Adventures in Mental Health Care

You may have noticed from the fact I’ve flaked recently, but Wellbutrin stopped working in a big way. It did a great job removing depression at first – which unmasked an underlying anxiety that increased and increased and increased. Then it stopped working on the depression. Sigh.

My day job has spent the past several months jabbing the rage, depression, and anxiety buttons nearly constantly. It’s got to the point where I have nightmares about it, which added insomnia to the list. Double sigh.

And my doctor is on sabbatical so she can spend time with her kids. Triple sigh.

Image is a cat collapsed face-down on the back of a sofa. Caption says, "I love you, couch. You understand me."

It’s really hard to cope with change when you’re super-depressed and anxious, so it took me a while to work up the courage to go through the process of getting a new doctor. Luckily, a friend at work went from all storm clouds all the time to near-blissful happiness, and her doctor was accepting new patients. I saw her Tuesday. I bloody love both her and the new clinic. She was a lot more prompt and thorough than my previous doctor. She found me something that will, with any luck, destroy both the anxiety and the depression in one go. We’re phasing out Wellbutrin. I’ve got some Xanax to fill in the gaps while the new stuff gears up to full effect. She listened to me when I told her my tiny little body burns through ordinary doses of drugs in a flash, and dosed accordingly. And she also sent me down the hall to the lab to get my thyroid tested, which I’d meant to ask for and completely forgotten. I love docs who actually look for other underlying causes rather than just assuming you’re mental.

She assessed me for bipolar, what with my mother’s history, and assures me it doesn’t sound like that’s me. A bit SAD, depressed and anxious, yes, but the Dread Disease is not mine. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I was terrified I’d end up in my mother’s shoes someday. Sounds like that bullet’s been dodged.

So that’s one doctor I hope sticks around for absolute ages, because I already love her. And I love the lab tech, who shoved a needle in my arm without even a pinprick of pain. I have no idea how she did it. Maybe voodoo. And then, I was able to skip a few steps down the hall and fill my Xanax prescription right there in their own pharmacy, in five minutes. Gorgeous.

While the Venlafaxine works its way up to therapeutic doses, I’m self-medicating with Buffy and sewing. Side effects have me sleeping more than usual and feeling wonky, but they’re not bad and getting better as my body adjusts. Communication comes in bursts, so my apologies to those who’ve been waiting to hear from me – I’ll be contacting you soon! My brain will begin functioning adequately to do more than one thing at a time with a big rest between, so blogging will ramp up to full capacity soon.

And, biggest news: I’ll be leaving my dread day job soonish, no later than the end of summer at the outside and likely much earlier, so you’ll have much more of me. Yes, my darlings: I’m gonna make a go of writing at last. Also, sewing. And swag. And prints. I figure with all that and a lot of shameless self-promotion, plus having some of you spread the word to folks who might enjoy my stuff, I should be able to mostly make it. I’ll probably pick up a part-time job to pay some of the bills and get me out of the damn house, but it won’t be the constant stress marathon my day job has been, and not nearly the drain on my time.

Thank you, Obamacare, for making it possible for me to make that move. And thank you, my darlings, for being there while I struggled my way to a point where this can even be considered. Without you, I wouldn’t risk it. With you cheering me on, I’m willing to leap that cliff and see if I can sprout wings.

If not, people will always need a friendly voice on the phone to walk them through technical stuff, so I’ve got a fallback. I’d say no worries, but I’m a native worrier, so I’ll just say, few worries.

Thank you for being patient with my vanishing acts. I shall return with much substance soon. For now, you’ll get more pretty pictures, and I’m off to have another dose of Buffy. Laters!

These Aren’t Weeds, They’re Easy-Care Flowers – Plus Daffodils

Later in summer, the boys will have to start mowing their back yard. But for now, it’s a wonderland of tall grass and beautiful wild flowers.

Image shows a dandelion and purple archangel blooming side-by-sideThey’ve got some gorgeous ones in the front yard, too. These daffodils are the strangest I’ve seen in a long while.

