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The new doctor did an EKG as part of their new patient intake.  The nurse who ran it looked at the printout with a furrowed forehead.

"What is it?" I asked, suddenly nervous.  The cardiologist who saw me in the hospital, remember, declared after a dozen tests that my heart was fine, but ultimately wrote "abnormal EKG" on my chart, and I haven't had a chance to call his office about it.

"It's . . . giving me some messages here," she evaded.  "The doctor will talk to you about it."

This made me nervous.  Was this another abnormal EKG?  Whenever the staff won't tell you, it's bad.

After an interminable wait, the doctor himself finally came in, and I asked about the EKG.

"It's just the machine," he said.  "There's nothing to worry about."

Cool.

I also asked about my low heart rate, and he confirmed it was because I run, and that my rate was normal for me.

Good.

New Doctor

Oct. 17th, 2017 06:48 pm
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Half my blogs seem to be about health...

I saw a new doctor today.  Dr. S--- replaces Dr. J---, who gave me a prescription that creates kidney stones in people prone to them.  Dr. S--- and his staff gave me a thorough going over that included an extensive back-and-forth interview in his office.  Unlike my previous doctor, Dr. S---'s communication was careful and extensive.

So we'll stay with this practice.
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Hmmm...last night my Fitbit reported that my heart rate went down to 38. I checked the other data. The previous night it went down to 42. The night before that, 40. In fact, every night I've worn the sensor to bed, it reports my heart rate dropping into the low 40s between about 3 and 6 AM (when I get up). Should I be worried?

When I was in the hospital and they administered morphine, my heart rate dropped into the 40s. The hospital freaked out and put me on a heart monitor for three days and conducted endless tests on my heart, to which the cardiologist said everything was perfectly normal. (Did my heart rate drop that low when I was in the hospital? If it did, no one burst into my room to wake me up.) But my medical records from that day diagnose me with an "abnormal electrocardiogram" with a numerical code for "short QT syndrome."

I'm in the processing of dumping my current GP, the one who put me on the prescription that gave kidney stones, and I'm seeing my new GP for the first time tomorrow. I'll definitely bring this up with him. And I have to call the cardiologist.



Mom and Me

Oct. 15th, 2017 11:01 pm
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Today my mother called just as I was looking for my phone to call her.  Weird.  We talked about her recent trip to Boston and other places on the northeast coast, and we talked about my difficulties with the hospital.

My mother is a retired nurse and is very wise in the way of hospitals.  She pointed out a number of motivations to some of the hospital's actions, and was shocked when I said the hospital tried to put me on Heparin, which is a blood thinner administered to prevent blood clots.

"Were you on bed rest?" she asked.  "Were you told not to get out of bed at all?  Were you barred from walking around the room?"

To each of these, I said, "No."

"You weren't at risk for blood clots," she said.  "They shouldn't have been giving you Heparin for two and a half days when you were getting up and walking anyway."

I'm looking for other health care options now, thanks to my mother.
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I eat a lot of oatmeal.  Real oatmeal, not instant.  It's easy to make:

1/2 cup oatmeal (regular, not quick oats or instant)
1 cup water
pinch of salt
a spoonful of brown sugar (I use Splenda's brown sugar substitute and don't notice a difference)
a splash of milk

Put first three ingredients into a bowl twice as large as a cereal bowl.  Microwave on HIGH for two minutes.  (The mixture will boil and puff up temporarily, which is why you need a bigger bowl.)  Remove from microwave.  Bowl will be hot!  Stir in last two ingredients.  You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg, dried fruit, or fresh fruit.  Serve.

Today, I noticed the home made cinnamon applesauce in the fridge.  It came out smooth, with almost a creamy texture, and it's wonderful.  I added a couple spoonfuls to my oatmeal.  Fantastic!

I'm flying in the face of the food industry with this recipe.  The food industry has successfully worked to convince Americans that food preparation is onerous, difficult, and overly time-consuming.  To this problem, they have the solution--instant foods!  Heat and serve!  Easy, easy, easy!  Fast, fast, fast!  You can't cook.  We'll cook for you!

Instant oatmeal is a prime example.  At my grocery store, entire shelves are dedicated to various flavors of instant oatmeal, while the canisters of regular oatmeal are banished to the bottom shelf that few people check.  Oatmeal is too hard!  Buy instant!  Just add hot water, stir, and eat!  Give you kids a hot breakfast in plenty of time!

