A paean to Elderly Dog

Just because I’m in the moodūüôā

Jalan¬†and her first husband adopted Elderly Dog¬†from the pound in Spring, 2000. She’s a pound mutt. Clearly some Chow, the rest might be Spitz or Collie or who knows what. Weighs around 35-40 lbs.

Sweetest dog. 16.5yo or so (something like our 90 for a dog her size), and still gets as excited as a puppy when we come home, when we pick up her leash, or pretty much anything else–sometimes just making eye contact.

Every month, she sleeps longer and deeper, stands up more slowly, has more trouble with the stairs, has more trouble with bladder control, and is increasingly senile (she was never overly bright). She is almost totally deaf and losing her vision and smell, but is still Just. So. Happy. Every time we interact with her it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Until the next time.

When Jalan¬†and I got together in 2011, Elderly Dog¬†immediately switched loyalty to me, which I tease Jalan¬†about. She’s a “velcro dog.” She’s content as long as she knows where her people are and is nearby us (especially me–sometimes when Jalan¬†is home alone, Elderly Dog¬†will still sit and watch out the front door for me).

With her failing senses (and intelligence), she’s also the world’s worst watchdog. A year or so ago, when we were dealing with an emergency, we had a friend come in and check on her. He had a key to the back door. So he went in the back and watched her (and photographed her) standing in the hall, barking at the front door. She didn’t notice him until he came up and touched her.

She doesn’t like men in hats. When service people come over, we ask them to remove their caps, and that usually settles her barking. That’s less of an issue now that she can’t visually distinguish the hats as easily. I can only imagine there was a pre-pound history of abuse.

She’s never noticed the cats except Senior Cat (whom we lost last month), even when she could see them easily. Just totally oblivious. Runs right over them sometimes. Senior Cat came home from the pound the same day and took care of Elderly Dog¬†while she had pound sickness. He pretty much raised her to be a cat. When she could still remember to, she would do her level best to bury her messes, though was terrible at it (might walk off and take a right turn first).

And while her general faculties are declining with age, she’s not sick. Her only medication is for bladder control, plus a joint supplement. She’s not dying of anything. At some point in the not-too-distant future, she’ll probably get to where she can’t stand up due to loss of muscle mass in her hindquarters, and that will be time to say goodbye. But we never thought she’d make 15, then never thought she made 16, and she keeps surprising us . . .

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Daily Life


Draconic Self-Care

Not Draconian self-care.

For the first two or three years Jalan and I were together, she wasn’t working and I worked almost exclusively from home. We were joined at the hip. Two nights apart when I was traveling for work were pretty much the limit before we were both feeling strain from it. She does work now, but that includes¬†from home, and we treasure our time together, generally choosing to be in the same room when possible. And I almost never travel for work since getting sick, in any event.

That lays context for how odd it is that I told her I needed to head out to a coffee shop this afternoon at least in part because of how she was going about her day.

Before my friends worry, let me say up front that this does not indicate a problem between us.

For many reasons, some in my personality, some in my mental illness, some in my personal history, I have often had trouble rolling with changes in plans. I’m¬†far less uptight about¬†this than I was even a few years ago. Much of that is because of my fundamental trust in Jalan. And she’s worked on helping me get away¬†from the maladaptive, compulsive element of this–by things like not telling me her plans. Especially early on, I’d find out where we were going for dinner when we got there. Asking while she was driving generally went un-answered, except when she could see that my not knowing was causing genuine anxiety or¬†agitation. That pressure to need to know the plan rarely comes up these days, and I seldom even feel driven¬†to ask. I trust her. It works for her needs, as well, in that not telling me the plan leaves¬†her free to change it to suit her mood without risking distressing me.

This is the last day of her week off of work, and she started the time off¬†with a fair bit to do for her job before returning tomorrow. She hasn’t worked on it this week–she’s taken much-needed leisure instead. But an hour or so¬†after the second time she told me she was coming downstairs soon to work, I started feeling¬†my old discomfort with not knowing what’s going to happen, and especially discomfort with plans being changed without notice.

So I went upstairs, sat with her on the bed, and explained that, while I trusted her to get done what she needed to in a way that worked for her, the way the day was going meant I was getting twitchy. I took care to explain¬†that this¬†was in no way a rebuke for how she’d spent her week, or the fact that she was changing her¬†plans for today as she wrestled with the best way for her to get to it and get it done. Rather,¬†I needed to go out alone for¬†my own self-care. It wasn’t about her; it was my decision as to¬†the best thing to do¬†to meet my needs. After some kissing, I was on my¬†way.

