The year started off quite tenderly: A very dear leatherslave friend of ours, pluG, died January 1 as the result of liver failure from Hepatitis B he acquired in his 20s. Here’s what Officer Wes wrote on our memorial page:
pluG was my friend Roadkill's leatherslave, and called my slave jay "the brother he never had." What a sweet, gentle soul; smart, INCREDIBLY witty, helpful; very, very loved. For pluG's memorial his mother had the nurturing idea to welcome family and vanilla friends in the morning, and leatherfolk in the afternoon, with food together in the center to let people get to know the other group if they wanted to. Happy music played. Caterers kept food coming so that people could linger and visit. Pictures through the years were out for perusing, and his sisters were there to point out which cute soccer player was their brother. Then during the leather gathering folks gathered tightly in the large living room and adjoining areas to hear, remember and share more about pluG. It was the sweetest memorial I've been to. EVERYONE loved pluG.
Not long after, we were visited by pup boy john and he got to experience his first-ever motorcycle ride, to Cabrillo National Monument on a stunningly clear January day.
Then cold and flu season hit San Diego hard and cycled through friends and family until the end of March. Officer Wes additionally had a nasty bout of concurrent bilateral viral and bacterial bronchitis in this period that was debilitating. But through it all, by looking after each other – offering and accepting help – we made it.
May brought re-entry. Officer Wes and slave jay headed to Tijuana for dental care. Certainly more involved and tuckering than the dentist two blocks away – but at a price that we could afford without previously existing dental insurance. Another change was the realization that Officer Wes’ antidepressant (Effexor XR) had made intimate times physically limited. So, we began a trial shift away from the antidepressants that work on serotonin – which all have some impact on sexual function – to one that works primarily on dopamine (Wellbutrin SR). The body and emotions came back to life, but with a concurrent decrease in groundedness and patience. But the deal-breaker was an amazingly tiresome phenomenon where dreams became tedious. So tedious that a fear of going to bed would have arisen quickly. And the hands became cold easily for prolonged periods of time. We added a small bit –1/8th of previous dosing -- of the former antidepressant back in, a tip gleamed from reading about various antidepressants at www.wikipedia.org That helped the hands, and some with the dreams, but also nipped sexual potency.
So in June we discontinued the previous antidepressant again, and this time also cut out the evening dose of the Wellbutrin SR. Decreasing both dopamine and serotonin at the same time was a particularly difficult change emotionally but Officer Wes kept close to daily routines and support. Within 10 days it was clear the low-dose Wellbutrin was insufficient. On a trial basis, we shifted to a higher morning-only dose to see if we could improve antidepression coverage and still avoid the sleep/dream disturbances present in the earlier iteration with an evening dose. More as we know.
Well that was quick. Really quick. The doctor thought we’d have an idea within three days. We knew in two: Shifting the entire dose to the morning did indeed avoid sleep/dream disturbances. But it made the gut tight and put the entire day on edge. Not a good fit.
We shifted to Plan B, a medication called Serzone. Our doctor said it was primarily a mood stabilizer. Wikipedia lists it as an antidepressant. Whichever, the reason for interest in giving it a try was that it, too, had limited sexual side effects. It’s not for anyone with liver issues. That said, it felt like a good match. (More below.)
June also brought Officer Wes’ first visit to see extended family in Oregon since The Letter Wars trip 12 years ago. In addition to seeing Daddy & Charlotte and the new house they’d recently bought, it was especially sweet to visit with cousins & see how their kids have grown.
Into July, Officer Wes was really stiff and sore after the family visit. That wasn’t unusual for after travel. But then it continued. Even with yoga, hot mineral bath, massage and chiropractic. And everywhere was sore, even the shins. In time, we came to realize it was the Serzone begun right before the trip. So, we shifted to Plan C, an antidepressant called Cymbalta. It is likely to have impact on sexual function, but we are hopeful that it is less than the baseline antidepressant when we began this quest in May.
The Cymbalta did not last long. After the initial intro-dose 30mg/day week, immediately after moving to the full 60mg dose Tom and I each noticed a problematic side effect. Officer Wes noticed that it made him pee more frequently, which made an hour nap impossible. And Tom noticed it made his snoring worse. So the Officer and his doctor decided to go back to the original antidepressant Effexor XR at a lower, pre-winter, dose of 75mg QD along with a concurrent bupropion 75mg QD in AM to offset the sexual side effects, continuing the tricyclic antidepressant nortriptyline for neuropathy. More as we know.
Officer Wes & Tom traveled to San Francisco in August for an extended visit with Deputy and Chris that included good food, chosen family & friends, the joyful movie “Hairspray” and Sunday afternoon High Tea. The latter was surprisingly fun, including simply the best dark chocolate Officer Wes has ever tasted. His whole body was thrilled. He finally understood how chocolate could be an aphrodisiac.
Mid-August brought yet another incremental change in antidepressants to help with low energy, increasing bupropion/Wellbutrin 75mg to Wellbutrin XL 150mg QD, in addition to the Effexor XR 75mg QD. This was helpful, but the presence of Effexor still makes boners difficult.
Then came a biggie: slave jay fractured his pelvis in both front and back. After several days in the hospital, he was moved to a nearby skilled nursing facility for physical therapy. Then on September 1 he was discharged to home. For that first week home, Tom shopped and cooked dinners. It was exhausting. Tom got sick. Then Officer Wes got sick.
The longer recovery road for jay is challenging, as sitting, pooping, and moving all impact the healing. But friends are visiting regularly, and we're gratefully accepting help when it's offered. For example, a sweet neighbor across the street asked if he needed anything from Costco. And a leatherfriend from our ASL class 3 years ago began dropping in and caretaking for him. And our barber came by to give him a haircut. It's quite sweet to see.
Two biggies happened in October. First, jay’s healing progressed to a point where, nearly two months after the accident, he was able to shift from a walker inside to walking with a cane on limited jaunts outside. Second, Officer Wes and his doctor decided to try one more idea in the search for a medication mix that works for depression yet doesn’t interfere with intimacy. Previously they had decreased Effexor again, to its lowest dose 37.5mg, while maintaining the Wellbutrin XL 150mg QD. That helped. Now they decided to try a shift over to Lamictal. More as we know.
Meanwhile, a letter reported in www.gaylesbiantimes.com October 11:
“I am astounded by those who believe hostility toward homosexuals and the denial of civil rights to them is not a civil rights issue. …Gay and lesbian rights are not ‘special right’ in any way. It isn’t ‘special’ to be free from discrimination – it is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship. The right not to be discriminated against is a common-place claim we can expect to enjoy under our laws and our founding document, the Constitution. That many had to struggle to gain these rights makes them precious – it does not make them special and it does not reserve them only for me or restrict them from others.”
Julian Bond, board chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in a September 18 letter to the organization’s chapter in Fort Lauderdale, which has an anti-gay mayor.
Then Wes was sick off and on week after week. Ugh. A new sinus infection. Fever. Coughing. Shortness of breath. Finally on the latter two we discovered he had more GERD requiring additional acid blockers. slave jay headed to see his son and daughter in law in mid November. Then Tom went to see Dad. Late November, after being on full-dose Lamictal for a week, something unexpected happened: Wes got more energy. He’s been chronically fatigued for 20 years. This was a joyful surprise. After being on full-dose Lamictal for a month, we finally dropped out the SSRI to see if it helps improve intimate function.
And we took a delightful Haunted San Diego tour -- yes, in December -- with friends.
We are thankful.