Brain-O: The Incident

[Warning: Long. Also “me, me me me”]

I was in the kitchen, stitching up the leather cover for Hannah’s Puuko knife, and I was just having trouble doing it. The belt loop I designed included some cross-stitched loops that butted together, and I kept getting things tangled. I felt hot, frustrated, and a bit dizzy.

Then, I went upstairs to check my email, it having been a while. I started moving my mouse around the screen. It made no sense. There was a moving thing but, what was it? I clicked on a comment I was editing and the words seemed to fold in on themselves. That’s the only way I can describe it. I need to do illustrations of this, but I suck at the art. Here’s what it looked like:

What I had was:

Stuff was working. I had consciousness. I didn’t feel like I was going to black out. But some of the normal functions of brain were just – gone. I could still think but typing was gone. I was also dropping into panic on my main processor because I had seen a TED talk about having a stroke and this was exactly what that person had described.


The ambulance got here in 15 minutes. The EMTs were surprised that I was standing there, waving. I said I thought I was having a stroke. Boom, shit got real and the EMTs had me strapped to a gurney and we were heading for the ER at Clearfield General about 15 miles away. The EMT in the back, a nice fellow, started installing shunts, a heart monitor, blood pressure monitor, etc. I could hear him on the phone calling ahead to the ER. What he was saying made perfect sense. I could talk, but only if I completely focused on what I was doing. Shut down all the other threads and there was enough to do some talking.

So, there’s that.

Now comes the moment of existential dread. One of my dad’s colleagues, who we used to hang out with in the summer, prof Willie Lee Rose (American History, Jacksonian) had a stroke sometime around 1981. I used to sit with her and talk, because she was so goddamn frustrated to be stuck in her head, but I didn’t want her to feel discarded when she got broken. So I’d talk with her, and … anyhow. She had these characteristic speech nodes. It was as if, when her brain didn’t know what to say on the output, it’d throw one of these “ums.” In Willie’s case it was “it’s a little thing.” Often her sentences would sort of trail off in what sounded like a curlicue going nowhere, and then the speaker realizes it’s going nowhere, stops and resets.

I was doing that. Mine was “so, there’s that” and “this is a thing” I’d start a thought, my thought-to-language framer would try to assemble the framework of a sentence, which it would then normally hang vocabulary on, then queue it to go out the mouth. In normal function, the bullshit filter would also give a quick pass over the output to make sure I wasn’t making mistakes. Instead of speaking normally, it’s like those components of speech:

1) speech framer – the thing that turns my overall idea into a sentence
2) word chooser – fills in the vocabulary for the sentence that’s coming out
3) bullshit filter – error detects and corrects. sometimes I literally feel the bullshit filter going “naw, that’s totally hosed” and then the thread gets killed and goes back to the speech framer
4) output queuer – makes the lips do lip things and sound, in the correct sequence

OK, so my shit is all apart, and the bullshit filter is not working very well but is also screaming that the output queuer is occasionally spouting garbage. I mean, seriously mangled sentences. Or lots of “so, there’s that…” I also keep losing the thread entirely and it feels painfully expensive to reset and restart the sentence.

That’s the best description I can give. The whole time I am aware that I sound a lot like prof Rose, and she was stuck with that for 15 years until she died. I start thinking really dark thoughts. Namely: “all I am is my brain” (this is true, as far as I am concerned) and if my brain is not working I am no longer me, and I lose everything I am, or was. I try to explain this to the EMT, then burst into uncontrollable weeping. The EMT shakes my shoulder and says, “I can’t promise you anything but I see this kind of thing pretty often, really, and usually it’s recoverable unless you really take a hit.” He has just given me something to hold on to. Now, I am lying silently, tears running down my face.

I get to the ER. They don’t do anything. I am thinking “my god, they have realized that there is nothing to do for me.” Later, I find out that they’ve seen these things before and a guy who has babbled fairly coherently at the EMT the whole way in, is not brain-dead. Their concern is whether there’s anything bleeding, etc. I’m fast-tracked through a CT scan with angio dye, sonogram of both legs. The MRI team has gone home for the night and I’m scheduled for first thing in the morning, and parked in a little room.

