Save The Date

Statistically, Minnesota is one of the worst or the worst state in the U.S. when it comes to wait times for disability processing. I didn’t know this when I relocated from Arizona to Minnesota to try to figure out what was going on with my body. This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune states the average wait time is around 570 days from filing to have a judicial review. I just got confirmation that my hearing is set for March 28th, which will put me at about 770 days of filing the appeal (and almost 3 years to the day of filing the initial claim of disability). The back log just keeps getting worse.

I’m not sure I would have done this any other way. As horrible as it has been with trying to get doctors to take care of me in Minnesota, I did finally get three diagnoses that I have been missing for years in addition to what I already knew. I forget what my count was when I entered the state, but I’ve seen 64 doctors since July of 2010. This has not been an easy process. There is no clear path.

Thankfully my allergist has already agreed to fill out paperwork for my hearing, and my counselor has as well. I will be meeting with my primary care doctor and pain doctor next month to ask the same from them. I’ve been rejected by every neurologist and neurosurgeon in the area as well as banned in writing by the Mayo, and I can’t go out of state because I’m on Medicaid so it’s not allowed, so I’m not quite sure how that is going to be looked upon by the judge. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about that.

One incredible resource I wish I had stumbled upon before I started this process but am eternally grateful for is the blog How To Get On. There are sooooooooo many links/ideas/resources/testimonials that it sometimes boggles my mind, and I really can’t imagine how many man hours it took her to put it together. It’s unfortunate that the author sometimes gets reported and blocked by Facebook for either posting “too much” (seriously??) or for questionable posts (again – say what??), so we have to keep it circulating so as many people as possible benefit from its content.

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That Time I Went Back To Arizona

About five months ago, I decided fuck it, I’m going back to Arizona to visit. I miss everyone and everything. A few weeks after that, I figured out what started this whole thing with my brain. (Yes, I mean figured it out, not the doctors.) I knew I’d have a place to stay with friends, and eating out was out of the question, so I’d just have to come up with a plane ticket. Done. It might be my last opportunity to travel depending on how much worse the scar tissue and the brain damage gets – literally no one fucking knows.

I have about 35-40 people that I would have liked to have seen, but I was only there for about 8 full days, so it was impossible. One night a bunch of people came over and we had a little potluck and hung out. The rest of the time everyone was gracious enough to drive to me, or I took the short bus to see them.

It was my first time traveling without being able to drive, either at home or my destination. First of all, nothing can happen on a whim. It took me about 2.5 weeks to assemble all of my medications and a vog mask, and that included negotiating with the insurance company to get an override on 8 of my medications that would have needed refills while I was gone but couldn’t get in Arizona – they can only be done in Minnesota, because I’m on medical assistance. I also had to make a trip to a compounding pharmacy.

Then the day before I left, a medication I had been trying to get for about 7 weeks was finally approved, so I had to go and get that – but it was such a high volume that there was no way I was going to be able to fit it in my luggage, so I decided to start it after my return. Every time I have to go somewhere, I have to request a ride from Metro Mobility – but I’m only allowed to call one to four days ahead of time. I can’t call on the same day. So I was on a dead run (or as much as I could have been for someone who is half blind) up to the day I left.

It was so worth it, though. Arizona was all blue skies. As I’m writing this, we’re getting rain in Minnesota.

Hopefully my friends know I love them, but I forgot to take pictures of them. Apparently I shoved them aside and made a beeline straight for their animals, which I am deathly allergic to. I did a little planning for that too. One of my doctor visits beforehand was to get my regular and steroid inhalers refilled so I could start on those prior to my visit. I also packed extra diphenhydramine and Claritin (above the 12x daily dose I already take) in anticipation of the fur balls, and every time I came home from a house with pets I changed clothes and put the contaminated clothes into a plastic bag and did a big scrub down.

First were the rescued baby kittens, all black except for a few white spots on some bellies. My friend was just grabbing and distributing them around the bunch of us, and I just happened to get my soul mate – a little one who has neurological problems. It just wanted to get as close to me as possible so it curled up tight against my neck and slept. Once in a while I felt it have tremors and twitches that were not at all normal. I was laying back so the fluid wasn’t trapped in my cranium, and I swear, it was heaven. I wanted to stay there forever. At one point the kitten woke up and started putting its little paws right on my mouth. (I’m in the blue.) I did get hives, but they may not have been as bad as they could have been because apparently the night before the kittens pooped all over each other and so they had to have an impromptu bath, which they loudly protested.

