A policeman, three firemen, and a paramedic walk into a bar

What a week. After my mom left, my rash decided it wasn’t quite itchy enough and turned up the volume all over my body, including my face and scalp which I did not have the pleasure of experiencing last time. I was so incredibly miserable. When you get Urticaria hives on your palms and the bottoms of your feet, they don’t puff up like the welts elsewhere, instead the tighter / thicker skin there just turns red and hot, and the entire palm / sole swells up. I had to prise off my wedding ring before it cut off circulation, and my toes were so red and swollen that they wouldn’t bend properly when I tried to walk.

urticaria-rash

Anti-histamines weren’t even taking the edge off, and on top of it all, I was weaning off of my beta blocker medication (it was making the dizziness and fainting worse, plus extra itching). So I was experiencing erratic heart activity, plus some weird anxiety and panicked feelings as my body adjusted to regulating blood pressure on its own.

One night I was tossing and turning in fitful rashy / burning sleep and became disoriented and took too much anti-histamine, thinking that each time I’d woken up, four hours had passed and it was time to take more. Finally I woke up more fully and couldn’t figure out where I was. My brain wanted to make the dark shapes in my bedroom be the bedroom of our last house, and everything was spinning. I sat up and the shapes in the room lurched like my desk, mirror, dresser, and closet door were all doing the wave at a football game.

the-wave

I felt so strange, and the beta blocker withdrawal panic turned my confusion into terror. I made my blurry eyes focus on the swimming clock numbers and realized it was only 2am. My stomach did a flip as I tried to piece together how many times I’d woken up since 11:30 and taken more Benadryl. I googled overdose symptoms which is EXACTLY what you want to do when you are already scared and anxious. Coma! Seizures! Death! I was soon quite convinced I was going to be dead by sunrise. I started frantically calling friends and family, but go-figure, everyone was asleep in the middle of the night. So I called poison control and the nice lady on the end of the line helped me try to figure out how many I might have taken. She was very reassuring and not at all concerned that I now had two closet doors instead of one. She suggested I try to sleep it off.

I couldn’t sleep, I sat wide-eyed and frightened in my bed, calling all my friends again. I felt like if I could just get someone over here to sit with me I wouldn’t feel so scared. I couldn’t get anyone to pick up, and then a wave of… I don’t know, weirdness? Swept over me and I felt like I was falling. I called 911.

cop-macaroni-cat

I will spare you the play by play, but I passed the rest of the wee small hours with a very jolly cop (who I swear told me he ate left over macaroni in my kitchen with my cats, this made perfect sense at the time, because why not?), three volunteers from the local fire department who took my vitals but forgot to write it down and had to do it all over again, and a very calm, very professional paramedic who, when I started to feel very foolish for dragging them all out here, was nothing but kind and reassuring. They deemed me lightly ‘buzzed’ and ‘worked up’ over Google death sentences via WebMD. The paramedic consulted with a doctor and went over all my meds and what I could best figure as far as my drug-taking timeline, and said he did not think I was in any kind of danger, but could choose to either sleep it off at the hospital under observation, or sleep it off here if we could locate a friend (E was out of town for work, did I mention that?).

grease_sleepover

The cop was willing to go knock down Tracy’s door (maybe he was hoping for more mac & cheese), but we finally got her to answer the phone. She claims I sounded like a party-going extrovert, all cheerful-like, exuberantly inviting her over for a slumber party. I don’t remember any of that, but I do remember feeling much less frightened when she arrived and all the uniformed people left. I was able to sleep a little after 4am even though my furniture was still dancing around, because I felt safe with her here.

My amazing (and long-suffering) friends took shifts the next day to help with the kids, and made sure I wasn’t disoriented and trying to swallow dog medication or anything. I didn’t take any more antihistamine for a 24 hour period, as per the paramedic’s instructions, so I progressively got itchier and progressively crankier, but at least got caught up on some sleep, which was good so I was rested for the next night’s escapades which maybe also should have involved 911, but didn’t.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the life and times of the dork who now has alarms programmed into her phone instructing her on when to take two more Benadryl.

* I have no punchline for my title, but wouldn’t it be funny if I could think of one?

Health, schmealth

Very Mom at the grocery store

I could contribute a lot to this conversation

She was too shy, though.

A little while ago, I started having fainting spells again, episodes where I’d lose all my strength — kind of like it was being flushed right out of me — and I’d collapse. It was all very familiar, and therefore disheartening, as the last time I was having these symptoms, fixing a hole in my heart made everything better.

It had been about a year and a half since the surgery and I had been feeling really good, so initially I thought it was just stress. My regular doctor put me on a beta blocker which helped though initially it made me feel like poo-cakes. (I imagine a poo cake would feel very lethargic and lumpy, heavy and blobbish, which is how I felt, minus perhaps the odor and resultant flies. I am resisting the urge to draw a sad poo cake. You’re welcome.)

