Can You Repeat That?

The last couple of weeks of December were a revelation.

I spent 20 years away from my family over the holidays, and I learned very early not to make a big deal out of the days we had off in November and December. When I’ve had serious boyfriends and we’ve lived close to their parents or grandparents, I’ve ended up at their houses, but if not, I’ve stayed at home and cooked whatever I’ve wanted to eat and overloaded on movies. A few times I’ve gone to friends’ houses – and one time that I did that, bringing my most recent ex with me, is a story still told today. My friend’s mom introduced us as, “Hi everybody, this is Chelsea, and this is ______, and they used to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and now they’re not, so I don’t know.” This was about 18 years ago, and when I reminded my friend, she started reminding her mother, and her mother finished the story, so yeah, it’s still fresh in her memory.

This holiday season really felt like a roller coaster. I received the results from the upright MRI. Just a few days after that, I received some medical records from a doctor I had seen one time for 20 minutes in August of 2015 when I was trying to find a primary care doctor who would take me on as a patient. I remember this one visit because the doctor had been so friendly, but I knew she was struggling with understanding the complexity of my conditions, and I had to repeat some information. I carried my previous records with me but she wasn’t interested in looking at them, she just wanted me to tell her again.

I was relieved at the end of the visit because it seemed like she was willing to take on the basic care like ordering my thyroid and cholesterol labs for my Hashimoto’s stuff. But then a week later I received a call stating that I had to find a new primary care doctor because she left the practice – she received notification that she passed an exam for a different field. I was floored. If you’re anticipating leaving, why take on new patients??

But the real kicker is getting her notes from that 20-minute visit now. Because I had to repeat myself, she wrote that I was “bragging” about my surgeries, and that I had Munchausen’s.

It’s really hard to read that in the same week that I received results saying that my brain has literally collapsed and I have tissue growing like a tumor and doing damage to my memory and speech. (Today I couldn’t remember why I called the county regarding picking out a vendor for medical assistance.) I still have a hard time talking about what’s going on, to get the words out. It’s serious. What’s happening is that the pressure in my cranium keeps rising, and it’s going to keep rising until it’s the same pressure as my blood pressure and I have a massive stroke and die. The two methods they have of treating it don’t work for me. First, the medication to reduce the CSF production has been proven not to make any difference for me. It’s been tried multiple times. Second, implanting another shunt isn’t going to work; I’m allergic to them all. I’m now at the point where I clog them and strangle them within days. I simply don’t have options at this point.

I also just got notes from a neurosurgeon from the University of Minnesota that I saw a year ago, from one of the guys I have nicknamed the Three Stooges. He was one of the three doctors who saw my MRI from July 2015 that had the beginnings of the slit ventricle syndrome and a smaller version of the tumor, and observed my fatigue, vertigo, facial droop, unsteady gait, and resolution of some of the symptoms when I tilted my head to move the fluid around. In my file he wrote that I “walk with a cane and can’t perform a tandem walk” but that I’m “fine.” He also stated that if anything changed, they would welcome me back to the neurosurgery department.

Fuck that. He’s not going anywhere near my brain when I’m unconscious. He obviously can’t handle it.

But the one bright light in all of this swamp of shit was that on December 27th, I received a voice mail from a case worker with the State of Minnesota. She simply stated her name and said that she approved my case for disability. As soon as I heard it, I immediately burst into tears. Being approved by the state doesn’t mean that I receive any kind of financial compensation, but it does assist me when I’m applying for housing – I can officially state that I’m disabled – and I also qualify for medical assistance as a disabled person instead of just a person living at or below poverty. It will also help to make my case stronger when it comes time for my hearing with the federal case, which I still don’t have a date for yet. My attorney thinks it’s still “some months” away.

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This is a Test

Another chronic illness blogger has been kind enough to let a bunch of us tell our stories on her site, and late last week my most up-to-date info was included. She has indicated that she may discontinue the series if she no longer has parties interested in being part of the project, but there are so many of us out there that I would be surprised if the well ever dried up.

From This Point. Forward.

