Author’s note: I’m writing this at 5 PM, though the show doesn’t air for another few hours. I’m not linking to this because people might not want to know in advance what’s going down, except for the Twitter/Showtime/Live Feed followers, who already know. I actually kind of want to be surprised, so I’m not checking the Twitter/FB accounts of anyone involved in reality TV for the next few hours.

Fans have sarcastically dubbed this season of Big Brother “As Danielle’s World Turns”, because she is the most melodramatic, soap-opera-ish person to ever be on the game. You really expect her to swoon at every emotional difficulty, romantic moment, or challenging decision. Funny how this makes her likeable, while Rachel Reilly’s “over-the-top” emotional reactions to everything made her brash and irritated half the audience. The world clearly likes helplessness more than passion, and introverted emotion is “feminine” while extraverted emotion is “needlessly flamboyant”.

Yet, somehow, the soap opera continues, and our tragic heroine lives to act another day. (how many tubes of waterproof mascara and eyeliner did she bring into the house?)

Although there’s a week left on Big Brother 14, tonight is really the night that is host to the most pivotal moment: Who is making it to the final 3?

In an odd twist of fate, Danielle, who has let herself be manipulated by men with a sweet Southern-belle smile on her face all season, is the one with all the power. She won the HoH and the PoV, leading us to assume this girl has been throwing a lot of competitions this summer. (probably because Dan told her to. He’s not taking someone to the final two who is strong, and since Shane is “good at sports” and Ian is a “boy genius”, Danielle looks pretty useful.)

Since she has a one-sided showmance with Shane that he fakes so unconvincingly, he’ll never make it as an actor; and Dan has acted as a mentor and advisor and father-figure all summer, molding her into the role of a weak, rather self-absorbed child, it seems a foregone conclusion that Ian is going home. This is kind of sad; Ian is the kind of person who actually plays the game, makes big moves, and pulls out wins when it matters. This time, he didn’t. He needed that PoV, and he didn’t win. So, Ian is screwed, and he knows it. Like Danielle, Dan has been adept at manipulating Ian emotionally, because the poor kid, for all his brilliance, has no idea his alliance has been trying to get him out multiple times since his partner-in-crime left weeks ago. Although Ian and Shane both believe there’s such a thing as a “Quack Pack” and they are in an alliance, they conveniently never talk to one another. Somehow, it’s never come up that every person in that alliance has discussed stabbing one another in the back. There IS NO ALLIANCE. For all of them, it’s win or go home.

The only one who knew all this was Jenn, who was voted out for “not being part of the alliance”. In reality, she was voted out because she was more in the loop than anyone and had dangerous information that would kill Dan’s game. Her final speech, if she had cared enough, should have been: “Ian, Dan wanted you out, and then when he couldn’t get you, he went after Shane. Shane, you’re here because Danielle knows how to cry and you won a PoV. Danielle, Shane’s just not that into you, and Dan doesn’t really miss you when you’re gone. Dan, they all want to take you to the end because they’re stupid enough to think nobody will vote for you. Your alliance sucks.”

Dan is on the block against Ian, and he doesn’t seem even slightly worried. He can’t imagine Danielle’s attraction to a guy who is more interested in his dog back home than in her might send him home. Whether Shane goes or Ian goes, he could care less. They’re 50/50 on the threat-meter; Shane’s athletic, Ian’s smart, and they’re roughly equal at endurance challenges. It’s 6 of one, half-dozen of the other.

Ian is assuming he’s leaving, and it doesn’t even occur to him to campaign against the guy who has WON THE GAME BEFORE, by talking the athletic, easily-manipulated guy who has the only vote into keeping someone who is a 50/50 shot against him, instead of the one who makes him a 75/25 underdog. It’s mostly math and logic, and seems like nobody is thinking about it. There are four people in the house. Three of them have complicated, if fake, interpersonal relationships, creating a triangle where the girl gets to choose between Arthur or Lancelot. The fourth is a nice kid that everyone likes, but he’s less essential, and lost when he couldn’t afford to. He’s also pissed off enough people that the jury isn’t going to unanimously think he’s a great guy and vote for him. Voting off the expendable person, as has happened the past two or three evictions, isn’t really making a move. It’s just agreeing to a coin-toss, in which case, they all could have gone home a few weeks ago.