As I’ve remarked before, we communicate with such quantity and such care that most people would probably¬†see it as exaggerated and might even find it too much to handle in a relationship.

But it suits us perfectly.

That, and I can pick up Chinese food on the way home.


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Posted by on April 3, 2016 in Daily Life


Emotional Dragon

So apparently it takes being a hot mess to get me back here. I’m feeling pretty raw, and this seemed like the right place to go.

For context, the last 6 or so weeks have been pretty great, especially emotionally. I did a medication change in January that’s worked wonders. I sleep well, I don’t have nightmares, I rarely have daytime sleepiness, or even early-evening sleepiness. My mood has been rock-solid: no mania, no depression, and no disproportionately¬†anxious responses. Simply put, my mental health has never been better.

Tonight I had a bit of a meltdown. It started with disproportionate anger to what I would have thought in logical terms to be a fairly minor¬†irritant involving an online friendly acquaintance. Then I started getting distressed about feeling this anger. I also remembered a couple times this morning I felt flashes of anger at people who were just doing their jobs, and the issues were, again, small (I did¬†not take it out on them, don’t worry).

Jalan and I came up to snuggle, since I wasn’t doing well. We talked about this. For more context, anger is generally a no-go for me. It wasn’t permitted in my family of origin. It largely didn’t exist for me in the first half of my life. Didn’t exist as¬†a conscious feeling, that is. “Anger In,” the personality psychologists call it. Combined with a hefty dose of repression and the superego from hell.

Then I started feeling fearful. Not about the anger-provoking irritants. But about possibly falling back into a CFS relapse of unpredictable duration. I had a long, really severe one in the Fall, but have feeling mostly myself since around mid-December. Sometimes I’ve been more energetic than I’ve felt since CFS first hit three years ago. Still, it didn’t seem¬†fair that it might be coming around again. When “fair” has fuck-all to do with this.

As the next step, I just started crying.

I looked back at the week.¬†Monday and Tuesday had a lot of stuff going on. Unusual financial stresses, veterinarian visits (not even for the pet that’s dying of cancer), out and active longer hours than my norm, and still got a shit-ton of to-do’s checked off.

After all that, Wednesday was a total loss. I was up maybe an hour before going back to bed. Thursday, I got a couple of hours’ work done in the morning, then had to stop. Headache came on, not responsive to the usual remedies (ibuprofen, water, caffeine). I ultimately took a half-tablet of Percocet to be able to sleep. Today, I spent over two hours at the urologist for mysterious problems (not cancer). Nothing today was conclusive, so set up a pelvic CT for late April. I’ve had the problem for 30 years. I can wait another 6 weeks. Surgery is a possibility, depending on what they find. But after that, I did not have anything like the energy to work.

In short, I pushed hard Monday and Tuesday, dealt with some unusual stressors, and CFS has been kicking my ass since then. Oh, and I had an episode of autonomic dysregulation this afternoon, the occurrence of which is (imperfectly) correlated with CFS flares. But extra fun.

And tonight, it just all came crashing down. Exhaustion, anger, fear, sadness. Too much.




Posted by on March 11, 2016 in Health



Earlier today, I was driving in the lane next to a police car and was reflecting.

I’m a middle-aged, cis, white guy in a tan sedan with a handicapped placard. I could hardly be less likely to be a victim of disproportionate police aggression.

“Hardly less likely” is not zero, and all lives do matter. This is not in doubt or debate.

But the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and awareness campaign is no less critical for that. There is also no reasonable doubt that people of color, especially trans women of color and Black men, are vastly more likely than middle-aged cis white guys to be victimized by police brutality in the US, up to and including murder.

Middle-aged cis white guys don’t need an awareness campaign. Not because police brutality never happens to us. But because that’s not the way to bet.

That is why the subject line says “Black,” not “all.”

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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in General / Overhead


February 7, 2015: In my chastity belt

I am once again locked in my chastity belt.

This is especially noteworthy to me because the last time Jalan put it on me, at the beginning of January, I’d had it set too tight, over-correcting for weight loss. I made it about 5 days before breaking into the emergency key and finding (non-serious) sores under it. That was emotionally traumatic to some degree as well as physically painful.

