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If you can’t make neurotransmitters at home, store bought is fine.

Published June 15, 2021 by Malia

How long does it take a heart and mind to heal?

Since 2001, I have been filled with pain, anger, depression, anxiety, and an overall strong sense of doom.  There have been blips of happy during this time, but overall it’s been 20 long years of misery.

I remember mentioning to someone that I felt as though I was living under a curse.  They thought I was being dramatic.  All I knew was that everytime I came close to finally getting a grip on life my world would fall apart.  And it was always in super strange ways.

About 10 years ago, I added apathetic to the laundry list of things I struggled with.  Everything felt so pointless, and I was so tired of always being in pain.  I think that’s when my dissociating began to get really bad.  I spent my days watching myself making decisions that were typically unhealthy.  It was a bit like watching a movie or a dream.  I felt like I was living my life in 3rd person.  My body and mind were on autopilot.

So much of the last two decades has passed me by, and I just let it. I have been ambivalent, apathetic, and I let my heart grow hard.

My undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and ADHD shredded my brain.  I remember when I started college on 2003, and discovered my memory was deteriorating.  It was frustrating and scary.  Growing up my memory had been ok.  I know that towards the end of high school I sometimes struggled to remember things when I was taking a test.  But I wrote that off as just being a busy teen.  I was heavily involved in extra-curiculars, and being a pastor’s kid came with it’s own set of responsibilities.  Then when I started an actual job my senior year, my plate was beyond full. 

Feeling your memory deteriorate is terrifying.  When you know that you know something, but it’s locked behind so many doors in your brain, and you can’t access it; it’s overwhelming and frustrating and angering.

In 2018, I began getting serious treatment for things.  It’s not been an easy road.  Therapy dredged up so many things that I had locked deep, deep, deep, DEEP inside.  So much anger and pain.  It was hard.  It’s still hard.  The guilt and shame of every mistake, every pain I’d ever caused others, overwhelmed me, drowned me. 

My promise to you, my readers, is that you get the honest, genuine version of me.  I’m still not ready to share with y’all the nightmare that was March 2020 through this past February.  But I will tell you, that I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it was the final straw.  It nearly destroyed me completely.  I spent months having people close to me watch me break apart.  I had my own healthcare providers encourage me to quit my job.  But I was so determined to stay.  I had a bad habit of walking away from jobs when they started to feel a little too hard to handle.  I was adamant I was going to break that cycle.  That, no matter how hard the job got, I was going to stick it out. 

Looking back, I now know that I should’ve left my job in May of 2020.  It wasn’t until the end of this past January, when faced with the reality  of partial hospitalization, that I finally said, “Enough.” I knew that if I went back I was going to find myself in some sort of serious health crisis, maybe a heart attack, maybe a diabetic coma, or just completely and permanently losing all touch with reality. I had this sense that if I went back, I would be dead before the year was out, because I could feel my body telling me it was ready to shut down. No amount of money was worth completely destroying myself.

In April, I was running some errands, and suddenly my brain shifted into autopilot. Before I knew it, I was driving to my old job. I hadn’t been near the building since January. I could feel the panic build as I got near, and when I saw it, I broke down. I was torn between missing my friends, and the rush of memories filled with fear and pain.

When Tom had surgery in May, it was the first time I’d been back in a hospital in months. I briefly wondered if I’d find myself second-guessing my decision to leave my job. The short answer? No, I didn’t. I remember watching the medical professionals doing their jobs, and not even the tiniest part of me missed being a healthcare worker. Instead, all I could feel was relief that I was out of working in the world of medicine.

Last Friday, Tom put on Sweet Tooth. Overall, it was a really awesome show, but it was an incredibly hard watch. The first episode and seventh episode hit especially hard.

MINOR SPOILER ALERT

Watching a fictional hospital deal with a pandemic hit a little too close to home. It was a little too real seeing a disease that progressed fast and overwhelmed all the healthcare workers. I stuck it out, but I also texted and warned my friend who is still working in the lab. Just in case she was going to watch it, I didn’t want her to be caught off guard. That night, I prayed and took the meds I usually avoid, in order to help me sleep, cause I was scared that the nightmares that plagued me throughout last year would be back.

