Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August Personal Update: BIRB. Also Autoimmunity.


Blunt way to start, I know, but I'm so excited!  I've owned parakeets (budgies) and cockatiels before.  In fact, my grandmother's cockatiel, when she came to stay with us, was my one true love. I miss her so much.  

About five years ago, I started desperately wanting a bird.  You can see a picture of me  on the left a few Pagan Pride Days ago cooing over a conure.  It has been a running joke with my friends that they typoed "baby" when they were setting my biological clock and I ended up wanting a "bird" instead.  

About a year ago, I settled that I wanted a ring-necked parakeet or Alexandrine, but I wanted to make sure we were stable.  About three weeks ago, I was scrolling through our local rescue when what should appear but a beautiful Alexandrine:

She's eight years old and was dropped off by her prior owner before he was incarcerated.  When I met her the first time, she immediately cuddled up to me and started kissing my cheek.  The second time, however, she was a totally different bird: Timid, terrified, angry.  Something had happened.  I honestly think she couldn't handle the stress of the sanctuary at the rescue, which was filled with 30-something loud, chirping birds.  My husband and I decided that night that, regardless of what her personality is, we needed to get her out of there.  She wasn't happy and we could provide a stable, quiet home for her.

So we brought her home and named her Iris after the Greek goddess of rainbows.

We've had a bit of a rough start to our adoption and it has nothing to do with Iris, her personality or my other pets.  In fact, everything is going fantastically there!  While she was at the rescue and in the days after we brought her home, we noticed a slew of missing feathers under her wings.  I thought the rescue knew about it - after all, they clipped her wings before sending her home with us.  I assumed it was stress plucking but, over the next week, it became apparent that that wasn't the case, or at least not the sole cause.  

I had some issues with the rescue when I adopted her.  They seemed underfunded, understaffed and very stressed.  I listened to the receptionist talk poorly to yell at a person on the phone and then the staff talk crap about a person coming in looking for directions.  On top of that, she was on the wrong size food for her size and they didn't bother to give me a perch for her cage when we got her, which forced me to run out to our local supply store 15 minutes before they closed in a huff to give her something to sleep on.  All of that combined with missing the issue under her wings led me to take her to a different vet.

The other vet was unfortunately terribly expensive.  $300 dollars later and we had a diagnosis: Yeast infection.  This requires us to hand-feed her medication twice a day every day.  She has clearly not been handled, or at very least been grabbed at a lot, because medicating is so stressful on her.  We make it as gentle and loving as we can but it started making her cage dominant.  We've changed up our approach and are seeing significant improvements - both in her demeanor and in the raw area under her wings, which now is mostly feathers.  It's just... Wow.  Did not expect all of that!

All of that being said, I'm absolutely in love with her.  And I think she fancies me too!  I get kisses, nuzzles and hair grooming regularly and she likes to play peekaboo with me on the top of her cage.  She knows words like "Woohoo!" and "Whatchya' doin?" and can even shake my finger.  She's so adorable.  She has quite the personality: She doesn't like cloudy days and gets irritated if you pay more attention to the phone than her (as noted in the picture above).  She's a very picky eater and only likes select veggies and fruits.  Mango? No.  Carrots? Yes.  Romaine? No. Cilantro?  Maybe.  It's been an adventure.

We have her cage set up in the library where she gets a fantastic view of outside during the day and total darkness with the addition of a light-blocking curtain at night.  She gets tons of out time every day - in fact, she spends 90% of her day out of her cage and a good 30% away from it.  Everything we got for her is brand new as I'm starting from scratch.  While I loved Cy, my cockatiel and last pet bird, that was some years ago.  I don't have anything left over and, even if I did, it would be too small for Iris.  We're still learning about her preferences but, if you'd like to see what we feel like we're missing and help us along the way, or just generally celebrate that I finally, after five years, got my birb, I have an Amazon wishlist for Iris set up here:

Also, don't feel like the other pets are being ignored.

The cats have a new cat grass plant to munch on.

And Artie got a whole slew of toys.

While Iris has been the primary news around here, I still have some other updates, primarily health related.