There’s a few scenarios that might save Ian, but they all involve Danielle having a clue that she’s not actually on a dating show (thankfully, they had enough sense to turn her down for that.), but one that requires strategy and the ability to use her fake soap opera charm to actually help her play for something better than second place.

1)She keeps nominations the same and tells Shane to vote out Dan. All she has to tell him is that Dan wanted him gone twice: once, Danielle saved him, and Joe took the bullet. The second time, he won PoV and saved himself. She also points out she has to choose between Dan and Shane sometime, and she’s choosing Shane. Conveniently, the strongest player goes home and Danielle gets to bat her eyelashes and look sweet and make America want to vomit.

2)She uses the PoV to save Dan and sets up a backdoor for Shane. Dan reminds Danielle that they have a final 2 deal, that he saved Shane, but had warned Danielle she’d have to cut Shane loose. Shane is a stronger competitor for the final challenges than Ian, and he has no allegiance to Dan. Dan needs him gone to win, and manipulates Danielle into allowing this to happen. Shane’s been playing Danielle anyway; he’s still voting for her against Dan, whom he doesn’t like, and Ian, with whom he’s shared no real personal connection.

3)She uses the PoV on Ian, and puts up Shane, letting Ian do the dirty work and ultimately make the tough decision. Danielle doesn’t like emotionally difficult decisions, and wants to look blemish-free at all times, whereas Ian doesn’t care about looking evil. In fact, he seems to think being the evil mastermind in a 125 lb. package is what’s going to either win him this game, or get him invited back in the future. Never mind that the evil mastermind spends all day crying about stabbing his friend in the back before he does it. This is the least likely scenario, because Danielle and Ian have spent maybe 5 minutes together the whole game. Strategically, this is to Danielle’s advantage and to Ian’s; she doesn’t have to choose between her boy toy and her father figure, and Ian decides who he wants to roll the dice against in the final three. It’s actually the most interesting option, and one I’d pick if I were her, which is why it won’t happen.

If Ian goes home when Danielle has all the power, she’s a walking illustration of “women can’t play strategically, because emotions get in the way.” She claims she’s not like that; she’s going to “play the player”. The player isn’t the 21-year-old kid who still can’t believe he’s on the show. It’s possibly the guy who’s conning her into a showmance that seems to have very little real affection, and can win challenges, even though he’s the most gullible person on Earth. It’s possibly the guy who has won before and has masterminded the last 5 weeks of the game, viewing Ian and Shane as useful but inevitably expendable tools to accomplish his dirty work and take a girl who’s lost without someone to follow to the final two.

Ironically, she’s the one with all the power, and the ability to manipulate the situation to her best advantage, but she still doesn’t seem to know it. This girl hasn’t made a move the whole season; Janelle’s eviction was masterminded by Boogie and Danielle got to be the messenger. The only thing she’s done is set herself up as an easily manipulated, gullible girl desperate for love and approval…something a charming jock with a lack of intelligence and an older, emotionally manipulative guy can both spot a mile away, and exploit to their advantage.

Now she has a chance to make a move, and it’s not voting out the weakest player. Dan screwed up big time by allowing Danielle to convince him to send home Joe instead of Shane, and then watching Shane win PoV. He’s not going to let a third opportunity go by in the calm, resigned fashion both him and Ian seemed to display on Showtime last night. Shane, on the other hand, will smile and flirt and make Danielle feel like the most important thing in life is knowing there’s this guy who really, really likes her.

If Danielle takes the easy road and votes out Ian, leaving her up against the two strongest male players that nobody’s been able to or wanted to get out of the house for weeks (except each other), she’s proving she really should have spent her time on The Bachelor. She’s also proving why men will continue to break her heart, take advantage of her, and why girls like Janelle and Rachel would want to rip her eyeballs out. (as she discussed on Showtime last night, speculating if she might be asked back for another “all-star” season down the line.)

If you want to be a player, you can’t just flirt and look pretty and smile and be easygoing. You need to play. It would be nice to see Danielle get the memo, not just because I like Ian and don’t think he deserves to go home before Danielle, but because I don’t give Danielle too much credit. She’s the kind of girl I don’t like, or respect, and I want to see her pull one brilliant move that says “You think I’m sweet and weak? Guess again.”, in order to redeem herself.

