Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cue Concert A, Okay?

Quick-trip, Fast-Track through the ER. In fact, I was the only patient in the waiting room at 4pm. Take note: 5pm on *Wednesday the 14th* is about 2 hours or less, while *Friday the 13th* can be upwards of 18 hours.

It has been the cold that morphs and changes and will not go away since January. Every time I think about going to the doctor, about a month has passed and I'm 'almost better'. Last night I had one of those dreams that I'm dying, so I figgered that when my logic-brain talks to me in my sleep and says [cue Rafiki], "It is time", I'd better listen and go to the doctor.

I _had_ a doctor app't for after-hours with my primary physician in Albany. *Arbor Hill*, afterhours. Go in with difficulty breathing, go out with gunshot splatter. So I was worried. No matter: after picking up my younger son from afterschool play practice, my car started doing the thing it did last time I went to my primary physician, when I was terrified driving it home. It was decided pretty easily then: a few minutes down to Troy to the ER, rather than having breathing problems from an infection, stress and gunshot wound at my primary physician.

Tonight was the "International Dinner" (re-scheduled from last week) at school--my boys had to prepare 2 meals and get there by 6:30. Linda took over that, and though she had wanted to bring out her superhero powers, logic again prevailed and, I decided that if _both_ the dinner and my illness were to be paid attention to, I'd go to the ER and she'd do the dinner with the boys.

I was able to 'nurse' my car to ER.

Standard Questions.

And then the singing. Nurse: "Say 'aahhhhhhhhhhhh'". I did.

I must not have done it right, because the doctor came over and asked with his "aaaaaaaaaaaah". I "aaaahhh'ed" back. I tried to match the pitch and tone exactly, but I *might* have missed. I'm pretty darn sure I got it, but he asked me again, this time with no CUE, and no sheet music, not a note from him at all. I sung the "aaaaaaaaaahhh", but I was unsure: "concert A? mimic _his_ last note? he didn't specify. what do i do?" I *think* his was pretty close to concert A, so I _thought_ I'd pass the test either way, you know.

But an X-ray and breathing-thing later, there was a physician's assistant asking me yet again, but her notes were higher and her own tone wasn't right, just was not right. Do I imitate *that*? And, with the coughing and breathing problems, _can I_ reach that note? Is it a requirement? Can they all agree on the notes??

I think my sons should go in and sing the notes for people. They're not at good as the young Italian singers, "Il Vole", but they sure could help a LOT.

I'm not as worried about my car's bad sounds, notes and vibrations now. I think it will just need to be shot sometime this week. Better her than me.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"I Think We're About As Ready As We're Going to Be"

Have you ever said this? It comes with a package of emotions, mental and physical preparations, and a lot of strategy.

If you live in the Northeast, or anywhere prone to blizzards, this is something said in March. Candles, check; matches, check. Shovels near every doorway. Bathtub filled for flushing the toilet. Preparations for the lights --and power (and refrigeration) to perhaps stay out for an extended period of time. It's coming. The supermarket run for flashlight batteries, toilet paper and....(I've seen fights over this during the blizzards of 1993 and 1994), milk, bread and eggs.

My housemate is my best friend (it works nicely that way). She's known my children since they were born, and has been like an aunt to them. When I divorced in 2008 and ended up with house buy-out monies, it seemed natural for Linda, the boys and I to get a house together. We're in upstate NY, a rural area outside of Albany and Troy, with close to two acres of land, every inch of which I'm mentally and emotionally ready to garden. We found the perfect set-up for the four of us, and, although we're rebuilding because of the damage from storms Irene and Lee, sharing space has worked out pretty close to perfect. Linda has a bedroom that the previous owners used as a library and office, and she uses what would have been the playroom as her office / living room. The upper floor of the raised ranch has bedrooms for the boys and I, and then we share meals and hospitality in the kitchen, dining room and living room. My indoor plants LOVE the front bay window, as well as the re-done dining room, with windows galore. It's great that she and I mostly share the same tastes :-).

Because Linda loves my boys, and we operate like a family in many ways, and because I end up disabled many days, Linda is...the other parent. She is Edna Mode of the Incredibles, Rachel Ray in the kitchen, and the great administrator. When weeks get busier then usual, she creates a spreadsheet of the boys' activities for the week, color-coded and highly detailed.

