Another small adjustment

I’ve been back to work for about six months now, and it has mostly been going alright. I still am experiencing the prickling, but it hasn’t reached the levels I was feeling before. My desk is ergonomically set up, and if I drift back into bad habits, like hunching forward to read on my screen or type, it definitely spikes the feeling. But now I can sit back comfortably and getting my spine aligned properly seems to make the prickling calm down.

My therapist’s suggestion to leave my desk every noon hour has been really important for managing it too. Luckily, with the nice weather, I have been able to go for walks. I’m hoping to increase that to going for a 30 minute jog on some days. I’ve also been getting off the bus one stop early and walking about 20 minutes home as often as I can. Some nights it isn’t realistic just because of timing (or weather) but I’ve been enjoying the wind down time, especially this spring. The route I take is lined with lilacs, apple trees and honeysuckle bushes. If anything can encourage you to breathe deeply, it’s those delicious scents. The walks also help my prickling calm down at the end of the day.

I am trying to follow my neurologist’s advice to focus on my mental and physical health right now. I’m counting my walking as physical activity (as I was finding my gym workouts were making me dizzy and nauseated, and feeling on the brink of fainting), and I’m focusing on eating proper, healthy food – good veggies, quality (pescatarian-approved) protein, fruits, water, good grains. I’m not specifically dropping any food group, but I am prioritizing plate space for colourful veggies rather than rice, potatoes or bread.

And I’m trying to approach my prickling feeling in a yogic way, almost as if I was meditating. Instead of focusing so much on the feeling, I’m trying to just notice it, take steps to calm it (as mentioned above), and then move on. I don’t want to drag it along with me anymore. I want to step past it, acknowledged, but giving it no power. This is, of course, a work in progress, because some days I just can’t do that. I’m not that much in control.

The final aspect, of which today is the first day, is that I’ve cut my work time down to 80%. Now I will work full days Monday through Thursday, and I will have Friday through Sunday off. My pay is impacted, of course, and my pension and all of that stuff, but with my previous two Leaves with Income Averaging, I’m used to my pay being lower by 20%. It’s just that I’m spreading the time off over the whole year instead of concentrating it into two months. My manager and I will keep up an open dialogue, because if it turns out that I’m trying to do 110% of the things in 80% of the time, that is counter-productive and I’ll go back to full time and try a different tactic.

So, what am I doing on my first non-work Friday?

I got up and did my morning yoga practice, ate my normal breakfast gruel (1 tbsp each of chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, and raisins, 1/3 cup of oatmeal, and a shake of pumpkin pie spice, soaked overnight in 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and topped with a sliced banana and 1/3 cup of wild blueberries). I lay down for a bit on the couch, scrolling through Fazebøk, to let my breakfast settle, and then I went on a 6km (slow) run – my first outdoor run since last September. It wasn’t pretty and my fitness app isn’t even recognizing my speed as a “run” (according to it, I did a “brisk walk”… :P). I’ve got my novel open behind this browser window, because I’ve had a couple of ideas for it, and this is kind of the entire reason I’m taking this time. I feel like most nights, after fighting the prickling and trying to actually do good work, I don’t have the energy to stand at my easel for a few hours or sit at my computer for a few (more!) hours to work on my stuff. So, if I’m not doing my personal hobbies, how can I be de-stressing?

A couple of wise friends (plus my husband) reminded me yesterday not to overprogram myself, and to allow whatever takes up my time to take it. And not to stress out if I don’t actually add a page or touch a paintbrush. It will happen. I will try to keep that in mind.

So that’s my little status update, course change, micromovement – call it what you may. I’m looking forward to seeing how this changes my health and well-being. :)

Here’s the song I was listening to when I started this post. :) Hopefully I’ll be posting again more regularly (but I’m not going to make that a goal!)

Gratitude 


I was on my way to another doctor’s appointment last week regarding this strange tingling in my face, and feeling quite low. But it was a foggy morning, and driving out past the fields, I noticed the mist rising from the furrows. It was so breathtaking and magical, I had a moment of deep gratitude that brought tears to my eyes.

Because I’m going through this, I was able to see that sight.

Because my body is doing something weird and scary, instead of being parked in front of my computer screen at work, I was driving out in the world.

I hope we figure this out soon. But I am grateful that I was able to see the mist rise from the fields.