Image shows a daffodil with white outer petals, and a shallow corona that's yellow in the center and red on the very outer edges

I’m used to them having coronas that extend out like the bell of a trumpet, but this one’s tiny.  The flower barely seems 3-dimensional.

Daffodil nodding over another plant in the lawn

See – if you look at them from the side, the corona almost vanishes.
Cluster of daffodils

And one had a wee spider hanging out behind its bloom.

Daffodil with a tiny brown spider on its stem behind the flowerI usually don’t think of daffodils as brooding, but this one certainly looks like it’s deeply contemplative.

Drooping daffodil

They’re really lovely, and it’s only just the beginning. The Pacific Northwest spring, summer and fall are all full of flowers. Many of them might be considered weeds by flower bed purists, but I think they’re all wonderful. We’ll have lots.

Mount Si and the Three Rivers

Spring adventuring has begun now that the rain pauses for minutes at a time. B and I buggered off from work on Saturday and headed out to the North Bend area for a little adventuring. Alas, our favorite eatery there has closed, but there’s a Herfy’s in Fall City, and the Three Forks Natural Area is right there. We adjusted plans accordingly.

If you’re ever in the area, do stop by here on a relatively clear day. The views of Mount Si from various spots are sublime. Here’s one across a field of dandelions.

Image shows Mount Si, a field full of bright yellow dandelions, and skies with big fluffy white clouds One day, I will bring my lounge chair, and sit in this field, and just watch the light change on Mount Si. Those cliffs turn cloud shadow and sunbreaks into poetry.

So there are acres and acres of riparian and wetland habitats here, plus an off-leash dog park, plus this field. Part of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail goes through it. The trail is on an old railroad bed, and a railroad bridge is still there. After being startled by a woodpecker working a sign post, we made it to the bridge, and lingered there for a bit.

View of Mount Si up the Snoqualmie River with trusses of the railroad bridge in the foreground.Getting to the river was a bit rough – the overflow channels are still muddy and treacherous – but we found the trail I used last year and got to the water. Mount Si presided over the view just as it did before.

Mount Si from the Snoqualmie River bank

The river chewed up a good portion of the bank this winter. We’ll see how it changes later, as the level goes down, and things settle.

On the way back to the exit, there are amazing views of the mountain from the main trail. Since the leaves haven’t quite come in, it’s not obscured.

Mount Si framed by trees

And then there was this tableau with a white flowering tree.

Mount Si with a flowering tree.

The meadow you’re glimpsing in those shots is the one we were in at the start.

Gotcha a close-up with more of the cliff and the flowering tree branches in the foreground.

Detail of Mount Si's cliffs and the tree

It was one of those perfect spring days, where it’s warm but not hot, and smells amazing (aside from the occasional whiff of horse stable), and there’s a breeze and birds and the whole universe feels like it’s bursting at the seams with life. The endless gray is just about over. And we’ve got plans to flee to the mountains this summer, since it promises to be hot. We’re headed to Mount St. Helens in early May, and we’ll be doing some sweet Cascades action, Mount Rainier, possibly Mount Baker, and if we’re very very lucky, some Olympics. We’re also trying to swing a visit to New Hampshire to see Evelyn. It’s going to be eventful, and we’ll have plenty of gorgeous stuff to show ye.

Spring Life with Kitties

Easing my way back from spring break. This week shall be a little light fare, in which I will share fun and pretty pictures with you, and link to other people’s hard work in order to provide a bit of substance. Sort of like taking you out for dinner, but serving dessert at home. I hope you’re in the mood for sweet, because I have definitely got it.

Spring’s finally arrived. There are dandelions blooming all over the place, and Luna’s enjoying her first spring with them.

Image shows Luna sniffing a dandelion seed head

She was a bit flummoxed by it at first, but really got in to it after the initial WTF.

Image shows Luna mellowing out with the seed head

On nice days, both kitties spend a lot of time in B’s back yard. There are trees and rhodies and other sorts of bushes ringing it, and a nice expanse of wild grass around the deck. We spent a barefoot bit of time out there, watching the kitties play. It strikes me that this is the first time I’ve really run around barefoot in Washington.

I didn’t have to worry about stepping on bees. Luna was on the job, chasing them around.

