Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Broken Foot Redux

In Health, Home, Time, Writing on November 6, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I’m having trouble believing it myself: I’ve broken my foot, not only for the second time, but at the same time of year–right before the holidays. And it’s the same foot. This time I sprained my ankle pretty badly, too, but the bottom line is, I’m back in a boot cast and my foot HURTS! Thank goodness it’s not snowy and icy outside the way it was last year–not yet anyway.

This time they gave me crutches and they’re letting me walk on the heel of my foot a little. Last time I couldn’t put any weight on my foot at all for the first couple of weeks. But it was a different doctor this time, so that may account for the different instructions. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful that I can get around to some extent.

I’m taking this a lot better than I did last time, I guess because I know what to expect. I’m going to enjoy not having to go to work at all, even though it will hurt our budget. And it’s kind of nice to have an excuse for not doing anything around the house for a while. One of the things that was stressing me out was the feeling that I have to get my act together about cleaning and inviting people over. Now I can put that off for awhile.

It’s funny how quickly we forget the lessons we learn! Last time I was so happy to be out of the cast and off the walker that I swore I was never going to take being able to do things for granted again. But it didn’t take me long to fall into the same pattern of wasting my time. Acting like I have all the time in the world. You’d think at my age I’d know better!

Anyway, one thing I have a lot more time for is writing so I’ll probably be posting here more often. That’s assuming that I have anything to say. What am I going to write about: sitting on the couch all day?  Taking a lot of naps? I can do a lot of reading, so maybe I can write book reports. Wouldn’t that be fun?


Things I Can’t Give Up

In Health, Reading, Self Improvement on April 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I’m going to jot down a few things that are going on with me today. I suppose I should be doing this on Facebook, but frankly, I get a little bored reading other people’s comments and figure no one wants to read mine. At least if I put them all here, they can be ignored all at one time.

I’m supposedly getting ready for our trip to Orlando, but in reality, I’m sitting here writing this post and futzing around on the Internet. Rebecca Traister of just wrote a post about some new software called “Freedom” because it prevents you from spending too much time on the Internet and thus frees up your time for other things. I also read a two-year-old post of hers about what has happened to her body since she stopped smoking.

My reaction to both posts was much the same. I rebel against the implication that I should quit smoking or surfing the Net just because she did. I happen to like both activities and usually pair them together. This reminds me of the time I worked through Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way (web site here), and she prescribed a week of not reading in order to free up your brain or something like that. I just couldn’t do it. I can’t even imagine not reading for a day, let alone a week.

I can go without cigarettes or the Internet much more easily–and have. But I keep coming back to them. I like the way they make me think. Smoking can be a meditative act; if it weren’t for the fact that it’s bad for you, it might even take off as a meditative tool. And the Internet aids my thinking process. When I get on the Net, I can snatch some of the crazy things that swirl around in my brain and bring them down to earth by looking up information or opinions about what I’ve been thinking about. That often helps me to lay some of my ruminations to rest. Or gives me an idea for my writing. Or even leads me to some kind of action.

I have to read something as soon as I get out of bed. It almost doesn’t matter what it is: the paper, a magazine, a book I’ve just picked up and read only a few pages of.  I read with my breakfast, my coffee, in between my spells on the Internet. my lunch, my afternoon coffee. I know I should take some of the time I spend reading to do other, more productive things, like exercise. But I need to keep my brain busy. If I don’t, I get bored and/or anxious. I have considered getting books on tape to listen to while I exercise, but I doubt I’d exercise long enough to get through much of the book. Besides, the books on tape go too slowly. I tend to read pretty quickly–I do a lot of skimming–and the pace of a recorded book drives me nuts.

Here’s an idea: why not make exercise tapes or DVDs where poetry or prose is being read along with all the exercising? I mean, they do it to music; why not to words? Okay, I know that the beat is the thing, but there’s a rhythm to reading, too. You just have to find it.

Maybe when they find ways for me to surf the Net, check my email, read, write and smoke, I’ll be able to stick with exercising. For now, it’s one of the things that I can easily give up.

Going Off Your Meds

In Health, Mood disorders, Religion, Self Improvement on March 10, 2009 at 5:36 am

I just read a short article by an Anglican priest who stopped taking his anti-depressants after six years because he didn’t like the way they shielded him from feeling bad. He writes: “I’m wary of the way [anti-depressants] can inure us to compassion, sorrow, guilt, and regret—emotions that are essential components of spiritual maturity.”