I followed up with my heart surgeon as well, and he agreed that the beta blocker was a good idea. Both docs were fairly cautious about it as my blood pressure already runs quite low, so I am on the lowest dose of Propanolol. A beta blocker reduces your blood pressure further, but they thought it might help even out my heart activity and prevent the fainting.

arrested-development-dizzies

I joked that it felt like I was in the throes of a first trimester pregnancy, though without the vomiting. The beta blocker made me feel really drained and fatigued to the point that I did stupid things like put the mail in the freezer. (I can’t believe I can’t find a Parks & Rec still of Andy’s bills in the freezer!) But, after about a month on the little blue pill, things improved, though I still felt like I was running only half a battery charge. I’d still get dizzy and weak and could sometimes collapse, but the beta blocker seemed to keep me conscious (even when I hit the floor) and the episodes became less frequent.

My heart doctor would like to do some of the bubble tests I had pre-heart surgery: an ECG (echocardiogram) and TCD (trans-cranial doppler). He wants to make sure there is nothing wrong with the Gore Helix device he used to patch the hole in my heart, as well as check the three bad valves they found last time. He wasn’t terribly concerned about the valves, and thought the heart repair would have helped reduce the strain on them, but it’s a good idea to get them checked out anyway just in case they might be contributing.

The heart doctor also diagnosed me with POTS which stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Quite a mouthful, eh? A lot of it fits, but one thing doesn’t – I don’t pass out / have an episode only when moving from one position to another. I can blank out while lying down in bed reading. It’s all very odd, but so is POTS in general. It’s basically a diagnosis for people who black out when doctors aren’t 100% sure why. There is usually a trigger or a cause of some kind, but it can be different for everyone, and difficult to suss out.

The diagnosis has been validating though. Tracy has been diagnosed with it as well, though hers is more complex with her Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (← I drew her a comic for her diagnosis on that link, it’s cute, you should go look at it.) Tracy sent me some of the research she’s done; one study stated that it takes patients with POTS three times the amount of effort / energy to do any one task. So when you stand at the sink to brush your teeth, it’s like nothing, right? I stand at the sink to brush my teeth and by the end I’m out of breath, gripping the counter, and I have to sit down for a while.

pots-wears-you-out

Another quote:

POTS patients have been reported to suffer from a degree of functional impairment similar to that seen in conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, yet these patients are all-too-frequently misdiagnosed as having severe anxiety or panic disorder. source

This was nice to read, as I would sometimes feel like I wasn’t being tough enough, or that I was somehow not trying hard enough to ‘shake it off’ when I felt wiped out.

The timeline blurs a little, but I think two weeks ago – maybe three, the huge rash I battled for 10 months back in 2010 re-emerged. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see it, once you have idopathic (unknown cause) chronic (lasts months instead of weeks) urticaria (ridiculous, huge, puffy welts that itch like crazy), you’re very likely to get it again. I don’t want to jinx it, but the rash doesn’t seem quite as bad as it was last time, and the facial swelling is less disfiguring, but that could be because I knew the drill and got right on regular doses of generic Benadryl and stocked up on Benadryl gel. One study about POTS examines a dermatological connection, so everything could be related.

urticaria-celebrity-hives

The anti-histamines on top of the fatigue-inducing beta blocker resulted in a fairly comical picture. I felt so drugged and barely had the energy to get myself to the bathroom. I was really grateful that I’d stepped back from work, that we’d reduced our monthly overhead by selling the house, and that E. had secured a really great job. If I had still needed to work I’m not sure how I would have managed.

necessaries

Just this week my episodes have worsened. I can have nervous system seizures (different than regular epileptic brain seizures, but they look somewhat similar) and my weak episodes ratcheted up to crazy levels of near-unconsciousness, where breathing takes a monumental effort and I go numb all over. After that, the seizures start, and those feel like they are trying to jump-start my system and reboot everything. Sometimes I’ll go in cycles weak / seize / weak / seize for a few hours. It’s exhausting. (My mom is here helping, and y’all know I have the best friends ever. I’m super lucky to have such a great support team.)

My team of doctors and care providers are involved, and we will get the ECG and TCD scheduled ASAP, and I’m going in to the hospital this morning for a host of blood tests. While I thought my thyroid was under control, I think it may be seriously out of whack as adrenals are screwy again as well, so I’ll be doing a 24 hour saliva (ick) cortisol test as soon as it arrives.

thyroid-vacation

I do hope this will all be a very short blip and I’ll get back to normalcy quickly, but am also bracing myself for a bit of a long haul since it can take months to correct adrenals and thyroid. I hopefully will not require any further heart surgery, but if I do, we will at least have good medical coverage this time. That in and of itself is worth a bit of a celebration, yes?