A few weeks back, I wrote about starting a new med that was giving me all the side effects. When I contacted the doctor, she asked that I try to stick it out for two weeks, because she thought it might settle down and the med would start working. Last week, I wrote about how mentally I was feeling loads better than I have in a long time. The side effects are definitely better now, I’m glad I agreed to stick it out the two weeks. My body, once it finally adjusted, has been feeling good and my blood sugar numbers are slowly getting lower and steadier.

I’m a bit of an odd duck, because I believe in Jesus and in science. I firmly believe that God gave us science, and if anything the miracle taking place in my body reaffirms this belief. My body doesn’t make neurochemicals or regulate my sugars like it should, but science has created medications that help with all these things. Over the last several days, I’ve been feeling really good. Everything has been working the way it should in my body. And I’ve made a shocking discovery.

I like myself.

I’ve despised myself for so long. All I could see were the bad parts, the mistakes. Am I perfect? NOPE. But I am silly, smart, kind, funny, generous, and phenomenally gifted (especially in music). The me that has suddenly woken up after decades of slumber, is actually pretty awesome. I would want to hang out and be my friend.

So, am I healed/cured/completely fixed? I can’t really answer that. I know that I’m healthier. I know that it’s likely the dark feelings will be back, maybe tomorrow, maybe 5 years from now, but I’m okay with that. I know I can survive the storms, because I’ve already survived so many of them.

Welcome to the Second Decade

Published April 26, 2021 by Malia

If you’re new to the blog, or it’s been awhile since you visited, let me catch you up on what life has been like.

Ten years ago, I started this blog when I moved from Nebraska to North Dakota. I was going through a bad time. I was lost and heartbroken, and I needed to get as far away from Nebraska as I could. North Dakota may not sound like the optimal place to run away to, but I fell in love with Grand Forks. By the December of 2012, I found myself moving back to Nebraska. There were a few reasons that prompted the move, but the main ones were a type 2 diabetes diagnosis and running out of money for school (I was working on my bachelor’s for the umpteenth time).

January 2013-January 2016 saw the following happen:

-I worked in a medical lab.

-I began dating, and got married to the boy. That’s how I referred to him on here for the longest time. His name is actually Tom, and to this day I firmly believe that the best choice I ever made was agreeing to go on a date with him.

-Early Term miscarriages 1 & 2.

January 2016-February 2017

-Tried being a homemaker, it was a bit of a disaster.

-We blew up our car engine by throwing a rod. This led to a giant headache trying to replace the engine. Pretty sure by the time we sold the car we had replaced the engine 4 times. Important lesson kids, always stay on top of your car’s oil levels and changes. It’s and expensive problem you don’t want to deal with.

-We were so broke, and I completely lost hope that things would ever get better. It was a really dark time.

February 2017-April 2018

-I went to work in the lab at our local pediatric hospital.

-I was sick all the time, mostly with respiratory infections.

-Was officially diagnosed with PCOS. I’d been fighting to get someone to officially diagnosis it since 2012. It’s awful trying to get female reproductive health issues diagnosed and treated.

-Decided to leave the job mainly due to my rapidly deteriorating health.

-Adopted an 11 year old Puggle. She’s my first dog ever, and she’s my baby.

-Early term miscarriage 3.

April 2018-August 2019

-Attempt #2 of being a homemaker, again was a bit of a disaster.

-Got officially diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, and depression. I already knew I was struggling, but it was really helpful to finally have an actual diagnosis.

-It was a dark time, but also a time where I learned quite a bit about myself.

August 2019-March 2020

-Went back to the hospital lab job as a casual employee.

-My grandmother passed away.

-Early term miscarriage 4.

