Monday, June 29, 2009

Well, I wasn't exactly sure what shape I wanted today's post to take. Many things are swirling around in my mind, but my mind is also quite tired and harried due to the pain I've been in for several days now. A word on that ...

I've been suffering inexplicably for about four days, almost without relief, with one of my migraines. It has been strange in that the pain itself is just nearly unbearable, but it hasn't come to the point of barfing or even very bad nausea. So that's not typical. It did, however, get so terrible and un-yielding yesterday, that I broke down and went to the Emergency Room. Dammit! It was a relief in that the doctor was nice and gave me heaps of Morphine which happily helped me and lasted throughout the night. I can't believe how amazing it felt to NOT be in the presence of pain for so many hours after the days and days...

But today it was back, strong as ever. I don't know what is going on. It's so shitty, I don't know what else to say. I left a message for my new doctor, kind of telling him the few things that do seem to be helping and then the things that are not. Hopefully he'll have some thoughts. I'm not working til Wednesday now, so I am praying for healing by then.

So, Michael Jackson is dead, y'all. I sort of can't believe it, but then, why can't I? I guess it's that way when we just get used to having a certain public figure "amongst" us for so many years. I have to tell you that I have really stayed away from even reading about his personal life for many years now. I had no idea, for example, that it's been common knowledge that he abused drugs and was always trying to get prescription drugs, even from Deepak Chopra when he visited once. I mean, I just thought he always acted weird naturally! Also, I have no idea what happened with him and those little kids. I tend to believe there were untoward behaviors, but I don't know what it was all about.

For example, when I see articles in my beloved, guilty-pleasure celebrity rags that are about Jenifer Anniston, Brad Pitt, and/or Angelina Jolie ... I just turn the page. I can't stand any of them. I don't CARE what they do, what they think, who they date, what babies they have or charities they pretend to give to...blah blah blah. And that's how I was with MJ.

But now, the music was another story. OOH, I can still hear that Kris Allen on "American Idol" recently singing Michael Jackson's "Human Nature." He did a great job with it, and I was so moved. That's my favorite ballad by MJ for sure, and possibly my favorite song by him of all. I used to moonwalk until my feet hurt in my socks, on my mom's tile kitchen floor. In the clubs, to this day, I like to break out a few Michael moves, or at least MJ-inspired moves, when old-school music comes on. I mean, he just inspired EVERYTHING that I love, from R&B to hip hop to every dance move you see people do now. The last time I saw Chris Brown perform (and yes, he is a talented young dude no matter what sort of issues he has), I thought, boy, if that isn't Michael Jackson in the flesh, I don't know what is. The man was an amazing, outstanding talent. I don't know when or if we'll see such an inspiration again come from the world of pop music.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How Can I Use the Cross I Bear?

You might have read my earlier post about Oprah. Well, I was watching her show this morning, and it was about a situation that was tragic all around. A harried, over-tired, busy mother had managed to leave her baby in the car, in a car seat ALL DAY while she worked, thinking in her subconscious that she had dropped the baby off at daycare that morning as intended. It was an extremely hot day, like we are having here in Chicago now, and the baby died of severe heat stroke.

I can just think about how it must have happened for the little baby, because babies are so much more susceptible ... And to think, I was just bitching on Facebook that after a few hours of sun and heat the other day without proper hydration and rest in the a/c, I went home and vomited, with sunburn and muscle "weirdness." All signs of heat exhaustion. But that's not the point.

I can only imagine (didn't hear them talk about this, or I missed this part) that the parents, especially the mother, have had a TON of therapy to get to the point of some peace where they now seem to be. I mean, the mother still cries upon speaking about her daughter EACH time of course, and when she heard the 9-1-1 calls from that day when passersby had finally seen the baby in the car, too late. Who wouldn't? But she could speak in a positive way about life, about the baby's life NOT being in vain, about going on Oprah to share a story about having led a life that got so busy and crazy and harried that she got to that point...And she said something that really resonated with me.

The mother said that for whatever reason, she's "been given THIS to bear." And she asks herself how she can USE it, how she can make sure it doesn't just go to waste or just turn toxic (I am paraphrasing the conversation here). She's trying to use her proverbial cross that she now must bear in order to produce a life that honors her baby and honors the lessons learned so tragically. I was amazed.

