March 30, 2017

It's not painless

In 2014, someone that I cared about very much committed suicide.  Good friend, all around good guy.  The last time I had talked to him was when I went back East for a visit.  We were attempting to make plans to meet and catch up, but for various reasons, the plans fell through.   I figured it was just bad timing on our parts, and that there'd be another visit out there--or him visiting out here as he had family in the area--and we'd try it again.

I regret that now.

Another friend messaged me with the news.   A family member found him.  There really wasn't any warning, any clues, anything, that he was so depressed that suicide was about to happen.   He also worked in psych--that's where I met him--and you'd kind of figure that those of us in the trenches would know to ask for the help.  I guess not.

What I remember about that day--that whole weekend, actually--was that everything outside seemed so crisp, so still, so quiet.  Almost as though it wasn't real.  It definitely didn't seem real.

That day was also another close friend's birthday--she did not know him.  Normally, she would be the one I would have turned to to process what I was feeling.  But I couldn't burden her with that on her birthday.  She would have listened, she would have understood, she would have been supportive of me...but I would have felt like I was ruining things for her.  "Hey, happy birthday, sorry I'm kind of down, found out a friend killed themselves today.  So what do you have planned for your special day?"  Way too macabre.

I was off work that weekend and didn't have anything to distract me. The better half wasn't around that weekend--I think it was because of his work.   I did have to explain to little one why I was crying but I kept it simple.  I also didn't want to burden a young child's mind with this.  Littler one was an infant, so I talked to him about it.   He probably didn't care as long as he was attached to a boob.  It was the longest three days of my entire life.

The family didn't want flowers but asked for donations to NAMI in his name, so of course I made one.   I couldn't go back East for anything but friends told me about the memorial service, and I got to see a few video clips from it.

A few weeks later, I received a card from the family.  I haven't opened it.  I can't bring myself to open it yet.  It sits in a folder on my dresser.   I will open it one day.  Just not now.

For a long time, I couldn't listen to Def Leppard.  About a year or so...I can now, though some songs still sting a little.  He did have great taste in music.

I never wrote about it here--I just checked the entries for the month of his death and I didn't mention it.  So why am I mentioning it now?

This week, another friend received a phone call from her mother.  Her father killed himself.   He was diagnosed with depression but had been getting treatment...things were up and down but they thought he was doing all right.  So this--like my friend's--was a bolt out of the blue to them.


While I've lost a good friend to suicide, I can't even begin to imagine the pain of losing a family member to it.  A parent, a child, a spouse...any family.  As far as I know, no one in my family has ever committed suicide, though there have been a few who attempted.  Losing my father to health issues was painful enough.  I can't even begin to fathom how it would have felt had he killed himself.

Go here if you feel things are that getting that bad that you're thinking about ending your life.  Or if you're worried about someone who is thinking, talking, attempting it.  Or if you're surviving the loss.  I'll be there for a while today myself.

Yes, I know preventing suicide isn't as easy/simple as clicking on a link.  It takes a lot to ask for help.  Hell, I can't even open that card yet and that's small change compared to someone struggling in crisis. But educating ourselves and others about suicide can help.

March 21, 2017

Grandma Meriwhen

Well, to two pet rocks anyway.  Little One the Elder introduced me to them today.  They're both boys, named Joe and Bob.  Well, Joe was going to be Ben, but he didn't think the rock really felt like a Ben.  And Bob would have been Brian, but little one has always had a soft spot for Bob the Builder.

And there would have been a Meriwhen...yes, the little one wanted to name one after me, except that both rocks were male.

"And how did you know the rocks were boys," I asked.

"I looked at their bottoms," he replied.

"OK."  I couldn't bring myself to ask what he was looking for.

So that's rock-sexing 101.

Speaking of grandparenthood, I saw on social media that one of the neighborhood kids I grew up with became a grandmother.  She is a few years younger than I.  That means she had to have had her own child at about age 20 or therabouts, and this child then became a parent at age 20 or thereabouts.  She's 40 or so and already has a grandchild.

At age 20, I was in college, still deciding what I wanted to do in life.  At 40, I was still deciding what I wanted to in life, but at least had a general direction at that point.

So she now has a granddaughter--a darn cute kid too.  Meanwhile, I'm sitting here as Little One the Younger, toddler, is tracing an outline of my body with Post-Its.  His main squeeze--besides me, that is, as he's still in the "want to marry Mommy" stage--is a stuffed Shaun the Sheep doll.

And Little One the Elder, pre-teen, is holed up in the office playing video games.  He's expressed no interest in dating, and I'm not about to encourage it.  I don't think I'm ready for it.  Puberty has started setting in on him, and I'm having a hard time dealing with the soon-to-be loss of my little boy as it is.  He already is as tall as my nose, and I'm tall to begin with.