Luna on her hind legs, trying to catch a bumblebee I don’t think she really understood what she was dealing with. It was bloody adorable – although probably not so much from the bee’s perspective.

Whilst Luna sniffed seed heads, fled the dandelion seeds I blew at her, and chased bees, Kirby inspected the perimeter.

Kirby pacing atop the garden divider.

He’s become the Responsible Adult™. When Luna’s outside, he’s usually nearby, ensuring she doesn’t get in to trouble. He might shop himself out to the neighbors, hoping that laying on the cute nice and thick will result in treats, and he loves a good ramble round the neighborhood, but Luna doesn’t get to enjoy these things. He hovers. He worries. He’s hilarious.

He also doesn’t know how to sniff a dandelion.

Kirby sniffing my fingers instead of the dandelion I'm holding out.

I’m certain he was looking for treats in them thar fingers. Then I tapped him with the flower, and he was all like, “What? What am I supposed to do? WHERE ARE THE TREATS???”

Kirby turning his head away from the dandelion, which is not a treat.

Finally, he posed properly, in hopes that this would earn him a treat.

Kirby finally sniffs the dandelionHe’s only ever about the treats these days. He’s learned how to snooker the household, going to each resident and guest individually, and claiming he has had no treats that day. He works the cute and sweet until he gets what he wants. It’s obvious it’s worked, as he has gained about 5,000 pounds. His kitty daddies are now restricting his treat intake, which means he’s resorted to waking B up by scratching and howling at the door, in hopes that sleep deprivation will break his will.

Meanwhile, Luna was busy stalking the dog next door.

Luna standing on the lower branches of a large rhodie, watching the neighbor's dog from concealment.

She took a few moments out to wonder what on earth I expected her to do with the large yellow tickly thingy on a long stem.

Luna giving the dandelion I'm holding a funny look.

She’s going to look ginormous when she finishes growing, but she’ll vanish if we get her wet. She’s all whisper-soft fluff. It makes her head, which is mostly short-haired (aside from her ears), look ridiculously tiny.

The B household has a new laser pointer kitty toy, which drives Kirby batshit. He can’t understand why he can’t catch the thing. Here he thinks he’s pinned it down on his trackball cat thingy.

Kirby trying to pin down the laser light atop his ball-inna-circle toy.

I drove Misha nuts with the reflection from a Kindle screen on the porch last year. I love how kitties respond to moving light.

Speaking of Misha, she is well. A bit skinny and stiff in her old age, but still able to gallop madly through the house at times, fight, occasionally play with string, and definitely loves getting high.

Misha standing half-under a chair, with very wide eyes.

This was right after she ate a lot of catnip and was staring around the place like there were all sorts of new and bizarre things in it.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time as a cat-bed lately.

Misha lying atop me with her legs stretched out and eyes closed, looking very smug

It’s nice, most of the time. I catch up on reading or sewing or suchlike, and she purrs away, and we are very snug. She even lets me beep her nose without undue violence.

Misha lying atop me, getting her nose beeped.

And she watches Buffy with me whilst I work on the scarves I’ll be selling as part of my home-based business scheme. Sometimes, Buffy even watches her.

Misha lying atop me while Buffy plays on the computer next to the bed. Buffy, Willow and Zander appear to be staring at her in horror.

Mind you, this isn’t always our lives. Sometimes, I have to get up to pee. Sometimes, she does. Sometimes, I go round catching up on the housecleaning, and she follows me around yowling, wondering WTF has gotten in to me. She’s been very curious of late, exploring more than she has in years, willing to try new things. I like this. It’s nice to know her brain’s still ticking over nicely.

We’ve done things other than pal around with cats, but not much. Cats are great for helping soothe away the cares of the world, and assist in the mental recharge that is spring break. I expect the lazy hangout times will continue well into summer. It’s part of what makes life worthwhile.

Spring Break

Lessee… Behind in research, writing, communication, housecleaning, and catching B up on Doctor Who. I’m afraid that means it’s time for

Image shows an alligator  leaping from a river. Caption says, "Spring break!"