I will be the first to admit that I spend a lot of time in my head, thinking about the what-ifs, and the already-are's and even the have-been-already-in-the-past's. And I'm talking about the ones that revolve around ME, ME, ME and MY situation, MY desperation, MY illness, MY pain ... oh, we can go on and on down that road once we get started, can't we? And I have, and I still at times do, although I have also had therapy and try to better myself. This is why I wanted to write today.

I wonder, as we all might think about, how can I use my cross that I have been given to bear, to live an illuminated and illuminating life? I think at one time I was a bit better at this, learning to laugh in the face of fear, learning to smile even in pain, not to act like it wasn't there, but to be strong even in the midst of trouble. But the past few years were even more difficult than ever before, and I know I have sometimes let depression and hopelessness and even bitterness over situations get the best of me. How can I do things differently? How can I use what I've been given? How can I learn to see it that way, to begin with?

First of all, a brief history of what I've been dealing with, MY CROSS, if you will. As readers of my blog might know, I have a long history battling with terribly-debilitating migraine headaches. They started as infrequent but awful, with no remedy but a trip to the Urgent Care center for a pain medication shot. Then I began to see doctors, who prescribed me my own prescription shots and other things to try and keep me from having to do make those trips. Back then, about 13 years ago, I had great medical insurance, beginning with my parents' coverage and then with a full-time job I had at the time. Going to the doctor, filling my all-important medications at the pharmacy, and even making a trip to the Urgent Care Center if necessary, were nothing in terms of money. I would pay a $15 - $40 co-pay maybe? A lot of it was free under an HMO that we had. You could just go to your doctor so many times a year, etc. But oh, how those things have changed.

I was also diagnosed with dysthimia, which I think I spelled right. It's like an ongoing, low-grade depression. From what I understand, people who suffer from this are often the ones who are not, you know, like just unable to leave the bed, or just can't function, or just can't stop eating or can't eat at all ... not suicidal...those things we think of with Depression. And yet, we are depressed, often or all the time. We just don't have a sense of well-being, we don't get up looking forward to our day, we sort have a dark cloud over us, just wishing and hoping and wondering whether life should be more than this? One doctor diagnosed me with a worse depression (Major Recurring Depression), but it's very subjective, you know? It depends how well and how often I communicate what I've been dealing with, and how well he understands, his perspective, etc. Who knows exactly what I have? But I think that, while a small component might be a biological, chemical imbalance ... the situation with the migraines and the increasing stress and pain (physical, mental, emotional) that they began to cause ... is what has usually made me feel "depressed."

Over the years, as so very many of us know, it got more costly to get medication, to see doctors, to see specialists, and certainly to visit an Emergency Room or whatever. That's even for people WITH that great insurance that I had. I went on to another job, in management with a good company that you all would recognize, and I had another good insurance plan. I paid for the best one, of all the choices, and it was supposed to let me choose my doctors, my hospitals, etc. But as the years have gone on, premiums and medications and co-pays have just risen in cost. WELL ... meanwhile, I got sicker, not better, despite all the doctors and all the treatments (yes, I've tried chiropractic and yes, I've tried acupuncture, and yes, I've been through quite a lot) and all the drugs just seemed to be like piling those bags of salt against a flood of water. The migraines seem sometimes like they have a life of their own, like they are an organism determined to LIVE, finding new ways to get around whatever treatment works for a time. They feel like a demon inside.

Meanwhile, it got harder to work, because I was sicker. My migraines became Transformed Migraine, which is a common disorder for people who started out with what I had. We begin to suffer more migraines, but they often aren't quite as severe, while also having those infrequent terrbile ones. I have seen more than 8 neurologists, been to two specialty headache clinics, tried a great many herbal (or other natural) supplements, and of course, tried more pills and drugs than I bet many of you could IMAGINE ingesting in your lifetime. I'm telling you, if there were a cure for migraines, but it meant I had to, like, lose a hand, or shave some years off my life expectancy or something like that, I believe I would take it. I might go farther. I have.

People with migraine often get secondary issues in their lives as I have. As it got harder to work, over the years, without going into detail, I eventually lost two different jobs. Although employers could argue some red-tape type details about why I technically am not working there anymore, I was really let go or whatever because of being sick. We all know it, everyone basically said it, and that was that. It's very difficult to prove in court, but there was one situation in which I belive I could have. I wish I would have known then what I do now, but don't we all? Anyway, it has become harder to work, to the point of now, where I don't make ANYTHING like what I used to make in terms of salary and am not eligible for a decent insurance plan. I have to pay for my drugs outright, aside from a couple that are "discounted" and a couple that the companies have agreed to provide to me for free (Yes! Thank you, GlaxoSmithKline!) Pharmacists, friends, family and doctors have stepped in to advocate for me at different times, trying to help me get what I need. I need daily medications to be able to function, without debilitating pain, without getting sick ... Because if I don't have that, then I can't work, and when I AM sick, I can't work, and I lose money, and then it's harder to pay for these costly things, and then I get more stressed, and then I get more headaches (stress is a major cause) ... You see?

