Harrowed Insight

I was inspired to write my first novel Inside the Skin (formerly The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor) by life experiences I earned back in the late ’90s, early ’00s while working as a navy Equal Opportunity specialist, experiences the focus of which centered around the harassment, abuse, injury, and sometimes sadly even death as a result of the hatred for and confusion of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy which had recently been implemented throughout the military.

Continue reading “Harrowed Insight”

From Pioneers To Propaganda


 

This is a propaganda video direct from the US Navy’s official website.

More specifically, it is a two-minute or so inspiring profile piece of a female Hull Technician, a rating traditionally reserved for and assigned to male sailors, found on a page from the Navy’s official website dedicated solely to the recruitment of women.

Now, the word “propaganda” typically comes with negative connotations… at least to me it does.

However, in this case, I regard it as very positive development, for it was not that long ago that you would have been hard-pressed to find a female “HT” in the US Navy.

And, happily (seeing how I am a recruiter for my film and not for the navy (though I strongly encourage every American to consider serving their country militarily)), it just so happens that the protagonist and his small division of men of the Nineties-era short film I am seeking your support for are also Hull Technicians.

Pretty coincidentally cool, huh…

And it is they, these male HT characters of mine, who, through their dialogue and actions — as harassing and as hazing as they may be — show us how I suspect  know many real-life male sailors would have  felt and reacted at the time about the recent arrival of the first-ever female sailors to their warship.

I only hope that the first-ever female sailors and other female service members who are right now getting ready to report to combat-related duty assignments, assignments on the front lines and maybe even hidden behind the lines, assignments that until very recently were solidly and stolidly forbidden to females, receive a less harassing and more welcoming environment than the females in the film.

Please consider supporting me in the making of my short film LEAVE; for I truly believe, with your support the film can provide much needed awareness to present-day realities in an artistic, entertaining, and meaningful way.

Thank you for your support!

 

For a list of Donation Reward Packages, please click here.

 
 

Song of the Sea

Song of the Sea

The Song of the Sea
Is in the Waves
In the Waves
In the Waves

The Song of the Sea
Is in the Wind
In the Wind
In the Wind

The Song of the Sea
Is in my Heart
In my Heart
In my Heart

The Song of the Sea
Is a Melody Sung
To Sailors Old
Like Me

 
 

A Story For the Misaligned, Sailor Or Otherwise

[UPDATE: The title of this novel has been changed to INSIDE THE SKIN]

The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor
A story for us all

 
From the Dedication Page:

This book is dedicated to anyone — regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender and all its breathless facets, sexual orientation, non-sexual orientation, sexual non-orientation, spirituality or lack thereof, religion or lack thereof, nationality or lack thereof, political affiliation or lack thereof, occupation or lack thereof, education or lack thereof, good looks or lack thereof, height, weight, shoe size, or any other ways we have identified and implemented as means to compare and contrast and separate and segregate and relegate and rank ourselves as humans — who has ever once regretted his or her or their identity.

This book, then, is for us, all of us.

You can learn more here.

 
 

September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011, will be a historic day for our country, and a special day for me.

It will be historic because the United States’s discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy will finally be put to rest.

And it will be special to me because I hope to release my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR on that day in honor of the historic event.

But, like the cup half empty kind of guy that I am, I won’t believe either will happen until I actually see them happening…

But I’m hopeful it will all come true.

I can hardly believe that DADT is finally coming to end because it has been a powerful presence in my life since my decision in 1994 to work outside my career field of telecommunications, and outside of my comfort zone, to become a navy Equal Opportunity Advisor. My duties as an EOA required me to become thoroughly familiar with the DADT policy and to facilitate seminars and focus groups regarding it at navy commands throughout the Western Pacific. A key element of my training was not to just remind sailors that they could not ask about someone’s sexual orientation, but also to make it very clear since it had become an issue in the military that, just because their values or stereotypes or perceptions or prejudgments motivates them to do so, doesn’t mean they can harass or abuse or murder someone who they perceive has a sexual orientation that is contrary to their beliefs. I use the word “perceive” because rarely do homosexuals violate DADT policy by telling others, especially others hostile to their lifestyle, about their sexual orientation. Consequently then, the most likely way a homophobic person can be motivated to act upon his or her (mostly his) homophobic tendency to want to harass or abuse or murder is by perceiving a service member to be a homosexual based upon the perceived homosexual’s behavior or personal characteristics. Facilitating the discussion of such a sensitive, and often combative, nature for three years was very challenging, yet very rewarding for me.