Back at my host family’s house, a large lizard showed up on their property wall. Usually they do not get this big!
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I was lucky enough to be able to spend two afternoons with my friend and his wife. He was instrumental in getting me to be active on Twitter after reading my blogs, which has led to guest spots on other blogs, podcasts, and our Blab series (now deceased because they couldn’t figure out how to make money off of the platform). These two are quite funny; the male, bright orange, is loud and LOVES women. The female, green, is a lot more quiet but likes to ring her bell ball to communicate. The male will say both of their names together and then swivel his body from side to side when he is showing off or pleased.
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Next were my good friends including a couple and their live-in mom. They were usually the first ones I would call when I needed a kitty fix while I lived in Arizona – they had three kitties I knew well. Within the past year and a half they ended up adding another cat and dog under pretty terrible circumstances. Their friends relocated from another state; my friends didn’t realize there was drug addiction and abuse happening. The kids have since been placed in foster care, and the animals were traumatized. Actually, the really big, long, grey kitty seems mostly okay, but the dog has suffered terribly.

When I came to visit, I was told to expect him to pace and whimper. I was also told that I shouldn’t expect him to eat, or approach me, because anyone else who has visited hasn’t had any success even though they were animal lovers too. So this poor, beautiful dog did start pacing. I made sure that I moved slowly, and told him that he was a good boy whenever he paused to look at me. Then I put two treats on the back of the sofa and turned away from them, and eventually he worked up the nerve to get close enough to take the treats. Then he paced close enough to smell my hands while I wasn’t looking, and then quickly paced away again. While this was going on, he was carefully watching how I was interacting with each cat, making sure I wasn’t mean. A couple of times I closed my eyes. I suspect my friends thought I was tired, but I was actually sending him messages of love.

We sat down to dinner, and I couldn’t eat part of mine because of an allergy, so I put it down on a plate for the dog. Another win! And he came over multiple times to sniff my fingers. I made sure again to not be aggressive. I told him over and over he was good.

I stayed long enough to go on his last walk of the evening, which he loves. He wasn’t even confused about there being a strange lady with him on the walk until one point where he crossed over to me and then suddenly was like, “Holy shit, who is this???” and then quickly walked on the other side of the sidewalk.

At the end of the night I was saying goodnight to everyone (read: handing out the last pets to the pets), and the dog was near when I was petting the pretty calico. He was again watching very intently to see if I was being mean. So I carefully got down on all fours and made myself small, put a treat in my hand, and put my head down, and HE ATE OUT OF MY HAND. Everyone was stunned and thrilled.

My friends ran me back to where I was staying, and let me know that when they returned home, all of their animals were lined up at the door, as if they were waiting for me to return. They had never seen that happen before.

The last evening before I flew home, I was able to visit with a former co-worker whom I had the longest work history with – something like 8 years together on our team. I also remember when she had her kiddos – vividly! Our conversation went something like:
Her: “I feel like something isn’t right.”
Me: “You’re in labor. Go have your baby.”
Her: “I’m not really sure. I’m going to wait a little longer.”
Me: “I don’t think you should wait. I think you should go.”
45 minutes later: Baby.

They have two cats and a dog. I failed to catch a photo of the dog, but she was a sweetie. The white cat, Gracie, is quite elderly now, and doesn’t put up with anyone’s shit, including the dog’s. The kissy photo was taken right before Gracie got pissy about the dog bothering her. Seamus is a year-old instigator of trouble and very handsome.

Obviously the mast cell disease is preventing me from being a crazy cat/dog/bird lady, so I suppose I should be thankful.

Anyway, it was really difficult to come back to Minnesota. The night I flew home, my friend’s little boy called me and told me to come back. Sheesh, kid – right in the feels.

Send Up The Flares

It has been a really long time since I’ve logged into my FetLife profile. I didn’t realize it, but I had three messages waiting for me – one from about two months ago, another from four months ago, and the third from a full year prior. The one from a year ago I let slide. I mean, I did put in my profile that I don’t log on and that I’m going through a health crisis, and I can’t “play” in any way, shape or form. I did make a small adjustment to my profile, which alerted my friends and RELEASED THE KRACKEN.

One former spank party friend wished me well and told me that he had heard I moved to California. I replied that that wasn’t the case, I’m actually in Minnesota, taking care of some serious stuff. Then the guy who sent me a message four months ago hit me up again, this time with his instant message name and phone number. I replied that I was not looking to do ANYTHING, but that didn’t deter him; he said he would be willing to “give me a massage if I needed it.” Um, right, do bedridden women usually fall for that?

Then another guy whom I’ve played with at spank parties in Arizona hit me up to let me know he was actually currently in my city for work, and was I interested in getting together for a session? I groaned. This guy…he’s very, very, VERY focused on his kink. I like to have fun. It’s not the be-all, end-all thing for me. He carries a backpack with all of his tools. He actually has two pictures of me (not showing my face, only my red ass) on his profile. He’s totally into role playing, having me stand in the corner, punishment, the whole bit.

