Category Archives: Health

PTSD

Despite all my blowback from Zach’s death, I really hadn’t thought about my reactions in anything like the terms usually used to describe PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is most commonly referenced, in my experience, to soldiers after having been in a shooting war. Nowadays, Iraq and Afghanistan are the poster children, but many people came home from Vietnam with it. No doubt many came home from Korea and World War II with it as well, although the syndrome wasn’t recognized in the same way then.

Some of these countries have ongoing trauma, but out of the remaining ones, I’m sure German, Japanese, Russian soldiers came home with PTSD. Vietnamese and Koreans never had to leave home to get it.

So I don’t want to equate my feelings with those of soldiers – of any nation – who have spent months or years in war zones, killing people, seeing their friends killed, and nearly being killed themselves. But the other day, as I was driving on a two lane road at dusk with oncoming traffic going 50 or 60 miles an hour, as I was, I had a little twitch. And that image of Zach’s broken body flashed before my eyes again and I for some reason thought,’ PTSD.’

I haven’t been to a therapy session since last spring. I haven’t been to a good therapy session since Dr Perry left in January. I had a phone session with Linda S that was not satisfying and inconclusive. See my posts on ‘Goals’. I don’t think I will start up again with either although I have had ideas of trying to contact Dr Perry and do some kind of long distance therapy. So far, no action on that.

During the last month, as I was often going to work during regular rush hour, there were times when I felt myself getting extra twitchy while driving, while watching other people do really stupid things on the road. Except for the other day, all the driving I’ve done here in Washington has been fear free. I picked up my rental car today and drove up to a music store about an hour north of Duvall, then came home on a state highway that was mostly two lane. Perhaps I was distracted by having a new car to drive, or by the scenery, but I had no flashbacks. I do often take note when I am driving at 50 – 55 miles an hour of how fast the trees are going by. Sometimes I think of someone hitting my car at that speed.

I think the day will come when I will go back to Baton Rouge and stand along that road and time the cars leaving that intersection. Jake sold the house and lives in Las Vegas now. Micah and Julie are still down there so I will no doubt ask them about it again. The second anniversary of that awful night is next week but I’ve already decided that I will only celebrate Zach’s birthday any more, not his death day.

kidney stone

I knew it was in there. I passed kidney stones many years ago. I discovered a particularly large one residing in my kidney in 2011 when I had an X-ray for my back problems.

There was no pain associated with that one so it wasn’t until 2014 that I did something about it. Lithotripsy is the technique where high intensity sound waves are focused on the kidney housing a stone. In theory, this breaks the stone apart, allowing it to pass naturally.

In my case, the stone was so large it did not break up. In the post-op meeting with the urologist, I was shown an X-ray of my kidney. I could see the stone sitting in there with a neat round hole through it!

I think the doctor was stunned. He had no advice other than to drink lots of water and hope it would dissolve on its own. Other than issues related to the stent he put in, there still was no pain associated with this kidney stone.

Cut to about 6 weeks ago. One day not long after our brutal heat wave, I was horrified to see my urine come out a very dark red. Naturally, I got religion quickly and drank lots of water the rest of that day. The color subsided.

About ten days later I was awakened in the early hours of the morning by a pain in my lower back that I immediately recognized as kidney stone pain. My biggest fear was founded on the fact that I had no pain medication stronger than ibuprofen. After a couple of nasty hours, my heating pad and 4 doses of ibuprofen allowed me to get back to sleep.

The next day I wrote to my doctor. She knew my history of course, so it wasn’t a problem to get a small prescription of Vicodin to have in case the pain returned.

I only used it once, but I never went anywhere without it. My security blanket!

I had one more episode about a week after that of the extremely dark urine. No pain, but I upped my water intake again and it lightened up pretty quickly.

Last week I started getting odd feelings while urinating. Not pain exactly, but discomfort. Something was moving around in there! I doubled my water intake. I figured the bastard was in my bladder by now.

Today it came out. About 1/4″ long and maybe 1/8″ in diameter, it made a satisfying clunk in the toilet. I had no problem fishing it out. Woo hoo!

I’ll call the urologist tomorrow and see what he wants me to do with it. He’ll probably want to do an analysis. I’m willing to bet it your basic calcium oxalate stone.

Back in 2013 when I was first consulting this urologist about the large stone in my kidney, I asked him why it was important to do the lithotripsy procedure. He said that it was blocking the lower half of that kidney and it would eventually kill the organ. Recently (like in the last year maybe), I’ve been wondering if I should go back to him and find out what is going on down there. Is this stone part of the big one? Or am I generating new stones now?

Oh joy.

more on goals

My follow up session with Linda was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon so I’ve been trying to focus on the idea of ‘goals’ again. All in all I feel pretty good about how the summer went: Jeremy’s move and the Germany trip. The last two weeks I’ve worked a standard 8-5 M-F schedule which is draining in a way but I felt I handled it pretty well.