If I can hardly believe that DADT is finally coming to an end, I can only wonder how one feels who loves his or her country so much that he or she was willing to join the military knowing that the DADT policy required him or her to suppress his or her identity and sexual orientation in order to serve. (Normally, because I am a man and because I choose a male identity for myself (It’s a gender thing, you wouldn’t understand…probably.), I would not bother with all the “he or she” and “his or her” distraction; I would simply just write “he” or “his,” just as I would expect a female writer to just write “she” or “shis,” I mean, “sher,” I mean, “her,” but I feel in this situation, it is important for me to highlight and reiterate the fact, in an effort to remind everyone, that both men and women have chosen to make this enormous sacrifice for their country. Talk about Patriots. All you heterosexuals out there go ahead and try imagining what it would be like to not only not be allowed to tell others who you love, but also to not be allowed to completely express your love to the person whom you do love. Hard to imagine, isn’t it, since it’s our privilege to not have imagine such an absurd way of life?

And I can hardly believe that my novel is finally going to be released because it, too, has been a powerful presence in my life for nearly as long as DADT has been. Consequently, I find it hard to believe that in a few short days I will finally be able to call the project complete.

And I also can hardly believe that my novel is going to be released on September 20, 2011, since it is only a few short days away and, because of a few issues I am contending with, I still have yet to complete the publication review process with the publishing service I am using. So, at this point, September 20, 2011, is more like a target release date than a set release date. But we’ll see.

Regardless of whether my novel is actually published on September 20, 2011, or not, the date will always be special to me since it was DADT, or more specifically, since it was all the harassment and abuse and even murder that was inflicted on so many service members because of DADT, that provided the unfortunate impetus for why I wrote the novel to begin with.

Preparing for the End

As you may or may not be aware, the end of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy will be officially and finally declared on September 20, 2011.

I honestly am very happy, and more than a little apprehensive, that its end is coming.

Additionally, in the spirit of my shtick, I am also not as honestly very happy, and a little more than apprehensive, that I have until September 20, 2011, to complete and release my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR.

Why do I have only until September 20, 2011, to complete and release my novel, I hear you ask.

Well, how else can I best exploit for my own bloated self-interests the pain, suffering, and humiliation of thousands of those who served their country during the course of the life of the humiliating DADT policy than by releasing on or about the date of DADT’s death so that I can best leverage the public’s increased interest in the issue a book with themes that attempt to illustrate the same pain, suffering, and humiliation that those who served their country during the course of the life of the humiliating DADT policy experienced, I answer.

Key word in all that bumbling nonsense in the last paragraph: “attempt.”

But fear and puke not, for those of you whose stomach I just curdled:

For I am known for setting and committing myself to firm and fixed deadlines and then easily and breezily rationalizing them away as their date flies by and the work remains woefully incomplete.

And I certainly do have much woeful work on the novel yet for me not to complete between now and September 20, 2011.

Until then, you can check out the first five chapters of THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR at the “free reads” page, if you feel so inclined and/or charitable to my cause.

In Defense of the American Way of Life

I spent twenty years and four days as an enlisted swine sailor in the navy. That’s twenty years and four days of living on the government dole. If you think about it, that’s exactly what happens after someone joins the United States military, they get to live on the dole.

To get on the dole, however, I did have to promise my government that I would give it my life for it to use of and/or dispose of as it required or so desired. But fortunately for me, a good chunk of my service was during the happy-go-lucky Clinton years so I never really had to worry much about that unwritten but very much binding “dying in defense of freedom” clause in my contract.

For most of that twenty years and four days I was just like every other American rat who had to get up every morning to compete against all the others in the race.

Except that I had to wear a goofy-looking racing uniform while doing so.

Seriously, ever see those horrific bell bottoms on the old dungaree uniforms that we sailors used to have to wear? And those cursed “Cracker Jack” sailor suits weren’t much better either, let me tell ya.

Sheesh…the fact that we were willing to die for our country was never so impressive to me as was the fact that so many of us were willing to wear those embarrassing uniforms while doing so.

But just like so many other unavoidable indignities one must suffer throughout one’s life, one learns to accept it, or at least try to numb oneself somehow from the sting of it, and move on.

It sure was hard for me to accept the indignity of those ridiculous uniforms though, that’s for sure.