Oh, so it’s spiritually mature to feel suicidal, to feel your life spiraling out-of-control, to always be so down on yourself you can’t function, to be paralyzed by your fears and anxieties? Granted, the author emphasizes that anti-depressants can dramatically improve your life–if they are needed. But he seems to think that the Christian who suffers is more mature than the one who sails through life without trauma. What a crock!

I take several medications for my depression and anxiety and I admit that there are times when I worry that I’m too medicated. Sometimes it feels unnatural to be calm in the face of all the things that I used to worry obsessively about. But does it feel unnatural because it truly is, or because I had become used to the pattern of highs and lows that threatened my sanity? The thought of returning to that instability and uncertainty about how I was going to feel from one moment to the next fills me with horror. (See, I’m still capable of negative emotions.)

It seems to me irresponsible to suggest that you are somehow more in tune with the realities of life–and more in accordance with God’s will–when you are unmedicated. If the author felt himself becoming “cavalier and impatient, insensitive and spiritually complacent” when he was on his meds, perhaps that was his own moral shortcoming more than the result of being “enveloped in a pharmaceutical sphere of emotional impenetrability.” Maybe he needed to try a little harder to be involved and patient and sensitive. Isn’t it as much of a cop-out to say that his meds made him spiritually complacent?

The author seems to be saying that it is a false–and undesirable–condition to feel all right about ourselves most of the time. To be able to wake up in the morning ready to face what the day will bring us.  He insists that “antidepressants … are not a panacea for the human condition.” But would you advise a diabetic to discontinue his insulin because it’s somehow more natural to experience the consequences of his disease?

Let me say here that the author may have made the right decision for him. The weak point of his article is that he doesn’t describe what his mental state was after he discontinued his meds. If he found that he could in fact function after his time on medication, he may have been suffering clinical but not chronic depression. I would hope that he didn’t force himself back into a state of mind that he describes as feeling “overwhelmed or that God was nowhere to be found and experiencing “confusion and emotional paralysis to make vital life decisions.”  If he allowed himself to return to that way of interacting with God and the world, what did he accomplish?

To discontinue your meds because you think that you’re a better Christian without them is a travesty. To discontinue them because you no longer need them makes sense. But how do you know when you no longer need them? I think you have to be spiritually sensitive to God’s leading and medically sensitive to your condition. It’s not a decision to be made for the wrong reasons.

Breaking Through

In Aging, Health, Mood disorders, Self Improvement, Uncategorized, Writing on February 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm

My dreams are vivid,  in color and in content, and extremely narrative. If I could write stories the way I dream them, I’d be able to break through my resistance to fiction-writing. But in my conscious world my inability to write fiction of any kind is a source of constant frustration for me.

Maybe I’m just not meant to write fiction. I mostly write essays and nonfiction. But even there, I should be able to use elements of fiction-writing to make my work more dynamic. I took a creative nonfiction class a few years back where the teacher emphasized “making scenes.” The message was, if I couldn’t dig deeper, if I couldn’t make my nonfiction come alive by using fiction techniques, I would never excel at creative, or literary, nonfiction.

I don’t know if I developed a block from that class, from being made to feel inferior for the way I naturally write, but I’ve been struggling with my self-image as a writer ever since.

But it does seem to me that my brain works differently than it used to. All I have to do is contrast my waking thoughts with my dreams. I am fascinated by my dreams. Sometimes I sleep longer than necessary because I don’t want to leave a dream I’m having. It’s as if, once I wake up, my brain powers down to a lower level of functioning. Ideas are harder to come by. Words come out of my mind more slowly and with a lot more effort than they used to. I can’t seem to write what I think and even when I can, what I think tends to be dry and uninspiring.

I don’t exactly feel like I’m in a fog. I have emotions, but they’re not as extreme as they used to be. I think this is partly because I’m older. I have a perspective that I didn’t use to have. But I wonder if I’m not also affected by the medications I take. I’ve worked hard with my psychiatrist to come up with a combination that keeps me from the horrible depths of depression and debilitating anxiety that I used to experience. I’ve contemplated discontinuing my medications but I just can’t face going back to the mindset that contemplated suicide regularly, that was paralyzed by fear and anxiety, that loathed myself and couldn’t abide the world.

Those feelings are still there, but I’m able to beat them back to the point that I can function–even if slowly and carefully. As long as I don’t have too much stress–and I have to make sure that I don’t–I can approximate a “normal” person’s state of mind. But at what cost? All I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer and now it seems as if a barrier has been set up preventing me from being one. Oh, I can still spin out a sentence, but it feels as if my soul is no longer in it.

I pray daily that I can break through this barrier without suffering the consequences from discontinuing my medications, but I’m afraid that it’s either one of the other.  But what kind of choice is that? Suffering all the pain and paralysis that emits from my natural state of mind, or being able to mine my consciousness more deeply and creatively?