March 2020-Now (April 2021)

-At the end of February 2020, my job was going really well. I was getting healthy, and was finally losing weight. I was on top of the world, and when a full time position opened up I decided I was ready. Let me just say right now, if I had known what was going to hit by mid-March, I would’ve never gone to being full time.

-Working in a hospital lab, during the first 9 months of Covid was a special level of Hell. Eventually, I may be able to write more about it, but I’m not mentally or emotionally in a place where I can do that yet.

-The last week of December 2020, my mental/physical/emotional health bailed on me. I’d been trying so hard, for months, to hold it together. I kept telling myself if I could just keep going eventually things would better. At 2 a.m. on 12/28 I was sitting in the shower, sobbing, and I knew I was officially at my breaking point. Months of barely sleeping, high stress, panic attacks, crying all the time, and constant nightmares when I would manage to sleep had all taken their toll. I was put on leave through January, with the intention that I would be heading back to work. I had countless doctor appointments, and by the end of January I came to the realization that there was no way I would be ready to go back to work. So, I chose my health and my sanity over my paycheck and benefits. I know I made the right choice, but it wasn’t an easy choice.

-Early term miscarriage 5.

What does the second decade look like?

I’ll be completely honest with you, right now I qualify a good day as one where I get out of bed and put pants on. Overall, I’m not doing very good. I am starting to heal from last year, but it’s slow going. Right now, I can only manage baby steps, but I’ve decided baby steps of progress are better than no progress at all.

I’ve been encouraged in therapy to return to writing, and right now the easiest writing for me to do is this blog. And since it’s important to have goals, I will end this post with a small list of goals I have for the next few years:

Goal 1: Getting healthy so that expanding our family (whether biologically or by adoption) is an actual possibility.

Goal 2: Moving The Banana Gift from being a dream to a reality.

Like I said, it’s a small list. I’ll be back tomorrow!

Chocolate: 1, Me: 0

Published February 6, 2020 by Malia

People do many things when they feel down. Shop, sleep, drink, sleep around, send text messages to people they absolutely should not be texting. You get the idea. Me?

I eat.

Sometimes I shop, but 98% of the time, I turn to food. It’s been my go to for decades. Does it make me feel better? Yeah. Well, at least it does for a few minutes. And then regret seeps in. Followed by shame. Then I feel even more down than I already did. Which usually leads to more eating. It’s not a unique story by any stretch of the imagination.

Almost a month ago, faced with out of control blood sugar numbers, and severe anxiety about my weight I decided to make one more attempt at losing weight. And since January 14th, I’ve done really well. I’ve lost twenty pounds and stayed completely on plan. I’ve eaten tons of veggies. My blood sugar numbers have been awesome! I’ve resisted pizza, Wendy’s, Arby’s, a giant bowl filled with leftover Christmas chocolate, and piles of baked goods. That’s the short version of an incredibly long list. I have seen myself exercise self-control I really didn’t know I was capable of.

Last Saturday night, I had an incredibly realistic dream. I was tearing my house apart, devouring every little bit of chocolate I could find. I woke up with the most intense chocolate cravings I’ve ever had. I fought it all day Sunday, ending the night by sticking my head in the previously mentioned giant bowl of chocolate and just smelling the chocolate fumes. But the important thing is, I didn’t give in. I didn’t actually eat any. The cravings continued for days. To top it off, I’ve been feeling a lot of stress about work, my stupid fertility issues, and my upcoming root canal. The cravings and stress have started dragging me down into the dark place I don’t like to think or talk about.

I hate the dark place. I know I’ll climb out of it eventually. I’m just hoping I’ll crawl out in a few weeks, instead of a few months. This isn’t my first visit to it, and I know it won’t be my last. I’m not a strong person, but knowing I’ve gotten out of the dark place countless times over the years, helps me hold on. I may sound flippant, but honestly I feel anything but.