You know what? I bet I can guess what some of you are thinking right now.

I bet some of you are thinking: “True Americans are fighting and dying in defense of our country right now and this bozo is making fun of the uniform they so proudly wear.”

Listen, if that’s what you are thinking, and I am pretty sure some of you are, and it hurts your feelings, I apologize.

It was not my intent to cause pain to your sensitivities.

However…

Aren’t those True Americans who are fighting and dying in defense of our country right now doing so so that I could do exactly just that?

Well, perhaps they are not fighting and dying specifically so that I can cause pain to your sensitivities, but I certainly believe they are doing so to provide me the protection and guarantee and freedom to say whatever it is I feel I need or want to say as I strive to live and abide by the American Way of Life, which, in my view, happens to encompass MY pursuit of Happiness.

I do sincerely believe that and I am sincerely very thankful for their sacrifice.

And I pray that there will always be those who will willingly and courageously volunteer to fight, and even perhaps, sadly, sacrifice their own life, just so I can continue on with my own selfish and never-ending-till-I-die pursuit of Happiness.

Writing and saying what’s on my mind makes me Happy, that’s why I pursue it the way I do.

But I suppose that what I write or say doesn’t always make you Happy.

Sometimes, like right now, maybe, I say things with a specific intent in mind, which is, regardless of what I say, for me to always end up sounding like I am funny and smart. But instead of me ending up sounding funny and/or smart, the actual impact of what I say usually ends up with me sounding like the misinformed dork that I really am.

And even worse than me just ending up harmlessly sounding like the misinformed dork that I really am, I suspect that far too often the impact of what I say ends up so far off the mark from my intent that I unintentionally end up sounding like some offensive and inappropriate jackass.

When that happens, what I say just might end up hurting someone.

I hope that what I have to say doesn’t unintentionally hurt too often.

But then again, sometimes that may just be my intention.

That is, in addition to always trying to make myself sound funny and smart, sometimes my intent also might be to intentionally sound like some offensive and inappropriate jackass.

That’s because sometimes it takes a real jackass with enough oomph in his hindquarters to kick hard enough to make a point truly stick.

And unfortunately, whenever we do get stuck with a point, it tends to hurt for a bit.

Just to be clear, though, I cannot ever imagine a scenario where my intent would be for me to end up sounding like the misinformed dork that I really am.

That happens far too often enough without it ever being my intention.

But, that’s not really my problem, is it?

I really have no way of determining how what I say ends up impacting you.

For that I assume no responsibility or blame.

I just write the crap.

How it ends up sounding in your head after your brain interprets it is all on you.

I hope the intent of my words always matches the impact they have on your brain.

But I cannot guarantee they will.

And when they don’t, and especially if it causes pain to your sensitivities and causes you to think what an offensive and inappropriate jackass I am, please remember one thing.

And I say this understanding that I may end up sounding both like an uninformed dork and some offensive and inappropriate jackass…

Please remember that this blog was created and is maintained by me primarily as a resource for MY Happiness, not necessarily yours.

And like “True Americans” will sometimes say in defense of their American Way of Life, I say in defense of my blog:

“If you don’t like it, you can leave it.”

But really, I hope you don’t leave if I become too offensive and inappropriate for you.

And I hope you don’t leave if you become too offensive and inappropriate for me.

I like having you here to talk to.

Having you here, regardless of where you are from, or what your “Way of Life” or “way of life” or “WAYS OF LIFE” might be, provides me with much of the Happiness I so fervently pursue.

Besides, if you think what I DO or WILL say is offensive and inappropriate, just imagine some of the things that go through this troubled mind of mine that I DON’T or WON’T say.

I shudder to think.

Thank god for the delete button that’s all I gotta say, because so many of those offensive and inappropriate bastards of thought that float around in my mind often get just this close (use your imagination here to visualize me holding my hand in front of your face and pinching my pointer finger and thumb together so tightly that my hand shakes from it as I illustrate exactly what I mean by “just this close”) to being shouted out loud at the top of my scarred and deteriorating lungs.

And by just this close to being shouted out loud at the top of my scarred and deteriorating lungs I mean that sometimes this irrational world that we are living in drives me so bonkers that I can barely refrain myself from publishing those offensive and inappropriate bastards of thought that are floating around in this troubled mind of mine here on my blog and then tweeting and bleating and blasting them out to the twitterverse and then linking and posting and liking them like a mad crazy fool to Facebook and then finding other ways—Ah hell yeah!…google+—to shove them into your self-righteously offended and offensive face but, just because those thoughts barely strayed over that very thin and swaying line in my mind which I consider to be the boundary for good taste, I refrain myself and say nothing about them at all.

