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Living in a future ghost town

Pretty much all of the tech companies (mine included) have moved to a “work from home unless absolutely necessary” policy. We’re all suddenly getting into a remote-worker mindset — which I think is a long-term good thing, but it’s jarring. Looking out my dining room window I still see a typical amount of foot and car traffic for this time of day, but there’s an air of desperation and paranoia. Maybe I’m just projecting though.

My own symptoms have all but cleared up. I do have a persistent ache in my back and shoulders, which I’m not sure if it’s attributable to this mystery illness or is simply my fibromyalgia flaring up as always. My temperature is back to normal. I’m still coughing on occasion but it’s infrequent, and it’s gone from dry to productive. My shortness of breath is… well, still lurking, but doesn’t feel like an impairment at the moment. I’m still glad that I have a pretty strong reserve of albuterol, all the same.

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Balance

So, in anticipation of my new job starting next week I’m trying to figure out what the right balance of medications should be for my various neurological issues, and I’m not sure where the balance point should be. I’m mostly thinking out loud here, but I am going to try to walk through it and maybe folks with more experience can comment, or something.

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Why I’m open about my mental health (and other things)

Back in 2015, I was a complete mess, and I did everything I could to hide it. I was still having panic attacks regularly, and they would be brought on by the slightest provocation. But I felt, working in tech, that I had to be quiet about it, and just let things pass and things would get better if I ignored them.

One day a coworker did a thing that triggered a pretty big panic attack. It wasn’t anything malicious on his part, just a cavalier, morbid joke in gestural form that happened to tread upon one of my biggest triggers.

I felt awful, and I wanted to keep from feeling that way again.

So I messaged him on our work chat, and told him that the gesture he made happens to be a huge trigger for me and I was having a pretty major panic attack as a result. And his response was incredibly helpful: he didn’t realize, he understood, and he wouldn’t do it again. And he stuck to that.

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Happy 2020

So, a new decade has started1. Hopefully this next one will go a lot better than the last one.

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wellp

That ended up not going very well.

It’s still a good to-do list of stuff I want to do, but making comics, working on AR stuff, and generally being in pain/depression while also figuring out my ADHD meds has taken a lot more out of me than I expected.

Really gotta stop being overly ambitious.

GeekGirlCon 2019 wrap-up post

So, GeekGirlCon was yesterday and today, and for once I vended at it, having been put on the waitlist every time I’d applied for the last few years.

I already have quite a few thoughts about how things went and how they could have gone better for me, and my thoughts about my future as a potential convention vendor. Which is to say, I probably won’t be doing this again – but not because of anything wrong with GeekGirlCon. (Just to get that out of the way.)

Note that this isn’t my first time tabling at GGC, as I had previously done so with the Seattle Indies in 2017. But that was a completely different setup for a completely different intention – promoting games and the Indies organization.

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ADHD

So, this post about signs of undiagnosed ADHD showed up on one of my fibro communities and so much of it seemed PRETTY FAMILIAR, and I also found out that fibromyalgia and ADHD are highly comorbid, and then I was realizing that I stopped being able to focus on work and Getting Stuff Done when I had to go cold turkey on caffeine when my panic disorder started in 2011, and, wellp.

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Death poop from hell

Ugh, not only was the medication itself making me incredibly nauseous, but it was making me incredibly constipated, and I had my first death poop from hell since last December.

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Gabapentin 300mg day 6

So on this, the 6th day of being at 3x daily gabapentin, I noticed that I haven’t been in severe agony all over for the first time in a while. I’m still feeling tendon pain in the parts that get chronically overused (especially my thumbs) but it’s not doing the usual radiating thing that turns into systemic pain all over.

On the minus side, after taking my afternoon dose I got incredibly nauseous which only really started to let up 7 hours later (which is, incidentally, the elimination half-life of gabapentin), and this is the worst the nausea’s been. I’d been getting somewhat nauseous from the doses before but as it builds up in my system it’s just been getting worse and worse.

So I sent a note to my doctor asking if there’s a better way of dealing with it (because I’ve been very unable to get stuff done for the last couple days and I have a lot of stuff that needs to get done!) and meanwhile decided to go back to 2x/daily.

Supposedly the nausea subsides after 2-3 weeks but I really can’t wait 2-3 weeks for that to happen right now. I have GeekGirlCon prep to do, I have a job interview down in Portland sometime in the next week or two (for a job I’d probably be staying in Seattle for but it’s Portland-based and this means I might have to go to Portland more often, oh the horror! no, not the comfy chair!), and I have AR stuff to do in the meantime.