The doctor comes in and says the CT scan shows nothing. I say, “doc, I know about this stuff and spent a lot of time with a broca’s aphasic when I was in college. This is not nothing.” He says “I said the scan doesn’t show anything, not that nothing has happened to you.” Oh. He’s tired and it’s 2am or something like that. I lie back and have the weirdest sleep I’ve ever had. It’s all scrambled thoughts with my mind intermittently concluding: “OK that’s the end of the Marcus” and bouts of sobbing into the pillow.

In the morning, they do the MRI and an hour later the doc comes in and says, “nope, nothing.” I insist it’s not nothing. He says “maybe what you need is a psychologist.” I am horrified. I reply, “I am a psychologist” [stretching the value of my undergraduate ba a bit] He snorts and leaves. I think that he was trying to be funny and my brain just totally missed that. I really don’t know. I never see that particular doctor again so I don’t get to ask.

Then comes something funny: they discharge me. “Right, off with you.” It’s about 10:00am Felt a bit abrupt. What am I supposed to do? I call my house-cleaner and ask for a ride home. Turns out she’s in town already, so 10 minutes later I’m on my way home.

Next morning I actually feel quite a bit better. That is hugely heartening. My iPhone is making sense again. That is great joy. I stand in my kitchen like a smoking god fallen to earth and start talking to myself, for serious. That works. I can hold up a dialogue. I make some coffee and sit down, start noodling over what to do. Job 1 would be to go upstairs, fire up the computer, and see if I can make an appointment with my regular doc ASAP. I go up and do that, and – amazingly – my keyboarding is about 1/2 and the mouse-pointer in Windows makes sense again! I make an appointment for the next day with Dr Pilgram, my normal physician, and stand up to go downstairs and my forehead suddenly buckets sweat, my knees go weak, and my mind starts to do that thing your mind does when you’re about to pass out. It feels like you’re looking at an old TV and someone hit the switch: boop, down to a dot, then gone.

My controlled swoop to the floor succeeds and I think that stabilizes my blood pressure enough that I can just lie there and enjoy the cool floor for a few. Then: 911.

The same EMTs show up. This time we go to the larger hospital in Grey’s Woods that has the newer gear. The EMT says, “actually you look a lot better than yesterday,  are you sure you didn’t just stand up too fast?” [correct diagnosis, mr EMT!] The EMTs don’t seem to usually take the ambulance down bumpy dirt roads because they are going about 30 when they hit the big pothole by the hot shed and I’m floating in the air over the gurney thinking “this is cool.” I’m punchy and giddy.

I get to the ER, am admitted, then queued for sonogram, another CT/angiogram, and another MRI. Doc comes in and says there’s nothing wrong with me. But he listens and then says, “well, this is what it is. You’ve just gotten a great whacking stack of diagnostics and you show no sign of heart disease, arrythmia, brain tumors, lung tumors, or bowel tumors. You have 3 kidney stones that may or may not cut loose and give you a bad couple days but kidney stones are not a bad problem, they’re what opiates are for. So, go home, rest, nap, call 911 if you need to, but email your regular doctor to review all the charts and do your consult tomorrow with him and you’ll be fine.”

I am, in fact, starting to notice that my language skills are coming back. Except sometimes the speech output scheduler jams. I’ll be framing a sentence, start it coming out, and gnnnnnnnrrrrrrg – it dies. Now, I start bawling my eyes out. Because, from inside of the experience of having that speech output scheduler jam, I just realized that someone close to me has probably had one or more un-diagnosed strokes. I’m in stroke-land, I can feel what it feels like, and now the signs are super-clear because anyone who sounds like me in my head has had a stroke. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant, but it’s just a fact.

