allow me to recapitulate

It has been an interesting year so far. Manic episodes, sketching house plans in the middle of the night, COVID vaccines, no more masks, mentally preparing to work from the office again, and the Giants still in first place bitches! (yeah, you, LA fan). 

Anyway, I feel like it’s a good time for a bulleted list, so here is a recap of the first 6 months of this year:

  • In January I began a strong manic episode for about 6 weeks, possibly encouraged by trying Latuda for bipolar depression. I had extreme anxiety and a couple of panic attacks, I couldn’t sleep most nights, and I was very restless. My OCD rituals became much stronger and nearly impossible to control.
  • In February I began to come down from the manic state but the OCD and anxiety continued in full force, and it was very difficult to work or be “normal” at home. 
  • In March, there was very little improvement, and I worried that something had permanently been damaged in my brain from the manic episode. (I still think that is the case, but I’m learning to manage it.) I was very concerned that my continued employment was in jeopardy, and the resultant worry fed my continuing anxiety.
  • In April I discontinued Wellbutrin and went back on Abilify, and my anxiety calmed down somewhat. I was officially diagnosed with OCD. I also began seeing a therapist for help to deal with the anxiety and OCD behaviors. My daughter spent a week in the hospital with a vomiting syndrome.
  • In May, the anxiety began to decrease significantly, although the OCD rituals were still a problem. I finally got to go on my planned hiking trip to Pennsylvania, which was calming and satisfying. We had a multi-family barbecue for the first time since COVID, since everyone is vaccinated now.
  • In June (earlier this week), I applied for a new position at the company I work for. It would be a promotion, although the pay would be about the same. I don’t think I have much of a chance, but if you get an interview, anything can happen.

Looking forward to the rest of 2021, who knows what will transpire? We do have a few plans:

  • As of July 6th our company will begin a hybrid work schedule, which means I will be able to work every other week at the office again. Maybe I will remember all the people who I used to see every day.
  • In August we will have our annual family camping trip at a local state park. We had to cancel in 2020, breaking a streak of 12 years. 
  • In September my wife and I will take a short vacation to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We’ll probably take a bigger vacation next year, but my daughter can’t be alone for more than a couple of days, so we’ll see what happens then.
  • In November we will be seeing Genesis in concert. 

… and off we go.

blog soup – stir well

I have a busy week ahead. I have three field days at work this week, two of which are unnecessary; I have an appointment with both my therapist and my sleep doctor; and it’s my father-in-laws birthday. My wife has no idea what to get him other than a gift card to the hardware store. It’s difficult because his birthday and Father’s Day are so close together, and he doesn’t need anything except carpal tunnel surgery. Fortunately he will get that at the VA hospital, because it’s hard to get medical procedures from Amazon (for now).

My daughter needed to replace a broken phone, and our other two were glitchy, so we finally ditched our old prepaid cell plan and went with a major carrier (the pink one) to get discounted phones. The red carrier is too expensive even though they have better coverage; I hate the blue carrier and I think their bundling prices are predatory. I’m happy with the service, but my brand new phone has problems reading the SD card.

The thought occurred to me that everyone I went to high school with is at or near 50 years old, and their parents are getting older to the point where funerals are becoming more common. That’s depressing in several ways. Maybe seeing your parents getting older is part of the mid-life crisis experience because it makes you think about your own mortality. Nothing lasts forever, so go nuts while you still can, or something like that. My idea of going nuts is completely different, but even I fall victim to the urge to buy expensive things to make myself feel alive. For example, I bought pricey brioche buns for my grilled hamburgers instead of the cheaper plain buns. Living on the edge, that’s me.

news of the world

A quick update post, then I’ll write something more substantial later.

My anxiety has had a few moderate spikes, but overall has been decreasing slowly since I discontinued the Wellbutrin and resumed taking Abilify. The twitchiness comes and goes with the anxiety, but the OCD ritualistic behaviors remain.

My therapist has talked about using CBT for my OCD. To prepare for that, he asked me to observe and document the behaviors I’m doing (no problem) without being judgmental (very difficult). I am also supposed to learn a little about specific CBT techniques for OCD. I see him again tomorrow.

At work, every time I complete a project, I get two new ones, adding to my anxiety. I actually let fly a bitchy rant during a video staff meeting this week. The department manager was on the call, and I was inspired. This is very uncharacteristic of me, and I guess a few people were surprised. I’m so bad at speaking to others though, so I just read parts of a bitchy email I had written a few weeks ago. Point was made, however.

I’m taking Friday off and spending this weekend hiking and communing with nature at Black Moshannon in Pennsylvania. I was supposed to do this when my anxiety was higher, but that was when my daughter was in the hospital. I still want to do this for myself, though. Weather is iffy but not too cold, so I’m going for it. I’ll post a few pics.

We’re waiting for my son to get his 2nd vaccine shot, then we will have a family barbecue somewhere. It’s been a long time. We have made the effort to keep my in-laws from getting too lonely, but it’s been difficult for them.

