Monday, March 29, 2010


I have the Eppstein-Barr virus. Like positive is "equal to or greater than" 1.10 and my number is 7.84. I don't know if that's impressive or not, but it sounds high to me. The problem is that I'm trying to read a lab report and waiting for a call back from my doctor's office. I know it's positive, but I'm waiting for reassuring words, like "the worst is over", and "you'll be back to normal in no time." But, for those of you who don't know what the Eppstein-Barr virus is, it's the "mono" virus. Yes, the "kissing disease." And mono ain't no 24-hour virus. That sucker hangs on for weeks, months or even years, according to some websites. And because I am still waiting for a call from my doc's office (have I mentioned that already?), I've been surfing the web, trying to find out as much as I can about Eppstein-Barr. I've discovered some pretty unsettling things; things like, Eppstein-Barr is also associated with some kinds of lymphoma. But also, interestingly, Eppstein-Barr is also suspected in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which would make a lot of sense for me.

So, once again, I'm not thinking a lot about blogging these days. I think I will give my doctor a call at home tomorrow - that's the beauty of your doc being a close personal friend - I know his unlisted number and I know where he lives (evil laugh. . . .).

Until then I will try not to let my imagination run wild.

I'm glad I have Xanax.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Death, etc.

So, here's more about my 2-week hiatus:

Two weeks ago, a woman that I knew died of cancer. She was in her 60's. Her daughter is a friend of mine and used to be in youth group when I was a yg leader. I knew this woman was dying, but her cancer had moved fast. I was expecting a sudden change or intervention - even a miracle - that would save her life. But none came. When I got news of her death, I was very much shaken.

I would say I knew her reasonably well. It wasn't like we would go shoe shopping together or anything, but she was a women's leader in the Christian fellowship that I belong to. I know that she loved the Lord and she is with Him now - Hallelujah! And I know that she was not afraid to die. And I know that her family is peaceful, although still in deep sorrow, for sure.

What is most upsetting to me is that it left me feeling so vulnerable. As in, "If it could happen to her, it could happen to me." Oddly enough, when my younger cousin passed away 6 years ago at the age of 27, that didn't shake me nearly as much as this. To be sure, my cousin's death was a great trauma for our family, and there is still grief that we're working through. But perhaps it was because I didn't identify with him as much. This woman who died - she was a mother. Sure, her kids are older than mine, but I doubt they were ready to lose their mom. The thing that scares me most about dying is the thought of leaving my children behind.

I don't know that I've ever had a full-blown panic attack before - I've had some panicky moments, but that's it. But on the day of this woman's funeral, I had a full-blown panic attack. I wasn't even able to attend her funeral because it was right during the time I had to pick up my kids and get my son to a doctor's appointment, and my husband can hardly ever get out of work for such things. I was simply going to go to the visitation for a few moments and give my condolences to her family.

But I could. not. do. it.

I called my husband at work and sobbed on the phone with him for an hour until he finally just said, "Don't go." So I didn't. I still cried the rest of the day, but my panic dissipated. However, I'm still analyzing that panic attack. I think I was just too afraid to face the sorrow that I would encounter. Or the reality of death. I've been to wakes and funerals before - it's never easy, but I've gone. For some reason, I just couldn't go to this one.

A spirit of fear seemed to remain with me for a long time. The following week, I started having some severe abdominal pain. At first, I thought it was a gall bladder attack, but then the pain settled into my right side. As soon as my husband got home from work, I asked him to call someone to watch the kids so he could take me to an urgent care. I thought for sure I had appendicitis. It was even painful when the doc pushed on it and she said, "yep, that seems like your appendix". However, the CT scan showed no problems with appendicitis, gall stones, kidney stones, or anything else unusual except that I had enlarged mesenteric (abdominal) lymph nodes. She told me to take meds for the pain and follow up with my doctor in few days.

Frustrating, but at least I knew that I did not need surgery - Whew! But then my mind started working. Abdominal lymph node swelling. . . .hmmm. Lymph nodes usually don't swell for no reason. What was going on? And I did what any rational human being would do - I looked it up online. And the first several hits came up with articles about cancer, of course. It seems there are many serious reasons for swollen lymph nodes, and few not-so-serious ones. I know, I know - it's generally not wise to try to diagnose oneself online, but even if I hadn't looked on the internet, I still would have been stricken with fear.

