I’m incapable of taking an eyetest and not all news is good news

My left eye is a menace. It refuses to behave in eye tests so I’ve been to the optician 4 times during my ‘holiday’ and have had new glasses made twice; I’m still not convinced that the correction is right. I’m to give it another few days before I’m allowed a third test with a more experienced optometrist….I’m getting all the spiel from the regular staff about adjustment periods etc while I’m sat there wondering just how far away they are from my face and how bad the cross eyedness will be when I remove them this time. The first left lens was the wrong power and I suspect the second has a marginally wrong axis or centre of vision does not align, or, y’know, both, or neither. Lets face it, I don’t like change. 

The staff clearly think I’m some kind of nutter…the way this should work is, you get your new glasses, accept everything’s been done perfectly and just deal with the headaches, you don’t tell them all about it for god’s sake, and not repeatedly! I hope they are right and I don’t fall off my bike tomorrow.

What a nice headache-inducing way to spend my time off work. Sigh.

………..

It was my intention to be creative these two weeks, make something, create something, but inspiration has not been abundant and playing ‘ori and the blind forest’ took precedent. I’m shite at computer games at the best of times, but one on a PC without a controller is well beyond my skill level even on easy.much swearing has passed. 

So instead I downloaded a karaoke app that lets you record yourself singing along to the songs on your phone. So I did that, and recordings  (so far only k’s choice) are only available for a laugh on request because I kind of hate my voice and don’t want it here for posterity. I will say though that it’s annoying how few contralto alternative, indie and (+/-pop-) rock singers there are out there to copy ;p

………..

Also the depressed, anxious and otherwise unpredictable and neurotic dachshund who I was playing with, picking up and generally bonding with last week viciously bit the damned gardener on the leg on my birthday so considering her age and deteriorating behavioral problems, she was sadly wished all the best in her journey to the doggie afterlife 😦

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It is upsetting but being small and cute doesn’t mean a dog is immune from being dangerous. Responsible dog ownership means making difficult decisions. In a weird way, I’ll miss my mum’s snappy, growly little fluffball, but not nearly as much as she will.

………

In other news, for a change and to build my confidence, I rode the Highland pony today while my friend rode ‘the beast’ that is Buster, but they were both like lazy angelic horses the whole ride so that was lovely and relaxing for all. 

Now thanks to said pony my knee injury that I’ve been trying to ignore for a few weeks is niggling again. Dammit. 34 and griping about my joints and singing karaoke at home alone. How did it come to this??? 

Gastroscopy timeline (educational but not so fun)

Oversharing warning!!!

Description of an unpleasant medical procedure on a health anxiety sufferer – Get out now while you still can and go read about puppies instead!

Ever wondered what it’s like to have a camera down your throat? Well, it’s about as fun as you imagine it to be, but it’s not painful, and it’s not deadly and even a freakshow like me can go through with it whilst conscious…so…I reckon pretty much anyone can do it.

Here’s my timeline:

T-6 hours, breakfast and 1mg diazepam 

T-2 hours, last water plus 2mg diazepam

T-1 hour, leave for the hospital

T,  taken for blood pressure and pulse check 

T+45 mins, still browsing the oatmeal for amusing distractions, wishing i’d taken more valium

T+50 mins, taken to the theatre

T+55 mins given lidocaine throat spray and description of what will happen, seriously wishing i’d taken more valium.

T+60 mins, mouth guard in, tube in, and around 4 mins of weirdness and wretching while I hyperventilated and set off the heartrate alarm and the consultant took a video and three biopsies. I wasn’t allowed to watch the screen while they did it 😦 

T+65 mins, breathing and heartrate returning back to normal, results explained (stomach polyps, no sign of reflux), and released home.

T+4 hours, unnecessary irrational concern that the sudden rise in heart rate might have caused damage. 

T+13 hours, wake up overheated, wander around looking for thermometer in case I have a deadly fever. Cant find one, go back to sleep because it’s probably just the valium wearing off. 

T+18 hours, eat breakfast but discover mild vague stomach soreness and consider perforation, cancel horse riding, even though it’s probably muscular pain from the wretching.