I hate to do it, but I’ve gotta take the week off to catch up. I may pop in with a bit here and there, because I’ll miss you. But expect light fare, until I return bearing the meatiest posts I can muster.

See you soon, my darlings!

 

An Obvious Alternative

You know, maybe we should be debating abortion after all. We sometimes get so hung up on the way things are and the way we think they should be that we forget there’s more than one way to solve our problems. Yes, it’s true that there isn’t a lot of common ground between anti-abortion and pro-choice folks. One side wants to prevent pregnant people from getting abortions, and the other doesn’t want to force pregnant folk to be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. So what do you do with an unplanned pregnancy, eh?

But maybe there’s a way to prevent most abortions AND not force unwillingly pregnant people from staying pregnant. Maybe there’s a third way. Mimmoth has an innovative idea:

Perhaps we have been asking, over and over and over, the wrong question.

If we are going to deprive people of bodily autonomy to save wonderful wonderful fetuses from death there is an obvious alternative that we, as clear-eyed skeptics willing to question tradition and religion, should be examining–an alternative that causes less harm and does more good, as it benefits not only women, but also men.

The question we ought to be asking is, should we sterilize men to save wonderful wonderful fetuses from death?

Every man over the age of puberty would make a few sperm donations, which are frozen away, then promptly be vasectomized, period, no exceptions. The frozen sperm is saved for when he and his partner decide together to have a child. In the meantime, never again need a man fear being tapped for child support for a child he didn’t consent to. And never again need a woman fear being made to endure pregnancy and labor for a child she didn’t consent to.

It’s true that this would deprive more people of bodily autonomy–all men instead of one third of women. But the harm would be much smaller. Instead of vomiting through nine months of pregnancy and screaming through eighteen hours of labor we would be talking about a half-hour visit to the doctor’s office, of which the shaving would be the most time-consuming part of the procedure.

With every child a deliberate decision on the part of both parents, abortions plummet–not quite to zero, alas, as there are those rare tragedies when a wanted pregnancy goes badly awry–but by easily 90-99%. Surely that is cause for rejoicing, if saving wonderful wonderful fetuses from death was actually the point.

And it may turn out, when it’s men’s bodily autonomy we’re talking about stripping away, that bodily autonomy is important after all, so we’ll live with abortion on demand and without apology. That’s also okay with me.

#UpForDebate

Brilliant! There is so much win here. MRAs could stop whining about getting spermjacked – they’d never have to worry about that again! Fetus worshippers could rest easier, knowing that the only “babies” being “killed” would be ones where it was self-defense. Women wouldn’t have to worry about unwanted pregnancies and birth control. Even God would be happier, knowing sperm was no longer being wasted. The “no sex except for procreation” crowd would still be grumpy, but they’re only happy when they’re mad, so even they would be satisfied.

It’s the perfect solution. I look forward to it being implemented in the very near future.

Image shows a cat sitting slumped over like a dejected person. It's front legs are draped like arms with its paws in its lap. The caption says, "Don't look. I just got back from the vet.

 

How Would You Like to Take a Hike Across a Geologic Diagram?

There’s a place in Oregon, not too far south of Mount St. Helens, where you walk across a parking lot and see all the components of the subduction zone that fuel her. How awesome is that?

First, we’ll have a bit of a diagram.

Cross-section of a subduction zone. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

This is the idealized version of a subduction zone, showing you all the relevant bits. There’s an even better diagram here, showing you the structural high that can be created as the oceanic plate dives beneath the continental one. I encourage you to study both images for a moment. As with all diagrams, these are simplified versions of real-life structures. You usually don’t find anything so simple in the field. But I can show you a place where you can actually see those diagrams in action, without squinting.

Take a short drive out of Corvallis, Oregon to Marys Peak, the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range. The road goes to the top. Once you’ve parked, walk west, toward that lovely meadow with the butterflies and lilies and large interesting boulders. If you look over the trees on a clear day, you’ll see a scene much like this:

Atop Marys Peak, looking west out to the ocean trench and accretionary prism. Photo by author.

