Sunday, March 12, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday today, and I've gotten presents I didn't want (snow!) and presents I did (lunch with a friend) and presents I was very much not expecting.

That last is Apricot. You know I've been working on getting him to trust me enough to pet his tummy. I can usually get one pet in before the second pet makes him tense up and leave. That's where we've been in the process for the last year, I think. Every time I see him sprawled so his tummy is exposed, I go over very softly and slowly, saying how lovely his tummy is (and it is, it's a gorgeous plush tummy), and asking if I can pet it, and then (if he's stayed), I pet slowly and carefully so he can see every move I'm going to make before I make it.

Yesterday morning he invited the tummy pet. I petted once. Twice. He didn't tense up. So I kept going.

I got tired before he did! What an honor to be trusted that much by a feral-raised cat. It quite made my day.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

And Then There's the Eating Disorder

It's been a year now, and while plenty of my friends and family suspected, I told relatively few of them what I'm now disclosing. By the way, CAT isn't here (except in a sideways mention) so if you're only here for the cats, you needn't read any further.


At the end of November 2015, I began to suspect I had an eating disorder. I even knew what type, I thought. Binge eating disorder. This is where you eat large amounts of food, beyond the point where you're full, beyond the point where you want any more, and in fact you keep stuffing food into your mouth whether you want it or not.

The loss of personal control is very alarming, and I begin to think I might need to do something about it. But it was only the one time, right?

It happened three more times before the end of December and at that point I thought I really needed to do something.

About that time I came across an app, which allowed you to record your food with great ease, including recipes you made yourself. So being the scientist that I am, I decided to gather data before I made a decision.

After two weeks of gathering data, I realized several things. First, I didn't have binge eating disorder. I had binge/starve eating disorder. And the starving part, all unbeknownst to me, was actually what was triggering the bingeing.

Yes, that's right, I didn't even realize I was starving myself. I thought this was a normal amount of food for someone my size to be eating. I was eating about half of what I should be eating. It's no wonder that I started bingeing. My body was desperate for food.

The other thing I realized, was that I was eating a quarter of the protein that I should. Part of this was due to the fact that I am allergic to chicken, and part of it's due to the fact that meat protein is expensive.

Now that I had data, I needed to do something about it. It was obvious (to me, anyway) that what I needed to do was even out my calories, so that I was eating the same amount each day. This would prevent me from starving or bingeing.

I looked up on the web in multiple places how much I should be eating. Turns out there are two different calculations, but they both came out to about the same amount. I didn't believe either one.

So I set my base calories in the app to 1200. Which is about 300 more than I had been eating on a regular day. This was at the end of January 2016.

Over the next few months, I increase my protein intake. I also had to keep increasing my base calories. Mostly because I kept losing weight. I know that at this point many people would have loved to be in my position, but the fact is, I had lost so much weight that I was getting into the danger zone. I seriously did not need to lose any more.

I finally got my base calories to the point where I was no longer losing weight. Want to guess what it was? The exact amount that has been recommended by the calculations on the web. I guess I should've believed them in the first place.

In addition, because protein is expensive, I decided to try and do something with it: try to gain muscle by getting an exercise bike and using it while I played my video games. This meant that I had to eat more, to compensate for the extra exercise.

The results of this side experiment were absolutely fascinating. For the first time in my life, I actually gained upper body muscle.

I found a really good website, called Eat More to Weigh Less. While I was not trying to lose weight, it really helped me understand how your metabolism works, and the damage I had done to myself by eating so little all those years.

Granted, I hadn't been eating at quite that lower level, all my life. But I had been doing it to some extent and it just got worse in the three years before 2016. A lot worse.

At first, increasing my metabolic rate led to nothing but annoyance. I had to start cutting my fingernails more often. I had to start washing my hair more often, as my head's oil production increased.