Needles and pins

My RMT is wonderful. She has been very good and very careful with me, because apparently having someone say “facial numbness” to you makes people very nervous.

So when she thought she saw a pea-sized bulge in or around my carotid artery that may have had a pulse during one of my last massages, she backed off and suggested I seek medical attention.

The ER is a fantastic place to observe humanity and to practice empathy. I was seen relatively quickly, as I suspect potential aneurysms or strokes tend to be, but I still had time to observe my fellow humans in need of emergency medical help.

There were the two elderly brothers, one clearly with some type of dementia, who was additionally ill, and the one who was responsible for his care. There was the young woman, crying and hardly able to breathe because of an abcess in her throat, and her stoic friend/roommate who was helping her through getting intravenous antibiotics. There was also the middle aged man who walked up to the triage desk and said, “I did something stupid.” To which the triage nurse prompted, “What did you do?” And he replied, “I grabbed the wrong end of my soldering iron, while it was on.” And she said, “Yup, that was stupid. Have a seat and we’ll be with you in a minute.”

Long story short, the ER doctor (who looked like Fred Flintstone, and who was very personable) couldn’t find anything. He referred me to get a carotid Doppler ultrasound and to bring the results for immediate consult back to the ER.  After waiting a day and a half to hear from the imaging centre, all the while wondering if I was a ticking time bomb, I called and found out they had “deprioritized” me and made an appointment for two weeks later. I said I had been under the impression I was supposed to be seen within two days and she managed to slip me into a cancellation the next day.

Back to the ER we went. The technician showed me how illegible the requisition had been so I told her what it was for and she imaged both sides of my neck. Noticing how quickly my pulse was “wow-wow”ing from the machine, I tried to breathe and calm myself. The tech didn’t think I needed to stay to get the consult but I insisted after talking with my husband, who reminded me that I was a “special case” according to Dr Fred’s instructions. I ended up waiting almost all day, and my husband had to run back to work for a meeting before they took me in to tell me that everything looked fine and maybe it was a lymph node from the nasty three week cold I’d just finished.

So that had nothing to do with my facial tingling, just a fun little side trip into the hospital.

However, my facial tingling has changed in the past week or so. I started overnight muscle relaxants a couple of weeks ago, on top of the calcium-channel blockers. And now my facial tingling has gone from painless TV snow on parts of my face to closer to the pins and needles feeling you get if your foot falls asleep.

Most days it has been fairly mild, and restricted to just my left cheekbone, right cheek and cheekbone. But today it decided to be super special and it’s both cheeks, cheekbones, lips, the outer corner of my eyelids, jaw and chin. So, most of my face has a pins and needles feeling in it. As you can imagine, it’s not terribly comfortable and, in fact, makes my stomach turn a bit. I’ve also been fighting a headache this week. Coincidence?

I hate this and I wish I knew what was going on. We really need to invent tricorders.

So here you go, an appropriate-ish song for the post.

One answer

In my last post, I mentioned my health issues that I’ve been trying to figure out. I heard back from my doctor that my CT scan was normal, so we can scratch brain tumour and aneurysm off the list.

The numbness continues. I’m hoping it’s more of a “get better at stress management” issue as was identified by my RMT. Apparently my muscle tension needs some attention. 

There are still some not so great things that could cause numbness but we’re narrowing down the list. Also it would be super awesome to not also be fighting viruses right now. I’ve been off at least one day as sick for the past three weeks. It’s really annoying because I’m already operating from a position of “I’m not going to let this weird numbness and headache dictate my life! I’m going to do my stuff!”

Yes, I know. I’m stubborn as hell. My husband says that too.

But on a brighter note, I’ll be heading back to France in a couple of months to attend a conference. So that’s all planned. Should be fun!

In the system

So we returned home from our trip, and immediately I started experiencing something rather off-putting.

I felt like I had pulled my neck over that first weekend. And then came the headache and numbness.

The headache was pretty bad. My brain felt sludgy and it was hard to think or function well. But the numbness… I’ve had it once or twice before, I think, associated with tension and a migraine headache. But it had gone away.

I’m experiencing it again now. It has been going on for more than two months.

After the third week of it had started, I finally reached out to my family doctor after I had numbness in my hands. A misplaced message at the clinic left me waiting into the fourth week, when I finally got in touch with my doctor’s office and they booked me for an emergency appointment the next morning.

