Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What did I do to deserve this?

Usually I ask that question when I'm utterly miserable, physical agony or emotional anguish. But this time I'm just puzzled. I have several friends who love me. I mean, really, really love me. Even though we've never met in person. They say things like:

i am always here,if you want to /need to talk sometimes it helps. if there is anything i can do ,please write,no judgement, just love.i know we do not know each other well,but you have a friend in me,please know that. thank you for showing concern,and for your message. .again,if you want to reach out, i offer my friendship with open arms and an open heart. YOU ARE TOO BEAUTIFUL NOT TO SHINE YOUR LIGHT

Wow. No words. Just -- wow. I guess that means I have to keep going.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pain managed?

Went to a smart and funny pain management specialist. He was very impressed with the comprehensive paperwork I'd completed (he shouldn't have been, I'm a social worker), and did some tests that had never been done before. He looked at how I walk -- apparently I don't use my toes enough -- palpated my sacroileac, which was very sore, and agreed with me that I don't need strengthening PT. I need to treat my poplitear tendinosis.

I wasn't surprised. Last month I went to a very snide orthopedist and told him I thought I had poplitear tendinitis. (Okay, so I was a little off. When you Google "popliteus tendonosis," you get no answers.)

"Do you know where the popliteus is?" Dr. Pompous asked pointedly.

If I didn't, how would I know to think there was something wrong with it?

I pointed to the tender spot behind my knee. My chiropractor had alerted me to it, saying it was spasming and could be causing the knee pain. But Dr. Pompous disagreed and prescribed strengthening PT for my patellofemoral syndrome. Which I knew from my brilliant chiropractor (who has by now helped me all he can) was not necessary. I spent a month doing quadricep strengthening exercises rigorously, and it did not help one bit. That led me to conclude that I did not have patellofemoral syndrome.

"I saw an orthopedist last year, who diagnosed me with patellofemoral syndrome," I said. "Also golfer's elbow. He gave me two sets of exercises, and I did all of them rigorously, twice a day. My elbow got better, my knees didn't. His diagnosis was wrong."

Never tell a surgeon that another surgeon was wrong.

"That doesn't mean the other orthopedist's diagnosis was wrong," said Dr. Pompous in baneful tones. "Up to 30% of patients don't recover. I'm prescribing strengthening exercises."

Jackass. So, a month later, I finally land in pain management, because the chiropractor can't help me any longer and doesn't know why I'm in so much pain. And I'm really hoping Dr. Dashing is right.

Dr. Dashing examined me with a fellow in the room, which was awesome, because he had to explain everything he was doing and why. Often when you're being examined the doctor pushes this and pokes that but doesn't give you a play-by-play, they just summarize at the end. This time I understood everything he was looking at and what it meant.

"Take off your shoes and walk down the hall," he said. I started down the hall. "Come back now." I turned around and came back. "Go back down the hall. You see?" he said to the fellow. "She's landing on the balls of her feet, not her toes."

Suddenly I felt very conscious of my toes. I generally only think of them when I'm getting a pedicure or have an ingrown toenail. It apparently affected my gait.

"Now she's landing on her toes," continued Dr. Dashing. We all laughed. It was cool; he wasn't making fun of me. After all, he respected my handy way with extensive paperwork and my comedic timing. Probably that is why I think he is funny.

So a few things. In addition to not utilizing my toes when I walk, my heels are drifting and my patellae are "tracking." This means that I am now supposed to imprison my feet in shoes with a closed heel, also known as a "heel counter." Which irritates me no end, as my favorite shoes are mules and my feet like the open air. And heels chafe. Feets don't fail me now? Too late.

Poplitear tendinosis is so rare that Dr. Dashing could not find its ICD-9 code for the PT referral, even after consulting the ICD database (which is proprietary) and Google. Which was also hilarious and felt kind of validating. There's a reason nobody knew what was wrong with me -- it's rare. Not that I'm honored. Although I might be if he publishes a journal article about me. So I'm going for PT, and I'm going back to Dr. Dash in a week for an injection to ease my excessively tender sacroiliac.

I'm not sure if my back hurts because I injured it in October 2000, I was hit by a car in October 2009, I have fibroids (5 days after the ultrasound I'm still bleeding; I'll see my gynecologist in two days, but the good news is that the fibroids haven't grown significantly, although that does make me wonder why I'm bleeding), or I have such a severe bladder infection that I have to take the vicious poison masquerading as an antibiotic, Bactrim. Never again. Today is my last day on it before I switch to Macrobid; I ache all over, my eyes are burning, and I feel feverish. Like the flu with no congestive symptoms.

