Tag Archive | Health

The cost of healing part 1

Healing costs more than money, and I have been paying the price for years. But somehow this year seems to be costing me the most.

Let’s talk about money first, because it is easier.

I had a full ride scholarship for biomedical engineering to an elite college, $50,000 a year. I worked so hard to get myself there and had big dreams. That was the time PTSD first hit me, when I left home. The migraines became daily, I became suicidal, unable to sleep or think, nightmares, social anxiety, startling easily. My confidence vanished. Every skill I used to get myself there – poof – gone. By the end of the first year I was forced to withdraw, lost my scholarship, lost my dreams, my hopes, forced to change to a less expensive school and a major I did not want. I was forced to take out student loans for the entire amount, well I thought I was forced, I did not clearly understand what I signing with Sallie Mae at the time. They said sign here and you can go to school, so I did.

I did not care much any more, I felt empty, but I kept going.

The migraines and depression were a constant battle but I graduated with honors, easily got hired. But the stress was building. My new marriage was sad and distant and lonely. I had no friends. I was not challenged in my job, only by the social anxiety and panic attacks. I became suicidal again and was forced to resign.

At that point we had bought a house based on my income. Losing it suddenly was devastating. We could no longer afford two cars, cable, eating out. We also lost my insurance. The psych visits and meds were staggering. We kept adding to our credit cards for groceries, meds, doctors, even getting advances for the mortgage. Until we couldn’t.

Hubby convinced me to cash out my 401K that I had been paying into since I was 16. All my hard work, all that planning working in government jobs and we had to flush it away at age 25. I still regret that, especially since the following year we declared bankruptcy anyway.

That’s when we decided to start a family. No job, me sick, no money. Such idiots. It is amazing we are all still here really. But I had my reasons.

I healed enough to work part time and hubby got a new job, where he is now finally making a decent average income. When we both worked it was okay. On only his income we struggle and cannot pay every bill each month, we have to pick which ones to delay, slow pay, or skip a month.

I tried working full time. I am not sure if that was my mistake, or that I worked with a horrible CEO, or that it was bad timing too with AF’s death. For a year or so we had more money than we needed. It was amazing. We paid off every credit card and started making repairs around the house with new windows and such. But I crashed. The migraines returned, but with an evil twist, hemiplegic this time. I became suicidal again due to the anti seizure meds given to me to control the migraines. I was hospitalized, in a psych ward for two weeks. I was given ECT treatments and more meds than I can recall. It was horrible. I still haven’t written much about it here, might be ready to do that soon.

My hospital and medical bills are staggering, even with insurance I owe about $500 a month to various locations. My pharmacy bill is about $200 a month.

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Today is pay day. Before his pay came in, we had $48 left. Nothing in savings. A credit card maxxed out. No wiggle room. The stress of this hurts my stomach. And it all feels like my fault.

I need to work. I want to work. But I can’t yet. I am not well. Most of the time I sit and stare at the wall, or I turn on the tv and stare at that so it feels better to stare at something that makes sense to be staring at, but I don’t absorb what is happening. I have tried taking tests for jobs and I can’t pass them. I get confused, I can’t remember, I make mistakes. I am not well.

Money may not buy happiness but it does provide security and options and lower stress levels. I hate that creditors call me a dozen times a day. I would love to pay them. I am an honorable person. But I cannot pay them all, I have to choose. So I choose water, electricity, food, meds, school fees, lunch money…please be patient I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Part of the reason for this post is venting as usual, but part of this is to raise awareness. People don’t know how hard we work and what daily life is like. I hate money. I hate that we need money and that we need things. But we do.

We have never gone on a real vacation. We have saved up and gone to amusement parks for a day. We do not have nice new clothes, we shop at goodwill and walmart for the kids and most of my clothes are at least 10 years old, some even older. We all have 1 pair of shoes for each season. I have 1 purse. We eats lots of plain rice and potatoes and noodles. We do not go out to restaurants or movies or skating or skiing or golfing or whatever else might be fun because it costs money. We do free things at the library, parks, museums.

We do not qualify for welfare or free lunches for kids or food stamps or food cupboards. Our income is too high. But they do not look at our bills, that there is nothing left.

So kiddo says his knee hurts, he can barely walk. I take him in for an xray, they say not broken, likely a sprain, keep it iced and wrapped and gave him a note for no gym or recess. Dr calls me back and says they reviewed the xray report and kiddo needs an ortho specialist, there is some sort of bony growth abnormality.

I thanked her, made the call, and hung up and cried. I freaked out. Then I cried some more.

I don’t want to think about what might be wrong with his knee, does he need surgery? my poor baby is only 8. I have to be strong for him and I am so not feeling strong. Trying not to pre-worry but that isn’t going well today.