Never mind that all the fiber has been milled out of instant oatmeal, and it's loaded with sugar as well.

Also, in the "old" days, one of the virtues of oatmeal was how easy and fast it was to make.  You just add one part oatmeal to two parts lightly-salted, boiling water, let it cook for a minute or two, and you had a meal.  You could add any flavoring you liked--sugar, fruit, even bacon.  In Europe, they eat it with salt and butter--toast you eat with a spoon.  It was the go-to food when you needed a meal quickly, or you burned dinner, or had unexpected company.

Even compared to instant, regular oatmeal is easy and fast to make in a microwave.  Hell, the amount of time it takes to heat up the water for instant is about the same as it takes to make the above recipe.  And regular oatmeal is high in fiber and low in fat.  It's even gluten-free, if you need it.

Making oatmeal is easy.  Avoiding the food industry is hard.
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Friday, Darwin is leaving for a conference. He'll be gone for a week. This is the longest we've been apart since we got married. (The second-longest was when I stayed in the hospital for three days.) Neither of us is looking forward to this aspect of his trip.

However, I decided to take advantage. Max will be at his mother's the weekend Darwin leaves, so I can take a trip, too. A change of scene might help buck the depression. But where to go? After some consideration, I settled on Chicago. It's close enough to drive (making the travel cheaper), I know the city a little, and there's lots to do.

I can also do exactly what I want to do, eat where I want to eat, see what I want to see, without worrying about anyone else's wants or needs. I can be self-centered for a few days.

I scared up a place to stay on AirBnB, which is still cheaper than a hotel. Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do. I always like to have an idea of what I'm going to see and do, though I also build flexibility into my schedule. Any ideas, folks? The Willis (Sears) Tower might be fun again, and I always like the aquarium and the boardwalk, but what else?

And I'm taking my bike. I have a bike rack on the car, and with a bike, I can park the vehicle and not worry about finding a new spot. Chicago traffic being what it is, biking will be faster than walking in a lot of places. A perfect idea!

So I'm running away for a weekend.
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When we finish MAUS in English 12, we're moving on to THE COLOR PURPLE. I've never taught it before and was floundering over ways to approach the book. Part of the district curriculum requires seniors to compare three different versions of the same work. Previously, I'd taught TARTUFFE, and used the written play, a performance of it, and an updated modern-day version of the story. For PURPLE, I have the book and the movie. I just need a third. Several years ago, the BBC did a radio version of the book, which would have been perfect, but I can't find it anywhere. The BBC's web site doesn't make it available, and it's nowhere else to be found. I finally settled on using clips from the Broadway musical, which are widely available.

But how to approach teaching the actual literature?

Internet to the rescue! I found a set of study questions that beautifully divided the book into sections (very handy for reading assignments). I found another site that gave a number of excellent activities and even PowerPoint slides for introducing the novel. I'm using these as springboards.

I'll have to preview the book heavily. I can already see one set of my students, who are immature for their age, will have problems with the book, which is very explicit. But my other sections should handle it well. I'm looking forward to it. MAUS is already pushing their pre-conceptions of literature. PURPLE will do it further.
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I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies a while ago. But in the oven, they flattened and spread, pressing up against each other and creating flat squares instead of round, puffy cookies. I was mystified. The butter was cool. I'd added enough leavening. The only thing I could think of was that maybe I'd miscounted cups when adding the flour.

I was going to throw them out when Darwin happened by. "Those look great!" he said.

"These are dead," I said. "Dead Sea Cookies. I'm going to toss them."

"Don't do that! I like them that way!"

Er . . . okay. I pried them off the silicone sheet, let them cool, and put them in the cookie jar. Darwin has been munching on them all week.

There's no accounting for taste!
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I'm running faster these days. My treadmill has a speed scale of 1 to 10, and while I don't know how fast 10 is, I know it's faster than I can handle for more than a couple seconds. Usually I start out walking at 3.5 for a couple minutes, then speed up to 5 over the course of another couple minutes, then go faster until I hit 5.8 or 6.

But lately I've been rushing past 5 and into 6, finishing at 6.7 or even 7. I'm flying! Yesterday, I got up to 7.5 and pushed up to 8 for a minute or two before cooling down.

I'm trying to outrun the trauma. I hope it'll work, eventually. It's certainly helping my physical health.
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Last week was all mountains and valleys. One moment I was fine. Hell, I was =great=. My weight went down below 200, and I celebrated. I was getting together lesson plans for teaching THE COLOR PURPLE (a new unit for me), and it was awesome. I went running in a warm rainstorm, and it was cool!