But I trust Dr. Dashing, and I'm going to ask if any fellows want to sit in on the sacroiliac injection -- a procedure that apparently isn't done very often but Dr. Dashing thinks it should. Not because I'm an exhibitionist but because I like hearing the backstory.

It reminded me of my hospitalization after my suicide attempt. At another teaching hospital. I woke up from the coma with pneumonia, either acquired at the hospital or via aspiration. Med students trooped into my ICU room several times a day to listen to my lungs. One had trouble and said, "Can you take a deeper breath? I can't hear anything."

The last med student heard plenty, I wanted to say, but I obliged her.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blame it on the bladder infection

(Again, males and squeamish readers might not want to read this)

On the advice of my chiropractor, I bought a computer chair. After sitting in it all day the day before yesterday, I was in serious pain. I considered getting a footstool, but I think I'm going to have to return it. A day after pushing it aside, my glutes are still burning and my lower back aches. For a while, I couldn't tell if my knees hurt because my back hurt so much.

Yesterday I went for my cystoscopy. I forgot to mention my bladder in the list of body parts that have disappointed me. While on leave, I decided to address my ongoing UTI problem. But I've been annoyed with this urology practice from the start. At my first appointment (which I made to see Dr. A and was told upon sign-in I'd see Dr. B), I waited two hours to see Dr. C, who prescribed Keflex. He said I needed a sonogram and a cystoscopy, so at the reception desk I scheduled an appointment for a sonogram.

"Do I get it here or at another site?" I asked.

"You can get it here," she said. The employees run the place with the cheerful efficiency of the DMV. Nobody seemed happy to be working there; nobody was friendly; nobody smiled. And I came down with bronchitis two days later -- possibly because I was sitting in a waiting room with sick people for two hours.

Two weeks later, I arrived for my sonogram.

"You can't get that here," said the receptionist. "Your insurance won't cover in-office procedures."

"But I asked that when I made the appointment!" I said. She wasn't budging. "Ma'am, I'm just an employee," she said. Sure. Like the one who said I could have my sonogram there. I threw a mini-diva fit and insisted on speaking to a doctor. He got me an appointment that morning a few blocks away. The results weren't abnormal (although the tech was impressed by my extensive fibroid growth).

So, my cystoscopy. I arrived on time and they gave me a shot of Valium. After which the doctor came in and said, "Don't worry, it's no big deal -- it's easier than a pap smear."

Couldn't you have told me that before I was sedated? I have to say, though, that either it was over very quickly or Valium -- like all benzos, "Milk of Amnesia" -- made it seem like two seconds.

(When I had my first gingival graft, my dentist asked if I wanted Valium. "Sure," I said. "Five or 10 mg?" he asked. More is better, right? I opted for 10. I lay down in the chair, he bent over me, and then I was standing next to the reception desk, swaying a bit.

"Next procedure, you're only getting 5 mg," said my dentist sternly.)

Upshot: my bladder is severely inflamed, and I have to take antibiotics for a month. Strong antibiotics: Bactrim for a week and Macrobid for a month. Which are making me very nauseated. I wasn't sure if they were giving me a headache, but I developed one a few hours after taking my first Bactrim horse pill. Of course, that could be because I came home, wolfed down some food (no breakfast before a cystoscopy), and took a 4-hour nap.

Then off for two sonograms to check on my fibroids. Which are as much fun as you'd expect. For the transabdominal, you have to drink 4 glasses of water and wait an hour. With my sensitive bladder, I cheated and only drank 3. Fortunately, that was enough. Then after voiding, I had to endure the transvaginal. There was a lot of blood on the probe after she removed it, and my last period was 2 weeks ago. I think it's from the bladder infection, but I'm not 100% sure. I'm seeing my doctor on Monday, to go over more paperwork, so I will let him know. It might just be my body flushing out the bacteria.

Sorry if that is TMI.

Rounding out the day, I had a mammogram, which was so painful that I cried. My head was pounding, my back ached, my stomach was in nauseated knots. When I got home I didn't want to talk to anyone, which is why people kept calling and IMing me. (Why doesn't that happen when I'm feeling lonely?)

Right now my back still hurts, but the nausea is better. So hopefully I'm getting used to the Bactrim. I also started taking a probiotic supplement. And tonight I go for my first hypnosis session.