And then the money. I have not yet paid for that xray and I had to make more appointments that I know I can’t pay for. What choice do I have? He needs this. I’ll pay them eventually, or I won’t and the debt collector will call me for this too. I will do my best.

This life is effing expensive, and really effing hard.

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Countdown to spinal surgery

I’m not at all pleased to announce that I need another back surgery. The first one I had at age 12, to correct scoliosis, kyphosis, a horrid S curve. My spine was fused nearly completely at that time, only leaving the bottom two vertebrae free below the fusion and metal hardware. It was during that surgery that I was temporarily paralyzed and suffered with a weak leg and limp once and nerve pain ever since.

I was actually getting stronger in recent years and doing more than I ever thought possible. Until loser back pain has been getting worse and worse. I’ve been ignoring it for some time. Finally it got to the point where I could only walk about 5 minutes at a slow painful pace before having to stop, the pain itself stopping me. I’d wrap my arm behind my back and push it in as an odd brace to get me to a bench or something to lean against.

I started searching for back doctors willing to even look at me, I’m a rare and complicated case that many orthos and neuros have said no thanks. Good news is I found a specialist that can handle me, and that I feel mostly confident in.  Bad news is he says I need surgery to extend the fusion.

Turns out at some point my bulging discs wore out. I’ve been running bone on bone as I walk and carved and splintered one vertebrae from the pressure and grinding of the other. I nearly passed out seeing the CT and all the damage inside me, proof of my pain right there, hard to ignore now.

So my surgery is coming up in April.  He will be fusing the rest of my lumbar spine and adding more metal hardware. It will be essentially two surgeries in one, as they go in both through the abdomen and through the back. Two incisions. One month of no driving. Three months for the fusion to set. One year for full recovery.

I’d like to say I’m coping well with this news, but I’m not. I’m absolutely freaked out. I don’t want more pain. I don’t want more rehab. I don’t want the myriad of complications that seem to go with my body-ohhh that never happens…yeah except to me. I’m always the 1%, guaranteed.

But the scariest part to me is how much I hope it doesn’t go well. I’m still looking for a way out of this world, and a big scary surgery sounds like a good way to die to me. Sometimes I wonder if I made the first paralysis happen, because I wanted something horrible to happen then too.

I can’t leave my kids, but if it wasn’t my fault…well see , I do have these thoughts. I’ve only begun to work on this message with my counselor.

I’ve thought of delaying the surgery for several reasons and I feel like I can’t get hubby to listen to them realistically. He just wants me to do it as soon as possible to begin healing as soon as possible.

Maybe he’s right. I can’t think straight anymore. I don’t want to do any of this. I know I can. I know I’ll survive. I just don’t want to. All the pain, effort, its all feeling like pointless endless suffering. It’s almost been a year since the migraines started and my life derailed. I’m frustrated and have no motivation. I just go through the daily motions, do the bare minimum to exist and wait for something to happen or change or kick in or stop sucking.

Happy Slips In

Every once in a while, I am aware of this new feeling. It isn’t overwhelming, so it is sneaky and slips into my consciousness without me noticing at first.

English: A very happy Beagle Puppy!!!!! ; Othe...

A very happy Beagle Puppy!!!!! ; Other versions thumb|left (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been feeling happy.

Whaa?

Yes I have identified this new feeling as happiness. A soft feeling of being content. A lack of stress, anxiety, and depression. It isn’t as powerful as joy or excitement. It also isn’t neutral like the peace of meditation. It is like a cool breeze over a sun warmed back. It is gentle and lovely.

I had no idea that my previous job had me in a constant state of stress. I knew it was stressful at times, but I had no idea it had such a hold over my entire being.

Even with my stressful start to the New Year, even with some of my youngest kiddo’s health concerns still unknown, I can feel the distinct lack of stress. I don’t need as much painkillers. My mind is not getting stuck in those obsessive mental loops. Thoughts are free to form, swirl and twirl, and grow and develop! My creativity is soaring, and I’m expressing that creativity in so many ways now. I am drawing, or planning a drawing, nearly every day now.

I have lost weight for the first time in over a year and a half. I am spending at least 30 minutes on wii fit plus(doing the hard stuff, not the the quick games), nearly daily. And I look forward to it, because it makes me feel good.

I have so much support from my family, and I am learning to trust that. Even my mom is being amazingly supportive, which I can’t trust completely, but I think this past year changed her as well.

So many people now know my history, and I still get to be a part of the family. They don’t hate or pity me, they just understand and love me anyway.

I know I will still have bad days. I know I will get through them. Panic and fear no longer own me, and I no longer think my PTSD is something I have to remove. I have accepted where I am, and although I am always changing and growing, I no longer seek a cure.

