Latest News from Planet Berserk 

I’m back in Florida after a glorious almost two weeks in lovely Alaska. Met some really cool people,  enjoyed the scenery and just freaking relaxed in the boonies. Even encountered a Moose on my last day of the trip. 

Shannon’s parents were nice enough to let me use their big-ass Diesel Chevy truck to explore Fairbanks and the surrounding area. Driving up there is an immense experience.  The roads are SO steep and twisty and there are many places where you barely touch the gas pedal and just let gravity do it’s job. 

The trip was not all play as Shannon’s eye procedures went quite well and only slowed us down a day or two. As for myself I started flaring up a couple days after we arrived. Not sure if the traveling wore me down or what but my hands were pretty sore and my elbows and wrists were rather swollen.  In a stroke of brilliance I remembered to pack my bottle of prednisone even though I was certain I wouldn’t need it. I had been prescribed the steroid when I was first diagnosed and it gave me amazing relief. Not for long term use, though.  After that the Rheumatologist said we would wait and see if the inflammation and swelling came back without the prednisone.  It sure enough did so my first day back in Florida my Doctor prescribed my first DMARD (Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drug/ Immune Suppressant ) in the form of Arava. I had some stomach pain the first couple of days but it seems to have passed as long as I take it with food. So now we wait a month or two and then I get a liver panel and we see how well my body is tolerating it. I’m also taking Tylenol and Motrin along with my usual cocktail.  

So yeah,  after a few years of complaining about my joints to various doctors I’m finally getting treated for what has been diagnosed as Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I’m not too worried about side effects outside of hair loss.  That one is a  bit intimidating.  We shall see. 

Not much has changed mentally,  I’m in a good place and mean to keep it that way.  I leave you with a cute cartoon and the sincere hope I don’t get sued for using it 

When all things are considered…

I’m strangely content of late. It’s actually rather nice. I’m keeping up with my obligations and looking forward to my vacation in Alaska  next week. As for my health,  it’s pretty solid. I’m seeming to get some ADHD coverage from the Wellbutrin I was prescribed for depression,  so that’s a plus I’d say. I’m not sure what my current status is diagnosis-wise. If it is Rheumatoid Arthritis it’s the Seronegative type, as the blood work doesn’t really support this as SED rate, Rheumatoid Factor and C-reactive Protein are in the  normal range . I have to see a Dermatologist to get a biopsy on one of my nodules. If there are palisading lymphocytes then they are rheumatoid nodules, according to the Rheumatologist. At any rate,  I’m not particularly swollen or inflamed right now,  at least not badly. 

    It’s very strange the way my pain and fatigue wax and wane. Most days I feel relatively strong and capable.  But some days I flare up and come home feeling like I’ve been beaten by a golf club. As for fatigue,  I’m a fairly crazy coffee drinker, but when it hits, no amount of caffeine will move me. I had a day or two that I slept way too much and pretty much felt drunk and disoriented no matter what I did to kick myself into gear. My fatigue and stiffness have mostly been sparing me lately, for which I am grateful.  When the fatigue does hit nothing can touch it. 

    So if not RA, then what? My Mom came with me to my last appointment with the Rheumatologist.  At one point she looked confused and said  ‘So does he have RA or not?’. He said, ‘I’d bet my car on it but I’m not ready to bet my house.’. Which I presume is doctor-speak for I dunno. We shall see I guess.  My flares are erratic and won’t bother me for a decent amount of time in between.  I can’t really figure out what aggravates it. I had lots of swollen joints when I first saw my current doctor. That plus nodules which I still have on many knuckles. Also the xrays revealed some erosion.  The prednisone helped a lot but steroids are not for long term use. Anyhow,  the crucial thing is I’m alright and not feeling sick or sore right now.  

    On the Metal front life is good. Last show was a bit of a mixed bag.  Great bands but too much Metalcore filler.  Got to see Brazilian Death Metal Juggernaut Krisiun as well as Nile, Cannibal Corpse,  Revocation and SUFFOCATION SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE DAMNIT! I GOT ROBBED DAMNIT! Oh well.  It’s just that they are the primary reason I went to that show. I was sorely disappointed.  Seeing Master in a month and DRI in December.  Hoping to get my copy of Harald Oimoen’s book signed! Metal Nerd for Life.  Aside from that,  just doing my thing. Finally decided to quit shaving my head too. Ha!