Finally, Genesis will be at the Q in Cleveland on November 30th, and we’ll be there. Phil can’t play drums and can just barely walk, and in fact he will be sitting for much of the show, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see them one last time. I know they’ll play mostly the pop-rock songs rather than the old prog-rock stuff, but I’m okay with that, as long as they don’t play Whodunnit. Having said that, I wish I had seen them in 2007 instead.

I guess this wasn’t so quick after all.

behind

I’m playing catch-up this week. I’m way behind on work projects, on reading blogs, on writing, on projects at home, on planning for the future, blah blah blah, yada yada. I made some progress on work stuff this week, so I feel a little better about that.

I also got my second vaccine shot, so I am fully juiced and ready to go. I’m ready to lick door handles and have someone cough on my airline food as I travel to a crowded city. Okay, maybe not, but I do feel more at ease knowing I have a little protection. I can see the possibility of everyone requiring a booster sometime in the next 12 months (I guess Pfizer has already indicated this). I was sore at the injection site until yesterday, and I was tired and achy for about 48 hours after the shot, which was about what I expected. Nothing serious, and I didn’t miss work.

I also saw my psychiatrist this week. I printed out part of this post and let him read it, and he said it was textbook OCD. (I also told him his “How are you doing” forms are crooked on the paper, and it mildly bothers me.) He said we can work on the anxiety first, and then see if the OCD symptoms need more attention. I agree with that, since the OCD gets worse with higher anxiety. In addition, he said I was much more stable when I was taking Abilify, so maybe we should go back to that. I had the same thought previously, so I told him that was fine. I’ll just have to eat better and get more exercise somehow. I’m also going to quit the Wellbutrin, since it can cause instability and maybe anxiety.

Last week I met with the therapist for the first time (same office as my p-doc). We got to know each other a little, and he was interested by some of my problems (social anxiety, lack of self-esteem, avoidant tendencies, inability to deal with stress, etc.) He said something that bothered me though: when I was explaining about being overwhelmed at work, he didn’t seem to accept the reality that I absolutely cannot take a week or more off work for my mental health right now – maybe an occasional day or two, but not an extended period. I also don’t feel like I can ask to have some work shifted to other people, because everyone I work with is swamped and unhappy and drowning in projects. The day after he suggested I ask for less work, I received two more projects. Yay. We’ll see what he has to say on Monday.

The weather is cool but nice, so I am going outside to enjoy some nature and not think about life for a while. But first, I need Second Breakfast (the best meal of the day).

feeling better

My daughter came home from the hospital on Tuesday. The tests and the endoscopy were negative, so the most likely conclusion is that it was caused by smoking marijuana. All the sources I researched said her symptoms would be gone in 1-2 days after quitting, but apparently the THC was slow to leave her system, since she had the symptoms for almost a week after her last smoke. Anyway, she started feeling better Monday, and they kept her one more night to make sure there wasn’t a recurrence. I am relieved that she is okay now, because we were really worried about her.

Now I have to catch up on the work I missed, since I took 2-1/2 days off. Work doesn’t seem too important when your loved ones are seriously ill. I was behind last week, so now I’m even further in the hole. Now I have to manage my problems again. Ugh.

no vacation

I should be on a trail in Pennsylvania somewhere, but instead I’m sitting next to my daughter in a hospital room. She has had nearly constant nausea and frequent vomiting that has become worse over the last two weeks. We took her to the ER Wednesday, and they gave her prescriptions and sent her home. We had to return later on Wednesday because she couldn’t keep anything down.

The toxicology report said there was marijuana In her system, and they decided it was Cannibinoid Hyperemesis. She had been smoking pot to help the nausea, but instead it made her worse. They didn’t think they needed to do any more testing, but we asked them to look for other possibilities. She got a CT scan, but it showed nothing significant. They don’t want to do an endoscopy, but we will keep bugging until they agree.

Needless to say, things have been pretty glum around here. Hopefully we can get her healthy soon. I feel pretty helpless right now.

a busy week ahead

I have felt a little better this week. I am not as anxious during the weekend because I can stop thinking about work. I still have issues at home I am not dealing with very well, and I’m not getting any help to solve the problems.

I’m glad to have a short week. Next week will be short also, as I am taking a vacation day to make a 3-day weekend. I’m going to the highlands of central Pennsylvania to do some longer day hikes. I’m hoping there will be only a few people there so I can feel like I have the forest to myself. I’ll post a few photos if they turn out well.

I’m going alone, although I wish my wife could go too, but she’s working hard as usual. She only gets one week of vacation this year, and we’ve already scheduled a camping trip in August. However, we couldn’t leave our daughter alone for an entire long weekend, and she wouldn’t want to go with us as she hates traveling.