Why is it so painful being me? I'm trying not to be anxious about the job situation, but my savings are dwindling. And I can't go back to that commute. It almost killed me. I'm very frustrated and apprehensive. At my last job, I made a number of mistakes and pissed people off. At this job, I didn't. It feels like even when I do all the right things, I still get the shit kicked out of me by the universe.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Philippe the Phreak, or, Don't knock Ayelet's instincts

A new person joined my Middle-Aged Jews on Facebook group. I will refer to all commenters by their initials, with a lower-case "m" or "f" appended to indicate gender.

DPm: Welcome to the group Philippe! Give us a holler when you are coming to the States

SAf: Hello Philippe!

SPf: welcome Philippe!

Ayelet: bienvenue Philippe

Philippe: Waw what a welcoming! Halevay I would be accepted like this in all circles! God Bless you all!

Makes me wonder: where exactly isn't he accepted?

After a few more generic "welcome"s, another person chimed in:

RHf: Hallo, Philippe! Welcome, Welcome..What's the weather like in France today? We are a friendly bunch...

Philippe: Cloudy and raining! :(

I'll still try to be nice, because everyone tells me I judge people too quickly.

Ayelet: We'll try to send some sunshine your way, Philippe ;)

Philippe: thats very kind of you all! You are such sweethearts! I wish all girls and women were like you here!!!

Hmm. How many bad experiences with girls and women has he had... and why?

PSf: awww - we "spread the love" my dear !

Philippe: I like that very much PS! I love to spread the love as well! I love you all with all my heart and soul.

You just met us, Philippe. Still, I accepted his friend request and we emailed a bit:

Philippe: Bonjour Ayelet, I don’t know what language to write you because you wrote me in French while you live in the states! I would like to thank you for your heartwarming welcoming me! I do really appreciate it from you! It’s a shame we live so far from each other away! Yours, with love, Philippe

Okay, maybe it’s the language barrier. And his English is definitely much better than my French. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy. I’ll be nice.

Ayelet: English is better. My French is extremely limited. It is a shame we're so far apart, but we can still get to know each other.

Philippe: Indeed we can! I am born and raised in Marseilles, France! I am looking for a wife... I am still single and never married so I don’t have a package! 

I think he means “baggage.”

Philippe: I am almost 32 and I am looking for a girl or a woman. Almost all ages are for me. Preferably I would like to have a older wife or older woman to be my wife.

Ayelet: The group you joined is for people 35 and older. Most of us are over 40.

Philippe: thats lovely! thats what I actually am looking for! do you think that there might be one woman who likes younger guys?

That’s distinctly odd. In theory, I think all men should be that open to dating older women. But I sense there’s something off about this guy.

Ayelet: Why do you want a woman 8 or more years older than you are?

Philippe: They are more mature and more serious when it comes to dating. They had already the experience from were they have learned I hope valuable lessons! They won’t fool you around like young chicks do.

He’s wrong. He definitely has a package.

Ayelet: Sounds like you've had a lot of bad experiences with women your own age and younger.

A nice generic social-worker question, designed to get someone to open up. Must have been force of habit.

Philippe: yes I have! it was terrible

I know I complain about dating. Do I sound like that? He sounds weird to me. Then Philippe posted in the group, and he really let his phreak phlag phly.

Philippe: As it is a group for singles why not presenting myself here and the one who might be interested in me could send me a note in private for more detail or asking maybe specific questions or maybe even ask me to go out with somebody, who knows. I am Philippe from France. I have been growing up here since ever. Raised and grew up here, went to Jewish schools.

Today I am looking to date for serious relationships. I am a fun guy to be with if you are open to get to know me. I can be serious as well. I keep Shabbat and kosher. I go on Saturdays to synagogue. For more information, please contact me! Don’t be shy, shyness will lead you to nowhere and it will keep you alone for your whole life. So please, don’t be shy! 

That’s a little... overeager. But maybe the dating pool is much smaller in France and he's already gone through all the eligibles.

Philippe: Oh and by the way, I am 32 years old. Ok, I admit somewhat too young for this group but I would like to date for serious and getting to know nice and serious women out there which I haven’t found till now dating young hot chicks. Please contact me if you are interested. I would like and love to meet older women! For all of you out there, much success!!

People started commenting. Mostly female people.

LGf: You had me until 'young, hot chicks'. Chicks prefer not to referred to as chicks.

Philippe: they themselfs are saying to me that they prefer to be called that

Where, in biker bars?

Philippe: I had with someone an argument that this is not the way they want to be referred by it and she then said: by you its different because you may say so but you at least treat a woman like a queen when it comes to "tachlis" and other treat woman like "sh...". Those are not my words. BTW, LG, I never had you in the first place!