I’m OK. And sometimes I’m happy.

Bring it on 2014!

 

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Living Life With a Big Heart

English: The Red Arrows visit Bournemouth: big...

A big heart for everyone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter is learning about life, love, acceptance, and intolerance. She is in the third grade, but acting with a gentle wisdom and constant big-hearted love for all that makes my own heart grow.

My girl is super smart, reads several years above her grade level, and learns everything quite easily. She is not bored in school though, as her active imagination keeps her going. No bestest friend ever yet. She is very busy, in clubs, sports, and extracurriculars and talks easily with anyone and everyone. I love watching her flit about from a young group of boys, where she acts like a monkey to make them laugh, then off to a group of moms where she impresses them with some reminder of a forgotten task, and then over to a group of girls and “oohs” at their necklaces and new shoes. She is happy where ever she is. And she is herself where ever she is. And she spreads happiness where ever she is. I love all that.

When school started this year, she told me about a new friend she made in class, and was so happy that he sat next to her. She said she thought he was cute and funny and they laugh together every day. I was happy for her but thought nothing of it. She also told me that some of the other kids aren’t nice to him, and she didn’t understand why. I asked what they did that wasn’t nice, and she explained that they call him names, laugh at him, and avoid him, like make a big deal that they don’t accidentally touch him in the hall. I said wow, that sure isn’t nice, and I bet he’s happy to have you as a friend. I asked if the teachers know how he is being mistreated? She said the teachers see it, and try to get the kids to be nice, but they just aren’t nice, especially in the hall walking to lunch. Aww, poor guy. I asked who, and she said a group of girls mostly run and scream, and the boys laugh and won’t let him play. But he doesn’t care Mom, he’s always so happy and nice.

As school got going, my daughter told me more about her friend. She said he can’t read very well, and does work she did in kindergarten. And he’s happy about it Mom. She was astonished that he was proud of himself for mastering such “baby-ish” tasks.  Then she looked at me and said, “I guess we should all be proud of what we can do, since we can all do different things. Just because this work is easy for me, doesn’t mean it is EASY.” And like the Grinch’s heart, I saw hers growing that day, as she learned her own life lesson in acceptance. Wow. (Not that she was overly grinchy before, but just young and self-centered as children tend to be)

Now this story gets even better. I took my girl shopping and we bumped in

to her new friend and his mom at the store. She ran up to him, and they exchanged high-fives and grins, and “See ya tomorrow’s”.  Her new friend has Down Syndrome. “Isn’t he cute mom?” Yes. yes he was adorable, and I could tell he liked my girl too. Such a warm and genuine smile on both their faces.

Her friend’s mom had teary eyes from my daughter’s warm greeting and obvious acceptance.

So. I never exactly told my daughter to value and accept every person, no matter what. But somehow she got that message. And somehow those not so nice students did not get that message. Were they given another one? Did I give this message without knowing it? I don’t know.

And the best part, to me, is that my daughter never thought it was important to tell me her new friend had Down’s. I found out she did know, and actually had asked me about it, but out of context and I never connected the dots. Just a quick, “Mom, what is Down Syndro-something? What does it mean if someone has Down’s? Our teacher said someone at school has it.” I explained that they were born with a different chromosome, (a what?) their DNA, their body’s roadmap. Like you have a gene that gives you brown eyes, makes it easy for you to learn new things, and your lungs get asthma. Some people have a gene for Down Syndrome. “Does it make it hard to learn?” Yes. “Does it make you look different?” Yes. “Like your gene made your back and leg hurt?” Yes.

“Mom, will he be ok? Is he sick?” Ummm, I searched for an answer here. I have limited understanding of Down, and I didn’t want to worry her too much or get too complicated for her age. I didn’t even know she was asking about her new friend, just thought it was someone she heard about at school.  So I said, “He’s OK for him, and he’s not sick, and can’t get anyone sick, his body just works a bit different. He can get sick with a cold, just like you can, but he isn’t sick with Down. You can’t really compare him to anyone else. He’s very special. And very lucky to have a friend like you. And I’m so happy you got to meet him.” She said “Yes, me too”.

I looked up Down’s info after talking with her.

http://www.nads.org/pages_new/facts.html

Health Issues

Many children with Down syndrome have health complications beyond the usual childhood illnesses. Approximately 40% of the children have congenital heart defects. It is very important that an echocardiogram be performed on all newborns with Down syndrome in order to identify any serious cardiac problems that might be present. Some of the heart conditions require surgery while others only require careful monitoring. Children with Down syndrome have a higher incidence of infection, respiratory, vision and hearing problems as well as thyroid and other medical conditions. However, with appropriate medical care most children and adults with Down syndrome can lead healthy lives. The average life expectancy of individuals with Down syndrome is 55 years, with many living into their sixties and seventies.