A few minutes later, the hospital visit would come crashing back down on me. Memories of the pain; the splayed, helpless posture; the gun=shaped instrument the doctor shoved into my urethra and waggled back and forth. I obsess over details, poring over medical statements and lab reports to glean clues about what happened to me while I was unconscious. I also discovered the cardiologist who ran a thousand tests on my heart and reported everything as completely normal, diagnosed me as having "an abnormal EKG," along with a hospital code for "short QT syndrome." Now I have to get hold of his office to find out what's going on.

After I completed the x-ray and the 24-hour urine sample (which I had to FedEx to the lab, a whole process by itself), I called the urologist's office. Did I still need to come in to get the other two stones removed? I realized I was secretly, deeply hoping the answer would be "no," that I had managed to pass the stones without noticing. I told myself this was extremely unlikely--the stones are four and five millimeters, not something that would exit easily or without pain. But I still hoped.

The receptionist said she would have to get hold of the doctor and call me back to answer.

I waited all day, trying not to obsess, and failing. By the next day, there was no call. Finally I called again. The receptionist--a different one--checked the computer and said that I did need to make an appointment for extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). "The scheduling service will call you," she said.

"Will it require sedation?" I asked.

"Not full sedation," she said. "More like a twilight state."

And that was that. But I hadn't realized how much I'd been hoping everything was over until I hung up the phone and started to shake. The disappointment was enormous. More than anything, I didn't want to go back to that building for more anesthesia, more people poking and prodding and staring.

I'm going to press for Darwin to be in the room while the procedure takes place. It will make me feel better. He's agreed to it.

That evening at 5:15, I came up from the basement and discovered a voice mail from the urologist's office on my phone. They had called a few seconds ago. A pang went through me, but also hope. Maybe they were calling to say doctor had reviewed the x-ray and seen the stones were gone. I called back and got a recording that the office closed at 5:00, please call again later. Oh, I was upset. Why had they called me and left a message I couldn't return?

Again, I tried not to obsess all night and failed. I watched endless videos of ESWL procedures on YouTube, and couldn't make myself stop. The first thought I had when I woke up in the morning was of the procedure and images of me lying naked and semi-conscious on the table. Maybe I could get out of it!

The morning crawled by. Finally I got a chance to call the office. "Oh yes," the receptionist said, "the doctor ordered ESWL for you. The scheduling service will call later."

It was just crossed wires. The office hadn't made a note that I had called them the first time, so I was still on the list of people to get hold of.

A few hours later, the scheduling service called. I could come in November 3 or November 22, which is the day before Thanksgiving. Now, last year I went in for gall bladder surgery during Thanksgiving week. I had to go through a rigor-morale of bureaucratic crap--doctors notes, forms, emailed statements--to "prove" to the school district that I really was going in for surgery and not just skiving off during a holiday weekend. The surgery also left me bed-ridden and wiped out Thanksgiving. Not again. Also, I just wanted to get it over with. So November 3 it was.

The scheduler rattled off a long list of instructions--the surgeon's office would call the night before with an exact time, nothing to eat the night before (even though I wasn't being put fully under--pff!), no blood-thinning medications the week before, and so on. Then she hung up.

I shook again for several minutes. I can't seem to help that, either.

One small plus, I suppose. A different doctor will perform the ESWL, and it's a man. This makes me feel a little better. I know it shouldn't bother me that the urologist who did all the other procedures was a woman, but it does. I'm going to see about changing to him permanently after all this is over. The other urologist was perfectly nice, but the wiring in my head can't get passed the fact that she's a woman pulling and hauling and doing painful things to intimate parts of me, and it ties my stomach into writhing knots. That's just the way it is.

Writing this blog ties my stomach into knots, too. I'm pushing through it as a way to confront it. Will it work? Dunno. I process my world in words, so that's what I'm doing.

I keep trying to climb the mountains so I can enjoy being on the peak, even if it's only temporary. The problem is, I sabotage myself. I get to a high, and then think, "But this is only temporary. You're going to hurt in a minute. Watch this!" And my mind sends me another hospital image.

Working on it. Working on it.
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Last week I started running again, for the first time since the Great Hospital Debacle.