Anyway. Hopefully this means there actually is some hope in sight, and I just need to find the right balance of things. Or maybe something else that helps to counteract the nausea while I’m still acclimating to the gabapentin.

Things I accomplished today

Oops I haven’t been posting to my blog as much lately. I’ve been kinda busy I guess?

So let’s see:

  1. Had a technical interview with Mozilla which went pretty well. I remember more about the fiddly low-level bits of C++ than I thought, even after not really doing anything in C++ for a few years (and purposefully avoiding the minefield-type stuff I was asked about)
  2. Received a bunch of custom enamel pins that I’ll be selling at GeekGirlCon and turned out fantastic (more on this closer to the show!)
  3. Also received my vendor packet omg this is really happening isn’t it
  4. Put down a deposit on a new kitchen (not that I’m that eager to go through a remodel process again but my kitchen has been literally falling apart due to the cheap stuff the previous owners put in, and this time around I’m just getting everything gutted and replaced which is turning out to be… easier?)
  5. Finally got my gabapentin dose up to the target of 3x a day, which had me pretty hecked up this evening and I left drawing group earlier than usual but folks were understanding at least, and also this is probably still placebo but I kinda feel like I’m in less pain finally?
  6. Hugged so many cats (well, okay, mostly just one cat, but I hugged her a lot of times)
  7. did a bloggy thing

Oh also happy 9/19/19, which is apparently the last palindrome date (for a particularly reductive definition of “date”) we’re gonna have for a long time.

Unless you count 2/22/22 which is technically a palindrome and actually will work the same way in most truncated date formats (including 22/22/2 and 22/2/22).

Things I need to accomplish at some point in the near future:

  • Pushl has gotten overcomplicated and also isn’t actually working quite right anymore and I need to open an issue to track how I think I’m going to fix one of the breakages
  • Make prints for GeekGirlCon
  • Get rid of a bunch of cardboard boxes and other trash-like substance
  • order new refrigerator, settle on final appliances and sink fixtures, do some short-term plumbing to make a transitional bit of that a bit easier
  • learn rust
  • fix the o key on my MP1 model01
  • maybe set up a new VPN now that I don’t have access to the university one anymore? for now I’m just using hide.me’s free tier
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Gabapentin adventures continue

I guess I haven’t posted a public update on my gabapentin experiment in a while. Yesterday I started taking it twice a day, 100mg each time. I also created a simple blood serum estimator more to satisfy curiosity than anything else; I don’t expect it to be all that useful for anyone although I’m thinking that at some point I’ll add the ability to plot graphs and maybe specify the times of days for the doses or something?

Anyway, taking it in the morning as well as the evening means that I get a nice surge of dizziness, which will supposedly pass eventually (and will get better when I get up to 3x a day). So far I’m not noticing any difference in my pain levels, and I kinda feel like my emotions might be a bit more intense? Last night I certainly had a bout of frustration with technology and drawing apps (I really want to work on comics again and I feel like my tools are actively getting in the way!) but I’m feeling much more even-keeled today at least. Drowsy a lot though.

This is certainly an interesting time for me to be experimenting with my neurochemistry, as I only have a few days left at my current job and am also trying to ramp up on some projects at the AR startup while also juggling an interview process with a well-known and generally-beloved non-profit corporation that I’d love to work at – and so far that’s been going really well! I just hope my brain has stabilized again by the next interview, which is yet to be scheduled. Anyway I’m waiting for that to happen before I go up to 3x100mg of gabapentin.

Oh also I’m finally making progress on redoing my kitchen, which is way overdue. The previous owners had done a really cheap, low-quality job of refurbishing it about 10 years ago, and it’s all been falling apart. I’m taking the opportunity to finally fix some long-standing issues with it, like a lack of storage (caused by a ripple effect from a way-too-large sink) and also switching to a smaller refrigerator and dishwasher (freeing up more storage space). Also going to finally get a new range, with such perfect timing since the oven in the existing one has finally given up the ghost for good. Unfortunately there’s only one range available that actually fits in the space (due to the odd venting configuration) and going with a different solution would require a lot of compromises and be way more expensive (due to the aforementioned odd venting situation), but still, I think everything will be better in the long run.

In any case, given that I’ll soon be working from home most of the time again, it’ll be good to have a space where I can enjoy cooking for myself again.

(I’m also looking forward to getting back in the habit of buying bulk produce and unbutchered meat at my favorite restaurant supplier. And probably doing more sous vide again!)

Gabapentin, day 1

So, yesterday I finally got my prescription for gabapentin/Neurontin, as another attempt at managing my fibro symptoms. Took my first dose at 9 PM, and felt very tired and dizzy by 11 PM. Then still managed to not fall asleep until around 3 AM (I was definitely wide awake at 2, and my smart bed thing says I didn’t fall asleep until 3 so that seems believable).

