 on super-end-of-season-markdown.  Sweet!  Then I went back downstairs to the station, but I didn't get anywhere near the entrance.  It was still chockablock with crowds.

I wheeled my granny buggy through the underground shopping tunnels on foot to the next subway station.  My plan was to take the other arm of the line north, and then go across by bus.  I got on a train and went to another station where I could switch to a northbound train.  As soon as I arrived and dragged my buggy up two flights of stairs, another announcement declared that the delay was cleared.  Alright then.   I figured I'd just wait a few minutes for the crowds to clear out and then head back in the direction I'd come from.  I went back down the stairs, sat down and read my book for ten minutes, at which point another announcement stated that the delay wasn't clear after all and the track was still closed.  For the love of Pete...

I ended up taking the long, roundabout route home, including a ride on a packed bus in go-nowhere traffic that took around ten years, but I finally made it to my station.  Then my granny buggy and I set out for the 15-minute walk home, which would have been uneventful, but for an absolutely ridiculous wind that had kicked up since I was last outside.

This wind blew in my face so aggressively that, when it was gusting, it stopped me in my tracks.  Walking: it consists of picking up one foot and then falling forward onto it.  The wind was so strong that it stopped me from falling forward.  I ended up kind of marching in place half the time.  Not only that, but my canvas granny buggy became a nice big sail, windsurfing me in the wrong direction.  At one point I started laughing like a maniac because everything in the universe seemed to be conspiring against my goal of getting home.

But I did get home.  And my new slippers are super comfy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I'm in that place again.  Three weeks of being tired and physically out of sorts has proven time and again to be the limit of my psychological tolerance.  I'm more or less alright, well enough to be back at work, reluctantly, but am I grouchy.  I blame it on the fatigue and social isolation; it's no good to have to cancel all your social plans because you need to conserve all your energy for work.

I am being an optimist and making a few plans with friends for the near future.   I need to get out of my pj's and back to life!

Today I attended an event at my grandmother's assisted living facility.  My grandmother and her neighbours acted as "elders" to a group of 12-year-olds in the context of a history project.  Together, each team consisting of an elder and a student created a painting that represented the elder's path through life and/or life lessons that they'd like to pass along to younger generations.  It was very sweet.

Neither my grandmother nor her co-artist, Sam, feel confident in the area of visual arts.  Their final product was a sort of time-line cartoon strip of stick figures against a colourfully painted abstract background.  They both seemed fairly bashful about it, but I thought it was good stuff.

Before the art presentation ceremony, I met my relatives for lunch. My uncle had suggested that we meet at a Thai restaurant close to my grandmother's residence.  I checked online and found that it wasn't open for lunch on Sundays.  I patted myself on the back for saving the day, and redirected us all to meet at a sushi restaurant I'd found online instead.  I offered to arrive early to save us a table.  I even took a taxi to make sure I wouldn't be late.

I got there quite early and found that there were no tables.  Not "no free tables".  Just no tables at all.  It was a take-out-only restaurant.  Nice.

Cell phone technology saved the day.  My cousin picked me up on his way past, and we all met at a local deli for enormous pastrami sandwiches.

Not only did I get out of my shell and socialize with friendly humans today, I ate.  All day.  Comfort food, or at least my version thereof.  A big bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast at 9 am.  Second breakfast at 11:30 am, consisting of last night's homemade dinner leftovers: roasted chicken, brown rice, and sauteed sweet peppers.  1:00 pm: one giant pastrami sandwich on rye with mustard.  2:30 pm:  Sweet buffet at the art presentation - chocolate rolls and dried fruit.  3:30 pm: Grandmother's homemade poppyseed cookies served from a plastic 2L tub that used to hold frozen yogourt.  At the moment it's 6:45 pm.  I'm roasting a big hunk of pork with red potatoes, and there are organic carrots in the fridge waiting for their turn under the knife.

With enough sleep, comfort food, friendly conversation, and hugs, I think I might just be able to find my cheerful self again.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fail Blog Entry

I'm sure you all recall me whining about being sick last weekend.  I cancelled almost all my fun plans, and then got better in time to show up at work on Monday. *sigh*  But you know, things happen.  There was no sense in being bitter.

Until I got sick again this weekend.  (Some kind of virus, I think.)  Now I'm bitter.  Getting sick every weekend is not cool.

