Tag Archives: Wellness

My Brain, Part 5 – Post Surgery, November

My Brain, Part 5 – Post Surgery, November

I noticed some dramatic changes in November, but nothing miraculous. I was beginning to realize that one of the reasons I hadn’t been able to find medications that worked for my symptoms was that my symptoms were not being caused by my ADHD or Depression. In fact, the tumor had actually been suppressing some of the symptoms, and bit by bit they were coming back with a vengeance.

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My Brain, Part 4 – The Ugly Pictures.

My Brain, Part 4 – The Ugly Pictures.

For reasons I don’t think I have to mention, the pictures below the fold are not for the squeamish. I asked the doctor to take pictures in the operating room, because I wanted to see the scope of this thing. It was pretty darned impressive. What is now there in place of the bone is a molded surgical plastic. There was some invasion of the dura, but because of the compression, there were too many veins and arteries on the surface to take the chance of removing it. Since this cancer is benign and slow-growing, the surgeon opted to leave it, and we’ll just follow it with regular MRIs. At some point I may need further surgery or radiation treatments, but there’s also a good chance I won’t have to do anything.

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My Brain, Part 2

My Brain, Part 2

This is a continuation of my progress from diagnosis to the day before surgery, and this one contains dates. There is also a link at the beginning to a zipfile of my MRIs, so if you’re interested in seeing what they look like and trying to figure out the connection between the areas of compression and the symptoms I listed, go ahead and download.
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My Brain. . .

My Brain. . .

Collected are some notes, and some information, and some thoughts I posted elsewhere to describe what’s going on with the lump in my head.

Brain growth symptoms
-Headaches (these have become progressively worse, more frequent, and more persistent – originally attributed to allergies)
-Tinnitus in left ear has become distinct and progressively louder
-Short-term memory impairment (had thought this was caused by Cymbalta, as it was a problem after several years at 120mg/day, or perhaps a worsening of my ADHD.) Worse than usual, resulting in repeating things I’ve said to the same people several times in a row, and forgetting things that were said to me shortly after they were said. Others have brought this to my attention, although I’m occasionally aware of it myself. I am also finding myself lost briefly even when performing routine tasks like preparing a recipe I have had memorized for years. I am also having trouble not only remembering what day or date it is, but reading a calendar. I can know the day and date and still look at the wrong week and think that I have events coming up that day that are actually a week or more in the future.
-Some expressive aphasia – also originally thought this was Cymbalta, because I experienced similar episodes of blanking out during the same period as above. This is markedly different from usual ADHD. Normal “word loss” experience is that my thoughts will flood with many words that have characteristics in common with the word I want, making it more difficult to sort through and find it. At this time, when I can’t think of a word, I can’t think of any words at all. I have periods of near silence in my brain, which is very disturbing, because even medicated, I have always had constant “brain chatter.” I am forgetting what I’m trying to say when I speak much more frequently than usual.
-Loss of balance – I don’t feel any specific muscle weakness, although it is more difficult to move my eyes up and to the right, but I am bumping into things as I walk, and have begun to tip over while standing still on occasion. I am beginning to feel occasional bouts of dizziness similar to the onset of syncope even while sitting, but have not lost consciousness.
-Both my typing and my handwriting have deteriorated over the last several months. Normally my typing is fast and accurate, but I am hitting the wrong keys almost as often as the right ones, and backspacing over typos in more than half of the words. My speed has gone down in part because of this and in part because I find myself blanking on what I was going to type. My handwriting has never been neat, and I’ve always had trouble inverting tails on letters, but recently I was taking copious notes and found that I was scribbling things that weren’t even letters, and lines of script wobble up and down.
-There are problems with word perception in the upper right quadrant of my field of vision. I can recognize letters and words as letters and words, but in order to read and comprehend, I find myself tilting my head to read with my left eye on the page.
-Several months ago my optometrist noted excessive eye pressure in both eyes, particularly the left, and sent me for a thorough evaluation for glaucoma. None was found, but my prescription for corrective lenses has changed more rapidly than normal over the past two years or so.
-I am having difficulty with my sense of direction and spatial relations. In the past I have been able to negotiate unfamiliar places with minimal reliance on maps. Because I haven’t traveled far from familiar routes in some time, I was unaware how bad this was until a recent trip to colleges in New England. I googled directions, printed out large and step-by-step maps, plotted out routes on full size paper maps, and still needed to have the GPS turned on and preprogrammed with the selected route, because I had gotten lost when map directions and GPS directions conflicted. When we arrived on campuses, I was unable to get a fix on where we were and where we needed to go even though the areas on maps were small. I have sewn and designed clothing for years, and suddenly found myself lost trying to draft a simple paper pattern, not sure what pieces need to be changed or how to change them even though I’ve done this and even taught it without any difficulty before.