Today was a really big day in my little alien world. I finally got the upright MRI that I’ve been asking for for 6.5 years. In all of the 56 doctors that I’ve seen, it has only been the most recent neurologist who hasn’t fought me on my request and put the order in.

So I got strapped into a chair and a cage was lowered over my head and screwed into place like I was Hannibal Lector. Like I was ready for some football and to call out some huts! I was sandwiched and squished between two huge, white panels, a bar propped between the panels for my hands and then one lower for feet to rest on to make my very own roller coaster ride more comfortable.

A couple of times the tech buzzed in and said, “I’m picking up movement. Try to keep very still.” I had explained to her that I sometimes have trouble with tremors in my neck when we were going over the questionnaire, but maybe she’s heard that line before and doesn’t think it’s important to remember. I breathe with my diaphragm, so at a break between segments, I moved my arms as far away from my torso as far as the sandwich bread slices would allow me – that way there was less of a chance that my smushed arms would move my head when I breathed.

The tech had given me the option of tilting the chair back at 30-45 degrees, but I explained that it would compromise what we are trying to catch on imaging, so I had to stay completely upright. The MRI takes about 40-45 minutes, and to make sure the pressure in my skull was really high, I exercised my arms for about five minutes both before the cab picked me up, and then again when I changed my clothes. All I have to do is mimic the bicycle motion with my arms like what I do in PT and I nearly go completely blind from the pressure in my skull. This is why I can’t exercise. I would probably give myself seizures.

At the end of it when I was extricated from the face trap/sandwich boards, I got up to walk and ended up stumbling around like a cat coming off of anesthesia. I had to have a lot of assistance to walk back to the room where my cane was waiting for me. I might have said, “No, I don’t need a fucking walker.” This scan had better not let me down.

Sleeping Single In A Single Bed

On Monday I finally had my bed delivered. It is an honest-to-goodness hospital bed complete with handrails and a hand control to raise and lower the head and foot areas. I actually got it because I’m in bed so much that I am wearing through my traditional mattresses in a matter of months and I’ve gotten a few bedsores. I was afraid that it was going to be super noisy – both the motor and the mattress itself – but the motor is completely silent and the mattress doesn’t crinkle at all (and maybe it helps that I folded up my foam topper from my queen mattress to add to the cushion of this one).

So of course my friends already suggested that things could get kinky with the handrails and the adjustable bed. Like I didn’t already think that. This shit was made for tying.

I had a few _______ exchanges on OKCupid (you can fill in your own adjectives). The first was from the guy from this post where we didn’t get very far before it got weird.

Him: Long time no hear.
Me: When we were trading messages, you said, “I just need to what hours are better for you.” (I presume you meant to say “I just need to know what hours are better for you.”) I told you that I don’t have a set schedule and that I wouldn’t be logging on the next day. You replied and said, “I’ll have some free time tomorrow, Chelsea.” I repeated myself and said that I wouldn’t be signing in and indicated why so that you would understand I was not simply ignoring you. Then you admonished me for telling you that I wouldn’t be logging in, saying, “You don’t have to alert me when you’re signing on.”

From this short exchange, my takeaway is that you are looking for someone to correct so that you feel intellectually superior. It doesn’t sound appealing to me, but maybe it’s your kink. Be happy, or be right, but you can’t be both.

Him: It was really so people know that I’m not a small-minded misogynist who is afraid of an intelligent woman. Sorry if you felt admonished. I should have been paying closer attention while messaging you.

Me: I wish you luck in finding someone who can capture your attention.

(At this point I blocked him.)

Then I got a message from a screen name that didn’t ring a bell. I saw the email first, and the message said, “Will you ever forgive me?” I logged on to see if I could figure it out. There were two messages. “Will you ever forgive me?” and “I hope I hear back from you…”

I looked at the profile picture. I recognized it as a picture a guy used for a profile and I met him a year ago, but the picture was nothing at all what he looked like. I actually did a reverse image lookup of him before we met but I couldn’t find the picture anywhere else so I still don’t know where he got it from, but it absolutely, positively is not him. He also has a home in France and before we were able to meet up for our date I asked him to take a few pictures from his rooftop, which he did. I did a reverse lookup and didn’t get any “hits,” so again, I had to take him for his word. But after our first date and his very enthusiastic insistence that he wanted to see me again the next day, he completely disappeared. You know, for the next YEAR. And then he comes back with this. No explanation, no apology. So this is how I replied:

Oh, do you mean about using a picture that is not a true representation of you, and then disappearing completely? Nope. You are free, petit cochon. (Note: “petit cochon” is French for “little pig.”)

