Friday, 26 February 2016

Death by a thousand paper cuts....

"Angioedema is a ... type of swelling that affects deeper layers in your skin, often around your eyes and lips." - From

I had my first allergic reaction as described above when I was 5 years old and my body finally said "no" to Aspirin - baby Aspirin at that! It was the severe kind, where one's tongue and throat swell as well as the lips; and spending most of your life knowing that you can react like that to a common drug gives you a healthy respect for pharmaceuticals.

Conversely, I'm also a huge believer in better living through chemicals, at least if a medical professional is proffering said chemical. While my teen friends were experimenting, I was the poster child for "just say no". But I wimped out on menopause with 6 years of HRT, and agreed instantly to anti-depressants to go along with talk therapy when I needed them.

In the intervening 50 years since the Aspirin incident, I discovered that Ibuprofen was also out of the question following a similar (though less severe) reaction to that. Which left me with the "safe" anti-inflammatory, Naproxen.

For the past week, I have been dealing with my fifth episode of angioedema since October. I can no longer blame Naproxen for it since I haven't had a tablet since January 4th and the pharmacist I talked to on Monday assured me that it would have long ago left my system.

This time around, I swear my lips made me look like the love child of Angelina Jolie and Mick Jagger, though other people said it wasn't that bad. But the corners cracked and the swelling was crooked, as if some untrained plastic surgeon had gone to town on my mouth with a vial of Juvederm! If I wasn't careful, the blood would trickle from the left side and one would think I was a vampire who'd just had lunch.

Have you ever cut your lip while licking an envelope? Imagine that times 12!

Hot beverages are out of the question, they sting too much. I caused many a laugh in my office by putting a straw in my cup of coffee. The natural acids in fruit are painful - every piece went on a fork and placed on my tongue so I could eat anything other than bananas.

The lactose in cream sauce stings, as do salty things - I found myself rubbing the salt off the bag of almonds in my desk drawer in order to have a snack.

Hot meals had to cool, cold meals had to warm....

I've finished a tub of Blistex Medicated, a tub of Aquaphor and most of a tub of Vaseline Lip Therapy. 

9 days out, my lips continue to crack and bleed and I have to soak a washcloth in warm water to exfoliate off the peeling bits twice a day.

There was one upside; a coworker complimented my beautiful full lips when I made a remark about the gorgeous lip gloss she was wearing.

With any luck, some of the fullness will last after the pain recedes; and this will be my last episode of angioedema.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Lonely no more...

In the year since I drew attention to my mental health blog post and my continuing struggles with avoidant personality disorder, a few things have happened to bring more balance and happiness to my life. (

The first was the number of people who reached out to me to express their support; I can honestly say that it wasn't what I expected. What I thought I would hear is "that's not a real thing". I didn't. (

The second is that I took steps in order to deal with some of those things I have been avoiding in order to open my life to more possibilities. With help from the wonderful Amanda Stark, my home is a place where I am able to invite people, and will soon be a place where my friends can gather and my family will be able to celebrate holidays. I may even get a canine companion.

The third is the love I have found with my girls, Laurie Bursch and Shelley Carr. They have provided me an anchor to tie to when my mind wants me to spiral down to depression, and give themselves and their time freely. Individuals with avoidant personality disorder have limited social circles due to the fears built up in their minds; I have been blessed to find two people who were willing to help me break down those barriers. I don't tell them often enough how much I love and appreciate them. Now the whole world knows.

My personal successes with my non-work commitments to Women & Politics and now the SoHo Community Association have shown me that I can make valuable contributions to my community. It's a confidence booster. But not without challenges where I question my ability to do a good job for them. As we used to say in Brownies, "I promise to do my best".

The reappearance of an old friend from high school has certainly been the most unexpected thing of all.

One of the reasons I'm not on Facebook, and that neither this account nor my Twitter account identify me by name, is to help me avoid people from that time in my life when everything bad was happening. I'm smart enough to know that I should stay away from triggers, lest I get trapped in that cycle again. But I was persuaded to put a profile on LinkedIn for professional reasons and was discovered that way.

There are fewer than 10 people from my high school years that I wouldn't mind spending time with again; D is one of them.

Since he made 'first contact' at the beginning of December 2015, we've spent a lot of time via email, text, and phone baring our souls to each other. When you're a teenager, you don't talk about hopes and dreams and fears; and you definitely don't tell people about the darkness in your life, lest you be rejected, ridiculed, and disbelieved.

Now we're well into middle-age and a lot of those hopes and dreams have fallen by the wayside, and, shockingly to both of us, we're discussing ALL of it. Shockingly because we weren't that close all those years ago.

Is it possible to miss someone without knowing it? Because that thought went through my head more than once as we sat in my living room talking a day away recently.

I don't have an answer for that. But I do hope we'll be friends for the next 35 years making up for those we were apart (with any luck).

Every day presents challenges, this doesn't just go away. I continue to find myself mired in self-loathing on a daily basis; there are many, many days when the ugly takes over and the worthlessness moves in.

In her book "Fat Girl Walking", Brittany Gibbons implores those of us dealing with this to:

Remind yourself of all the ways you are beautiful, stop the negative talk... and do what it takes to get comfortable in your skin.

I'm still not sure how to get there. For me, sharing how I feel with the world was a big step. Talking myself into self-love is infinitely more difficult.

But now it feels easier, definitely less lonely; and maybe that will be something that builds over time, allowing me to find some measure of contentment.

Next to True Love & Eternal Happiness that would be the best thing of all.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Heartache tonight...

I was 13 years old when I heard "Desperado" for the first time.

There was something about the plaintive vocal and it's final line about allowing oneself to be found by love that resonated; words that continue to have meaning in my life well over 40 years later.

It was the start of my love for the music of The Eagles, a love that time has not diminished. No other band has captured the pain of heartbreak and loneliness more than they did in only eight studio albums. Yes - 8! All other albums are compilations.

But those eight albums produced some of the most iconic music of the 1970s - no one can deny that. The haunting opening notes of the title track of "Hotel California" are proof enough of the band's ability to catch your ear and hook your heart and take you on a journey to places you never thought you'd go.

Unless you're a single person who knows the words to "Wasted Time" by heart:

"You never thought you'd be alone
This far down the line
And I know what's been on your mind
You're afraid it's all been wasted time"


I only got to see them play live once, on a magical, hot summer night at the amphitheatre at Ontario Place in July 1996. It was the day before I moved to Ottawa.

Despite being two years into the infamous Hell Freezes Over tour, the band were in perfect sync, and the music still held onto your heart. At the end of the encores, as the crowd filed out and my uncle and I remained in our seats, I remarked to him that if my plane crashed the next day, I would die happy because I had finally seen my favourite band play.

Now it will never happen again with the death of Glenn Frey yesterday.

I have few words to describe how much his body of work with The Eagles and as a solo artist have meant in my life, this blog entry just scratches the surface.

The Eagles' website posted the lyrics to Glenn's song "It's Your World Now" that closes out their last studio album Long Road Out of Eden:

"The curtain falls, I take my bow
That's how it's meant to be, it's your world now"

But for me, it's the title of another song from the same album that captures my feelings at the moment:  "What Do I Do With My Heart".