Dec 17, 2016

Rats! Still Not Stamping

Hi, thought I'd fill you in on the past few months.  We just got back from living in Brussels, Belgium. My husband went at the end of September to work on a short assignment at the European Commission and I joined him towards the end of October.  We came home earlier this week.  It was a fascinating time and I'll share more about it later.  In the mean time, thought you would enjoy this anecdote from the trip.

Some time in late November, while I was sitting on the sofa with my laptop, watching The Goodwife on Netflix, a little rat jumped on my lap and then skittered off into the corner of the room. I stood up, laptop falling on the floor, and screamed.  I ran to see if I could find the ratfink but he was too fast for me.  The apartment didn't have a garbage disposal and I figured that the banana peels, etc. in the trash were attracting rodents.  UGH.

When Mike came home that night, tired from fending off questions about Trump (we were asked about the election everywhere we went as if we had some secret information only available to US citizens), I told him what happened.  He looked around and couldn't find any evidence of rodent infestation.

I think denial is an excellent way to get through life, so I pushed that rat out of my life in the same manner that I push all bothersome things.  There was no rat. Belgian pastries are good for you. (There's at least one fantastic pastry shop on every block.)  Everyone I know is happy and healthy. Life is perfect.

Denial is awesome.

Two days later, with Mike right near me, the rat was back, once again jumping on my lap and skittering off to the corner of the living room.  Damn!  Goodbye denial, hello reality.

I jumped up, screaming. Forget denial.  This was real.  I could no longer push this out of my mind. Mike took a long look at me.  Not the Humprey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman Casablanca look of love.  No, this was more the "Hmm. Did we include the "in sickness and health" part in our vows?" (Note:  yes, we did.)

Me:  "I can't live like this. This is nuts. We are paying a lot for this place and there are rats. I want to move to a hotel tonight. That airbnb land lady is going to pay for us to stay elsewhere."
Mike:  There was no rat.
Me:  Yes there was.
Mike:  No really, I was looking right at you.  Joan, there are no rats.
Me, thinking:  OMG I'm becoming my mother. I am nuts.  I'm not putting Mike through this. I'll leave, go to one of those assisted living places.  Maybe there are drugs that can stop the rats. Will Andy and Mike visit me there?  Mike will be so lonely without me. He needs to find another wife soon. 
Me:  Do you think I'm crazy?  Am I losing my mind?
Mike:  You don't seem any different to me.
Me:  What does that mean?????
Mike:  I mean you are not crazy.  Something else is going on.
Me, thinking:  OMG I have a brain tumor. 

We looked at each other.  2016 was shaping up to be one heck of a year.

So, with one eye scanning for rats,  I took out my medical school textbook from my neurology rotation, googled brain tumors with my remaining eye.  It was possible, but something told me that wasn't it.

Being the excellent diagnostician that I am, I remembered all the medication I was taking and researched the side effects of each of them.  (As a general rule, I don't look at possible side effects before taking a medication, because I figure that was a sure fire way of imagining all of them.)  I was taking Metoprolol, a very common medication. Buried at the end of the side effects, under "very rare" was hallucinations.  I also found a journal article by NIH recounting 3 patients taking this stuff who had visual hallucinations. BOOM!  I'm not crazy and I don't have a brain tumor!

I sent a message to my cardiologist telling him that this drug was causing me to see rats jumping on my lap.  I ended my message with a "p.s. I'm not crazy." Luckily, he responded in less than an hour with "You are not crazy. It's the medication."

So I halved the dose, and while I never saw a rat again, I was on high rat alert the last two weeks of our trip. I mean, once you've had rats jumping on you, life is pretty much never the same. Eventually, we left Brussels a few weeks early so I could get completely off that medication and start a new one.

I want to get back to stamping soon.  I've missed it.  The time off gave me a new perspective on the industry and current trends and what I'd like to create in the future.  But more on that, after I've actually made something worth sharing.

In the meantime ....



