Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Health

Competing needs: which will win?

I’ve been experimenting with drinking caffeine again because it’s good for my migraines (but not too much) and it’s might be good for whatever is ailing my left thumb. Heh. I first wrote thump. Left thump. That’s funny. Anyway, It’s been a few months and the results have been mixed. I’ve been mostly migraine symptoms free, so yay! Thumb is slowly and painfully getting better. Not fast enough for my liking and I don’t know if caffeine has anything to do with it. I’ve been stretching and massaging it daily, which is probably the real reason it’s doing better.

It’s fucking my sleep really badly, though. at least, that’s what I think is the problem. I don’t think it’s caffeine in general, but either how much I’m drinking or when I’m drinking it. Or rather, not how much I’m drinking, but how strong I’m making the coffee. Either way, I’m falling asleep anywhere from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and getting up…well, there’s no set time any longer. On the one hand, it doesn’t matter because I rarely have to be anywhere in the morning. On the other hand, it’s really fucking with me not to have any kind of schedule.

When I was going to bed at 7-8 a.m. and getting up around 1 p.m., that was a schedule. It wasn’t a great schedule, but it was a schedule, nonetheless.

Ok. Because of said schedule, I’m tired. Done for the day.

The state of my health

My sleep has been shit(tier) lately so I apologize in advance if this is a rambling mess of a post. Sleep, my lifelong nemesis. So much so, I’ve written a novel with Morpheus (of Neil Gaiman fame. Not that he invented Morpheus, of course, but this particular version) as the main antagonist. Goddamn it. I still feel sorrowful when I think of that novel because there’s no way I can publish it. It’s not fanfic as the main character is, well, me. I use all the members of the Endless as I envision them, and, quite frankly, it’s really good.

Anyway, I’d been happy because in the past year or two, my sleep had stabilized. But then in the last few months, it’s gone off the rails again. Why? I don’t know. Is it because of the coffee I’m drinking again? You’d think so, but the troubles started before I took up caffeine once again. It may not be helping, but it’s not the root cause. It’s frustrating because caffeine is beneficial for some things (thumb issue if it’s RA), negative for some things (sleep) and both in others (migraines). So far, I’ve kept the caffeine because the positives have outweighed the negatives, but I may have to quit if it gets worse.

My thumb is better. It’s still sore and tender and hard to bend at times, though. I’ve decided that it’s probably better not to wear a splint most of the time because I don’t use it when I type. The main reason to wear a splint is to keep the digit from moving on its own or from being accidentally knocked into. I feel that constricting the blood flow is not a good thing to do for hours on end so I only put it on when my hand starts actually hurting rather than just being sore and tender to the touch. I can deal with it even though I’m not happy about it, obviously. What’s more worrisome is that my right hand is starting to have…issues. Not the same issues as my left thumb, but still.

Ok. I’m just not feeling it today. Here are Maru, Hana, and Miri.

Human blender commences…blending

come to mama, baby!
Cuisinart in the house!

My twin broadsword set has arrived. I found it outside my door last night and was surprised because I was expecting it later in the week, but, of course, I’m ecstatic. Picture to the right. Please ignore the fact that I had to stand on my piano bench in order to get both broadswords in the picture (yes, on top of the piano cover).

They’re thin metal–almost foil-like–and make that weird swishing sound that such material makes when moved too quickly. It’s a good reminder to slow down and be deliberate in my actions. Just because I want to be the human blender, it doesn’t mean I have to go as fast as possible. That’s a main tenet of taiji–slow and smooth. It’s called the lazy martial art because the goal is to put in the minimum amount of effort needed for the maximum output. No pain, no gain? No. No pain, period. If you’re getting pain from doing taiji, you’re doing something wrong. Such as, I had tendonitis in my knees. It was because I was overextending on my front foot and I was collapsing my knees. Once I fixed those issues (which took time and focus, by the way. Bad habits die hard), my tendonitis went away.

