Tag Archive | health

I didn’t think I was this sick…

Kitten in a blanket.

I just want to stay under the covers.

The only reason I even saw the doctor today was because I already had a follow-up appointment for another matter scheduled. If that appointment hadn’t been on the schedule, I would have just muddled through another day. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should tell things in order. I’ll try not to let it turn into a “what I had for breakfast” post.

So, if you want to know more, click through…
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Normal is an illusion

Myth: “People with mental health problems are different than normal people.” Fact: “We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health.”

Myth: “People with mental health problems are different than normal people.” Fact: “We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health.”

The first time I experienced mental health therapy was under duress. I was in middle school, and one of the many times I was bullied that year had resulted in me being injured to a degree that the school nurse said I needed to be taken to the hospital. This ultimately led to the administration deciding that the only logical response to how often I was being bullied by other students was to threaten me, the victim, with expulsion unless I got therapy. And my ability to remain enrolled was contingent on the therapist reporting that I was making adequate progress. Whatever that meant.

The therapist spent all of our time together making me describe and then analyze specific incidents of bullying, trying to identify which of my behaviors had provoked the bully, then trying to teach me to act like a normal boy. I don’t think she ever used the phrase “normal” to my face, but she certainly did when explaining things to my parents. Just as school officials and teachers repeatedly told my parents in parent-teacher conferences and the like that these incidents would surely stop if I would just learn to act more like the other boys.

This experience did not instill much confidence that therapy was meant to help me.

Throughout my teens I was dragged into therapy several more times for various reasons. There was concern for a while that my migraines might have a psychological cause, for instance. Another time, I got into an argument with one of my Aunts because I refused to agree with her that I felt traumatized by my parents’ divorce, which eventually led to an ultimatum from Mom to start seeing a therapist. So I saw this guy once a week for a few months, though what the therapist wanted to talk about was very confusing and didn’t seem to have much to do with my feelings about my parents’ divorce (I was thrilled to no longer be living with a physically abusive man). It was many years later that I learned that my mom’s insistence that I see the therapist was related to the secret prayer meetings she was having with other church ladies because she was afraid I was gay.

Again, not an experience to inspire me with confidence.

Then there had been the continuing spectacle of watching my sister being diagnosed with various contradictory mental illnesses, going in and out of mental health facilities over decades. One of the early rounds for my sister happened while I was still a teen living at home, and Mom decided that we needed full family counseling. At least that therapist told Mom after a few sessions that it would be better use of the limited amount of time Mom and her insurance could afford to focus on my sister’s issues.

Many years later I sought out therapy on my own, and that time I found it helpful. Of course, it was the first time I had a therapist who didn’t treat either my being gay nor my love of science fiction/fantasy as a symptom (seriously—but that’s a story for another day). That alone was a big improvement. And it was the first time I had made the decision to seek help. I sought help because I was concerned I was turning into an abusive person, like my dad. I didn’t want to become him.

But it also helped me get over the lingering sense of distrust I had for the idea of mental health treatment. My bad experiences weren’t proof that mental health treatment is hooey, they were proof that prejudice and bias can happen anywhere, even in a profession that thinks of itself as objective.

No two people will experience the same illness the same way. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Even more important, what works for a person for a few months or years, may not work as well later. We just have to do our best, try to adapt, and most importantly, try not to beat ourselves up over things.

Having lived with, loved, and otherwise been close to people with various mental health issues, I am very aware of the importance of getting treatment, getting the right treatment, and getting support and affirmation from your friends, family, and community. It’s hard to know, sometimes, how to be supportive. There isn’t a simple, one size fits all approach.

Try to be there. Listen if they want to talk. Don’t push. Let them know you care. Be willing to give them space. And take care of yourself: if you get stressed out and frazzled on their behalf, you aren’t actually helping.

Love them. Love yourself.

I love walking

Siberian Lynx © San Diego Zoo.

Siberian Lynx © San Diego Zoo.

I was first diagnosed as pre-diabetic about 14 years ago. Having seen so many relatives (mostly on Dad’s side of the family) develop adult-onset diabetes, and particularly seeing what happened to some of them who never took the diagnosis seriously, I’ve been obsessing about carbohydrates, blood sugar, and calorie-burning ever since. Now that I’m at the point where I’m actually testing my blood-sugar directly several times a day, I’ve learned that a lot of the advice my general practitioner and the nutritionist he sent me to is… well, let’s just say the advice was not based on the latest research, nor does it match what’s happening in my body day-to-day… Read More…

Why I hate hay fever reason #6273


…and a cold cloth for my head, please.