So you can see how I get down my road to Whoa is me, especially if I have a rough day, with a bad migraine or a bad day at work where I feel I barely made it through or something. I feel like there's no hope, no money, no way out of this situation with the costs, the needing of new and more drugs, etc. By the way, we aren't talking about pain-killers and controlled substances in most cases here. I think that's important to point out. People with pain disorders are often accused, like they don't have enough trouble, of having drug problems and drug-seeking behavior, etc. It's easy to see how it happens to people, because they initially need the medicine for pain and it helps, but then they take it even when maybe they don't need it, on and on. Thank God, I'm not dealing with that right now. But I know many who are and who have.

Anyway, I want to learn to USE my struggle. It takes time to handle all of these irons I have in the fire each day, like maintaining my paperwork for the free medications, keeping my doctor appointments, etc. But how can I use what has happened and what is happening and what is still to come on my journey (maybe healing? maybe help? maybe even a cure?) as a light in my own life, rather than a reason to feel sad and hopeless? How can I maybe even use my situation as a light to others who are suffering similar things, or worse? I am really going to ponder and meditate on this question today as I go through my endeavors. I noticed immediately when I heard the mother on Oprah today, that when I thought about the idea of Using My Cross, it immediately snapped me out of my inward thought process and made me think outwardly. Often that is the first step toward a better, and more realistic perspective.

Pray for me, and I'll be praying for you!

Oprah, dammit (Part One for Today)

Sigh...yes, I'm at it again. I've been watching Oprah, dammit. Oprah is someone I just love to hate, I guess. I think that she does a great job (obviously, an understatement) at, well, what she does primarily, which is interviewing and bringing issues to the forefront for her audience. She really knows (and has by now put together a team that helps her know) who and what is going on in the world around her, and what it is that is really on the minds (those nagging questions about health, fashion, LIFE) of her audience. I think most people admire her for that and understand that is how she achieved her primary success.

Then there's this business with her charity work and her own spirituality, the latter of which I sometimes am startled to find, seems to stand much in line with my own. I guess I don't expect to have ANYthing in common with her when I first see her, on TV or in a magazine or whatever: we're a different generation, a different race, a different economic class (shocker, I know!), etc. But somehow, I guess that's how she reaches people: everyone sometimes feels that she's Everywoman while still having achieved so much MORE on certain levels than many of us really will. Not that we aren't important and achieving at what WE do!! But I got off track ... The charity ...

I get pissed at her, because it seems like that for every good, wonderful, generous thing that she does ... whether it's starting a school or donating a generous amount of her money, or her perhaps-even-more-precious-to-her Time ... whatever it is, it seems like just when I think, Wow, That's an amazing, cool thing that Oprah did....SHE HAS TO GO AND BRAG ABOUT IT. And yes, to me and my sensibilities, it does come off as bragging and just telling the world how great you did, what great thing you did and how you're awesome because of it.

Once again, maybe it's because we were raised differently. I don't condone much about the Catholic Church or any of their ... I don't know, "mentality" would you say? which I was brought up. But I do think one of the values I learned there, perhaps one of the very few that I do carry with me -- and I know it isn't exclusive to Catholic belief -- is that when you do a generous or "good" or charitable deed, you don't go and tell everybody. There is a Bible verse that recommends that you don't even let your right hand know what your left is doing (I am paraphrasing, but this IS the topic of the verse). It's just an idea, a theory, that somehow it makes the "good" that you did nicer if you don't go and make it about YOU. You know?

Anyway, I always feel like I'm reading about Oprah and she's talking about herself and what's she's done, her charity, her opening of the school, her giving of money ... it's exhausting. And the business-trained person in me has to wonder if her aim isn't to get the word out about her Angel Network (oh, you're welcome, O, I'll take my check now) and those things, so that OTHERS will participate. But then I think, no, she's so talented at speaking and getting messages across in the right way, that she would know how to do this better if that was her aim. You know what I think? I think she just can't help bragging. I think we all have our faults, and that she is prideful sometimes. I'M NOT JUDGING as far as whether that makes her a bad person or something. I'm just saying why I roll my eyes when I hear Oprah. And why when I find myself liking her show, I say D'OH!