So I turned him down, because there is no fucking way I can do anything, including hang upside down, or put my stomach over his knees. The thought makes me cringe. I would be walking like a cat just getting out of anesthesia. And it would be painful, and not in a good way. So he asked me if I could be his chat buddy while he’s traveling for work: talk to him about discipline, spanking, corner time, paddling, etc. I’m rolling this around in my head, and first of all, this requires research. And time. And creativity. Probably some motherfucking Skype. A hairbrush (because wouldn’t you know it, I’m bald). It’s all I can do to peel myself out of bed to make food for dinner every day, and this guy wants me to put a lot of effort into keeping him happy and satisfied.

It takes a lot of effort to turn him down and I know I’m going to have to repeat myself. It’s not my first time. And there it is: “I’m traveling a lot and I don’t get the opportunity to do what I need to do.” So I have to drive it home for him: I’ve got serious stuff going on, I’ve got scar tissue in my brain and I have to lay flat 20-22 hours every day, I’m in pain, I can’t get another operation right now. His reply: “Okay, just know that you’re missed.” BTW, he has a wife and two little children at home. She knows about his kink and his attendance at the spank parties; I don’t know what else she knows because the travel job is news to me – but then again, we were never close.

This is also not the first time I’ve had to turn him down since I started having shunt failures. His kink always comes first. It’s fucking exhausting, man. But if y’all are interested in a pen pal, hit me up.

In other news, for about three weeks I’ve been dealing with persistent hives on a daily basis. I wasn’t quite sure what to do because of losing my rare disease doctor. However, I received a message from him this morning indicating that he put a script through to the compounding pharmacy for me that will (hopefully) help with my hives as a sort of last hurrah while I try to find another doctor. I also got the names of two doctors in the area who would be willing to communicate with him. The problem is that one is old as dirt and so probably won’t be practicing much longer, and the other one isn’t much younger and has a bad reputation for being a raging bitch. I need to sacrifice a chicken and do a dance around a fire or something.

Also today, I received a call back from the neurosurgeon’s office whom I originally saw two years ago when I relocated here from Phoenix. I called him as a last-ditch effort to try to be seen by him or someone else in the practice and get away from my current neurologist. She has been telling me that I don’t understand my symptoms – kind of along the same lines of telling me that even though I stubbed my toe, it’s really my nose that is hurting, ridiculous like that. So this neurosurgeon was kind enough to order a repeat lumbar puncture, which I’ve been begging for since December 2016. The lumbar puncture he ordered is “high volume,” meaning they will take at least four vials of cerebrospinal fluid. They will measure the opening pressure (like you would when you check the pressure on your vehicle’s tires) and then they will send the vials of fluid for testing of the proteins and check for bacteria. Getting this done will also relieve my symptoms for a few hours. He also agreed with me on my choice of neurologists within his group. 

My current neurologist’s justification for not ordering a current LP is this: Usually slit ventricles means that you are overdraining. I pointed out to her that my shunt failed 17 days after surgery in 2015 so I’ve got high pressure, and she witnessed my shunt opening up for about 30 seconds during my last appointment, and my paralysis went away, then came back. Then we read scientific journal articles together about adults with slit ventricles and shunt failures and symptoms. Then she said it only happened to some adults. I asked her why I couldn’t be included in that “some.” She told me it didn’t count because I wasn’t throwing up, I was only nauseated.

Fuck that. Spinal tap, here I come. 

Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?

My parents’ generation were the product of parents who lived through the Great Depression. My grandparents had to be creative with their resources; the flour companies started making pretty prints on their flour sacks once they figured out that mothers across America were using the sacks to make dresses. Re-purposing so that nothing went to waste, our grandparents were also guilty of turning their yards and barns into trash heaps. They were fearful of throwing anything away in case it would be needed in the future.

My parents’ generation, the baby boomer generation, turned around and said to their kids, “I’m going to give you everything I didn’t have,” which really meant that they wanted their kids to have new stuff. This started a trend of some of my classmates actually having cars being purchased for them, or having college tuition being paid for them, and by middle class – not wealthy – parents. Credit cards also started circulating heavily and regulations became non-existent, making it incredibly easy to rack up debt.

Now my peers are struggling to make ends meet and are in debt up to their ears while still providing cars and tuition and pocket-sized computers to their children as if they are staples, not privileges.

There’s a lot of talk about going back to basics and scaling back, while also teaching our children about how to manage money and understanding the consequences of debt.

I’m in a different kind of quandary, however. I need to figure out how to be poor. I mean really, really poor, in the current system – not what it was, and not what we wish it would be.