Knowing all this, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that last night I gave into the cravings. I ate a ton of chocolate and gummies, both from a Japanese snack box I ordered before deciding to get healthy. A strawberry ice cream popsicle, and three bites of a truly disgusting frozen chimichanga. I came very close to going to Taco Bell and ordering 3/4 of the menu, but it was after 10 pm, and would’ve required the wearing of pants.

By 11 pm the regret and shame had settled in, and I realized that I had two options. Clearly the first (and hopefully last) binge of 2020 hadn’t magically drug me out of the dark place or really made me feel any better. The only good that came of it was that my chocolate cravings were no longer driving me mad. So, my two options were:

A. Fall back into my old norm of binge, feel even worse, binge, feel bad, and repeat ad naseum.

B. Accept that I fell off the wagon, suck it up, and remember the important words from Gone With The Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

So, I woke up today, checked my blood sugar and weight, and hopped back on plan. Nothing magically changed overnight. I’m still in the dark place. I’m still stressed, and honestly I would much rather have had a bagel than my breakfast drink. I can’t promise that I won’t give into my cravings again, because I’m smart enough to know I probably will. I’ll keep facing the same battle, but hopefully I’ll do better the next time I fall off the wagon.

The Return of the Lab Hobbit

Published April 2, 2017 by Malia

I went back to work in February.  I’m not sure I was really ready to go back to work, but our bank account was having a really negative attitude, so it seemed like the best option.  Funny thing, the people that send us bills really like when we pay those bills…

I’m back in a lab, a place I was afraid I’d never get to go back to.  Not only that, but I’m in a hospital lab.  I’ve spent years wishing I could be in a hospital lab, and now I am.  I’m feeling quite a bit happier than I have in a long while.  I actually want to go to work, which is always a positive.  As I’m starting my third month there, I find I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by everything, but my coworkers are the best, and they’re always available to help me through the little hiccups and the big nightmares.

The boy and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary in March.  And by “celebrated,” I mean he woke up two minutes before I left for work, and that was the only time we saw each other that day (he didn’t get home from work until the wee hours of the morning the next day).  I’m hoping that by next year we’ll actually get to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and our anniversary (this year’s Valentine’s Day disaster is worthy of it’s own post).  While celebrating may not have happened, I can honestly say that I am so incredibly blessed to have the boy by my side.  We’re not perfect spouses, we both screw up on a regular basis (me, far more than him) but we do the best we can.  The first two years of marriage have been really difficult.  I’ve cried more in the last year, than I have in my entire life.  It’s been exhausting, overwhelming, and even scary.  However, I think it’s actually drawn us closer together, having to go through this.  I know it’s brought me closer to God (that’s another post, as well).

And now, I’m going to sign off for the night, because tomorrow is going to be here very soon and I can’t afford to sleep through my alarm again (that’s definitely another post.  I’m sensing a theme…).

That’s not how it works.

Published November 7, 2014 by Malia

What follows is something funny that happened at my work this week.  Since I work in a medical reference lab, I see all kinds of specimens.  This can lead me to talk sbout things that aren’t G rated, but I do my best to stay out of R territory.  Consider yourself warned. 

A few days ago at work we received a specimen to be tested for gonherrea & chlamydia.  Two super fun STDs. We get quite a few specimens through our room to be checked for these diseases. Unfortunately, the specimen we received wasn’t your typical submission.  It was synovial fluid from a knee.

Now, this may not seem weird, but keep in mind, we’re talking about STDs.  After 2+ hours on the phone, calling every reference lab we work with, and getting told the specimen was completely unacceptable,  I came to the following conclusion…
If you have to get your knee fluid checked for STDs, you’re doing sex wrong. 

Did You Actually Go To Medical School?

Published August 16, 2014 by Malia

When I was in elementary school, I remember classmates circulating a story about a man who had gone in for surgery, and when he woke up he was missing a leg.  Depending on the person telling the story, he either lost both legs, or an arm and a leg, or both legs and both arms.  I’m pretty sure that at some point, in some telling of the tale, he woke up as the Headless Horseman (and was probably missing all his limbs as well).  I learned two things from this, A. Kid’s imaginations are kind of a gruesome playground, and, B. Don’t have surgery, because the doctor will mix you up with another patient and you WILL die (sans all limbs).