T+20 hours, order myself a cute handbag as a reward for being so brave yesterday

T+24 hours, observe dull heartburny chest discomfort that I worry is either my heart or some esophageal tear. Take gaviscon, it gets better.

T+30 hours, starting to get a grip because I’m not displaying any dangerous symptoms…still checkimg temperature and avoiding exertion :/

****

I’m intrigued as to the biopsy results but expect them to be normal..Someone could have told me they were going to check for celiac because I’ve been gluten free for over a month! I also anticipate another day or so of vague discomfort while my insides heal from the bruising and the little fleshy chunks they cut out. Lets be honest here through, even if these mild and largely non-worrysome symptoms don’t improve overnight I’ll still be on the phone for some medical reassurance as soon and the department opens tomorrow! I like to get my money’s worth out of the NHS!
 

Phew! What an adventure. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not voulenteering for another any time soon. I highly recommend the sedative that I declined this time. If there’s a next time I want to be out cold (as long as I can control my tube pulling-out reflex).

Indecisive miscellany 

At the traffic lights a middle aged woman siddled up to me and positively beamed about the Rolls Royce that had just driven by. Wasn’t it glorious! Her brother had owned one back in the day because he was quite well off, don’t you know, but not she. Oh no, she was a humble lady, proud to have built up her organisation by talking to 750 people in 32 different countries, and not a smart phone in sight! Not like those immoral noxious drivers who won’t change their selfish habits until they kill someone. 

And then the lights changed and I bid her farewell.

I really need to stop making eye contact with strangers while my bike is static.

Pickledsparklymooseprincess et al. Is out at a reputable journal near you now. It comes with metrics too, some kind of mesmerising social experiment on manuscript popularity and self-indulgence….so exactly how many people have tweeted about my findings, how many news sites are relaying our message? More importantly, why do i care? The work speaks for itself, the scientific community will either accept, digest, cite and build, or disagree, overlook, or seek to prove us wrong. And yet I keep on checking of anyone has ‘liked’ that tweet by #healthypartidgesnutterideology*

I’m favouring the Oxford comma these days. For no real reason except a dry need to jazz up my punctuation parties.

(I’m wearing the parenthesis costume so don’t even think about it.)

This ongoing dietary adventure is somewhat of a sideshow. All “gluten-free” this and “dairy-free” that and all I want to do is lay in bed eating apple pie with icecream chased by an Irish coffee. When hunger strikes it’s not a lesson in exploration but in stock-taking and problem-solving. An academic exercise in keeping myself preoccupied with anything else but fixation on this shameless digestive oppression. 

A word of unsolicited advice if I may though: when at a wedding and rolling your eyes at everyone throwing themselves around to the likes of ‘five’ or ‘sclub7’ don’t be pulled into telling anyone what kind of music you like because to a wedding dj, rock/metal/electronica is a metaphor for Bryan Adams and bloody Bon Jovi. And having effectively ‘requested’ this shit, someone’s dad is gonna make damned sure you dance to it even though you’re dying inside. 

*fictional, or at least presumed fictional. 

Ps. It is probably clear that I  don’t know how twitter works…please don’t mock me, at least I didn’t draft a 400 character tweet (I’m looking at you boss lady) 

Restricting for the good of my gut?

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the need for a sprawling rant about how everything is pissing me off, but such a mood has descended yet again.

The issue is my damned digestive system. So you know about the drama with the failed endoscopy, for which I have to go chat to a specialist on Monday, but that’s not the issue right now, the big problem is that for ‘ibs’ symptoms I have to do a low FODMAP elimination diet for 4 weeks. You probably don’t know what this diet is and I hope you never have to find out in detail. You have to cut out certain types of food including wheat, dairy, some fruits and veggies, plus onion and garlic. This on top of the no coffee, alcohol or citrus that my stomach requires. It’s basically a torturously strict set of dietary rules with the result that you can basically only eat potato and rice for 4 weeks. Maybe I’m exaggerating but today is day one and I’m utterly fed up. Being vegetarian plus low FODMAP and lactose free is a big challenge, and one that I do not relish. We went to the supermarket especially to stock up of special foods for me, only for me to realise today that a few of them I’m not actually allowed to eat because they have a banned ingredient hidden in them (no fair!!) the strawberry jam was a particular disappointment and I nearly smashed the damned jar right there and then for containing fructose syrup. The wheat-free cake (contains milk) and dairyfree icecream (contains lupin) are currently at risk of violence because I  chose them specifically, I want to eat them, but I can’t. I’ll have some vegan cola sweets instead and give my teeth and blood glucose a nice surprise. I’ve discovered that rice noodles are no substitute for wheat noodles and that gluten free bread is a whole other food group that appears to only contain dry, slightly sweet non-doughy produce. If I’m required to dine out this month I’ll be restricted to a gluten free pizza or a baked potato with a glass of water….how very exciting indeed. I have to attend a wedding and didnt tell them I was going to be wheat-free and onion and garlic-free so I’m going to have to just suck it up and eat what I’m served unless it’s literally onion soup with bread because, no, that really doesn’t sound very clever….and cue rolling around on the hotel room floor waiting for the abdominal pains to pass….