I didn’t realize it but there has been a message in my inbox for four days now, but OKCupid didn’t send me a notification. It says:

I’m JOHN LOPES im here to date a woman that will make me happy till the end of life you can kindly reach me on my facebook i’d JOHN FILLIP LOPEZ……..or you can add me on my email adress johnfilliplopez23@gmail.com ……….you can also text me on my number …. 3155064755

And then immediately below it is a warning from OKCupid:
Never transfer funds to someone you met on the Internet and keep your conversations safely on OkCupid.

So kids, when you see this message, just know whomever is running this profile is from a foreign country and is running a scam. They like to post photos as military personnel (like this one did) and then quickly shift to a story about how their “work laptop” stopped working and they are in tears because they can’t work and they need money and can’t you send money? They are crying their eyes out, honey baby sweetie. Oh, and I like how this dude can’t decide how to spell his last name – Lopes or Lopez.

There’s a lot of weirdness rolling around right now. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything at the moment, so I’m perfectly fine flying solo with my new little ugly bed.

 

To Put Into Words

Six days post-election here in the U.S., and it feels like every day is different.

The night of the election I stayed awake until about 11 pm until it was clear that Trump was going to win the electoral votes. I refused to watch TV; I couldn’t bear to listen to voices yelling in disbelief, but rather I listened to my own favorite music and instead refreshed Google and saw everything roll in real time.

On Wednesday morning I woke up with my alarm clock – or rather, I woke up with alarm, saying to myself, “Fuck, Trump is president.” I went through the motions of getting ready for an appointment; as luck would have it, my regularly scheduled counseling appointment just happened to be that morning. Above and beyond my normal anxiety and depression and PTSD, I cried for all of the kids that morning who my friend as a teacher said were scared in her classroom about being targeted by racism and ignorance because of their immigrant status and religious beliefs.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was shocked by a call I received out of the blue. Back in August I wrote a letter to the POTUS regarding the sluggish process of applying for disability and antiquated means of qualifying, when people like me are clearly disabled but can’t qualify because science hasn’t caught up to our diseases. This woman was a staff member of the Obama administration and she had the unfortunate task to call me the day after the shitty election to talk to me about my letter to make sure my immediate needs were being met. I assured her that my hospital bed finally came through (it should be here in a few hours this morning) after trying to get it since January. Then we talked about how my current governor chose to expand medical assistance (“Medicaid”) to everyone at or under a certain income level (which comes out to be around 120% of the poverty level, or $1313/month for a single person without children in my case). In two years when my governor’s term is up and he has indicated that he will not be seeking another term, our new governor has the option of continuing this, or only allowing people with children and/or only allowing people who are federally recognized as disabled (which I cannot get) to continue receiving medical assistance.

So to be clear, I could lose my last line of access to healthcare. I confirmed that with her because I just needed to say it. We both cried on the phone together.

She gave me her phone number and told me to call her in case I had any follow-up questions for her. I will call her this week to see if she has any connections at the NIH to see if I can get anyone to reconsider my case, but I think that’s all that I can ask of her.

There are so many things rolling around about Trump already. I’m not sure I can remember all of them and they change hourly, so please excuse my imperfect recall. First, there are rumors flying about his desire to only spend part of his time in the White House in D.C., and part of his time in his place in Manhattan. It can be argued that not all presidents lived at the White House 100% of the time, but that was probably before there was electricity and running water and the Secret Service and, you know, technology. It’s not like his Manhattan penthouse has a bunker in case he starts a nuclear war by being a complete asshole – and let’s get real, it’s not such a far-fetched expectation.

