Anxiety and Decision Paralysis

I am regularly overwhelmed with a feeling that, after many years, I have realised is severe anxiety. It is a restless, painful feeling. It constricts my chest and tightens my stomach and sets my mind spinning in useless circles.

I can only describe it as a feeling of wanting to do something, wanting to do everything, but wanting to do nothing. It results in me sitting on the couch doomscrolling Facebook. I think of all these things I’d like to do – play that game I’ve got, write a bit, go for a walk, clean (literally anything) – and my immediate and very visceral reaction to everything is ‘no, I don’t want to‘.

It is a feeling I am overly familiar with. It’s something I experienced quite intensely during my relationship with It. It’s something I continue to experience today, although I do have to admit it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be. It’s also a feeling I really struggle to break out of.

I’ve realised over the years that this feeling is tied to how well I am managing to stay on top of the things I must do (whether that’s work or university), as well as how often I have been outside in the last few days. Which, right now, is not at all and not at all respectively. I’ve been unwell with the non-COVID-flu-like-thing (well, so far I’ve tested negative) for the last 1 1/2 weeks, so I’ve been inside and not attending lectures for all that time.

On these days I usually realise I’m going to be dissatisfied with anything productive that I do, or I’ll be irritated while I do it, so I dumpling up on the couch with a good book (or, more recently, a suitably trashy regency romance manga) and write the day off as a loss. I also typically have the lounge wide open to let the fresh air in.

Unfortunately it’s winter and, as I just realised, everyone is running fires. So I’m now well smoked out. Oh well. Back to trashy manga, and stay safe everyone!

Farewell to a Feline

I got him a mere few months after moving out of home for the first time. I was nineteen or twenty and I lived in what could generously be called a walk-in-wardrobe sized room in a dingy, moldy flat. I lived on cheap mince, noodles, porridge and frozen peas while he ate digestive care food and probiotics, because he had an upset stomach for weeks.

He would sleep next to me on my pillow as a tiny kitten. He was the first cat that was truly All Mine. My responsibility. My love.

I moved next door while painting was going on, and sadly had to put him and my second cat, who I got shortly after him (she was already 2 years old), into a cattery for months. He grew into such a big dude while he was there. I wish I had been there for that development – I feel like I missed out on a lot. I’m also sure this was Asshole’s way of trying to separate me from my cats, because he kept dragging on and on with the painting.

I finally got them back and they lived through years of our house being the Party House. They tolerated a lot, but they were also very well loved.

We finally moved to a larger house, and instead of being shut in the only bathroom during parties, they were kept in my room with the ensuite bathroom, and they could be left alone in peace.

We moved countries, and they came with me. It was an adventure, and they took it all in their stride. Cutie just loved to be around me. He was always asleep on my side of the bed, snuggled into my legs or my back. His purr could be felt through the bed.

He kept me company while I went back to uni, instantly sprawling across any textbook I had open on my desk. He was a superb study buddy.

That awful ex of mine turned into a raging asshole, and Cutie comforted me. He left and Cutie sat on my lap for days. He also got fed up of me sobbing my guts out and smacked me across the face, once. It shocked me out of crying, that’s for sure! There weren’t any claws involved, so I wasn’t scratched.

My best friend moved over for six months, and he occupied her lap while she relaxed and read. He was such a big and glorious cat.

We moved back to my home country. They moved into the back room in Mum’s garage while I looked for a place to live, and then we were moving again, this time into a house with two dogs (one of them was mine). Poor Cutie got outside a couple of times and was chased by the other dog and ripped out a lot of his claws. He was very patient as I soaked his toes in saline every day, before covering them with honey and wrapping them back up. He was still on antibiotics, but one toe wasn’t healing as well as it should have. He took it all like a champ, purring away while he was fed bits of meat while his toes were treated.

We moved cities into a small, warm, dry house where we lived for the next five years. This was where Cutie really came into his own. There was just my dog and my other cat and a flatmate, and Cutie lived to be on my lap. If I was sitting down, he was there. If I wasn’t sitting down, or if I wasn’t sitting suitably, he was hovering around waiting for me to settle. When I had naps, he would lie on my chest and purr.