If you fell asleep during my symptom list, don’t worry, I have a hopping playdate with some lovely senior citizens I met by the dairy products. We’re going to get together and compare ailments. It’s going to be a blast.

Last call for the Omnibus

sale-ends-tonight

I meant to post this yesterday, but I haven’t been feeling very well. For those of you waiting ’till the last minute I hope this reminder gets to you, as last year I had a few “Oh noes!” after it was over.

Until midnight tonight (Sunday) eastern-time, you can still download over 100 homeschool e-books for $25.

Sale is over, thank you!
[Read more...]

The saddest garden you ever did see

Taken earlier in the summer.

Taken earlier in the summer.

So this was new. Gardening in the ground like prehistoric cave people.

I kid, but man! I sure have been spoiled by raised beds. All the millions of people who have grown their own food in the ground before me are holding their heads in their hands and muttering about everything that’s wrong with this generation.

I had no idea how to navigate this space, even though I’d laid it out so neatly to begin with. And fertilizing was so strange. With raised beds we had a nice level surface upon which to scatter our plant food. Here, it was like picking your way through a maze and everything was so hilly and bumpy we couldn’t help but get fertilizer on the plants, burning them to a crisp. We lost all the tomato plants this way. RIP delicious tomatoes. I’m very sorry I fried you alive.

I also wasn’t used to decent soil – our “soil” at the old house was basically rocks and dust, so our raised beds had filler made of peat moss and sand which drained and leveled beautifully. Here, while we were working with very nice, dark, rich topsoil, it was more clay-like and held onto the water longer. We over-watered by accident as a result.

Weeding was a huge bear – my word you guys, how do you manage gardens like this? Once the plants got to be a decent size, our little narrow furrows between the rows became impossible to navigate. We really missed the wide aisles and being able to perch on the side of the boxes to weed.

gardening

So I’m very sorry to say that it all just kind of got away from us. We’re still plugging along, though we’re at that point where we wish everything would just die already so we could stop trying without guilt. The carrots managed, we got a few potatoes and peas, and we ate the lettuces until they got too bitter in the hotter months. Broccoli did really well and we ate a lot of it. Cauliflower kicked the bucket early on, and the beets never came up. There are a few small zucchinis and squash, and we’ve got a few ears on our sadly stunted corn plants, and there’s still lots of (strong) kale for whoever feels like making a green smoothie (nobody).

garden

The kids have begun digging out what’s left, and hauling out gone-to-seed plants like the broccoli and arugula. We’re really missing our goats. We’d like to turn some loose in there and just let them go to town and clean up.

Oh well. Gold star for effort?

p.s. Ads are up and I got a pop up that floated over my main content! WHAT ON EARTH? I’ll try to hunt it down and kill it. Let me know if you see it.

Hey! Welcome!

social-cardDid you get the memo? (Edit: Whoops, redirects are already working, so the memo page on Balancing Everything isn’t working anymore). Anyway, welcome! Have a look around. My about page is all new and now features testimonials from real live people who know and love me. This will hopefully make you want to hang out here a lot and click all my ads.

Just kidding, my ads aren’t up yet because changing domain names is a bear. But I’ll get there (I know you were worried). I will also get around to getting a non-blurry picture of myself up, since I know you were worried about that too. Blogging tip for you: No blurry photos, and no using pictures that are ten years old because you look better in them for when ex-boyfriends and mean-girls from high school find your website.

You’ll have to update your feeds if you’re a subscriber-type, and as I said over at BE, I’ve made it a little easier on you. The feeds are auto-discoverable now, so your browser should find it and stick a little feed icon up in the toolbar somewhere:

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That’s what mine looks like in Firefox on my mac, see the little icon to the right? (Google Chrome and I aren’t speaking to one another right now. I know, I have a serious relationship problem with things that are not human. I’m looking into it.)

My social icons are up in the top right hand corner, and the feed button actually works and doesn’t take you to a page of weird and scary code:

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When you click it, it takes you to Feedblitz’s fancy page for my posts (note! The preview in the browser shows truncated feeds, but they will show in FULL in your feed reader). You can then add the feed to your news aggregator / feed reader of choice. (I like Feedly).

Oh, and the email feeds. They’re over there in the sidebar. Just enter your email and it’ll sign you up. It will send you an email with a link to click to verify that you really, super want to have my posts delivered to your inbox. You can unsubscribe any time.

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How annoying are non-working screenshots? Mom, tell me true, did you click them?

If anything looks broken or isn’t working over here, let me know. Thank you!