I’m not sure what to think about him actually making it to the swearing in ceremony. Is he truly going to trial for rape and false imprisonment of girls under the age of 18? Are those cases going to suddenly disappear just because some judge is going to feel sorry for a guy who has been elected, just like judges feel sorry for star athletes?

And Jesus H., why isn’t anyone bothered by how many times he has filed bankruptcy? When I worked for Bank of America, we had to pass strict financial checks, and I just worked in the tech area. We couldn’t be hired on if we had bad credit including bankruptcies or foreclosures or judgments. Also, during my years as an escrow assistant, I was especially skeeved out when I had to work with mortgage brokers who had no scruples about giving financial advice to customers when I knew that the brokers themselves were on their own fourth or fifth bankruptcy filing (they told me how they played the Ch. 13 system before the laws were made more strict).

After his first visit with Obama, he walked out telling everyone that he wasn’t going to reverse everything about the Affordable Care Act, specifically the bits about the pre-existing conditions. That means that he has already reversed one thing he promised the ignorant, writhing masses who were convinced that “Obamacare” was responsible for their rising premiums – not the greed of the insurance companies trying to make a profit off of our bodies at the widest margins possible.

So if Trump doesn’t get sworn in, does that mean we’re stuck with Pence? I’m screwed with him too, since I no longer have my uterus, and he thinks that’s all that I’m good for – bearing babies and overpopulating the earth. That’s all he’s concerned about. Read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood for reference.

On Thursday I had my very first psych evaluation test, ordered by a neurologist I met on Monday. It took about six hours to go through everything and I was mentally exhausted. It’s one thing to explain to doctors that I lose my words when I’m speaking and writing (you can’t see it, but sometimes it takes me 7-8 tries to write words that used to come easily to me), so this test was supposed to help pinpoint my deficiencies. From what I could tell I had pretty good picture and spatial cognition, but when it came to actual word gymnastics, I had a really hard time. One really painful portion of the testing was coming up with words that began with a particular letter. I think we did four or five letters total, but I only remember two letters – “A” and “S”. With the letter “S” I came up with about 10-12 words in 60 seconds that had multiple syllables, and with the letter “A” I came up with about 5 words and they were 1 to 2 syllables at most. It felt like the bottom of my mind had dropped out. This is actually what happens now on a regular basis and is one of the reasons that before every phone call I make I get a fair amount of anxiety, even if it’s just to make an appointment.

So after I went through all of that (I won’t get results for at least a few weeks), I got my usual cab ride/medical transport. I’ve been taking pictures of the cabbies and asking them questions and posting everything on Instagram. I asked this particular driver what he thought about the election because he was an immigrant and had only been living here in the U.S. for five years. He said he supported Trump because “Obama hadn’t done everything he promised to since he was elected.” I was absolutely floored. This guy was everything Trump (and all of Trump’s supporters) hated. I feel like his safety is at risk and I don’t want him to find out the hard way. I feel like all of us are at risk.

All of us, that is, unless you are a white guy between the age of 18-70 and you’re telling everyone else that they have to adapt to Trump/Pence and that you’ll be “fine” having your rights and/or access to basics taken away from you. Because, you know, ‘Murica.

This Will Help You To Be Curvy In All The Right Places (“Posture Pump” Sponsored Post)

Please note: I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

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Three decades ago, my classmates would endlessly remark upon my excellent posture. I was attending a high school for the arts (think “Fame!”) and my art area was theater, but of course like most students there, I dabbled in multiple areas, so I picked up some things from dancing. Even when we sat on the floor of our black box theater in a circle I wouldn’t slouch. I wanted to have a strong back.

Boy, I miss those days. I’m 42 years old now, and I’ve spent the last six years in bed because of a mystery problem with my cerebrospinal fluid that is made worse when I sit upright. Laying in bed has weakened my core muscles and changed the natural curvature of both my cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) spine so my spine doesn’t have the “S” shape it should. For the most part I lay flat but I elevate my head slightly so that I can see my keyboard of my laptop, which is propped up on my stomach by a tilted laptop cooler.