From a site chock-full of good information and educational links, Brain Info, I want to share the following:

AREAS OF THE HUMAN CORTEX INVOLVED IN LANGUAGE

cortical image
This is an image of the left hemisphere. The structures that are involved here have unique functions that are not duplicated on the right hemisphere. My lump is smack dab over area 17 and extends a bit down into 18, and has deformed most of the central area of the left hemisphere all the way to the outer edges of the temporal lobe. So let’s see what it says about what can result from damages to these areas that apply to me (in bold):

The left primary visual area receives fibers in somatotopic distribution from the left half of each retina. Thus, it receives the input necessary for a point-to-point representation of the right half of the visual field. Penfield and others had shown that stimulation in that area produced a flash, or “phosphene”. Resection of the area was known to produce a left homonymous hemianopsia, i.e., ,em>patient does not respond to visual stimuli in the right half of the visual field. The limits of such a visual field defect are determined by the “confrontation” method or by perimetry.

The secondary visual area is involved in the perception of visual patterns, viz, in the recognition of so-called “simultaneous patterns”, as opposed to the “sequential patterns” with which the premotor area is concerned. Stimulation of this area may produce formed images; ablation leads to abnormal control of eye movements and instability of vision, so that when patients read they may jump lines or begin reading in the middle of the page. Spatial perception is impaired, and the field of visual attention may be constricted, i.e., the patient may be able to see only one or two objects at a time, regardless of their size, background, or position in the visual field (simultagnosia). The following tests were used to demonstrate damage of the secondary visual area.

The temporo-parieto-occipital area is phylogenetically one of the newest areas of the human cortex and constitutes the “zone of overlap” between. the cortical portions of the auditory, somesthetic-kinesthetic, and visual analyzers. Penfield had reported that electrical stimulation of this area occasionally produced deja vu, a visuo-auditory hallucination or the “reliving” of an old experience. Destruction of the area produced a number of signs that Luria judged could be traced to a loss of “simultaneous schemata”, i.e., to loss of the memory for, or ability to recognize, patterns in a group of auditory, visual, and/or somesthetic stimuli occurring simultaneously. This concept was similar to that of other investigators. According to Goldstein the antero-occipital area played an important role in the “transformation of sequential recognition processes into instantaneous recognition.” According to Head the area was necessary for the organization of individual “traces” into over-all, “simultaneous systems.” Luria found that the most prominent signs of damage to this area were spatial disorientation, loss of the “predicative” aspect of speech, agraphia, and alexia.

1. Spatial disorientation was demonstrable by a number of tests.
a. Shown the north and south poles of a compass, the patient was unable to tell which pole represented East and which West.

b. In drawing a map he positioned landmarks according to associations that occurred to him impulsively rather than according to conventional geographic coordinates.

g. In attempting to write he might construct individual letters upside down or backwards.

2. The speech disturbances of semantic aphasia were said to arise from the facts that (1) the patient was unable to deal with grammatical constructions and sentences as a whole and (2) he lost the meanings of words that derive from their relationship to general frames of reference, i.e., he retained the denotative or “nominative” meanings of words but lost the connotative or “predicative” meanings.

Loss of the ability to handle grammatical constructions and to deal with sentences as a whole was shown by the following tests:
c. He might be able to name the days of the week in correct order, but be unable to recite them backwards or answer such questions as, “What day comes before Wednesday?” Luria regarded this as evidence that he could not conceptualize or operate on the series as a unit to derive information in the form required by the task.

3. Loss of the predicative aspect of words led to:
a. inability to comprehend metaphor

b. nominal aphasia. The form of nominal aphasia seen with temporo-parieto-occipital lesions differed from that produced by damage to the postero-inferior temporal lobe in that prompting helped. Often the examiner needed only provide the first letter of the word sought, and the patient recalled it. Luria concluded that in this case the patient had not lost the auditory schema of the word but the system of associations that, for the normal person, mediate the process of recall.

Some of the pressure is on the temporal lobe, resulting in some Auditory Aphasias. My problems seem to be more expressive than receptive:

1. The predominant sign of an expressive speech disorder in auditory apahasias is nominal aphasia. Spontaneous speech is frequently interrupted by word-searching. Intonation and grammatical structure may be normal, but the speech consists largely of opening phrases, e.g., “Well, you see …it’s like this…” and interjections, e.g., “Oh hell, I don’t know why I can’t get that”. Unlike the nominal aphasias that result from parietal or frontal lobe lesions, the nominal aphasia associated with temporal lobe lesions is is not alleviated by prompting. (this goes back and forth for me – the confusion of words that start with the same letters has never been helped before with prompting, but in certain cases lately a little prompting helps. Not always.)