Back in 1995 when I took the road trip around the U.S. to pick a new place to live and ran out of money and said, “Okay, Albuquerque!”, I was poor. I landed with $100 and slept on someone’s futon for a month. But I was also able-bodied and picked up two jobs and moved into an apartment within a few weeks. I still had times where I lived off of $10 a week for groceries, but this is a little different. This is finite.

I sat down with the financial planner at my bank and figured out the rest of my bills for this year. However, I’m really stressing about my bed. It’s sagging and I can feel the springs poking through even with a thick foam topper – really bad for my fibromyalgia – and it’s only a year and a half old, and I’ve worn through it because I’m in bed for about 20-22 hours every day. Sleep Number is running a sale right now through September 11th and I could replace this bed for about $1100 including their least expensive base, and that would take care of the springs issue and would probably last 6-10 years. Do I buy it? Or does buying it now put me that much closer to eviction next year? If I’m evicted, what am I going to do with the bed? If I get housing at some point down the line, I’m going to need it again, uncontaminated by mold/dust/dander because of my mast cell disease.

I’ve had alopecia since the age of 3, and I lost my hair completely 14 years ago. There is a 30% off sale going on right now, which would give me a considerable discount on the wig I usually wear. Should I get that instead of a bed (it’s much less expensive)? Should I just give up on wigs now anyway because if I’m evicted next year for non-payment I won’t be able to afford them anyway and I don’t deserve to be so vain?

I have enough in my account to get me through to November of 2017. I’m a worrier by nature. All I can think about is, what am I going to do if I get turned down for disability? I mean, I hope the disability hearing happens by November 2017, because I filed for it in February 2016, and they are running 18-22 months behind (but just in case I have my senator flagging this case as “congressional interest”). Priority housing is given to people who are verified as disabled or who have children; if I am not verified as disabled (because I don’t have a diagnosis) and I don’t have children, I won’t have enough “points” to qualify for housing. All of my friends and family have pets and I’m deathly allergic, so moving in with them is not an option.

I’m concerned about both my mom’s health and my mom and step-dad’s financial stability, and my step-mom’s husband’s health and their financial stability. I’m concerned about my sister’s health and her family’s financial well-being. I’m concerned about my brother’s brand new baby who is due in the next few weeks and his little family’s financial stability. I recognize that they all have grave concerns of their own while they try to shield me from them and simultaneously try to take care of me. Certainly none of them can afford to pay for another adult’s living expenses.

I receive notices from friends telling me that I should support certain causes. I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t have any income and I won’t for at least another year, if at all, but they take “income” to mean working income. They just assume that I receive disability, even though I’ve said repeatedly and clearly that I’ve been turned down for disability numerous times. It wears me out to worry about being homeless, and I’m pretty overwhelmed by all the stuff I have to do to further my own cause since all of the offers of help were not really followed up on except by a select few, and it’s humiliating that I have to repeat myself to be heard.

This weekend I had a former fuck buddy hit me up out of the blue after years of silence to try to give me shit about moving back to my home state, mocking me about my claim that I was done with snow and cold when I moved to Arizona in 2003. I told him that I was pretty fucking sick and had stumped 54 doctors so far and could no longer live without assistance; he said he was working on three hangovers and he was sorry I was sick. He loves to talk about how he’s tired of welfare assholes, and I’m sure he thinks I’m one now too. We can’t even really have a conversation with each other anymore because in his eyes as well as in the view of the government, I have no value.

So where is the class that teaches me to navigate being homeless on the streets in a snow state? Do I get a free map to all of the soup kitchens? Where’s the best place to stash my cart outside while I warm up and surf the net in the library? How do I make a shank?

Pay The Toll To The Troll. The Price? Your Soul.

I don’t have any idea how often this happens, or who determines it, but supposedly, Mercury was in retrograde as of Thursday this week. Why don’t frogs just rain down from the skies and we can all just be done with it? No, the psychic attack is much more stealthy, I think. The back of my neck aches. My gums and mouth burns and everything tastes metallic. I fervently wish that Facebook incorporated a disgusted eye roll emoji in their current six options, up from the original singular thumbs-up option. My inner dialog changes: Get out of my way. Stop kicking my goddamn cane. Your perfume smells like cat piss. I’m not waiting 45 minutes this time before calling in to see if they forgot me again, I’m only waiting 30. I am going to scrub my fucking toilet until it fucking sparkles.