After dropping my husband off at work, I fought through rush hour traffic to get out of Ottawa. My family doctor is an hour or so south of the city, back where I spent my adolescence. Fearing I would be late, my blood pressure was skyrocketing and I was feeling more numbness. The headache had been cycling in and out over these four weeks.

But I made it to the clinic and even had a moment to sit in the waiting room before my nurse brought me into the exam room. My doctor came in and I started to explain what had been going on with me, including stress at work and whatnot. She tested my cranial nerve responses and they were all working. She looked in my eyes and had me squeeze her fingers with my hands to see if I was losing strength, but apparently not. She didn’t like my stress level and slapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm. The readout surprised even me, although I was still feeling my elevated blood pressure. 151/102… 

She left me alone in the exam room, sitting in a chair with the blood pressure cuff on a repeat measurement mode. I used some of my meditation and yogic breathing techniques to calm down and got my blood pressure down to 130/80 in a matter of minutes. But I admit this is stressing me.

The facial numbness isn’t really numbness in the “dead” feeling sense. I can feel pressure, pain, cold and hot on the areas. And they still work, they don’t go slack. It’s just that they feel like pins and needles without the pain part.

So she sent in a request for a CT scan. And she suggested I was having an atypical migraine and she took me off any other medications and put me on some calcium-channel blockers. She called me the next morning, when I was having a crushing headache and had unsuccessfully tried to pick up the migraine meds (the pharmacy didn’t have it in their system). I had just self-medicated with an extra large caffeinated coffee and two extra-strength Motrin, which has always been my method of medicating my massive headaches when I need to function (through my undergrad and grad school). She was worried about this as well and she said if I had a thunderclap headache, my one side of my face went slack or if I lost motor control in one hand, that I should head to the ER. She also put in another request to the pharmacy.

I ended up calling th hospital imaging department to find out about scheduling for the CT scan and the tech made my appointment while I was on the phone, for convenience sake. I was very happy that I called. And my husband drove me out there this past Thursday morning. Three minutes of X-Ray bombardment, which amounts to an average of two years worth of natural background radiation exposure in one shot, and I was allowed to leave, which I suppose means they didn’t find anything immediately of concern. I was hoping they wouldn’t. I’d far prefer this to be a more difficult behavioural change issue than something requiring surgery to my skull…

I’m noticing more little things that are kind of freaking me out, like stumbling on words or not remembering things, lack of coordination or changes in myself. I hate being sick generally, and I definitely hate being in the medical system. I’m thankful that my taxes support a system for all and that all of this isn’t costing me thousands of dollars. But I am planning on calling my  doctor’s office next week to make sure they know I’ve had my scan and that they should be getting the results. I’ll see them the week after next for my follow up appointment and try to figure out what’s next.

So no resolution yet although my headaches seem to be easing. I’m also seeing an RMT, through my doctor’s recommendation, to try to work out the tightness I have in my neck, jaw and shoulders, back… Basically everywhere. She’s trying to counteract the desk-worker hunch that I’m developing, and that’s one of things I try to counteract with my yoga too. And both professionals are encouraging me to spend time at the gym, with my RMT giving me suggestions and modifications based on what she’s read in my muscles. In the next few visits, she wants me to focus on my lats through rowing and lat pulldowns. And she’s been telling me since the start not to aggravate my traps.

I’m not really sure where this will lead. I’m hoping we’ll be able to solve this soon. My RMT is wondering if the high tension in my neck and jaw muscles might be impinging the nerves and causing the numbness.

There are enough people in my greater social circle, one if whom is a genetic relative, who have experienced headache troubles and have had brain tumours discovered that it is a concern for me. There are also enough reports of aneurysms to add to that. Don’t ever Google “facial numbness” because nothing good will come of it. Believe me…  I do feel lucky to have a scientific background which helps me have a deeper understanding of what’s being analyzed and what repercussions there are.

So this is partly why I’ve been quiet recently. Most nights I’m not feeling well or I’m stubbornly trying to keep being active. I’ve been going to the gym, and teaching yoga, and filling in for my manager while he had a well deserved vacation. And finally succumbing to feeling unwell and allowing myself to take time to rest, instead of dragging myself by the collar in to work or the store or whatever.

Hopefully I’ll start to feel better and I’ll get back to my writing and painting. I haven’t been super creative lately, except for a burst of writing and watercolour painting about a month ago that I haven’t completed, but I really want to.

