So I've been a little remiss in keeping y'all updated on what's happening with my eyes. For those that missed this earlier, my optometrist was thinking I had a condition called pellucid marginal degeneration (PMD). Further investigation revealed, however, that what I have is actually its somewhat-more-common cousin, keratoconus [LINK WARNING: pictures of strange-looking eyes]. Both PMD and keratoconus are conditions in which part of your cornea gradually loses thickness over time.

I did an experimental treatment to stop it from getting worse, and everything went well, but we won't know if it actually worked for a year or so. )

Longer term, I'll need to wear rigid contact lenses for the rest of my life. I have glasses now, and they help a lot, but they can't fix the starbursts/halos I see with bright lights at night. And for someone who likes to drive (especially at night), that's a big problem.

For now, though, I don't get to even consider contact lenses until my vision settles down (likely between June and September). And in the meantime, I'm going to have to be particularly careful at night. But at least I have a path forward, and a lot more certainty about what to do next, and what to do if it looks like the experimental treatment didn't work.

— Des

I've fallen out of the habit of journaling, and I've also been bad at talking about what's going on in my life. So, in an attempt to kill two avians with one projectile, I present to you an easily-digestible post custom-tailored and purpose-built to answer the question: "What's new, Des?"

  • Work gave me a nice title bump (to "Senior Manager") as part of my performance review, and forgot to tell me.
  • A couple months after my performance review, work also gave me more responsibility for technical (fun) stuff on top of all the managerial stuff I'm already doing.
  • I have an extremely rare degenerative eye disease.
  • A squirrel moved into my garage.

I promise I didn't make any of this up.


So let's get the hardest thing out of the way first—my optometrist is pretty sure I have PMD, or pellucid marginal degeneration [LINK WARNING: Pictures of strange-looking eyes]. The bad news is it's both rare and degenerative; not much is known about what causes it, how it progresses, or how frequently it occurs. It may or may not cause progressively more severe vision distortion as I get older, to the point that my vision becomes largely uncorrectable. The good (ish) news is my eyes are still in the early stages, and it may be treatable/stoppable, but the treatment is still experimental.

Those of you who have known me IRL for a while probably also know that I started wearing glasses a few months ago. I've had perfect vision for my entire life up until maybe the last year, when I started to notice, for lack of a better term, "lens flare" around bright lights at night. (It is definitely not a halo; it's an extremely irregular, offset, and stretched ellipse-like shape.)

So I went to an optometrist (which I had put off doing since, like, college), and she gave me glasses, which helped to bring everything into clearer focus but didn't do much for the "lens flare". After giving myself a few months to adjust, I went back in last weekend and we did some more tests (modern optometry technology is really f*ckin' cool, BTW).

It turns out my corneas (corneae?) are sagging.

For the first few days after I found out, I went through alternating waves of panic and depression. How the hell am I going to continue as a functioning, independent adult if I can't see? How do I get to work? How do I continue to write code, drive, or do any of the other things I love to do if one of my primary senses severely degrades or fails?

Honestly, I've been struggling with how to process the news. I wasn't even sure I wanted to share it at all outside of my poly- and bio-families; I don't really want pity and it wouldn't help, anyway. More appropriate would be a well-aimed kick in the pants when necessary, to keep me functioning like a normal human being. I'd also take ophthalmologist referrals, too, in the (perhaps-unlikely) event that you know any good corneal specialists in the Bay Area.

Anyway, in an attempt to lessen the panic and depression, even a little, I decided to research the shit out of PMD—if I can't think about anything else, I might as well think about it productively, right? Suffice to say I think the experimental treatment would be a good (and relatively safe) choice that would actually halt the progression, and pending further discussions with an actual ophthalmologist familiar with the procedure, that's probably the route I'll take. But, until everything is done and I know the outcome, it isn't going to stop the occasional bits of panic and depression from peeking through.