I’ve written before of my frustration at being unable to distinguish a really bad hay fever day from the early stages of a head cold. Because we had such a mild winter, this was one of the years where I never got a break from hay fever. My frustration and confusion have been exacerbated by the fact that I was more or less continually sick from early January until (I hope) a bit over a week ago. What I think happened was this: I caught the virus that was going around this year making people very sick for a week or so with flu-like symptoms, then lingering for many weeks after with low key (but still annoying) symptoms. And while my immune system was bogged down fighting the virus, I got a bacterial infection in my throat, that was spreading to my sinuses by the time I went in to see the doctor and got the first prescription for an antibiotic. I got slightly better while on the antibiotic, but the throat infection surged back as soon as the pills ended, and spread to my ears before I went back to the doctor, who took more swabs to culture and put me on another, longer round of antibiotics

At the end of the second round, the sore throat came back along with a new, keep-me-up-half-the-night cough. The doctor didn’t like how my lungs sounded, so I got chest and sinus x-rays along with more swabs before the next round of a different antibiotic. And so on.

And each time I was on antibiotics, I felt better, but never completely well. Which both I and my doctor figure was probably because the original viral infection was still lingering. Except during that three month period, at least two other bouts of some sort of cold seemed to run through my office. So it’s possible that it wasn’t one long lingering viral infection, but really three or four unrelated viral infections that each hit me one after the other.

But we have also had a lot of high pollen/allergy alert days during that time. Coincidentally, some of the highest pollen count days happened to occur right after the end of each of the first two rounds of antibiotics. So each time that the sore throat and sinus symptoms started to re-occur, I told myself it was probably just allergies, and didn’t call my doctor right away.

Regardless, it’s been ten days since the end of the last round of antibiotics, with so far no sore throat and no ear ache. I think that means that the bacterial infection is finally gone. And while I’ve been having sore sinuses, congestion, and itchy eyes throughout for that entire time, nothing that isn’t very typical hay fever symptoms have shown up.

So far.

But I’m still feeling paranoid. So when I woke up feeling overheated and more congested than usual, I panicked a little. Until I remembered that because of the work being done on the exterior of the house, we’ve closed up all the windows and disabled the air-conditioning vent in the bedroom. It merely took opening the front door when I took out the garbage minutes after waking up to make me feel much more normal.

Though I had pollen alerts on my phone from both a weather app and my pollen tracker, and I see we’re going to be in the red all week. So this congestion and itchy eyes and sinus headache are probably here for the long haul.

Dang it!

Anyway, could you pass me that box of tissue, please?

The Incredibly Slowly Shrinking Writer

img_0019I’ve never had the kind of body anyone would call heroic. Even back in middle school when I was active (and generally not terribly good) in various sports. Back then I was usually short for my age (other than a brief exception in 7th grade when I shot up to what would turn out to be my full adult height, but within two years all but two of my classmates were taller than me, again), and was usually painfully scrawny. Then, in my twenties, Still the same height I’d been since the age of 14, I started gaining weight and generally started to look like many generations of short, round, bald, hairy men on my Dad’s side of the family. Yes, bald. my hairline starting receding around the age of 15.

Despite having more than a bit of a belly, for most of my thirties and forties I had excellent blood pressure and more than excellent cholesterol numbers. That was probably helped by the fact that for most of my adult life I’ve walked, a lot. I currently live about five miles from the location of my office, and most nights after work I walk home, rather than take the bus. Even when I’m feeling sick, I walk a couple of miles to get to a bus stop along the way.

Every male descendant of my paternal great-grandfather with whom I am in contact developed adult onset diabetes by their mid-forties. A few in their thirties. And some of them didn’t follow doctor’s advice when diagnosed, and suffered various awful complications. So fifteen years ago (at age 41) when I received the official pre-diabetic diagnosis, I vowed to take it seriously. I went to the nutritionist my doctor recommended. I mostly followed the diet—for fourteen years. We got so used to following it, that recently when the new consult changed it, my hubby and I keep forgetting We’re allowed to buy beef, now.

About ten months ago, my blood sugar went really bad, after hanging in the “higher than optimal, but still not diabetic” range, and I finally gave in and let the doctor start me on insulin. At least I made the it into my mid-fifties before it fully hit! The initial treatment is to start at a very low dose and start edging up as you get used to checking your blood sugar regularly and learn how your body reacts. Standard procedure is to see the doctor two weeks after starting to get evaluated.