Even before Thursday hit I could feel the earth boiling, and my mood was cooking right along with it. I encountered my first troll on Tuesday night. A friend created a private Facebook group so that (mostly) she and the rest of us could say things that couldn’t be said unfiltered in front of a wider Facebook audience. The creator also uses the page to talk about her new grandchild, so obviously it’s not as restrictive as she originally intended. Anyway, a mutual friend was going through a rough patch with her boyfriend and had already talked about it at a coffee shop reunion the week prior, so when she posted in the group, she was just looking for further confirmation that she wasn’t being too harsh in her judgment; after all, when you are the one in the situation, it’s difficult to be objective. This jackass dude pipes in and starts criticizing her and tells her that she’s probably not communicating correctly or enough with the guy she’s in the relationship with – not at all helpful.

Knowing what I know of my friend, and knowing what I know of the guy she’s dating, I don’t hold back on the troll. First I tell him that she DOES and HAS communicated clearly what her boundaries are and that they have been violated repeatedly. Every point the poster or I bring up, the troll says we’re wrong. Then the troll starts talking about how this always happens to him, that he’s always attacked for having a “different viewpoint from most everyone else.” I told him then that it’s because he’s condescending and he has contradicted everything that the original poster and I have said. He said “No, I haven’t. Tell me where I have. I genuinely want to know.” So instead of turning the post into everything about him, I tell him to go back and read. His reaction is to laugh. Obviously there isn’t anything “genuine” about this jackass. The final straw is when the troll claims that we shouldn’t be “defensive, that he is only being inquisitive.” My response was, “You’re not inquisitive, you’re correcting both ___ and I, so that does not constitute a “different” perspective as if it somehow elevates you, it just makes you repulsive.

But then the owner of the group starts posting paragraphs about how we’re supposed to play nice. Then there’s more posts about how disappointed she is about our behavior and how she wants to shut the group down…but she doesn’t, because other people chime in that despite the fact that I’m a bad apple, the group is a “good idea” and some people claim it’s so great that she should “go global” with it – as if talking behind backs is a new concept. If that’s the case, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell to them. Lots of sand.

Troll #2 happens the next day, when I talk about this conversation. He listens for a few minutes, then bursts in with, “I HATE MEN!” As if I, Chelsea, hate men. I don’t. I do, however, hate men who: Lie, cheat, steal, are alcoholics/addicts, are abusive, are lazy, are filthy, are racist, are bigots, pollute, smoke, chew, are narcissists, and hate animals. I’m sure there’s more to the list, but that covers it for now. By the way, Troll #2 fits into quite a few of these categories. Hey, does someone smell butt hurt?

Troll #3 is on Thursday, the big retrograde day. I am pulled into a discussion about racism and white privilege. The person who tagged me is Native American, and the other person is white (and just happens to be an editor for Bloomberg and fancies himself to be an expert on the world and all experiences, like all white guys). The Native American wanted the privileged white dude to know that every other white person didn’t share his smugness. What it boils down to is that the white guy claims that no matter what, all people suffer, so racism, sexism and bigotry don’t actually exist, and we should just get over it. The examples I gave him – white men kick my cane when I’m in public, but women and just generally people of color don’t kick my cane; or white men shoulder check me – probably doesn’t happen, or if they do, they happen because people are just being shitty to me and it doesn’t have anything to do with privilege. He told me I needed to be friendlier (as in, “You are a woman, so you owe it to me, a privileged white male, to smile at me”), so I told him he needed to stop being a dick.

I’m not sure what the cure is. I don’t know how long this shit storm Mercury started lasts. Mercury is an asshole.

The Tiers of Privilege

Minneapolis and St. Paul feel like very different cities from when I moved away 20 years ago. There was a palpable difference between Minneapolis and Albuquerque; in Minneapolis in 1995, my neighbors were white, black and Hmong (thanks to new policies welcoming large numbers of Hmong refugees from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam seeking a better and safer life), and in Albuquerque, the population was largely white, Hispanic and Native American. I felt as if I had moved to a different continent. The way that people interacted is something I can’t easily describe, except that I learned the “manana” (“tomorrow”) concept from my co-workers the hard way, and was told by employers that I would always be valued because I was a Midwesterner and therefore more “uptight and on time.” The population in Phoenix now closely resembles Albuquerque from 1995 – again, the residents are largely white, Hispanic and Native American. Because the southwest didn’t shift in any obvious way, I didn’t expect the Midwest to either.

When I moved back to the Twin Cities, I was not prepared for the greater diversity in the population, but my traveler’s heart is quite excited by it. A lot of the cab drivers I have had for my medical transportation have immigrated from Somalia, some arriving the same year I left Minnesota, telling me stories about how they excitedly called their relatives back home to tell them that powdered ice was falling from the sky (snow), and their relatives always asked the same question: “For free????” There are also now large Hispanic communities settled especially around the cities where living wages might be available. All of these groups are bringing their wonderful musicianship and dancing and food and willingness to endure countless hardships as strangers in a strange land because they know that turning back is not an option.

