It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘emotions’ Category

Is it giving up or living the fullest?

We just got back from an amazing trip to Mexico, so of course I’d like to talk about wheelchairs.

Let me back up. Last year I finally saw pictures of my arthritic knees. Poor knees. They need replacing, but I am both too young and too fat, so that isn’t an option right now. What I may, or may not be doing about that is for a different day. Today is about how can I make the most of life with the knees I have today.

First step involved the cane I got for my trip to visit family in Missouri. I got the cane last year for the trip that got cancelled in favor of my beloved having heart surgery. So I was able to use the cane for innumerable trips back and forth to the hospital. And everywhere I’ve gone since when I’m concerned about how far I’ll really need to walk. It makes a surprising difference. I thought it would just help for things like stairs, but it makes me much more stable and limp less. Who knew?

Next stop was upping my regular workout at the pool. Walking mostly. Stretching. Practicing range of motion with my weight and gravity taken out of the equation, although the inertia is higher, so that’s an adventure. Walking in water gives the same benefits as land walking in terms of joint mobility and gaining strength without stressing the poor damaged joint. The goal is 45 minutes 4 days a week.  I usually get close to that.

Next up, extend the timing out a month and get my quarterly cortisone shot in October instead of September, two weeks before leaving so my knees are at their best. It does the job for now.

My insurance covers a certain amount of physical therapy, so I asked my doctor to send me. I got really lucky with my therapist and he did much better work than the people I saw last summer. He explained that my worse knee doesn’t fully extend, and he was able to dramatically improve my range of motion in just the number of visits my insurance would approve. And he gave me stretches and exercises that will help me continue improving on my own going forward.

And then there was the wheelchair. That’s a tough call to make, because it trips some sort of mental switch. My beloved is pretty unhappy with the idea. But it works like this. I can use up everything I have and all the work I’ve done struggling through airports, or I can accept help, get rolled through concrete floors and have a place to sit for long lines, and save my endurance for walking to the pool, to the spa, and to lovely places for dinner.

So it is not, in fact, ‘giving in’, it is making the most of what I have. Can I just point out that Beloved’s step counter said he walked about 3 miles yesterday. Just dealing with airports.

There are lots of places the same lesson applies. Figure out what you can do, and what you can’t do, and then figure out how to close the gap. If you need a wheel chair, or a wheel barrow, or whatever, get one.

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When they make it right: why fat people should fly Southwest Airlines.

Once upon a time in 2010, Southwest messed up but good. They kicked a fat guy off a plane in a ham handed decision to unevenly apply their rule about larger passengers who encroach on other seats.

They picked the wrong fat guy, because that happened to be Kevin Smith of Mallrats and Dogma fame. He’s a fat guy with a rabidly loyal fan base and a mouth more like Jay than Silent Bob. So, seriously bad move on their part.

On the other hand, every business will eventually publicly make a horrible decision (United anyone?), so what will set them apart is how they fix the issue.

Southwest claimed at the time to have a written policy, and their FAQ says their policy has been in place 30 years. I don’t know. I don’t really need to do that much research on the past when I know they are getting it right today.

Today, Southwest has a clear policy that is easy to find, and actually makes sense, and has worked for me exactly as advertised.

If you need a third seat, you can negotiate at the counter with staff and they may, or may not have one to issue you. Flights these days are often packed completely full. Also, with their boarding method, it doesn’t guarantee you early boarding if you check in later. So the only other spare seat may be in a different row, which is not useful and awkward and embarrassing to fix.

Buy a third seat. Just do it. And when you get home from your trip, call Southwest, give them your details, and they will refund the cost. In full. Super easy. You’ll get your money back in about a week. No fuss, no hassle.

A third seat will guarantee you have the space you need. You’ll even get an extra boarding pass that says reserved seat that you can discretely place in the empty so the Fight Attendants all know why that seat is empty and not include it in the empty count on a full flight.

Your third seat will also allow you priority boarding, meaning you skip the lines and you can pick your spot. It will allow one companion to join you in priority boarding, so you can claim your whole row (not the exit row, don’t be ridiculous) with minimal fuss.

I know it’s an extra expense up front, but it is worth it. My stress levels about travel have fallen dramatically. I have never had a Southwest employee be anything less than professional and pleasant about what I need, and frankly, my extra seat is more comfortable for everyone.

That’s how we got here:

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What an amazing thing

I’m sorry that I didn’t find time to write this post immediately after my second appointment with my new doctor. Because it was a completely new experience and I was so excited in the moment.

My new primary care doctor is amazing. An annual physical is not something anyone gets excited about, but I think it may have been the best medical experience of my life.

When I went in for my appointment, the first thing I said was “The most important thing for you to know about my health today is that yesterday my husband failed his angiogram and he needs to have bypass surgery.” And for a miracle, she agreed that was very important, and she spent a significant amount of time talking me through my side of the experience and helping me dial down my stress. Who does that any more?

Then she took the time to discuss and or address all the things on my relatively long list. It was only our second visit after all and I have a number of active health issues.

It is both horrible and wonderful to realize that for the first time I really felt listened to, and yet also supported. She didn’t dismiss anything I offered, but she didn’t hesitate to correct me when I had a misconception or suggest alternate ideas for me.

Finally, I don’t feel like I’m on this health journey alone without a map.

Drip.

We are having a cool wet spring. It has been 12 days since the last smidgen of sunlight.

I have lost any vestige of ability to be productive unless every possible light is on and the music is up slightly too loud. It’s a real challenge.