I slept pretty okay although I had vivid dreams about unpleasant stuff, as always seems to be the case when my neurochemistry is being tampered with.

Woke up at 8 AM, couldn’t actually peel myself out of bed until half past 9, and I felt wobbly/dizzy/tired all day.

Pain was okay in the morning, but at 2:40 PM or so I had a flareup. It cleared up with a snack, though, and I kinda-sorta managed to get some actual work done, ish.

Went home at 6, had dinner, not sure where the past two hours went but I’m really tired and sleepy right now and also flaring like a matroncopulator, and it’s time for my next dose. Maybe I’ll sleep better/longer tonight and feel better tomorrow.

Bleah

So, the first two dosage tapers on my nortriptyline (40→30 and 30→20) went off without any trouble, but going down from 20→10 was really hard, to the extent that I decided to go back to 20 and keep using it for now. Basically, I had massive SNRI withdrawal symptoms, and also ended up being in severe pain all over. After two days of that I decided that maybe the nortriptyline is doing something for me after all, just not as much as I need it to, and went back to 20mg/day. I’m still feeling pretty hecked up from that so it’ll probably be a couple more days until I’m back up to where I was before.

Supposedly it’s okay to take both nortriptyline and gabapentin, so maybe I’ll try combination therapy once I’m back to my previous homeostasis (which was livable but not great).

Meanwhile, I really hope I’m able to do a song this weekend… it’s a gift for someone and I need it to be done by Monday, and I just plain haven’t had time to work on it.

Finally heading home

Wow, I’ve been traveling for most of the past week and a half. Aside from a brief stop back in Seattle between IndieWeb Summit and visiting San Francisco for family gatherings, I’ve mostly been away from home since June 28. Yikes.

I didn’t really get to see a lot of friends on the San Francisco side of things (although I had some good times with my brother and my friend Mark) but that’s okay, since I got a lot of stuff done on Publ. Or, specifically, on Authl, the authentication layer, and the Publ integration with it. I have sign-in by email, IndieLogin, and Mastodon working! I will also probably add direct auth for IndieAuth at some point, now that I know how easy it is to implement an OAuth basic authentication flow. Hopefully soon I’ll have friends-only entries going up on this site!

Pain-wise I’ve been doing a lot better. I’ve been tapering off the nortriptyline, but I’ve been taking magnesium supplements. I still hit a crash point in the evening pretty easily, so it’s not like this has, like, solved everything, but it’s at least doing more for me than the nortriptyline alone was. I’m currently at 20mg and taper down to 10mg tonight, so this is where I’ll probably start to see if it really was a placebo early on.

Gender-wise, something rather interesting has been happening this trip: I’ve been going into the men’s room as usual (because when I travel and am in “boy mode” clothing I don’t want to cause a panic), and pretty much every time, someone’s taken it upon themselves to point out that I was in the men’s room and redirected me to the women’s room. At the same time, I still keep getting “sir"ed a lot, although I don’t know how much of that is people changing their mental alignment for me after they hear my voice. (Probably a lot.) I don’t feel like my appearance has changed at all over the past year, so I dunno what’s going on there.

Also gender-wise, a lot of people have been respecting the use of she/her pronouns for me, and that just feels… off. Still. I think I’m back to thinking of they/them as my primary pronoun. Honestly, the main reason I switched to she/her was because if I was requesting they/them, people would just treat it as unspecified and still default to he/him. I think my way of specifying pronouns is going to switch to "they/them, but she/her is fine.” Because if someone’s going to misgender me I’d rather it go to the femme side of things.

And a really cute thing happened at my nephew’s 1st birthday party: Camille, one of my nieces (who just turned 6 yesterday), wanted to get to know me better, and the first question she asked me was, “Are you a he, a she, or a they?” And I sort of fumbled over things and I eventually said “it depends but ‘they’ and she are ‘fine.’” Anyway, I wonder where she picked that up from. Wherever it was, it fills me with hope for the future. It’s also what got my mind grinding away about, like, which situations call for which pronouns. I think generally it’s they/them for folks my age or younger, and she/her for folks who are stuck in their ways regarding “proper” English.

Anyway, I guess that’s all for now. Unless something else occurs to me in the next hour fifteen minutes, apparently before my flight boards.