Or should I say D'Ohprah! He he....
Anyway, her show today did inspire my next post, so I hope y'all will read.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Heaven Help Us (With Healthcare)

So, I am watching the movie "Sicko" by Michael Moore. I know that this man's name brings passionate feelings from all ends of the spectrum almost any time or place that one might bring it up. But I have just been through a few years of hell with medical coverage ... and I lost my very well-planned and early-begun retirement fund BEFORE having to file for Bankruptcy, Chapter 11 ... all due to health care in this country. And let me tell you, I am an American through and through, quite patriotic and always trying to learn about and serve my country. But if I were to judge my country on this healthcare "world," our system, our set-up ... I would say it's a Shit Hole from Hell. This was before I watched the movie.

Some random thoughts, from my recent experiences and also from the movie, in no particular order!! :

1. When you have a baby in France, a "nanny" from the government comes (not sure for how long this arrangement is) and helps you!!! Even though you get an immense amount of time off work too!!! This government employee will do your laundry and help cook, take care of the baby, whatever, so that, in the words of one lady, "I can do everything so that I can take care of the baby, the house, and my husband." What. The. Fuck.

2. There is a new program in London (unclear whether it is all over in England, but it is "federal," so maybe?)...Doctors get bonuses in pay when they "win" in their practice for getting the most patients with low blood pressure, the most patients to quit smoking, and other health-positive changes in their roster. So, even though many in OUR country would have you believe that a government-subsidized or even (gasp) socialized healthcare system is terrible and that the doctors would be forced to live in terrible areas and drive beaters if they had cars at all ... perhaps that isn't true.

3. I have never re-couped my losses (basically, not even a fraction) from the Bankruptcy-based-upon-medical-expenses. I am bitter about it, despite trying very, very hard to deal with my anger in constructive ways and NOT be a bitter woman. I know that anger and resentment and hopelessness accomplish no action. Nevertheless, the fact that I have been sick has kept me from getting proper NEW insurance, a BETTER job, even from having new doctors (but this one I just saw is an exception, hallelujah) take me seriously. Because I have a "pain condition," E.R. doctors and others regard me suspiciously. They "can never be sure" whether I'm just pretending to be sick (for TWELVE YEARS, with job loss and insurance loss and retirement fund loss????!!!) to get pain killers. Talk about "sicko."

4. I don't think I hate the French anymore. At least, not the ones outside of Paris. :) I heard one French woman say that the way they get things done, and the way they have accomplished all of this for themselves (the benefits at work, the government-issued nanny, the free hospitals) is that "here, the government is afraid of US ... in your country (the United States, of course), YOU are afraid of your government." ....Is there not some truth, or a LOT, in this?

Well, I'm still watching the movie, and I'm still plotting my actions for getting my life back to what I consider to be "normal" at the LEAST, but preferably SUCCESSFUL and HAPPY.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Well, I took some time to learn a little bit more than my American education actually taught me about D-Day yesterday, after seeing everything on the news and wanting to really understand. I had only a vague knowledge that something important happened that day in the war, something that led to the end of the war, but I really couldn't remember or never knew much about "our" (and, of course, those countries that fought with us) part in things.

That's something, isn't it? I mean, I have education beyond my four-year university degree, and I still don't really know. I have talked with some friends about our education, especially where American history is concerned (world history, fuggedaboutit), and we all have similar stories, at least we public school kids. We all remember that, although we were offered --and took-- many American History classes ... they all seemed to cover only a certain amount of time, like from the birth of our nation (I could probably tell you a lot more about the American Revolution than anything else we ever did!!) to MAYBE the Civil War. Um, hello? There are a few more years after that, and we all remember that the classes would just keep attempting to start at the beginning and then just fail to get to the present. Weird.

And this is NOT an attempt to start an attack on the public school system. My own mother, and others I know closely, have worked within that system for their entire lives, and I know what a tangles, fucked-up web that is. I just think that, I guess ... If you find you are missing something from your education that you want to know about in life, well, I guess there comes a point when you better just go and find out yourself! And THAT is what I have found most useful about my education, by the way: the fact that, while I didn't learn or remember everything I was ever taught or could be taught I'm sure, I did learn a lot about HOW TO FIND OUT. And that is invaluable!