"I never had you"? That must be language-related.

SPf: ? Philippe, the way it is worded ('Ok, I admit somewhat too young for this group but I would like to date for serious and getting to know nice and serious women out there which I haven’t found till now dating young hot chicks') makes me feel like you are saying you have been idling your time going out with 'young hot chicks', but now are ready to be serious with not young not hot chicks - does that make sense? do you see how it could be taken as a negative and not a compliment? I find the term 'chick' for a woman to be degrading.

Not everyone was skeptical.

RLf: Nah, I just see it as Philippe's young and he's tired of the silly, dilly women he's been dating. And now wants to meet more mature young women. :)

SPf: and who might prefer not being called chicks!

MBf: <---young hot chick

It's a diverse group.

Philippe: Indeed I have been dating ugly, silly, dumb, young girls. I am tired of that. What I mean to say by hot chicks is that the girls I have been dating think that they are hot and so allow themselves to reject any man they really want and so giving a hard time for those who really want to date for serious and really get into a serious relationship.

I am not complimenting hot chicks on their natural beauty because they didn’t do a thing to be like that. It’s their mom and dad who made her hot like that and that hotty won’t stay long so they want to take advantage of it. Well not for me.

A real nice girl wouldn’t behave like that and let suffering guys like that. And why do the guys have to go all the way to the girl so she'd be able to reject me from her couch? Hell no! Not any more. You wanna date me, do an effort so that you will think twice before dumping somebody and causing pain.

Feel the pain as a guy has to go always and do all the efforts to see her. Therefore I don’t travel any more and if I do travel I want her at least to pay for my expenses. that would be 50/50 and equal for both of us or if she comes to see me I would pay for her but I know from experience that any girl would never come, and why is that, do you think??

Because you’re a Phreak and emotionally damaged in any language? And I thought Ayelet was bitter. I decided not to get involved, but it wasn’t that easy, because he emailed me again:

Philippe: haha are you a bitch?
you are a child too?
hahaha
I also am a sinner

I have a quote from Meredith Brook’s song “Bitch” on my FB profile.

Ayelet: It's a quote from a song.

Philippe: there is a lot to read, maybe I'll do that some other time
oh ok I see,are you a nurse or a doctor?

I didn’t answer immediately.

Philippe: hello, are you ok? did I say something that made you mad at me?

Not exactly. More like scared.

Ayelet: no... sorry, it's been a busy day

Not really busy -- I went to the chiropractor, I bought a computer chair, I had a disappointing date -- but I just didn’t feel like talking to him.

Philippe: oops, ok I am really sorry
I won’t bother you now then, have a good evening and be well

Ayelet: bon soir

He didn’t take the hint. Or keep his word. Maybe I should have said "bonne nuite." Two hours later he IMed me.

Philippe: ? hi

Ayelet: hi... sorry, I’m not in the mood to chat right now

Nothing personal, I just don’t feel like chatting. Anyone would understand and respect that. Right?

Philippe: what is mood?

For cryin’ out loud, use Google Translate! He didn’t, so I did.

Ayelet: pas dans l'humeur

Normally if you say “I’m not in the mood to chat,” people STOP trying to chat you up. Not Philippe.

Philippe: what happened? there must be something that happened?!!!
j'ai compris! merci!

I’m not going to tell a total stranger how I feel! Well. . . not unless I blog about it. Why can’t he take the hint?? (Starting to understand why dating hasn’t worked out so well for him.)

Ayelet: I just don't feel like chatting right now!

He won’t let it go.

Philippe: why is that that women have moods like that and men dont? Are you in menopause?

WHAT THE -- ??????????????? Not only is he rude for not leaving me alone, that is a HORRIBLE question to ask someone in her early 40s!!!

I lost patience.

Ayelet: NO! How can you ask such a personal question???? I'm tired and I dont' feel like chatting with someone I dont know!

You can tell by the typos how annoyed I am.

Philippe: so why are you acting like that? I can ask whatever I want and if you dont like it, please dont like it! but I am asking myself why woman have always those moods? its not when it will come to speaking to guys and you say that you are not in the mood.

Clearly this is NEVER going to go anywhere.

Ayelet: It is late. I am tired. I told you I didn't want to speak, and instead of saying "good night" and trying to chat another time, you are still trying to get me to chat.

Philippe: good night, bye!