When I was in vet tech school, I remember sitting in surgical procedures class, and having a teacher tell us that it was super important to count all your gauze pads-and anything else that came into contact with the patient-before the patient got stitched up, because you didn’t want Fluffy coming back in for having a sponge left inside her accidentally (and having a severe infection from the foreign body).

You always hear stories like this, and I think on some level I didn’t quite believe them until a few years ago when my grampa was staying at a rehab center after surgery.  Two days before he was due to be released, the nurse gave him another patient’s meds.  Turned out that the other patient was taking high levels of morphine.  I’ve always hoped no one got my grampa’s meds, because he was taking large quantities of Coumadin (a blood thinner, for those who aren’t familiar with it).  Grampa ended up back in the hospital for a few days, and his release date got pushed back another week.

All of these things were enough to make me a little nervous about healthcare, but it wasn’t until I started working at the lab that I truly got scared of healthcare.

Now, let me just point out that there are absolutely amazing and fantastic nurses and doctors out there.  My goal here is not to bash, or cast out a net and say, “All healthcare professionals are this way.”  There are people who truly know what they’re doing and do an excellent job at it.  However, in the last year and a half, I’ve started to wonder how many of them there actually are.

I really love my job.  The work is interesting, and I’ve learned far more in the last year and a half than I ever learned in school.  I work in a medical reference lab.  We’re responsible for running tests that doctor’s offices and hospitals can’t run in-house.  I don’t personally perform any of the testing (I’d need a medical lab tech degree for that, and all I have is my vet tech degree and training as a phlebotomist), but I work in the processing department.  Instead of a long drawn out explanation, just think of it as a combination of quality assurance and client care.  I seem to spend a fair amount of time on the phone with clients, and for every call that is smooth and easy to work through, there seem to be about twenty that make you wish you were having a root canal instead.

For example, recently, I had to call a stat result to a doctor.  Not only did this doctor have zero people skills, but when I told him what I was calling about, what the test was, and what the result of the test was along with the normal reference ranges, he said, “I don’t understand what that means.”  It was all I could do not to reply, “You ordered this test!  This is your patient!  What do you mean you don’t understand?!”  Fortunately, it wasn’t a very unusual test, and after about five minutes I was able to explain it well enough to him that he seemed to have grasped whatever it was he didn’t understand.  I hung up the phone and just sat there feeling pity for his patients.

The thing is, those kinds of calls are not out of the norm.  A few weeks ago, one of my co-workers had to call a nurse because a specimen was received that had to be protected from light and frozen within 30 minutes of collection.  The specimen arrived frozen, but unprotected from light.  The nurse didn’t understand the problem, because she had gotten the specimen in the freezer in the 30 minutes.  My co-worker then had to explain that the specimen also needed to either be wrapped in tin foil (not only does it protect the specimen from light, but it protects it from aliens as well), or put into an amber colored tube.

It scares me when things aren’t labeled, or they’re mislabeled.  It scares me when a medical professional doesn’t know that you use a lavender tube to collect a CBC, instead of a serum tube.  It scares me when they don’t know the difference between serum and plasma.  It scares me when they don’t know how to operate a centrifuge.  It scares me when I have to explain something basic to someone who supposedly has more education than I do.  It scares me when people are more interested in discussing their horoscopes, than they are in doing their job correctly.  I don’t care if you’re a Cancer, I care about making sure that the guy with cancer gets prompt and accurate treatment.

I know that mistakes happen.  I know that doctors and nurses are only human.  Sometimes, though, I have to wonder why some of them decided to work in healthcare.  Must be the great hours and the glamorous uniforms.

Apparently The Evil Copy Machine Was Lonely

Published July 19, 2014 by Malia

So, y’know how in Star Wars nearly every character says, “I have a bad feeling about this.”?  That’s how I felt last Friday after sitting through the 20 minute presentation, “You and Your New Phone From Hell.”  Just kidding, the presentation didn’t have a title.  But, if it had, that is totally what it should have been.