The previous time I had surgery (November of last year), I couldn't run for about two months. I spent a lot of time sitting, which meant a gained weight, weight that I couldn't seem to shake even after I started running again. It was still with me when I had surgery again this year.

But after this latest trip to the hospital, I lost a chunk of weight because anxiety kept me from eating. I decided to take advantage of this and keep going. When the awful stent was removed and I could move without pain, I climbed back on the treadmill.

I wondered if I'd lost my previous fitness. You'll remember that my resting pulse rate is in the low 50s, which panicked the hospital into running a dozen tests on my heart and putting a pissant heart monitor on me for three days even after the tests came back normal. It was my punishment for all the running. But when you stop running, your fitness level tends to drop quickly.

For my first run, I told myself not to push. However, I found myself accelerating fairly quickly and almost reached my normal pace, which peaks at speed 6 out of 10 on my treadmill. (I have no idea how fast this is in MPH.)

I decided I was going to run more. My previous goal was to run at least four times per week, five whenever possible. I punched the goal up to running every day. So far, I've only missed one.

Now, two weeks after I started back up, I regularly push past speed 6 and peak at speed 6.5. Today, I hit 7. I want to do more of that. Running and staring at a TV show lets me escape the wyrms that chews my mind for a while. And I've lost eight pounds. My goal is to lose 10 more, then see if I want to keep going. I've found that I can focus on "lose 10 pounds for now" better than I can focus on "lose 20 pounds overall." So that's what I'm doing.
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My previous entry on dealing with post-operation depression was a little dark, to say the least, but it needed to be said.

I'm moving forward. Monday night at the Untitled Writers Group meeting was a case in point.

This was the first meeting I'd attended since the hospital--another sore point for me. I despise missing writers group and become angry when I can't go. The anger was made even worse because my absence was caused by an outside force that ripped me out of the group for a month without my consent. I was supposed to be critiqued at the first meeting I missed, and on the novel that I now can't write, and all this pushed me further into the mess of resentment, fear, and self-blame over all these events.

The group had held my manuscript over, so at my return, I was to receive critiques on it. I was both nervous and unnerved. Right now, I tend divide my life into BEFORE and AFTER the hospital. BEFORE was when my life was normal. AFTER is when my life changed. This manuscript had been written BEFORE, and I wasn't sure how I'd take a critique on it. I've been a member of this group for decades now, and I hadn't been this nervous since my very first meeting.

Before the meeting started, one of the members asked how things had been going with me post-hospital, and I told them. (These are extremely close friends, and over the years, most of our secrets have been revealed to each other in one way or another.) As you might expect, this made me feel a little better. I talk about these things with Darwin and my counselor, but talking to a group of writers made a difference.

Then the group members gave the critique. It was over a set of chapters in my WIP, and the section was a departure for me--some of the chapters were in prose, and others were written as an epistolary (in letters). It went well, and I handled it just fine, which was a further relief.

And then . . .

The

David, one of the members, In his critique, he mused it might be worth exploring the idea of writing the entire novel as an epistolary. In my response, I said the idea has merit, but would mean a tremendous amount of work 50,000 words in, so it wasn't something I'd probably try.

And then I walked outside.

Lenny (my counselor) takes an exercise approach to therapy. He gave me a number of activities and exercises to do that he hopes might help. When I told him about losing my writing and how terrified it made me (a lot of my identity is tied to my work), he suggested that I try writing stuff I knew would never go anywhere--pieces of a short story, character sketches, descriptive scenes. This might jog my writing forward by "proving" to myself that I can still do it. The trouble with that approach is that I've always hated writing exercises because they take up what little writing time I get each day for something that I know I'll just trash, so I didn't do anything with Lenny's suggestion. The stress of doing a writing exercise would only make things worse, not better.

Then David made his suggestion in group. And outside on the front sidewalk, it occurred to me that changing earlier sections of the novel into epistles could be the exercise Lenny suggested. It would be an exercise I could do as an exploration of a new facet of the book. If I decide it doesn't work, I'm fine with it because it was an experiment on the current work, and I would learn this idea isn't worth exploring--and I explore new facets of a book all the time with material that doesn't always go anywhere. If it DOES work, I've improved the book. Either way, it's a win.

So I'll try that and see what happens.
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Over the weekend, Darwin and I went to an apple orchard. These places abound in Michigan, an apple state. They're half U-pick, half amusement park, half bakery. The apples aren't any cheaper than the store AND you have to pick them yourself, but it's a "family outing" thing, so I suppose you're paying for the experience.