You have absolutely no idea what you are missing out on.

But enough of all that patriotic nonsense.

Back to my “on the government dole” point.

It always struck me as completely ironic (and if I think about it too hard it verges on the sardonically so) how so many Americans join the military to defend the American “Way of Life,” and, as a reward for their patriotism and service, they are provided for by the American government and funded by the American tax payer with a “way of life” that is so completely different and diametrically opposed to the “Way of Life” they gave up to defend.

Once someone joins the military, their new “way of life” becomes part of one of the most successfully socialist ways of life that has ever existed on this irrational planet of ours.

Now, the way I see it, the American “Way of Life” encompasses much and means different things to different folks, but I think all Americans can agree that this “Way of Life” certainly encompasses that democratic republic mashup system of government that so many Americans do not understand yet so many righteously trumpet, as well as a pretty hardcore capitalistic economic system, that, again, so many Americans do not really understand, but most are certainly beholden to.

Nothing wrong with that at all.

I’m all for the American Way of Life.

Hope you are all for it too, especially if you consider yourself an American.

And if you consider yourself a “True American,” well…

Well…I prefer to not even consider what the “True Americans” are all for in this, or any, regard, to be honest with you.

Besides, they will certainly tell us what they are all for anyway without the least bit of consideration at all.

But sometimes, especially when I really think hard about it, it makes me SMH in amazement that those who will so willingly sacrifice their life in defense of the American “Way of Life” have to live their “way of life” in a such heavily, if not completely, subsidized, socialistic, anti-American “Way of Life” manner. (BTW, for all you dinosaurs out there, SMH = shake my head. You can figure out the BTW for yourself.)

These potential military heroes are provided for with a completely free and well-maintained “gated” community if they live on base. If they choose to or are required to live off base, then their housing costs are subsidized. Their medical costs are completely paid for if they are seen by an on-base medical facility and, again, these costs are heavily subsidized if they are seen by an off-base medical facility.

And similar to the way of life in most anti-American “Way of Life,” socialist societies, the “way of life” in the American military includes serious restrictions on its service members’ freedom of expression and speech, restrictions that Americans who have never served in the military could never understand or imagine as they Happily and freely enjoy their own unique, and, quite honestly, sometimes a little weird and occasionally even a little creepy, American Way of Life.

I have several more “Way of Life” versus “way of life” examples, but I think you get the point:

A socialist “way of life” for those who volunteer to defend the Democratic Republic and Hardcore Capitalistic American “Way of Life.”

Again, nothing wrong with that.

Just a little ironic, wouldn’t you agree?

Besides, I’m all for providing anyone who willingly and courageously volunteers to defend the American Way of Life, regardless of how one defines it, with a decent and honorable way of life, American, socialistic, or otherwise.

America better provide their courageous volunteers and potential heroes with at least that because it sure as hell pays them like crap.

Believe me, after spending twenty years and four days as an enlisted swine sailor, I know exactly how crappy American service members are paid.

*

As I think and I write about all of this BS, all of the this Way of Life BS and all of the that way of life BS, and all of the goofy-looking uniform BS, and all of my pretentious and pedantic intent versus impact BS, I am being completely overwhelmed and thoroughly embarrassed by the ridiculous politics and even more ridiculous politicians behind the budget crisis that seemingly has the potential to rip the American Way of Life, regardless of how one defines it, to shreds.

That, to me, is wholly indefensible.

Dayglo Eyes and a Uniform Surprise

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of my bone marrow transplant yesterday, the wife and I partied down with my ophthalmologist for my quarterly eye exam. Okay, an eye exam is not much of a party, but since the results were good—my eyeballs are GVHD and infection free—I’ll take the eye exam over a party-hardy party any day.

While the results of the exam were good, it didn’t come without its hassles. The worst part about it, after the hour-and-a-half wait to see the doctor, that is (What is it about doctors that they think they can keep us waiting so long? Don’t they realize that—ah…don’t even get me started about doctor etiquette. We’ll save that rant for another day.), was having my pupils dilated so the doc could check for CMV and other infections and then having them numbed and stained yellow so she could perform a Glaucoma Test.