    Keeping up

    I’m trying to become more prolific with this blog. My small cult of readers seem to somewhat enjoy it and it gives me a medium with which I can observe my life and thoughts as if I were an outsider. I’m hoping to eventually start doing some creative writing as well.  I’m something of a poet at times but the inspiration rarely strikes me. I like words. They put thoughts into practice and ascribe meaning to the seemingly mundane. 

    I plan to do a post one day strictly about all the concerts I’ve been to and the related awesome memories. Perhaps I could do a post about things I enjoy cooking. I’m just trying to think of ways in which I could diversify my content a bit. 

    I’m trying to avoid the usual stream of consciousness stuff that I so frequently resort to.  I’m not trying to play to an audience as much as I’m simply growing bored with same old rundown and generalized updates. I’m well aware that my life really is not THAT fascinating. 

    As unfocused as this particular post is, I feel it’s important to have a brainstorming session of sorts with myself. I’m not certain what my strong points as a writer really are. I’d like to think I have a few, but honestly I’m far too critical of my own work most of the time.  I’m not above taking some feedback from my readers as long as it’s understood that I’m not really doing this for you. 

    I have a few upcoming events which should give me some fresh subject matter to ruminate upon. Next Sunday I’m going to see the Summer Slaughter tour with Cannibal Corpse,  Nile,  Suffocation and many other bands. If nothing else I’ll have lots of fun to gush about.  I’m going to Alaska in a month and am quite excited about it as well.  It’ll be farther than I’ve ever been from home and I plan on taking lots of pictures and being outdoorsy as all hell. I’m a bit nervous about traveling that far but it’s an adventure not to be missed.

    Some of my posting will still consist of Mental and Physical health updates. Some of my friends read this blog and it’s an easy way to keep my dear ones in the loop. I’m dealing with two chronic illnesses and WordPress is a wonderfully supportive environment for those like myself. Admittedly,  I need to start using the reader feature more and be more interactive with other bloggers. I’m slacking with keeping up with the blogs I like reading and for that you all have my profuse apologies.  I’m trying to branch out a little without getting sidetracked from the original purpose of this blog. Above all it’s a place where I can be myself.  

    For those who read and get something out of it I extend my thanks. Thanks for making this more than just a space for me to bitch. As I said,  I do this mostly for myself but it blows my mind how many subscribers I have now.  Not bad for what was originally intended to be a ‘Hide out from my family and complain about my issues’ blog. I’m glad I relaxed and went public with it. My family doesn’t always understand me and I don’t always get them, but I love them dearly and I’m glad they more or less accept me and my various  quirks.

    So yeah,  that’s about where I’m at with the ol’ Planet Berserk.  Thanks for reading and being a part of this strange exercise in documenting my thoughts. 

    Regards-

    Berserker 

    My Best Friend 

    I don’t throw such words around carelessly.  I’ve had many friends and many people that I thought were friends until their true colors shone through.  It really isn’t until adversity gazes upon you that you know who can rightly be referred to as such. For all the genuine allies I have I’m positively floored by how many pretenders and outright fakes have passed through my life. 

    The first time I was hospitalized for mental illness was not the first time I had lost people who I thought were friends.  I had just never been abandoned by so many at one time.  My real friends talked to me on the phone, visited me in the hospital and helped me find a job when I got out. A lot of people cast me aside like a piece of trash and I’m forever grateful for the people in my life who stood by me in those dark times. 

    My Best friend has been on my side for about ten years. Her name is Roxy and she’s a Cat. She used to be my older Sister’s kitty. When my Sister got a teaching job at FSU one of the conditions of her faculty housing arrangement was no pets allowed. She had to find a new home for Roxy who was about two at the time.

    I was about one year out of the Psych hospital after a severe nervous breakdown.  I was getting back on my feet and had just moved out of my Mom’s house into a place of my own. Truth be told I was still in pretty bad shape with depression,  albeit functionally so. 

    My Sister knew exactly what She was doing for me when she asked me to take her in. It’s still unclear to me who really did a favor for who. I was living alone and pretty much just going to work and being sad and mopey. 

