14 May 2015

New Meds: so far, so good.

As of last Monday, I’ve been on new medication – and so far, things are going pretty well. I’ve not used the Sublinox (my favourite, knock-you-out-in-twenty-minutes-and-leave-you-unconscious-for-eight-hours-minimum sedative) nor the Prazosin (which eases the chest pain somewhat, and helps prevent trauma nightmares … just sorta keeps the adrenaline levels down to a reasonable level) … haven’t used either one in the last week. I am still on Zoloft (sertraline) – not messing with the antidepressant dose at this point in time, though if things stay stable for a bit longer, I might talk to my doctor about attempting a taper-off. For now, I’ll just keep taking it: I have no negative side effects from it and getting off of it is bound to be unpleasant, even if it turns out I can safely stay off of it. For now, yellow pills at suppertime.

Over the last week, I have had some chest pain breaking through and I’m taking longer to get to sleep (not surprising since I’ve gotten used to just dissolving a Sublinox under my tongue and going unconscious), but as I’m still titrating dosages, I’m quite pleased with the results so far.

What is this new drug?

Marijuana.

Yes, after a lifetime of never experimenting with weed (not even once, truly, and not just the “I didn’t inhale” thing – I never even wanted to try it) … at age 46 I now have a legal prescription for medical cannabis.

I started with edibles – I’m not a smoker, and I absolutely cannot stand the stench of skunk weed (though I have to say that the stuff I got smells pretty good, actually – very herb-y, definitely green, but not skunky in the least). I made some pretty awesome brownies (yes, I know that’s cliché, but they were really good), one batch from each of the two strains I purchased. I am registered* with CanniMed, I chose them because they’ve got a few low-THC blends. THC is the stuff that makes you feel more stoned and is best for physical pain, CBD, the ‘other major chemical’ in marijuana, is more sedating and better for people with anxiety issues (like PTSD).It’s been discovered that people with PTSD have deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system in the brain – basically, we are low on the chemicals that marijuana provides. So, supplement with the stuff you’re missing and you feel better.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research into various ways to prepare and ingest these (very expensive) herbs and my kitchen has turned into extraction central. Fortunately, I have plenty of experience doing tinctures and so forth, as I survived with nothing but herbal supplements for the first several years of my PTSD experience, until my body adapted to those as well and I was taking enough wild lettuce / valerian / melatonin / passion flower / chammomile to knock out a horse and still lying there awake all night. I know how to make tinctures, how to titrate doses for myself, all that kind of thing.

The edibles work well for a nice, steady state of low impact relief. I don’t get woozy, I don’t feel particularly different … but I *do* feel unwound. And, I get to eat brownies for breakfast! When I first took Prazosin, I felt that whole body wash of warm water, that sense of “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” … the deep relief of having tension you are so accustomed to you don’t even feel it anymore finally go away. Of course once I adapted to the Prazosin, I didn’t get any subjective sensation from it anymore (just fewer bad dreams and less insane running around doing weird stuff) … and I have to say, that feeling of restfulness is so lovely. My body has adapted to a very unhealthy concept of homeostasis, so I just don’t get that feeling without chemical assistance. And now, I get it from herbs that I can titrate to *exactly* the effect I want.

I made Green Dragon: soak decarboxylated marijuana (heated to convert the chemicals in the plant into the kind that your body can use) in Everclear alcohol (which is way too strong to drink, the label even comes with a warning about flammability), freeze it, shake it, freeze it, shake it, strain it, reduce the alcohol by heating over a double boiler (to concentrate the solution) and then take one mL or less in a glass of water which you swish around your mouth then swallow (if you take it straight, it’ll burn your mouth, but absorption through the mucosal tissues in the mouth is what you’re after).

It tastes utterly vile. It really is green. And holy moly is it powerful! You really don’t need much at all.

I made the first batch from a blend of my 4:10 and 1:13 strains (low TCH, high CBD). The second batch, which I just finished reducing, is made with the 1:13 and some chammomile and Sleepy Tea added in for good measure. I heavily decarboxylated the cannabis first so it should be very sedating … that gets tested tonight.

So, am I walking around stoned out of my gourd all the time? Nope. I don’t really feel all that different (that’s the whole goal of titrating to an effective dose) – just more mellow, a little sleepier than usual, and I don’t feel the overwhelming need to have a drink after supper every evening. This is a good thing: my liver can only handle so much, and I was self-medicating a bit too heavily with liquid sedation.