That had been the first time the belt had seen use since I got sick two years ago, when I wore it for a continuous 3 weeks-plus in January and February, 2013. That had been by far the longest term I’d had it on, as I had just figured out how to adjust the fitting¬†to accommodate hygiene and my high-and-tight balls. Then my health went south and life kept happening hard and fast.

So having it comfortable and on again is a big deal. Comfortable or, at least, not the bad kind of uncomfortable. You know what I mean.


Flunked my sleep study

I flunked my sleep studyūüė¶. Apparently some degree of sleep apnea, which surprised me–and Jalan, who sleeps next to me. That meant I couldn’t do the daytime test, but apnea is¬†more easily treated than narcolepsy.

Last time I had a CPAP, I couldn’t tolerate it, but there are probably improvements since then. They’re a PITA, but if it helps daytime sleepiness, then worth it. Maybe we can get a mask that can be modified with locking straps…

I don’t know the degree of apnea until I see the relevant neurologist.

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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Health


Long Health Update (two steps back, one step forward)

I’ve been slow to update while things with my health have been changing rapidly. So here’s a big update.

tl;dr: CFS symptoms have been worsening, there have been other unpleasantnesses, but they have no serious long-term consequences. There are also new diagnostics going.

The good news about things I hadn’t talked about: The vertigo is receding and the chest pains are almost certainly reflux, not new heart problems. Not that the return of reflux is itself good news, but could be worse.

The bigger good news is that there are new diagnostic avenues. I’ve got an aggressive new neurologist who wants to be sure¬†whether there’s anything underlying the Bastard that might result in treatment (novel idea!) or even different management.

More good news is that I’m calm about all of this. There have been ups and downs on that, but I’m taking them REALLY well, if I do say so.

And I’ve got a spectacular healthcare team here.

About two months ago, I hit a major relapse in CFS symptoms. It’s been as bad as it ever was, even at the worst of the diagnostic year. That’s been in a downward feedback loop with cardiovascular fitness, as I’m even more¬†sedentary. And gaining weight again, which contributes to the vicious cycle. There was a two-week depressive swing in December, and those are quite rare these days and don’t usually last so long.

Two weeks ago, I went to the ER with chest pains.

NB Never have a medical emergency when flu is epidemic.

We were there for about 30 hours without ever getting admitted — finally got a bed in the observation unit at 2am, having been in the ER since 9:30 the previous morning. Long story short, it appears to be a resurgence of GERD (acid reflux). I saw my cardiologist (who seems to think I’m really interesting) yesterday for the ER followup, and there’s nothing we didn’t already know about with my heart. He also said I can start building up again on cardio, which I’d been reluctant to do before that appointment.

Now, a month ago, I’d seen the new neurologist. The original point was to follow up on the Mayo’s suggestion that there might be an underlying mitochondrial disorder. The test for that is a muscle biopsy, which they couldn’t do while I was on anti-platelet meds after the stent. There was no rush, as it’s not treatable either, but the management in terms of things like exercise might be different. The neurologist thinks mito is possible, but has a preferred hypothesis of a combination of narcolepsy (or similar sleeping disorder) and small fiber (autonomic) neuropathy.

So, since then, I’ve had yet another EMG and nerve conduction study, which failed, again, to find any motor or sensory neuropathies. He also took two samples for a skin biopsy, which are currently at an out-of-state lab being tested for the small-fiber neuropathy. I have a sleep study scheduled tonight and a multiple sleep latency study tomorrow¬†— basically, I’ll be there 9pm to 4pm. Friday, I see the neurosurgeon to set up the muscle biopsy. It’s done at a hospital under twilight drugs, and also goes to an out-of-state lab.

In mid-February I meet with the intervention cardiologist to discuss repairing the congenital problems in my coronary and pulmonary arteries. There’s no new urgency to this, but Jalan’s vacation schedule is such that this June is¬†the ideal time for me to have recovery. They might be able to do it via catheter, which is a trivial recovery. I’ve been down that road more than once. If not, they go between ribs, which is not trivial. But the cardiologist told me this repair does not¬†require cracking the chest, which is great news.

Oh, and randomly, I’ve had vertigo since Thursday morning. Urgent care doc said there was an inner-ear irritation, but it appears to be nothing persistent. I just haven’t driven, and showered when Jalan’s been¬†home. It seems to be mostly over.

After all that, there’s room for getting back on an upward trajectory, if it just means I climb the stairs for cardio on the cold, gray days while all the tests are going. This has been an unusually dismal Winter for where we are, but we’ve got a broad-spectrum light set up in our room, which is helping a great deal.


Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Health

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