Anyway, I took a guess when talking with my dad and a few other older members of my family who did learn or who were there, regarding D-Day. Happily, I guessed the correct year and some other general facts, so they must be in my little brain somewhere! But I am just overwhelmed, as people seem to be every year, no matter how much time has passed, by the sheer will and determination and loyalty of the men who fought, who stomed the beach as they say. And so much was at stake, with Hitler's forces, as we know even more now. Hmmm, I am finding it difficult to explain, but I want to say a great big THANK YOU to all of those veterans out there today for doing what they do and have done. I guess I'm trying in a very small way to show better appreciation by learning about you and where you have been.

To be sure, I enjoy my freedom and our imperfect, beautiful democratic country. And I know a little more now about where that comes from and who has protected it. I also watched several programs on TV that let me "see" and "meet" some of those vets still alive. One more remarkable thing I noticed about these older guys was that no one seemed bitter or angry or anything. I mean, they had lost eyes and limbs and just been through so much in most cases, but they were proud to be honored and proud of their country and proud of what we have done. They also ALL (that I saw interviewed) commented that when you have seen real battle like that, then you know better than EVER to go into war unless you have to. I thought that was interesting too.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Oprah, Shnowpra

Wow. Oprah had a pretty hard-core look at the life and times of some drug addicts and their families today. It felt pretty intense to me and made me start thinking about so much...

The one boy (well, he's a young man now) started, had his first drink and black-out at age 11! He described how a friend that was drinking with him just basically turned up his nose at the alcohol and wasn't really interested besides the basic experimenting to see how it felt and what it tasted like. The other boy didn't like it, and lost interest. I know that is a typical experience for kids; i.e., a great many of us, although maybe at ages later than 11, have tried alcohol or other drugs "just to see" and then lost interest or maybe used them at parties either to have the meager amount of "fun" they offered, or just to look cool (you can admit it here).

But the addict, who was relating his story on Oprah today, explained how, even at that tender age, and even with it being his first drink ever ... something changed in him when he felt that alcohol in his body, when he felt that experience which ultimately he enjoyed. He said that even as a boy, who we can assume had none of the "worldly" associations with The Drink, like I'll-just-have-this-to-destress, etc., he just "had to" have it.

I'm curious about how this works, what happens to people, what HAS HAPPENED to people before they even begin life practically? Oh yes, I know, I know, it is pretty well accepted that some people have "the gene" or other biological predisposition to addiction. But I mean to find out something more than that. I mean, this boy wasn't abused, wasn't exposed to addiction, none of that horrible stuff that goes on with many addicts. In other words, what HAPPENED inside of him, whether in the womb, or in his early life, or whenEVER??

So, I mean, I keep hearing the short answer that some people are just "addicts," and that's that. Some people just can't cope with or control themselves around alcohol or other substances. But I always hear these people discussing that while they were using, they just were hurting so bad, they were trying SO HARD to RUN AWAY from things inside of them. It's usually things that they hated, like just this complete and utter self-LOATHING, just a complete hatred of oneself that I understand. You just think you're ugly and worthless and just not even able to cope or live on this plane, this world. If anyone tries to tell you some shit like "No, you're beautiful, you're smart," that doesn't mean SHIT to someone who is suffering like that. They will just think that person is crazy, untrustworthy and trying to flatter them for some reason, or whatever they think in their crazy mind. Believe me, I know. I really know.

I guess I want to know where that pain comes from. And do other people feel this pain too, but they just don't fall prey to addiction because they are not biological "addicts"? Or are addicts the only ones that know this feeling which NEVER leaves (never even on your best day does it leave you)? Because if that is a part of it, is THAT also biological? Do they ride hand in hand?

An insightful and of course concerned boyfriend of mine said many years ago ... I don't understand why they can't make a prescription for you or some kind of goddam anti-depressant for people that makes them feel this way! Why do you have to chase these painkillers or whatever in order just to feel normal and good and confident like other people do anyway?

He was saying what I felt. Like ... a lot of people use in order to just feel "normal," to feel confident and able. It's not about a party or getting high for them, that's often more of a recreational user's game. And with all of these fucking drug companies peddaling their bullshit out there and not doing shit for me or so many of those suffering from Depression, OCD, even Schizophrenia...What the fuck are they doing but making money off people's hopes? So ... that's really another, separate issue, but it coincides for people with these problems, like the guy on Oprah today and like me. My boyfriend was like, if there's a substance out there that can tweak your brain enough to make you feel "okay" and "normal," ..we're not talking about high and out-of-it ....then whey the fuck can't they find a way to parlay that into a long-term treatment? And there's no fucking answer.