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A farewell to Mello Yello

I think that no less than three times this year alone I have tried to kick my caffeine addiction. Before we go much farther I want to say that I don’t think that I was that addicted. I had two Mello Yellos a day. Every day. The internet tells me that amounts to just over 100mg of caffeine per day, which is more or less the same as a cup of coffee. Or much less. It really depends on the brand, type, brewing, or whatever else makes coffee coffee. I personally don’t care for the stuff and so don’t know much about it. However, each of those times that I tried before, I failed. The withdrawal was ridiculous and I kept thinking “Why am I purposefully doing this to myself?” and would crack open a soda.

Back when I saw my neurologist in mid-November he seemed to have forgotten that he had told me my two soda a day habit was OK and told me I should cut back to just one. I started with a baby step; instead of straight up cutting out one of my 12oz cans I got some .5L bottles and made one last for the full day. That worked out to roughly 17ozs instead of 24ozs. After just 3 days I decided heck with it and went to just one 12oz can. And I think I was OK. This all happened the week before Thanksgiving so I’m a little fuzzy on the details. OH WAIT. Maybe that’s because I felt ridiculously terrible that week. I don’t know if it was the caffeine (and sugar; can’t forget the sugar content) withdrawal or not but it was miserable.

I think I did start having a worse than usual after lunch crash. See, I had a pretty set routine. First soda: cracked around 9AM and usually gone by 11AM. Some days it lasted longer than others. Second soda: cracked around 1:30 and gone by about 3PM. Without that second soda and not really having good afternoon snacks prepared I was in crash city. Definitely not fun to try to write a bunch of complex SQL when all your brain can think of is CAFFEINE. SUGAR. @____@

At that same visit I switched prevention medication. You know how I’ve been going on about side effects? Well, one bizarre side effect for this one is that it changes the taste of carbonated drinks. I really used to enjoy the taste of my sodas. My overall diet isn’t the best but I do try to not buy myself cookies, candy bars, or other straight up “junk” food. I guess you could say sodas were my cheat food. But after being on that stuff for a few weeks? I don’t know how to describe the taste of sodas. It was almost like drinking metal flavored cough syrup. Why keep drinking something that tasted that bad?

So December 2nd came. On that day I had my last Mello Yello. On December 3rd I woke up, didn’t have anymore sodas at home to take to work and I said why not, let’s kick this entirely. And it was miserable. Everything was fine until almost the end of the work day when I really began to crash. That night was awful. I couldn’t move without wanting to rip my own head off. So I did the most sensible thing I could and slept for about… 14 hours or something. I woke up a couple of times so it wasn’t straight through. Honestly, it really wasn’t good, quality sleep so don’t envy me.

Saturday (the next day) was better. Sunday was better and so was the next day. I’ve now been caffeine free for just over a week. Of course, I’ve had headaches since– actually, I have had some absolute monsters of headaches this week– but I can’t say for certain whether or not they’re related to caffeine. My hope is that if these headaches do continue (and I really hope they don’t) and the doctor’s just keep giving me these useless lists of migraine triggers I can go “I don’t use caffeine, suckas!” Cause really, I don’t think I have migraines. Migraines don’t last for days, right? Migraines will usually respond to triptans or some sort of pain medication and mine don’t. So kicking caffeine is maybe one small step to helping myself figure out what is wrong. And now I’m drinking more water so even if it doesn’t help with headaches this is a good move for my overall health. Also? I’m at slightly higher risk for kidney stones because of the headache prevention medication so drinking more water is even better for me.

Of drugs and other things

Over the holiday weekend I realized that soon bloggers will start compiling lists of “What Happened This Year.” I started thinking about the year in general and boy has it been a rough one. I realize I am quite young to say this but it may have been one of the roughest years of my life. Also, gonna go ahead and say that I use writing for therapy. Sometimes just writing things out and hitting publish helps me to get some things out of my mind, which is a far better alternative to letting them rattle around in there on their own for days and days.

In January I started a 20 week Accutane treatment. I can’t recall if I ever mentioned it here; it was an extremely rough time. I thought almost everyone knew what that horrible poison is but apparently, some do not. It’s technically a drug called isotretinoin and is used as an aggressive acne treatment. This is what dermatologists put you on when all other methods have failed. Methods such as but not limited to hormonal birth control, various cleansers and creams, and months of antibiotic treatment. I was in such misery emotionally and physically (it was painful for areas of my skin to be touched by my clothes) and in danger of scarring my face that I signed up for the overwhelming list of possible side effects. If anything, the knowledge that certain side effects were simply possibilities, especially those that affect pregnancies (trust me, it’s terrible, they put pictures on every single 10 packet of pills; I had to take two pills a day so I saw the pictures a lot), scared the ever living daylights out of me even though I never experienced some of them. I have no doubt that I suffered more than a little depression as a result. It was a horrid, terrible experience that I hope to never put myself through again. At this time I do think it was worth it. I was becoming depressed anyway and my little self esteem was plummeting.