And oh my goodness, eating all that food. It takes ages to eat enough food. Unless of course you go to a restaurant and then you can do your entire days' allowance in one meal. However this leaves me hungry for the rest of the day, and I don't exactly appreciate being hungry.

And that was another thing I did not appreciate about increasing my metabolic rate. I started getting hungry again. Apparently, if you eat a small enough amount for a long enough time, your brain turns off your hunger signals.

In addition, remember my social anxiety that results from being around people? It was one of the reasons why I had stopped eating in the first place. I don't get hungry when I'm anxious. I still don't. But there's no way I can eat that much food at night, so I had to start eating at work anyway.

So there were a lot of roadblocks along the way. Including the reactions of other people. Most people did not understand, and thought that my sudden calorie counting was an indication of an eating disorder, not a solution to one.

The few people that I did explain it to, while supportive, still did not fully understand. I believe there was only one person who actually got it.

This made it very difficult to eat while being around other people. Added to that, was the fact that when you start eating twice as much, you start paying twice as much for groceries. Which meant I had less money to go around for say, going to a restaurant.

I tried, for a while. Going out to eat with friends was part of my routine, and being autistic I hate giving up my routines. But it just got too difficult, to watch other people eating what looked like massive amounts of food, when I knew that if I ate that much, I couldn't eat anything else for the day. Add in the judge-y stares from other people and I just gave up.

(I'm not kidding about the restaurant meals. The burger I used to get at Ruby Tuesday's is over 2000 calories. That's without fries or any other kind of side.)

I even got a pressure cooker in July, and started cooking a lot. I had always been a baker, not someone who cooks.

The reason why am writing this post, is that I am a year into this recovery process. I'm more comfortable talking about it, and I wanted to record my progress.

So if you add in my exercise calories, I am now eating over 2000 calories a day. This still seems slightly incredible to me, but I've gotten used to it. I even get a little resentful, if I don't get to eat everything. For example if on a Sunday I don't exercise as much, and watch TV a lot.

I'm finally starting to see good things coming from increasing my metabolic rate. I can function well with less sleep. I'm not quite as cold, usually, although this is still a problem.

And I can carry all three cats in one crate, although I cannot lift it or lower it to the ground. That's over 45 pounds. Never in my life did I think that I would ever be able to lift that much. OK technically I'm still just carrying it, not lifting. But still.

Physically I feel stronger and more able to do things. It's nice to be able to lift stuff, even stuff that doesn't weigh as much is 45 pounds. And not be exhausted.

Emotionally I am still struggling with this whole eating disorder thing. I can still feel the impulse to eat less when I'm stressed, and to eat more when I'm not. This is not a good thing.

It's kind of like being a recovering alcoholic. Other people around you can have that one drink with dinner, but you can't. In my case, that means other people can have that celebratory cake and go a little over their calories and then eat a little less the next day to make up for it. I can't.

I think at this point, that's the hardest thing for other people to understand. I cannot let up on this yet. Maybe someday I will be able to "have that one drink," but not now. Yes, it's been a year since I started "fixing" this, but it's going to take more than a year to fix the habits of a lifetime.

Friday, December 30, 2016

45 pounds of CAT

On December the 30th, we all went to the kitty doctor (the vet, but I call her the kitty doctor). This was a new doctor to Apricot and Thimble, although Colby had seen her before when his ears got so bad.

Now here's the thing. I'm one human, a girl, without the effortless upper body strength of most guys. They are three cats. Collectively, they weigh a little over 45 pounds. So how does one human get three cats to the vet? Especially when the biggest one, Thimble, has decided to try on the "scaredy cat" personality for a while. (At least I do hope it's only temporary!)

Last time we all three went to the kitty doctor, I had the two Coons in Thimble's big crate and Apricot in the kangaroo pouch. When I came back, I had Thimble and Apricot in the crate and Colby in the pouch, because that was what they had physically indicated they wanted.