Recently, I was put on Humira to deal with my autoimmunity.  Humira is an immunosuppressive drug that I delightfully have to stab into my thigh every other week.  As someone with massive needle anxiety, it hasn't been fun.  It seems like my fear with needles only gets worse with exposure rather than better because I'm now officially passing out from the injection, which I've never done before.  I usually get really nauseated which may or may not lead to hurling.  But loss of consciousness is... new.  Actually, it's more terrifying than I expected.  Even when lying down in bed cuddling my dog, I still manage to pass out for a few seconds.

Anyway, I'm currently wrapping up a fun side effect of the Humira: Shingles.  Yep, shingles.  I got chickenpox when I was a kid and I'm not over 50 for the vaccine so now I'm dealing with a (fortunately mild) case of itchy, burny, painful rash.  It didn't take me long to identify it, despite it not looking like typical shingles.  Most cases I've seen look like some form of road rash.  Mine actually looked like a minor rash.  A nuisance really.  So I made an appointment with my doctor and she put me on an antiviral.

When picking up the antiviral, I experienced a case of discrimination - what kind, I'm not quite sure - from the pharmacist of all people!  To the point that I had to navigate my way to an aisle and cry a bit.  If you don't know me well, let me fill you in: I don't do tears.  I have literally nothing against emotion and I think everyone should be able to healthily express it in whatever manner.  It's just not me.  So the fact that I cried in the store in front of people speaks volumes.

While I was filling my prescription, I was required to have a consult with the pharmacist because I'd never taken an antiviral before.  I don't know if the pharmacist looked at me and thought "Oh, she's overweight so she's sick because she's unhealthy."  I don't know if, when she said I needed to strengthen my immune system, my statement of "Well, I'm on an immunosuppressant because my immune system is trying to kill me, haha" was a trigger for a "well-meaning advice" session.  I don't know if she looked at the antiviral and assumed I was being treated for an STD rather than shingles which, even if I was, that shouldn't have mattered.  In all situations, she should never have told me in a two minute lecture that I needed to "change my life" by "eating healthier" and "getting more sleep."  Especially when my cart was this:

And, even if my cart had been filled with cake and pastries, it was still not her place.  My diet is between me and my specialists, not me and my random pharmacist of the day.  As a pharmacist, you're there to tell me four things: How that medication works, how to take it, what the side effects are and answer any questions I might have about it.  You're not my damn life coach and you're certainly not my doctor.  Don't make an assumption as to why I'm on the medication in the first place.  It's not your place.

After a two minute rant on her behalf about how I need to treat my body, ending with "Change your life. You can do it," and my turning around to the appalled face of the customer behind me, I couldn't take it.  I started dialing my husband while finding an empty aisle and burst into tears upon hearing his voice.  I was so infuriated, I filed a complaint with the company and changed my pharmacy.  But I still hear those damn words ringing in my ear:

"Change your life.  You can do it."

I'm not thrilled that I have autoimmunity.  I'd change it if I could.  But I eat well enough and I get far too much sleep thanks to the disease alone.  This whole all-natural, "just eat right, sleep better and do a juice cleanse" approach to autoimmunity drives me nuts.  I hear it enough from strangers and family.  I don't need it from the pharmacist.

Especially not that day.  I woke up, figured out I had shingles, went to the doctor, did grocery shopping, picked up my meds, got berated by the pharmacist, cried, went home, put my groceries away, turned her in to corporate and then adopted a bird that evening.  I was so excited about getting Iris but it was sadly overshadowed by this ridiculous interaction with the pharmacist.

I haven't heard back from corporate.  I doubt I ever will.

At least I'm just about over the shingles at this point.  It's still a little itchy but the redness is gone.  I'm just hoping I don't have to go on a regular antiviral to be on the Humira.  I have to weigh the pros and cons, and I already have "passing out every two weeks" as a pretty big con here.  "Continuous shingles or continuous antivirals" might trump out "clearing up psoriasis" and "marginally more energy."  We'll have to see how it goes.

Alright, I believe that's everything!  Take care, everyone!


  1. Congrats on the new friend! I'm sorry to hear that you were treated so poorly by the pharmacist, though. What a busybody. I hope corporate DOES do something, because that kind of behavior shouldn't be as common as it is and SOMEONE needs to start discouraging it.