To say that I was excited for my treatment to end in June and my last dermatologist appointment in July is a huge understatement. My skin is miles better than it was and whatever does come up will be dealt with. It will take a lot to make me even think about considering another round of Accutane.

One of the many potential side effects of that vile stuff is headaches. While I was taking it I brushed off anything I had as being due to it, took some tylenol or whatever and that was it. I didn’t keep a close track of anything but I think in July they started to get worse. Still no problem, Excedrin Migraine and some sleep fixed everything.

Then. Then came August 26 and… something that left me in such pain and discomfort that I was barely able to sleep for two days and no pain relievers worked. That started a cascade of doctor’s visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, insurance hassles, and ~SIDE EFFECTS~ Pesky thing about drugs: they seem to break more things than they fix, sometimes. After determining that I have no tumors or some other cause of my headaches my neurologist decided to bump up the anti depressant I was put on in order to try to prevent the headaches. By the way, it bothered me to find out after I had my prescription filled that it was an anti depressant. Shouldn’t doctors be telling their patients what sorts of things they’re being given? Anyway. The increase? Big. Mistake. After experiencing crazy heart rates (120 while sitting!!) and bizarre vertigo they backed it down. After weeks of that, though, it didn’t seem to be doing any good. Solution? Switch to another drug! Start Topomax at 25mg and increase to 50mg after just a week. And by the way, side effects for this only include confusion, inability to concentrate, forgetting things, small stuff. Oh yes, while not an anti depressant it can increase depressive thoughts. Just a few days after I went to the higher dose my lips and eyes to twitching enough to drive a person insane. Back to 25mg it was.

That’s where I am now. Except I don’t think the lower dose is really doing enough to prevent the headaches. But what can I do? A higher dose will drive me crazy and I’m talking certifiably, not the “she’s different and that makes me uncomfortable so I’m going to call her crazy to make myself feel better” type crazy. I honestly feel like I have absolutely no way to tell what is or isn’t helping. I have a very sneaking suspicion that stress is playing a huge part in this giant cocktail of whatever it is that’s wrong with me. That Which Shall Not Be Named has caused more than its fair amount of stress this entire year. (I am most curious to know which sentence in this post wins “Understatement of the Year.”)

Life has been stressful. Add in the smorgasbord of drugs that I’ve been on this year it is absolutely no wonder that I feel like an emotional wreck right now. I really don’t understand it myself. There is not one single thing that I can pin down (I might be lying to myself right there but will leave it as is) but I am just super unhappy, especially here in the last few weeks or so. And you know what? I’m tired of living like this. I used to wonder why when researching different headache disorders so many different sites suggested support groups or counseling or therapy for pain management for the person with the disorder and the ones close to them. I get it now. When there is absolutely nothing that anyone can do life turns pretty bleak. You don’t want to always complain about feeling bad yet there are no times in which you feel better. Your friends and family want to help but when they know that they can’t even fetch you a tylenol to help it sucks. The doctors seem to be treating you like a science experiment, guessing how much of which drug to give you.

So. I am endeavoring to change what I can. I have no solid plans at the moment because there are a lot of things I don’t have answers for right now. And even if I did, That Which Shall Not Be Named is so called for a reason. What plans can be wisely and safely shared will be. Gosh, that makes it sounds like I’m planning a rebellion or something equally nefarious. I’M NOT. I SWEAR. I’m just altering my outlook and goals. (Does that sound better? Maybe?) More of which I will be saving for a later day. It is late and I let myself get distracting researching symptoms on Wikipedia. FYI, NOT a smart thing to do to yourself at 11:30PM. But for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure I don’t have fibromyalgia. Mostly sure.

Thankful

I would like to say that I am thankful for my family, friends, and so many other things in my life. I’m thankful that so far, I don’t have a serious medical problem. I want to thank all of the people who take the time to say nice things about my photos; I’m terrible about replying to comments. I appreciate each and every single remark that’s left, though, and I am going to try to get better at responding (and implementing something that will let you know I’ve done so!).

And I am very thankful for my husband, who has put up with my whining for the last three months, taken care of me, got up to fix me dinner and get me a drink, and generally pamper me. He hasn’t said anything but I feel like I’ve been a bit of a pain lately. I am very appreciative of everything he’s done for me.