My body won’t listen to my brain

My brain has set up some really doable goals. Lots of little chunks of action to lead to the final goal. My brain is super excited and can’t wait to check something off that list. My body won’t listen.

I am so tired again. Yes, I did stay up too late watching TV. Yes I did pig out with chocolate ice cream AND potato chips. Yes I did sleep in this morning and forget to take a kid to preschool. Yes he did cry. Yes I didn’t get breakfast until lunch time. Yes my preschooler got his own snacks today. Yes I feel a bit guilty, but mostly I just feel tired. Where did this tired come from?

My husband is away this week on business, so everything here is up to me. I don’t feel worried about this, but could it affect me anyway?

I just finished a super stressful go-go-go couple of weeks where I did not get this tired. Did I stop rushing about and now I can’t get going again?

Did I reach some hormonal or chemical low point in this strange cycling depression?

I’m too tired to be frustrated today, that will hit me in a few days when I look back and see all the time I wasted.

It is gorgeous outside and my garden is calling for help. My brain hears the call, but my body won’t answer it.

My oldest wants to work on a school project together with a buddy. She wants me to call and ask the mom if she can go over. I keep staring at the number. It looks all jumbled, and I don’t want to call. My brain says push the buttons, say hello. My body says that is too difficult.

I made 3 pots of coffee today, but only had 2 sips, each full cup gets dumped out as I discover it cold and forgotten. I burned the lunch, somehow distracted while I stood in front of the skillet the whole time. I had set the flame to high.

I feel completely disconnected, like I’m not in this world. Maybe I’m not. Maybe my spirit gets so bored with being  a housewife that it actually takes off occasionally, and leaves me feeling tired and empty. Maybe Brain and body don’t work together unless the spirit is there.

A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe I’m really just a brain in a jar and I have been unplugged from the matrix. Plug me back in Keanu!

Looking Stress in the Face while you kick its butt

I have a very stressful few weeks ahead of me. My goal – not to unravel! (not completely anyway).

 

I’m not going to run and hide from the challenges set before me (not every day anyway)

I’m not going to drown myself in sugar and caffeine (not every meal anyway)

I’m not going to hide behind jokes and sarcasm (well, actually I probably will do that)

I will delegate tasks so I don’t have to do everything myself (even though I will wish I had because I will have to follow up and probably end up redoing many of those tasks)

I will eat well balanced meals to keep me energized (in front of the kids, once they are in bed I’m gonna pig out)

I will exercise daily (does running around like a chicken with its head cut off count as exercise?)

I will breathe deeply and live in the moment (then blog about it later)

I will keep my sense of humor (the last remaining fully functioning portion of my brain)

 

Here we go, countdown to unavoidable stress begins when I hit publish – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – No looking back, here I go!

(I’ll explain the added stressors in other posts, I think if I write about them now I may just go back to bed)

Bodies In Motion … Shake your Groove Thing

Silhouette of dancers with starlit backdrop

(Image via Wikipedia)

No matter how stuck you may feel, it seems as long as you can get started, you can keep going. At least for a while. Once you get your body moving, it wants to keep moving.

If you get up and have no clear goals or schedule, it can be easy to fall into the trap of nothingness and doing “it” later. Just going to have a little rest first. And then another rest. And then another.

I’m finding that when I am away from home, I have tons of motivation, excitement, plans, goals, and leadership ability. But when I return home, that feeling fades quickly, and the fatigue overwhelms me. Not to say I am not tired when out, in fact I fell asleep during my daughter’s rehearsal, because I was just sitting there. But when I was needed to work on a parent committee, I was just fine.

I’m trying a new theory this week, that maybe when I get that “I need a nap” feeling, I am instead going to put on my favorite music, and shake my booty. I don’t have the energy to get on that treadmill, and it just sits in the corner mocking me. But maybe I can dance and wiggle. I have no idea if this will work. I have tried yoga and pilates, but they are too slow and make feel extra tired when I already feel tired.

And the best part of this plan I think, I am sure that my kiddos will happily join in the dancing and all those smiles and giggles should add to the energy. The older kiddos may just be laughing at me, but laughing is laughing, and we need more laughing in this house these days.

Here’s an article about The effect of dance over depression.

Abstract

Dance and movement therapy are consisted of music, easy exercises and sensorial stimulus and provide drugless treatment for the depression on low rates.  A dance training program was applied to the subjects three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) during 12 weeks.  Beck Depression Scale was used for the pre and post test measurements of subjects.  In conclusion, it has been seen that dance affects the depression levels of university students positively and decreases their depression levels.