Why am I talking about all of this anyway? Well, the U.S. has always been a country of  tiered privilege. The caste system does not only live in India, my friends; it’s alive and well, even here in Minneapolis/St. Paul, where we pride ourselves on this appearance of being so tolerant but then have something so stupid/needless/heartbreaking/violating/sickening as the shooting of Philado Castile happen. But it’s not just race that determines where you land in the land of privilege – there’s a lot of “ands” that are the deciding factors.

Let’s start at the top. Your average white dude is the ultimate king of the food chain, born with the silver spoon in the mouth. Guys, you just are. If shitty things happen to you, the system isn’t against you in “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” You might want to feel sorry for yourselves, you might want to stomp and cry and try to convince us that you are being picked on and we should feel sorry for you, but I can’t. I can’t.

We can take it down a notch and look at white men who are physically handicapped by a chronic illness. Men are believed faster/more often than women when it comes to pain. Why? Medical sexism. On the tiers of privilege, white men who are in some way physically deemed “less valuable” by society are on a lower tier than ordinary white men.

I’m pretty sure my place is on the next tier down from that. I’m a white woman.

But wait: knock me down a few more rungs, because I’m a white woman who is also physically disabled. Since I’m a woman and I’m physically disabled, I have absolutely no value whatsoever, a “non-person,” specifically. My cane and paralyzed face make me invisible to nearly everyone (and if you don’t believe me, you should walk through a store or down a sidewalk with oncoming foot traffic with me).

But yet…where do all of our friends and neighbors of color fit in?

My Filipino ex-boyfriend was educated and articulate (except when it came to actually being in a relationship – but that’s another story); his status as a man was relatively high, but as a man of color he ranked lower. Unfortunately he suffered from bipolar disorder, so that could be seen as a detriment, but then again, he was believed – his gender saved him from medical sexism. He always claimed that strangers looked at us distastefully when we were out in public. I think he is valued much more than I am, even though he would deny it.

My most recent Native American boyfriend had a much harder upbringing. He grew up on the largest reservation in the U.S., the Navajo reservation on the New Mexico side. Poverty, crime and mental illness brought him into adulthood. He left the rez to get an education, but for one reason or another, he has clung to the the things that have only brought pain and destruction to his life. Where does he fit into this world?

And then there are the women of color who earn even less than the men, who are physically and sexually assaulted, are obviously valued less when they are forced to remain silent in the company of men or to walk a few steps behind them. Add an “and” to them – a physical disability – and really, how much lower can one go in terms of value as far as society is concerned? I startled a Somalian woman in a waiting area once; I carry cough drops and I noticed she was having a coughing fit, so I offered her one. Her interpreter arrived a few minutes after that and she was called back for her appointment, but she made it a point to tell her interpreter to thank me in English. I did not consider it an insult that she did not know how to say it herself when she was on her own, but since I know how the public at large acts more often than not, I could just imagine that even that simple interaction added stress to her afternoon. Like me, she walked with a cane. I wondered how she was treated by her peers and family.

I am always disappointed when I see/hear someone say, “Why don’t they just ____”? as if we are simple creatures and there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. There isn’t. (That’s why they should stop just conducting medical studies on middle-aged white men if they want real-world results. I mean, hey, we finally figured out that heart attacks are worlds apart between men and women!) The most important thing to understand is that just because things look a certain way from where you’re sitting doesn’t mean that everyone else feels the same way. If you can’t see past yourself, then your world is very small indeed.

Gaslighting

Drummer #2 was the absolute master of gaslighting. I keep a lot of emails – yes, even the really shitty exchanges I’ve had with boyfriends – and recently re-read a couple from Drummer #2. When I read his words, the shame felt nearly as intense as it did when I tried to break up with him for six months running in 2009. He worked hard on me to convince me that I was confused about what I was feeling. He was condescending and repeatedly told me that if I would just do things his way, I wouldn’t struggle so much. He told me that I wasn’t identifying my emotions correctly. It was exhausting. I was an emotional wreck. But just like this author, I finally got away, and I have never looked back and said, “Gee, maybe I should have stayed with him.”

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You know when you have a lightbulb moment, when you read something, spit out your coffee and suddenly go WHAT THE FUCK, WHAT, THIS IS EXACTLY LIKE READING ABOUT MYSELF! Well, I just spat out my cof…

Source: Gaslighting

What I Know, What I Don’t Know

Okay, first of all, a very specific search appeared on my radar yesterday: “Indian sites for compression hose fetish.” Hats off to your freak flag flying proudly, whomever you are. Also, hats off to wanting your objects of desire not to have to suffer from varicose veins. I’m sorry that my mention is probably repeatedly bringing you back to my blog; I wish you luck.

Second, I got a diagnosis.