Let’s hope so. I really hope it's true, as my girlfriends and I always say, that all the good Jewish guys are married. And I hope they're having kids. Because if the future of the Jewish nation depends on people like me and Philippe the Phreak, we are really doomed.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Blame it on the fibroids

(Warning to my male readers: You may want to skip this post)

I went to the gynecologist last week, and he is sending me for abdominal ultrasounds to monitor my burgeoning fibroids. Which may be at the root of some of my problems. I looked up common symptoms of fibroids; the ones I suffer are in bold type:
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), sometimes with the passage of blood clots
  • Menstrual periods that may last longer than normal
  • Need to urinate more often
  • Pelvic cramping or pain with periods
  • Sensation of fullness or pressure in lower abdomen
  • Pain during intercourse
I've always had long periods. Minimum seven days; lately more like 8 or 9. I never knew how to categorize "heavy" menstrual bleeding, but lately I've noticed some clots. I get cramps, but nothing paralyzing. And I need to urinate 50 times a day. I thought it was either because I'm taking lithium, which is excreted in sweat and urine, or because of my frequent UTIs.

Frequent UTIs, did you say? Here are the complications of uterine fibroids, or rather, the complication most relevant to Ayelet:
  • Urinary tract infections, if pressure from the fibroid prevents the bladder from fully emptying
I guess that sonogram will tell me if I need some kind of treatment for the fibroids. I was hoping to see "unspecified knee pain" in that complications list, but alas, it was not included.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thyroid, 1; Uterus/ovaries, -5

My thyroid has officially joined my liver and kidneys on the "functioning body parts list." After more than a decade of being bombarded by lithium, my thyroid is still producing adequate quantities of hormones. Which was a little disappointing, since it means that I got fat all on my own self, not because I'm hypothyroidal.

On the disabled list: my uterus and ovaries. They're growing so many fibroids, my gynecologist has no idea what he's palpating, and I have to go for another pelvic sonogram. And another mammogram, even though I don't really want one. Next Thursday -- same day I go for a cystoscopy. That's going to be a fun day.

(Can't believe I forgot to put my sinuses on the disabled list. I had sinus surgery in 1995, which was a horrific experience from beginning to end.)

Not on the disabled list? Me. Because my doctor didn't send the disability insurance company the appropriate supporting documentation. So my disability payment was denied. I have to go in again for another damn appointment and send out more damn faxes to appeal their decision.

So fucking sick of all this. To top it off, my chiropractor doesn't think he can do anything more for me. He doesn't know why I'm still having knee pain. Nobody does. I'm going to try hypnosis, since nothing else has worked, and then I guess I'll be calling pain management.

A morsel of good news: I got a call a few weeks back from someone who'd seen my resume. Head of social work at a major public hospital. I didn't follow up quickly because I was preoccupied, then when I left her a voicemail she didn't respond.

Then I saw a friend on FB... and remembered she's a social worker at that hospital. So I IMed her... and she's going to put in a good word. So maybe I'll get a second chance. It feels manipulative, but according to something I read on Facebook and now can't find (infuriating), it's strategy, not manipulation. Because it's not dishonest and I'm not trying to disadvantage anyone. They would be lucky to have me.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Darn near normal, in some ways

Twitter is a fun and creative challenge (140 characters? seriously?), even though I only have 96 followers, because my tweets are posted to Facebook as status updates. Then I get feedback.

June 24: why do I enjoy buying things more than wearing or using them? I have 5 million lipsticks and yet I'm constantly tempted to buy more.

It's really only 20 lipsticks, but I thought it was a hypomanic thang. Turns out, it's a lot more normal than that.

Commenter 1: I think most women are like this. I have so much cosmetics / bathroom supplies and shampoo!

C2: I feel that way about books! I own more than I will ever be able to read, but I still like having them around. Also, whenever I clean my room, I find a lot of shampoo. I haven't needed to buy any in a long time, since I found my last accidental stash!
C3: I can never, ever have enough lipsticks!

Ayelet: funny, I totally thought it was because I have bipolar disorder! ;)
C1: Oh and I have a ton of books too. But I still take books out from the library and have bought new books! I also have a ton of lipstick actually because I have an addiction to 'give aways." Though I have calmed down since I switched my make up over to Bare Minerals. I still occasionally will buy something from Lancome or Clinique to get the nice giveaway though!

C3: Oh yeah, the bonuses. Me too. Even if I don't like what comes in the bonus, I am still compelled to purchase enough to get one!

C4: I am that way with nail polish.