And although I complained about getting well just in time to go back to work last week, feeling that it was a rather cruel joke by Mother Nature, I do wish I had gotten well that quickly this time.  I am getting bored, peoples.  I have a very active and curious mind.  Lying on the couch watching TV, dozing, and sweating is staring to wear pretty thin.

I did try to go to work this morning.  The fever was gone.  I got myself up, showered, groomed and dressed.  I was feeling a mite shaky, so I called a cab instead of hiking off to the bus stop. After being in the car for a few minutes, I started feeling shakier.  I decided to tough it out.  Halfway there I felt worse. My pulse was hammering and I wanted to lie down.  I told myself it would pass.  Three quarters of the way there, I asked the cabbie to turn around and take me home again.  Work attempt FAIL!  The round trip cost me $28 in cab fare, and some of my dignity.

When I got home I crawled back into my fleecy pj's and fell asleep on the couch for most of the day.

I think I won't try again until Wednesday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lip Bomb

It's been cold outside, which means that inside, it's been dry.

We don't have a humidifier.  At one time we did, but, unbeknownst to Ken and I, invisible mold grew in it while it was in storage over the summer and when we turned it on the next winter it made us both sick.  I turned it on before we went to bed, and woke up a couple of hours later because Ken was wheezing loudly in his sleep.  I didn't fare too badly - just had a cough for a few days - but Ken had an asthma attack so severe that I almost called 911.  After I woke him up he started gasping and coughing uncontrollably.  It took two months for him to get his health back to where he was before.  Neither of us is willing to risk a repeat performance.

So, it's dry.  Every year when the furnace starts to kick in my body goes through an uncomfortable phase of adjustment, but eventually I get used to the low humidity and, with the help of a lot of moisturizer, I do alright.  Ken, being a typical man in this respect, usually doesn't reach for hand cream until his skin has already cracked.

I also have to have lip balm at all times.  I have a collection of various types around the house for the sake of variety.  Plain, coconut, cherry, and Dr. Pepper.

Last night Ken and I were out for dinner.  At the end of the meal, I pulled out a tube of red cherry lip balm will little sparkly bits in it and after putting it on myself, I offered it to Ken.  I was deadpanning, intending it as a joke because, well, red and sparkly is not really his thing, except for yours truly.  Imagine my surprise when he reached for the tube.

"Really?" I asked.  "Yeah, actually I've been using your Dr. Pepper one at home.  My lips are starting to crack."  "Didn't you notice that there's colourless coconut lip balm in a little pot right next to the Dr. Pepper lip gloss?"  "No."  Silly man.  I love that he's been using Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker, which I bought to satisfy my inner eight-year-old.  It's pretty good stuff, actually.

Later, in the elevator, I reached out towards Ken's face.  He backed away.

Ken: "What?"

Me:  "You have lip gloss on your moustache."

A new entry on the list of Things I Never Thought I'd Say.

(To be clear, Ken doesn't have a moustache per se.  I was referring to the five-o'clock-shadow of a moustache which he sports late in the day.)

When we got home I busted out a fresh tube of clear, unflavoured lip balm for Ken to have all on his ownsome.  He's still welcome to use my Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker anytime.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blizzardgeddon! Not.

Firstly, thanks for your well wishes, and I'm happy to report that my tum is almost all back to normal now.  Yay food!

Also, I think one of my Sea Monkeys just released another batch of eggs.  We'll see.  Something unusual was coming out of her back end; I hope it was eggs.  Anyway, obviously they are delicate creatures and there's no guarantee that these ones will fare any better than the last batch, but there is a sliver of hope.

In other news, the MAJOR STORM! that Torontonians were warned about for days has come and gone.  It did not nearly live up to the hype, leastways not in my part of town.  Yes we got a considerable dump of snow overnight, and yes the roads were slippery, but that's about it.  There were no waist-high snowdrifts, no blizzardly white-outs.  I left my house around 15 minutes earlier than usual to account for traffic delays, and got to work early.

The buses were chugging along as usual.  There were hardly any other vehicles on the road.  Everyone decided to stay at home, I guess.  Amazingly, most of the sidewalks that comprise the walking segments of my route were already cleared.  God bless those snow-clearing folks.

Apparently the East end of the city and suburbs beyond it got blasted.  My co-workers from those areas did not show up at work today.  It didn't matter much, since it was such a quiet day.  I love quiet days.  It was a nice treat.