For the last twenty years I’ve worked in some capacity in the technical field thanks to a boyfriend getting me interested in computers fairly early in my adulthood. Strangely enough, the posture of the techie and the posture that I find myself in when I am on bed rest are very similar: It’s an annoying “tech neck.” People in the technical field, and in fact, people who are stuck in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day end up in the same pose: shoulders slouched, head thrust forward, neck vertebrae compacted and misaligned.

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Now that I’m pointing it out, you might even be shifting around in your seat to correct your posture, or noticing it more in the people around you, like pedestrians crossing the street who won’t even look up from their smart phones. Yep – there’s the “tech neck.”

How about a visual?

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Even the slightest tilt of the head forward puts tremendous strain on the neck muscles and bones. Rather than adjusting the screen to a higher elevation, we tend to alter the position of our heads so that we are constantly in a hunched-over position – and we wonder why we have so many headaches!

But now that there’s been years of damage done, sitting up straight isn’t going to cure the numbness and tingling in your arms and fingers, or the stiffness in your neck. Of course, do sit up straight, and do take up your company’s offer to bring in someone who is trained in proper ergonomics for adjustments to your desk, but in the meantime (and for the long run), this product can offer you immediate relief. Sometimes it takes a village, right?

There is a family of products available through the Posture Pump® company for back and neck problems that addresses multiple issues, and the Posture Pump® Dual Disc Hydrator® (Model 1400-D) is going to save my neck.

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I already have spondylosis, which is a very technical and general way of saying that I have degeneration of the spine, and stenosis, which is a narrowing of the canal where the spinal cord passes through the vertebrae. I’ve got pain and stiffness, and my arms are tingling and spontaneously going numb because of the degeneration and narrowing happening in my neck.

Here’s a video on the Posture Pump® Dual Disc Hydrator® (Model 1400-D) and you can easily see how it works and how it can help you.  Click on the link below.

Click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6mjIKA_nDo&feature=youtu.be

To summarize, there are two air chambers that work on the neck and upper back area to realign the vertebrae to the natural “S” curve and relieve the pressure from the “tech neck” we have unwittingly positioned ourselves into. Ultimately the neck then benefits by being able to get nutrients and hydration to the discs in the spine, and range of motion improves. And headaches? What headaches? Wouldn’t it be nice to send those packing? You just need to lie on a flat, firm surface, strap yourself into the Posture Pump® Dual Disc Hydrator® (Model 1400-D) , and use the dual hand controls to get relief in just a few minutes’ time.

Here is a direct link to the product page: Posture Pump Dual Disc Hydrator Model 1400-D
For this item only, the company is offering a discount of 15%; just enter Z15 as the coupon code when checking out.

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This product is made in the U.S. with quality materials that are meant to last – one lady has had her Posture Pump® for a decade! The company has other items that may serve you well too – check them out! Posture Pump

The Good Doctor

The colder weather is creeping in, and the vines that have clung to the outside of my building and my window in particular have changed to a bright red, signaling shorter daylight hours. The school of thought used to be that the cold stopped the leaves from keeping their green; instead, now we know that it’s the actual length of daylight hours that makes the leaves change from green to gold and red and burgundy.
2016-10-18-14-14-03Now that we are staying inside more, bacteria are just rolling around and proliferating like little Tasmanian devils. The little jerks caught up with me. First I caught the flu, and after five days of that it turned into a double ear infection (the nurse practitioner said both ears were severely affected but neither had perforated, luckily). Three days later I developed bronchitis…because why not?

In the middle of that mess while I was running a fever, I kept my appointment with my GI doctor because he’s very much booked ahead of time and it would take me months to get another appointment. I desperately need my medication for acid reflux because missing it for even a few hours is agony, plus I needed to discuss my new MCAS diagnosis with him so he would understand the importance of keeping me on the medications. He mentioned at my last appointment in February that he wanted to wean me off of the medications because he didn’t want me to develop long-term usage side effects like osteoporosis. Now it looks like I’m just going to have to live with it and be the old lady hunched over the shopping cart.