Anyway, Darwin and I ate hot donuts, drank hot cider, and picked apples. I wanted cooking apples, so we went to the orchard for Golden Delicious. We quickly filled our bags and hopped aboard the tractor-pulled wagon to get back.

On the wagon, I had my arm around Darwin and he had his hand on my leg. No one on the crowded wagon noticed--or they pretended not to. Two boys in their late teens were sitting next to each other, close but carefully not touching each other. Then they noticed us. After a while, the first boy put his arm behind the second, and a bit later, the second boy shyly touched the first boy's hair. No one bothered them, either.

This is why we need openly gay people. Younger people learn from role models, whether they're on a pro team, in a movie, or sitting on a farm wagon.
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When my son Aran was diagnosed with autism at age three, I stopped writing for two weeks. The third week, I went back to it. I had to. Aran's play therapy was expensive, necessary, and not covered by insurance back then. Writing was the only way to find money to pay for it.

When we went to Ukraine for a month and a half to adopt Sasha and Maksim, I took my laptop with me to write between orphanage visits and adoption appointments. Life become difficult and complicated in both bad and good ways. I stopped writing for two weeks. Then I got out my laptop in our flat in Kyiv and went back to it.

When I got divorced and moved nearer to my job in Wherever, I found myself a single father of three special-needs kids who needed help dealing with their own pain. I stopped writing for two weeks. Then, like a thrown cowboy turning back to his horse, I got back on my computer.

On September 10, 2017, I went into the hospital. The pain became so intense, I became partially delirious and lost track of who and where I was. It took an inexcusably long time for anyone to give me medication, and later, when the medication wore off and the pain roared back, it took another inexcusably long time of me screaming on the gurney before they authorized more. After that, it was tests and invasive procedures and drugs with side effects and still more pain, pain, pain.

Now, four weeks later, I get a steady stream of random anxiety attacks. Images of the hospital flash through my mind. My heart speeds up, my breathing goes crazy, I feel tight and frightened inside. Writing about it here, in fact, makes my hands shake and my heart pound.

I've barely written fiction since I went into the hospital. I've managed a couple pages, that's all.

I'm seeing a counselor. His name is Lenny, and I've had three sessions with him so far. During our first session, I gave him the short version of what had brought me to his office, and he said three words:

"You've been raped."

At those words, I broke down. Completely lost it. I was crying so hard, I felt like a child who just watched someone die. I had known, but hadn't been able to say, that being raped, however unwittingly, was the core of my trouble. Hearing it from someone else dragged it into the light, in all its slimy ugliness, and made me admit it.

When I was 21 and living in Germany as a college student, I became a survivor of sexual assault. After I got away from my attacker, I went home to my dorm, took a shower, lay on my bed and shook, then went to sleep. In the morning, I was fine. I wasn't afraid, I wasn't unhappy. The assault was just something that had happened, like missing a train or getting stuck in a long line at the grocery store. But years later, I was taking a class in human sexuality for my health degree and I freaked out during the unit on sexual assault. Apparently all I'd done was bury the trauma, and it was pushing its way back out. I went down to the campus health center and saw a counselor for a few months until we were both satisfied that I worked through it.

In my late thirties, I was assaulted again. This time, I didn't see a counselor; I used the techniques and information I'd gotten the first time around and took myself through it. Neither incident bothers me now. Or so I thought.

In early September for three days, the hospital performed a number of invasive procedures on me. They were designed to solve my kidney stone problem, but the procedures caused me almost as much pain as the initial stones, though it was spread out over weeks instead of hitting me all at once over minutes. When I woke up from the first awful operation and the doctor told me she had not removed the stones as she said she'd do before they administered the anesthesia and my world went dark. Instead, she had inserted a stent which would cause me considerable pain over the next few weeks.

The entire series of events leading up to that moment punched the big red ASSAULT button hidden away in a mental sub-basement.

Things got worse. Another procedure, this time to actually remove the stones. More anesthesia, and then the shock when I awoke and learned that the doctor had pulled the stones out with a scope (scraping up my insides) instead of breaking them into pieces as she said she'd planned to do, and then she'd installed another painful stent. I'd been thinking the pain was over and I'd be fine when I woke up. No. The problems were just getting started.