I’m going to start where I think I should, and that is May of 2009. I was living with the very controlling and very violent Drummer #2 in a beautiful 3 bedroom/2 bath on a man-made lake. My friend who is a CPA and has taken care of my taxes for 16 years as of this year flew down from Cincinnati. Drummer #2 was on the verge of nearly smashing my head with a drinking glass, but I didn’t know it. He made me feel like absolute dirt because my friend was visiting, so much that the friend had to stay at a hotel rather than in the spacious home we occupied.

My friend rented a car so that we could run around the state of Arizona, and most importantly to the Grand Canyon. We hiked down into part of the canyon; it was not easy for me because I had already had fibromyalgia since I reached adulthood, but I did my best to keep up. I was so happy that my friend had made it down to visit, even though the nastiness of Drummer #2 put a damper on things. Drummer #2 didn’t accompany us and that was absolutely fine with me. I wanted to be able to relax. My friend flew home and life went back to walking on eggshells to try to not make Drummer #2 angry – which proved impossible. The week after that trip was when everything went down with the asshole and I moved out in a hurry.

Fast forward to October of 2009: I went to the emergency room because I developed a stiff neck and excruciating pain. Every time I moved my neck I cried. I didn’t sleep for four days and was starting to hallucinate. The ER doctor had no explanation for me because I didn’t have any other symptoms like a sore throat or a fever. He sent me on my way with muscle relaxants. The pain didn’t abate for a full week.

Around the same time, the naturopath I was seeing started documenting new symptoms for me, mainly that I had a constant rocking feeling, and I was always nauseated. We tried different remedies including Dramamine, but nothing even made a dent.

Have you thought up a diagnosis yet? Just wait.

In July 2010, I developed crushing fatigue. I drove over to San Diego mid-month to spend time with a man from Germany who made yearly trips to Comic-Con, the big one. I struggled to walk a few blocks between my hotel and nearby restaurants. He was used to walking up to ten miles a day; I felt a bit ashamed because I felt as if I embodied the lazy American stereotype. I was also plagued by deep bouts of vertigo to the point where I nearly fell down an entire outdoor cement staircase.

During the last week of the semester at school in July, I had to drop out and not take any finals. Fatigue and vertigo ruled my life. My parents were concerned because I spoke like a zombie, no intonation – very unusual considering I was a theater major in school. My speech was slurred, the top portion of my face became paralyzed, and my head began to nod uncontrollably. Because my body was under so much stress, my cortisol levels shot up to ten times the normal amount.

Have you guessed it yet?

In July of 2011, I finally started getting relief from the pressure in my head because a neurosurgeon installed a shunt. However, I had a total of 10 shunt surgeries in 46 months because my body fights them, clogs them, breaks them, strangles them. I have had horrible abdominal pain since July 11, 2011, because that is the first day a drainage catheter began living within my peritoneum and my small and large intestine, and there is a war being waged 24/7.

46 doctors and two states later, a naturopath in Saint Paul suggested I get some blood tests for Lyme disease. I ended up having to pay full price for them up front because they were not covered by insurance/medical assistance. I will admit that I didn’t think I had Lyme but I just wanted to rule it out like I had done with everything else up to that point. Two of the tests had inconclusive results; the third one lit up like a motherfucking Christmas tree.

I have late stage aka chronic Lyme, and have had it for nearly seven years. It wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Why should it be? I didn’t have a bull’s eye rash. I lived in Arizona, a state with a very small tick population compared to other states. The CDC has very strict guidelines about what can be reported for Lyme and I may not fit their parameters; however, I am still going to contact the state health board and let them know I was infected while I was a resident in the state. I think that only 8 cases have been reported to the CDC for Arizona. I don’t even know if they will take my data because I was diagnosed based on antibodies specific to bacterial exposure, and they only want tests showing the bacteria, which may not be detectable because of the time that has passed.

I know that most of the doctor visits and labs are not covered by insurance, so I will truly be destitute in short order. They are not covered because insurance companies and even the government get bucky about late stage/chronic Lyme, sometimes refusing to acknowledge it exists. There are now temporary laws in place in Minnesota that allow physicians to prescribe antibiotics far longer than they have before, for years instead of months, and the law is set to expire in 2019. I feel like my diagnosis is sitting on the cusp of being dismissed and being accepted. I don’t know how they will deny that my facial paralysis ties into the positive results on the blood work, but I’m sure they’ll find a way to tell me I just need counseling. It wouldn’t be the first time I heard that.