Also, it’s his birthday this Saturday! He’ll finally be as old as me. (For two months. Then I go back to being “old.” Maybe I should take back some of the nice things I just said… just kidding.) Happy Birthday, honey!

May all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving! And for those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving this week, have a good time anyway.

Wordless on Wednesday

In which I geek out

So for those who don’t follow twitter, I got a new camera! The Nikon Rumors guy posted a tweet last Thursday that contained a promo code for Newegg. It was good for that day only for 10% of DSLR cameras (except for Sony). Out of curiosity I checked it out; when I saw what the final price would be on the Nikon D90 I felt like it was too good to pass up. I pondered for a bit, talked to my husband, and decided to buy it. I did hit a bit of a snag during checkout when it decided that the promo code was no good. A quick chat with their customer support cleared that up and the camera was mine! Well, it was this past Tuesday.

And what a camera it is. I have not had a whole lot of time to use it yet but so far I LOVE it. It feels right at home in my hands. There is a whole slew of features that are steps up from my previous camera. (I think the D60 may have found a home… with my husband. We still haven’t decided for sure.) The controls are much more easily accessed, making it so instead of having to dive into a couple of menus to change the shooting settings I can instead hold this button and turn that wheel the intended direction. Biggest feature for me (right now)? The focus motor. I know I have whined and whined (or at least brought it up many times) that I was very disappointed by the lack of a focusing motor in the D60. Basically, unless lenses were of a very specific type, the only option available was to manual focus and sometimes that just doesn’t work well for me. Now? I have it. I can use the 50mm that I bought a year and a half ago much more regularly.

There’s so much more that I could talk about and so much that I don’t know about it yet. But I am extremely excited and pleased with the little I have used it since I got it. One thing that is really bumming me out is the time change and ever shortening days. Even though I typically get home by 5:15 the sun is mostly gone. The local hills and mountains do not help with that. If it weren’t for one hill in particular I’m sure we’d have a little more daylight each day but my house is sort of in a little bit of a dip. As soon as I got home today I ran into the house to grab my camera and a telephoto lens that my sister is letting me borrow. It also requires a motor built in the camera to use auto focus so I wanted to see how well it works. I got the first shot in this post with it and this next one:

But it didn’t take long for the sun to go completely behind that pesky hill and I was left with little light. This is a different tree, if you were wondering. It’s one of the maples in front of our house that had some gorgeous yellow leaves but they are mostly gone now. (I’m pretty sure they’re maples.)

It was also getting cooler so after trying to take a few shots of the moon (will try that again later with a tripod) it was back inside.

One thing that I still feel like I’m missing with regard to photography is a good image editor. My trials of Lightroom, Elements, and Photoshop have all expired. While I know that there are, um, alternate sources to obtain these programs I am not going to do that. I want to have valid licenses and full rights to everything. Yesterday I downloaded GIMP to try out again. I have heard so many people say “It’s just like Photoshop!” that I thought maybe my first experience with it was just not long enough. However, I quickly found out that GIMP doesn’t have adjustment layers in the same way that Photoshop does. I am going to show my geek here again. I think typically there are two categories of editing: destructive and nondestructive. Destructive means manipulating the actual pixels of an image. If you need to undo a manipulation you have to undo all of the steps you have done since. Nondestructive editing allows you to change the image by using layers and other means, ones that don’t have to physically change the image. With layers you can hide them or unhide them to see the changes, go back and edit that one specific effect, use them at different strengths, and so forth. I have become very accustomed to being able to use adjustment layers for editing and I’m really not keen on learning new ways of doing that. I know the difference is GIMP = $0 while Photoshop = $600+ but I think it’s a big difference. Photoshop is the standard for a reason.

Until I can purchase Photoshop (or Lightroom; I can’t decide which one takes priority) I will stick with View NX and GIMP. I am also going to explore the custom picture controls that are available on the D90 itself. The quick glance I had at the retouching menu also looked pretty good. Again, I’m sad that daylight is practically gone by the time I have free time but I hope to make the most of my weekends and practice practice practice. I want to whip up a new design (which is sorely overdue) and possibly include a daily (or almost daily) photo page and use that to encourage me to get out and take photos.

However, until the sun stops setting at 5PM I think I’ll be moping like Mr. Poe here:

Photo Information; Camera: Nikon D90; Images #1-3 shot with the Nikkor 70-300mm G (non VR) @ 155mm and 105mm; Image #4 shot with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D)


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