    It had an immediately positive effect on my life. Suddenly not only was I not alone,  but someone depended on me. I had something to occupy my time besides being miserable.  Roxy is a very intuitive Cat. She grew up feral on the streets of Baltimore and still has a bit of a wild streak. That said, she always knows when I’m upset or not feeling right. She can be a total bitch sometimes,  and even occasionally hostile for the sake of trolling. In spite of this, she’s my favorite person in the whole damn world.  

    She has me pretty well trained at this point.  She can be downright bossy and flat-out weird.  This, I presume is a Cat thing. Every place she has lived with other animals she becomes the Alpha female.  Where I live now there’s another Cat and a Dog. She pretty much rules the roost, like always.  

    For all of this cranky bitchy hostility,  she is an unbelievably sweet Cat. Such a talker too. The most vocally active Cat I’ve ever known. I think it’s actually been really good getting her into my Boyfriend’s house with the younger Cat Marci and the Dog Browski.  They keep her entertained and occupied. She is about eleven years old now and I feel it’s important for her to stay active. 

    Every day I come home from work she excitedly greets me. She and the other animals are such a joy to come home to.  They keep my spirit light and free. Everyone should know this kind of joy. 

    As I  post this She and Shannon’s Dog are chilling on the couch with me like always.  It’s been a wonderful ten years with my Best Friend and I look forward to many more.  Love you Kitty O’Puss, my sweet dignified young Lady.

    Special Thanks to my Big Sister Meg. You’re the best.  This freaking Cat saved my life many times over 🙂

    As long as we’re being honest….

    I’m doing my best to deal with the recent news. I don’t feel particularly sick right now and my strength and endurance are both pretty good.  Still, I’m aware that my body is waging war on itself and am a bit unsettled.  I have multiple swollen joints and nodules on my knuckles.  If not for those we probably wouldn’t have gotten the diagnosis for a long time.  I’m grateful for this but scared because everything I’ve read indicates that nodules are associated with a more aggressive disease mechanism. 

    I’m not just going to take it lying down. I’m improving my diet, working out and staying active. I plan to ask my Rheumatologist what supplements I should be taking.  I’m not wallowing in self-pity or seething with a bunch of ‘Poor me! Why me?’ bullshit. Still, I have to admit that I’m a bit scared. This is one of those illnesses where the treatment can be as rough as the disease itself.

    Again,  I don’t feel sick right now  and I’m not going to start soley based on a diagnosis. The prednisone has been giving me some relief and I’m not hurting too badly right now. I just figured this would be a better place than Facebook to get some things off my chest. 

    Here’s what really frightens me: I was on SSDI for bipolar disorder for almost five years.  When my case was flagged for termination I appealed and took it up the chain of command. At the time I was severely depressed and struggling with mood issues. After over a year of appealing my medication was changed from lithium to Risperdal. The improvement was astonishing.  I began working and dropped the appeal. Then I got stuck with the bill for my benefits while on appeal (11790$ or so). I’m paying it back at the rate of fifty dollars a month.  My big fear is that Rheumatoid Arthritis will cripple me and I won’t be able to get any help. This is a thought that has been keeping me up at night with apprehension. Essentially I’m being punished for getting better.

    My boyfriend is trying to get into law school.  Specifically to be a Disability Attorney.  I’m hanging on to the dream that he’ll be able to help me with this before something bad and RA related happens. The odds are not in my favor. According to Johns Hopkins website sixty percent of people with RA become disabled within ten years of being diagnosed. 

    I am trying not to give in to fear and go about my life.  It’s entirely possible I’ll have great treatment results and go into extended remission.  I just don’t know and the future is intimidating the living hell out of me.

    I was hospitalized frequently as a kid. I know the drill. I have to fight and keep fighting hard. This is what I keep telling myself when I want to cry, which has been quite a bit lately. I’m not going to use or drink over it and I’m not just gonna sit around and be sick. To hell with that.

    I am in desperate need of some inspiration.  Pray for Thom please.