2. Literal and verbal paraphasias occur. The articulation (motor aspect) of phonemes and words is intact, but the patient may substitute oppositional phonemes for one another, e.g., “p” for “b”, or substitute words from the same sphere of meaning.” e.g., “elbow” for “arm”. Literal paraphasias are considered compensatory in nature. The attempt to utter the word “car” may result in such inhibition of the “auditory schema” of “car” that it is easier for the patient to say “automobile” instead.

Some reading and writing difficulties apply as well:

The degree of reading and writing difficulty in auditory aphasias depends on the extent to which these functions involve auditory analysis.

1. Patients may understand the meaning of a passage even though they cannot read it aloud. They only have difficulty reading words that are unfamiliar and that must be sounded out to be understood.

2. A patient is usually able to write his name and other familiar words on the basis of “kinestheic schemata” but has difficulty with words that he would ordinarily repeat to himself as he writes. He can copy written material without difficulty but makes phonemic substitutions in writing to dictation, and is virtually unable to write spontaneously. (I can still write spontaneously, but it takes a heck of a lot more time and effort.)

Because the various structures of the left hemisphere are essential for communication between other structures, some Afferent Motor Aphasias seem to be present as well. I’m stumbling over words when I speak (in addition to stumbling in general) and biting my tongue and the inside of my mouth so often that there’s always something hurting in there.

Efferent Motor Aphasia doesn’t seem to be much of a problem except for some mild versions of what are symptoms of damage to Broca’s Area:

The predominant signs of damage to “Broca’s area” are also loss of the “automaticity of speech” with the emergence of perseveration. There may be a loss of “dynamic schemata” at the phonemic, word, or sentence level. If disruption occurs at the phonemic level the patient may be totally aphasic. If it is less severe, some speech is retained, but the patient loses his “feel for the language,” i.e., his speech lacks normal intonation and is composed of sentence fragments rather than connected phrases. The “predicative aspect” of speech suffers more than the “nominative aspect”, i.e., verbs and adjectival, adverbial, and prepositional phrases are affected more than nouns. This gives rise to the so-called “telegraph style” of speech, e.g., “I came… Moscow…hospital … doctor … questions…”

Right in the middle of all this is the Hippocampus. The associated functions are early memory storage, formation of long-term memory, and spatial navigation. The memory functions particular to the Hippocampus seem to be OK, but the spatial navigation’s a problem.

There’s enough cushion around the Amygdala that it might be minimally involved or not involved at all, but it does play a part in short-term memory. Mostly it’s involved with emotions, but this is hardly a time for me to be assessing connections between a physical cause and my emotional state!

The Entorhinal Cortex is above and in front of the Hippocampus, and plays a part in declarative memory (conscious recall – being able to remember “on demand”) which has been a problem all my life, so it’s hard to tell if it’s any worse. It also is associated with spatial memory, but less so than the Hippocampus, and more on the right hemisphere than the left. Lastly, it assists in self-localization, which consists of integrating sensory input to orient your physical location with your surroundings. I think I’m seeing that a lot, more in new environments than familiar ones, but I am walking around in circles at home, too.

The secondary visual area is involved in the perception of visual patterns, viz, in the recognition of so-called “simultaneous patterns”, as opposed to the “sequential patterns” with which the premotor area is concerned. Stimulation of this area may produce formed images; ablation leads to abnormal control of eye movements and instability of vision, so that when patients read they may jump lines or begin reading in the middle of the page. Spatial perception is impaired, and the field of visual attention may be constricted, i.e., the patient may be able to see only one or two objects at a time, regardless of their size, background, or position in the visual field (simultagnosia).

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When I posted this the other day, I hadn’t highlighted “when patients read they may jump lines or begin reading in the middle of the page or the field of visual attention may be constricted, i.e., the patient may be able to see only one or two objects at a time, regardless of their size, background, or position in the visual field (simultagnosia)” because I hadn’t experienced them. Now I have. The second one, while I was driving.

I had no choice because it was an appointment I wouldn’t be able to reschedule for months, and it was only a short drive, so I thought it would be OK. Once I realized that I was perceiving only pieces of what I was seeing on the road, I started blinking rapidly – thought I might trick my brain into thinking it was seeing a series of pictures and put it together like a kinetoscope. It worked OK, but it’s not such a good technique to use behind the wheel. (I’d also be in trouble if there were any Weeping Angels around, but I think I’m safe on that one!) When things were moving slowly or there were fewer moving objects visible, it was easier, but still really hard.