C1, C2, and C3 are all great girls, but C4 is the most groundest, stable, healthiest woman I know -- my friend Tova, who has 4 children, works as an occupational therapist, and is getting her PhD in Talmudic Esoteria or something like that. So apparently feeling good, thinking clearly and coveting lipstick (or nail polish) aren't inclusion criteria for a diagnosis of hypomania.

June 25: the more I post about my insecurities & shames, the more my friends say they feel the same. interesting.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shooting another pathetic loser down

I got a message on SuperTova:

Hey Ayelet! You certainly are cute! I definitely need someone to improve my social life. That's what I need a 'SocialWorker!' I am Shomer Shabbat , and over the age of 50, and I have never been Married, and I want to have kids. Does this sound like someone for you? Let me know! Ronen Brown

He could not be less appealing. First off, he's 59, not just "over the age of 50." I was annoyed that he'd contacted me in the first place. That's chutzpah. Furthermore, he could not have made himself sound more pathetic and less appealing. It's kind of apparent why he's single and childless. I'm not trolling for clients on dating websites, I'm looking for a reasonably undamaged husband. So I responded:

Dear Ronen, In a word, no. I'm not interested in someone 17 years older than I am, and I'm definitely not interested in someone who needs a social worker to get his life together. Best of luck to you.

If I'm not honest with these guys, who will be? A good friend recently said to me, "We have to give the nice but nerdy guys a chance." I do believe that's true. But I don't believe this Ronen qualifies. He does not appeal to me at any level, and if he's not able to contact women he has a realistic chance of dating, I don't care if he never dates at all. That sounds harsh, but there are plenty of  women in their late 40s/early 50s who might be interested. It's up to him to contact them.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, July 09, 2012

Can't see the road ahead of me

I had another strange dream. I can't remember it sequentially, so here are the main elements. I was trying to book myself into rehab, but there were no beds. I tried contacting several, to no avail. So I had to go home to my mother, which I really didn't want to do. I also had to drive on the highway, and I couldn't see where I was going. Literally. My seat didn't allow me to see the road in front of me.

So what do you think that means? Obviously I'm not ready to make peace with my mother. Maybe I think something's wrong with me (I think something having to do with my career) but don't know where to get treatment for it. I don't know where to go, and I'm very apprehensive about what's to come. Do you see anything else?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Liver & kidneys, batting 1000

After my overdose, Dr. Jessie Fan -- who looked like a teenager, but was actually an attending -- walked into my hospital room, shaking her head and looking at some papers on a clipboard. "I just wanted to tell you," she said, in tones of in utter surprise and bewilderment, "that your liver and kidneys are fine."

It hadn't occurred to me that they wouldn't be. I was aware, after I woke up, that my brain seemed somewhat affected. During a routine neurological assay, a med student asked me how many quarters were in two dollars and 50 cents. After thinking hard, and then giving up and estimating seven, I could tell from her concerned expression that I was wrong. So I was worried about my brain.

I also had to re-learn how to sit up, walk, and swallow. When they took out the breathing tube (hurt like a bitch, let me tell you; pressed painfully on my lower and upper gums above my teeth), I was so hoarse I couldn't talk. I also couldn't reach the "nurse call" button, because I was weak and deconditioned. Not just from being in bed for a week; they had dialyzed my blood three times, and apparently that takes a lot out of you. And my arms are short. The button wasn't within reach. So at about 2:30am one morning, I pulled off the heart rate monitor that was on one of my fingers.

Three medical personnel rushed into the room. I think one of them, in scrubs, was a resident; I can't remember what the other two were. When they saw I was alert, they were annoyed.

"Do you think that's the appropriate way to get our attention?" demanded the resident. I couldn't really speak, so I couldn't respond, but actually I did think it was appropriate. If I couldn't reach the call button, what else was I supposed do?

I'm not saying the resident wanted to get back at me. Probably he figured that I was awake and this was as good a time as any to do some necessary procedures. And I'm sure he was tired. "Can you swallow?" he asked.me.

I thought that was the stupidest question possible, and he hadn't even been in a coma for a week. I gave him a look that said "Of course I can swallow" and nodded confidently. He handed me a cup of water, and I sprayed it all over my hospital gown.

"I thought so," he said. "We'll have to put in a feeding tube." Also known as a nasogastric tube. They thread it through your nose and down your esophagus into your stomach. I'm not saying he enjoyed inserting it -- I was coughing and snorting and twisting but trying to comply, obviously uncomfortable -- but I'm not saying he wasn't somewhat glad that he got to insert it.