He once again became my study buddy, sitting on my text books and purring with glee. I would set up a decoy text book and encourage him to sleep on that one. Most of the time he fell for it. He would sleep on my bed with me, curled into my side. I could still feel his purr through the mattress.

He would sit on my lap as I sat and knitted. He would sit on my lap as I gamed. He would sit on my lap as I studied. He was my constant companion while my life slowly unraveled with stress, burnout, and depression.

I took a year off university and became very sick, and still he was on my lap, or my side, or my chest when I was napping. He was always there, purring away. He was there when I went back to uni, and sat with me as I did all my lectures at home. He would sit on my lap as I wrote my notes. He would purr as I studied for exams. He was there when my other cat became horrifically sick, when I got trigeminal neuralgia, when winter sucked all my energy and left me bereft.

COVID happened and we went into lockdown, and he was there, gleefully sitting on me as we were all confined to home. I ruptured the ligaments in my wrist and couldn’t continue with university, and the whole time he was there, on my lap, on my chest, on my side, on whatever part of me was stable enough to dumpling on.

He started a slow and steady decline then. But he was still well enough in and of himself, still cheery, still chatty and shouty and cuddly.

He was there as I came to terms with being disabled. He was there as I fell into fibro flus after exercise. He was there as I spent all my days and nights sleeping, just dumplinged on me and purring.

He started to really go downhill when I went away for my surgery. He wasn’t eating as much. He was really depressed and quiet. Even when I got home he didn’t perk up as much as I thought he would – he became aggressive towards the dogs, grumpy towards Itzy, and just not as happy as he normally was. He quietened down. He spent more time sleeping on the more comfortable pillows instead of on me.

Then I woke up and he didn’t come to greet me as I came out the door. I looked for him. The pillow on my chair that he usually sat on had been knocked to the ground. I searched for him frantically and found him, lying on his side, behind my armchair. He had been straining to defecate for who knows how long. He had liquid faeces down his back legs and tail. It had dripped onto the carpet. I helped move the faecal nugget that he could not expel and he vomited in exhaustion. I knew this was it. I didn’t want it to be.

I settled him back on his pillow and sheepskin and fretted. I finally told my lovely human that this was it. I told Mum. I called the vets. I took him in.

He passed away in my arms as I cried and kissed his head. He had been my constant companion for almost sixteen years. He had been my cuddler, my love, my first pet.

None of my other pets are cuddlers. In fact, no one else in this house is particularly cuddly. I’m touch and purr starved, and I will not do anything to ease this until my other cat has passed. She’s a very old lady now, and she deserves peace and quiet in her final months.

I am bereft. It’s been a week and it doesn’t get any easier. It hurts so damn much to know that I must now live the rest of my life without him. The rest of my life is a terribly long time.

Adding Another – Probable Meniere’s Disease

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Lately I’ve been having a lot of difficulty with dizzy spells.  Sometimes these spells only last a moment – the kind you get when you stand up too quickly and the blood rushes everywhere but your brain – while others last for hours.

I can’t even remember how long I’ve been having these dizzy spells.  All I know is they’ve been going on for at least a few months.  When a new thing crops up I don’t jot it down, I just manage it and then forget about it.

I raised this issue with my doctor, and he said it sounds like Meniere’s Disease.

Meniere’s Disease is another one of those ones no one quite knows how it works.  It’s a disorder of the inner ear somehow – it’s thought to be caused by an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear, leading to abnormalities in balance.  It causes vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitis, and you’ll often experience a sense of fullness in the affected ear.

Which is, of course, my right ear.  Same side as my ‘atypical facial pain’ (atypical trigeminal neuralgia).  I’m starting to wonder if there’s something more going on here, so I’m sending my MRI off for a second opinion once I can afford the $400 consultation fee.