  1. Oh, that is awful, Joan!! I am so glad you figured it out!!!!

  2. Nice to hear an update. You always make me smile.

  3. Oh Joan. Sending big (rat-free) hugs to you! im eagerly awaiting your crafty return!

  4. Oh my stars! What a story! So glad that you found the solution; so glad you're safe; so glad you'll be back crafting.

  5. I'm so glad to know it all got sorted out quickly. Poor Mike. My daughter visits Mexico for business regularly and told me the same thing. Can't wait to hear about your time in Belgium.

  6. good to hear from you Joan - and what a story - will look forward to your creations in 2017 - have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful 2017!!

  7. OH my Joan. Good thing you got it sorted out. That is so scary! I am looking forward to seeing more about your trip to Brussels.

  8. OMG. I imagine Brussels is tainted forever for you. Glad you figured it out and worried cuz the doc recently prescribed it for my mom...

  9. Sorry to hear about your most unpleasant side effect ( I have a real phobia about rodents so that would be an unbearable one for me ) but glad that you figured out the real culprit! I do so appreciate your gift of story telling and sense of humor!!

  10. Oh, my gosh, Joan! Glad it only took 2 sightings (and a patient Mike!) for you to figure it out. And, THANK YOU, now I have something to watch for in my mother, she started that medication in October. Happy Holidays! I can't wait to see what you create in the new year!

  11. Oh dear, Joan. It's too bad that the hallucinations weren't something pleasurable like another chapter to stamping changed my life. :) I am glad you were able to figure out it was the medication. I hope you and Mike enjoy the holidays at home. Take gentle care. XOXOX Meg

  12. Okay, I was freaking out for you because OMG, rats = ick.

  13. So glad to hear from you, Joan. I've been wondering about you and hopeful that you are getting back to some normalcy. Yes, you are! Even in the midst of rat hallucinations your humor and creativity are prevailing. I look forward to seeing your future designs and hearing about your process. I hope you enjoy the Christmas season knowing that you have friends all over the globe who are praying for you to be fully well again. Happy new year!

  14. Dear Joan....I miss your regular posts and cards and can't wait to see what you create soon. This story had me thinking how in the world could a rat jump in your lap twice?! So happy it was the medicine and not a brain tumor!! Love your writing! Merry Christmas!!

  15. "RATS, why did it have to be RATS?!" Haha, I'm terrified of mice and rats and I imagine that if I was hallucinating from drugs that's what I'd be hallucinating about ;) Glad you got to see Belgium, I enjoyed seeing your pictures and it looked wonderful. I hope that you feel like creating again soon, Joan, I've missed your work!

  16. Hmmm... I wondered why the rat would choose to jump into your lap both times. Figures you'd be one of the few to have hallucinations, sheesh. Must be your vivid imagination. Well, I'm glad it's not a brain tumor. I'm also glad you got to go to Brussels. I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts on the industry, if you choose to share them. Miss you, Joan.

  17. So nice to hear from you! Glad you and your humor have survived the rat ordeal. Merry Christmas and Happy 2017. I too look forward to see what you create.

  18. Holy moses! That is one freaky side effect! Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year -- I love your writing. Your sense of humor is wonderful.

  19. Such a delight to see you in my inbox, even if your story was a bit concerning....on the bright side..You will never forget your stay in Brussels!Looking forward to learning your new perspective.
    Lu C

  20. Oh poor dear friend! Rats jumping on ANYTHING are not fun, and I'm so glad you figured out the cause! So glad to hear you traveled, and you partook in a "few" Brussel pastries... Good to see/hear/read what you've been up to!

  21. Oh Joan!!! I remember when my brother was on medication and rang in a total panic because all of a sudden he couldn't walk, a known side-effect he hadn't been advised of. So regarding the rats you have my total sympathy and relief that they too were not real. I hope you had a wonderful time in Brussels. French pastries are definitely good for you, so I'm sure the same applies to Belgian. I hope 2017 brings you good things.

  22. OMG, I'm itchy all over now. Please write a book as soon as possible. P.S. "With one eye scanning for rats" just about killed me.


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