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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Missing Baltimore

I've been sitting here for some time, trying to figure out how to start this.  Nothing amazing is coming to mind (which is probably fairly normal for this blog), so I'm just going to jump in:

I'm missing NHC this year.  I was packed, ready to go.  I made it to the airport, even cleared security.  Had some beers, got all my in-flight electronic gadgets charged - all the shit you do to actually get on the plane.  Except that.

Standing in line to board I was facing the realization of my trip, and really started to panic.  My back began to sweat.  I was trembling.  Jumping out of line, I needed a moment to collect myself.  I waited until the entire plan was boarded and checked in with myself - could I do this?  Could I get on that plane?  Then I realized I'd been sitting in the terminal for the last 15 minutes with tears streaming down my face,  and that I had better go tell the folks at the counter that I won't be joining them.  I knew my brain was against me on this one, as it has been on so many other occasions - but not like this.  This was the closest thing I could imagine to being paralyzed by fear.  Sitting at that gate, thinking, "I have to get on this plane - I have people counting on me", and not moving an inch was one hell of a moment for me.  I was so consumed by anxiety that I didn't know if the hundreds of people in the airport even saw me sitting there crying into my phone.  Something that would have terrified me any other day of the week.

 I'm not going to lie, I had been pretty wound up all week about it.  Even though I had my Xanxax and was totally willing and expecting to eat some, I still had this tense feeling in my chest.  Talking myself down helped a bit, but not much.  By Sunday night I was kind of a mess.  Come Monday, though, I was fine - resigned to my fate to spend the night flying high above the US in a metal tube.  Even when I hit the airport I was fine.  So why the sudden onset?  Why did these feelings spew out now?

I don't have an answer.  This was only the second time I've missed a flight due to anxiety.  The first time I never even made it into the airport, so I guess I'm doing better.  I've had panic attacks before - I think we all have at one point or another - but this one felt dialed up to 11.  Even the BART ride back home, luggage in tow, held little comfort for me.  Tuesday, as I was explaining myself to those I let down, I struggled not only with tears, but to find reasons why.  I called my therapist.  Her thinking is that I stress myself out so much, so often, that I can't actually get a grasp on healing.  And she may be right.

The point here is not to grab attention, but to share.  I want people to know what I go through with this shit because there are so many people out there that deal with the same - or worse.  You may know someone like me, but maybe they never talk about it.  Maybe they are embarrassed about how much control they are giving up.   Anxiety is a fickle bitch.

At any rate, I'm very saddened to be missing NHC this year.  You people have fun out there, and be good to yourselves.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day and the Joys of Anxiety

I was getting my hairs cut yesterday, and the lovely Korean woman was just trying to be nice.

"Where's your Mom?"

For the record, I don't make a habit of bringing my mother to my hair cuts, so this was an odd question without the following day being Mother's Day.

"You take her to dinner? Have nice time tomorrow?"

I had to mutter something to her, I couldn't just sit there, and I for sure didn't feel like getting into the fact that my Mom passed away back in 2000.  This lady didn't know that.  She was just doing her job.

Mother's Day hasn't always been hard for me, but for some reason I think this one is.  In my most recent therapy session on Thursday, we talked about the usual anxiety-is-manifested-fear stuff, but we started digging down into what I mention the most: my Father and how much I don't want to be like him when I have kids. My therapist asked me something that sort of shook me up a bit, and that was, "How are you like your Mom?"  The thinking here is that I'm trying so hard to run from my Dad that I haven't been planning a destination.  So my task is to think about the good qualities of my Mom and start bringing those into my life.

The issue here, is that my Mom and I had a very odd relationship.  I feel like I didn't take the time to get to know her as well as I should have.  A month before she died I had this epiphany that I need to learn more about her and, essentially, treat her better.  This huge loss right after a revelation like that is what made much of my anxiety manifest.  At least, in my very unprofessional opinion.  It kicked up all these fears of not being understood, of fighting to be appreciated, and the biggest of all ... what will I leave behind?

Days like this help with understanding how anxiety works in my brain.  It doesn't just mean that I feel something bad is going to happen.  In the case of Mother's Day this year, it means shame in my past and a sense of hopelessness that I can't do anything about it.  I can't change my past.  But what I can do is change my future.  I may not have actively sought out and digested my Mom's personality, but it's in there somewhere.  As my therapist says, "Two people made you, two people raised you."  I can't let my anxiety over what lies ahead impact what is actively happening in my life, just like I can't sit here and think of all the times I had to chat with my Mom that I never took.  At 19, who does?