I’m writing about this today because today is a vertigo day.  I’m slumped on the couch with a cat on one side and a dog on the other and the world is swirling around inside my head.  If I close my eyes, and so lose my visual reference of the world (which isn’t spinning, funny that), I feel a bit like I’m tilting around in a circle.  My ‘up’ axis doesn’t quite correlate with gravity anymore.  And even with my eyes open, my eyes don’t stay fixed to one point very easily.  They keep sliding away with the vertigo, leading me to flick my eyes around what it is I’m looking at constantly.

Another effect of Meniere’s Disease is the loss of hearing in the lower frequencies, and the inability to separate sounds from one another.  We did a very basic hearing test which showed a dramatic loss of hearing in my right ear in the lower frequencies, as compared to my left, and to the higher frequencies.  I also struggle to separate noises, so if there’s someone cooking in the kitchen, I have difficulty hearing whatever it is I’m watching, or difficulty hearing my amazing human when he’s talking.  Same with if there is more than one person talking, I really struggle to hear either or.  It just becomes sound mush.

Once the COVID lockdown has eased I will get a full hearing assessment done.  This is more out of curiosity than anything else, because the low frequency loss in my right ear, along with vertigo, is a probable diagnosis for Meniere’s Disease.

Ah well, more weird things to add to the pile!

I Got A Dog

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As the COVID lockdown loomed, I sped out into the back country of New Zealand to one of the largest sheep and beef stations in the North Island.  There, I was met by a woman and a dog.  A dog named Flash.

A dog who will, hopefully, become my “helper dog”.

I call him my “helper dog”, because here in New Zealand we have very strict legislation about what can be classified an Assistance or Service Dog.  Despite the training he will receive, he cannot be classified as an Assistnace Dog until one of the named charities certifies him.  There is one named charity that certifies owner trained dogs, and they are not taking new applicants at this time.

But that’s okay.  I don’t need him certified for him to help me around the home, or at work, or on the farm.  I just need him to be gentle, willing, and trainable.

After two days with him I can confirm he has all of that, in absolute spades.  He is a collie cross, a purpose bred heading dog, bred to stare at sheep until they move.  He just … didn’t do sheep.  At all.  So at the grand age of one, he was fired from basic training, and passed over to me.

It’s early days yet, but I am cautiously optimistic that he will fit in with the rest of my hairy horde and complement our lives.

An Injury Is Never Just An Injury

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When you have fibromyalgia, or trigeminal neuralgia, an injury is never “just” an injury.

Three weeks ago a door viciously attacked my little toe.  It was … well it wasn’t broken, and that’s the only positive thing I can say about it!  So the next day my fibromyalgia goes “HAH, PETTY TOE, LET ME SHOW YOU THE TRUE MEANING OF PAIN” and everything from my waist down felt swollen and heavy and on fire.  My joints all the way up to my hips were stiff.  I lay in bed and read trashy fanfiction to distract myself from the pain.  The day after that the burning heavy stiff sensation was only in the leg with the bung toe, and after that it went away completely.

So fibromyalgia is a real asshole when you get hurt.  But to top that off, whenever my fibromyalgia does a flareup, my trigeminal neuralgia does a flare up!

Well today, while sorting rams, I got smacked in the nose.  Fortunately by a hand and not a ram, but still, it was a good thwack.  I went and put cold water on it (the best we could do out on farm) and promptly had a meltdown.

The injury is on my face.  The injury is, specifically, on my nose.  The inflammation will put pressure on the second branch of both trigeminal nerves, and that’s likely to set off my trigeminal neuralgia which I had only just settled down after a volcano pimple on my jaw decided to set the whole thing off (why, oh why, does my face do this to me?).

So I had an anxiety attack, which is kind of understandable.  I don’t want my fibromyalgia to flare up.  I don’t want my trigeminal neuralgia to flare up.  I don’t want to be in pain.

But I don’t really get much of an option, and not doing the things that I love to keep myself safe from injury is also not an option … so I have to be kind to myself when I am injured.  And reduce inflammation as much as possible!

For now it is definitely setting off both trigeminal nerves, but it’s only set off the third branch of one side and mildly set off all three branches on the other.  Here’s hoping fibro doesn’t kick in tomorrow and make all the joints in my upper body stiff and achy!  I’ve got stuff to do!