That night I do something horribly irresponsible. I decide to see if I can still drive. I sold the Tahoe, which died as I was taking it for the trade-in, and now I have a great big shiny red Silverado. God damn, it’s big. I don’t use it for going outside my neighborhood – if I’m going on a highway, I take the Honda. Anyhow, I get in the Silverado and start going to the grocery store. I’m halfway there when the cop behind me hits his lights. I pull over. Cop walks up to the window and says, “what are you on?” I fall apart. He says I was weaving 3 feet off the white line and 3 feet over the center line. I tell him about the brain-o and start blubbering because I just realize that he’s right and I could have killed someone and what if I can’t ever drive again? You’re fucked in the US if you can’t drive. I’d have to sell everything and move to an apartment in a city. I can’t focus. The cop grabs my shoulder and shakes it to snap me out. “Listen, that was stupid. Go home. Drive as well as you can.” And I did. That was weird: when I focus tight, I can drive fine. I just can’t have 6 thought-threads going on at once or I start weaving. But if I focus tight, I can drive.

Next day, Anna comes up from Pittsburgh with Lucci the cat. I make litterbox arrangements for Lucci, we spend a lot of time snuggling and talking. I just feels so good to have someone who cares put their hand on my forehead and tell me I’m gonna be OK. I had been thinking about stuff and proposed a plan: we drive in to State College for supplies, supplies to include a chunk of beef so I can do some Baltimore-style pit beef, with horseradish sauce. She bugs her eyes at me when I suggest that I drive. But the plan is this: she knows really well how I drive – she’s spent many hours in a car with me – so, she’s gonna evaluate my driving and if I’m not tracking, we turn around and go home. She agrees.

Turns out, I can drive fine if I focus. I’m getting better. The horseradish sauce lit Anna up, but she seemed to like the pit beef. Bedtime. Lucci explores the house in the dark. We hear him jumping, sometimes.

Next day I had my consult with Dr Pilgram. Now, some of you made good suggestions about things (in the Discord channel, and via email) and I took printouts of some of them along. We had a really good discussion with Dr P, who was in a no bullshit mood. “You’re fat and you spend too much time sitting in a chair. You need to lose weight and get your cardio back. That is your single biggest risk factor.” Then, he unloads on me with this really detailed technical lecture. I actually already know a bit of it, so I know he’s right – about the various LDL versus HDL and the various statins on the market and how each one of them interacts with which cholesterol. He then explains that I probably had a little blob of cholsterol noodling along, and it blocked something important and, before a lot of platelets showed up to turn it into a big lethal clot, it squished along and fucked off and that was that. Makes sense! His suggestion is: we get on asprin to thin the blood, and this one particular statin that apparently also reduces platelet activity. He says I won’t bleed like if I was on coumadin but I should avoid knives. Ha ha ha. [He knows my hobbies] Then he says, “or, at least, the metal lathe.” His other suggestion is that I meet with one of the cardiology team, and he can pull that schedule forward. Indeed that is true; I meet with the cardiologist the next morning and he’s great, too.

One of the things the cardiologist asks is whether I’ve given any thought for risk factors for the blood clot in my leg? I widen my eyes and say, “well, I got the vacc…” then stop, because I can see his head is about to explode. I was not funny. I apologize really sincerely. What an asshole I am! He’s probably been dealing with dead people because of this for 2 years and I tried to make a joke about it. Anyhow, we get back in sync and he asks when it happened and I start thinking what I was doing around then.

I was on massive gaming-binge. I sit in my office chair with the edge of the chair digging into the back of my thigh right where the clot popped, for 5,6 hours at a shot, hardly moving except my fingers on the trackball. I’m saying RimWorld maybe nearly killed me. This is not unexpected, RimWorld is a hell of a game. Then doc says all this is irrelevant, it’s only interesting. The real game is that I gotta lose weight and improve my cardio. I agree!