One other thing worth noting: I've been through this kind of scare before, and I adapted. For probably a good year or more, I was terrified I would have to find a way to stop using keyboards because they were slowly destroying my hands. But, thru lots of physical therapy and an actually-correct diagnosis (I had several over the course of maybe two years, ranging from ligament damage to localized arthritis to the actual diagnosis: trigger finger), I recovered probably 90-95% of my ability to type, and losing my hand function isn't something I worry about much anymore.

Medically, it's totally different of course—my hands are not my eyes. Also, I only just found out about the PMD recently, and I still have a lot of work to do (talking to an ophthalmologist, etc.) to learn about my specific case and come up with a treatment plan. But the experience with my hands taught me how to keep my head, focus on taking constructive steps to cure what ails me, and not let a little thing like degenerative eye disease interfere with my day-to-day life.

Especially since—for now—my eyes are still quite functional.


So, let's take a breath for a minute and talk about something banal, shall we?

I'm now a Senior Engineering Manager at work as of a couple months ago, which… yay, I guess? Except in a classic case of corporate dysfunction, they forgot to tell me. I only found out because I happened to look myself up in Outlook one day (I can't remember my desk phone number, ever), saw my new title, and went, "hmmm, that's weird…"

My boss was appropriately apologetic, and at the time, it didn't actually matter much since my responsibilities didn't change. It was a nice little ego bump, though.

Then, last week—the same week I found out about my eye condition—I also found out that I'm getting more responsibility shoveled onto my plate. Ordinarily I would complain strenuously—I have two teams, and 8 people, and that's more than one manager should have to take on, especially if they're also contributing technically.

However, I'm just getting more technical responsibility, and I can use that as an excuse to push some of the day-to-day project management stuff down to my folks. I've been wanting to do that anyway; I have too much on my plate and I've only very recently started to feel like I'm getting back up to speed with where I need to be.

So, hopefully work will get more enjoyable and interesting over the next little bit, and hopefully I'll get more opportunity to play around in the gray area covering "business requirements", "architecture", and "design". Developing stronger business and technical-strategy skills is never a bad thing, and I'm looking forward to it.


Alright, I can't put this off any longer. I'm sorry, Dreamwidth, but there's one more shitty thing we need to talk about: squirrels.

They shit everywhere.

Not only do they shit everywhere, they also tear up drywall, insulation, and wiring. Sometimes they chew through wiring just for the hell of it. I know this because one of them seems to have taken up residence in my garage, by coming down from the attic and punching a hole through the drywall. Hopefully that residence was merely temporary; I haven't seen any fresh movement of building materials in the last few days. Pest control is coming out soon, just to make sure.

But honestly, a squirrel? It couldn't have been mice, or rats, or termites, or other normal things that happen to normal people who own normal homes?

I know I'm weird, and weird shit happens to me, but a motherf*cking squirrel?

Come on.

— Des

This weekend hasn't been a great one for my mental state. Going in, I was already feeling generally overwhelmed and inadequate in life. Then I had trouble sleeping, and Othercat is off visiting one of their other partners, so I'm home by myself for the entire four-day (for me) weekend.

It's been rough.

That said, today has been much better than I was expecting. It got off to a slow start (I woke up at 10 and finally rolled out of bed at like, 11?), but I went for a nice walk earlier, and I've been knocking some important things off my list. It's nice to feel for once like I'm doing a good job at something.

That "something" is performance reviews for all my folks at work. Yeah, working a whole bunch on the weekend sucks, but in this particular case, I feel like it's worth it. I'm hoping that if I get as many of them done as possible, it will significantly reduce my stress over the next couple weeks.

I rarely have time when I'm in the office to sit, focus, and relax/de-stress enough to get big things done. So even though I'm burning weekend time to do it (at least some of which I'll be able to get back later), it feels like a worthwhile trade-off for my emotional health. I can also feel good about the fact that I'm giving each of my folks the undivided attention necessary to give them proper feedback (rather than scrawling "Good Job!" across the top of all their forms with a purple whiteboard marker).