But no grandchildren from either son will be on the radar any time soon.

Just two grandrocks.  And possibly a sheep-in-law.

I broke 20

21 lb lost to be precise.  But today, I'm back across in the high 19s, but I did have barbecue for dinner:  a French Dip sandwich.  And that au jus is seriously a liquid salt lick.

I had a patient yell at me for most of my last shift.  Reason:  I existed.

They started in on me, in full-on oppositional form and at the top of their lungs.  After a couple of attempts at reality orientation--which they were not receptive to--I told them, "OK, whatever you say" and went about my business with my poker face on.   I learned early on in psych nursing not to argue with actively psychotic patients because it's an exercise in futility.   They're going to believe what they want to believe, and no amount of discussion is going to convince them otherwise.

Said patient didn't really like that I was not standing there being a willing target, that they weren't getting a visible reaction, and that most of my responses were "whatever you say" or other blandness.  They tried bating me by calling me a few choice names, but that didn't work either...after several years in psych, I've already been called every name in the book plus a few new ones.  So if you want to offend me by calling me names, just be aware that the bar is set really really high.

Said patient kept ranting on until they found another person or object to briefly distract them, then returned their attention to me.  They were also manic, so their energy didn't wear down.  They kept it up until the moment I left.  Something about me must have touched a nerve with them, I guess.

Funny thing was, they weren't even my patient.  I just happened to be on the floor that shift.

Just a typical day at work.

March 15, 2017

Of acetylcholine receptors and vanity

So I contacted my ophthalmologist's office and asked them to check if the ptosis surgery will be covered by my insurance, and if so, how much.  They're going to check the cost of fixing the affected eye by itself, and fixing the affected eye along with addressing the issues of the other eye.  Depending on what the numbers are, I'll be moving forward with this.

I talked to my sister about the procedure.  I learned that she is as squeamish about all things eye as I am, so that was comforting.  Even so, she's miles more solid with blood and gore than the better half, who once almost passed out during a labor and delivery video.  She agreed to drive me to and from the procedure.

And being the immunologist she is, she wants me to ask my PCP for a blood test to check for acetylcholine antibodies.  She's thinking myasthenia gravis is the cause.   And who knows, she may be right.  I don't think it is, as its rather rare and the only symptom I have from the list is the drooping eyelid.  But I do fit the "at risk" profile, being a female over 40 and being on a beta-blocker for the long-term.  I have my annual physical next week and it couldn't hurt to ask about it.

Here, read up on the disease if you're unfamiliar:  I had to refresh myself on it as well.

My research did turn up that ptosis isn't a cause, but a symptom of some underlying problem, be it myasthenia gravis or some other issue.  Fix the problem and the ptosis could go away.  Or not.  But it's not as though they can schedule the surgery next week.  It'll be several months before it would happen, so that gives me plenty of time to do more research and rule out potential causes.  I know that if I don't treat it one way or another, the ptosis is only going to get worse.  It's not going to magically resolve on its own.

I admit that I also want to get this fixed for aesthetic reasons.

While the ptotic (yes, it is a word!) eye is giving me physical grief, I am--or feel like I am--starting to notice the ptosis more.  I feel like it's become glaringly obvious in every picture I take.  I'm wondering if other people notice it.  I'm wondering how to ask other people if they notice it AND get an honest answer from them, with none of the "it's not that bad!" crap.

I feel weird that I'm considering the aesthetic along with the medical.  I feel like I'm getting an eyelift.   Well, technically I would be, as it's pretty much a similar procedure.  I personally have no objection to plastic surgery.  If it makes a person feel better about themselves, then fine.  If it fixes a problem, even better.  And yet, even though I have a valid medical reason on my, face, for having this done, I can't help but feel like I'm being vain in doing this.

And is feeling that way necessarily right...or wrong?


March 12, 2017

Is it wrong of me to want to be able to eat a bag of Doritos without interruption?

And without having to lock myself in the bathroom to do so?

I believe not.

Yet the little ones will not let me do that.  But then I realized how I could make it possible.

So on my way home this morning, I stopped at the local 7-11 and got a small bag of Salsa Verde flavored Doritos.  I took it and a Diet Dr. Pepper into the bedroom with me.  Then I turned on my sound machine and went to sleep.

When I woke up, I got the bag of Doritos and the soda, and feasted before I turned the sound machine off.  The family knows that when the sound machine is on, they can only enter if there's a fire or copious amounts of blood are involved.  So I knew I would not be interrupted unless the house was burning down or the little ones got into a playroom brawl.

I have no regrets and I do not feel guilty.  Not. One. Bit.