I can’t even accurately describe it except like real life was a set of pictures in a flip-book and would stick on one page before flipping to the next. Blinking allowed me to see the next picture in the series faster. Not a strobe light effect, because things that were moving would seem as if they’d stopped for a moment.

And just imagine – if this lump had been on the right occipital lobe, I would be experiencing something entirely different.
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So today, when I have plenty of time to think about this and feel sorry for myself, I’m also fighting anger because I’m remembering so many conversations and debates with people who think that there’s some kind of magic to neuroplasticity. Right here in my head is clear evidence that there are physical structures in the brain that have highly specialized functions that are not, and cannot be, duplicated elsewhere in the brain.

Problems in the the brain itself, an organ formed by genetic instructions and physical and psychological environmental influences just like every other part of our bodies, cannot be “corrected” by diet or exercise or acts of will. Functions that are simple or are duplicated in other areas of the brain can be partially rehabilitated – sometimes. Occupational and physical therapies can train an individual with a damaged or incorrectly formed brain to compensate, but only within limits based on the ability of the physical brain to relocate the function.

What function I regain post-surgery depends entirely upon how much permanent damage has been done, and to what areas. Once the lump is removed and my brain is no longer compressed, it may well be that certain areas were deprived of blood and nutrients and shut off from communication will not improve. A certain amount of neuroplasticity will allow new cell generation in partially damaged areas, but if some of the tissue is destroyed, it ain’t coming back. And if that tissue was wholly or mostly responsible for regulating the activities in which I’m currently impaired, that impairment won’t go away.

I may be able to re-learn certain things, but it won’t be as easy as it was before, and it will feel different when I’m trying to do it. I’ll keep on trying to be objective as I update things here, but I can’t guarantee I won’t get snippy if someone suggests I can fix something that’s impossible to fix.
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Well, this is fun. The black text here is turning blue off and on. Not the whole of it, but certain areas of it. The closer it is to the other blue text (“Smilies” to the right and “Post Icons” at the bottom left) the more likely it is to turn that shade of blue. At least I can read that – yellow text would be awful.
It’s only that one shade of blue, too. I’ve checked, and I don’t get the same kind of flashes with any other color. So far. . .

CAM is Chewing Gum.

CAM is Chewing Gum.

CAM stands for “Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” and it is none of the above. CAM is to Health what chewing gum is to Diet.

Complementary, as CAM proponents would have us believe, means: “Completing; forming a complement,” or “Combining in such a way as to enhance or emphasize each other’s qualities.” What they would like us to believe is that these various nonscientific, evidence-free practices somehow complement actual medicine, when in truth, not only is medicine fine without them, but that in order for them to work, real medicine is necessary – making medicine the complement to CAM, not the other way around.

Chewing gum is not a complement to Diet in the same way. It adds nothing to a healthy, well-balanced diet in any nutritional sense, and provides no benefits whatsoever unless you are already meeting proper nutritional needs.

As a complement, chewing gum and CAM have a similar effect. If you’re attempting to lose weight or stave off hunger, a stick of gum creates an illusion of eating – the flavor and chewing motion stimulate the salivary glands, swallowing saliva puts some liquid in the stomach and creates a small amount of digestive activity, and mentally it provides a distraction from hunger. Sometimes hunger is emotional or triggered by habit or an outside stimulus, so chewing gum gives us something to do while we wait for the need to pass. Without the gum, this kind of hunger would pass on its own, but chewing the gum makes the waiting easier. We may think or fool ourselves into thinking that it’s actually responsible for the abatement of the hunger, but it’s really not.

CAM does the same thing. That is, it does nothing but give us the feeling that we’ve done something to help the problem and distracts us while we wait for it to resolve on its own.

As an alternative, they both fail completely, because chewing gum is no more a food than CAM is a medical treatment. As I just said, they let us put off eating or seeking medical help while hunger or illness resolve on their own, but not all hunger or illnesses do that. If we’re truly hungry and try to placate that hunger with chewing gum for long enough, we become more vulnerable to binge eating. We’ll eat whatever we come upon, whether it’s good for us or not, and eat more of it than we would have if we’d attended to our hunger properly from the start.

When CAM is used to treat an illness that doesn’t get better with time, we end up delaying the start of evidence-based, efficacious treatment, which means that we are much sicker and harder to cure than we would have been if we’d addressed the illness properly from the start.