I never started as a parent putting a child in four activities a day, eight days a week. I've studied child development, and I've always wanted children to have the freedom of space for creative thought and creative play. But my kids are close to college-age now. Up through their early elementary years, I put many things in front of them (paint, paper, play-doh, matchbox cars, legos...) for them to explore and to find their interests. Interests clicked with each of my boys and I nurtured what they wanted to learn. Caleb started viola in 5th grade; now he has been accepted to Crane School of Music. It all grew.

This is one of those weeks that ....those interests....and their offshoots of activities....have all intersected. We needed the most intense spreadsheet so far. Caleb is a member of ESYO, the Empire State Youth Orchestra. It's a pre-professional orchestra, and this week is a concert--which means rehearsal and a full dress rehearsal *at* the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall the night before as well.

It's "Spirit Week" at Averill Park High School. And, since Caleb was chosen as a candidate for "Mr. AP", he's required to participate in all of the spirit-activities, as well as prepare for the entire performance and show....which happens approximately an half hour after the ESYO concert is finished.

Elisha, my freshman, is in the school play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Anyone who's been involved with theater understands the time commitment of thespian activity.

My young guy is also working to test past his brown belt in TaeKwonDo.

And both boys are involved in the foreign language dinner (they have to prepare meals for their country). Caleb of course is taking both French and Japanese. Elisha, Spanish.

This is just a cursory list (we haven't cursed yet at all though; it's rather fun stuff still ;p). The detail-by-detail and moment-by-moment, if you miss a detail-details are mind-blowing. Tux for concert. Different tux for "Mr. AP"--oh and pick it up at the tailor's Thursday...when...? It makes my head spin, but it's good to see most of it on paper, color-coded, and to know where to turn next.

We all tried to catch up on dishes. I tried to catch up on laundry. At the end of Sunday night, after the spreadsheet was created and posted in various places in the house, Linda said with the type of intensity that one prepares for a Nor'ester blizzard, "Well, I think we're about as ready as we're going to be."

I've been to the supermarket. I'm preparing the food. Hit me, I'm READY FOR THE STORM!

I Think I Acted Like Sheldon Cooper. Doctor Sheldon Cooper

(from last Friday)

I never try to give the 'in-training' medical students a hard time at *all*. I have a problem with honesty. They ask questions (too many, and worded specifically); I answer them honestly. I REALLY have the deepest desire to get out of the office as soon as possible.

The medical student has a primary list to go through, and one of the questions is a varient on getting the patient's smoking history. Many ask, "Do you smoke?" And then I answer, "No." But 4 out of 10 doctors in training mistakenly specify the question, without FULL specification: "Have you ever smoked?" So I always accidentally answer honestly: "Yes. Once. When I was 12. I didn't like it at all." If the student is going to be that specific, the question should go further toward amount of time, ie: "Have you been a smoker in the past and quit.....?", that kind of thing. Instead most of them get annoyed at ME for answering their specific question with precision, exactness and honesty.

Today, like many times, I was only going in for refills. I stressed this. That's all I needed. Instead, a full medical history had to keep going and going and going. If it lasted five minutes longer I would have been banging my head against the wall, or curled up in the fetal position in a corner, rocking, repeating, "No more questions no more questions no more questions", but I fought that intensely because I *know* that when that happens to humans, MORE QUESTIONS DO follow.

Another standard question: "Do you take any drugs?" I've had at least 24 medical students come my way at this particular establishment. I'd never done this before. But I looked at the refill of allergy meds that needed attention, meaning both: "I just want that filled", and, "I take those drugs (can you please have the doctor refill it?)." I just looked. Innocently. Pleadingly. But she actually wanted a verbal answer, so I said, "only these kind".

She noted that I am on an anti-anxiety drug. "Are you feeling _more_ or _less_ anxious?", she asked.

Than who? Compared to what specific time? This past month? As each question comes, I'm getting more anxious, yes, but ...that won't get me out of this infinate loop, so I'll ask her what she means and to clarify.

She didn't really clarify, but she still wanted an answer. Point is, I've been on the drug (that every doctor says is HELL to come off of and dangerous, too) since....the second pre-marital vow from my husband was broken: we passed the five-year mark and he still insisted that I can not, and not ever, go back to school to get my Bachelor's degree. That's when a woman I hadn't met before walked up to me and said, "You remind me of myself before my nervous breakdown."