Now, after only two days on insulin, both I and my husband noticed that I was much more energetic. I hadn’t noticed a long slow drag to my overall energy level and feeling of well-being over the previous few years. The most dramatic discovery though happened at that first follow-up visit. I had last about 11 pounds in two weeks.

My regular pharmacist had been telling me during the previous couple of years while we tried various non-insulin medications, that in her experience, when the patient found the right treatment, lots of things improved, including the patient’s weight. I hadn’t believed her.

In the months since, I have been steadily having, at odd intervals, to tighten my belt another notch. My work slacks got so baggy I gave in a few months ago and bought a couple pairs of smaller pants. I’ve even had to adjust the wrist band for the iPod Nano that I wear as a watch. I never thought I had fat wrists, but apparently there was some to lose there, too. I had to change which finger I wear my grandfather’s ring on, because it fell off the old finger. My wedding ring, which was a very tight fit for the last few years, isn’t in that danger, yet, but it slides off without much effort now.

Make no mistake, I have a lot of weight still to use. When I look  in the mirror, I still look just as fat to my own eyes as ever. But I hit another milestone today: I am on the last notch on this belt. Counting from the dent in the leather from the spot I was at for years, I’ve tightened this belt five times, now. It may be time to buy some smaller pants, again.

My new diet is still low carb, but I’m no longer doing the glycemic load calculation, where I get to have more carbs if I eat high fiber foods. Because doing that doesn’t keep my blood sugar down. The other change is that I’m allowed to eat fat again. I’m eating a much higher fat diet than I did for fourteen years, and only now am I losing weight. Also, my cholesterol never got bad, but it had left the unbelievably good range during that time I was pre-diabetic. But now that I’m on insulin, my cholesterol numbers are back to incredibly good. And remember, I’m eating more fat, now.

I’ve been feeling down a lot for the last two months because of these flu- and cold-like symptoms that would never completely go away. Yesterday I, after another ten days on antibiotics (for the opportunistic bacterial ear-nose-throat infection on top of whatever the viral thing is) I finally felt better than “meh” after longer than I care to admit. I’m not feeling great, just okay.

But realizing this morning, when I tried to tighten my belt that I was actually having to pull it slightly past the last notch before it felt tight, that certainly was a great feeling!

What a difference no pain makes

Screen-shot-2013-06-26-at-3.16.19-PMI haven’t been posting much for a variety of reasons. NaNoWriMo is eating a lot of my time, for one. But the last two weeks there’s also been near constant pain.

It started a couple of Fridays ago when one of my big toes swelled up with gout. For the next eight days, every morning I woke up with a different toe on one of the feet swollen. The worse was one night when the pain woke me in the middle of the night, and I needed to go to the bathroom, but when I tried to stand up, I nearly collapsed. I literally crawled part of the way to the bathroom. I eventually hobbled downstairs where my cane was, but even with the cane the thought of going back upstairs was too daunting. So I put a heating pad on my feet and sat in the recliner until my husband woke up.

Most of the days that week I worked from home. When I did go in, I had to use the cane to get around, and since the temperatures outside were 10-15 degrees colder than usual for this time of year, and since cold tends to make gout worse, it wasn’t fun. The next week was better. Several mornings my feet were feeling close enough to normal that I almost left the cane at home. By the end of the day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I was really glad that I had taken it with me, because one joint was slightly swollen and in pain by the end of the day.

Thursday was the first evening I didn’t actually need the cane at the end of the day.

Friday was the only day I worked from home last week, and it was the first day that I felt like myself again. Usually on my work from home day, when I break for lunch, I start some soup cooking, and while it’s heating up, I’ll do a little housework. Unload and load the dishwasher, put away laundry, or some other task like that. It’s a nice way to stay away from the computer for a little bit and not think about work, right? But during all of my days working from home the previous week, I just didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have much energy for writing, either. I got writing done, but not at the rate I had been the previous couple of weeks.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it really felt weird and wonderful that day not to have at least one of my feet in pain. And it was the first day that I wanted to do housework. I didn’t just want to do it, I enjoyed doing it. Being about to move, to stand, the walk around without constantly bracing for how much the next step was going to hurt was almost enough to make me giddy.

