I swear I didn’t mean to pop in three months ago, mention I was horribly depressed, tell a story about dog poop, and then disappear again. That’s what happened, but it wasn’t intentional. My intentions are always more like “I’ll post this and then I’ll get back to updating regularly, and with less angst” because hope springs eternal. Then life happens. You know how it is.
The bad news is that it’s been three entire months AND I’m not really even sure I would know how to live a life that is free from angst, so—intentions or not—my plan, such as it was, is not salvageable. Then again, if you come here, I feel like you’re okay with the angst (and generally pretty patient with me wandering off for months at a time).
The good news is that SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED and SO MUCH OF IT IS STUPID that I am now here, back again, ready to share. Will it be anything interesting to you, a presumably normal human who does not view life as a combination of a Twilight Zone episode and a marathon you most definitely did not sign up to run? WHO KNOWS! I’m going to talk about it, anyway, because I am most definitely not a normal human (not in a “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom” sort of way, but in a “my entire personality is just a collection of various trauma” kind of way).
Ready? Buckle up! Trigger warning: lots of medical stuff to follow, including some doggy stuff.
Because depression really is The Worst
Three months ago I had emerged enough from probably my worst depression of the last decade to acknowledge that I was very depressed and say that things were a little better, and that was true, but “a little better” is a bit of a squishy concept. It was better enough that I was grappling with it and no longer fantasizing about getting hit by a bus or something. It was NOT better enough that I was, say, sleeping well, or able to focus on work, or taking even the smallest joy in… anything at all. It was Not Good.
Long story a little bit shorter, after what seemed like an interminable waiting period for referral and insurance approval and intake, I started a course of TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation—here’s a handy FAQ if you’d like to learn more about it). TMS is something of a magic bullet in the depression world right now. I am happy (actually happy!) to report that I’m about halfway through my treatment course and feeling MUCH better already. I sleep (mostly normally)! I eat (mostly normally)! I finish work (not as quickly as I’d like, but progress)! I laugh again. I still hate everything, but less vehemently.
The treatment itself is weird—sit in a big chair, get a giant coil positioned on your head, watch TV for 20ish minutes while it taps your skull in various patterns—but the results are definitely worth it.
So that’s where I am with that. Imagine a Gollum-like creature emerging into the sun and cowering and shrieking “IT BURNS!” but slowly continuing onward, out of its cave. That’s my brain right now, rejoining normal thought patterns. The worst part of getting better is slowly realizing how bad things had been and what I’d come to accept as normal that Definitely Was Not. But hey, that’s manageable and better than staying depressed. So. Yay!
Because nothing medical got done during lockdown
Between treating my depression finally and the general slow-but-steady return to post-pandemic life, lately I feel like I’ve been spending most of my time on the giant hamster wheel of various Medical Things.
1) I got my second COVID vaccine and spiked a 103-degree fever and remained unwell for about a week. I did not enjoy it. I’d still do it again if I had to, and hey, GO IMMUNE SYSTEM and all that. The rest of my family experienced fewer side effects for shorter durations, thankfully.
2) I went to the dentist for a cleaning. No cavities!
3) I had a physical for the first time in years. My cholesterol is suddenly a little high, which offends me to my very core because I eat a truly ridiculous amount of vegetables. My “good” cholesterol is quite high and my doctor is unconcerned, but I am still offended.
4) I got a referral for my first colonoscopy and had a meeting with the GI doc who will be shoving a camera up my butt. She seemed very nice. It didn’t make me feel any better about what she’s going to do to me, but whatever.
5) I drove an hour each way for my yearly “please keep prescribing my thyroid meds” appointment with my endocrinologist, and he spent 30 seconds with me and said he’d see me next year. This feels like a scam. Part of me felt like I deserved more time, but the other part of me just wanted my damn prescription so I could go home. (Mind you, I feel fine, thyroid-wise, and my numbers are good. If I had wanted/needed more time I’m sure I would’ve gotten it.)
6) My mammograms and such get scheduled through a high-risk management practice because once upon a time I had surgery for suspicious tissue. With the lockdown, I had a mammogram get delayed, and then we skipped a screening MRI entirely for some reason, and then one day I noticed they were no longer magically scheduling me for stuff. I called and they said Oh sure, just come in and see us and we’ll get you back on the schedule for everything, no problem. Which is how I had a physical with my primary that included a breast exam and then within two weeks I got to go have ANOTHER breast exam, and now I have to have a mammogram next month. This is the most action I’ve had in ages. (I kid! Sort of!)