So this time, I decided to put all three of them in the crate. I got a friend to make me (I paid him) a CATillac -- a furniture mover's dolly with a handle and eye bolts, I think they're called, on the sides to tie down the crate to. This would assist me in getting the crate from the car to the kitty doctor's place and back again. I figured I'd get someone to help me lift the crate into the car at the vet's, and I could lower it onto the CATillac.

However, this left the question of how to get the crate plus cats out to the car from my house. Hm. I came up with and implemented this plan.

Everybody got their harnesses put on before I left for my walk that morning. (And hey, this time it was properly cold outside!) The door to the sofa room got shut as well, to keep them from hiding there. I figured Apricot at least would know what's up. (He did.)

The putting on of the harness went well; Apricot didn't even need bothered by Colby in order to walk around this time, which is odd because his harness was just a tad too tight. Not enough that I wasn't going to use it, but enough that I think I need a new one. (Sigh. More expenses.)

When I got back from the walk, I put Thimble into the crate and carried it out to the car, whose door I had previously opened. The crate fits across the back seat with room for me to sit next to it. How convenient.

Then I put the kangaroo pouch on and put Apricot in it, and hooked the pouch's hook to his harness (this was the only reason I wore the pouch; to ensure that panic would not enable a cat to get away from me).

I took him out to the car, opened the door, sat down inside, closed the car door, unhooked Apricot and opened the crate door and fed Apricot through the opening into the crate. Although he didn't even try the splay-legged "NO" protest some cats do, I will admit the advantage to such a large crate is that he wouldn't have had a chance.

See, this way there was no possibility of losing a cat to the outside world. Not that Thimble even made a move from where he was plastered against the back of the crate. Sigh. I wish he were brave like he used to be; it would be so much easier on him.

Then I got out of the car.

Wait, then I opened the car door to get out of the car.

Nope, the handle moved but the car door wouldn't open. Oh for crying out loud! Apparently, the car accident where the guy hit my driver's side door and affected the back door did more damage than anybody thought. While I got the actuator repaired so the key fob would unlock the door from the outside, the inside handle won't open the door. And of course, when do I ever sit in the back seat? And I never have more than one person besides myself in my car these days.

So I scrambled into the front seat and got out the front door, which probably alarmed my poor cats even more.

I repeated the whole process with Colby, who was far more difficult to get in the pouch, seeing as he'd observed me leaving with both Thimble and Apricot and figured, rightly enough, that he was next. I think perhaps I'll just fasten a leash around my middle to be the connection next time.

I had to get out of the car again and go back inside for my purse and the protein bar I was going to have for breakfast, and put the CATillac in the wheel wells of the back seat (it wouldn't have fit while I was in there), but then we were off!
The crate: all strapped in.
Technically this is on the way back, as the crate's on the other side on the way there.

And on time, too. In fact, we were early to our 8:30 appointment! (That never happens to me!)

Nobody said anything on the way there. Not them or me, as I was busy stuffing my face while I drove. It was nice that December the 30th happened to be a holiday this year for a lot of people so traffic was light. I'm glad the vet's office was open.

At the office, I unfolded the CATillac and put it down by the car door where the crate was the closest. Then I pulled the crate out of the car and, using as much arm and leg muscles as I could to spare my back, put it down on the CATillac.

Oops. It was backwards. I didn't think the cats would appreciate the view from where we'd been; they'd be better off facing the end I was pulling, so they could see me and (hopefully) draw reassurance from my presence.

Okay. Concentrate, deep breathing, fingers on one end, fingers through gate of crate on the other end, lift just enough to be able to rotate and set back down.

I did it! I was very proud of myself. And there was a nagging thought, minor, pushed to the back of my mind where I didn't actually think of it till later. "Huh. That was easy."

Colby and Apricot visible as we go up the handicapped paintlines in the parking lot.
Using the pull handle and the handicapped access ramp to the sidewalk, I took my load of CAT into the office.