My belly already feels a bit better and this pisses me off because I don’t want to have to cut out any of these things indefinately. That and I’m hiccupping like a motherfucker so I guess it’s just a choice between reflux or ibs these days. 

If anyone is reading then please send moral fortification because it’s not yet been 24 hours and I want out from this restrictive hell hole! 

On an unrelated topic, my latest manuscript got accepted and the next edition of pickledsparklymooseprincess et al will appear soon In a biology journal near you. I will celebrate this weekend with some strong rooibos tea and oat biscuits maybe followed up with a gaviscon chaser. Living the dream. 

Don’t even think about eating apple pie in front of me right now, I won’t be held accountable for my actions.

I didn’t think Poland was too bad until I got cream in my juice and anchovies instead of artichoke

As you might guess, I’m in Poland.

Right now I’m not ecstatic to be here.

Upon arrival everything seemed fine. Flight, train and taxi stuff was fine, hotel is nice, I met up with some people. Then I lost my cardigan somewhere and we went to a dinner with host lab members that I was expecting to be tomorrow, but nevermind. I thought it would be fine as I’d breezed through the whole traveling bit without any panic or even strong anxiety, I was a-ok.

At the restarant (feeling a bit chilly from my absentee cardigan) I decided to tell people that I don’t drink alcohol so I wouldn’t get pressured to drink, and picked a ‘fruit cocktail’ which from the name,I understood would be fruit blended together….but what arrived was about 50% cream. I can’t digest lactose, so after a couple of tastes I decided I’d have to get another drink but as I wasn’t paying I felt guilty, so just had water….

Time to order food then, so i picked a pizza and listed off my four chosen toppings: spinach, black olives, pines nuts and artichoke.

Fab.

Then the food arrives but this wasn’t any kind of artichoke ive ever seen…I mean, it looked fishy…so I enquired and yes it was anchovies…..so I politely said that I has asked for artichoke not anchovy (I’d even pointed to the word on the menu) ane the waitress just looked at me and and said ‘is that a problem?’ so I had to say, yes dear, yes it is…I am vegetarian, I don’t eat fish!

So grumpy faced off she went to fetch me a replacement…it turned up quite quickly and I had a quick scan and no, they hadn’t just taken off the fish and added artichoke because this one didn’t have pine nuts…OK close enough. It tasted fine even though it probably had someone’s spit in it. The problem was then that I’d got hungry waiting and was shivering, and making terrible conversation through my pained expressions of embarrassment and anxiety.

The afternoon started off so peacefully and degenerated into something monsterous thats going to give me a belly ache.

Wish me luck. I have to navigate breakfast without any surprise lactose or meat products and then give a presentation to an unknown sized crowd tomorrow (n>10) without meltdown. Maybe forgoing valium was a bad idea.