So, over the next 24 hours, I became absolutely 100% convinced that I was going to die. I just knew that whatever I had, it wasn't good and that I was going to leave my children motherless. I think there was still some fear and vulnerability lingering, what do you think?

Five days later, when I was finally able to get in to see my doctor, the first thing he did was assure me that it was most likely not serious. He did order blood tests to rule out cancer, and he also ordered a test checking for mononucleosis. I haven't gotten the results of those tests back yet, but I'm OK now. My doctor did say it was most likely viral. After several days of pain, nausea, and constipation, I am now almost back to normal.

So, there in a nutshell, is the reason that I didn't post for almost 2 weeks. Hopefully I won't take that long of a break again. Unless I have mono.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How Tired Am I? Let Me Count the Ways

Forgive me for the unplanned hiatus of almost 2 weeks. I will try to write a post soon that explains all that. But for today, I will discuss this phrase:

"I'm tired."

I tell my husband almost on a daily basis that I'm tired. I say it out loud to myself. I say it to my kids. I'm tired a lot. Usually when I say it to my husband, he replies, "You're always tired." To which I respond, "Not this kind of tired." See, what my husband doesn't get is that there are many kinds of tired. And he thinks I'm one kind of tired all the time, but this is SO not true.

The kind of tired that I am today is this: I did not get enough sleep last night. This is a very common kind of tired in our busy lives. I, for one, try to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night. But sometimes that is sabotaged my incessant need to check my email "just one more time" before bed, and then play a few video games. Last night, I went to bed at 10:30 - not terribly late. But this morning, my daughter climbed in bed with me just when Daddy was getting out of bed, and for whatever reason, I could not get back to sleep. Daddy wakes up at 5 AM. So, 6 1/2 hours of sleep for me means that I am sleep-deprived. And the feeling that I get can only be described as this: every bit of stimulation that I receive beyond merely opening my eyes is like a cheese grater going across my nerves. I call it the "cheese-grater" feeling, and understandably, no one knows what the heck I'm talking about. But you know what it feels like to be sleep-deprived (if you don't, then stop reading my blog because you are clearly an alien who is plotting some kind of hostile earth takeover and I will have no part of it), and maybe you can come up with your own analogy using a wire whisk, a blender, or what have you.

So, we all agree that this is only ONE kind of tired, right?

There is also something called "sleepy". I might possibly feel sleepy if I didn't have a good night's sleep. But, usually for me, sleepiness comes sometime mid-afternoon - like between 1 and 3 PM, when I just get that irresistible urge to take a siesta. My eyelids feel heavy, my head feels foggy. Sleepy isn't as severe as sleep-deprivation. Sleepy is like the tryptophan-induced stupor on Thanksgiving Day. Quite often, sleepy goes away with a brisk walk or a 20-minute nap.

And then there's fatigue. I believe that I am an expert on fatigue because I have experienced all kinds of fatigue, I'm sure. One kind of fatigue is a good fatigue, like after a good workout or a full day at the beach, or a day of shopping when you found everything for 1/2 off or less. I don't mind that kind of fatigue. It says that I've accomplished something.

Then there is bad fatigue: the kind that comes from being sick or compromised in some way. When you have the flu, you know fatigue like you've never known it before. There are times when I've experienced fatigue for no apparent reason, which is something I've written about quite a bit in other blog posts. My mind is ready to go, but my body is not moving. at. all. And I couldn't conceivably move unless the house was about to be blown over by a tornado. Then I could possibly drag myself off the couch and to the basement stairs and muster up just enough energy to roll myself down. This is not laziness. . . .I can usually talk myself out of laziness and get going on housework and the motivation follows. This is "I will need a nap if I walk to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee."

There is also mental fatigue. I experience this after major cleaning, like spring cleaning, purging and organizing. I do what I call a "semi-annual clothing sort," during which I assess every single piece of clothing in my children's possession - should it get handed down to another sibling or to a friend, should it be repaired, should it go to Goodwill or straight to the trash can, and do they have enough of each kind of clothing item for the coming season? I have 4 children; multiply that by 87 billion pieces of clothing each, and you have one tired mom-brain at the end of the day.