If you’re going to be an alpha female, use your power to take out an alpha male you’re aware has been using you for three months. Otherwise, you’re not “playing” anyone or anything. You’re just proving you’re an insecure girl who can’t bear to be disliked or hurt, so it’s easiest to get rid of the 21-year-old kid who isn’t going to take it personally and you just might beat in challenges to get to the final three.

You may have noticed that I’ve been strangely MIA from this blog for awhile. There are a lot of reasons I could give, from trying to work out feelings and relationship issues with people in my life, to having work to do, to feeling absolutely uninspired to do anything because I am now permitted to watch 7 hours of TV each night, thanks to the simultaneous airing of the Olympics, Big Brother 14, and Showtime’s Big Brother After Dark.

The real reason is, however, that I simply have blogger’s block. It’s a condition similar to writer’s block, only it’s one where you realise you have nothing interesting to blog about because it’s been ages since something interesting happened to you. I find myself struggling to hold up my end of the conversation in talks with even my closest friends, and if you ask any of them, you’ll hear testimony about my innate ability to have 6-hour phone calls or sit at a bar talking until it closes down at 3 AM. Therefore, my sudden realisation that I have nothing to discuss really frightens me.

“OMG!!!! I have become old and boring! When did this happen? Do I still have friends? Will anyone ever be attracted to me ever again? HELP!!!”

Yeah, it goes something like that. You see, I’ve always relied on my sparkling wit, snarky conversational skills, flirtatious banter, and penchant for not shutting up to carry me far in life. I am very ill-equipped to be an introvert. I am even more ill-equipped to be an introvert with a blog.

This exile from life is largely self-imposed. I really do have work to be done, and I really do love the Olympics and Big Brother. I’ve also spent a lot of my free time working on promoting and completing my first book of poetry, Ophelia’s Wayward Muse, for which I’m fundraising on Kickstarter.

“OMG! Why was I so ambitious in thinking people would care about this? I only have 9 days left to raise $175, and people aren’t donating! Is it because my writing sucks? Is it because I don’t have any friends? WHYYYYY? HELP!!”

Yeah, it’s kind of something like that. (But seriously, if you read this blog on a regular basis, you should donate. It either means you’re my friend, or what I write doesn’t suck, and I need the validation…in the form of monetary donations. It will allow me to publish something offline for which I will request more validation. Please keep enabling me. It makes my day. ;P)

The summer is the main reason for my self-imposed exile. It was only a year ago that I was paying regular visits to doctors, hospitals, and emergency rooms, and preoccupied with the idea that I was not going to live to see 2012. Obviously, I am still here (which actually caused me to lose a bet with a friend. Yes, I have the kind of friends willing to bet on the likelihood of my impending death. I totally think that’s awesome.), although there’s about 25 pounds more of me. In a way, that’s a kind of, sort of death, when you can no longer fit into your favourite outfits because you need to take pills that make you fat, sleepy, and hungry. It turns out, the doctors disagree with me. They call this a “minor side effect” and tell me my “symptoms are responding well to medication”.

One thing they can’t treat, though, is the effect that last year’s heat exhaustion/sunburn/massive infection/dehydration/malnutrition episode had on the part of my body that regulates my temperature. I’ve always had a hard time with that, being the kind of person who felt perfectly comfortable in 110 degree heat until I suddenly passed out. If I get caught in the rain, I’m freezing, and need to take a hot shower, and then have an evening of flu-like symptoms. My hypothalamus and I have never been good friends. However, being sick has taken things to a new level.

Of course, summer in Atlanta means every day brings a balmy 93-degree day (which feels like 97 degrees.) Even when I venture out to air-conditioned places, I find myself feeling overheated and dizzy. Touching my arm will reveal you can fry an egg on it. I decimate ice cubes on contact. Summer and I used to get along very well, but we have officially broken up. I’m considering relocating to Seattle, or SoCal.