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    Rheumatologically Speaking

    So yeah, my appointment with the Rheumatologist finally came. I’ve been eagerly awaiting getting to the bottom of the situation with my hands. I spent the first twenty minutes at the Diagnostic Clinic filling out intake paperwork,  then I went upstairs to meet my new Doctor.  He asked me about the problems I’ve been experiencing,  took a detailed history and upon examining my hands and other joints had two words to say : Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    I’m not gonna lie,  I’m a bit shook up. I’m glad to have caught it relatively early on, but it’s still a bit scary. I’ve seen what advanced RA does to joints and it’s horrifying to say the least.  The first line meds to treat it are essentially immune suppressants.  It’s much more than arthritis,  it’s an autoimmune disorder that manifests itself in a plethora of ways including arthritis.  What it means is that my immune system is attacking my joints.

    I brought lab results and xrays and these proved to be the clincher for the diagnosis.  He looked at my xrays with me and said ‘See these shadows near the joints? That’s decalcification.’ I don’t have a ton of bone erosion yet but ANY is frightening enough.

    The Rheumatologist is pretty cool.  Nice laid back Black Man of about forty or so. He told me, ‘I can’t cure this for you, but it can be managed and long periods of remission are possible.’. He gave me paperwork for a bunch of lab tests and said ‘For the next few months you and I are going to be BFFs.’. We shook hands and he sent me on my way.

    As I said, I’m a little funny feeling right now.  It’s starting to sink in.  But I’m not going to use over it or let it screw up my program.  I’ve worked too damn hard to turn tail and run.

    I’m a little scared but I refuse to let it conquer me. Time to activate the Celtic Fire in the blood. I’m coming up with strategies for taking it easy on myself and am not going to bus tables more than two days a week.  Non-consecutively. I have to make money but I’m not going to kill myself to live. Hosting is relatively easy money and I’m fortunate to have added it to my restaurant skills.

    Aside from that news, life is about the same. Upped my Wellbutrin due to some creeping depression and feeling far better for it. In love with my Boyfriend and life. That’ll do.

    So I have a connective tissue disease, BFD.
    Time to let Mr. Berserker out of the bag,  methinks.

    Until we meet again,
    Thom
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    Muh Chemical Profile

    I’ve been taking various central nervous system drugs since I was a wee Berserker of seven or eight. My current cocktail, including non-psych meds is:

    Risperdal 3mg daily
    Ritalin XR 20 mg daily
    Wellbutrin XR 150 mg daily (beginning tomorrow morning)
    Metropolol 25 mg daily
    Benazepril  6.5 mg daily
    Also occasional ibuprofen for joint pain and I keep a few vistaril on hand for the times when sleep is elusive.

    Some folks tell me it’s horrible that I take all these meds. I don’t think it is myself. Aside from them working at keeping me sane, organized and not hypertensive or achy I don’t really feel like I’m ‘on’ anything. I’d like to see you manage arthritis with no analgesics.

    At some point in my life I have had these experiences with the following drugs:
    Abilify- Made me very foggy and was rather unremarkable.
    Adderall XR- was great for my attention span but revved my heart like crazy .
    Buspar- didn’t do crap for my anxiety and made me feel blah.
    Celexa- kept me hypomanic before being discontinued when the psych unit was bringing me down from a feral lexapro induced mania.
    Depakote- Acute psychotic reaction. Tried to start a revolt in the crisis ward. Fun stuff.
    Effexor- Absolutely despised it. Felt like a zombie dipped in shit. Plus I had the most horrible withdrawal. Ever hear of the brain shivers? Because I never had.
    Geodon- Good results for pulling me out of madness. It does scary stuff to the heart though. Wouldn’t repeat it.
    Lamictal- helped at first but crapped out fast.
    Lithium- blunted my emotions profoundly. I couldn’t cry while I was on it. I can now. I’m glad that the side effects outweighed the benefits enough to try something else.
    Provigil- great for ADHD but needs a time release coat or something as it poops out too quickly.
    Tegretol- took at the same time as Geodon. It’s a seizure med so it’ll basically make you kinda drunk and disoriented like it did for me.
    Zyprexa- made me fat. But slayed my psychosis like nothing else. Calmed me the fuck down fast.
    Lexapro- induced a terrifying series of rapid cycling manic episodes. I am still cobbling my life back together from this period.
    Strattera- didn’t do crap for my ADHD. made me feel really sluggish and ditzy at the higher doses.
    Risperdal- works better for me than any drug ever has in terms of keeping me stable without completely zonking me into oblivion. It is a good med for the  bipolar/ADHD combo in particular. However, at the higher doses (6mg and up) it can do a number on your hormones. I only take three mg and my doctor is hesitant to raise it.