As medicine, CAM is to it as gum is to food. Many forms of CAM rely on untestable elements, and those that can be examined in a clinical setting consistently perform no better than placebo. Chewing gum can be tested, and shows demonstrably negligible amounts of carbohydrates, and nothing else. Calling any type of CAM medicine is just as ludicrous as calling chewing gum food.

We don’t allow chewing gum to label itself as part of a well-balanced diet, so we should start coming down on practitioners of CAM who want to label their practices as medicine. Put up or shut up. The gum has a nutrition label. You want your stuff to be called medicine, show that it works like medicine. When the gum has the nutritional qualities of food, then they can call it food. When your modality has the evidence of medicine, then you can call it medicine. Until then, stop calling it that.

Fuck Alternative Medicine.

Fuck Alternative Medicine.

I’ve held that in for a long time. For all the things I’ve said about it, there have been dozens that I haven’t, and I no longer feel obligated to tippy-toe around it. Fuck Alternative Medicine, its proponents, practitioners, and profiteers.

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t criticize because it somehow “works”. No, it doesn’t. Even setting aside the fact that not one single modality is capable of producing anything more than placebo effects, and that only in a clinical rather than a research setting, it doesn’t work. It keeps people focused on their problem by making them perform repetitive behaviors and thoughts that keep their attention on the problem. When the problem doesn’t go away, it makes them continue to put thought and effort into focusing on their problem for significantly more time than it would have taken to do something that would actually help solve their problem. So no matter how many qualifiers you put on it, it doesn’t work, so don’t tell me anymore that it does if you don’t want an argument.

I’ve been told that it’s important to its adherents to respect their right to believe in it. Fine. You have the right to believe whatever you want, but when it’s patently ridiculous, shown to have no basis in reality, or tested consistently false, I’m not going to respect your belief. Your right to believe something ridiculous, unreal, and false won’t be compromised, but you’ll have to accept that my disrespect of your belief has nothing to do with disrespect of your right to believe it. If you don’t want me to be disrespectful of your belief, don’t give me the opportunity.

I’ve been told that I’m unsympathetic or even cruel for expressing my disdain of this crap. I’ve been told that it’s so important to people’s senses of self-worth that any negativity I express towards the belief is tantamount to an attack on the person who holds it. Bull. Alcohol, recreational drugs, promiscuity, and any number of things that people do and claim they consciously choose to enjoy have a lot of parallels. If I tell you to lay off the sauce, go to rehab, or quit whatever else it is that’s not doing you any good, I’m not calling you names. If you believe some kind of crazy that sets you apart from other people, and I tell you it’s fake, I’m not calling you crazy. I’m saying this thing you’re doing, this thing you’re believing, is a big minus in your quality of life.

I’ve been told I’m close-minded for not entertaining the possibility of these things working. Well, my time and my neurons are both limited commodities. There are a lot of real things that are worth knowing and learning about, and I’m not going to toss those aside and make space in my schedule and my brain for pondering things that have no rational reason to be considered possible. They didn’t get closed out; they set foot inside and then got kicked out. Mind stays closed after that unless there’s a preponderance of evidence.

I will not pretend that there is even the slightest possibility that something that has no rational reason to work might somehow, someday, turn out to work. If it can’t be tested, it’s because there’s nothing to test. If people push it even though it can’t be tested, they can lie with impunity and pass the onus of its failure onto the consumer – as if he or she didn’t feel bad enough as it was. If you got sick, it’s not because you did or didn’t do something, and if you don’t get better, there had darned well be a reason other than not doing a ritual right or following a protocol to the letter. A doctor can tell you that a treatment or medication works or doesn’t work based on your condition, co-existing conditions, other medications, and work out a best-case plan, and alternatives. An alt-med practitioner can tell you you didn’t believe hard enough, or you must have done something wrong, but can’t even come close to reliably predicting outcomes. They’re making it up as they go along, using anecdotal evidence and confirmation bias to make it look like they know what they’re doing, but they don’t. What they do know is that they can tell people all kinds of crap, cover up failures with hand-waving and excuses, and still get their money.

I will not pretend that a belief should be treated with respect simply because it is held by someone who should be treated with respect. You can love and honor someone and still think they have an idea that’s batshit insane. And I think that the only people who benefit from Alternative Medicine are the people who are selling it – so buying into it is batshit insane. Did I say you were batshit insane? No, I did not. There’s a difference.

I will not feel bad about challenging your cherished belief if I can see the harm it’s doing. If you think I’m being mean for trying to steer you away from something that’s going to hurt you somehow, so be it. Keep it secret from me, or cut me out of your life. I’ll deal with it a lot better than holding my tongue and seeing the very aftermath I anticipated.