If you are like me, and you lost your Mom, spend today searching inside for those good traits she gave you and work at making those part of your life.  We may not have flowers to give anyone, but I'd wager this is a better gift.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Better Living Through Chemistry

I want to take some time to talk about how much I love Xanax.

For so many years I have been resistant to taking medication to help with my anxiety, despite the multitude of people who told me it would help.  I suppose that's a hidden result of having anxiety, is that you are afraid to even take pills that will help you not be afraid, and you get so wrapped up in the "what-if's" that you end up bailing out on adventures that would have been amazing had you just taken the pill.

After just getting back from such an adventure, I can sort of reflect on the trip and how I got there - and home - with pretty much no stress thanks to my new friend.  Being in the beer podcast world can be unforgiving at times, with little pay, little appreciation, and even less perks (aside from the free beer).  Recently, I was able to go on a 4-day Caribbean cruise with 2,000 of my closest beer-loving friends and some amazing bands playing just for us. The shit-show for me was that we set sail out of Miami.  That's far.  That's 6 hours on a plane.  That sucks.

In the past, I would have passed something like this up based solely on the plane ride.  But I was determined to not let my brain stop me from enjoying this.  Enter: Xanax!  Eating Xanax is sort of like those film makers in the 30's using those diffuse filters for the close-up shots of actresses - things are clear but the sharp lines are fuzzed out just a bit.  You are clear-headed, everything is fine, but you just don't have the same worries as you normally do.  For me, it feels like it blocks my reactions to that little voice in there that tells me "Plane's going down.  Does that guy have a bomb?  Turbulence!".  So while I can think those things, my brain doesn't react to them and spin my anxiety out of control, so I'm actually able to cope with whatever is happening.  My flights in and out of Miami were full of turbulence - pushing and dropping us, then pulling us back up - and I was not out of control with my panic attacks.  I didn't enjoy it, but I wasn't sweaty or white-knuckling the arm rests, as in past flights.  Calm, even, and along for the ride.  And it was so relaxing to be able to sit there and just exist, trusting the pilot and the aircraft to get us to the ground safely and at a steady pace.

So if you are like me, and you are super nutty about taking pills, try Xanax.  It's like my saviour, because now I find myself wanting to go to other places and explore the world around me.  I could never see myself being on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean before.  Now that I can control my fears, I'm ready to go back for more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Changing your view

Anxiety can be a real bitch.  Or bastard, depending on how fluid you wish to make it.  Driving down Highway 5 late at night last weekend, that familiar tingle begain in the middle of my back - a feeling that usually means I'm about to spend the next 20 min. talking myself out of driving straight to the nearest hospital.  Which, ok sure, I'm so used to dealing with this that I can usually cope, and even though I will always think something could possibly be wrong with me, odds are everything is fine.  The bitch of it is, I wasn't even stressing out.   Usually, one thinks of anxiety as coming from stress, or some sort of stressful situation.  Granted, driving 300 miles down what is possibly the most boring piece of road in California isn't what I call fun, it's by no means a stressfull event.  The only thing I can think of as being a trigger in this situation is when I started thinking, "Hey, I feel pretty good right now" ...

What I don't understand about myself is why I sit and think about the absence of bad feelings.  Perhaps that in itself is my anxiety coming out - if nothing is wrong that means something is about to be wrong.  Right?  After all, axniety is pretty much your brain rebelling against itself. 

"Something bad is going to happen!"
 "Because it hasn't happened yet!"
"Oh shit!"

And you go around and around, work yourself up, and eventually it can manifest into actual physical sensations, most of which can also be taken as real medical emergencies - pain/numbness in your left arm, sweats, inability to think straight, long-lasting headaches, etc. 

As I'm catapulting myself down the road, I sat in the car and just thought about what I was doing at that time specifically, and how incredible it was.  "I'm driving a car down to see family, to go to Disneyland, and to have a great time with friends - what cool things am I going to do?" was pretty much the conversation I was having with myself.  I tried to focus on the fun I was going to have, and how privileged I was to be able to take this trip in the first place. I didn't try to ignore the feeling in my back or my arm (or head at this point), but simply acknowledge those feelings, and then shift my thinking to something that I knew would take up more brain power than driving in a straight line needed.  In otherwords, I out-thought myself. 