Anyhow, fidelity vows were broken long ago by him. He was fierce, controlling, and, well, abusive. I was scared of him. My doctor (this was in 1999) diagnosed me as 'anxious' and prescribed the powerful med called 'klonopin'. He never once asked about my home and family situation. What I needed then was a safe house and a plan of how to get out. Instead it took me another six years. Am I still anxious _today_? Sure. Back then I would have been given a thorazine shot for how anxious I was. Right now I'm anxious about all of these medical things happening, and being financially ....what, challenged? I wish that doctor *considered* the possibility that there was a ROOT CAUSE to the anxiety and that it shouldn't be drugged. Now I'm on something that ...well I get anxious thinking about it.

So I told her that I'd been consistently exercising for the past couple of weeks, and was upset about GAINING weight. Apparently, the fact that I had previously been an athlete and that I have no thyroid was meaningless to her. She wanted to give me tidbits about 'portion control'. I mentioned that going to bed with severe stomach pain and intense hunger, for longer than the past two weeks, sometimes not able to sleep because of hunger, was probably an easy guess that I was *not* messing up on 'portion control'. Being the kind of person who read graduate-level texts on numerous topics, and who is twice her age, I did not want to play condescension. So I held back the re-patronizing thought of, "My IQ close to my correct weight for my BMI; please stop the silly information." But she was going to BE on SOME topic for an hour (yes, that long), and I could not stop her from that. I don't know why: I've been able to re-direct my biological mother from a paranoid delusion about 'the DEC dropping mountain lions from helicoptors to kill the deer.' And that's her easy one. By the time I was five I was expert at directing delusional people to something sane. But the medical student was _not_ delusional; the amount of time and effort at getting my 3-minute refills seemed ........whoa, my train of thought de-railed, crashed, was surrounded by ninjas and a helicoptor just picked me up.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Direction of Growth

I am a full-figured, plus-sized woman. I am six feet tall, enjoy the genetic predisposition toward skin that makes me look ten or more years younger, have thick, somewhat curly light-brown hair falling mop-like around my face, and, on good days, I laugh full and loud letting the slight crossbite and slight overbite show. I am a woman of sensitivities and extremes with either tears, or a light in my blue eyes. Given that people used to use a nickname derived from my middle name of Jean: "Jeannie", "Jeannie with the light brown hair" is a fitting picture.

I have not accepted being overweight. Nor have I done well with fighting against it. I have begun (we humans have a long time to learn) to see others differently than when I was an athlete, walking in the grocery store or other public place, seeing someone ....maybe like I am now... and thinking, "Hey, just eat more fruits and veggies like I do and just MOVE around more~! It's not hard to lose weight!"

But the cover of the book does not tell the story. And human stories are often complex, and, as long as we live, ever-changing.

Part of my story began with being hyperactive (controlled...ish ;p). As a young child, I helped my Grandfather with the outdoor chores, learning and yes loving to do things like cut wood, split wood, and do things that mostly *boys* did like mow the yard. Once my Grandparents moved away and my brother and I lived solely with my mother and her husband, we each found ways to employ the 'flight' of the 'fight or flight mechanism'. I biked all over Long Island. If there was somewhere I needed to go, I'd walk there. And if I just needed to get away, I'd bike or walk.

As time went on into my late teens, I developed what I might call "controlled anorexia". No one noticed. And on Long Island, image is everything; I fit the expected image of thinness. The year following, the institution I was attending controlled the diet and schedule, and my thinness got severe--I even developed the 'furlike' hair on my abdomen that is classic of anorexia. I knew nothing of what was happening to me, or what to do about it. I knew that I was hungry.

Leaving the institution and moving as a young adult to where my Grandparents lived, and then to the small city of Ithaca on my own in an apartment, I worked and continued my pursuit of exercise, but this time the constant push upon me was not just my energy, but the all-encompassing take-one's-breath-away-beauty of the Fingerlakes, and Ithaca proper. On a summer day I might take a walk in Cornell Plantations during my break. Home, I might bike to Buttermilk Falls, hike the gorge, and, if lifeguards were on duty, swim before biking home again. And anywhere anyone goes in Ithaca, it's both beautiful, and it's a hike. I still had most of the ripped and formed type muscles all over my body, but I was also developing a bit more as a woman. I was financially poor, and knew nothing about how to dress to compliment who I was, but I was pleased to look in the mirror most days.

Marriage came, and two children. Many of the nights were sleepless not only due to having a small baby to feed, but because my body longed intensely for the movements of before. I'd be doing stretches and whatever quiet exercise I could do in the small apartment in the middle of the night, while taking long stroller walks with my first son. I couldn't get time alone, so we exercised together. Turns out, that little guy got my need to move too. I loved our times together---and as time allows, I hope to share many stories of both of my little guys (now both over six feet tall).