In addition to being blinded by all of the light my dilated pupils were sucking in, I had yellow fluorescent DayGlo-looking crap leaking out of my eyes all day long. I looked like some squinty, jaundiced-eyed mutant. In fact, couple my yellow fluorescent eyes with my big ol’ pumpkin head and I looked like I could have starred in one of Maurice Sendak’s books.

Speaking of DayGlo, I’m reminded of a time back in my navy days when I was deployed on some ship, I forget which one, and we were manning the rails getting ready to pull into some port, I forget where. Everyone was wearing their summer white uniforms for the occasion.

While everyone was wearing their summer white uniforms, not everyone was manning the rails. Many sailors were still responsible for making sure the ship functioned properly, to include the boatswain’s mates and other “deck apes,” as sailors responsible for the care and maintenance of the ship and other real navy stuff that I don’t really have a clue about are affectionately called.

While most of the crew stood around bored, doing nothing except standing and anxiously waiting to get to the pier so the liberty call fun could begin, the deck apes were preparing mooring lines and anchor chains and doing other dirty and greasy tasks that basically destroyed their lily-white uniforms. Too bad for them.

We have a saying in the navy: “Choose your rate, choose your fate.” They’re the ones who wanted to be a boatswain’s mate, ergo, they’re the ones who get the nasty jobs and uniforms that go with it.

It was an early morning port of call and, as there wasn’t much light to see by, some genius came up with the bright (pun intended) idea to have all the deck apes and other stuckies responsible for getting the ship tied safely to pier carry fluorescent yellow glow sticks in their shirt pockets so they could be seen more easily during the working party evolutions.

I think you can see where this is going.

By the time the ship finally got tied up and all those crazy deck apes got finished heaving and ho-ing and to-ing and fro-ing, most of the glow sticks that were being carried around in their pockets had broken and had leaked everywhere. By everywhere, I’m not just talking about all over the deck apes’ grease-and-dirt-covered summer white uniforms, I’m talking everywhere like all over the deck, all over the superstructure, all over the ropes that extended out to the pier, all over just about everything.

When that ship pulled alongside the pier, she glowed like a fluorescent yellow floating lantern. Too bad we all didn’t have some of the yellow glaucoma testing goop to put in our eyes. Just imagine how that would have looked to all the locals to see a fluorescent glowing warship pull in with the entire crew standing around with mad glowing eyes.

Fluorescent glowing warships and sailors with mad glowing eyes. How about that for a new national defense strategy?

Caffeine Therapy

Coffee in Starbucks Yokohama CupBefore the cancer I had been a pretty heavy coffee drinker. I drank it not only because I was addicted to the caffeine and the boost it gave me, but also because I really do enjoy the taste of a well-brewed cup o’ joe. A good cup of coffee, just like a good glass of wine, really does [cliche alert!] make life worth living.

I was a late bloomer as a coffee drinker. Though I always loved its smell growing up—I still have vivid, fond memories of the bubbly coffee percolator sounds and the delicious coffee smells that I woke to every morning as a child—I found its taste repulsive and the heated spoiled crap breath that all coffee drinkers blast out even more so.  I didn’t want to be complicit in that.

But after high school I joined the navy and, like an idiot, immediately started smoking cigarettes, a habit that previously had disgusted me even more than drinking coffee.  If I could force my body to accept and then to crave and then to fervently demand a steady intake of toxic death fumes, then it would stand to reason that hooking myself on coffee couldn’t be too far behind.

Actually, it took another six years.

What finally got me to join the Caffeine Club was the twelve-hour watches that I had to “stand” while stationed aboard my first ship.

I had stood twelve-hours watches all during my time in the navy prior to transferring to the ship, but those watches had always been in large, noisy, bustling communication centers with teams of sailors, which meant that there was always someone around to talk to and to keep me awake during the brutal night shifts.  But on the ship, I stood my watches in a quiet, closet of a room by myself and boy could those midnight watches, or mid-watches as the navy jargon goes, get boring.

Thus, in 1989 began my addiction to coffee.

Coffee and Cigarettes. A heavenly match made in hell.

Fortunately, I was able to kick the cigarette habit about a year later.

But I drank coffee like mad until my cancer.

While I initially started drinking coffee as a crutch to get me through the night, I still hated the taste and had to load in piles of cream and sugar to try to cover it up.  Over time, however, I eventually acquired a taste for the bean. But my passion for the bean didn’t really come until years later after my father casually remarked that to really enjoy coffee, it needs to be drank black. Unpolluted, so to speak.