(For some reason that resident had to wheel my hospital bed down to radiology. I think they were taking cat scans of my lungs; on top of everything else, I'd developed pneumonia. I can't remember. I don't think I had a brain scan, but that time is very blurry in my memory. Anyway, I was significantly bruised from my week in the coma, probably from the dialysis, maybe from the restraints, I'm not sure. The thin hospital gown didn't cover the bruises. The radiology tech said to me in confidential tones, pointing at the bruises and glancing covertly at the resident, "Wow, they've really been keeping you in line up there!" I was happy. I thought he was brilliantly inductive and had that resident's number.)

I didn't like the nasogastric tube. When they put in the fresh liquid -- usually strawberry, or at least pink -- I could feel it flowing down my nose and throat, and it was usually cold. I guess it's perishable and has to be refrigerated, but it was cold. Swallowing big pills, like the antibiotics for the pneumonia I had acquired on top of everything else, was very uncomfortable.

Getting rid of the feeding tube was a relief, although the process -- a gentle, lingering pull -- felt very odd. (As did removing the catheters and the tube near my collar bone, which had played some role in the dialysis.) Of course then I was supposed to eat hospital food, which didn't become appealing until they started me on Remeron, one of my antidepressants. Increased appetite is one of Remeron's side effects. Sometimes early and transient, as in my case for the most part, sometimes lasting. I do notice that if I take it and haven't felt like eating for a few hours, about half an hour later I'll be hungry. But I don't think it's at the root of my weight gain, because my weight has seesawed by a total range of at least 50 pounds while I've been on Remeron.

Anyway -- I wanted to write this because I feel like the only body parts that haven't betrayed me are my liver and kidneys. They've been put to the test through the years, numerous times, and they've always performed admirably. Dr. Cool has reassured me that once they recovered from the coma, it's as if the coma never happened as far as they're concerned. They're forgiving.

Almost all of the the rest of my body has betrayed me. Starting from the bottom:
  • Ingrown toenails (big toes, both feet) and fungus (my left second toenail has been weird for decades)
  • Low arches
  • Weak ankles that have each been sprained more than twice
  • Deplorable knees
  • Misaligned pelvic joints and years of lower back agony
  • Large intestine that can't find a happy medium between constipation and diarrhea
  • Stomach prone to numerous agonizing bouts of nausea and reflux<
  • Lungs that apparently enjoy having bronchitis
  • Shoulders that knot up in tension when my job isn't going well
  • Oily facial skin and acne (at my age)
  • Gums overly vulnerable to gingivitis
  • Unattractive nose too broad at the tip
  • Puffy upper eyelids so I squint when I smile
  • Too much hair that won't curl smoothly and won't fall straight without professional intervention
  • Topping it all off, my bipolar brain.
I'm not even mentioning my weight.

I forgot my thyroid. My thyroid may be crapping out. Apparently lithium has that effect on the gland. It doesn't really matter, because the replacement therapy is so perfect that it has no side effects, so I'm told. Indistinguishable from real thyroid hormone. And it's not like I'm not used to taking pills. At this point I'm almost hoping the thyroid has croaked, because that might be part of the reason I can't lose weight, I'm tired,  and I'm prone to depression more than hypomania. Dr. Cool took blood two days ago, a follow-up from April 2012 when my levels were borderline low. So I'll find out soon.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Facebook is draining my creative ambition

I went to see a movie today with a friend. Afterward we had iced coffee. Went home, and in four hours, I got more than 50 notifications on both my FB profiles. With so many comments and likes, why would I ever write a book? Or blog, for that matter.

I'm still at home recuperating. The knees are getting better, but my activity is still quite limited, which is annoying because when you're not depressed, staying at home every day is boring. I guess I should be grateful that my mood is good -- I actually feel happy and grateful a lot of the time -- but of course that worries me, because I really don't want to become hypomanic. And staying at home with DSL is a good prescription for shopping online. A lot.

I'm rather proud that I continue to baffle numerous medical personnel. I went to see a lovely Greek rheumatologist who injected prednisone into both patellar bursae (ouch!), drained me of about 17 vacutainers of blood, ordered a ton of lab work, and told me it wasn't lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, or any other rheumatological disorder he's ever encountered. He's on the faculty at Columbia-Presbyterian, so I'm inclined to trust him. My GP, Dr. Cool (whom I've seen about 15 times in the past 9 weeks) had thrown me into a panic by telling me that my ANA levels were slightly elevated. Elevated ANA levels can be an indicator of lupus. When I told that to Dr. Hippocrates -- quaking with fear -- he looked puzzled.