I had forgotten between February and now how much I like Dr. Chaudhary. I’m even going to use his real name because that’s how much I like him – no need to hide him behind behind a stage name. He is one of the few doctors who has not sent me away and he is not intimidated by the complexity of my body.

Dr. Chaudhary knows my primary care doctor, and so we chatted about her for a moment. Then we talked about my new diagnosis, and I thought ahead of time to bring the paper copy of Dr. Afrin’s notes. I knew Dr. Chaudhary would have access to Dr. Afrin’s notes in the system even though they belong to two different practices, but because Dr. Afrin’s notes are INSANE – and they are – I thought it would be better to bring the paper so he could flip instead of scroll.

Dr. Chaudhary paused and looked at me and said, “Can I be honest with you? I want to be honest with you.” I told him yes, that would be fine. He said, “I don’t think that Dr. Afrin can help you with the problem with the CSF, sweetie.” I immediately started to get teary-eyed, but told him that that was what I was thinking too, it’s just a very emotional conclusion for me, and he said he understood. (Even as I’m writing this, I am crying.) Dr. Chaudhary said that Dr. Afrin will probably get a lot of the other stuff under control if we can get the right combination of medicine going. I obviously know the drill.

Dr. Chaudhary then asked me who my neurosurgeon was. I had to explain to him how I had tried to go through every healthcare system in Minneapolis/St. Paul, as well as the Mayo, as well as petition to be sent to Johns Hopkins and to the Cleveland Clinic, but was turned down every time (the doctor handed me a tissue). I also told him about the three doctors at the U of M who misdiagnosed me and how it affected my request with the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Network turning me down, and how my primary care doctor didn’t advocate for me. He seemed especially troubled by the last bit because she was his former student and co-worker but he didn’t ask any further questions on that matter. I asked Dr. Chaudhary if he had any connections, but he said that the one person he would send me to went back to India about five years ago, so that was no longer an option.

This whole exchange about my ongoing neurological mystery took about 7 minutes. What makes him a good doctor – hell, a GREAT doctor – is that neurology is NOT his area. Dr. Chaudhary still talked to me as if I knew what I was talking about, and he certainly didn’t offer up lame diagnoses like myasthenia gravis which has nothing to do with me (ahem, University of Minnesota Neurosurgery and Neurologists!). A friend asked what made him a good doctor. To me, a good doctor isn’t one that is just empathetic or sympathetic, because quite frankly, I get that all day long. Dr. Chaudhary is invested. All I can say to that is you know it when you see it.

I got my scripts refilled. As he was leaving, Dr. Chaudhary said, “I will always remember you. You are my patient who is the opposite of the doll – you stand up and your eyes close, and you lay down and your eyes open! Take care, my dear. Do not give up. I know it is hard, but do not give up.

I wish all of my doctors could be like him.

Can’t Find What You’re Looking For? Try The Thesaurus!

This was cute. Normally I’m not a fan of the Copy-and-Paste-Monster, because clearly the man is sending out hundreds of messages and just waiting to see who responds, but this guy either didn’t ask a friend for a second opinion before he started sending his out en masse or he had great confidence in his writing skills. Whatever the reason, enjoy:

Hello hope this finds you well!
I wanted to take a moment of your time and introduce myself, my name is J++++++n.
I have read your profile and really liked what you said concise and interesting.
Anyways you seem like a very interesting person to me and I would enjoy getting to know you better. Check my profile and hopefully there’s something that will interest you and if so, and you are interestead feel free to write me back.
Have a great day.

(Just as a reminder, this is what my profile says:
*******I’M ALLERGIC TO:********

– Hookups, FWB, DTF
– Threesomes, foursomes or moresomes
– All animals furred or feathered (even “hypoallergenic” animals), though I love them
– Misogynistic behavior
– Lame excuses
– Cheaters, liars, thieves
– Poor dental hygiene
– Conspiracy theorists
– Stalkers
– Contemporary country music, rap, hip hop
– Republicans
– Being called “cutie”
– Organized religion or prayer

What I’m doing with my life: Writing articles regarding rare and chronic diseases, trying to find the joy in life with new restrictions. Seriously – there is no way “arrow root pudding” is a real dessert!