And as any mom knows, mental fatigue can also come from talking children (I realize that phrase is somewhat redundant, but oh well). Children can talk, talk, talk, just to hear themselves talk. They can ask questions until you have no answers left. They can talk, bicker, snicker, tease, fight, and then some, until an otherwise-sane adult has to scream at the top of their lungs, "Stop talking!!!!!!!!!"

Mental fatigue can also come from just being a woman. Because we as women generally have a hard time separating things in our minds. A popular Christian marriage speaker, Mark Gungor says that men's brains are like waffles and women's brains are like spaghetti. Most women think about everything in their lives and how all things affect each other and how that affects everyone around them. A typical man has a compartment, or a box, for each area of his life. He has a box for work, a box for financial matters, a box for children, a box for his wife, a box for fun and relaxation, and he even has a "nothing" box. Yes, indeed, if a man is sitting on the couch, apparently doing nothing, he really is doing nothing and thinking about nothing. This concept is so foreign to me that I just don't get it. I cannot for the life of me stop my brain from thinking. about. everything. And once in a while, my brain just kind of shorts out and sputters to a stop. There are definite moments when I can just suddenly lose track of everything I was doing and have to start all over with basic questions such as "Who Am I?", "What day is it?", and "What was I doing?" After some mental rest, I can get the spaghetti factory working again and continue on as if nothing had happened.

And of course, last but not least, there is emotional fatigue. The kind of exhaustion that comes from emotional overload like the death of a loved one or several family crises occurring within a short period of time.

Today, for me, it's sleep-deprivation. Cheese-grater tiredness.

But if I tell my husband, he just won't understand.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mom Whose Children Are Late for School

By late, I don't mean 5 or 10 minutes. That kind of late usually irritates me. Or even 15 or 20 minutes. By that time, I'm starting to get really annoyed. 30 minutes late - which has never happened before, except for the time I got stuck in the snow in the driveway - makes me quite furious.

But, oh, no no no. You have no idea what I mean when I say "late". This morning, one darling child made us thirty-eight minutes late for school. Yes, you read that right - I pulled out of the driveway 38 minutes later than I normally do. "Livid" is the only way to describe my feelings.

This particular child is the one who always makes us late. Always. But never this late. This morning, it was, "My boots are wet". So, wear your shoes. "My shoes are wet, too." Then wear your church shoes. "My church shoes are too tight, and besides I have PE today." Too bad! Wear them anyway and bring your tennis shoes and hope they dry by the time you have PE. And yes, these were her only 3 options. She is the queen of picky when it comes to shoes (and most other clothing, for that matter). I can -without exaggeration - visit 10 shoe stores in an afternoon with her, and she will still walk away empty-handed because "this one's too tight" or "this one's too loose" or "this one is too low at the heel" or "this one pinches my toes", etc. etc. etc. (And believe me, I could go on with the etc.'s, but you get the point.)

So, for 38 minutes, she chose to simply NOT put on shoes or boots. I tried to put them on her feet for her, but she kicked them off. And she's too big for me to carry her out the door. So, I fought, struggled, bribed, argued, for 38 minutes. I finally called my husband and asked him to talk to her. He did. He told her she had to wear her boots. She hung up and still refused.

I'm not sure how I finally got her into the car, but I did. We usually pray together on the way to school, but I told everyone I was far too angry to pray so they had just better be quiet on the way to school. And pray that I don't purposely run into a telephone pole.

In all seriousness, I would appreciate input on how to deal with this kind of defiance. She is our toughest kid in terms of discipline because she is never a peaceful recipient. And I realize that most kids don't enjoy punishment and probably make some fuss about receiving it. But if your kids throws a tantrum, then my kid has a thermonuclear meltdown. Yes, it's really that bad. And it's not that we don't punish her, but we have yet to find something that actually works long-term AND that doesn't threaten our hearing because of the violent screaming that results.