In other news, I have my first appointment with a therapist Monday. I’m going to see if he can give me some better coping tools for stress and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by everything. What I’m doing now isn’t working very well. I’ve been in therapy in the past, and it wasn’t really successful, but I’m willing to try again. I know one appointment won’t solve everything, but I’m hoping to gain something from talking things out and getting feedback from someone more knowledgeable than me.

worries

I’m not doing well. My anxiety was not as bad this week, but I still feel unstable. I’m not doing my work adequately. I’m not taking care of the little tasks that need to be done at home. My brain is foggy sometimes, and I just mentally check out for a while. I’m having trouble focusing on anything more than my immediate needs, but there are so many things besides myself that I need to worry about.

My daughter is really struggling with her mental health. Her psychiatrist moved away, and I’ve been trying to get her to make an appointment with another one. She has severe phone anxiety, and she sits in her room and cries about it rather than making a call. She will run out of medicine soon and that will be very bad for her. In addition she has something physically wrong where she feels constant nausea and vomits nearly every day. She knows she needs to take action, but she is so emotionally fragile that she gets upset and turns into a “fussy baby” (her words). For me, it’s like having a special needs child who needs help doing everything, and I’m not dealing with it very well at the moment.

One positive thing: I got my first vaccine shot a few days ago, with no side effects other than a little muscle soreness at the injection point. I’m hearing that the second shot makes you feel ill for a day or two, but I’m not worried about that. I’m just glad we are taking steps to eventually get back to a normal life. At the same time, I feel bad for all the people who have died and all the families affected.

panic! at the home office

So Friday afternoon I may have had a little panic attack. Apparently I posted something here and then trashed it immediately. Then I started drinking.

I was trying to email a request form to someone for a project, but I didn’t know just what to say. But I got stuck thinking about it, and it never got sent. Then the 10 am department meeting happened, and the department manager started demanding more output than we have been producing lately. Just what I needed to hear. After the meeting, I froze up again.

I took a long lunch, thinking I would take a break and calm down, then get back to work. The getting back to work never happened, and instead of producing more, suddenly I’m producing less. Thinking about this made me start freaking out, and I gave up around 2 pm. I literally got into bed and covered up hoping I could calm down, but it just got worse. I briefly thought about calling my psychiatrist, but I don’t think I could have made it through the phone call, and I didn’t want to get sent to the hospital involuntarily.

So when my shift ended at 3:30, I poured a glass full of scotch whiskey and started drinking with the intent of knocking myself out as quickly as possible. After an hour I was successful, and I slept until about 8 pm.


I fear the manic episode from January has permanently damaged something in my already defective brain. I can’t organize tasks, I can’t follow through, I can’t regulate my mood, I can’t control the anxiety. I can’t stop thinking that I will no longer be able to do my job, and that I will have to find something less stressful for much less pay and worse benefits.

Before the manic episode I was relatively unhappy at work but I was able to cope with the stress and managed to produce work in a timely manner. Now I am completely unable to deal with my mental state. I have no coping skills; I have nothing in the toolbox that I can use to improve my situation. My fight-or-flight instinct has been engaged, but I have nothing to fight with. The urge to flee is overwhelming.

The only thing that helps me relax is when I am doing something new, like yesterday when I drove new roads for a few hours and walked at a park for over an hour. But there are only so many roads within a reasonable distance, and I can’t do that every day. Eventually I have to come back home to my life, and start thinking about everything again.

I will call my doctor on Monday when I am relatively calm and explain the situation, and see if he can recommend something.

ten things

I wrote a long post about work, and decided it was too much right now. The TL;DR is that I’m unhappy at the best job I’ve ever had, but there’s nothing better out there right now, so I need to change my attitude and deal with it.

I had other things to write about, including my recent bipolar problems (I’m a little more stable right now), my recent anxiety-driven excursions (which helped me cope), and saving one of a kitty’s nine lives (I was able to hit the brakes in time).

But I can’t really focus right now on anything coherent. Instead I will give you 10 random facts about me. These were written a long time ago and hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar until today. So in random order:

3. I played trumpet, trombone, baritone, euphonium, and tuba during high school and college. I was once in the state honor band. Unfortunately I don’t play anymore.

7. My first post-college job was to perform wetland delineations. I used to know the fauna of the northwest very well. One day I was chased out of a wetland by a pissed-off nutria.

4. I can look at maps and air photos for hours. Google Earth is the best thing ever.

1. I’m addicted to crackers, bread, and anything salty.

8. The last time I smoked a cigarette, it gave me a massive boner. I liked it so much I smoked another.

2. I have actually hugged trees. I love hiking and being alone in the forest. When I was a kid, the forest behind my house was my refuge from life.

6. When I was growing up I wanted to be an engineer. Once I became an engineer, I wished I could be something else: naturalist, writer, musician, baseball player, geologist, or a world traveler.

10. Many years ago I was charged with a felony for violating California environmental laws stemming from a contractor mishandling PCB-contaminated soil. The charge was dropped.

5. I love rain and dreary weather because it makes everyone else feel miserable.

9. I wish I was a cat instead of a human.

11. I’m 1/4 Canadian, 1/16 Mexican, 1/16 Native American, and 100% looney.