I spend a lot of time thinking about: the fact that no one wanted to share a deep, dark secret, so OKC took that question away.

You should contact me if:
– You practice kindness and wit.
– You strive to live an authentic life.
– You are not addicted to beverages or chemicals.
– You are a non-smoker (of all things) and don’t use chew/snuff (ever).
– We live in the same country; my preference is to connect with someone in the same metro area because I dislike long distance relationships.
– You understand that no means no.
– You know and use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
– You would like me to proofread your profile for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
_____________________________________________________________

You would think that with just the basics, there would be at least a few things to chat about, even if it’s “Why can’t I snort coke off your tits?” – if you remember, that’s a gem from a previous OKCupid guy. Anyway, I would be interested to know why the guy doesn’t know any other term to use besides interested because there’s a whole world of knowledge out there on Thesaurus.com.)

********Fun fact:  In the time it took to sign on and copy my profile to this post, 23 guys looked at my OKCupid profile! Dangit, there’s going to be more material soon, I can just feel it. Breaking hearts and taking screen names……

Nothing Like Designer Jeans

I’m listening to Pandora right now, and Whitesnake’s “Is This Love” happens to be playing. What were the hottest jeans from 1988? Maybe they were Guess?, maybe they were Girbaud (with the little loop at the top of the fly). I remember that it was important for guys to have Levi’s, at least in the little town where I was attending school when Tawny Kitaen was straddling two Jaguars.

There’s trends in medicine too. Remember how just over a century ago, no one really had a grasp on how important it was to wash your hands? And remember how 80 years ago, antibiotics were just around the corner, but before they were available to the general public, syphilis could very well be a death sentence? But it’s not so much trends as it is that we become more aware and educated.

Medicine attempted to treat PTSD in soldiers and document it for as long as wars have been fought. Different names have been attached to it; “Soldier’s heart” for the Civil War, “shell shock” for World War I; and “Combat Stress Reaction” for World War II.

After WWII, the American Psychiatric Association worked to put together a label that would apply to all symptoms that would appear as a result of traumatic events, not just war. It has actually been through five revisions to date and includes four different types of symptoms: reliving the traumatic event (also called re-experiencing or intrusion); avoiding situations that are reminders of the event; negative changes in beliefs and feelings; and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal or over-reactive to situations). Most people experience some of these symptoms after a traumatic event, so PTSD is not diagnosed unless all four types of symptoms last for at least a month and cause significant distress or problems with day-to-day functioning (see PTSD: National Center for PTSD ).

Since I’m part of the Chronic Illness Bloggers network, I’ve been able to read a lot of my fellow bloggers’ unique perspectives, and more than once I’ve seen references come up about PTSD in medical settings. I cannot believe what some of you have had to endure. I worry about putting on my Girbaud jeans and raising my hand and saying “Me too,” but after having many discussions with my counselor, she has confirmed that I indeed have PTSD triggered by my experiences brought on by this mystery disease.

Was there one big bang? I don’t think so, just like there isn’t one big battle in war, but a whole war. There were certain things that were especially traumatic. The time that my neurosurgeon stood in the doorway of my hospital room on the night of my birthday in 2013 after my fourth surgery and told me he would have to send me home nearly blind because he was just in there and it had to be something else, not a shunt failure was especially traumatic (turns out that it was a kink in the shunt that developed that would not have been discovered if I would not have thrown a hysterical fit to have a nuclear shunt study performed).

One story that I told to my counselor in this week’s session happened January 2014. 2013 was my big year of surgeries – six in all. I got to know my symptoms of shunt failure really well, plus I figured out that I was making copious scar tissue and adhering the shunt to my chest and abdominal wall. At various times I also leaked great big pools of CSF out of my spine so that I had a softball-sized vat of fluid sitting on my back, and a more dangerous situation of having a shunt in my brain and another one in my back, making it harder to control pressure.

My last surgery in 2013 was December 21st; that was when my neurosurgeon finally believed me after 2.5 years that I was allergic to the shunt, when he saw for himself that my abdomen was red and inflamed, like a “war zone,” as he put it. I told him that I needed to see an immunologist and a rheumatologist, but he said that I was “taking it too far.”