That tactic isn't anything new, and it sure isn't something that I pulled down from the sky - it was my way of grounding myself and telling my brain to take a break.  Being several days removed from this experience, I have the benefit of being calm about the whole thing, but in that situation, it's sort of impossible to be rational.  Like that part of you just shuts down and heads to the bar.  Maybe practice makes perfect for this stuff.  Simply trying once or twice doesn't cut it, but maybe twenty times does.  Or thirty?  I can't say. 

I wanted to share this with you all because it's one of those times that anxiety can surprise you, derail you, or knock you out and steal one of your kidneys.  That is the most vexing part of this thing for me, because it doesn't seem like you can avoid it.  Like some much in life you just have to walk through it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Overall Update and Announcement

Look, blogging is hard, ok?  I know I said I'd keep this as a record of my post-surgery life and all the complications and wonderful feelings that go with being cancer-free, but each time I think of a post to write, two things happen:

1) I talk myself out of it by saying nobody gives a shit.

2) The cancer I had was not really life-threatening, so there isn't much to say.

Sounds like I'm downplaying it, but each scan and blood panel I have done have been clean, and that sort of makes a boring post, yeah?  I mean, where's the drama?!   It was still a primary cancer, and impacted my life in a very real way, but that's about it.  I'll still give some updates here and there, but for the most part I'm shifting to another problem area in my life.  Anxiety.

For those of you who like reasons and lists, here are both as an explanation for me doing these things:

1) I enjoy writing.  Though my vocabulary is fairly limited, and I over-use commas and hyphens, doing so helps me get my thoughts out.

2) My real hope here is that I can help someone else out there who may be dealing with these same issues. 

To that end, I thought it would be a great use of the small public forum I have carved out for myself to talk about my issues and experiences in case I can help someone else realize they aren't alone.  That there is a light at the end of the anxiety tunnel.   Not that I'm an authority or have all the answers - we are going through this together - but sharing a journey can be pretty good medicine.   It's helped me at times, maybe it can do the same for you.

I suppose I've always been concerned with small, mundane things in my life, but that personality trait went unchecked and somehow developed into a problem that has prevented me from really living life to its fullest.  I've held myself back from doing things I want to do, avoided certain situations, and in general just became a miserable person at times.

Anxiety is a tough thing to describe.  It's not like a broken leg, where it hurts, and people can see that there is something wrong, and we all know how quickly it will heal and how soon you'll be back to normal.  Having anxiety is more like ... holding in a giant fart in a room full of supermodels.  Single ones.  Ones that are there specifically to meet you.   Well not really, but it's close.  You have this uncomfortable feeling inside - this pressure - and you can't let it out.   And it spreads.  From your chest, up your trunk to your neck, maybe your head.   Sometimes the side of your head can feel numb.  Sometimes your arm.  Oftentimes both.  Then real panic can set in and you worry about all the things these feelings could be symptomatic of.  Heart Attacks.  Strokes.  Permanent, life-altering shit.  So the only thing you can do is return home and try your hardest to wait for it to pass. 

Sure, that's a dumbed-down description of a pretty serious problem, but it's the only one that comes to mind right now - with my love and over-use of analogies, I'm sure I'll try again.

Recently, I started seeing a therapist for my anxiety, and even though I've only had one session with her, it's been a pretty big relief.  I've always been a believer in therapy for everyone, actually, but especially for people who are sort of silently suffering with things like anxiety.  In order to solve that knot of an issue, you have to find the root cause of it, and that's best done in the comfort of a therapists office.  These people are trained to sort out your bullshit from your problems and help you smooth out your life. 

At any rate, that's my big intro to this new direction.  I've mentioned my anxiety issues before on the various podcasts I do, but not in this way, and for sure not with as much honesty.  While this isn't a coming out or anything, it's pretty huge for me and represents and culture shift within my own mind.  My plan is to write about what I'm feeling, what I'm going through, what my breakdowns feel like - all the gory bullshit that one goes through.

Do you suffer from Anxiety as well?   Hopefully this clumsy blog will help in some small way.  


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Low-Iodine Diet

UPDATE: Taren just found this great website that lists all the companies that use non-iodized salt in their foods!  Go to page 12 if you care.  If not, go straight to the hot place ... you'll know it when you get there.