Because he is 207 years old and undead
I am too lazy to go back and link alllllllllll of the posts about Duncan’s health travails, but I think this one links a bunch of the previous ones, and most notably, that’s the post where the fancy emergency vet hospital told us he would only live for another year at the very most. (In case you’re not good at math: that was almost two years ago.) The medication he’s on works well and he has dedicated himself to sleeping and eating and peeing on the floor, since then.
Well. I know I’ve mentioned that Duncan has little seizures when his blood sugar gets too low. He gets wobbly and shaky and his face twitches and it’s pitiful. We generally give him some sort of sugar syrup to bring his sugar up and then it stops. Also, these seizures tend to happen shortly after he’s fed (too much insulin dumped into his blood stream for the food he had) or when he’s distressed. A few weeks ago I woke up early in the morning from a sound sleep to a TERRIBLE noise, like a child screaming in pain, and as I looked around and tried to get my bearings, I realized Otto was already up with Duncan.
“What was that??” I yelled toward the kitchen.
Otto’s voice was grim. “It’s Duncan,” he answered.
By the time I got there, Otto had gathered Duncan up in his arms and Duncan was doing a fair impression of a limp noodle. Otto explained that they’d just gotten up, he’d taken Duncan outside but not fed him yet, when Duncan had a seizure. But it was “the worst one he’d ever seen,” complete with a full back arch, stiffened legs, and that awful yowl that had woken me up. Also, he wasn’t in distress and hadn’t eaten yet, so it was a weird thing, timing-wise.
We sat together on the couch in the dim morning light and checked Duncan over and administered reassuring pats and scritches. He seemed fine. Normally he will tolerate being on a lap for only a few minutes, but he sat there for about half an hour without complaint. Eventually Otto got up to feed him, and Duncan ate like nothing had happened. A little while later, he went back to sleep as he normally does.
Typically Duncan gets up between 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, and the dogs get dinner at 6:00. Otto and I went out that night a little before 5:00, and Duncan was still sleeping. When I called Monkey around 6:45 to check in, he reported that Duncan was still sleeping—and he was having trouble waking him up. Shit.
We rushed home to find Duncan awake but… unwell. If we stood him up, he fell over. He didn’t want to eat anything. He didn’t want to leave the bed. We carried him outside and basically had to hold him up so that he could pee. The remainder of the evening was spent taking turns holding and petting him. His eyes were open, but he was basically non-responsive. We FaceTimed Chickadee and filled her in, and let her see Duncan and say her goodbyes.
So. What happened? We did a lot of Googling while we sat with Duncan that night. We concluded that the “seizure” he’d had that morning was probably not a seizure at all, but a stroke. We talked about potential treatment and agreed that Duncan didn’t seem to be in any pain, and eventually concluded that it seemed unlikely he would live through the night (his breathing was very shallow), but that if he did, we would take him to the vet in the morning and have him put down.
We tucked him into our bed between us that night, and both Otto and I woke up to check his breathing at least a hundred times.
The next morning, he was still breathing. IN FACT, the next morning he struggled to his feet and walked to the end of the bed, wanting to go outside. Otto carried him out and set him down, and he not only remained standing and peed, he fairly GALLOPED back into the house and stood next to his food bowl, wagging. So Otto scooped out some food, and he gobbled it all down. LIKE AN ASSHOLE. A LIVING, NOT AT ALL ILL, KEPT US WORRIED SICK ALL NIGHT ASSHOLE.
We still think he had a stroke. For a week or more, he held his head weirdly and seemed to struggle with coordinating his legs, and although that got better, his gait has changed permanently, it seems. He kind of shuffles now. Also, he went from sometimes peeing inside in the evenings during “sundowning” hours to… well, let’s just say I no longer consider him to be housebroken. We just take him outside a LOT whenever he’s awake. And we use a lot of paper towels. And he is no longer allowed to sleep on our bed at night, after a few repeat performances of waking up and just peeing wherever he was. We sectioned off a part of the bedroom floor for him where we can contain him at night, and he’s got his bed and a big blanket and a perimeter of pee pads in there, and most of the time Otto catches him in the morning before he pees, and when he doesn’t I only have to wash the big floor blanket.