I will not pretend that there are possibilities when the overwhelming evidence shows there are not. I don’t take things at face value, and I feel that wishful thinking should just be a party game. Show me consistent, reproducible, predictable results that support your claim, and I’ll gladly admit I was wrong, but don’t ask me to indulge in magical thinking because it feels nicer than reality.

So from now on, I’ll deal with the backlash from speaking my mind, because being uncritical and respectful and sympathetic hasn’t helped. If I’d been forthcoming, either things would have turned out differently, or I’d have been ostracized and not known how they turned out.

I haven’t said it enough in the past, so I’ll be making up for lost time. Fuck Alternative Medicine, up, down, backwards, and sideways.

How to Not Fall Asleep.

How to Not Fall Asleep.

I am so tired of not sleeping. I’m so tired of seeing information on the internet about fixing sleep problems – it’s so simplistic, and doesn’t apply to me at all. I’m really tired of sleep medications that end up costing me even more sleep than I’ve already lost.

I’m trembling all over, feeling woozy, hung over, flu-ish. I hurt myself this afternoon because the exhaustion has made me so uncoordinated. Knocked a container off the refrigerator shelf because my hand missed what I was reaching for, slammed my other hand into the refrigerator door trying to catch it and missing broadly. The obvious solution is a nap, so I set aside an hour and a half. It went much the way my nighttime sleep did, and in my frustration, I decided to write a little chronicle.

I’m trying a little relaxation/meditation technique that involves picturing yourself as a hollow vessel, slowly filling with a warm orange liquid from toes up to head, then slowly draining back down. Very effective, according to sleep experts.

Slowly, the warm liquid fills up the toes of your feet. The big toes, the smaller toes, and then you feel the balls of your feet, then the arches, slowly filling you with warmth and calm.

I think the high pitched buzz in my head is a C. Maybe one day I’ll check to see.

Feel the warmth in your feet as the liquid fills your heels, then your ankles.

God, I hate this pounding and whooshing of my pulse in the right side of my neck and head. Whoosh/pound – whoosh/pound – whoosh/pound. . .why only on the right? Why did it start up again? It’s not the sleep meds, because it started two days ago. Maybe the feeling like someone’s plunging a sharp pencil into my right ear is from the sleep meds, though.

Feel the warmth in your feet – wait, did that. The liquid begins to fill your calves. It rises slowly, inch by inch. You feel warm and calm and peaceful.

I’m thinking of a song that was playing on the radio in Physical Therapy. Do I own that CD? The CDs are organized, the books used to be, but now I’m taking them down so we can move the shelves. Audrey’s going to the library tonight, maybe this time I’ll finally go and drop off some books for donation there. That room is such a mess.

The warm liquid rises up into your knees. Feel them relax, and then feel it begin to fill your thighs.

Hot flash. Throw off the covers. Damn dog is clanking her collar on the wood floor. Why can’t the damn dog sleep on a rug? Why does the damn dog have to sleep right in the doorway whenever I’m trying to nap? Why don’t I ever remember to take the damn dog’s collar off when I lie down for a nap? Now I’m cold. Bundle up again.

Where was I? Crap. Feel the warm liquid fill your. . .ankles? Oh, knees. Knees. Now feel it begin to fill your thighs. Feel the calming warmth spreading through your body.

Am I ever going to have the energy to finish that room? I haven’t even hemmed the curtains, now I need to take them down so I can paint. All the fabric to hang so I can start sewing again. I wonder which bag has the polar fleece? I’m hearing a Jonathan Coulton song now. I should download a few more of his tracks. But I never finished learning to play Skullcrusher Mountain, even after I transposed it into A.

The warm liquid begins to fill your pelvis. Feel the warmth entering your abdomen, filling you with peace and relaxation. . .

I have to remember to read last month’s minutes before Thursday. I should finish filling out the voucher, too, and I never did make up those forms and reports in Access. The leftover supplies are in a bag in the kitchen next to the stuff I want to Freecycle. I should do that and get them out of the way. Once they’re gone, it’ll be easier to wash the floor. This stupid medication didn’t help me sleep, I’m so tired. I could get all this stuff done if I weren’t such a zombie.

Feel the warm liquid rise up past your navel, up towards your ribs. . .

Time to get up!!!