Alright, so that’s the whole story. I’m feeling fine but I sometimes have “hiccups” in the speech engine. This is going to sound goofy but when you’re inside of that, you can feel that there is a connection between the sentence-framer, and the vocabularizer, and the vocabularizer reaches into long-term memory. All that “left brain right brain” psychobabble is crap. The Broca and Wernicke regions are ${side} but they’re probably where the sentence-framer lives and when the sentence-framer takes a hit you can feel the speech engine not retrieving vocabulary, it’s just like a pump sucking vacuum. I think the bullshit filter is also a bit stunned, and has something to do with killing off sentences that aren’t assembling right and that’s where that tail-off behavior comes from. It feels like it; like myself is catching myself and going, “no, don’t say that” and it all trails off until I reboot the whole thing.

This morning I had an email from the EMT, just saying “hope you’re OK and stuff” and reinforcing that he things I’ll probably turn out pretty OK when I grow up if I lose some weight and work on my cardio. He also says he has an 80s lamborghini with a trunk full of blow and sometimes he likes to sit in it and listen to the radio, but it’s not shit for hauling firewood. That is one of the funniest, and sweetest things I’ve seen in a few days (Anna’s presence was very comforting) (and Lucci was pretty good at taking large chunks of bed real-estate, which is a cat trying to be comforting)  and it put a smile on my face that’s still there.

My short term/long term memory transcoding is pooched but if I focus down on it I can tell myself to remember something for later. But, I had a sit down and gab with my neighbor Mark [whose leg has healed remarkably well!] and we caught up – and he said I was repeating myself a lot. It’s just that I forget what I told whom. My friend Razorfist, who I have a bit of a “tough love” relationship with, spent hours on the phone with me in the last few days, for the stated reason that he knows he’s one of the few people I will talk with on the phone and he’s spent 15 years concentrating on my speech patterns. I really appreciate that, because he gives me some pretty good fudge-metrics about where I am improving and where I am not.

You all have probably noticed that I have been seriously ramming the text for the last few days. First off, I have re-discovered that writing is fun. Not being able to write is hell, for me. Being able to take my brain out and run it flat out down the highway, feels so dang good. It feels like a Lamborghini, normally, with a whole bunch of threads running in parallel. Now, it is running on 11 and 1/2 cylinders instead of 12 (I mean it, it just feels weird – like I’m slightly capability-degraded here or there) But if I focus down on what I’m doing, I can still burn a hole in the internet. I am going to continue to do that, because, life’s too short not to.

So, there’s that.

Love y’all.

------ divider ------

I thought I’d do all this as a big dump, because it makes me feel bad to remember how utterly terrified I have been, off and on. One other thing I came away with is that being scared as fuck has a physical impact on you for a few days. My body is ready to jump into a ditch if a bear comes, or something. It feels like very deep programming.

I have been pondering the comment someone made that “there is no normal, there is just now” and it made me go into some kind of epistemic death-spiral for a while. Where I am right now is that I totally agree with that statement, but I’d want it reformulated to make it more obvious that there was not and never will be a ‘normal’ to be. There just is. I’m still spinning like a top around that one. Thank you for that.

Feel free to ask me questions; just be forewarned you may get giant textblobs back at you. Over the next few days I have a couple of welding projects to do, and then I will try to assemble the forge body. I have the propane system ready to go. It needs some paint and bolts and a pressure gauge on the propane regulator and I can light ‘er up. Cross your fingers for me: it’s gotta be able to hold over 2200F or I won’t be able to do welds like the big kids do and I’ll have to build another that’s smaller and runs higher pressure. When I do the test light I will probably be alone, because that is how I roll. I’m gonna be wearing FRC soaked in water, welder’s gloves and I’ll have a cotton blanket in a bucket of water that I can throw on things. I’m not super worried, really. The forge body is 3/8″ steel… Ah my mind is wandering. Bedtime!


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I appreciate what you write. I selfishly want more of it. That said: please stop typing, get out of your chair and do some cardio. Like, a lot. I’m sure you can get some dictation software. In fact, it’d be interesting to see some unedited dictated ramblings, rather than laboriously typed stuff I’ll feel guilty about reading.
    please get well.