I'm still not good enough, and I probably need to get back into therapy for that. But today feels like a small victory, and I believe there will be more small victories to come.

I hope, if I string enough small victories together, they will gradually turn into a big one.

— Des

deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)

Cat Checkups

May. 12th, 2017 10:47 pm
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Had my routine checkup yesterday, and everything looks pretty good. Still need to do my STI tests and such, but in general I’m healthy. My blood pressure, in particular, is near optimal, which is a marked improvement over last year, and I think it's due to both eating healthier and the fact that I've started holding walking meetings at work.

I also learned something new about my migraines: some of those things that feel like tension-type headaches (where they start in my neck and move up/forward) are actually more likely migraines. We’ve changed my treatment plan to take the migraine pill first and the standard NSAID painkiller second, even if I'm not sure at first if it's a migraine. The migraine pill is actually probably safer, and it’s overall better for my brain to abort the migraine as soon as possible. (As long as I'm not taking more than 9 per month, which shouldn't be a concern for me.)

I have a newer migraine drug to try, which should hopefully have fewer side effects, and I'm hopeful that changing the strategy will help overall.


Mental health is a different story. My partner has been pushing me to go back into therapy again. I had a discussion with my doctor, and she agrees. I scored in the "moderate" range for both depression and anxiety, despite the previous year-plus of therapy I went through, which ended roughly a year ago.

That's somewhat disappointing, honestly, because it feels like I'm back to right about where I was two years ago. I know that life is a journey, and the road is twisty, narrow, and doubles back on itself a lot, but come on. :^)

I'm more grounded, certainly, but it's also true that I'm still not on solid emotional ground. My excuse so far for not getting back into therapy has been that I'm not sure what it would accomplish—I don't feel like I have a clear problem I can define that I can ask for help with. Plus, I have a lot of good tools for dealing with anxiety and depression, I just don't use them when I should.

But maybe that last bit is the problem. How do I consistently motivate myself over the long term to use the coping skills I have, and maintain the kind/amount of vigilance necessary to realize when and how I need to use them?

Anyway, I'm going to give it some more thought—I'm not entirely convinced it's going to be super helpful for me at this stage, but it can't hurt, either.

— Des

deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)

"Sick" Today

Apr. 10th, 2017 04:16 pm
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I slept like ass, so I took a sick day today. I probably didn't need to—I could have gone to work and pretended I knew what I was doing—but it seemed like a better idea to stay home.

And, really, if you look at how little sleep I've gotten in the past week or so, and how disturbed my sleep has been, it's little wonder I've been feeling depressed recently. When I don't get enough sleep, I feel powerless and worthless.

I know I'm neither of those things, but when I'm sleep-deprived, my emotional reality doesn't match my rational reality. It becomes much easier to string together a consistent narrative of failure, of not doing enough. Things at work are way behind and it's all my fault; I don't spend enough time with my partner; I have a million house projects that I've not completed; I haven't seen any of my friends in too long; none of my creative projects are coming together; I can't sit and focus on one thing for more than two minutes.

I'm not smart enough, socially-aware or friendly enough, hard-working enough, politically active in the right ways, sufficiently creative ... just not good enough.

I can't [exercise the modicum of self-control required to] go to bed on time every night. Instead, I stay up and play video games. I don't [have the discipline required to] exercise regularly. I eat poorly because it's expedient and I'm making a tradeoff[I make poor decisions], and then feel bad about it afterwards.

But I know that's bullshit. It's bullshit because:

  • I'm writing this blog entry. That's producing something and honing my writing skills, even on my "sick" day off. [Fuck you, depression. I'm doing something right now, as I type this, to make myself feel better.]

  • I spent a good chunk of this weekend learning Rust by trying to create a game, and I'm forming and writing down my opinions about Rust. I may not produce any shippable software, but I will have learned something new, and I can share what I learned with others.