Body Work

Body Work

I wasn’t going to say anything, but I’m sitting here in the middle of another annoying hot flash. They’re becoming fewer, and the intensity is diminishing, but the only good thing I can say about this is thank goodness I’ll be dealing with this for months rather than years. I have nothing bad to say about having a hysterectomy, and the hot flashes would have come anyway. I can predict some of them. . .every time I wake up, every time I lie down in bed. If I get up in the middle of the night, that’s a twofer. I’m finding that three layers are good, if cumbersome. Two shirts and a sweater for the normal cold house temperature. Sweater comes off for a mild one. Sweater and one shirt for a bad one. If nobody’s home, sometimes that last shirt comes off for a minute or two. 😉 I’m sure that by the time I’m almost completely done, I’ll remember to take my coat off before I drive, because I’m always getting pissy when a hot flash comes on and I can’t un-layer. It’s worse even than getting an itch on the bottom of your foot when you’re wearing boots and driving. WAY worse!

You know, though, I wish I’d been able to convince a doctor to do this years and years ago. I don’t have to worry about confining myself to the house in case my periods are too heavy for the most superest-plusest feminine protection. No more feeling like I have a bag of rocks in my abdomen. No more ovulation pain and cyst-busting pain. And the best is that I’m off antidepressants. That wasn’t part of the original plan, but unrelated circumstances led to weaning off, and when they were out of my system, I felt fine.

Well, fine as in before clinical depression. I do miss my Adderall, because ADD doesn’t switch on and off with hormones. I’d like to sleep, I’d like to focus, but I’d also like to see what I can accomplish without chemical intervention. And really, I’m better at focusing on one thing at a time, so right now it’s going to be losing all the extra weight. And I’m saying that here so that it’s out there to keep me honest.

South Beach, Phase 1 vegetarian. Short term this summer worked well, but then came band season (and cookie season, and grabbing something at the concession stand because you had no time to eat because you were packing and unpacking the band truck season. . .) and I lost track. So that’s where my head is right now. Remind me of that in case I forget! My blood sugar is on the high end, SB worked well for my mom on both the weight and blood sugar fronts, so we’re giving it another shot. Wish me luck.

Once I like what I see in the mirror and enjoy clothes again, I’ll decide what to tackle next.

When to Quit?

When to Quit?

I’ve been seeing this all over lately (not just from band kids; don’t get paranoid), people who are quitting something, or someone, and I’ve been thinking about why people quit and whether or not they should, and what leads to it, and whether they’re serious when they say they’re going to quit. . .I’m not sure if there seems to be a lot of it going around lately, or whether I’m just noticing it more.

I don’t want to go into lecture mode. I’ve done my share of quitting, and sometimes my reasons have not been the best. I think maybe I’m trying to understand why I’m finding some people’s reasons more legitimate than others by relating them to my own experiences, or maybe I’m becoming aware of mistakes I made both in committing to something I might not be able to stick with, or quitting for the wrong reasons. I just know that when I look at what other people are doing, I don’t want to just decide if it’s right or wrong, I want to know why I think it’s right or wrong, and what I’ve done or learned from doing that makes me feel that way.

A lot of times I think that we’re encouraged to make commitments, or expected to make commitments, and make them to avoid having to think about why we don’t want to. We’re supposed to go to college, get married, have children, buy a house, for example, which means that many people who shouldn’t do these things do them, and end up unhappy and maybe even failing, because they committed to something they probably knew deep down was not really what they wanted. Worse, by the time they realize that it’s never going to work out, their desire to quit is made even more complicated by the fact that other people are involved, and the negative impact quitting would have on them is just as important a consideration as is the negative impact of continuing on the person who is unhappy. I know that my feelings on these type of commitments is colored by my own experience, as well as by watching the experiences of those around me, so if I say something here that sounds judgmental or absolutist, that’s unintentional. I’m just trying to figure out the whys and wherefores.

I think we should encourage people to make commitments, to try sticking things out enough to really give them a chance, but the things that should be committed to shouldn’t be a generic laundry list for everyone. When things aren’t working out, or have reached a particularly difficult point, we all find that we have a strong desire to quit, and very often a reasonable sounding opportunity presents itself. We have a fight with someone, or a better opportunity comes up, or another commitment takes precedence. . .however, sometimes we have to make them up in order to get out of whatever it is that we no longer wish to be a part of. I know I’ve done that, and I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t at least once or twice taken offense where none was intended to precipitate that fight, or cultivated that other opportunity well before quitting, or shifted our priorities around to make it seem like our commitments were in conflict. Even though I’ve done this, I’ve tried to teach my daughters to stick with things at least until they have had a chance to weather the rough times and see if their desire to quit is only situational. We’ve put reasonable time limits – you have to do this for a year, or for a season (as in band, or a team sport, or anything that requires a consistent and predictable number of people for success – and lasts for less than a year for all practical purposes) and then if you don’t like it, you can quit. Just try performing in a recital once to see if you like it. Do one competition and then decide if you want to compete or not. Stick it out until the teacher/coach/team leader can find a replacement. The idea is that there is a culmination or an end goal, and that once you’ve gone through the full cycle and reached that finale, you have a taste of the commitment from beginning to end and can make a more informed decision about whether or not to quit.