I'm also almost 20 lb. down since starting the intermittent fasting in the middle of October.   19.75 to be specific.  The fact that I don't eat for 16 hours out of each work day (on days off, I scale it back to 12 hours) lets me eat whatever I want--within reason--during the other 8.

March 9, 2017


I went to get my taxes done today.  I don't do them myself anymore.  The Meriwhen Estate is rather complicated and requires a lot of itemization and the use of many extra forms.  It is worth paying a professional to do them.  It might be expensive, but to me, it's worth every single penny.

If you itemize, here is a handy tip:  get a folder, label it "Taxes."  Throw any and every work-related receipt in there:  purchasing scrubs, renewing licensure, CEU payments, etc.  Also throw in donations, medical bills, anything that you plan to write off come tax time.  It's a lot easier to do that than to spend the first few weeks in January trying to find and print receipts, or doing a best guess estimate of what you spent without paperwork to back it up, and then hoping that you won't get audited.

Despite doing that every year, I still spend about 3 hours printing, cataloging and organizing all the tax paperwork.


I used to strive for a gigantic refund every year, until I realized that I'm basically loaning money to the government interest-free.  And I could be using that money now, not later.  I do itemize and claim all the deductions I can, but I also tweak my withholding so that I come out close to $0.   I won't complain if I do get a refund though, but I'm no longer in the "big bucks, big bucks, no whammy, stop!" mindset.  I just don't expect a large refund.

This year, I owe the government a little bit.  It's much less than I thought it would be, given the income shift between the better half and I, plus the fact that I didn't update the multiple W4s until the middle of the year to follow those changes.  So we had too little taxes taken out...though if I hadn't changed the W4s, it could have been a lot worse.  Next year, we should hit the sweet spot.  But this year, I mail a check in the morning.

I got the state withholding right:  a $30 refund...which, in California, is taxable income for the following year.  Which is an even better reason for me to get my refund as close to $0 as possible:  not only would a refund mean I'm letting California borrow money from me at no charge to them, I then have to pay California for the privilege of getting back money that was rightfully mine to begin with.

It took two hours and two tax preparers to figure it all out.  But they did it a lot faster and probably more accurately than I ever again, worth every penny.

March 7, 2017

Last day at Job #3

I received my final paycheck from Job #3 in the mail.  They actually had it ready to give to me at my last day, except they didn't know where they put it.  So I told them to mail it to me.

I never did tell you about how the last day went, did I?

It was mixed.  I know that by resigning, I was making the right decision.  At the same time, I was going to miss my coworkers.  I had already said some goodbyes in person a couple of weeks prior.  On the final day, I messaged those who I couldn't get to see before I left that I was going, and gave my contact info in case they wanted to get in touch.  I cleaned out my e-mail and message boxes, and removed any personal files...there weren't many left as I started doing that once I decided to resign.

The nurse manager/my friend brought me flowers--which are actually still in great shape a week later--and food, which was sweet of her.  The administrator told me that I would be missed and that I would be welcome back.  And you never know--things in my life might change and I end up going back down the road.

I made one last pharmacy haul to use my 25% employee discount.  Stocked up on diphenhydramine, as I use 100mg for sleep on work nights.

Work itself was kind of slow.  There was a nursing inservice that day and I was invited to go along even though it was my last day.   I was hesitant at first since it was my last day, but I'm glad I did decide to go, as some of my coworkers that I didn't get to see before I went were there, so I got to say goodbye in person.  The presentation was about substance abuse and managing withdrawal.  Not only did I get to spend 1.5 hours discussing a topic I love, I got paid and picked up some CEUs as well.

Not long after that, I had to see nurse manager/friend to turn my stuff in.  That was sad but we had to laugh about how small the nursing world is, as this is the second workplace we've been together at, and a number of staff from our first shared workplace came over to this workplace as well.  And that we've probably both find ourselves together at a future workplace.  Then I left.

I decided that I needed In-N-Out Burger to soothe my wounded soul, so I took the long way home to stop at the one two towns over.   One Double-Double (no veg) later, I felt a little better.

And that's it, really.  It was a fairly low-key day, which suited me as I prefer to leave quietly in the night from such things.

It took a little getting used to being employed at only one organization.  I've always had the safety net of multiple jobs at the same time, so if I felt unhappy at one I could spend more time at one of the others.   Now, all my eggs are in one basket, so to speak.  But there are plenty of opportunities for extra work, and they're even willing to pay overtime if that's what it takes.

And the committee that I'm now involved in guarantees me several hours a month.  But that's a story for another post.

March 3, 2017

In which Meriwhen learns she was never meant to go into ophthalmology, and other important life lessons

Lesson #1:  Never schedule an eye appointment after working night shift.

Especially when the night is long and the psych acuity is high.  It was all I could do to stay awake once I got off of work.  I usually sleep immediately or thereabouts after getting home.  But not today.