Side note: I think that’s one reason I’m so grumpy about my left thumb having problems (and the tiniest hint of the same in my right thumb). I’m used to using taiji to clear up my aches and pains, but the thumb is difficult to focus on, even with taiji. I’m doing the left side of the Sword Form which is supposed to help according to my taiji teacher, but that may take some time. See, that’s the thing about taiji. It helps, yes, but it’s not an instant cure. But with my back and knees, I was fairly confident the taiji would help. Those were established solutions. My thumb? Not as sure. I could tell my teacher wasn’t sure it would help, but at the very least, it won’t hurt. Also, I’m wary about what it is because I had an issue in my right wrist three decades ago that my doctor incorrectly diagnosed as carpal tunnel. I had it wrapped for months and did everything I was supposed to do to alleviate it. It didn’t get better and I was sent to a specialist. He grabbed my thumb and yanked on it sharply. I jumped in the air and he said my problem was the opposite of carpal tunnel. I don’t remember what the actual diagnosis was, but I had surgery, wore a soft cast for a month, and it was all better. While what I’m experiencing now is nothing like what I had before, I do wonder if it’s the same thing.

My thumb is slowly getting better overall, but it’s really bad in the mornings. It’s funny how little I actually use my thumb and how upsetting it is to have this issue. I’ve completely trained myself to use my right thumb for the space, which was the major thing I used my thumb for before. Weirdly, using my left thumb doesn’t hurt most of the time; it’s just specifically bending the knuckle that is painful. And the base and root parts of my thumb are tender to the touch. If I don’t touch my thumb and am not trying to bend it, it doesn’t hurt at all.

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The long road back to recovery

I’ve been thinking about my thumb a lot for obvious reasons. It’s funny how much you take things for granted until it hurts like fucking hell. well, to be more precise, it aches like hell. It doesn’t hurt, per se, except the time I slept without the splint because I foolishly decided I didn’t need to wear it at night any longer. That’s where my background comes in because my mom is the same way. The second something feels better, she decides she can go 100 again. She recently had surgery on her shoulder (which had issues that made me so angry at my father and the doctor, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it because she was in Taiwan) and she was upset when she wasn’t back to her normal self in a month. She complained, saying her doctor said that’s how long it would take.

I doubt he said that exactly because she has a habit of hearing what she wants to hear, but even if he had something similar to that, it doesn’t make any kind of sense to think that you’d completely heal from a major surgery in a month. That’s the thing about being a perfectionist, however, and I know this from experience. We don’t have much resource for dealing with ongoing frustration. In my brain, I should be able to think my way to a solution. Also, despite my contrarian nature, I am a rules follower for the most part. So, in my brain, if I am actively working on improving my thumb, then it should get better. And it is, but on such a slow schedule. First week, I just tried to massage the thumb and take it easy. While wearing a splint. I do stretches for my thumb every day and today, I received my heat/ice therapy assists (gel patches, gel finger splint, gel mittens. The gel packs can go either hot or cold). I’m going to do some heat/ice therapy and see if that helps as well.

On the taiji front (because you know I can’t go a post without talking about it.

Side note: When I first started studying taiji, I would notice how much my teacher talked about it and how she had made it central to her life. We are friends as well as teacher/student and in the Before Times, we used to hang out while not in class sometimes. It was clear to me that taiji was her life. Which, good for her, but I didn’t understand it. I was doing it begrudgingly and not really wanting to be there.


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Little things mean a lot

I never thought about my thumb before it started being a problem. It makes sense. Why would I think about my thumb? I have two of them and they do what they’re supposed to do. Period. That’s good enough for me. Until my left thumb started twinging in pain. Nothing big. Not often. Just once in a while, it would tweak. And the joint would pop and lock when I bent it. This was perhaps two or three times a week. The clicking didn’t hurt; it was just annoying. Then, about a week ago, things escalated dramatically. The base of my thumb started hurting more regularly. Again, not in and of itself, but if I touched it or moved it in an odd way. Not hurt, but more like ached. The clicking was deeper for a lack of a better word, but still did not hurt.