They sent me right into a room, even though I was early, and I opened the crate door to let anyone who wanted to come out and explore.
Thimble and Apricot aren't going anywhere.

Colby was the only taker. He was like, hey, I know this place! He went under the chairs and stood on his hind legs to look on the counter where before he'd jumped up and knocked over a jar of liquid, but he was just confirming it was the same as before. This time he left it alone. He found the corner beside the window seat against the wall and behind the crate, and decided that was a good place to stay.
Colby the intrepid explorer

The vet tech came in and talked to me about my concerns that day, and confirmed what the vet was going to do (physical exams on everybody, shots for the Coons but not Apricot).

Then Dr. Powell came in. She's very nice. Colby liked her last time.
Colby's Corner

They have a baby scale like I have to weigh the cats in. I decided since Colby was out, I was going to do Apricot first, as he was the easiest to get to in the crate. Colby might go into the crate after his exam, making it even harder to get to the other ones!

So Apricot got weighed, and it really helped that I have that scale at home (not identical, but close enough), as I'd accidentally trained them to hold still in it without being held by me. (I didn't do it on purpose, just would say "hold still" when I put them in it and then "thank you" when I put them back down.)

Dr. Powell looked in his eyes and his ears and at his teeth and his skin, and then listened to his heart rate (172, normal for a cat-at-the-vet), took his respiration rate, and then they took his temperature. That was quite enough for Apricot, who was an angel (or paralyzed in fear) the whole time. He didn't react, just wasn't happy about it.

I put him down on the floor, not the crate, and while he was busy getting his bearings, I fished Thimble out of the crate. And fished, and fished, because he's a very long cat and wasn't coming willingly.

I got a couple of amazed exclamations from both vet and tech when I kept getting more Thimble out of the crate. Finally I had his back end bundled into my arms with his front so I could lift him up.

He went through the same things Apricot had. Only his heart rate was 200. Poor fellow. He was visibly the most scared of the three, even shaking a tiny bit. And he only had to get one shot because his rabies from last year is good for three years, and of the other two shots they get, one is good for two years.

Apricot by now was back in the crate, and I let Thimble go in as well (I kind of just poured him in, as I figured that would be his ideal spot right now).

Then I moved the crate and gathered up Colby from where he'd gone. He earned a new nickname on the scale: Wiggleworm! His heart rate was identical to Apricot's. Unfortunately his heart murmur is back, dang it. I guess I will have to get him ultrasounded in another two years after all. I don't want to; they'll probably have to sedate him. He's calm but he's not the calm do-anything-with cat that Pippin was (Pippin never had to get sedated for an ultrasound, even the very first one).

The arrangement of the cats in the crate was theoretically Apricot at the back and Thimble in the middle now, but when I went to put Colby in, I saw that the two had switched places. More like Thimble had forced his way into the back. But he had his tail curled around Apricot, who was curled up against him. It looked so sweet!
Can we go home yet?

Then we did the pay thing and got the flea control stuff for me to put on later (I haven't yet), and I asked a gentleman who'd come in with a kitten in a tiny crate (comparatively!) to help me out. Well, actually I was about to ask the desk lady if someone could help me and he volunteered.

So he lifted the crate into the car for me once we got out to it, and I thanked him, folded up the CATillac and put it into the car, and off we went back home.

Oh goodness, I don't want to go through all that again, cat by cat into the house. By the time I got home, the physical sensation and the accompanying thought had gotten stronger. Lifting the crate had been easy. I wonder ... I went inside and turned off the alarm and left the house door wide open when I came back to the car.

"Guys," I said, "I want to try something." I pulled the crate out enough to get a hold of both ends and lifted. Completely. I was upright, holding 45 pounds of CAT and the weight of the crate, and although it was heavy, I was okay. I could even walk.

My friends, I carried that entire crate in with me and set it down on the floor. The only part that was difficult to the point of "ow" was the "on the floor" part. Next time I'll put it on the table; they can get down from there no problem--they do it all the time.