I don’t know what will be irreversible with the neurological problems when treatment starts. I think the facial palsy and ptosis may go away. I think the tremors will take years to adios if they stop at all. The left side of my body has lost some sensation. For example, when I am descending stairs, I have no concept of the pressure my foot exerts on the steps (and vice versa) and so must go very slow. I have been doing exercises to counteract the bed rest and try to gain some of the muscle I have lost, but I always feel like my nerves are disconnected on my left side, and I tire much more easily when I work on that side. I’m also having some cognitive difficulty including word recall. As I type, I fight to spell words correctly – I have developed some weird form of dyslexia. If you knew how particular I am about spelling, you would be as alarmed as I am. Sometimes it takes me a dozen tries to write single words correctly that would have been a breeze previously. Ultimately there is a 50/50 chance that treatment will work, and it may take years to get any positive results.

Besides notifying the board of health in Arizona and Minnesota, I have decided to write letters to my team of doctors in Arizona to let them know about the diagnosis. I am not trying not to think in terms of, “Oh, if only someone would have tested for Lyme, I wouldn’t have had to have 10 brain surgeries.” Honestly, the disease has really fucked up my body, and it’s possible I would have needed the surgeries even with the right diagnosis.

If my symptoms do abate, I’m going to have a serious conversation with some neurosurgeons about removing the current shunt. It has adhered to my chest and the abdominal pain is still constant, and I just think I would have an easier time without it. However, that also leaves me more vulnerable to CSF leaks – and I don’t ever, ever want that pain again.

Lastly, I don’t know if this is a “rare” disease. The data is poor. On a survey of health, chronic Lyme rated the worst for quality of life as outlined in this article – worse even than congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, diabetes and depression. In other words, I truly won the shit cookie.

Chronic Lyme Disease

 

Speak Easy

Last week Friday, February 5th, Nikki (http://ilivebreathe.com/) and I had our first chat on Blab. The agenda was to talk about toxic people, the diverse challenges we face when interacting with them, and when to let them go. The recording went much longer than we planned at 1 hour 45 minutes, but if you are interested, here is a link to the show:

https://blab.im/82740adeac204a028576bc288ef25703

We decided to come back this week with another show, and this time the topic is self-care. What do you do to bring yourself back from the pit of despair? Do you allow yourself to laugh or cry? If you have seen the movie “Amelie” (French with subtitles), you know that each character is assigned a list of things that seems like a very simple pleasure. Amelie’s father likes to take all of his tools out of the toolbox, clean out the box, and very carefully put the tools back in. A patron at the eatery carries a mini tape recorder with him everywhere, and then records unusual laughs. Amelie likes to stick her hands into barrels of dried peas.

What do you do to make yourself feel better about your circumstances?

Join us on Blab for a discussion on self-care; we’ll start at 6 pm EST/3 pm PST Friday, February 12th.

https://blab.im/nikkiseefeldt-sickadilly-chat-2-self-care-strategies-rare-dis-disability-chronic-illness

Isn’t That A Co-inky-dink?

This year began on pretty rough ground. First, Quato from Total Recall was growing in my left ass cheek and trying really hard to bust out. Every day for three weeks (including some weekends) someone had to look at my bare ass. Then my body got so stressed out from not being able to stay flat every day that my tremors came back. I have been feeling just exhausted. I wish I had a Keebler elf that I could pull out of my pocket and demand that s/he do all of my dishes and scrub my tub and toilet.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been getting some validations.

The start was getting the image of a lemon cake, the kind like my mom made when I was a kid, in my head. I could picture myself mixing the lemon curd to make the frosting, putting that on the layers, and then cutting myself a slice, still kinda warm. Later on, before I left to go to the meditation class, I caught up with a friend I haven’t talked to in about a decade. She told me that she made herself a lemon cake that afternoon to celebrate her own birthday.

Last night I thought to myself, “Call S. in Scottsdale.” I didn’t know why I thought that, because we talked two weeks ago and I figured that update would have carried us over for a bit. Ten minutes later she called me to tell me she had moved (somewhat abruptly) and her plans changed from what she told me two weeks prior – she decided to stay in Scottsdale rather than pursue a job opportunity elsewhere.

My final ride for the evening yesterday on the short bus involved me being picked up from the grocery store and redeposited at home. It ended up being a really, really long ride – since it’s a ride share, rarely is one rider picked up and then brought to their destination without stopping elsewhere first. The driver and I started chatting while we waited for one rider to finish with her church group. I heard, “Tell her you’re selling your car” in my ear, or brain, or however you’d like to think about it. Anyway, I worked it into the conversation. She became serious and asked me what kind of car it was because she and her husband were looking for a second vehicle. I didn’t really do a hard sell with her because ultimately I didn’t think it would be something she would seriously consider; my car is a hatchback, and she was talking small SUV. Still, it was worth a shot.

I’m not really sure what I have to do to keep connecting with the universe, but I guess I had better get a move on.