  • I saw my parents this weekend, and laid the groundwork for a significant conversation later. My parents aren't my friends, exactly, but they definitely count as an important social interaction.

  • I played some Stellaris this weekend, and finished Frog Fractions 2, both of which were things I was looking forward to. Even if they weren't "productive" tasks in their own right, they're still a valid way to take care of myself.

  • I have an OmniFocus reminder to eat veggies and such regularly. I'm even pretty good at following it. I also mostly only drink water (and mochas, but again, tradeoffs ;) ).

  • For my 1:1s at work, I take my folks on walks when possible, rather than sitting in a conference room. That's an extra 2-3 hours of walking per week.

  • At work, I'm pushing myself to learn new social and leadership skills, both of which are areas where I feel I've been historically weak (Boy Scouts notwithstanding). I'm making a lot of progress, and my coworkers have noticed and commented on the difference.

  • At work, my team and I are tackling our most ambitious project ever. Yes, progress is slower than anyone would like, but we're learning a lot along the way, both technically and about project and self-management.

  • I've recently gotten more involved with my local community, since I'm helping our HOA with their newsletter.

So I'm not doing bad at all, not on the whole. I'm not on solid emotional ground, by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm not doing bad. Everyone I know, at work or at home, or wherever, needs to take the occasional sick (or even "sick") day. Nobody can be on 100% of the time, and nobody can be expected to deliver creative output, consistently, over a long period of time. (A very few people can, and I envy them.)

There are plenty of things that are legitimate problems I need to work on, like getting enough sleep, or that occasional feeling of dread that crops up in response to various social situations. (That social anxiety-thing really fucks with me sometimes.) And a lot of those things are the seeds for the kind of runaway negative self-talk that leads to me feeling depressed. There's absolutely more that I could be doing.

But I need to take time to explicitly remind myself that even though I spend so much time focused on problems, there's a lot to be grateful for, and there's a lot I can be proud of.

Otherwise, I'll have more days like today.

— Des

I've been feeling pretty creatively unfulfilled lately, and I think that's because my standards might be too high. I start a new coding project and think, "oh, this part would be better if I did it this way or had this other tool," then start building the tool, think, "oh this part would be better if ...", and repeat.

I won't say I'm a perfectionist, but I'm not far off. My standards are calibrated for industrial-strength enterprise software built by legions of engineers, not small projects built in my (rather limited) spare time. In those environments, handling every single corner case matters, as does testing the fuck out of everything. And so I never finish anything, because I need an entire team of engineers to write, "Hello, World!".

I know a lot of you fine folks are in the same boat. Whether it's art, or writing, or code, or music, I've lost count of how many times I've heard you say, "My work isn't good enough. There are so many ways this could be better." And maybe we're even right about that; striving to improve yourself and your work is a good thing.

But it's also really hard not to get sucked into the vortex of perfection, and lose sight of what you're trying to accomplish. So I often have to ask myself: "Is something shitty better than nothing?"

It's so much easier for me to make something when I don't care about the thing itself because either (a) I'm just fucking around, or (b) I need it for a specific purpose, so there is a clearly-defined goal and a desire to expend the minimum amount of effort. In fact, my most successful/complete projects almost entirely fall into category (b), even though those projects are probably the least rewarding.

I need to find a way through that dichotomy. How do I make any progress at all on something I really care about? How do I just write this blog post without worrying about where all the punctuation goes?

I need to make more cool shit, but I need to do it in a way that's actually rewarding and achievable. How do y'all do it?

— Des

I'm continuing to struggle with feeling like I have enough spoons (and so are a lot of other people I know). I feel like I should be able to power through an 8-hour workday, then come home and have enough energy left over to do literally anything else. But, especially over the last few weeks, that definitely has not been the case.

I was talking to Othercat about it, and I think there might be a couple reasons why.

Read more... )

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August 2018

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