Can you imagine? I have never, in my entire life, been able to lift that much weight with my arms, much less walk with it. Hooray for protein and strength training!

Apricot took four hours to forgive me; after two he re-emerged from his hiding spot but wouldn't let me near him. After two more he went back to being normal with me. This was a great relief and I'm glad it only took him four hours.

Thimble held a grudge for about two hours and then gave it up and climbed into my lap where I sat watching a tvshow and wanted cuddled, so of course I did.

Colby was perfectly fine from the moment he left the crate.

And so we survive another vet visit, and I learn an astonishing thing about myself. (Whoo hoo!)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

In Which Thimble is Sleeping

After an hour of sleeping on my lap, this is the marshmellow Thimble turns into. I had to keep my hand in the photo as he's got a paw wrapped around it!

There is a Jacket, and Life is Good

It's getting cold, and I wanted a tighter jacket to go underneath the bigger jackets when I walked, so the cold air couldn't sneak up the bottom of the jacket stack and make me cold underneath. As finances are a little tight, I was quite pleased to find exactly what I was looking for at a big box store for $10. (Actually, they didn't have my size. So I ordered it off their website in my size and picked it up the next weekend! So very cool. I love technology.)

Now, whenever I bring home new clothes, unless they're really nice (which I don't usually buy), I put them on the floor so the cats can investigate to their collective heart's content. It makes them happy, and it makes me happy because then when I do wear the shirt or whatever, I don't have cats all over saying, "now hold on a sec, that smells funny. I said, stay put!"

This jacket was a bigger hit than most. When I put it on the floor, it was zipped up. And Thimble, my adorable, silly long-haired cat who loves to burrow into clothes, quilts, sheets, rugs, etc, thought this was awesome! A burrow place just his size.
He went in through the bottom of the jacket.

There was a pause to evaluate, during which Colby showed up and was puzzled.

Colby is still puzzled but, like most cats, pretending it doesn't bother him at the moment.
The Thimble tail is still sticking out of the jacket.

Then Thimble turned around inside the jacket so he could see out. This attracted Colby's attention again.

It also attracted Apricot's attention. He took the opportunity to lick Thimble's head without Thimble able to return the favor. Thimble wasn't all that pleased but he put up with it.

He's quite pleased with the jacket.

One more thing to try: he turned around again and came out the other end, the proper way for a head to be in a jacket.

The next day found Colby trying it out.

Colby doesn't burrow. He liked the jacket to sit on.
In the end, I have had to leave the jacket on the floor for the time being. When I want to wear it, I pick it up and put it on, much to everyone's fascination.

Luckily, the surface of the coat isn't fuzzy so it doesn't pick up cat hair. (The non-fuzzy was deliberate: the dry air of winter makes static electricity. Dry air mixed with a fuzzy jacket made me get shocked a lot. I was tired of it.)

And so far, Apricot hasn't really sat on it (or in it) at all. This seems to be strictly a Maine Coon jacket!

In Which I Am Stalked

Please may we have some?
I started giving them hairball treats, which they all adore, right after I put my evening pills together. I'm keeping the treat bag with the pills so I remember.

It didn't take the gang long to figure out the new pattern to the evening. One night, they were all very very quiet as they gathered behind me. I turned around, expecting to have to call somebody in, and there they all were. Quite close and rather unexpected.

I believe I may have squeaked in surprise.

Monday, November 7, 2016

In Which They Wait For Me

This is what I see most days when I get home. I park outside the kitchen window and they wait inside on either the cat trees or the dining room table. They're both on the table. The bar across Colby's chest is the top of one of the chairs.

It's hard to get a picture of them waiting, in part due to the reflection (since I get home in the afternoon and the sun is shining onto the window), and in part due to the fact that when they see me, Thimble immediately jumps down and goes over to the door to wait for me there. 

It's rare he's both there waiting and not on the floor yet by the time I get out of the car.