There’s a third possibility here: it may be that I can still write but can no longer assess my work, because I’m incapable of grasping its nuances. I have to write on autopilot, trusting that I’m making sense, that I’m using my faculties creatively–but not being able to make judgments on it because my brain doesn’t have the flexibility it used to. That could partly be because of my meds, but it could also be the result of an aging brain.

Then again, maybe I’m not capable of being the writer I once thought I could be. And maybe I never was the writer I thought I was. It might be that I’m more realistic now and can see myself more clearly. Naturally I fight this conclusion–it challenges all my assumptions about who I am and what I’m capable of. I have no choice but to fight it. I have to find some way to break through what’s keeping me from fully opening up, as a person and as a writer.

It may turn out that I’m a mediocre writer. It’s what I fear more than anything. But I may have to settle for that. Because I know I have to keep writing.

Another Birthday

In Aging, Health on February 4, 2009 at 9:11 am

I’ve discovered one thing about aging: you get used to it. When I noticed the first signs–wrinkles, sun damage spots, looser skin around the eye–I was concerned. But the changes were gradual and not that noticeable. Then I went through menopause. And all hell broke loose.

I used to be mistaken for someone ten years younger than I really am. No longer. Or maybe it’s that the ten years younger is still so much older than I used to be. I recently read a Nora Ephron book titled I Feel Bad About My Neck, and boy, could I relate. That’s the part of me that underwent significant change. I still recall the day–not fondly–when my grandson asked,”What happened to your neck?” I was floored. I knew the skin there was getting loose, but I didn’t know that it was obvious to others.

Now I would be glad to have that be the worst sign of my aging. But, no, now I’m developing jowls. All of us age differently, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined myself with jowls. And my skin has shifted down around my mouth and loosened under my chin. My sister, who is two years younger than I am, isn’t aging the same way I am. She has wrinkles. I have them, too, but not quite as many. But that could be because I’m fat and she isn’t: plump tissue fills out wrinkles. I have natural Botox!

And yet, even though the signs are escalating–age spots, hair on my chin, patchy hair elsewhere, loose skin around my armpits and on my chest (and we won’t even talk about what’s happening to the rest of my chest)–I’m becoming more resigned to them. Maybe it’s because they’re coming so rapidly now. I don’t have time to mourn one before another pops up. And after a while you just get sick of mourning. You give up, I guess. “It” is taking over your body and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Oh, I know there are some things you can do: liposuction, face and neck lifts, Botox. But I can’t afford anything like that and I’m not sure I’d have them done if I could. What I have discovered is make-up. For years–when I could get away with it–I never wore any make-up at all. But my skin started looking ashen and spotty, so one day I stopped at a cosmetic counter and asked how to put on foundation. The change was so remarkable, I bought some on the spot. And then I practiced, with that and eye make-up, and found that it did make a difference. When I dolled myself up for my daughter’s wedding, even I thought I looked ten years younger (okay, just younger).

I was looking at a gallery of photos on the other day of stars who have been around for awhile, what they used to look like and what they look like now. The ones that haunt me are the aging stars who wear too much makeup. I guess it’s not going to help forever. Many of the other older stars just looked like paler versions of their younger selves. As if they were fading away…which in essence is exactly what is happening.

We get softer in every way when we get older: our skin, our coloring, our dispositions. Oh, some people stay vibrant or cantankerous to the very end, but I know for myself, I’m much more relaxed about things than I used to be. There are some trade-offs to getting old. One of them is that you just don’t care as much as you used to about your looks (as well as many other things).You’re old and that’s it. C’est la vie.

Sleeping Too Much

In Health on February 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I sleep anywhere from nine hours to 12 hours a night. I just found out that sleeping too much isn’t good for you! I always thought that however long you slept–if left to your own devices–is what’s good for you. Some people will wake automatically after four hours sleep, some after ten or more. But now I’m reading that too much sleep may shorten your life more than too little sleep does. And, even worse, postmenopausal women (which I am) increase their risk of stroke by 70% if they sleep more than nine hours a night, while women who sleep five hours or less only increase their risk of stroke by 14%. (See article here.)

Sleeping too much can also be a factor in obesity. “One recent study showed that people who slept for nine or 10 hours every night were 21% more likely to become obese over a six-year period than were people who slept between seven and eight hours. This association between sleep and obesity remained the same even when food intake and exercise were taken into account. ” (See article here.) That may explain a lot in my case, because I am at least 30 pounds overweight. I don’t get a lot of exercise–okay, I don’t get any–but I also sleep a lot, and have ever since I stopped working full-time and going to school.