I went home, showered, ate breakfast (Jack in the Box, how I love thee), and then drove the 45 minute to my ophthalmologist (Blogger autocorrect, how I love thee).

My eye doctor is located in a very affluent part of the entire state.  Not just an affluent area in my city--it's one of the top in the state.   So my little SUV is a bit out of place among the Audis, BMWs and other luxury cars.  I also feel a bit of place there too, as I show up right out of work, in my sandals, old jeans, and jacket, while both staff and patients walk around in business suits or designer label swag.  Everyone else is (or appears) slim, young and beautiful.

Then after the appointment, I drove the 45 minutes home and had lunch.  And then I tried to pass out...and was unable to fall asleep.  So I ended up staying awake for a full 24 hours.

Lesson #2:  Eye doctors have access to the best toys.

The eye doctor has the most beautiful green beautiful and fairy princess-like.  There's no way THEY could have been natural.   But minding my manners, I did not ask.  And it goes without saying that all the vision techs and nurses had long, luxurious thinks Latisse is at work.

And nary a wrinkle in sight on anyone.

Lesson #3:  Ptosis is not what I thought it was.

I told her that my right eye had the issues with drooping...she was focused on my left.  Then she took measurements, went over the test results, and I learned that what I assumed was a drooping eyelid was not actually a drooping eyelid.  And what I assumed was the normal eyelid was in fact the drooping eyelid.  It's the left eye that had the ptosis.

That being said, the right eye still has its own issues, so I'm not entirely insane.

The cure for both of these issues is minor outpatient surgery with a week's downtime.  It's not critical--it's more of a quality of life issue.  If I never got the procedure done, no big deal.  But she warned me that given the aging process, both eye issues are not going to get any better on their own.  And I'm also apparently at the border where the procedure would be covered my insurance for medical reasons, instead of not being covered as a cosmetic least for the left eye, since my vision is apparently being impaired by it.  The right eye, they'd have to apply for specific approval to fix this problem, as apparently my vision is fine in the right eye.

I say "apparently" because during the vision field test, the right eye was far more uncomfortable during testing than the left.  So naturally, I assumed that it was as I originally thought--the right eye was the issue.  Guess I was wrong.

But we agreed on a conservative "wait and see" approach for now because...

Lesson #4:  I have no stomach for anything involving eye surgery.

She started describing the procedure and I began twitching.  It was all I could do to not go squeamish and pass out on her.  Even recalling the conversation as I type this several days later is making my stomach churn and my body shudder.

We decided that, even though the surgery is a minor procedure and I could drive myself home afterwards, it would probably be best if she put me out for it.

Then there's the scheduling issue.  A week of time off will be needed until the stitches can come out.  The bruising will take longer to heal, but I don't mind going in all bruised up.  I could camouflage most of it with makeup, I imagine.  And if not, it'll have the potential for helping me spin entertaining tales for my patients.

I got home and filled in the better half who agreed on the "wait and see" approach (he's got a much weaker stomach than I).  I follow up in 6 months or sooner if it worsens.  I'm probably going to schedule the surgery for the end of the year.

And of course, not having slept in 24 hours plus all this about eye surgery--the procedure is essentially an eye lift--made me start thinking...

Lesson #5:  I need to embrace aging.  Not necessarily without a fight though.

Mentally, I don't feel my age at all.  I feel years younger than I am.  I know I'm not a teenager or in my 20s, so I don't act or dress like one.  But I refuse to mentally-tack on "middle-age" to anything I say, think or do.

Thanks to a lot of sunblock plus great skincare, I'm fortunate to look 10 years younger than I actually am.  My skin has never looked this good in the last decade.  I'm also steadily losing weight and starting next week, I'm getting back into exercise (my excuse for not starting now is that I have a half-marathon that in this weekend, and I don't want to be sore).   I don't have any greys...though to be fair, I've been coloring my hair since age 19 so if there is grey beyond the random hair or two, I wouldn't really know about it.  So overall, I'm on the upswing.

The fact is, I have to accept that my body has been on the road for 40+ years now and with life happening to it, it's inevitable that there will be some wear-and-tear (tare?).   I'm never going to have the face or body of a 25 year old again.  And even though I'm ahead of the game with the religious sunblock use, I admit to feeling some regret that I didn't take even better care of my face and body (watched my weight, dealt with skin issues, etc.) so that perhaps I wouldn't have felt so insecure in my teens and 20s.  I could have enjoyed them more.

But I am what I am.  I should embrace it.  That doesn't mean letting myself go and not putting up any fight, though.   If I can improve something a little bit, I shall.  But let me be realistic about what I am and what I can achieve.  Nothing is going to bring me back to age 25 nor should I try.  But at least I can look and feel damn good for a 40-something year old.