What was worse about this AM was that I had been up for 2 hours in the night with extremely uncomfortable indigestion, and then the coffee I made this morning was weak: Double Whammy! (I never make weak coffee! What the heck???)

Anyway, after I dropped off the kids, I drove through Tim Horton's for medicinal purposes. It's a good thing that I had let my anger cool a little, though. The way I felt when I left the house - did I mention we were 38 minutes late!!! - I could have easily screeched into the drivethrough lane and yelled, "Give me some damn coffee and no one gets hurt!" However, I was settled enough to drive in like a sane human being, which is a very good thing, since there were 4 or 5 police cars in the parking lot. (My first thought was, "what the heck is going on here?", but then I quickly realized, "Ooohh, it's a donut shop.")

So, I got my strong coffee, the best breakfast sandwich in the world, a blueberry muffin, and some OJ.

That was 2 hours ago.

I think my blood pressure is finally starting to come back down.

Monday, March 8, 2010

More drugs to take

Another reason that allergies cause depression: I went back to the allergist today for my 6-month followup appointment from my original diagnosis, which showed that I have heinous allergies to all things fungal. The doc thought the allergies were severe enough that I should take Allegra and Singulair, as well use a nasal spray and get allergy shots once a week. (Add this to 2 anti-depressants plus a hodge-podge of "as-needed" meds plus my exorbitantly priced vitamins and supplements.)

Umm, yeah. My kids don't really need to eat.

I told my doc that I had stopped taking Singulair because it was too friggin' expensive, but he insisted that I need to take it at least 2x/week. Sounds more doable. Except when you do the math:

Effexor - $25/month
Wellbutrin - $10/month
Allegra - $10/month
Veramyst Nasal Spray - $25 / month
Singulair - $130 / month!!!!! (that's for daily dosage, but taking 2x/week, let's call it 1/3 of that price, which would be about $43 / month)
Optivite Vitamins (the absolute best on the market): $20 per bottle (one-month supply)
Omega Brite (high potency omega 3 supplement): $20 / month
Vitamin D3 (1000-2000 mg / day): $10 / month

And yes, these are ALL doctor prescribed and doctor "recommended" (i.e. my doctor said of the vitamins and supplements: "you have to find a way to afford these because your body is so depleted") My doctor is not a quack. He is a close family friend and he knows our situation: he would not ask me to spend more than I needed for my health.

In any case, we have no idea how to afford to get me healthy.

You do the math. I'm too depressed to do it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Licking The Furniture

Yesterday's post got me thinking a bit more. Not only did I live in the mold capital of the world, I also went to high school in a building that was condemned by the fire marshal. Maybe you think I'm joking, but I am 100% serious. Just weeks before I started my senior year, we were informed that we would no longer be attending high school in a high school building. We had to share time with the elementary school kids - I went to school from 7 AM to 12 NOON, and my baby sister went from 12:30-5 or some crazy thing thing like that. It made a good set-up for an after school job, and I was fortunate enough to be able to work for my aunt who was a bank manager. It was a definite step up over waiting tables or milking cows.

But, here's my point: I spent many days of my life in that high school, which was later deemed to be unfit for human inhabitance. Makes me wonder what was inside the walls, eating away at the structure of the building. And it was definitely built during the asbestos glory days.

Remember these disturbing facts about dust? Think about the dust made from the decaying matter of a century-old building, not to mention walls dripping with teenage hormones, and formaldehyde-soaked frogs. Even more scary is the fact that I sat in an elementary school desk in an elementary school classroom where little kids wipe their boogers and pee their pants. And in my afternoon job, I was surrounded by dirty, filthy money.

I'm beginning to think I will never think about dust the same way again. I think I may become a bona-fide amathopobiac (Amathophobia: An abnormal and persistent fear of dust. Sufferers experience anxiety even though they realize dust poses no threat.) But that would mean that either I would live in terror in my own home OR I would become obsessed with cleaning, and that ain't gonna happen. So, I guess I'll just embrace my surroundings and maybe I'll build up a tolerance to the gunk in which I live.