When he’s 1) awake and 2) not peeing, Duncan trots around and wags and begs for watermelon and popcorn and absolutely does not understand why anyone thought he was ever anything other than charming and fully healthy.
He’s at least 15 and in terrible health and HE IS NEVER GOING TO DIE. Apparently.
Because she felt left out
Fresh off our little odyssey with Duncan, last week Licorice started limping. She, too, is about 15—and little dogs can live a long time, but she is no spring chicken—and while we used to joke about her being part gazelle due to her impressive vertical leap, in the last year she has definitely started showing her age. Sometimes she would try to jump up on our bed and kind of smack the side and do the Wile E. Coyote slide down to the ground. We arranged a (lower) ottoman in our bedroom so that she could, instead, jump onto that and then from there to the bed. But sometimes she would forget and try to go directly from the floor to the bed. And then sometimes she would miss just when trying to jump up on the ottoman, or the couches in the family room.
Anyway, I noticed her limping one afternoon and figured she’d missed a jump and tweaked something. We decided to keep an eye on her and I said I’d take her to the vet the next day if she wasn’t better. I know you will be SHOCKED to hear that the next day she not only wasn’t better, she was refusing to put any weight on the affected leg and spent most of her time lying next to me trembling and crying.
Of course I called the vet, and when I brought her in later that day, they ended up saying they weren’t sure what was wrong. The affected knee had some swelling, but there was no evidence of a broken bone or even a ligament tear. Ideally they would try some anti-inflammatories and/or steroids, but Licorice is in early kidney failure and those meds get processed through the kidneys. Fabulous. They ended up giving her Toradol and Gabapentin to try.
The Toradol didn’t touch the pain. The Gabapentin just made her stoned. So stoned, in fact, that… she peed on our bed. Because it had been, like, a full week since I’d have to strip it down to the mattress and wash every single piece. I waited the two days they told me to wait, and then I brought her back to the vet. This time they did a million X-rays, asked me a hundred questions, and sent the films out to a specialist.
There was some other fun fuckery in there—something suspicious-looking along one hip, which turned out to be a poorly-healed previous break and not a bone tumor BUT THANKS FOR THAT DETOUR, VET—but this time they 1) found some obscure med that’s kidney-safe that helps her pain and 2) concluded that they still weren’t exactly sure what was going on, but she has both swelling in the knee AND a couple of degenerating discs. They talked me into bringing her back for some “laser treatment” which sounded totally made-up to me, but apparently it’s a real thing. Best of all, it seems to work. She had her first treatment a couple of days ago and yesterday I thought she seemed a little better, and today she’s actually running around (while we yell, “No! Stop! You’re supposed to be resting!!”) and bearing weight on that leg.
Because I love her very much and because the laser treatment is working, I didn’t even kill Licorice or anyone at the vet’s office when they returned her to me the other day with a back paw full of poop. (Licorice hates the vet. I guess she had a panic poop in there.) (Also, wasn’t my last post about dog poop? WHY IS THERE SO MUCH MISPLACED DOG POOP IN MY LIFE??) I, of course, had no idea until I arrived home and realized the passenger seat of my car was… dirty… and my pants were covered with paw prints, too. I carried Licorice in, found the offending paw, got her cleaned up, changed my clothes, and called the vet.
I’m not sure what I was hoping to accomplish. But in the moment, the next logical step seemed to be “Call the vet and ask them if the dog pooped during treatment.” Of course she had and they thought they’d cleaned her up and the poor lady on the phone was mortified to hear my story. I, however, was the one left to clean my car. At least all this vet care is really expensive so the side of extra dog poop is like a bonus!
Anyway. That’s what’s happening here. Less depression, yay! More dog poop, boo. Duncan is alive, yay! Licorice missed the memo that it’s her job to be the healthy dog, boo. Otto is a saint who has stuck by me during all of this, yay! Apparently less depression means more anxiety and more me word-vomiting on him about an odd assortment of things while he looks concerned, boo.
It’s fine. Everything’s fine. How are you?