Today marks the first day in my two-week preparation for the radioactive iodine therapy that will, hopefully, ensure I am truly cancer-free.  At least, for now.  I need to reduce the iodine I consume so my body will better absorb the radioactive stuff, and result in a more effective treatment for me in my post-surgery, pre-mutated state.

Like most diets you are forced to go on for health reasons, you never really know how much of whatever-it-is-you-can't-eat is in food.  To clarify, low-iodine is NOT no salt.  As I learned, some salts have iodine added to them, so when shopping for foods, you have to look at the ingredient list for the specific type of salt used - can't be sea salt, and if the list does not say specifically kosher salt ... you can't eat it.  Think about that - salt is in everything, from breads to peanut butter.  Just looking for tortillas at the store was a 5 minute chore (in case you were wondering, corn tortillas have no salt in them, but who likes those?).

Meats are a bit easier to deal with, except for chicken.  Much of the chicken you buy in the store has been dunked in some sort of brine.  A key ingredient of brine?  Salt.  So needless to say shopping has been taken to a whole new level in my house.

What's on the "No List"?  Fish and anything with sea salt, which is kind of a no brainer really.  Some types of beans, spinach, egg yolks, dairy, chocolate, soy ... I think that's everything.  Not that I eat this stuff all the time, but fish?  Cheese?  Chocolate?  It's gonna be a rough two weeks.  Oh, I also had to stop my vitamin supplements - one was fish oil and the other has soy in it.

So for lunch last night we had tacos.  Actually I'm not sure you can even call them tacos in the traditional sense.  No cheese and no sour cream.  They were ... they were fine.

Anyway, that's my food plan for the next two weeks.  I think much of this diet is geared for folks who eat out all the time, or get their dinners from the microwave.  My diet was pretty good to begin with, the only offenders being cheese and fish, so I think it's ok if I have some iodine-ladden foods from time to time.  The important thing for me to remember is this is a Low-Iodine diet, not a Non-Iodine diet.

Then on May 12th and 13th I get my shots, the 14th I get mutated!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A better update than the last garbage

First off, sorry for leaving this blog to gather so much eDust - especially with a soul-crushingly depressing post as that last one.  It's not my style to let that much out at once and have it just fester there, oozing emo vibes.  I'll do my best to at least wash that stuff down with a faster, happier set of words in the future.

Ok, here's the update:  My Endochron tested my Thyroid levels and they came back fairly normal, but due to my dark moments, she decided to bump my dose from 175 micrograms to 200.  The change is literally like night and day.  It took a couple of weeks, but I feel more together, more energetic, and much more creative.  I'm sharper mentally and I'm fairly happier than I have been in awhile.  That slight tweak to my hormone level did things to my brain that I never knew could be done.  I feel like a 16 year old in a whore house, discovering new and amazing things!  My metabolism has bumped up a bit, too, and I've lost about 4 pounds over the last three weeks.  Not amazing, but noticeable.  Thinking back on how I felt in February and how I feel now, I wonder how many people who suffer from depression would benefit from a pop in their Thyroid levels?  I'm not sure if it would work for everyone else, but it pulled me out of a real dead end, I tell you what.

The next step for me is to get a nice dose of Radioactive Iodine.  To do that, I will be injected with two high-doses of synthetic thyroid hormone first, in order to get my levels really jacked up.  The RAI targets any remaining Thyroid flesh, and the hormone will stimulate any Thyroid tissue still possibly left in my neck, which will in turn better absorb the RAI.  After that, any Thyroid left will be nuked, and will no longer be at risk of growing new cancer cells.   During this time I will be secluded in my home office, having no contact with anyone - cats included!  Survival will be hard, and I'm not sure I can make it without cats.

In order to have this treatment be as effective as possible, I'll need to be on a low-Iodine diet for the two weeks leading up to the RAI treatment.  Which is apparently real shitty, but will make my body crave the iodine and lead to a more beneficial result. So long fish, hello unsalted nuts.  Awesome.  The good news is I'm not allowed to plant seeds in anyone for a year after the treatment, for fear of them turning out with webbed feet, or a tendency to vote Democrat.

Other than that, things are progressing nicely.  The neck is healing just fine, and I'm able to drive again.  There is some stiffness still, but that is fading.  Good news!