Those kind of commitments, though, seem to be connected more with our young lives. Once we get older, we’re supposed to pick something and then do it forever. The type of experience we have during our school years in no way prepares us for that. We can do something in Middle School for a year, or two, or three. We can do something in High School for a year or four and move on – and we can make a four year commitment that obligates us only once or twice a week for nine months out of each year! College gives us opportunities galore to get our feet wet and then move on without finishing what we started. No matter how well we’ve learned to follow through, we’ve still got so many chances to try something for just a bit and drop it if we don’t want to do it anymore that the lesson can easily fall by the wayside. And then we’re supposed to pick a major that will prepare us for the job we will do for the rest of our lives. Then we’re supposed to get a job – and even if we don’t stay with the same company, we’re supposed to plan a career path that takes us upward and keeps us employed in a particular area until we’re allowed to retire. And we’re supposed to pick someone to stay with for the rest of our lives (thankfully, this one does frequently work, but it would work more often if some of the pressure eased up) and have children and raise them to do the exact same thing (also something that would work better if more personal choice were respected.) I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded about what happens when people cave to the expectation that they possess certain things like houses and cars when the reality is that they should wait or not get those things in the first place. All these “adult” commitments carry a hefty burden and can have a load of negative repercussions for quitting – or failing – and sometimes the best way to avoid quitting is to avoid committing in the first place.

Now that I’m mulling it over, I’m starting to see that we need more opportunities for short term commitments, and more opportunities to make longer but still limited commitments, because we can’t possibly know what they might entail when they make the jump from a year or a season to a lifetime. It’s easy to think something will be great when you first start, but not realize what might change over time, whether it’s the situation or your attitude or your abilities to keep up. Somewhere there’s a line, though, because we learn important things when we stick things out through rough times. We need to be able to make commitments for limited times and complete our obligations, because we need to know how to put up with difficulties and work through them. We need opportunities to make different kinds of commitments so we can learn what is really important to us – is the end result worth the hassles in the middle? Is it worth it enough to keep doing it, or to do the same thing with different people, or do something similar in a different area? We can’t possibly know whether or not we want to do something for a long term unless we’ve had the chance to try it out on a smaller scale.

What I can’t put my finger on, though, is where those changes should be made. Certainly, some people have taken the reins in this by no longer expecting to get a job and stay with the company until they retire (even if that all started because corporations were treating people as expendable!) or by spreading out their education or changing schools and majors as they learn more about themselves. And I think, just as certainly, that some commitments cannot be shortened – children, for example, are not a commitment that has an expiration date. Somewhere, though, there has to be more compromise. Perhaps it’s because I’m older that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to stick out a school year. That period of time is a much smaller segment of my life than it was when I was a quarter of the age I am now. And certainly because I’m older I think that some ages are too young to insist on a lifetime future commitment. However, the more I talk to myself here the more I realize that there are many occasions when it would have been better to say up front “I’m going to try this for X number of years and then decide if I want to continue” than to realize I was in over my head, or didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, or find I’d bitten off more than I could chew and then had to quit, leaving people in the lurch.

I know that I’ve learned a lot from sticking with things even when I was dissatisfied or unhappy. Maybe, though, I would have been less dissatisfied or unhappy if I had set limitations in the first place? I do know that I’ve learned that I prefer honesty to excuses, negotiating to complaining, and confrontation to stewing in anger, and after writing this, I’m thinking those things need to be front-end-loaded rather than brought out when I’m starting to think of quitting. Sometimes I’ve ended up not quitting when I’ve been honest, negotiated, and confronted (but not aggressively, of course!) and the problems were cleared up.

I guess, then, that I’ve been talking to myself here, rather than anyone whose talk of quitting got me to thinking in the first place. Commitments need to be fixed in scope and time period. Commitments need to be adhered to within that scope and time period. Dissatisfaction or unhappiness do not negate the commitment, and those feelings need to be conveyed to the relevant people associated with the commitment so that problems and conflicts can be resolved. Decisions about future commitments need to be considered based on previous experiences, and limitations about the scope and time period need to be set in advance, both for the initial and any future commitments. And if, despite all that, I want to quit, I won’t make excuses or lie about my reasons, even if I have to parse them in such a way that feelings are spared. If I do, I’m doing no good to myself or anyone else. So perhaps the person I needed to lecture about quitting was myself. . .