  2. lochaber says

    I feel horrible saying this, but it’s been interesting reading what you are writing about your experience. I completely wish it didn’t happen, and wish you the best and quickest recovery possible, but I am also glad that you are sharing it with us. Brains are weird and fallible, and it’s interesting (and sometimes useful) to hear various first-person accounts of how they fail.

    On the weight loss/activity aspect… I don’t have much advice, that’s a very personal and situational thing. I used to be really active in my past, never competitive, but regularly did some running, occasionally some weight training, a few other athletic activities here and there, but the past decade or so, my life has just gotten too busy and stressful for me to dedicate time to physical fitness or whatever, after work and sleep and such have taken there shares of my time. It’s one of the things I’m really liking about my current job, is that it’s ridiculously well-suited for a bicycle commute for me, and that I often move some heavy stuff around a couple times a week, and do some other semi-physical labor, but not so much that my joints are chewing up their cartilage and such…

    Anyways… The cycling and such has had a pretty positive affect on my life, I still weigh about the same, but my gut is a bit smaller, and my thighs are a bit bigger, and I’m maybe slightly less pissed off and cranky about everything (this one is hard to gauge, because there is just too, too fucking much, to be cranky at…). Plus, I save a bit on public transit costs. I haven’t tried to calculate it recently, but I think I’ve effectively covered the cost of my new bicycle, plus some of the panniers and other accessories.

    TL;DR: I’m really bad at time management, motivation, discipline, et al., but I lucked upon a way to include some physical activity into my daily routine, and I think it’s been really beneficial – I think it’s helped my fat/muscle mass ratio, and I think it’s also helped my general mood/mental health. It may not work for everyone, but if you can find a way to change one of your normal activities to a slightly more personally physical one without too much difficulty, I really advocate for that.

  3. invivoMark says

    Your experience reminds me of something that happened to me while I was in a clinical trial.

    The drug was one that’s been FDA approved and is generally safe at prescribed doses, and it was being tested to see if it worked for different conditions. It’s common during clinical trials to start at a low dose and ramp up over the course of several weeks. There were known side effects to this drug that include delightful things like “difficulty concentrating” and “hallucinations,” but I honestly thought I was assigned to the Control group until the 4th or 5th week. If the drug was doing anything at all, it just made it so I didn’t sleep as well.

    Then one night, after a few days of poor sleep, I’m feeling quite tired at around 7 PM and figure I’ll play a quick video game before bed. It’s a comfort-food game, an old one I’ve played many times, that requires just enough concentration and strategy that it’s a useful distraction when I’m feeling stressed or anxious.

    I’m no more than 5 minutes into the game when I realize I can’t even think through a single strategic decision before my brain “resets.” My language processing was doing the same thing – just like you describe.

    I close the game and just sit there for a minute, feeling my brain doing circles. Then I go lie down in my bed, thinking: this is how I am now. I once was an intelligent person, now I can’t finish a single thought. I’m broken and I’ll never recover. Then I just lay there, brain doing donuts, for a few miserable hours until I fell asleep.

    I didn’t even consider that the drug I was taking could have caused it until the next morning. I called to withdraw from the trial, then after a couple good nights of sleep, I was completely back to normal.

    Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and avoid cannabinoids (at least for a while). That’s what worked for me, and hopefully it works for you.

  4. says

    I feel horrible saying this, but it’s been interesting reading what you are writing about your experience.

    You are not allowed to feel bad!
    It is OK. I’m interested in it, too! That is why it is worth it to me to write it down for you all. Other than being absolutely terrifying, the whole experience has been a wild ride and a learning experience, though I see no point in this lesson, if that makes sense. The whole experience feels intensely pointless and very personal.

  5. says

    The fear I experienced at the peak was so intense, I just now wondered if maybe we have “fear centers” somewhere that get kicked and suddenly we are blown away for a while. It was like that: failed my saving throw and just lost in misery for an intense 10 minute weeping session.

    If your bell gets rung, hard, your emotional processing stuff is gonna get stimulated, too, right?

  6. chigau (違う) says

    Marcus, what about getting into one of those programs where you take a puppy to socialize before it goes into training to be a support dog.
    You know it’s temporary but you get a doggy and lots of exercise.