Sigh. Challenging anxieties isn’t always triumphant is it? :S

A train of horrific consciousness

I’m not sure what happens when I get of public transport, it’s some kind of portal to a hellish dimension where all of my deepest fears come to haunt me, taunt me, mock me make getting from a to b some epic ordeal involving the hypothetical hopebole of unquestionable and unfathomable terror. So this is what’s going though my head as the world whizzes by and that uncomfortable gurgling in my stomach makes itself more known, ever-growing in its attempt to push me to that unthinkable orifice that is the train toilet. It’s not like the splatters of mud on the windows remind me of the blood or anything, that was so long ago you’d think I’d be over it by now and why the fuck have I run off the margin? Well that’s just bumble bimble, elegantly unruly. I was wondering how long it would take to degenerate into random words and there we have it; a fine example of explosive vocabular diarrhea. The fields of rape are so bright I think my retinas are being burned out. Some billions of tiny trumpet-headed blossoms tossing their pungent pollen into the world and waiting for it to sneeze. Anything to take away the focus on the suspect stains in the carpet that could as easily be coffee and lemonade as shit and piss and the dust of some thousands of commuters’ skin and lice explode with every movement. Gusts of undiscovered bacteria, jumping into my personal space where they have no right to be. Keep breathing! It doesn’t matter how many flakes of the dead you inhale, how many spores or motes. They will get you in the end whether your breaths are deep or shallow. The ticket inspector provides a moment’s respite, but his charming youthful demeanour serves only to remind me that I’m not so young any more and that one day someone else will be breathing in my dead skin from this seat. What a comforting thought, don’t you think? He stammered when he caught my eye. I’m going to guess that he got a glimpse of the madness and a momentary fear about what I could be so feverishly writing. Indeed. If only you knew young man. If only you knew how torturous and deadly this ungodly giant metal horse without legs really was. I won’t break his spell, maybe he doesn’t need to know. Maybe no-one does. I wished I didn’t and could just blissfully breathe and lean against the window in reckless abandon, feeling the cool glass against my cheek instead of feeling my damned hand cramp up like a motherfucker because I haven’t written so much so fast since my exams some 11 years ago.
I transcribed these words into WordPress to stop the electric currents of my paranoia from stepping up, and then it happened.
The four most dreaded words in public transport even for a normal person: rail replacement bus service.
I’m sat at the back even though I know I’ll probably feel more sick but at least I can see all the other lizard passengers from here, I know they can’t read what I’m typing. I know they can’t see me. Those fears I had about the train toilet now pale in significance as I start to fear that my bladder might be getting full but there is no lav on this noisy ramshackle wheeled behemoth, and the only place for wee to exist is inside one’s bladder or on the seats that have been peed on so many times before. Did you know that as a child I refused to take long journeys because I was afraid I would need a wee? A tragic consequence of recurrent cystitis that resembles quite well the nervous wringing that comes with such journeys as this.

If you’ve read this far then I’m impressed. Now maybe learn the lesson that no, it doesn’t always get better and no, there isn’t always a point. Sorry folks,  sometimes it’s just melted words.

It’s getting very hot in here. A little too hot. I mean, I seriously wonder if the bus is on fire by why hasn’t the driver noticed? I swapped seats but the heat seems to be following me. I can’t remove my jumper else my skin will be in contact with the seat! Finally I find a cooler seat buy it comes with bonus ingrained gum, smeared in-between the pair. I want us to travel both slower and faster.

Uh-oh maybe that was a bad move. I opened a window, not only touching the sullied surface but also letting in the local farming smell. How are people sat there in there coats? So glad I’ve got the whole back of the bus to play musical chairs with so I can pretend I’m not totally trapped on here until Norwich. Noone has turned around to glare about the window so maybe they were secretly overheated too but they knew that there was ebola on the damned window pull. Better get my antibacterial antiviral handfoam out…I promised my therapist I’d hold off on doing that but it’s been minutes and it might be too late to save myself now!

How much longer can I keep this monologue up? Much longer that you can read so I’ll listen to some Tool instead.

Crimes against lab organisation – a sample mystery

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This post will probably read like a really unsatisfying, shitty, nerdy mystery case. Or, y’know, another of my snoozeworthy diaristic geek fests.

The lab kids seem to be playing a belated April fools.

Someone in the past few days has left lots unlabeled samples in an old freezer box that was previously used for a potent toxin (that I was due to replenish). Someone used one of the mystery tubes, believing that it was said toxin. It was not. The new bottle of powder of said poison remains untouched.
Mystery and Intrigue. Oooh!
So I put on my miss Marple glasses, ready to dish out some justice, and I interrogated each lab member in turn, but they all have the same story- it wasn’t me guv.
I’m not that far gone that I believe pixies made some random aliquots (we all know that laboratory pixies only mess up my bench and switch around my buffers and shit like that), so that means someone isn’t telling the truth, and it’s probably that monster that leaves random white powders all over the balance too (everyone always says it wasn’t them) that sometimes have me reaching for the risk assessment forms. It’s someone with poor pipetting skills too…those damned aliquots are different volumes! Using my excellent analytical and deductional (is that a word? Maybe deductive is more like an english adjective) reasoning has led me to my prime suspect, but I have no evidence. It’s all circumstantial.