So for the last few days I’ve been really grateful for the simple act of being able to walk without pain.

My own skin…

When I called my mom to tell her, I began with, “I have one more thing in common with Grandma, now!”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an uneasy relationship with my own skin. I usually joke about it by pointing out that my skin knows how to do only three colors: pale pink with blue highlights, bright red, or pale pink with blue highlights and freckles. I’ve never been able to tan, and it takes hardly any sun at all to make me sunburn. Throughout my childhood most of the neighbor kids would tan during the summer months. I’d come to school in the fall, and nearly all my classmates would have varying degrees of tanned bodies, while I would be pasty pale and maybe a bit freckled.

And kids would comment on it. I might get a, “Gee, Breshears, don’t you ever go outside?” It hardly was the worst thing anyone ever teased me about, and there was often one or two other kids who had similar pasty complexions, though usually it was only the redheads.

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…but I don’t hate anyone!



A while back someone objected to my post where I said that, in this day and age, if the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about a gay neighborhood is “AIDS,” that indicates a certain level of ignorance and bigotry. The reasoning presented in the objection boiled down to, “maybe I’m not as well-informed as you are, but that doesn’t mean I’m bigoted. I don’t hate anyone!”

First, I didn’t say hatred, I said bigotry. Bigotry is formally defined as “obstinate and unreasonable adherence to an opinion or idea.” Depending on the context it can shade into narrow-minded intolerance, or blind and excessive zeal, as well as dismissiveness of other ideas. But the central meaning, and the meaning I intended was that “unreasonable adherence to an idea.”

The unreasonable idea (the idea not supported by facts), is not even the obvious one… Read More…

I know you think you know, but…

Close up of a sleeping bobcat

Thanks for the advice, but I’m going to sleep now.

We had an unpleasant adventure Sunday night. Before I explain that, I should mention that ten years ago I nearly died because of a bleeding ulcer in my esophagus. The reason I nearly died is because, contrary to what everyone thinks, not all bleeding ulcers are painful. I had absolutely no pain, discomfort, or any symptoms of indigestion. None. Zero. Zilch. Read More…

A 70-year nap sounds tempting

We saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier with a bunch of friends Saturday, and it was fun. If you liked the 2011 Captain America movie, or The Avengers you’ll probably like this, as well. I thought it was awesome. I confess I’d been a teeny bit worried because I liked the previous movie a lot, and that one got so much of its appeal from the 1940s setting; I was afraid they’d try to grit Cap up and ruin him. They didn’t. The story has plenty of darkness, but the script and Chris Evans make you believe someone can face that darkness, fight it, and come out with an old-fashioned sense of honor and justice intact.

A major part of Captain America’s story is that he is a man out of his time because survived being frozen for 70 years after crashing that doomsday plane at the end of the first movie to save the world. Lately, I’ve been thinking a 70 year long nap might be a good thing.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure out why I’ve been tired all the time. When we were both suffering from the Martian Flu it made perfect sense why we were tired, taking frequent naps, and so on. But it’s been about a month since either of us had symptoms, yet almost every week night since, I have to take at least a short nap after getting home. And at least once a week I conk out for several hours, only to wake up just in time for bed time!

Part of it is that with heavy pollen season underway, I frequently have severe enough hay fever that I’m not sleeping very well at night. But the other thing is just that while we were sick I let my sleep schedule go to whatever it wanted. If left to my own devices, my body likes to stay up until about 3am or 4am, then sleep until noon. It’s just the way my diurnal cycle is wired. I haven’t managed to land a job that lets me work that schedule (and still pay the bills plus give me the sorts of mental challenges to keep me from being bored), so once I finally accepted that this is what the neurochemicals are going to try to do, I realized the rest of my professional life would be a battle to keep the sleep schedule from drifting to default.

This means that I can’t let myself stay up as late as I want on weekends, as tempting as it it. And it also means that about once a week I have to take a melatonin tablet at about 10:30 or 11pm, lay down, and trick my brain into sticking to a sleep schedule compatible with work.

I haven’t done that in months. And I’ve been staying up way to late working on writing projects on the weekends.

So, I need to hammer the neuroreceptors with some melatonin. I’ll probably need to do it a couple of nights in a row to make any progress. Unfortunately, that means I have to both remember to do it, and be awake at the right time in the evening to take the pill. Which I haven’t managed to do since having the realization.

I’d like to stop having these random nap attacks. So I need to get this done.

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