I should be thankful. This summer is not one of hospital visits, panic attacks, and unpleasant tests. Medical professionals seem to think I am getting better, even if I don’t always feel that way. “Taking it easy because it’s too hot outside for my body to handle” shouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Yet, it makes me feel like someone who isn’t me. I have no interesting stories to relate, no drama to entertain me, and no silly pictures for Facebook. I haven’t been to the eyebrow waxing lady in 6 weeks, and the results are sad. Living vicariously through those around me helps, but those around me have been either stressed-out, sick, or both lately, and I’d like to hide from that a bit.

Basically, I can’t wait until the fall arrives. I’m hoping to be well enough to travel, to go out with friends, and to get back to feeling like my old self again. In the meantime, I’m just making the most of my downtime. :)

Today, I’m going to take the time to address some questions that people have sent to me, or have come to my page looking for advice about, regarding medications and illness. If this doesn’t apply to you, just skip. :)

Because I’ve blogged about my medical journey pretty extensively, I get people who end up on this page looking for information on the drugs that have aided in my recovery, Atenolol (Tenormin) and Diazepam (Valium). I’m on Atenolol because since getting sick, I’ve developed an abnormally high pulse rate, and also suffer migraines with aura. (I have always had headaches. I just blamed them on sinus troubles and allergies, which I don’t have. Turns out, I have migraines. Fortunately, they are not as severe as some suffer from.) I’m on Valium because I suffer from a vestibular disorder that causes vertigo, light sensitivity, and migraines. These things also cause anxiety and panic attacks. I was also prescribed Klonopin to take during panic attacks. Since discovering that my panic attacks were related to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar is a side effect of beta-blockers) or an impending “migraine with aura” attack (which last about 20-30 minutes for me), I have learned to manage my symptoms without using the Klonopin…so, I’ve gone about 8 months without a severe, full-on panic attack where I had to be medicated.

For those who come here asking about Atenolol and Valium, and “do they work”, my personal experience is yes. They do. Valium isn’t a good drug for everyone; some people find it highly addictive and within a year, are increasing their doses outrageously. I’m on a relatively low “maintenance” dose of 7.5 mg a day, and only take an extra quarter tablet when symptoms of vertigo or panic arise. Other drugs, such as Xanax and Klonopin treat anxiety, but do not treat vertigo, migraines, or other neurological symptoms. I’ve had bad experiences taking these, and other treatments for vestibular disorder and migraine have had no effect on me. People ask if Valium makes you eat more, or causes you to lose your appetite. It actually does neither for me.

Atenolol is a different story. It’s a tough drug to acclimate to, and I know at least 3 people who needed to get off of it fairly quickly because of the side effects. A common question seems to center around Atenolol and weight, and whether what someone is experiencing is normal.

In my experience, unfortunately, yes. I gained a fifth of my body weight in a year while on Atenolol. Most of that was in the first 3 months of using it. It took that long to realise that the medication was screwing around with my blood sugar, causing me to be hungry all the time, and to eat food I wouldn’t normally eat. On top of it, Atenolol is designed to cut down your cardiac load, so your metabolism slows and you don’t burn calories. When you first start the medication, you’ll feel like sleeping 10 hours a night and your doctor will tell you no cardio. Once you adjust, you will be able to exercise again, and will likely be advised to eat a certain kind of diet, depending on why you went on the drug in the first place. (usually it’s a low-carb, low-salt diet for high blood pressure sufferers. My doctor recommended a low-glycemic diet for me, since I don’t have a history of blood pressure issues.) Some people continue to gain weight no matter what on Atenolol. I have a friend who gained over 70 pounds. This is true of many beta-blockers, alpha-blockers, and calcium-channel blockers. If you keep gaining after the first 8 weeks, see about switching medications. Do NOT abruptly stop taking your beta-blocker, replace it with an anxiety pill, or even decide to cut it in half. Withdrawals are not only hard on you, they can be life-threatening. I speak from personal experience. I didn’t like the weight issue, so stopped taking the Atenolol after 6 months of positive results from it. I actually noticed my blood pressure drop, so thought this was an awesome choice. 4 days later, I almost fell down the stairs because the world went fuzzy and black on me. You’d better believe I took the beta-blocker immediately. Not only was my blood sugar dangerously low from withdrawals, so was my blood pressure. If you decide to quit your beta-blocker, your doctor recommends what amounts to a 12-week slow detox.