It was highly annoying, however, and I knew I did not want it to get worse. I Googled it because that’s what I do. It’s rheumatoid arthritis also known as trigger thumb in this particular case. There are stretches recommended for it, which I’ve been doing every day. In addition, I have picked up a splint for it that I am wearing most of the day and night. Is it helping? I think so? It’s hard to say.

I have to say, before I got the splint, the pain increased dramatically. the base is painful to the touch, though not inflamed-looking. The clicking is more often than not, ranging from a quick, barely-audible click to a deep, grinding click. Bending the thumb is painful at the base and the clicking itself hurts sometimes. Once in a while, the bending pain is excruciating, but it’s bearable most of the time.


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The more things change….

I gave up coffee. Again. Maybe not for good, but I switched back to green tea for my caffeine. Why? Because my sleep has been terrible since I started drinking it again. Green tea didn’t seem to have that effect and it’s delicious, especially with pomegranate. I haven’t had this bad of sleep in some time and it’s really messing with my head. Yes, my migraines have been kept at bay, but is it worth it? I don’t know. With the absence of the migraines, I would say yes. But, in the middle of a migraine, I would say no. It’s the duel of the conflicting health issues!

On the weapons front, I loaded up today. I did the beginning of the Double Sabre Form, sword drills, the whole Sabre Form, the Karambit Form, and spear drills. Oh, I forgot to do the one row of the Cane Form I know, so I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m still thinking about about a music/form mashup and we’ll see if I have the energy for that. One thing about going to the demo is that it fills me with possibilities–much like a kid with her nose pressed to the window of a candy shop. I want everything I can see and all at one time. My teacher likes to say that there’s a lifetime to learn things so there’s no reason to rush.

She’s right, but that doesn’t stop my brain from whispering that I’m behind and need to catch up. Not that kindly, of course, as my brain is really mean to me most of the time. Actually, I have to check that. It used to be horrid to me. I had a constant tape of negativity that looped in my brain and it just felt normal. I called him (and it was definitely a him) The Dictator and he was a cruel master. He had so many rules and regulations, it was impossible to keep them straight and not mess up.

Side note: Quick background about the Dictator. I grew up being constantly told, mostly by implication, that my feelings were not valid. They constantly got minimized and ignored, and I was not allowed to show any kind of negative emotion. Negative meaning anger, sadness, depression, etc. Only my father was allowed to show anger because he was king of the castle and allowed to do whatever he wanted. The rest of us had to tiptoe around him and catered to his every whim.

I internalized those messages to such an extent that even now I have difficulty showing human emotions in a natural manner. It’s one reason I prefer writing because it’s easier to mimic through written words than through speaking. I’m better at it, but it’s still not something I can do without thinking. In the past, I’ve been able to mimic the emotions because I’m observant and I used to do some  acting in my youth.

I want to be clear. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel the emotion on some level. If a friend told me they, say, got a great new job, then I felt happy for them deep down inside. The problem was that I had wrapped my emotions in multiple layers of cotton that I could no longer feel them. Not only that, I couldn’t even access them.

I had a flat affect at the time because I was in a deep depression and I felt as if I could never get out of it. Now, I’m still not as emotive as ‘normal’ people, but I can more easily  pass. And I have access to my emotions, albeit muted versions.


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Conflicting health issues

i have suffered from migraines for quite some time. Let me backtrack a minute. I’ve had a low-level headache pretty much all my life. It’s always been there whenever I really think about it. For decades, it’s been something I’ve lived with and just dealt with as need be. I took ibuprofen when it got bad, and that did jack and shit. I will confess something that I rarely talk about. When the migraines hit in the old days, they were fucking awful. Two ibuprofen did nothing to them. My migraine just laughed at that pitiful attempt to block it. Three? Ha! Not a chance. It took six in order for the ibuprofen to have any effect on the migraine. Which, by the way, I didn’t recognize as a migraine at the time because I don’t get auras.

Side note: This is one of the reasons that it’s important to not have a fixed idea as to the symptoms of a health issue. They don’t manifest in the same way for different people.