Look between the trees, and you can see the gently-rounded tops of other Coast Range mountains, and beyond them, you can just make out the sea. It’s a lot easier to see in person – unfortunately, all the hydrocarbon haze from the conifers round here plays havoc with the camera. Never mind that. Just stand here a moment, and look at the sea. Beneath the waves, about 50 miles (80km) out, the Juan de Fuca plate is subducting beneath the North American plate.

Wow, right? Now, turn east and amble across the parking lot.

Marys Peak summit parking lot, looking toward the actual summit. Photo by author.

You’re walking across the forearc ridge right now. This is the structural high caused by those two colliding plates. I’ll be babbling about Marys Peak and the Coast Range in detail one o’ these days, but it can basically be described as a bunch of stuff plastered to North America, wrinkled up into a lovely little mountain range.

Continue east to the other side of the mountain. I know, “other side of the mountain” sounds like a substantial hike, but it’s only a few hundred yards at worst. This is the easiest geological excursion ever. Just head over to where you can get a view through the trees toward the east.

Willamette Valley from Marys Peak summit, looking east to the Cascade Range. Photo by author.

Now, this is rather exciting. The Willamette Valley, broad and flat, is a forearc basin on dry land. Many forearcs are drowned by seawater, but in this case, the Coast Range has risen high enough to cut off the ocean, so here we are: a nice, dry forearc basin you can see all the bits of. And from here, you can see all the way to the volcanic arc, the Cascades. See? That line of low mountains in the distance is the Western Cascades, and beyond it, rising like a snowcone, is Mount Jefferson. No, really, it’s there. It’s the triangular white bit between the two short trees in the center of the photograph.

Mount Jefferson from Marys Peak summit. Photo by author.

It’s a lot more impressive in real life. Again, haze. Here’s a photo of it from a photographer lucky enough to be up there on a not-as-hazy day. That’s one of the famed Cascade volcanoes, that is. Like St. Helens, it’s a stratovolcano. Its last major eruption happened somewhere around the time Mount St. Helens got started, about 35,000 years ago. But don’t count it as defunct – as long as the subduction zone is active, it has a chance of being refueled and rekindled.

Oregon has more geological goodness than a person can see in a single lifetime, some of it truly spectacular, but this is one of the least-known gems. How many other places can you take a leisurely walk of a few hundred feet and say you’ve seen the best part of a whole subduction complex?

If you want to see how all this affects the weather, as well as get a more detailed description of what’s going on, see Lockwood’s post. For an excellent diagram that will help you visualize the geologic structure of this part of Oregon, visit this Oregon Historical Society page – they certainly didn’t neglect Oregon’s geologic history!

References:

Lockwood DeWitt, who knows this area better than just about anyone, and guided me across the forearc ridge last time I visited him. Look him up if you’re ever in Oregon. He knows all the best places.

 

Previously published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

Floral Interlude

Some of you asked for flowers. It’s not been a good year for flowers. When I have the time and energy to photograph them, it’s been peeing down rain. When I’m trapped doing other things, usually indoors, it’s been bright and sunny and wonderful. I’ve determined the weather is mocking me.

But I did manage to slip away on Wednesday afternoon and catch a few for ye. We’ll start with those, then continue on with some of the lovely flowers some of you have sent.

Green and White Roof

Green and White Roof

I think these are dogwood. They’re on an enormous tree, and looking up through them towards the sky is like having a green and white floral roof. I could stand a house with a ceiling like this.

 

Early Rhodie

Early Rhodie

There’s a little round purple rhodie just beyond that tall white tree. The two of them together make it look like spring, with all their lovely pastel colors. This angle on a few of the flowers shows all the lovely bits that are there to make more flowers. There’s pollen, and there will be pollinators. Butterflies sometimes feast on these flowers, and I’m hoping to catch images of some this year.

Blaze

Blaze

The new growth on some of the bushes is flaming red. You’d think that would make it look like fall, but when it’s obviously young leaves like these, it’s another burst of spring.

Soon-to-be flowers

Soon-to-be flowers

There’s a set of trees that will soon have vivid pink blooms bursting everywhere, but they haven’t gone yet. These nearly-blown buds show they’ll be beautifying the place within days.