More procedures, more pain. Pain every time I went to the bathroom that made me flinch in advance--and reminded me that I'd been assaulted. Medications put constant, relentless side effects on my genito-urinary system--and reminded me I'd been assaulted. Fatigue from being in constant pain sapped my energy--and reminded me I'd been assaulted. Ten days later, the doctor pulled the second stent out in yet another humiliating and pain-filled procedure--and reminded me I'd been assaulted.

I still have more tests. At this moment, I'm in the middle of a 24-hour urine collection procedure. It's gross and nasty and even though everything happens in private, I find it humiliating--and it reminds me I've been assaulted.

The most private parts of my body are constantly put on display for an entire team of grinning strangers to yank at, shove tubes into, poke, prod, and send into gut-wrenching pain. Sometimes it happens when I'm sedated, with yet more tubes thrust down my unconscious throat without my knowledge or active consent and taking away my own ability to breathe while I'm draped in cloth and splayed open with a hole cut between my legs so the grinning team can expose me and yank, insert, pull, and shove.

I know the doctor and the nurses and med techs are there to help me. I know that they see dozens of patients like me every month, that I'm nothing special to them, that they've seen so many body parts, both private and public, that they've long stopped caring what they look like or whose they are.

But while my head knows all this, my heart does not. My emotions shout at me that I've been betrayed, that someone is doing something horrible to me, and I'm helpless to stop them. I have no choice but to lay back and let them in. It's that or the pain.

And then came the news, stated with absolute surety by my urologist, that none of it should have happened.

"You're on Topamax?" the urologist asked at one point. "Why? Do you get seizures?"

"No," I said. "Migraines. Topamax is an anti-seizure med that also lessens the length and severity of my headaches. My GP put me on it a few years ago."

"Topamax causes kidney stones," she said flatly, "especially in people who are prone to them. You should stop taking it immediately and have your GP find something else."

I was floored. Every day I'd been taking a little pill that was quietly causing stones to grow in my kidneys, and I'd had no idea. My GP absolutely KNEW I'm prone to kidney stones, but he prescribed Topamax for me anyway. I can't describe how angry this knowledge made me.

Later, I had an appointment with my GP, and I pointedly asked him about it. "Oh, yeah," he said with a shrug. "I guess you should stop taking Topamax and maybe see a neurologist about another medication. Well, if that's all we have . . . " He shook my hand and left.

I was so tired from the pain from the stent that I (uncharacteristically) didn't press the matter, or even raise my voice at him. I'm wondering if I have a malpractice case. Regardless, I'm never setting foot in his office again.

All this has smashed my writing flat.

I've long maintained my subconscious is a better writer than I am. I find themes and symbols and images only after I've written most of the book. (This annoys my critique group, because I often don't know what I'm writing about until I'm almost done, and they see only the drafts from when I'm still wandering all over the landscape.) My subconscious creates the deeper parts of the work and feeds it to me in pieces. I used to fight this and bring my work more into my conscious, but these attempts only resulted in pages of awful words. I've learned to accept this is the way I write, and to let it happen.

However, these days my subconscious is filled with images of rape, fear, helplessness, more rape, and pain, pain, pain. (There goes my heart rate again.) It's too busy processing this to give me much else. Being aware of this problem unfortunately doesn't make it go away.

Lenny told me psychologists are reluctant to diagnose PTSD until at least six weeks after the traumatic event or events, but he said we'd progress as if that were the diagnosis.

He gave me some exercises and activities. He said to draw and doodle. He said to watch movies I know well and call out the dialogue along with the characters. He said to listen to music loud and sing with it. This is partly to soothe and partly to drown out the pain with ear worms. I've been trying these, but I don't know if they help yet.

It's a drawn-out process, Lenny tells me. It will take time to work through this.

During the weeks I had the stents in my side, everyone kept telling me, "Don't worry. It'll get better. The pain will end. You'll be fine." I knew that. But when you're in pain and you're exhausted from it and the medications are making you feel awful and every moment crawls by slower than a half-frozen worm, you know deep inside that it'll NEVER get better, that this is your condition for the rest of your life. You build your life around pain. You work to minimize it, scan for tricks, look for little remedies. You stop just sitting, and instead lower yourself carefully into a chair. You put off going to the bathroom as long as possible because it's going to tear your insides up, damn it, though you hope that this time it won't hurt, and then it does anyway. You look for ways to avoid walking. You look at the pain medications and wonder much longer you'll need to take these and how long before addiction sets in? And you think to yourself this is never going to stop.