With elementary school for both kids, I could get back on my bike again. And bike, oh, I did: most weekdays before the end of the school-day, and sometimes once on the weekend, with hopes of getting past 20 miles at a clip. Great pace and speed too. Of that in my life, of that thing which I could control and enjoy: I was happy.
But then: 2005 and hard things, harder things coming to a head, and changes coming full-force: loss of three loved ones in a sudden car accident; grief; marital separation; moving; moving again and the divorce; re-starting my education to attempt to finally get my Bachelor's degree. By 2008, even my primary physician said that I had accumulated enough 'life-change-stress-points' to be dead more than a half-dozen times. Instead: I started getting sick.

Which brings me to what I wanted to make sure to say last: I have a medical condition which, besides perhaps 10-20 pounds of initial "grief weight", is the cause of my (I do not want to own it with a possessive) obesity. I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, which, for most people, includes a symptom of weight loss; for others like me, it can go the opposite. For a year, my endocrinologist and I kept careful track of how my body reacted to it. With the medication, I seemed to go in remission. But less than another year later, all of the symptoms returned, and so my thyroid needed to undergo radioactive iodine treatment---ablation, or killing of the thyroid.

February 2009 my metobolic brains and control panel, my thyroid, was destroyed. With no metabolism except for a beginning small pill once a number of weeks had passed and doctors were sure my thyroid was totally destroyed, I was bedridden.

And on and off, with many more illnesses and a number of injuries included, much of the past three years since have been bedridden. I'm about to turn forty-two. I have felt near eighty at times. I've been near-death more than once.

I have to face my weight. I have to face these illnesses. It is right to do that with a positive outlook and in the reality that I have to lower my expectations in regard to the pace and power of weight loss. At this time in my life, I cannot be an athlete. I can walk for exercise some days. Some days I can kayak and hike. Many days I am still bedridden.

I think, too, that I have to face the grief that surrounds all the factors surrounding weight, even concerning the times of anorexia. I have to face the sting of the pain of misunderstanding people telling me to 'just exercise more'. The stares. And, I need to dismiss what a counselor told me, "You'll get your thyroid meds adjusted and you'll be yourself again." Instead---well, yes: take my thyroid meds, check in with my endocrinologist (and all the other specialists), but begin the process of seeing all humans, including myself, as whole-beings, not bodies. Begin the process of accepting what IS, now, currently, not looking back yearning, waiting. And understanding that the steps will be slower, move toward a future. "You'll be yourself again"? Maybe I need to keep being someone more compassionate. Someone learning. Someone seeing the world with open eyes, ears and mind. Maybe that's the right direction to grow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Growth Intro

Growing Pains: I had my thyroid ablated (demolished on purpose with radioactive iodine, because my heart was racing too much with Graves Disease), and would like to lose weight. I'd like to be active again. Before 2008 when my thyroid became a noticeable issue to doctors, I'd hike, I'd bike, I'd kayak. Many a morning was out on a lake before setting to the books to do homework (I'm a late-bloomer hoping to finish my BA in "The Arts and Human Development" therapy is what it leads to). Many an early afternoon years previous, while my boys were in grade school, I'd bike 10-12 miles, sometimes 20 on the weekends. Many days of the week nowadays I'm either fighting for a 'normal' day or bedridden. Well: normal is re-defined too, and, how much should I accept as 'the new normal', and how much should I keep looking, searching for as many ways of health as possible....

Growing Pains: Like many humans I am avoiding the 12-step Horticulture-Addiction Program. I LOVE to grow things~! I love gardening. And though winter is hard, I've always had an average of 80-100 houseplants, one of them a cherished banana tree. Yup, here in northeast USA, upstate frigid-cold-New-York. Yup, in our dining room.

Ah, Growing Pains: this usually refers to the pains that teenagers go through in physical growth. Well each and every woman who births a child.....grows...., and changes, from the moment a child is conceived within her. As soon as her body has been invaded by a beautiful alien, less than a year later, her ears, eyes and smell; her time, her thoughts, her planning, her *heart* and soul, have changed and will continuously change. As a teen (because I'm tall), I'd awake in the middle of the night holding in screams from the pains in my legs. Now I'm as tall as I'm going to be, though not as smart as I hope to be, not as kind as I need to be, not ...done growing. And right now, with two teenage boys of my own, one getting ready to go to college--a senior in high school---and the other just weeks away from fifteen and a freshman in high school: well, we're all going to keep growing through our growth-pains.

Help me grow in the right direction!