I think I'll go lick an end table.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Allergies and Depression

I grew up in a house with a Michigan basement. If you don't know what a Michigan basement is, here is a photo:The definition of a Michigan basement is: a scarier-than-hell hole in the ground, right underneath your house, into which parents send their young children to retrieve firewood or dead rodents, a reason for which those children - now adults - need ongoing therapy. There is only a stone wall separating said hole from the rest of the underground world and it doesn't do much for keeping out various organisms, such as mice, rats, spiders, and mold. I have to admit the basement in my parents' house is slightly more civilized than the one in the picture: there is paneling on the walls of the stairwell.

As you may have read the other day, I'm not kidding about the therapy. However, it's probably not due to those descents into the basement of terror. It may be due, in part, to this: Yes, my new research has led me to believe that mold causes depression. Well, not directly. But I do think that allergies may have played a part in creating the basket-case that I am today. Thinking back to the days I lived in that house (the house my parents still reside in and I dearly love and if they ever sell it, I will cry myself to sleep every night for the rest of my life), I had frequent headaches and a chronic stuffy nose. Of course, that is pretty much true for my entire life, but I have to wonder if it started there. And I've never lived in a new-ish house so as to be able to test my theory. The house we live in now, as well as most of my other dwellings until now, have been built in the 1920's and no longer have Michigan basements, but their basement-building technology wasn't nearly what it is today, and many of the aforementioned creatures - including mold - still live and breed in these basements.

I am also allergic to:

Sadly, all 3 of these things - mold, dust, and pet dander - reside in an ongoing way in our house. We've tried to get rid of the mold, but it just won't stay away for long. We are too in love with our feline children to get rid of them, so we have to make a few changes to help me not to suffer as much from their presence - like keeping my bedroom cat-free (which I haven't done yet) and having someone else scoop the litter box (YES!!!) And dust? Ha! Like dust will ever be gone from our house.

I read a Yahoo article recently, which stated, "But nearly everywhere, dust consists of some combination of shed bits of human skin, animal fur, decomposing insects, food debris, lint and organic fibers from clothes, bedding and other fabrics, tracked-in soil, soot, particulate matter from smoking and cooking, and, disturbingly, lead, arsenic and even DDT." Um, no wonder I'm sick.

But still, what the heck do allergies have to do with depression? Well, my allergic reaction to any of these 3 things is usually a stuffy nose or a headache, or both. (I have actually developed a rash after coming into contact with vinegar and other mold-containing elements, but that's not too much of a concern, since I'm not in the habit of rolling around naked in mold-infested places.) And for me, stuffy nose and headache usually equals tiredness. Fatigue. Wanting to sleep until someone drills out the inside of my sinuses.

I've spent much of my life feeling like I didn't have enough energy. Even in high school, when I should have been able to pull an all-nighter with no noticeable consequences whatsoever, I was the cheerleader who would take a few spoonfuls of instant iced-tea powder and chase it with a can of Mountain Dew right before a game so that I would have enough energy just to stand and possibly be as peppy as cheerleaders should.

S-o-o-o-o, it's a stretch, but let's see: ongoing headaches and that feeling sinus cotton-itis equals fatigue equals me not being able to do as much as I'd like to do. Ever. I think that, over time, this has worn me down.

Current research also suggests that there is a definite correlation - if not a causal relationship - between allergies and fatigue and depression.

I wish I had known that 20 years ago.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Meandering Thoughts and Questions

My two older daughters have blogs on my Blogger account. I love that they love to write, but I'm starting to share more personal information on this blog that I don't necessarily want them to read. They are aware of some of my struggles, but it's probably not good for them to know every last ugly detail. However, since they use my Blogger account, they have access to my blog on a regular basis. Also, their blogs are private, so only invited readers can access their blogs. So far, it's just my husband and myself who are following them. I'd like it if they could allow more friends to read what they write. SO, here's the question: Does anyone know of a KIDS' blogging site? I've searched, and it doesn't seem like one exists. The other option is to create their own Blogger accounts for them.

Also, I'm still having sort of an identity crisis about my blog. There is so much to write about that it seems messy to keep it all in one place. I'm the kind of person who wants everything categorized and organized. When I organize my recipes, I have a hard time deciding whether to put beef stew under "beef" or under "stews and soups". But since I started this blog, I have written about several different things.