That's how I feel about the emotional fallout. The pain follows me around, a bulldog that sinks its fangs into my thigh whenever it feels like it, and I'm powerless against it. All I can do is ride out the anxiety attacks. They'll never end. I glance behind, and the bulldog is still there, grinning through his chops. "Gonna bite you, motherfucker," it growls. "Bite you GOOD, and what the fuck you gonna do about it? Nothing, you helpless fuck." He licks a little slobber from his red jowls and adds, "I'm you, and you've fucked yourself up good."

And I'm still not able to write.

I feel a terrible sense of loss. An entire month was stolen from me. Writing fiction is central to my identity, and I lost weeks and weeks of it, with no end in sight. I'll never get that time back. The hospital stole it from me even while they assaulted my body.

I try to tell myself none of this was my choice, and that all the procedures were necessary. It doesn't help.

Lenny said the above thinking is counter-productive and doesn't make PTSD any better. I'm trying to use logic against an emotional problem, a useless endeavor. I need to use other methods to defeat the bulldog, and time is my biggest weapon. Lenny joins the chorus of people who chant, "It gets better."

That doesn't help me NOW. Pain is always NOW.

I'm a person who confronts. When I have a conflict or a problem, I want to solve it NOW. I want to examine it, talk about it, find a solution. (This is a continual challenge in my marriage to Darwin, who prefers to chew over problems privately for days at a time before actually discussing it. This drives me bananas because to me he's avoiding the confrontation I need. Of course to him, I'm pushing too hard to talk about things he isn't ready to discuss, and we're continually searching for a middle ground.) The movies/music/doodling feels like avoidance behavior to me. I want to stare the bulldog down. The problem is, every time I try it, I get an anxiety attack, which makes things worse instead of helping.

When I told Lenny I wasn't sure the movies/music/doodling were a big help, he asked me about my writing. (I think he figured I was an amateur, writing journals and poetry that never saw daylight. He took it more seriously when I mentioned I had an agent.)

"You should try writing about it," he said. "In as many ways as possible. Write it over and over."

And so we have this blog entry, which repeats some earlier information. I'm writing it all down again.

The helpless sense of loss continues. I want to write fiction. I want to finish the book I have half-completed. ("What if something happens to me and I die and I don't finish the book ever?" I ask the bulldog. "Your family will delete it from you computer before they sell it, dipshit," the dog says. "Nobody cares.") I want to work on it NOW.

But when I call up the manuscript, the words die and the bulldog snaps them off the sidewalk before I even see them.

"Write something else," Lenny urges. "Write crap. Write a short story that'll go nowhere. Do writing exercises. You're an athlete who's been injured, and you can't expect to leap straight back into competition. You need to rest and re-train first."

I'm trying to believe him. When Juliet learns her cousin is dead and Romeo banished, she says, "Yet let me weep for such a feeling loss./ . . . Feeling so the loss/Cannot choose but ever weep the friend." I need to let myself feel the loss, even as it grows greater with each passing day.

It's hard.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
The Census Bureau is only planning to ask about sexual orientation on their pre-survey which asks people what barriers exist that prevent them from taking part in the census (CBAMS). https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2017/sexual-orientation.html

This is a major problem.

Originally for the upcoming census, the department was going to include sexual orientation as part of the survey. This would have provided an enormous amount of data about the makeup of families and about the number of LGBT people in the United States, since the census is the most comprehensive survey of US citizens in existence. No other survey counts every single resident. It would address a number of questions: how many LGBT people we have in the country, exactly where they live, what their family structures are, racial and other demographic makeup of the LGBT community, financial status of LGBT people, and so on. But the Trump administration decided to pull that out.

They won't even be asking if a marriage is opposite-sex or same-sex. Putting this category down makes it feasible for researchers to gather information on the number of same-sex marriages. Without this category, the only way to find out is to look at each marriage individually--millions of them--and figure out by the gender data whether it's same-sex or opposite sex, an impossible task.  And no one would be able to do that anyway until the Census Bureau releases individual household data--IN 72 YEARS.

Darwin and I will be listed as "married" and as living with a minor child, but we won't be noted as an LGBT household--the only way to tell will be if a researcher looks at our particular household, looks up Darwin to see if he's a man and looks me up to see if I'm a man, and even then the researcher will have to assume, which researchers don't like doing--so our relationship as two gay men won't be counted. (If I were a transgender man, there would be no way to list that on the form--I would be listed as "female" if I'd undergone full transition and "male" if I hadn't, which doesn't give full or correct data.)