  7. says

    This posting reads as very “stream of consciousness” because that’s all I can do!

    Normally, writing a piece, there’s like a pre-planned framework in my head for how it’s going to go, sequence of concepts I will present and rough ideas of how I will present them. Then I craft the fill in, throwing in riffs and making sure all the backfill that needs done is done.

    It is not like that, now. All I can do is linear blasting ahead, looping back and re-reading what I just wrote to make sure it’s not mush [bullshit filter’s short-term memory not holding as much?] it feels edgy. I wonder if it felt like this to be Hunter Thompson.

  8. says

    @chigau: no, I would never let a puppy go out of my life.

    I appreciate your intent and suggestion. I just exposed my reaction whenever I think about dog. It’s this really strong “no no no no oh godddd nooooooo”

  9. flex says

    I’m sorry you went through this. This was still an interesting read.

    Get well.

  10. says

    I close the game and just sit there for a minute, feeling my brain doing circles. Then I go lie down in my bed, thinking: this is how I am now. I once was an intelligent person, now I can’t finish a single thought. I’m broken and I’ll never recover. Then I just lay there, brain doing donuts, for a few miserable hours until I fell asleep.

    Yes, exactly. Feels like you missed your saving throw on “existential despair.”

    Sorry you went through it and glad you came back.

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @7:

    Losing Miles and Jake hurt too much.

    Something we align perfectly on!

    My sister and her partner moved in with us some years ago, bringing their two dogs with them. Now of course I love the little bastards. Damn.

  12. says

    I appreciate the update.

    Honestly, some of what y’all describe feels like the inverse of an experience I had with ADHD a couple times. I went on an SSRI, and for the first week or two, any time I wanted to do something, I could just do it. It was like there was a loose connection in my brain that had suddenly been soldered in place!

    And then it faded away. The wire came loose again, and I was back to my normal life of frustration and “laziness”.

    It happened again when I went back on SSRIs right around the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, and you can see the big spike in regular posting that then sort of trailed off a bit once the effect wore off and I ran out of pre-written blog posts.

    There’s a unique horror to knowing your brain can work a certain way, but being completely unable to actually make it do so. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

    I’m glad to hear you still seem to be recovering, and I’m grateful for the reminder to get up and move around at regular intervals.

  13. says

    The timing of this tells me that there is a high probability doctors all over the world are telling people, “get out of your chair and take a walk.” Or, there is a god.


  14. kestrel says

    The sitting perfectly still in a chair thing rings a bell for me. I was having bad neck and shoulder pain, and when I talked to the doctor, it came out that when I’m working I sit perfectly still because I’m focusing through a big magnifying lens and it only focuses well in one place, so I have to keep looking through that exact place. The doctor explained to me that forcing people to hold perfectly still was a method of torture in the middle ages. I try to move around every 20 minutes now. I don’t have one of those wrist things, a Fit Bit or whatever, but I wonder if those could be programmed to remind you get up and move around every 20 minutes or so.

    May you continue to recover well and thanks for sharing your experience.

  15. Jazzlet says

    The loss of that parallel processing is what has happened to me since I’ve been on gabapentin, and what happened to my cousin that hit her head, thank you for that description, it explains the process far better than my ‘unable to juggling more than one thing at a time’ so I am stealing it for future use. It is deeply deeply frustrating, but I have learnt how to get back to what I was doing or thinking about, and Paul has learnt not to interrupt me casually – mainly because I ended up snapping at him I’m afraid. Jake still interrupts, I don’t mind if it’s for a love, but I could really do without him warning any dog walking by that they need to get off ‘his’ pavement RIGHT NOW. I’ve also learnt that if I am doing something like cooking a meal with several dishes I simply have to make more extensive notes on the kitchen whiteboard, not just recipe start and action times, but amounts and what I’m to do with the thing I have x amount of, I’m not writing out all of the recipe, but far more of it than I would have previously. It sucks, but it’s that or pain, and the pain is worse for fucking up my concentration.