    1. It doesn't seem like they're going to - or at least, I'm not going to know if they do. It's frustrating. But Iris certainly makes up for it! <3

  2. What bullshit. I get "Well-Meaning" advice all the time because of my eczema. If I would just try this amazing thing, all my worries would be gone! Never mind that when I tell them that I have tried or can't try said miracle cure, they try to explain to me why this time it will be different. I get snide comments about my lack of makeup in my daily life. I get eczema scales in my eyelashes, so no, even just a bit of mascara will not make me look better. And the scaly, not totally noticeable patches on my face? Yeah, that cover-up crap will make that really obvious. One lady argued with me for 30 minutes, because vitamin A would make the bumpy skin on my upper arms go away. It didn't matter that I've had pretty much every doctor ever tell me that I should avoid vitamin A, because it will make my already fragile skin worse. She knew better. I had a pharmacist tell me that the cream I was taking for the horrible, nearly untreatable outbreak on my hand (it looked like my hand was falling off, piece by piece), wasn't the right choice and I should try something a little less harmful first. I remember smiling tightly, telling him that at this point in my life, I've tried pretty much everything that I can afford, and I don't care what I take, I'm tired of people literally turning away in horror when they see me.
    People are asshats and I am so sorry that you experience this. I had people associate my flare ups with my weight, without considering that maybe I'd had this my whole life (I had to use baby shampoo into my late teens because it was the only thing we could afford that didn't make me cry in pain to use).
    So excited to see the bird! She is so lucky to have the two of you as her parents. Good to know the other babies are doing well too. Artie looks great!

    1. My husband gets eczema on his eyelids during the winter and it looks so itchy and painful! I couldn't imagine trying to put makeup over that. Plus, I'd imagine makeup would just irritate it more. By proxy, and from my own adventures with psoriasis, I sympathize.

      It's so frustrating when others think they know what's best for your body. Autoimmunity is so weird already. Even most doctors can't tell you what's best. That's why I find strangers' opinions especially aggravating. I didn't need someone else's lecturing to begin with but especially not on something like this!

      And thank you so much, Stephanie! Everyone seems to be doing well. I'm grateful to have such amazing fur (and feather) babies!

  3. OMG poor you! Shame on that terrible person for treating you like that! I agree that NO ONE should be treated like that. Poo on her and I hope you and hubby find much happiness with the newest addition to your family! - Stephanie

    1. Thank you so much, Stephanie! Iris certainly made that day a bit more tolerable!

  4. If you go to the pharmacy at the same place you bought your groceries (I can see the brands), I live within 40 minutes of their corporate headquarters...
    and I have had a very negative experience at the same pharmacy in my area.
    I found out my insurance wouldn't cover my anti-depressant and I would have to wait to get it (I had zero dollars to my name, and couldn't even afford the $4 prescription) and I started crying as soon as he told me it wouldn't cover it, because I knew how horrible I would feel if I missed my meds.
    I was at the drive through window and instead of waiting for me to respond or say something and calm down, he sighed, rolled his eyes, and left the screen and turned it back to the default screen so he didn't have to look at me.
    I was so mortified, stressed, and humiliated.

    My point is, if you don't hear anything maybe respond to this and let me know. I'm
    still a little miffed about what happened to me.

    on a side note:
    I hate it when people police your body when it isn't their job. the only person who's job it is to give you advise on your eating habits, is a nutritionist or your personal doctor.
    Even then, sometimes it isn't appropriate to mention a person's weight or eating habits. I don't know how many times it's been insinuated my bronchitis is somehow related to my obesity.

    1. Oh my goodness, that's horrible, Anon! I'm not a huge fan of shopping there in the first place and avoid it at all costs because of their employee pay and policies, but they have the best prices on my meds - even compared to places that are typically a little cheaper, like CostCo. With chronic illness, I have to scrounge every penny I can there. It just wasn't worth it anymore - not after that. Unfortunately, I never heard back and it's been over a month now. It's disappointing but not unexpected.

  5. Hugs!!!! That Bitch should shot. Congrats on the new baby! Feel better soon. Shingles sucks big time.

    1. Thank you so much, Kim! Shingles definitely sucks but at least it's over. And Iris made that whole fiasco manageable. <3