So I tried it black. And, like most fathers are, he was right. From then on, I no longer was a man who preferred his coffee “sweet and blond” but one who preferred it “bold and black.”

I drank it that way pretty hard for twenty years.

But when the cancer struck, I had no qualms about quitting. In fact, I didn’t decide to quit, I just did without even realizing it. I guess my subconscious took over after they started pumping me full of chemo and steroids and other crap and spared me of any coffee or wine cravings during my year-long treatment and recovery.

Throughout my years as a coffee drinker prior to cancer, every once in a while I would try to get healthy and ween myself off of caffeine.  Not that caffeine is a particularly unhealthy addiction as far as addictions go; but it still is an addiction and deep down, I guess always felt a little uneasy about my dependency on it.

I don’t remember exactly when the last time was I tried to stop consuming caffeine, but I do remember how much it hurt: the eyeball shattering headaches; the total body aches; the nasty moods.

I remember being stuck in traffic for a very long time once during my last attempt at the last weening process and having my legs ache so badly that I thought I was going to have to pull over to the side of the beltway and have the wife come pick me up.  I was jonesing bad. I struggled on, but as soon as I got out of traffic I drove directly to the store, bought two cups of coffee, downed one right in the parking lot, and begged forgiveness and mercy from the other one as I lovingly nursed it all the way home.

I probably went through the same kind of withdrawal pain and discomfort when I quit drinking coffee after the cancer diagnosis, but there was already so much other pain and discomfort going on from the blood clots and the treatment that the withdrawal stuff just mixed right in and went unnoticed.  Thankfully.

And for over a year during my treatment and recovery process I had no urge whatsoever to start the habit back up.  Until recently.

The tweet I sent when I decided to start drinking coffee again.

When the urge returned, it returned with a vengeance.

I started drinking it like I never stopped.  There was one big difference when I started back up though:

Decaf.

I know, I know.  Drinking decaffeinated coffee is like having sex without the climax. What’s the point, right? But, I figured, since I have to take an overload of drugs every day that are already throwing my mental state out of whack, it might be best not to include a stimulant like caffeine into the mix.

So it was decaf for the first couple of weeks.

Until the first time I ran out of it and mistakenly bought a bag of the real stuff.

Why would Starbucks make the bag green if it wasn’t for a decaffeinated coffee?

One good thing about drinking decaf coffee is that I can drink it in the evenings without having to worry about it cranking me up for an all-nighter.

I made the first cup from the mistaken identity bag around 7:00 pm. I think I finally fell asleep around 6:00 am the next day.  By 2:00 pm, I was back at the store buying real decaf this time, which was not packaged in a green-themed bag, by the way.

What’s up with Starbucks thinking they can set their own standards?

Caffeine + Prednisone + Mind Explosion

I have always been very sensitive to drugs and other foreign substances.  For instance, it’s hard for me to use morphine or codeine as pain killers because of this sensitivity (remind me later to write an article about my first experience with morphine…ugh).

Even caffeine in the smallest of amounts can overly stimulate me (it’s not often I get to say that out loud) to the point of annoyance to anyone who happens to be around me.

My daily cocktail of drugs are no exception to this sensitivity rule.

Evil Prednisone
Evil Prednisone

The biggest culprit from the cocktail mix for jerking me around is the prednisone.  Prednisone is the drug of choice, in fact, it’s just about the only choice, to treat Graft Versus Host-related diseases, of which I am suffering from, and for which I am taking the prednisone.

It addition to GVHD, prednisone is also regularly prescribed for many inflammatory-related illnesses, like asthma or COPD. Because of its potency, it is usually prescribed in low doses, around 5 – 10 mg, for short periods of time, around 7 – 10 days, or so.

Well, I started at 200 mg and now I’m down to 60 mg.  I’m going on my fourth month and, even though the treatment doesn’t seem to be slowing the advancement of my lung disease, unless there is a new miracle discovery, I will probably will be taking high doses of prednisone for the rest of my life.

Speaking of miracle discoveries, I will be participating in an NIH study in April 2011 for a new Lung GVHD treatment—fingers crossed.

It kind of freaks me out whenever I visit with a new doctor and their eyes widen and mouths drop when they hear that I’m taking 60 mg of prednisone every day.