No-one seems able to fathom why anyone would commit such a terrible crime against lab organisation and chemical cataloguing. Someone must be protesting too much…

Someone is either having psychotic episodes, or is in fact a lying turd bag. It’s got one of the students questioning their sanity, I mean, you’d remember doing that wouldn’t you? You’d REMEMBER DAMMIT!  right?

Sorry mate, I can’t get to the bottom of this mystery with the means at my disposal. I’m disappointed that I do not have enough gravitas to coax the truth out, but I guess the red and purple hair and new flared jeans won’t be helping me any with that.

Now I know how police officers must feel when they know their prime suspect is guilty but they can’t arrest them or they’ll lose their job! According to the employees handbook no enhanced interrogation techniques are allowed either so I guess we’ll never know for sure. But I’ll be watching….

Mystery samples will not be tolerated!

Home improvements

I don’t know how long it took me to re-grout the shower. All I know is that it took almost to the second, the length of the extended edition of High Violet, with which I presume you are familiar.

The spare living room paint has shrivelled into a husk of extinction (may or may not have involved some shoddy lid closing) and I am somehow supposed to determine which alternative colour is a suitable replacement. Everything is either too pink, too pale too bright or too blue. I’m not sure which is the lesser evil. Why can’t homebase perpetually sell a shade called truffle that in no way resembles an actual truffle?

It’s largely academic because today encompassed the challenge of bedroom repainting, and that colour choice was stressful enough. What actually was the current shade? Did we want that or one shade lighter? Silk/sheen/matt? Well. I suspect we went with shade 3 because it’s just a better number than 4, and soft sheen because that was a halfway house between silk and matt, and chosing one extreme of the shiny vs matt spectrum was just a bit too dangerous for a Tuesday.

When you choose a finish for your interior paints, you consider how dark the room is, how you want it to feel and how shiny you’d like it to look. What you probably don’t think about (and you really should) are how good your plaster or plasterboard are, and how skillfully you can paint.

I can tell you for free that if you have dodgy plaster or minimal painting and rollering (phone wanted to write toileting there…) skills then for the love of god’s large and small, don’t buy silk. Or soft sheen. Matt is your friend (well he’s SO’s friend actually but I guess by proxy he is mine also) and the paint variety (rather than the wedding planning variety) will cover a multitude of sins, the latter will cover only one night of wine, but I guess that could entail several sins if you really go for it.

I digress. The sheen on the wall shows each paint stroke, magnificently reflecting every speck and weird kink in the plasterboard. I think it’s an improvement on the silk I did last time but I’m not sure that the ends justified the amount of muscle ache that it cost. I should have gambled on the possible oppressive claustrophobia of the matt finish, but we live and learn. At least I can fill out a box for tomorrow’s therapy session saying how I finally achieved something that wasn’t just sitting on my royal arse feeling sorry for myself. But now of course I’m kicking myself for the paint choice and lack of skill. Apparently I’m not supposed to do that, but really, feeling a bit crap about it now aught to remind me the next time that paint buying comes around that I cannot be trusted to gauge the situation. I’m not even sure why I ended up painting the bedroom when the hallway and bathrooms have the greater need.

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Sigh.

I have definitely earned an episode of Lucifer after all that. If that means nothing to you, It’s an Amazon series about a character concocted by Neil Gaiman.

Annnyway I will take my painting-induced angina (heartburn? Probably heartburn…right?), and grief and bid you adeiu.

Parrots with bad attitudes and Dragons with razor teeth

I’m going at this new course of CBT (cognative behavioural therapy) all wrong.

I know it.

I don’t like my new therapist much, and I’m increasingly reminded about why I hated CBT before and why it was so unhelpful.