Side note to the side note: It’s similar to how most medical studies are done on white dudes. Well, that holds true for a lot of things, but the medical part is especially pertinent here. I was in my thirties when I discovered that Asian people needed much less of most medications than do white people. It was around the same time when I also realized that as a woman, my ‘normal’ dose would be much less than a man’s. This had disastrous results when I tried to find a solution to my sleep issues. Hm. Was it in my late twenties? Maybe. That or my early thirties.

I was desperate. I had tried a bunch of things that didn’t work. Hot milk before bed. Hot chamomile tea. Lavender in the bath (how I found out I was allergic to lavender). Ambient music. White noise machine. Which, I will say, did help, but didn’t eliminate the core problem. Same with earplugs and an eye mask, but those didn’t come until later. At some point, I tried melatonin, valerian, St. John’s Wort (more for depression than for sleep, but didn’t work). The valerian actually made me suicidal because it slowed my brain down so much, I couldn’t make a coherent sentence.


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Shying away from the ‘D’ word

My sleep has gone to shit again. This is not surprising, though it is disheartening. It happened once early in the lockdown and I managed to get it mostly under control–going to bed by 2 a.m. at the latest. In the past week or so, however, my body has just said to fuck with all that. I just had the revelation that it might be because I’m drinking caffeine every day again, although that has been longer than the sleep bullshit, I think. Back when I used to drink caffeine on the regular, it didn’t affect my sleep at all. But I gave it up for two years so maybe I’m a newb again when it comes to caffeine. Or it could just be my body being stupid. Bodies are stupid sometimes.

Bedtime has been creeping back again bit by bit. I hit the peak of 6 a.m. two nights again and decided I needed to rein it in. The problem is that I fall asleep/nap around nine or ten at night for an hour or so and then I can’t properly fall asleep for hours. Last night, I went to bet at 5:30 a.m. Sigh. Oh, and I think I have some kind of bug because I’m sleeping more than seven hours a pop. I would like to get it back on track, but a small part of mind says, “Who the fuck cares in this year of our lord, the pandemic?” It doesn’t matter, really, when I go to sleep, but it’s a point of honor now to see if I can actually sleep like a normal person. If I can move my bedtime to 1 a.m. and keep it there, I’d be satisfied.

Let’s talk about the staff/spear. I write it that way every time because it’s a staff, but I’m doing spear drills. It’s made of waxwood and it’s smooth as butter in my hands. It feels like supple plastic (in a good way) as it slides effortlessly in my hands without the fear of getting splinters. I love it like I’ve loved no other weapon save the sword and I want to learn ALL THE THINGS.

This segues into the title of my post, however. D is for disability. I don’t use the word because I don’t feel like I have the right but also because I don’t want to put that label on myself for the usual litany of reasons. Internalized ableism; feared ableism; thinking of myself as lazy rather than disabled; and more. In addition, it’s hard to think of myself as disabled because as I’ve said before, each individual thing is not huge in and of itself.

It’s also hard because I feel like a lazy bitch all the time. Part of that is depression, but part is because my body tires out so quickly. Then I think it’s because I’m fat and lazy and not in good shape, not because of my various issues.

I can’t. Sorry. I’m just not in the mood. Some days, it’s just too much effort. Here’s Apocalyptica doing O Holy Night.

I am just done

One way I can tell when I’m nearly done with something is that everything gets on my last nerve. Normally, I’m good at deflecting and keeping my shit to myself. But if I’m not allowed or able to replenish my reservoir, that ability erodes until at some point it completely disappears.  for example. Talking to my parents on the phone. Normally, I just ‘uh huh’ and ‘really?’ until the phone call ends and then shake off the slight depression before going about my business. By the way. My brother and I recently compared our conversations with our parents, and they’re exactly the same except I get more bitching from my mother. Way more bitching. Most of the time, my mentality is, “Just listen to them blather, nod in agreement, and get off the phone as quickly as you can.” With an added, “Tell them you’re fine, everything is fine, yes, Covid-19 sucks, yes, this current president sucks, have a good life, goodbye.”