After that episode, I decided to stick with the drug. I went from 10 migraines with aura a month and unpleasant panic attacks to 5, and then one month, I noticed I didn’t have any at all. I noticed that cutting calories and trying to be as “normal’ as possible put a halt to the weight gain. When I pig out on foods loaded with carbs and salt, the scale will go up 5 pounds overnight. You can’t do this. People on beta-blockers should aim for a low-carb, protein-rich diet, and eat 5 small meals a day to maintain blood sugar. I have caffeine sometimes. I have chocolate. But I have them in smaller amounts, and see no negative results. (Note: I have not been able to tolerate coffee or espresso since starting this medication. Heart palpitations resulted.) I no longer suffer from agoraphobia because I’m afraid of having a panic attack in public.

People ask me whether or not they should lower their calorie intake to 1000 or 800 calories because they’ve been put on this drug and can’t burn calories like they should. Your doctor will tell you no. However, I’m slightly under 5 feet tall, and my pre-medication caloric suggestion was only 1300 calories per day. So, yes, on days when I am basically on bed rest, I will cut my calories to 800. If you’re 5’10″ and 190 pounds, you won’t be able to get away with this. Also, I only take 25 mg per day of the drug. If you’re on a higher dosage, eating that little will endanger your health. Don’t do it.

It’s really hard to cut calories that dramatically, anyhow, because Atenolol makes you really hungry and messes with your blood sugar. Even if you only eat 800 calories, they need to be spaced out throughout the day.

It’s hard to lose weight on Atenolol, and although the literature tells you to expect to gain 5 pounds on a beta-blocker, the reality is that it’s significantly more for many, many people. It sucks. But side effects are the same from other heart medications, as well as depression, anxiety, and migraine treatments. Just know there are a ton of people out there who feel the same way you do. I Googled countless message boards about the subject, only to hear the same stories, over and over again. These pills make you fatter. But for many, they also give you back a reasonable quality of life, and prevent life-endangering consequences. You may not have to be on the beta-blocker forever, and when you’re free of it, you can cardio to your heart’s content. (literally!)

I hope that answers some of the questions that have come my way! Please keep in mind, I’m not a doctor, and if you have issues with your medication, you need to talk to yours. Get a second, or third, opinion if necessary. I’m just a girl who has decided to relate her personal struggle with a sudden onset, chronic illness with the world. Each person is going to have a different experience.

I will say that, although I’m not always happy with my body or my lack of energy, the treatment I’ve received has resulted in a slow but steady improvement of my symptoms. I have a great support network of friends, people who love me no matter how big my hips get, and being very straightforward about my illness means people tend to understand when something goes wrong. I’m pretty lucky. But I don’t have the energy and the stamina for getting out in the world I once did. This is frustrating to me, often. I want to be better and healthy NOW, before I’m too old to enjoy life. I have to remind myself that sometimes, there’s a part of your life where it’s necessary to be a turtle. Some days are slow. Some days, you hide in your shell. But, eventually, you get there. :)

I don’t have much of interest to write about these days, and I blame reality TV. In particular, the excitement of Big Brother premiering on Thursday, and managing to get me sucked into the drama much more quickly than usual. Despite the absence of Rachel Reilly, I’m entertained to see another of my all-time favourite players, Janelle Pierzina, return as one of the “mentors” (who are essentially experienced team captains.) The other “mentors” wouldn’t have been my first choices: Britney from Season 12, who makes short people look annoying and mean; Mike “Boogie” from Season 2, who seems to have no problem with the fact that everyone in the house knows him as “that douchebag guy who isn’t Dr. Will”; and Dan, the religious football coach who won season 10, but is so unmemorable that I had to look him up to remember who he was, and I still don’t recall a single thing about his season.

Of course, all the “mentors” they’ve picked are people who seem to have settled down and started lives out of the spotlight of reality TV, are married, have kids, or both. This makes for pretty limited drama in the house, since there are 4 people who are married, two who are gay (but of the opposite sex), and two who barely seem old enough to hold hands in the hammock. I think the producers really wanted no “showmances” this season.