My husband survives on much less sleep, although he often complains of being too tired. But he’s averaging five hours of sleep a night. He’s working full-time and chooses to get up early because he wants time to himself in the morning. But he’s also a night owl. I used to be, but now I konk out by 10:30 or 11. I read for awhile and then I’m gone. Every few nights I have trouble falling asleep and may lie awake till 3 or 4 a.m. But the next night I’m back to my extended sleep pattern.

I don’t have narcolepsy–I’m not tired or sleepy during the day, although I do take naps every once in a while. What I probably am is bored. The thing is, I really enjoy sleeping. I have very vivid dreams and I get the feeling that sometimes I keep myself asleep so that I can keep on dreaming them. On nights when I don’t like my dreams I tend to get up earlier.

I didn’t list a “sleep project” for 2009, but I guess this could be included in my “body project.” I’ll try getting up earlier and see how I feel. I may be underusing my body by sleeping too much as well as by not exercising. I need to do both and if I sleep less, I’ll have more time to exercise. (As if.) We’ll see how it pans out.

When A Friend Is Ill

In Friends, Health on January 29, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I just got news today that one of my oldest and dearest friends has a condition or disease that is potentially deadly if not treated successfully. I don’t know what it is exactly because I couldn’t find it in any Internet search. She said it’s called (and I don’t even know the spelling) “lasko meiosis.” If anyone out there knows anything about it, would you please let me know?

I said that I was going to be a better friend this year and now I have a real test of my friendship. Not that it’s more than that to my friend. She says she’s scared. Of course she is. I didn’t know what to say other than to let me know what the doctor says tomorrow. I don’t know if I should go visit her (she lives two hours away and my husband and I only have one car, so it would take some maneuvering to make the trip possible). I do know that I can email and call her and that I don’t normally do that often enough.

I did tell her that I would pray for her. She doesn’t believe in God, or at best she’s an agnostic, so I don’t know how much that meant to her. Except that she should know that I really care for me to say that. She’s been disappointed by Christians before, though, and I don’t think she has a high opinion of us. I admit I feel helpless. As much as I believe in God, I’m not unaware of the fact that prayers are not always answered the way that we want them to be. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pray, but I could see where that might not be very reassuring to another person when you say you’re going to pray for them.

I do know that I need to be ready to be there for her as much as I can. I will go down and visit her as often as I can if I feel that she needs for me to. And I suspect that she will need me–at least I think that I mean that much to her. She did call me, after all. Other than that, I don’t know what else I can do, but pray. And try to find out more about her condition.

In Motion

In Health on January 15, 2009 at 11:07 am

I guess I haven’t reported on the progress with my broken foot. I got out of the boot cast on December 30th and just went back for a check-up. The break is filling in nicely, the doctor said, and he doesn’t think that I need physical therapy. Thank God, I’ve been that route and it’s rough!

I found out from my six-week-long enforced immobility that movement is a wonderful thing. I feel so free. like I can do anything. Unfortunately, the thing I most like to do is to write and I spend hours at it each day. I now realize that I need–and want–to do more with my life. Some of it I could care less about: like cleaning my house (although I do enjoy the feeling of a freshly cleaned home). But what about getting out in nature, taking a walk around the neighborhood, getting my old bike refurbished and starting to take bike rides, going out for lunch with friends, visiting relatives?

I’ve been trying to lose weight forever and all I did was put more on, especially when I was confined to the couch for six weeks. I know that exercise is a key component, but I shy away from it. The only exercise I really enjoy is swimming and I don’t have easy (and free) access to a swimming pool. A few years ago I belonged to a fitness club that had a pool and it was heaven. But I can’t afford that now, so I’m reduced to things like walking and calisthenics in my home.

I reluctantly admit that getting more exercise HAS to be one of my New Year resolutions, but I’m going to have a rough go of it. I’ll keep you posted.

God Be With You, Patrick Swayze

In Health on January 9, 2009 at 7:55 pm

My father died thirteen years and three weeks ago, right before Christmas, 1995. He had pancreatic cancer. Now we see Patrick Swayze with the same disease, seemingly dealing with it in ways that my father couldn’t. My father was dead less than four months after his diagnosis; he barely had time to digest what was happening to him. But Swayze was diagnosed a year ago, so he has already had more time than my father had. I don’t know what treatment Swayze has received, but my father spent his last month and a half in the hospital where he had two major surgeries which sapped his strength and his spirit.  When he died – of a heart attack – he was in an MRI machine.