    Yay for Anna and other good friends watching out for you. I hope you get your parallel processing back jolly soon, and in the meantime that you finish setting up the forge safely without any big problems.

  16. says

    I wonder if those could be programmed to remind you get up and move around every 20 minutes or so.

    Every smartphone has a timer app. Set it, tap “reset” when it goes off…

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    When you see the bear, remember the best ditches are in buildings, in vehicles, and up trees: the ones in the ground don’t work.

  18. johnson catman says

    Marcus: I am a couple of years older than you, so your post is very interesting to me. My cholesterol was high probably 20 years or so ago, and my doctor prescribed Lipitor. Not long after starting it, I started having severe joint pain. My doctor sent me to the specialty clinic. They tried different statins at different dosage levels, but all of them gave me pain. They ended up putting me on Zetia (Ezetimibe) which is not a statin but has worked well for me. Maybe I am just sensitive to side-effects, but take notice of changes that coincide with starting such medications. You know your own body better than anyone else. Don’t let doctors convince you to take something that will degrade your quality of life just because it may help with some other condition. There is a reason they call it practicing medicine.

  19. says

    I’m sorry you are having these cognitive issues. I’m glad you are getting recovery and have some ideas about how to work on the clots.

    What you are describing reminds me of how I get tied up in responses. I have to think my way through part of experience to put together responses. Like lists of potential responses and I have to choose. If I don’t watch it I get errors. Category inversions, synonym or antonym flips. I have to make sure I said the correct one with left/right and east/west.

    It’s also similar to how a part of my touch senses goes in and out from pre-diabetic neuropathy in my left (yes, left) hand. While I don’t like it, it’s oddly fascinating because only a part of the sense of touch is altered so now I get to feel the layers of my somatosensory system in more detail.

  20. Tethys says

    While it is awful that dogs don’t have long lives, the joy and comfort of having some pets in your life is undeniable. That said, I still can’t bring myself to get either cats or dogs for the same reason. It hurt too much to lose them. The summer of dying was 4 years ago, and I’m just now seriously considering getting kittens.

    Perhaps you could make yourself a nice little veggie garden? It would make you go outside and move every day, and supply you with lots of delicious and healthy produce at the same time.

  21. says

    @Tethys – oddly… I ordered a small greenhouse early last month. I am sick of the eldrich pus-blobs American stores call “tomatoes”. And I’ll have some basil, holy basil, and cilantro where the deer and the rabbits can’t get them. If I have some dijon, vinegar, olive oil and tomatoes and maybe a can of tuna now and then or a slice of prosciutto, I’m living in my own 1-star restaurant.

    I can’t have an outdoor unenclosed veggie garden. The deer (rats with antlers) can and will eat anything between 0″ and 9ft off the ground. They can have a huge field to graze in but they will vector in on cilantro like a homing missile.

    When I was a kid, I was the official family vinagrette maker. There is much joy in this.

  22. Tethys says

    A dog run near the garden is very effective at keeping the evil deer from eating the gardens.
    (just sayin)

    Puttering in the garden is good for your health in multiple ways. Fresh herbs and veggies, sunshine, exercise, and all the microbes in the soil seem to have a beneficial effect on immunity.

    It wouldn’t be summer without daily salads and raspberries!

  23. says

    @Marcus – Personal is fine – I’m the one who brought it up!

    The problem is that that particular effect fades after about a week. I’m still on the same SSRI, but all it does it take the edge off my anxiety. That in itself is a huge quality of life improvement (it was bad enough that I thought I was having a heart attack a few years ago), but I’ve tried increasing the dose and it doesn’t bring back that effect. All it really told me as that it might be possible to find medication that DOES work reliably.

    IF I can get diagnosed with ADHD.

    As it stands, the fact that I have control over my own schedule has allowed me to develop, well, not work habits as such, but a general pattern of productivity. I’d still like to try medication if I’m ever able to, but if I can find a way to make my current lifestyle financially sustainable, then not having it isn’t a big deal. I’m trying to use my current window of opportunity towards that end. We’ll see if it works!