I want to write for the sake of writing: I want to pay attention to writing well and expanding my writing ability.

However, when I write about depression or family issues, or even just random stuff, I don't necessarily pay attention to grammar and syntax.

In addition, I want to practice humorous writing, both purposefully and in incidentally in my writing about life issues (hey, what can be more entertaining than a girl with a mental disorder?)

Finally, I am a Christian. Jesus is my first love, and everything I think about or write about or do comes through the lens of Christianity. Yet, I don't think I come across as a Christian very often!

I asked my sister yesterday whether she thought I should have different blogs and her opinion was that it's ok to keep it all here in the same place. Thanks, K! :) And I have been trying to categorize my posts by labels, but even that is such a pain in the tush.

I just wonder if a new reader stops by my blog one day, and I have written something sarcastic and pissy and cynical, and then they come back the next day, when I happen to write something spiritual and Scriptural, would they think I have like multiple personality disorder or something???

Maybe I think too much. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I am in therapy.

For the first time in 40 years, I'm seeing a therapist, or as I prefer to call her, a "counselor". Doesn't that sound better? In any case, she's the kind of person that I talk to once a week about my "issues" and we hash out my history to see what in my life turned me into the uniquely complicated person that I am today.

I don't have much to report about my first session, except that I'm relieved to finally be seeing a counselor. And obviously, I'm not really very shy about this. Hey, if this is what it takes to get better, that's what I'm doing. Except, I'm not sure how I'll tell my parents. I mean, there used to be more of a stigma attached to therapy than there is now. . . I hope. My sister reads my blog on occasion, so, hey sis, what do you think I should tell Mom & Dad?

Obsessive Compulsive

Essie, The Accidental Mommy is hosting (insert dramatic theme music here) Too True Tuesday: Compulsive Behaviors. Write about your obsessive or compulsive behaviors and then share them with the world. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Well, as I sit here at 1:12 AM because of stupid insomnia, nothing readily comes to mind. This is disturbing because I often write about depression and all of the issues that accompany it: paranoia, anxiety, paranoid schizophrenia, schizophrenic paranoia*, etc. I've been cursed with a bunch of garbage in my psyche, so at least I'd like to get some laughs out of it.


Oh! Oh! Oh! Here's something: I really hate to be confined. Like I'm in absolute terror if someone tries to restrain me in any way, shape, or form. I don't mind elevators, as long as there are no other people on them. I had to breathe my way out of a panic attack when we entered a dark tunnel to see the sharks at Sea World, not because I dislike dark tunnels, but because there were people everywhere and I couldn't imagine how I would get out if I had to. I hate feeling "caged in" at all - like if I'm at a restaurant where there is a long booth and someone has to be stuck in the middle and not have free access to the outside world, that someone cannot be me. I guess this is called claustrophobia. However, I have no problem squeezing into a tight space if I am completely able to get myself out. It's when the escape route is closed off that I panic.

And it's not just tight spaces, but tight clothing or blankets snuggled around me. I like a cozy blanket in winter just as much as the next person, but if one of my kids comes up and sits on the outside of the blanket, therefore restraining my movement at all, I will freak. out. Forget zipping myself into a sleeping bag - no way is that ever happening. I even have to choose my pajamas carefully. I do not wear pajama pants to bed, I do not wear long nightgowns, and I do not wear silk or satin or flannel. My pajamas pretty much have to be jersey-knit cotton and have the capacity to stretch into the next room if I need it to. I don't even care for socks on my feet in bed: If I do wear them for warmth (I live in Michigan and we've had bucket loads of snow this year!), I will end up tearing them off furiously in the night. You wonder where all those missing socks go? They're all crammed under the covers at the end of my bed.

Now, Essie has written about her phobia of spiders and her constant need to scan the room for them. I also have arachnophobia, but I think the severity of hers has mine beat. However, if I were confined in a small space with spiders, I'm pretty sure I would need a padded room for the rest of my life. . . .a very large padded room.

*These statements are made solely for the reader's entertainment: I do not have, nor have I have ever had, schizophrenia. I think.