It doesn’t help that my parents are deeply entwined in a codependent relationship that I’m afraid will leave my mother worse for the wear. I mean, hell, it already has as most of her life revolves around my father and catering to his needs. My mother was on a kick for fifteen years to get me pregnant and then switched to getting me married after that. She would say who would take care of me when I’m old and sick if I weren’t married? It took every ounce of will I had not to snap out that her being married hadn’t helped her. Indeed, recently, she fell and hit her head, and as she felt the blood (which was pink), my father insisted it wasn’t blood. He kept asking her if she had dyed her hair recently which, first of all, she hadn’t dyed her hair in a decade or so. Second, she’s never dyed her hair pink. She said this proved she couldn’t count on him and then did a little laugh. I hate that laugh, by the way. It’s a fairly new addition and she only does it when she knows that she’s saying something unreasonable. Like having to put up with your husband being worse than useless in an emergency situation.

By the way, my mother shared that my father’s latest dementia tests show that he hasn’t deteriorated in the year. She was relieved while I was baffled. If it’s not medical, then why is he getting worse and worse with his memory, his self-absorption, and everything else? This is an age-old question with him, though. Is it medical or just his innate narcissism? I try not to get sucked into the speculation, but it’s hard not to get drawn into it because my mother is incessant about talking about my father.

Anyway. When my mom calls, it goes like this. She asks the perfunctory ‘how are you?’ question then use it to springboard into whatever she wants to talk about. Usually her many physical problems, things my father has done to irritate her but she can’t admit it, Covid-19, the election, work issues, and then insist that I talk to my father. He’ll ask about Covid-19 and express amazement that it’s not going down. A bit about this president and the totally unfounded belief that Americans are logical and rational people and how could this happen? He says in complete seriousness that America is the best country in the world! Mind, he hasn’t actually lived here in nearly 30 years, but facts don’t matter. Then he pontificates how each individual person doesn’t matter (when it comes to the coronavirus) and we can’t do anything so we should just ignore it and move on.


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Caffeine, anyone? Oh, and spears.

Caffeine. Let’s talk about it. I’ve had a lifelong fight with it. Wasn’t allowed to drink much pop as a child, then I started guzzling it when I was in college. I was up to a six-pack of Diet Pepsi a day, starting with one when I woke up. It was my replacement for coffee and I saw nothing wrong with it. I wasn’t supposed to drink caffeine because of my thyroid issues, but I didn’t care about that. Oh, right. I suppose I should include that in the calculation. I was hyperthyroid for my early days, had my thyroid destroyed by iodine as they did in those days, and now I’m hypothyroid. I take a pill every day and Bob’s your uncle. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the basic gist of it. When I was dealing with the whole thyroid situation, I was told not to drink caffeine. I think it’s more because of being hyper rather than hypo, but looking it up, it can block thyroid pill consumption, apparently.

Anyway, I started to feel that the caffeine was affecting me negatively and quit cold turkey. A quick note: I do not recommend that. At all. The side effects were horrific and I would never want to feel it again. I couldn’t sleep at all (even more than usual); I was snapping at everyone, and; I was shaking all the time. I really felt like I was detoxing (or at least how I imagine detox to feel), and it was utter hell for two weeks. Afterwards, I didn’t drink caffeine for years. Maybe decades. Then, I started drinking pop again–not sure why–and I was up to three or four cans a day.

As noted before, caffeine is weird in that it’s both a trigger for migraines and a way to deal with them. It’s a matter of when it’s ingested and how much. Six cans of pops a day? Too much. Three or four? Also too much. One cup of coffee or caffeinated tea? Just about right.

This all came about back during the election week. Which, let’s face it, sucked hard. I woke up every day with an incipient migraine and would immediately slam two migraine Excedrin (generic) and pray. After five days in a row of doing this (which is not recommended, obviously. I try to be sparing because I don’t want to overuse it and dull the effects. Also, taking too much migraine meds can trigger a migraine itself. Yay?

Anyway, I’m good with a cup a day for now. Also, I ordered a training staff and I’m stoked about that. Really not in the mood to write today, however, because reasons including going hard for the end of NaNo Rebel. More later!