What it boils down to is that I’m not stupid, in fact I have a higher than average intelligence (not my opinion, this is evidence-based) and find it intolerable to be patronised or condescended.

In principle, the theory of CBT aught to work in many cases, but only if the therapist can intuit when the patient wants to punch them in the face, and take the therapy a bit off the beaten track.

This week I was asked if I knew what the diaphragm was. Erm Biology doctorate? Then had diaphragmatic breathing demonstrated. Honestly, I expected more. I can only imagine that my face exhibited the single raised eyebrow of derision.

I can be such a bitch but unfortunately it slips out when my tolerance threshold gets approached. Maybe I should explain.

As an ex-flautist, my natural way of breathing is deeply from the diaphragm, I would like to know breathing exercises, eg how many seconds to breathe in/out/hold, some visualisation or mantra or something but no, I got told to breathe like I do anyway. I’m not convinced she knows anything further than that. I was promised muscle relaxation techniques too but I suspect that involves ‘just relax your muscles and you will feel relaxed’, in the simplistic style of delivery I am coming to expect from CBT.

I was given a handout that came complete with cartoons – perfect for your children who have anxiety problems. Apparently I have a toxic bullying parrot in my head and if I ignore it I will be calm and happy.

Cheers for that. I’m not pissing myself with laughter at this idea at all. Nope. Not one bit.

What she doesn’t realise is I don’t have a parrot, I have a dragon (see blog header for a portrait of the beast), and it doesn’t bully me, it messes my personality about and makes quite compelling and intelligent conversation.

I also don’t think that I like the idea that you have no control over your thoughts. For example, let’s say that you keep thinking about killing yourself. Then magically by the power of CBT you start ignoring that thought… I mean, that seems a bit off-piste to me…aren’t you better off dealing with why you feel like that and changing your thought patterns rather than accepting you will repeatedly have those thoughts forever?

The therapist seems baffled by some of my problematic anxious thoughts because she sees them as relatively realistic – as in – there is  a historical reason why I think those thoughts, so they aren’t disordered. Erm, so…that means I don’t have health anxiety? I’m really not convinced about that. I have stomach pains (from suspected gastritis) so I avoid loads of things (foods / drinks/ medications/travelling/social meals/drinks) to avoid the prospect of stomach pains that will most likely not happen but could and she thinks that’s ok? I’ll wager she doesn’t know enough about these physical conditions (gastritis / ibs) and how they relate to anxiety so just tells me that they might not get any better after therapy. So….what exactly am I doing here if you keep telling me that this doesn’t work for everyone and physical symptoms that perpetuate anxiety will not be improved?

I came out with what I consider to be a highly relevant and important statement. That I suspect that I allow myself to get very anxious because I want an excuse to be imperfect. I have had something ‘wrong’ with me since 15 and it’s been touted as why my exam grades slipped, why I got a 2:1, why I struggled so much during my PhD. Maybe I’m just not the best at stuff after all – and I cannot accept failure. Hence I do not try to control my anxiety as it gives me a nice get-out clause. What about that then Ms therapist lady?

Well. She wasn’t interested in that theory at all. She just thinks I’m too harsh on myself and that self-criticism is bad. The ONLY thing she wrote down this session was when I said that I felt self-criticism could be a good thing. A concept utterly alien to her – that the inability to see and accept one’s own flaws turns one into an arrogant narcissistic douche. The ability to self-criticise is inbuilt in any half decent scientist (or artist, or y’know… human being) – you judge what you have done, your level of ability, your qualities and you think about how it can be improved (or ruminate of how it cannot if you so choose)- that is the instigator of progress and understanding of the shortfalls of others- realisation that things are not perfect. Am I getting through here???

I’m trying to stick with it – but I feel  I am being asked the wrong questions. I’ll fill out the inane homework things I’ve been asked to complete but in addition I will write something about the stuff that I think is relevant.

Chronic anxiety for me is not all about a single thought or situation that happens every week- I may not have a panic attack during the whole course of treatment – but the problem comes from big overwhelming thoughts that rarely specifically get triggered but are always lurking in the wings, hovering and ruminating and  stopping you from living your life. And that is what I will write about.

Does anyone know the trick of getting off one’s high horse and trying to accept that very simplistic and superficial things might be helpful?