It’s still early in the experiment, but I’m feeling very good about the prospects here. If I can reduce my need for sedatives so that I only have to take prescription stuff once in awhile, then yay. (The fact that my insurance doesn’t cover the Sublinox so it costs me just over $2 a night to sleep is definitely factoring into this decision.) If I can get to where I need *less* of the other meds, then that’s a good thing – cost wise, for sure, and also to reduce the load on my system. If I can figure out the best way to get the marijuana into my system for the different effects I need (mild sedation during the day, slightly higher and more physical sedation in the evening and knocked right out at bedtime) and in ways that maximize the use of the herbs (the stuff ain’t cheap at $8-9 per gram, though I’m thinking I’ll settle out at well under half a gram per day, which will be a wash cost-wise with what I’m presently taking, more or less).

Right then. I think it’s time for my afternoon brownie.

* In Canada, to be a medical marijuana user, you now register with a vendor – your doctor has to send them a letter outlining your dosage and the script is good for one year. You used to register with the government directly, but now you go through the vendors. It’s all rather gray at the moment, in many places, but it was very important that I be fully legal as The Reluctant Farmer and The Boy are both subjected to random testing and if the dogs smell something on their clothes they need to be able to show a copy of my card and say “we live with her, it’s not our stuff they are smelling, feel free to check our bags or test us”. I’m being quite cautious about processing when they aren’t around, to at least reduce the off-gassing they’ll pick up on their things.

09 May 2015

More Yard Updates: trees!

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I transplanted a bunch of little pine trees from the back where they were clustered too close together to grow up well anyway (I found a couple of clusters of little evergreens when I was out for a walk with my neighbour today) … so I thinned them out and brought them up to make a wind break by the west edge of the yard.

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Raspberry bushes and a gooseberry bush, also wild, from the back.

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Couple more trees, by the fountain & wildflower-bed-to-be. :)

02 May 2015

Motor home Refurbishing

For one reason or another, my attention wandered to motor home refurbishing, updating, and redecorating images on the web. I love our motorhome – it is an affordable way for us to get away, we rarely go very far but we can go fishing for several days or The Reluctant Farmer takes his kids off to a campground to play and cook hot dogs over the fire and not have any responsibilities, and we have used it at the Fair and other events as a “home base”, meaning we can snack on ordinary food instead of concession food and have a bit of a break from the noise and bustle when needed.

It’s a 1995 Tioga, no slide outs, nothing fancy, just a bunk over the cab, a built in dinette that can turn into a bed, a wee little kitchen, a fridge, microwave, and a double bed at the back.

It wasn’t ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but the pink and teal floral print was not really making me say “ooh, that’s awesome”. So, I went to the fabric store and hit the bargain shelf to find about eight metres of coordinating fabrics in some colour OTHER than pink. And, I wanted to have some variety in the fabrics: coordinating, yes, but not all exactly the same. Variety being the spice and all.

I settled on greens and browns and yellows, having found three nicely textured heavy cottons that all seemed to go well together.

First job: take down the drapes and the wooden frames around all the windows. The venetian blinds rattled (not just when you were driving – if you rolled over in the night and banged the string with your elbow, the whole thing clattered), the roller blind by the dining table was getting weary, and the frames were upholstered in dusty rose, teal floral prints, and gold trim. I’d made a green curtain for the back window a few years ago, but it wasn’t really ideal. Besides, having the windows surrounded on three sides by three inch fabric covered wood felt … clunky. The one by the dining table made it impossible to lean up against the wall, too.

Down it all came:

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Around the bed, I wanted darker curtains so it wasn’t so bright in the mornings (if it’s warm enough to go camping, it’s probably going to get light around 5 am). The brown floral print I’d found worked well for drapes though I may need to add a lining to get it a bit darker:

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The privacy curtains around the back bed were on a ceiling mounted track that curved around the corner of the bed. I took that down and replaced it with a tension rod that goes straight across – easier to use the loo in the night without having to deal with the drapes right at the edge of the bed, and they pull nicely out of the way during the day. These drapes are some old white curtains I had, dunked in a bit of yellow Rit dye for about five minutes … they turned into a lovely buttery yellow, very cheerful.

The window by the table got the same brown fabric, but with a yellow ruffle at the bottom (leftover from the privacy curtains): much nicer than the plain white roller blind that had been on this window before.

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And yes, the seats have been recovered! I was going to leave them … I tried overdyeing the dusty rose original fabric, but it wouldn’t hold the Rit dye. And it was PINK. Very pink. Really didn’t go with all the new greens and browns. I had intended to use this fabric, which has a linen like texture and is very lovely, as the privacy curtains for the back bed, but there was just enough to recover the cushions and I couldn’t bear the pink clashing with everything else. The reupholstery job is a very temporary thing at this point (gorilla tape and strategic folds), but I will do a proper job of it now that I know I like how it looks.

The upper bunk got new curtains to close it off from the main space as well as dark curtains over the two side windows. I still need to do something about the front angled window, but that’s a bit trickier to deal with … I’m still pondering. I have one smidgen of green fabric left … I’m thinking cup hooks and elastic loops at the corners.