Cloud of flowers with cloud of water vapor

Cloud of flowers with cloud of water vapor

I missed the plums, but the cherry trees are still going strong. I think these are cherries. You can tell me. Some of them are more white than pink and bloom later, so I could be wrong about what they are. The white ones are in their prime, plump and full, and the cluster here seems to be comparing itself to the cloud, which I found charming.

White bursts against evergreen

White bursts against evergreen

I like early spring, when the fruit trees bloom while leafless, and virtually the only green you get is when they’re blooming against evergreen trees. You can also see a hint of bashful sunshine here. It kept trying to come out all the way and never quite succeeding.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

These delicate pink blooms are nearly past their prime, but this cluster on a sheltered part of the tree are still bright and beautiful.

Line of lovely trees

Line of lovely trees

One thing I’ve always particularly loved about this street is the median, with its rich green grass and its gorgeous fruit trees. Every spring, they put on a spectacular show. It makes driving along it an uplifting experience. A little beauty every day is definitely welcome.

Blooms against bark

Blooms against bark

Love this little cluster right here, low down on the trunk of the tree. The trunks and branches of these trees are fascinating even when they’re dormant – there’s a vibrant community of mosses and lichens growing on them.

Warding off winter

Warding off winter

Soon, this will be a green and leafy boulevard. Now, it’s still lined with skeletons. The red flush of new growth shows they’re about to come to life again. The crossed branches of white cherry blossoms in the foreground seem to be warding off winter.

So that’s flower season well and truly begun. Lovely!

To The People Who Love to Opinionate on Not Medicating a Mental Illness

Fuck you.

Fuck you and your sanctimonious crap about how you believe psychiatric drugs aren’t good for us, and we shouldn’t take them, because we’ll be oh-so-much-better.

Bullshit.

You know, I really wish more people cheered for the medicine, and fewer acted like it was a personal failure and a potential death sentence to take psychiatric meds. Because I’d still have a mother if she’d listened to her first and best psychiatrists, rather than the assholes who told her she could and should do without the drugs.

As it stands, I have a shell of what used to be my mom, living in residential care and never able to leave it. There’s nothing left of the person I adored. Just an echo. Her mind would still be intact if she’d stayed on her drugs. She didn’t, and now she’s gone.

So fuck you, assholes who burble about how the drugs are harming us. Fuck you, people who shake their heads and cluck their tongues and judge. I will be flipping you off with one hand while happily taking my medication with the other. I don’t want to end up like her.

I know our current drugs aren’t a perfect solution, and that they sometimes lose their effectiveness as our bodies change, and we need to adjust them. I know they won’t always keep the depression and anxiety away. But they mitigate it. I’ve reached the stage where I’ll have to be on them for the rest of my life if I want to live with my mind mostly intact, and I’m good with that. I’ve watched them help other people I love, watched them return people to life who had nearly left it, and I love them for that. I’m glad we have something. Because I know what unmedicated serious mental illness looks like, and it’s horrific.

So fuck you, with your “I stopped taking meds and now I feel so much better!” My mother fell for your schtick, and she felt great – right up until the last of her lithium and antipsychotics cleared her system, and the suicidal depression and nasty voices came back, until paranoia paralyzed her and made her terrified of everyone and everything. My mother kept falling for your bullshit, and each time, a bit more of her slipped away until she couldn’t come back. You might have a mild enough case of whatever it is you were taking pills for that you just needed the temporary boost and can now do without. Or you may be in that honeymoon period before your mind collapses in on itself again. I don’t care, to be honest. I just want you to fuck off, and leave those of us who have decided we don’t want to risk going on a one-way trip down the wrong road the hell alone.

Don’t start that bullshit with me unless you have overwhelming scientific evidence of a better way to treat mental illness. You don’t have it now. And if you try to wave some fuckwad’s pop psychology book of bullshit in my face as proof, I may do something very Not Nice.

Then again, I might be able to contain myself. As long as I’m on my medication, it’s easier to keep my temper around sanctimonious assholes like you.

Image is a finger touching a cat's nose. Caption says, "My grumpy button. Ur pushin it."