See, for some reason, we had to get rid of the wonderful, fantastic phones with decent reception, and replace them with phones that Crowley would recommend.  And do you know why he’d recommend them?  Because after you’ve disconnected the same client 3+ times in a row, when attempting to transfer them, you start seriously wondering if you’re going to have to sell your soul in a crossroads deal just to make the phones play nice.

Believe me, there is absolutely NOTHING a client loves more than constantly being disconnected.  I’m sure that the irritated, haggard tone their voice takes on is just a mask for how much they’re enjoying the whole experience.

Y’know what else is super fun about the new phone system?  The phone numbers.  None of our old phones had direct numbers.  However, each of the new phones has its own, individualized number.  In theory, this is a good idea.  What’s not a good idea?  The phone company assigning previously owned numbers to these phones.  I’ve spent way too much time this week fielding calls of people trying to reach Farmer’s Insurance.  Most people are pretty startled when they’re calling for an insurance quote, and instead get a medical reference lab.

Maybe the evil phones would be appeased if I sacrificed a chicken…

Happy Birthday To Me!

Published January 8, 2014 by Malia

Work birthday, that is.  Today (1/7) marked my one year anniversary at my job.  This has been a year of firsts.  It’s the first time I’ve been a recognized full-time employee for more than three months.  It’s the first time I’ve had actual benefits.  It’s the first time I’ve had PTO.  Yes, boys and girls, as of today I have finally achieved PTO.  (For those of you who don’t know, PTO stands for Personal Time Off).  Now, I’m not 100% certain how PTO is different from Vacation Days, but apparently it’s different.

It’s a really good feeling to be gainfully employed.  There was a time in my life, not too long ago, where the idea of being employed full time, in a place that I truly love being seemed an impossibility.  It still kind of astonishes me.  I’m so grateful to have this job, though.

I’m An Ergonomic Disaster

Published September 11, 2013 by Malia

Sooooooo…..I’m kind of short.  I’m not full-on munchkin, but I am just barely 5’0″.  (I claim I’m this, but in reality, I’m more like 4’11”.)  Being short typically doesn’t bother me.  It’s just one of those things.  I’ve learned how to deal with it.  Over the years I’ve become an expert at hopping onto counters and climbing all over them so I can access things that are well out of reach.  I’ve come to accept that my feet are just not going to touch the floor when sitting in a normal-sized person chair.

At work, they’re finally training me in my new position.  I get a permanent work area, my own drawer (you have no idea how much having my own drawer means to me), and I’m allowed to be as obsessively accurate as I want (not full/true OCD, but somewhere near the border of it).  It’s great.  I love it.  Well, I love almost all of it.  See, part of my new position involves putting things to be sent out to other labs into bins that are about two feet above my head.  I can barely reach them and successfully complete this task when I stand on my tippy-toes.  However, if these bins aren’t pulled all the way to the very edge of the shelf they sit on, I can’t reach them at all.  Last week, one of my trainers noticed that I have this small problem, and told me she would talk with my supervisors about it to see if they could come up with a solution.

So far, I’ve made two suggestions (because they haven’t come up with any).  A. Move the bins to a lower shelf, and B. Just let me use a step-stool.  Well, suggestion A would work, except they’re not sure what shelf to move them to.  This left suggestion B.  To me the step-stool is logical, and it seems smarter than having me play the tippy-toe dance several times every single day.  However, the step-stool isn’t going to become a reality.  Why?  Oh, this is good…

I can’t use a step stool, because it wouldn’t be ergonomic.

Yup, just let that sink in.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that a step-stool is less ergonomic than me stretching my body out to uncomfortable lengths every single time I need to access these bins.  True the stretching is great for my calf muscles, but it still hurts.  All I can do is hope that the stretching will encourage my body to add a few inches in length.