    But yeah. It’s not fun knowing that I could be doing more of what I want to do – just like people always told me when my ADHD was interpreted as laziness or whatever – but the current legal and medical systems are preventing me from it. Feeling that functionality slip away was even less fun.

    That said, this is just… life. I dunno. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, and I’ve learned to make peace with it, to some degree. It’s not like I have a bad life, and I am actually making progress on my craft and my goals, it just feels painfully slow.

  24. dangerousbeans says

    They can have a huge field to graze in but they will vector in on cilantro like a homing missile.

    I can’t blame them, it is tastier than grass.

    Well i’m glad it’s not worse, and i hope you continue to mend.

  25. cmconnelly says


    I saw my endocrinologist a few weeks ago (dead thyroid!), and she said she wanted to out me on a statin because “we don’t want you to have a stroke”. So, yeah, maybe it’s on their minds. (Alas, the one we tried seems to result in significant pain, so I’ll have to try something else. And maybe also do that whole “get some exercise” thing.)

    I’m _very_ glad you’re still with us!

  26. cmconnelly says


    I tried/was given several different SSRIs back when my thyroid was fritzing (and I was physically and mentally falling apart) and then continuing as I wasn’t getting much better and was worried that I never would. They all had weird/unpleasant/awful side effects until I saw an actual psychiatrist and, after a few tries, found one that seems to work and doesn’t make me lethargic, uncoordinated, have difficulty walking or thinking, pull out my hair, or want to cut/stab myself with every single pointy thing I came across. So maybe you need to try something else, and it’s worth seeing a psychiatrist as they seem to actually know what to look for. (Unlike GPs, some of whom, apparently, have difficulty recognizing even really blatant classic thyroid symptoms. Not that I’m bitter or anything.)

  27. Pierce R. Butler says

    Tethys @ # 25: A dog run near the garden is very effective at keeping the evil deer from eating the gardens.

    Ya think?

    For a while, I had neighbors who kept a dozen or more hunting beagles in a wire-fenced yard by a shed.

    Every morning, we could and did go out and see fresh deer hoofprints right up within inches of the dogs’ fence.

  28. Tethys says

    @Pierce Butler

    Having the dog run right next to the fenced veggie garden was the only way I managed to grow anything.

    I also did not appreciate the dogs barking their heads off in the house, and waking the humans because there were deer outside.

    They are just very large rabbits, with an appetite for my roses and hostas. It’s my own fault for planting a veritable deer gourmet, but it was very frustrating to have critters destroy everything but the poisonous ornamentals.

  29. Mano Singham says


    Thanks for writing all this. It is harrowing to read what you are going through but the fact that you are able to write so damn well and at length and that nothing is showing up on the tests gives me hope that things are not as bad as they might initially have seemed.

    Like you, I used to sit at my desk for hours, not playing video games (which I am truly terrible at) but writing. To combat this, I put an alarm on my Reminders app to go off every two hours and tell me to take a walk, upon which I would get up walk around the house for about 10 minutes or go outside for a longer walk. There was something about the peremptory message appearing on my computer screen and phone that forced me to obey, like I was a Manchurian candidate, unlike the mental note that I used to make to myself to walk which was easily forgotten or ignored.

  30. kurt1 says

    Thank you for this post, I hope you get regain full cognitive capabilities and your confidence in them. Observing something happening to your body and mind is something incredibly harrowing. I wish you the best.

  31. macallan says

    Interesting read, and I really like the speech engine analogy.
    It reminds me of the problems I run into whenever I’m tired or stressed out – the vocabulizer stops working. It either times out ( most of the time – I know what I want to say, in a weird non-verbal way, but can’t find the words to express it ) or produces garbage. Then the bullshit filter goes berserk because what got out was garbage. I used to blame english being technically my 3rd language, but I suspect I’d have the same problems in german.
    Meanwhile the little hobby scientist that lives in the back of my head sits there taking notes.

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