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The bunk met with the approval of the Small People:

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(Photobomb by The Reluctant Farmer)

It’s not really obvious in the photos, but the wall by the dining room window has been painted – the wallpaper was getting weary, and it was a sort of swirly rose pink. I’ve left it in several places, but I painted over the wall by the table and around the bathroom sink, as those spots were easy to get to and looking pretty worn. I used some leftover beige paint from Princess Girl’s bedroom – it looks quite good, actually.

We like to keep the driver/passenger seats blocked off from the living area when we are parked. I had some white curtains that I’d sewn for something else and we’d hung them across the opening years ago on a tension rod. I rigged up a different rod (having mitched the tension rod for the space at the back) from some of the leftover gold trim and three Command Hooks, dyed the white fabric a sunny yellow, and voila.

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Some hand woven cotton fabric strategically draped over the chair to the right, an unused creamy satiny bedspread over the top bunk, and it’s a whole new place!

I’m still working on some more painting, I need to do something about the trim around the back of the dinette benches, and I have to get the mirror hung back up. And put a shelf over the door. And maybe some jars mounted under the kitchen cabinet for tea and hot chocolate and coffee and sugar and honey, instead of the paper towel holder that’s there now.

But it’s looking lovely, and I’m very happy with the progress.

All this for under $90: most of that went to fabric, then curtain rods. I scavenged fabric for drapes, reused a bedspread, found a use for some woven fabric, repurposed one long curtain rod, and used up some leftover paint.

More puttering is bound to ensue, but it’s a fun project.

Fishing season opens later this month!

25 April 2015

Sleep meds

One of the very best things about sleep medications:

Knowing with absolute certainty that you will sleep soundly for a minimum of eight hours. 

Knowing that you don't have to spend two or three hours struggling to unwind and relax enough to sleep... You can just dissolve that magic chemical under your tongue, read for a bit, and drift off. Like a normal person. 

It's so good to actually look forward to sleeping... Now that it's not such hard work. 

22 April 2015

Exhausted

Woke up today utterly exhausted. 

Dunno why. I did a few things yesterday, but nothing overwhelming. 

This is how it goes. Some days, your body just says "no".

Best to listen. 

21 April 2015

It's not because I won't let go...

A friend posted this on my time line today:

Yeah. 

I was so sure that if I just let go of the past I'd get better. 

I let go. It was definitely an improvement. 

But the damage of PTSD is not the same as "unresolved issues". There are neurological changes. Your biochemistry gets reset to a completely unhealthy "normal". For people like me with delayed reactions to long term stress, untangling everything is very complicated. Things can definitely improve... Meds, therapy, support, learning to live inside my boundaries and limits...big helps. 

But I'm not "healed". I'm not "like I was before". I'm not who I wish I could be. 

I'm OK, though, and I'm coping pretty well with this chronic disease. It nearly killed me a year ago, and I came back from that. Yay me. But this is chronic. Not "wait it out, it'll go away.". This is here to stay, though how it is expressed may fluctuate over time. 

My life has limits I never dreamed I would need. It's still a good life. Very good, in fact. 

But letting go of my past didn't magically make all the consequences of that past go away. (this was a huge shock and disappointment to me... I was sure that's what would fix everything)

And it's not because I haven't tried hard enough, haven't done the work. It's just how PTSD - especially the variant I have - works. 

I'm only now starting to understand this.



15 April 2015

Getting ready!

This swollen udder means a calf is coming!

I've been waffling between sure that Sasha is pregnant and being terrified that I've just starved my cow and that's why she looks so caved in on the sides...but she'd be due April 22 if the AI took so... Here we go!

I've been gradually getting things ready... Found the mastitis test cards, mixed up a bottle of iodine solution for udder wash, and made udder balm from olive and coconut oil, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oil. I've never used udder balm before but the minty stuff is supposed to help with the edema, and her skin is pretty dry so I figured it was a good thing to try. Sure smells nice!

Infrastructure is the other thing to deal with: a cow in labour may try to bolt for the trees, and the fences back there need to be tightened. The pastures need more rest anyway, so I have the animals locked into the most securely fenced area, which adjoins the barnyard. I'll separate Sasha out when I think she is closer. 

Moving the animals meant getting the water in the summer location... So I took my rake and shovel and levelled a spot. It's the same "central watering hole" we set up last year, but it is on quite a slope so a bit of digging created a spot to put one of the big water cubes and a trough where it won't required levelling with boards and rocks. (I have no idea why it took me so long to realize that a shovel is all you need to make a level spot.) I can fill the big cube from the rainwater collection place or the hose... But this way we won't need a garden hose running across the yard all summer. I'll post a picture once it's all in place. 

Last job was to take more straw to the barn, some to eat and some for bedding.
 
Oh, and I made myself a set of dairy supply carry bags:

Pockets for all the stuff, washable, and easy to hang up inside and in the barn!

Now to wait one more week...