As I remarked to The Guy I Am Currently Dating (yes, he watches some reality TV, too…one of the few entertainment-related things we have in common.), it would have been a more interesting choice to put some of the more difficult/controversial characters on the show as “mentors”, and watch the general instability erupt. I wonder why, instead, they took in in the other direction.They seem to have created an environment that seems almost too peaceful and lacking in drama and impending emotional meltdowns.

They’ve also completely given up on the idea of casting random, average people unaffiliated with the world of reality TV, as one of the new contestants is an L.A. blonde who’s made appearances on The Girls Next Door, and the related Playboy reality TV spinoffs, and another is the brother of Russell Hantz from Survivor. Apparently, he intended to keep this a secret, but it’s really not a smart move when you look exactly like a guy who’s been infamous for being a huge asshole on TV for three years, and come from the same state. It’s impossible when you have returning CBS reality show members who have been around long enough to know Russell Hantz. At this point, CBS needs to give that family their own show. It can’t be any worse than the Kardashians, and well, plenty of people are still watching that.

Despite the fact that Big Brother just isn’t quite what it used to be, it still has a way of sucking you into their all-absorbing lives (which, in reality, are not more interesting than whatever you’re doing at that moment), and making you watch the late night feed on Showtime just because you wonder what’s happening. Usually, the answer is nothing, but it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of people with insomnia and a voyeuristic need for drama, and we’re still going to stay up and watch.

One of the interesting things about the Showtime After Dark version of Big Brother is you get to see endless promos for other Showtime shows. Most of them, I’m never going to watch, like Dexter and The Real L Word, but I’m a Weeds fan, and don’t mind being reminded to watch it on Sundays. Also, there’s a new show premiering called “Polyamory: Married And Dating”. While I haven’t seen the show yet, and it only seems to be focused on married couples pursuing lifestyles involving non-monogamy, I kind of applaud them for showing the various types of relationships out there, and how they do and do not work. One storyline focuses on a triad (a married couple with a shared partner), another on a couple that is in an open marriage (but each has separate partners), another on a couple with a guy who is exerting pressure on his spouse to share partners, and a group that lives together in Big Love commune style, with everyone forming a giant extended family.

(Note:This t-shirt is pretty funny. And, yes, you can buy it, if you are so inclined. It’s on sale here.)

Unfortunately, Showtime will probably turn the show into a largely sex-and-drama fueled reality show (much like The Real L Word has done for lesbians) to get viewers, rather than showing examples of the positive and negative aspects of polyamory, and bring awareness of all types of non-monogamous partnerships in the process, but it’s an interesting idea.

I’m pretty convinced that Showtime’s master plan is to turn any alternative lifestyle choice into either a reality show or a black comedy, one taboo subject at a time. Serial killers, drug dealers, weird folks from California, the guy who played Joey on “Friends”, single lesbians, poly couples, and “Big Brother” make for a pretty interesting line-up, which is why I ditched HBO, but kept Showtime! *laughs*

Work has had a tremendous slowdown, and while I should be using the time to be happy about chilling out a little more and having time to work on my own creative projects, I’ve found myself feeling kind of tired and a little bummed. I don’t know if it’s lack of direction and having a concrete task on which to focus each day—I know there are plenty of things, both productive and relaxing, to do with my free time—or it’s just me feeling a little worn out physically. (This is my first summer following the scary and disastrous heatstroke and associated problems of last summer, and it hasn’t been the easiest. Some days are great, and others very challenging. Migraine, vertigo, and heat intolerance seem to be the main issues with which I still struggle.) It could also be that Mercury retrograde is back today, and that always wants to throw everything in life…especially my sense of emotional stability and “life is fun/everything’s going to be OK” out of whack.

On the up side, I’m almost 1/6th of the way towards reaching my goal towards funding my very first book project, Ophelia’s Wayward Muse. I only have 25 days left and it seems like kind of a long way to go, so if you’re the kind of friend who likes me enough to buy me a drink when we get together, consider donating to this project instead! :) You can make a donation of any shape and size (well, maybe not octagonal) through my project’s Kickstarter link. With all the people I know, there’s no way I shouldn’t be able to reach my goal! ;) Thank you to the friends and readers that have supported me thus far..you guys are awesome!!:)

It seems like the weekend has very much gotten away from me…but it’s Sunday, which means time for relaxation and reality television!! I wish weekends were, in fact, just a little longer…*laughs*