Edit: oh yeah, I think I need to switch to a backpack as my only conveyance. They’re kind of cumbersome for keys and wallet and stuff but purses are heavy and lopsided, and having both a backpack and a small purse is really awkward. My current backpack is great for just carrying my laptop to work but it’s garbo for actually organizing all my needs. My larger purse carries my iPad and all my other regular needs but it hurts my back after a whole day of using it. Any recommendations for better backpacks (ideally ones which are femmy and have room for an iPad, a laptop, some sketchbooks, and makeup et al) would be appreciated. (The preceding Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Edit 2: oh and another thing: fuck all the plastic straw bans, seriously. I’m gonna start just carrying my own plastic straws with me everywhere. I swear, people see one injured sea turtle and suddenly all people with disabilities and sensory issues just get completely thrown under the bus…

Edit 3: oh god only 4 weeks until my next big trip why is everything happening all at once

Feelings

So, the last few days have been feeling a lot better overall. I’m not sure how much of that is reducing my nortriptyline dose or how much is because I’ve been taking magnesium regularly. But either way, I’m just like… in less agony. My wrists still hurt most of the time, especially after I’ve been working for a few hours, and I’m still driving to work more often than I’d like, but all in all I’m feeling, I dunno, better?

I was in a pretty dark place about a week ago and now things are just feeling like how they are on average for me in general, so to me that’s a pretty big improvement.

This weekend I’m going down to Portland for IndieWeb Summit and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I can improve my understanding of the current ecosystem, and maybe make some contributions to it which are important to me. In particular it’ll be nice to chat with Aaron and Jamey about our respective areas of overlapping interest, and talk everyone’s ear off about Publ and what I’m trying to do with it. Maybe I can even get others to want to contribute to it! Also definitely looking forward to meeting Jacky, Darius, and everyone else I’ve interacted with in IndieWeb stuff!

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Stuff, and things

Last night I had another mini-spiral, brought on by making a joke in someone’s chat that didn’t land at all well. Which set off a cascade of bad intrusive thoughts. But I’m over it now.

I did decide from that to cut down on the spaces I’m chatting in. I’m spread too thin and need to focus my attentions on the things that are important to me, rather than the things that simply take up time.

Today the Dove Self-Esteem Project posted another Steven Universe short, this one about social media, and it reminded me that I’m long-overdue for cleaning up my Twitter follows. Given that I have, um, rather a lot, it’ll take me a while to KonMarie my way through them, but I think it’ll be worth it.

This also comes back to a lot of what I’m dissatisfied with in social media and modern communication these days. Everything’s about instantaneous updates and push notifications and micro-posts and conversations and so on. It’s a big reason why I’m not a fan of ActivityPub. It’s also the part of the IndieWeb focus that I’m less thrilled about (granted, IndieWeb is about a lot of things, and it’s not like I have to participate in every part to still make a meaningful impact). I keep saying how someday I’ll get around to writing a blog entry about impedance mismatches between what I like about blogging and the ActivityPub/Webmention/etc. world. This isn’t that entry.

Anyway, this is the… third? I think? day of my nortriptyline reduction. Which is to say I’m still at 30mg. My doctor agrees that we should try something else. Gabapentin will probably be the next thing I try, since it’s something that a lot of my spoonie friends have said works well for them (with caveats). I probably won’t be starting on that until August, though; it’ll take me a few more weeks to taper off nortriptyline, and then I’ll be doing Song Fight! in Madison (and hopefully not being in complete agony between the travel and the playing guitar all weekend). Meanwhile I think the magnesium might be helping as well.

Tonight I did practice a bunch of my Song Fight! material and actually managed to play for a decent amount of time without suddenly finding myself in agony. Which was a nice surprise. So I’m feeling a lot more confident in being able to play a full set in a month. And meanwhile I’m still doodling around with music for games and stuff. So maybe this is a good sign of things to come.

I guess I’m feeling cautiously optimistic for now. Which is better than how I felt two days ago, I tell you what.

Improvement

So last night I kind of hit rock bottom, in that I was incredibly depressed and ruminating about every single mistake I’d made in life and so on. I had a good cry and went to bed at 10 PM (and didn’t use my CPAP because my nose was all stuffy), and then the next morning woke up at 6 AM, still feeling kinda like crap, and I stayed in bed until 7:30. But when I got up I felt better, and I ended up going to the grocery store at like 8 or so and bought stuff for making a decent breakfast for once.

Today was basically a self-care day, and I think between having reduced my nortriptyline dose, having gotten a full 8 hours' sleep, not having used CPAP, and having been taking magnesium supplements, well, at least one of those things helped out. And today I was… well, not pain-free, but lower pain than I’d felt in a while. This afternoon I ended up taking a brief walk and managed to go a lot further than usual, too, although it was still only like a mile total. But I didn’t feel completely worn out by it.

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