I have a friend in San Francisco. She gets a lot of grey weather too. We’re complaining-buddies. SAD buddies. When it’s grey for too long our will to live slowly drips out the bottoms of our feet, a little with each rain drip. Erm, drop. Possibly that’s a little melodramatic. It’s that sort of day. Drama produces it’s own energy.

Full spectrum lights help. If your vitamin D levels are low, certainly fix that immediately. But some people just don’t do as well.

I found this article. I think it’s hilarious.

People with Sad have an unhelpful way of controlling the “happy” brain signalling compound serotonin during winter months, brain scans reveal.

Unhelpful. Yes, a bit.

Lead researcher, Dr Brenda Mc Mahon, said: “We believe that we have found the dial the brain turns when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons.

“The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active – so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin.

“Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.

So not only does my body hoard calories, apparently we’re also socking away seratonin for…obviously not rainy days. What are we storing it for I wonder?

Sunshine is due to resume briefly on Sunday. I hope.

 

Appreciate the journey.

Not long ago I got philosophical about the difference between gratitude and appreciation. I think we all need more appreciation in our lives. Certainly I do.

An issue I’ve had for a long time is the admonishment to ‘enjoy the journey’. That life isn’t about the end result. It’s extremely difficult to ‘enjoy the journey’ when you are limp and in pain, but now that I’m feeling better and moving forward with my life again, I’ve come back to that idea with some new insight.

By taking time to appreciate things in your life. To “to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something”, really can help you to slow down and enjoy the journey by reminding you that each minute can be precious, just like the books say.

We have a practice in our house where, should you see a moment of amazing natural beauty or a particularly adorably sleeping cat, then that moment should be mentioned immediately so that the others in the area can admire and appreciate it too. This does not count as an interruption of whatever is going on around it, rather it’s an elevated moment that is much more important that what was going on.

It can be very difficult to do that with more prosaic things. It’s easy to give thanks for the amazing spread at a special holiday meal. We’ve lost, many of us, the habit of giving thanks for the smaller meals of every day. It used to be a very common part of religious observance. The understanding of religion is changing, but maybe we should look back at some of those regular observances and see what they still have to offer.

A recent topic of conversation in our house has been the untempered need in American society to increase. Every business must get bigger. Every person must become richer and more successful. My beloved’s company has been small and doing extremely well. Somehow they determined they had to grow, and suddenly things haven’t been doing nearly as well. The partners were all making a very nice living and running a company that did excellent work and had very happy employees. Why did they have to decide that wasn’t enough?

Have we always been that way, or have we lost the understanding between wanting to be more versus wanting to have more. Certainly if I look around it isn’t difficult to see that the dollar has become the bottom line for everything.

I’m pretty sure the value in the journey isn’t supposed to be about the price tag. How do we get away from that? I guess I’ll stroll along for a while and see if I can figure it out.

 

Positive outlook, positive outcome.

That’s what they say. Attitude is everything. Create your reality. You get what you expect.

Well, here’s my chance to prove that. I recently got a letter saying that the doctor I like and trust and worked so hard to find is leaving practice to spend more time raising her children. I completely respect her choice. But my first reaction to that letter was panic. It took me 5 tries to find her.

I could continue to panic. To rehearse in my mind all the various problems that I’ve had in the past. How much trouble others have had.

Or.

Or I can take this as an opportunity to walk my talk. I can trust that I’ll be given what I need. I can believe that this is an opportunity to improve my situation, rather than an irredeemable tragedy.

I’d like to think I deserve better health care than ‘pleasant’ and ‘non-obstructionist’. This could be my opportunity to find someone who will invest in working with me to figure out how to optimize my health, rather than just keep it from deteriorating. Dare I say, someone I can trust to actually know more than I do about what is currently not functioning correctly?

I am definitely up for something better.

Quivering with anticipation

Nope, actually it’s something called essential tremors.

My dad, for a number of corporate political reasons, recently and abruptly retired. My step-mother is still working and enjoying her job, so they haven’t moved. But since they live in the Middle East where a stay-at-home husband is practically unknown, his social opportunities are limited. One thing he’s chosen to do with his excess time and excellent non-US insurance is to have a number of health issues looked into, just in case.

My hands shake. Recently I was carrying a plate into the living room to eat dinner and watch The Voice. My hand was shaking hard enough to make the fork clatter against the plate. I thought I was just hungry. I used to assume that my hands shook because of my asthma medicine. Which, if you’ve ever taken albuterol is a perfectly reasonable assumption. It does make you shake. Of course, I haven’t taken medication of any sort for asthma in years. But there’s always something that would make it perfectly reasonable.

My dad’s hands also shake. It’s one of those things he was getting checked out. And, you know, my grandmother’s hands shook, and later in life her head jerked a bit and her voice quavered.

Essential Tremors is one of those things they diagnose by your symptom not being caused by anything else they have a test for. Parkinson’s is a biggie that it looks like, but apparently the Parkinson’s test is readily available and quite definitive. It’s not that. Essential Tremors is also genetically dominant. Like Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder, which causes me and my father’s other biological children* to naturally get up at the crack of dawn and to fall asleep about an hour before the party ever really gets started. There are no dedicated treatments for this, it doesn’t have a high enough profile. There are some medications that can help, but oh, get this, they are contraindicated for asthmatics. I’m sensing a cosmic joke here.

Me: “So, you’re saying that we have another highly irritating medical condition that can’t be treated except by drugs we can’t take.”

Dad: “Yeah, that’s about the size of it.”

Me: “Gosh, isn’t this fun.”

And then I gently explained that in my next life, I was really going to have to find a new genetics purveyor.

 

*See, I have siblings who are not my father’s biological children, hence the cumbersome description rather than just saying ‘my siblings’.