Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Patient Patient

I spend a good portion of my time planning for and attending doctor appointments. I always have my date book on me and do my best to maintain a healthy balance between medical me and the rest of me. And when I think I have medical me all figured out, a new ailment will pop up and throw me off course. “What could it be? How will I find the time to take care of this? What if it’s really bad?” While it’s easy to be anxious and desire quick answers, I’m working on a more fundamental approach: sticking to the facts and letting the scene play out.

The Facts
In mid-October, my left hand started feeling tingly and numb in the morning. At first I blamed my sleeping positions then gardening. When I felt a sudden and shooting pain in the back of my hand as I was chopping an onion, I knew I had to do something. But what rabbit hole to go down first? When I found myself ruling out an amputation, I knew it was time to stick to the facts (my hand hurt and I didn’t know why) and call my Primary Care Physician (PCP.)

The Scene
My PCP suggested carpal tunnel was the name of my pain and referred me to a neurologist.  I called the neurologist; my heart sank when the receptionist told me the doctor’s schedule was eight to twelve weeks out. As we were setting up an appointment for January, she saw he had a cancelation in November. Good and not good; I already had a dentist appointment scheduled on that day. I decided to take the appointment and reschedule the dentist.

I called the dentist; the soonest appointment they had was in April. Well that’s just awesome!  I took the appointment; they assured me I’d be put on a cancelation list. I was a bit cheesed off by this and started thinking I need a new dentist but it would have to wait.

In the meantime, I had an appointment with the new endocrinologist. You’ll like this; before she’ll start me on osteoporosis medication in January, I need gallons of lab work AND she requested I have a dental exam to ensure oral surgery is not in my near future (one of the side effects of the medication is osteonecrosis of the jaw bone.) Sweet merciful crap! The dentist dilemma will need taken care of sooner than later.

The Play-out
The day arrives for my neurologist appointment, I show up with six pages of paper work, photo ID, and insurance card ready to do business. Turns out the doc is super cool, he let me watch the screen with him as he ran his tests and explained everything to me. Diagnosis: mild carpal tunnel.
Whew; that’s nothing! “Normal” people get carpal tunnel all the time! I’m thrilled because the issue wasn’t a neurofibroma lurking around or a stress fracture as a result of thinning bones! He suggested wearing a wrist brace at night. Done!

Next up, the dentist; I call and explain my urgency. Surprise surprise, they have an opening!  Do I have a scheduling conflict, of course I do! I was to see my therapist at the day and time offered. I take the dentist appointment and cancel with my therapist. Spoiler Alert: Choppers are perfect and my therapist didn’t charge me the “cancel in less than 24 hours fee”!

Time Will Tell
Over-all, the past three months of my medical life played out fairly well. I stayed on task, invested some time, and received the answers I needed. Fretting about a bunch of ‘what ifs’ would have gotten me all riled up for nothing. If chronic illness has taught me anything, it is this: there is merit in being patient, allowing life to unfold, and radically accepting the results. 

The waiting is the hard part

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Clean Kitchen Effect

A Full Sink and Empty Promises
Depression is a sly opportunist. She usually shows up when I’m in pain, fatigued, and vulnerable. When I’m feeling this way, activities of daily living seem impossible. Depression recognizes this and is eager to offer her assistance. She knows one of the last things I want to do at the end of the day is tackle a sink full of dishes. She’ll softly whisper in my ear, “No worries, we’ll get this in the morning.”

Morning will come and a trashed kitchen is one of the first things I see. Looking at it weighs me down as if I’m wrapped in a wet blanket. I let out a sigh of exasperation, grab a cup of coffee and head back upstairs; Depression reassures me, “It’s OK, we’ll get to it later; we have all day!"

All of the sudden it’s 5:00 pm. My husband is home from work and the kitchen looks the same as when he left in the morning. I cringe when he asks, “What’s our plan for dinner?”

A few months ago, I started noticing other pieces of my life with the “I’ll get to it later” label, glamorous activities such as filling my pill case, flossing, and changing the sheets. Depression had tricked me into task avoidance under the guise of “self-care”; “You need rest, that’s all, and in a few days you’ll be fine.” If only that were true; Depression has no concept of time.

While Depression and I were “taking it easy”, the mess in the kitchen grew until every dish and pot I own was either in the sink or piled up on the counter. My pill case became a big question mark. God only knows the last time I flossed! I knew I couldn’t continue like this but Depression had a way of convincing me she knew best. Her “do nothing” attitude was so seductive and I went along with her antics, until I was so suppressed, so overwhelmed, I was paralyzed. This is when Depression almost won. She was content and I was the perfect host.

“You’ve got to do it, every little bit.” -Fred Rogers
 It only takes 15 minutes to unload the dishwasher; it takes less than 5 minutes to fill my pill case. “What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t find the time to get these done!?” “Why couldn’t these simple tasks be seen as self-care?” Depression had no answers. She was happy to lay around, oblivious to the shit storm swirling around her, watching soaps whilst eating cake. Then it hit me, Depression thrives on inactivity.  I knew what I had to do and I knew where to start.

I made a deal with myself (and my therapist) that I wouldn’t retire for the evening until my kitchen was clean. And that’s what I’ve been doing, every night. It was hard work at first but soon it became habit. My clean kitchen has inspired me to take charge of other areas of my life as well. Pill case is full every Sunday afternoon and sheets are fresh! Flossing is still a work in progress (no one’s perfect.)

Depression eventually got the message I would no longer be available and little by little she crept back into the shadows. It is possible she’ll come back and that’s OK. My awareness of her presence has improved and I know her desires. The best part is, I have gained a better understanding of myself and what I need to be satisfied; I guess I can thank her for that.

Seeing a pristine kitchen first thing sets a positive tone for the day!