The same goes for all other same-sex or transgender-involved marriages in the country. Same-sex marriages won't be counted. They'll be lumped in with all marriages, and there won't be another chance to count this for ten more years.

This is a way to continue the erasure of LGBT people.  If you don't count them, they don't exist, and you can continue to ignore their rights.


The Stent

Sep. 28th, 2017 06:59 pm
stevenpiziks: (Default)
The awful stent is gone. The doctor pulled it out this afternoon. It was one of the most horrible sensations I've ever experienced--the kidney stones rank just worse--and I was pale and shaking when it was over, but it's over. Darwin was in the room with me, which helped.) For the first time in three weeks, it doesn't hurt anymore to stand or bend or go to the bathroom. The doctor has ordered a couple (non-invasive) tests, including an x-ray to see if the stones on the other side have moved. Once those are done, she said she can mostly likely get those out with shock waves and no invasive anything, and won't have to install another stent. Just the thought of another stent makes me shake, so I'm glad to hear that!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Today, Darwin is doing well. He took a lot of painkillers last night and today is feeling okay, with minor aches and pains. We spent a lot of the day dealing with insurance and finding a loaner car and . . . and . . . and . . . I'm glad he's up and around!
stevenpiziks: (Default)

I'm sorry to report that Darwin was in a car accident last night. (No suspense: he's overall okay.) He was waiting in a line of cars at a stoplight, and a dickhead came up behind him at 40 mph and, without even bothering to use brakes, slammed into the back of Darwin's car, shoving him into the car ahead of him. Paramedics and police arrived quickly. I was at home and got a phone call from a stranger, which I almost didn't answer, but I've been getting a lot of calls from strange numbers because of the kidney stones, so I picked up. The man on the other end told me Darwin had been in a car accident, but that he was awake and coherent. I jumped into the other car and ran down there. It was only a few blocks from our house--Darwin had almost been home from work. Paramedics and police had blocked off the entire road, and they were prying Darwin out of the car. (At a guess? Totaled.) They put him in an ambulance for a grand ride to the hospital with me behind. At the hospital, they ran tests and scans, and in the end declared him nothing more than badly banged up.

I brought him home with painkillers. He didn't want to take them on the grounds that he felt fine, except for his legs, so I disguised the pills in a spoonful of peanut butter and--no, that's the dog. Instead, I reminded him that two doctors and a nurse said he was going to be a wreck tomorrow, so he'd better start the pills now. I finally got him to take them.

Now he's asleep and with the crisis over, I can start my own freak-out.

stevenpiziks: (Default)
Today the pain has decreased markedly. Thank heavens!

Update

Sep. 24th, 2017 11:32 am
stevenpiziks: (Default)
I'm in stasis. The stent comes out on Thursday at the doctor's office.  They insert a scope with local anesthetic and pull it out.  I get panicky every time I think about it.  My hands were shaking as I typed those words, in fact.  The medications I'm on dry my mouth out.  The stent drags at me.  Constant pain in the bathroom, more blood.  I have zero energy, and I'm often light-headed.  I can't be on my feet for more than a few minutes at a time.  I honestly don't know how I'm going to cope this week at work. 

Every teacher at Wherever has to chaperone at least one after-school event as part of the contract.  Before the kidney stones slammed me, I had signed up to chaperone the freshman fall dance, which was last Friday.  I thought about backing out, but it was only two hours in the evening, so I went.  It was a mistake.  I got through the event (Darwin came, too), but I was exhausted when I got home, and all the next day too.

I'm not sleeping well.  My mind goes back to everything that happened at the hospital and everything that's coming up--the stent coming out, more lithotripsy for my other kidney (which means more general anesthetic), probably another stent on the other side afterward.  I panic, and I don't know how to stop.  Darwin is here with me, but doesn't know what to do other than reassure me that it'll get better.

I've done a lot of reading on stents, the related medications, and the side-effects, and the symptoms I'm having aren't outside the norm, though they're on the outer edge.  I'm not in danger.  But my body tells me I am, and it makes me panic easily.  I'm trying to tell myself that I could be in Houston or Puerto Rico, and after a day there, I'd be glad to return to my current problem.  It doesn't help much.

I finally called around and found a counselor. I have an appointment with him on Tuesday, two days before the stent comes out (and there my hands are shaking again).  I don't know how I'll cope through Thursday, but I don't have much choice.

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