A month later, my shunt clogged or strangled again and it was adhered to my abdomen by scar tissue. I went to the ER and saw the on-call neurosurgeon, someone I had never seen before but who was with Barrow Neurological like my neurosurgeon and had access to all of the notes from my surgeries and could talk to my neurosurgeon. I demonstrated for him my usual problem when my shunt isn’t working and my symptoms come back: when I’m upright, my face is paralyzed and I can’t open my eyes; when I lay down, my eyes immediately open because the fluid moves away from the brain stem. When I sit back up, the fluid moves back to the brain stem and presses on the nerves again.

The neurosurgeon went away. The regular ER doctor came in and said I had a clear case of a classic migraine headache. I told him it was ridiculous and asked if anyone read my notes from my chart from all of my other admissions and surgeries, and he said he didn’t know, but that was what the on-call neurosurgeon said. Then he handed me a prescription for opioids. I was absolutely floored. I demonstrated for him what happens when I put my head parallel to the floor – my eyes open – and what happens when I’m upright, and asked him if that’s “typical migraine symptoms,” and he said he didn’t know, but that was what he was told, so that was it. I told him it was bullshit (never raising the volume of my voice, by the way). I told him that if they discharged me, I was going to turn around and ask to be admitted again. He told me they would refuse to treat me. I asked him why he prescribed pain medication for me when I wasn’t in pain, my shunt was simply clogged. He said that with patients with clogged shunts, they always get headaches, so if that was really my problem, I should have a headache. Then he left.

I was openly crying and shaking. The nurse came in and her whole demeanor toward me changed. She told me that I had to stop being abusive to them, they were just trying to help me; all the while I couldn’t even speak, I was so stunned. Then she yanked the IV out of my arm without putting pressure on the puncture so that I bled all over and then snidely said, “Oh, look at that, you’re a bleeder!” I just sobbed harder. She left the curtained room and I shut the curtain and cleaned myself up and managed to get changed. She came back with the discharge papers. I asked her if she could walk me out of the maze of the ER back to the lobby. By then it was 4 a.m. and quiet. She told me that she was too busy and that I had to find my own way out. My room was next to the nurse’s station, and many of the night ER staff had congregated there and were observing the exchange. They could also see that I had a cane and paralyzed eyelids that were mostly closed; one offered to help, but my nurse said, “She’s fine.” Another person asked me if that was true, but I couldn’t speak. I just kept walking. You could have heard a pin drop.

I finally made it out to the now-empty ER lobby and managed to call a cab and directed my face to the windows so I could watch for the familiar colors of the cab company. When the pressure gets bad, that’s all I can do – make out shapes and colors.

When I contacted my neurosurgeon’s office after that visit, I discovered that he actually upheld the on-call neurosurgeon’s decision to diagnose me as having a migraine episode, even though my neurosurgeon had been following me for 2.5 years and knew my symptoms just as well as I did at that point and performed all 8 of my surgeries to date. Everything that I have told my neurosurgeon that has been wrong with my body has been completely correct, and for him to suddenly go with something as far-fetched and outlandish as to describe this as a migraine episode immediately caused me to distrust him deeply. Before I would have talked to anyone who would listen about how great he was about thinking outside the box; after that I only hoped to survive.

Because of this horrible ER visit, I went home and started stretching my torso because I could tell that the shunt was adhering again to my abdomen only 3-4 weeks after the previous surgery. It was the only thing I could think to do. In the process, I managed to stretch so vigorously that there was a tug of war internally and I created a break in the shunt, which led to a leak…and because my neurosurgeon finally conceded that my demand to get an immunologist and a rheumatologist involved in my care was actually very practical, he refused to fix my leaking shunt for almost a year, which was EXTREMELY painful.

But that’s another story.

Back to PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t reserved for those who only experience war, or even a natural disaster. It certainly applies to anyone who has been abused in a relationship.

And it certainly applies to me. And I’m not even done with the war. I’m not even “post” anything yet. 

2016-10-01-12-51-21

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?