I pray for a better death for Swayze. I hope I don’t sound ghoulish or presumptuous: he may have quite a while longer on this earth. But knowing pancreatic cancer – its survival rate is only 3%, and Swayze’s is stage four – he probably won’t see summer. I just read that Swayze has been hospitalized with pneumonia. I hope, for his sake, that he recovers and is able to stay active and hospital-free right up until the end.

When someone is dying, a hospital is not the best place to be. I’ve been at home with a loved one when she died, and while the blow is the same, the meaning is not. It feels like finishing a book and laying it down for the last time with a sigh: The story is over. When someone dies away from home and loved ones, it’s as if the reading was interrupted – and that you’ll never be able to finish it properly. The ending was revealed prematurely; you didn’t have time to work up to it.

That is true of any untimely death of course. And we can’t always time our presence for the exact moment of death. But there has to be something reassuring about being in your own home when you know you’re dying and you’re trying to deal with that fact. How disorienting it must be to be in a hospital! Maybe I’m wrong, maybe a dying person doesn’t care where she or he is. I’m not even sure my father wanted to come home – he was worried about being a burden on my mother. But it must have been a lonely place to be.

I know that if I could change one thing about my father’s death it would be that I could have been the one who ministered to his needs during those last six weeks of his life and not some nurse or aide, no matter how caring they might have been. At the time, I was working full-time, and I couldn’t take off work indefinitely since we didn’t really know when he would die. But I wish I had.

As it was, I had just been to visit him the night before he died. Cincinnati was in the throes of a horrific winter storm: freezing rain combined with blustery winds and an eventual snowfall of almost 13 inches. The normally two hour drive home to Columbus took me six. I played the same music tape over and over all the way home. It was instrumental and I remember it made me think of angels, which in a weird way gave me the courage to push forward.

Because I’d had such a rough time getting home and I knew my father was worried about me, I called him in his hospital room the next day on my lunch break, something I didn’t normally do. I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me, too. By the time I got home from work that day, he was already gone. It made me feel better that I’d called him so close to when he actually died. It was the only comfort I could find.

God bless you, Patrick Swayze. And when it is time for you to go, may you be with those you love in a place of warmth and comfort. That’s not much, I know, but when the time comes, it just might be enough.

New Year Lists

In Family, Friends, Health, Religion, Writing on January 5, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Instead of resolutions, I’m stealing an idea from another blog (Semicolon) and making lists of:

Projects for 2009 (Not in order of importance or execution):

  1. The Book Project
  2. The House Project
  3. The Garden Project
  4. The Travel Project
  5. The Writing Project
  6. The Religion Project
  7. The Office Project
  8. The German Project
  9. The Green Project
  10. The Body Project
  11. The Friend Project
  12. The Family Project

The Book Project: I’d like to start keeping track of what I read. This means using Good Reads and The Library Thing, but I’d also like to use my blogs in some way to review and catalogue the books I read. I also need to read more meaningfully. That means slowing down and really thinking about what I’m reading.

The House Project: Making my house a home. Getting rid of the clutter. Decorating. Doing odd maintenance jobs. Cleaning!

The Garden Project: Plan what I want to do once the weather permits. Bring color into our landscape. Do the projects I’ve been putting off: Transplanting trees, bushes and plants. Getting rid of unsightly plants. Laying down sod. Making the entry inviting.

The Travel Project: Save money. Write about my experiences. Travel as much as possible. Right now we have these trips on the table: Chicago, Orlando, Canada, Germany.

The Writing Project: Continuing to write for my blogs. Querying. Submitting. Learning from my rejections. Celebrating my acceptances. Finding my passions and writing about them.

The Religion Project: This is the year when I decide what church I want to get involved with. I’m leaning toward Catholicism, but that seems like such a big step, since I was raised Lutheran.  I need to decide not only what I want, but where God wants me. I also want to get back into Bible study. I have a lot of questions that need answered. I also need to rededicate my life to God.  (submit)

The Office Project: I need to carve out an office for myself.  I’m presently using my laptop as my entire office. I need to set up a physical one and organize it.

The German Project: Continuing to study German. Practice by reading books and magazines in German. Use the audio aids I already have. Work through my textbooks.

The Green Project: This is the one I am least likely to work on, even though I know it should be a priority. The only thing we do right now is recycle newspapers and magazines.

The Body Project: No New Year list is complete without mentioning diet and exercise! I need to find an exercise routine that I can stick to. I also need to lose thirty pounds.

The Friend Project: Being a better one.

The Family Project: Working on all my familial relationships (sister, aunt, niece, wife, mother, grandmother).

More lists to follow…