The reason they react the way they do is because prednisone has a slew of annoying side effects and is one of those drugs where the cure could turn out to worse than the disease.  It causes bone density loss, diabetes, sodium retention, water retention, insomnia, moon face (for some reason it makes the body fat accumulate around the face—my head is friggin’ ginormous!), and worst of all, anxiety, depression, and mood swings.

What fun.

Because of my sensitivity to drugs, I seem to be really affected by the anxiety, depression, and mood swings.

You might be thinking, like I would be if it wasn’t me who was the one saying it: Brindley, get over it. It’s all just in your head.

And my response would be: You’re exactly right! That’s what makes it even worse.  I do know that it is all just in my head. But I’ll be damned if I can get it out.

The more I can keep my mind actively engaged, the better off I am.

This blog is great therapy.

So are naps.

But sometimes my mind gets stuck in a deep rutted ravine filled with all of my fears and doubts and I can’t get out no matter how hard I try.  It really is crazy because even as I am trapped in this dark place, I know that a big reason why I’m there is because of a drug that is supposed to be saving my life.

And once I get stuck there I usually can’t get out until the drug wears off, which is about twelve hours after taking it.

So, the next time I ran out decaf and decided to go to the real stuff, I had to take all of this into consideration.  I knew there could be consequences from the caffeine so, to try to make good out of my stupidity for willingly hooking myself back onto something I had not needed for over a year, I had decided to treat it all like an experiment.  When drinking caffeinated coffee while taking the prednisone and other drugs, which would be anytime I drink caffeinated coffee, I would pay close attention to how they interact and affect me.

Good idea, right? ;)

What I found is interesting and somewhat promising.

Pros:

  • Caffeine, like the true stimulant that it is, seems to balance out the negative effects of the prednisone. By drinking caffeinated coffee in the mornings when the drugs are at their nastiest, I do not seem to be feeling as depressed and grouchy.
  • It seems to be easier to breathe when I take my walks. After some research, I found that caffeine is a xanthine derivate. Xanthine is used to help treat asthma. Maybe this explains why it seems that I’m breathing easier on my walks.
  • Caffeine is a diuretic. Diuretics make you pee. This is useful for me since I tend to retain water because of the GVHD.
  • Because of the prednisone, I also retain sodium. I don’t understand all this diuretic stuff enough but it could be a good thing if caffeine is of the type that flushes out sodium. I’ll have to follow up with the doc on this.

Cons:

  • In addition to the depression, prednisone also makes me anxious and edgy, and increases my heart rate. Adding caffeine into the equation only amplifies that feeling.
  • Because of my GVHD, I have dry, itchy skin and my mouth gets dry easily. The steroids help, but since caffeine is a diuretic and I’m peeing all the time I get dehydrated quickly, which only exacerbates the dry skin and dry mouth. I have to drink more water to compensate, which means even more peeing. Its a tedious balancing act.
  • Again, I don’t understand much about diuretics, but I read that certain types flush out a body’s potassium. This isn’t good because prednisone already tends to decrease potassium levels. Need more info.
  • Because of all the meds I’m taking, my liver is really taking a beating. Since caffeine is metabolized in the liver, I really need to be careful here.

So, to make a long story short… What? Oh…yeah, I see. Too late for that. I guess I got to rambling a bit. Thanks for bearing with me.

Drinking Coffee With Shikibu

In conclusion…  better?  …my long, rocky love affair with coffee has resumed once again and I find that my passion for the drink is as strong and true as its seductive flavor is bold and addictive.

And now, not only do I drink the brew to fulfill my own selfish desires and dependency, I drink it also to fulfill a broader need, one with an utilitarian, more nobler purpose—I drink it in the name of medical research.

Just think, what started out as an aide to help me better defend my country during my navy years (that sounds much better than calling it a crutch to help me stay awake during boring mid-watches), may turn out to be the impetus behind a cure for a very serious mental health condition.

Now, whenever I drink coffee while strung out on prednisone, I may be one cup closer to understanding the longterm synergistic and psychological effects on the brain from simultaneously consuming large quantities of both stimulative and depressive agents over long periods of time.

My research is going to have an extremely significant and beneficial impact on the entire mental health community.  Better lives will be lived because of it.

Yeah, that’s all a bunch of BS, I know (see Disclaimer).  But hey, if it helps me to rationalize my pathetic, self-induced dependency on something that I probably shouldn’t be messing with in the first place, why not, right?

Have I mentioned how long it’s been since I’ve had a glass of wine?