    As with a great many things, results may and will vary. This is just what I got out of these particular drugs.  Hope you have found this entertaining and informative.

    Edging Forward

    It’s taken a long time,  but I may just now have found a way.  I’ve known for years about a place in my county that does vocational rehabilitation for the mentally ill.  I never thought I needed it until now.

    Actually,  that’s not entirely accurate.  I already did vo rehab through the state of Florida in my old trade  (HVAC). After two serious collapses I no longer found myself capable of that kind of work. I still sort of have the physical strength but my wiring and general technical knowledge got pretty much wiped out by losing my mind twice.

    I’ve been winging it since then which equals about the last ten years of my life. I’ve done odd, Shitty and mostly food related jobs for terrible pay and a pathetic amount of time on the clock. All the while being abundantly aware of how hard I’m getting screwed. At least in comparison to what I used to make in my early twenties before I went cuckoo.

    I’ve been immensely depressed and morose for some time about the state of my working life. Sometimes the fact I’m working at all amazes me. I was on Social security benefits for nearly five years for acute impairment due to  bipolar disorder which was diagnosed just before my twenty-fourth birthday.

    I try to cut myself some slack for how far I’ve come and give myself a little credit for still being alive. I just recently fully came out of the closet with my family which has been a major load on my mind as long as I can remember. They were all pretty cool about that and everything actually went much better than I expected.

    But yeah, I want to do more than work in a kitchen.  This place has a wide variety of skill training and I feel like they could really help me succeed which in turn would make me more self actualized and most likely a bit happier day to day.

    I actually have to give most of the credit to my boyfriend.  He gives me loads of encouragement and told me that it sounded like something that I should pursue.  I’m not used to being with someone who builds me up.  It’s really incredible and beautiful.

    The interview process begins in two weeks.  That gives me time to download forms and have them ready when I go there.  I’m really excited about this.

    That’s all for now, but if I think of anything else you’ll be the first to hear it.

    I’m (somewhat) back!

    I haven’t posted much of anything in a while. I realize that these dry spells probably make it difficult to maintain a decent amount of an audience. I’m often not sure why I blog, until I remember that it’s crucial to my overall thought organization \ analysis process. Also, I had a rough few months with forearm tendon and ligament issues from too much knife work.

    However, it’s been a while and I have a decent amount stored up to share with my readers. I like WordPress because it is a great way for me to step outside of my own existence for a bit and crawl into the head of another.

    I’m still brewing amazing kombucha, had a continuous brew going for some time now. I’m working but only part time as the wrist issues are not fully behind me. Things are lovely with my amazing boyfriend. We don’t have Christmas stockings for either of us but we do for our dog and two cats. How gay is that? 😉

    I finally finished my battle vest after working on it for nearly a year. Finished it just in time to go see DRI last week. It was the show of a lifetime. Met Kurt Brecht and Harald Omioen. My Buddy Damien came with me to the show and bought me beer and we had a blast. I went in the pit for about a minute during Bleeding Money’s set and it was pure feral delight.

    The highlight of the night was Damien and I hanging out front of the venue with DRI bassist Harald. He told us the story of his goofy dance bomb on Watain’s stage at the Maryland Death Fest. We talked Metal and got a few awesome pictures of the DRI gents we met. Very nice people and they absolutely destroyed the place with their live show. Pure professionals, those guys.

    Aside from that, just keeping my head above water and getting ready for Christmas. Shannon and I had a blast decorating our tree together for our first holiday season as a couple.  My blood pressure was a bit high from being on adderall so I got put on an ACE inhibitor and got it under control and switched to Ritalin. Oddly enough, even though I hated it as a kid it seems to be a better fit than the adderall. Fancy that.

    That’s about all for now. Here’s a few photos of the vest and from the show.

    Enjoy!

    Love,
    Thom

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