"I didn't even test for lupus," he said. "Trust me. I have been doing this for a very long time. You do not have lupus. I think your ANA could have been elevated because you have a UTI, and I think your knee problems are orthopedic."

That sent me to a urologist, whose office was run with the cheerful efficiency of the DMV. I waited two hours to see Dr. Pipi for about 10 minutes. He thumped me on my back and sides, wrote me an antibiotic prescription, and scheduled a sonogram for my next visit. After that, I'll have a cystoscopy, which is an invasive examination of your internal urinary plumbing -- but after two colonoscopies, a gastroscopy, and a colposcopy, I expect a cystoscopy to be more or less like a dental cleaning.

I also saw a sublimely condescending orthopedist who said that just because Dr. Hotttttt's treatment for my alleged runner's knees didn't work, that doesn't mean the diagnosis was wrong.

"About 30% of patients don't improve," he said, and recommended more strengthening exercises. Which my chiropractor and I are quite confident will not help. However, there are some exercises I can do to strengthen my ankles, knees, and hips, to keep everything in alignment.

"My shrink," said my chiropractor, "once told me, 'Orthopedists don't hate chiropractors. Orthopedists hate EVERYBODY. They hate each other! They fight among each other, they make nurses miserable...'"

"So it's not just me," I said.

I've started doing the exercises. They're kind of fun. Different types of leg lifts. Can't say I've seen any real improvement yet; early days. I'm allowed to do them on the bed, which I had to, because I had bronchitis. At least I think I did -- feverish, body aches, wheezing, coughing, tons of congestion -- very much like the bronchitis I had in March 2010. I had to do them on the bed because lying on the hardwood floor, even on a yoga mat draped over a towel, was too painful.

After staying in bed for three days while I wasn't depressed, I had some serious cabin fever, so I went to Brooklyn to return a few garments to Target and to pay a shiva call on The Chosson, who just lost his father, and his mother, whom I had met just briefly at their wedding.

It's been five years since that beautiful wedding in Crown Heights. The Chosson's mother is a lovely, lovely person. She works in a continuing dental education school, so she gave me some excellent tips for whitening my teeth with baking soda and peroxide. She also told me that you can use baking soda in the shower instead of soap. Which I may try, just because it sounds really weird. I've never learned so much on a shiva call.

Anyway, I woke up this morning at 3 am, needing to pee badly, and then I realized how much my knees hurt. Didn't sleep the rest of the night. Today, walking to and from the movies was all my knees could take. I'm seeing Dr. Cool tomorrow to fill out forms for my official medical leave of absence. And to update him on what the orthopedist, rheumatologist, urologist, and chiropractor are thinking.

I want to keep hoping that I'm doing the right thing to treat this problem, but part of me is truly afraid I won't get better. I try to ignore that part as much as possible.

Also, the very nice doctor at Employee Health, in addition to telling my supervisor and clinical director that I'm still unfit for duty (so they can't make me come back to work), told me that I would have to try much harder to be fired from my job. Which is a relief. I have to believe that I'm not being lazy -- that I'm trying to recover and strengthen myself so that I can do my job better, that I'm doing the right things and taking care of myself.

I've been watching a lot of TV, trying to distract myself and laugh, since laughter releases endorphins and is a healing force. One show I love is "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List." In one episode, we see that her assistants have been trying to use The Secret to get to Bora Bora. They wrote "Bora Bora" on an index card and put it up on a corkboard.

So I wrote the following and taped it to my wall:

Let's see if The Secret Works

My perfect match: Someone who participates in the outside world while maintaining Jewish values and practice. Within 5-6 years of my age, intelligent, attractive, professional, and most of all, a mensch. He appreciates and supports my intelligence and accomplishments. He’s a good listener. He’s good company, fun to be with. He is open-minded and likes to try new things. He fights fair and doesn’t think we have to agree on everything in order to be happy together.

He respects me. He accepts my shortcomings and loves me despite them. We enjoy each other's company and conversation, but are happy just being alone and quiet together. I love kissing him. His sex drive matches mine, and he thinks I’m incredibly gorgeous no matter what I’m wearing. We can’t believe how lucky we are to have each other. We make each other laugh, we make each other think, and we hold each other when we need to cry. His strengths compensate for my shortcomings and vice versa. My hand fits perfectly in his.

And there’s an excellent reason why we haven’t met yet. Or if not, this is the exactly right time for us to get together, for reasons that may or may not be revealed.


I guess we'll see if it works. I don't think I'm asking too much, but if I am, I'm sure my readers will let me know.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"