Now it’s time to hit the gym…

A few updates

Sorry, guys.  It’s been a while.  July is generally crazy busy for me, and this July was no exception.

I did my slideshow at work, and I got some very complimentary reviews of my dSLR photos.  So I admitted to one of my friends that I’m hoping to do a show at “my local” pub.  I just need to contact the new artistic director there and see if she would like to display my photos.  I should get on that…

Then it was my birthday – I had thought to have an open house at my place to show my friends some of the paintings I’d done over my nine weeks off.  But it was sweltering hot in here for the week leading up to my birthday, so I opted not to spend my time sweating over a stove preparing food and cleaning my house, and instead went for a hike in Gatineau Park with my boyfriend, his brother, sister-in-law and our nephew (who didn’t hike so much as ride).  It was great, even with me tripping on a divot on the paved pathway to the head of the trail and skinning both of my knees right off the bat.  *sigh*  They don’t call me Klutzapalooza for nothing.  I kept right on hiking though, with my bloody knees and shin, because I’m badass like that.  And it was so worth it – so many lovely nature interactions that day – toads, garter snake, heron, woodpecker, deer…  After the hike, we were famished and we went to Cafe Soupe’Herbe in Chelsea, QC, for delicious, delicious vegetarian food.

Deer photobombing my heron picture.

Deer photobombing my heron picture.

She came up to the trail and crossed it behind us.

She came up to the trail and crossed it behind us.

Currently, this is my long weekend of nothing – no plans, not rushing around, just relaxing and not over-programming myself.  Sure, we go out and do things if it catches our fancy, but I don’t have anywhere I *have* to be.

Oh, and I tried a neti pot for the first time.  It was one of the purifications that we learned about in yoga and I was not excited to try it.  You see, I almost drowned twice as a kid (once, the neighbour’s kid was holding my head underwater in my little turtle wading pool in the backyard; the second time, because I was trying to touch the bottom of the pool like some of the other kids and I wasn’t strong enough to kick to the surface), and that led to a fear of water that I had to work through as a slightly older kid.  And water up your nose is never a great feeling anyway.  But I tried it, and the sensation was a momentary “Uh, that’s usually reason to panic” but I made it.  I poured the entire one cup of saline water through both nostrils letting it pour (or drip…) out the other nostril.  Apparently I need to work on my right to left, because the flow is not as easy.  And I just did it again this morning.  Then again, I did have a dream this morning that something green, slimy and sentient was stuck in my sinuses and wouldn’t come out.  I don’t know – the subconscious is a weird place.  Maybe because we went to see Pacific Rim the other night, who knows…  Will I continue to use the neti pot?  I’ll keep trying it out.  It does makes your head feel clearer afterwards.

So, heading in to August and it’s cooled down dramatically.  Weekends don’t look quite as hectic, but I have something written down for three of the remaining four weekends.  But not two things each weekend, so that’s nice.

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One of the things I remembered that I wanted to write down was about Irish veggie burgers.  Here, our veggie burgers are usually tofu, soy or some sort of bean/frozen vegetable mix (those are not my favourite).  But there was one night that I came back to my first B&B and my host had indicated there was a “chipper” down the way, so I thought I’d try it out.

So veggie burger and fries at the chipper, where the fellow was watching the somewhat violent football match (soccer, for those not in the know).  The veggie patty was covered in a golden brown breading type coating – deep fried.  Biting into it, you realize that it’s made of mashed potato, creamy and hot, with little jewels of veggies studding it.  Yum.

I ended up stopping at an Irish fast food place, Supermac’s, the day I was driving to Northern Ireland, after hiking up to Carrowkeel Neolithic Cemetery, and got a veggie burger there – the same kind.  It’s really interesting.  I have reams and reams of recipes on how to make homemade veggie burgers, and they focus on beans and mushrooms (I have a decadent mushroom burger recipe… drool).  But I can’t recall any that recommends making a veggie burger with mashed potato and veggies only.  Maybe something to try – I don’t have a deep fryer (and I don’t want one…) but I am a fan of potatoes.

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Also, if you have an hour to spend, I’d recommend watching this video by NutritionFacts.  While I recommend you exercise your critical thinking about it as well, it is a really interesting talk by a doctor about how nutrition can impact (and reverse the damage leading to) the top causes of death in the Western world.  Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, but he actually flashes up some research (granted, some of it was quite dated) and it’s nice to have a personable doctor interpreting it rather than media.