Now that I’m back, it’s the turn of the other two principals at Davies to get holidays. Arno is leaving Tuesday for his usual driving trip to the Midwest. He’ll be gone five weeks. Jim, after shocking us all last year by cutting his schedule down to a ‘normal’ 40 hour week, announced he’ll be taking the month of October off completely. There are others who can and will step up to help with the shift coverage, but at the moment, it looks like the bulk of it will fall to me.

So I decided my ‘price’ will be a couple of weeks off in November. I will always want to visit Jeremy and Ashley and Rosalie but I also have an unfulfilled promise to visit Peter and Nanci in Spokane. And I like to stop in on my cousins Dan and Nettie also in Spokane.

Is this a goal worthy of discussion? Honestly, I don’t know how Linda would respond to this. I emailed her the other day that I was cancelling the session since I had been scheduled for work at that time. She hasn’t responded. The bereavement group that seemed so promising a few months ago doesn’t hold appeal.

Since I’ve been back I’ve had one day where I had a lot of time to do things and I didn’t and I felt bad about it. All the old thoughts about how I should use my time better and what those uses should be came and went. Then the next day I went to work.

I feel good that I’ve been posting pretty regularly since I got back. I feel good about being in the Skyline band again. (At the request of Zack I’m playing bass this semester.) I feel good that I have a handle on how much work I have in the weeks ahead. It’s more than I would like but if the payoff is two weeks off in November I’ll take it. Jeremy tried unsuccessfully to call me this week two times when I said I was available so I felt bad about that. Then we had a nice Skype session Friday night so I felt better. He’s having a tough time getting a decent job. Ashley is very happy with her new teaching setup but that cuts both ways with Jeremy. I don’t have a magic wand to make it all great. That would cut both ways too, I guess.

goals and quotas

Quotas are, of course, related to things quotidian so I’ve been thinking about the relationship of these two with the idea of goals.

Quotas are even more pejorative than quotidian. Quotas are something assigned to a sales person. It implies things that must be counted which takes us away from the rarefied air of ‘goals’.

Yes, sales people have goals, no doubt, but I’m trying to stay in the realm of goals that can’t be counted, at least not with numbers. Today, for example, I have a goal of getting my laundry done. I am nearly done with my goal of writing in this blog today. I have a longer term goal of preparing for my trip to Germany in 11 days.

None of these can be subject to a quota, but are they quotidian? Laundry is quotidian. A trip to Germany is not. Is the goal of getting my laundry done less of a worthy goal because it is quotidian?

Also, the trip to Germany can be quantified in the sense that the date will come and I will go to Germany and come back and then it will be done. Or accomplished, if you will.

What about my goal of staying healthy? That is open ended and ultimately not achievable. We will all die, some too soon like Zach, and others after a long and fruitful life. So I shorten my time frame on that goal and concentrate on eating right and sleeping properly. Exercise is what I get only at work, sad to say. When work ends, I will be faced with a challenge to exercise my body.

(I still haven’t looked up quotidian. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right but if I don’t I’m looking awfully silly right now. I suppose another long term goal is to go out on a limb, to take chances, more often. No saws allowed!)

‘goal oriented’

Mom used this phrase on FB referring to my trip across the country with Jeremy. I don’t think I have a lot to say about it right now except I thought it was interesting in light of my earlier angst over the term.

I will continue to think upon the whole subject and will post more on it.

goals and striving

I’ve been thinking hard on all this. Today I think of ‘goals’ as associated with ‘striving’. I put them in quotes because they seem to have somewhat pejorative meanings.

I’ve long felt that the writings of the Chinese philosophers, in particular Chuang Tzu, represent how I like to look at the world and my life. Chaung Tzu speaks often of ‘striving’ in this pejorative sense, so when I think of ‘striving’ as a means to a ‘goal’, I have negative feelings.

Surely some goals are worthy, and therefore striving, or working, towards them is not a bad thing.

What are my goals?, Linda asked yesterday. I had some wordy answers, some of which I posted here. Today I’m thinking I want to live, as long as my health is reasonably good. That can be the basis for many things.

To be continued . . .

goals

I had a session today with a ‘Life Coach’. Linda is a person I met at the Compassionate Friends meeting. She lost her 4 year old daughter 11 years ago. I had complained to her that I was often feeling directionless especially since my therapist, Dr Perry, had left the area. I’ve tried other therapists but none seem to fit as well as Dr Perry had.

Her emphasis on looking forward rather than behind seemed to me to be a good approach. Bottom line after our long talk is that I need to decide what my goals are and whether I’m willing to work to achieve them. Her role would be to help me with that work so for the time being I’m on my own.

So, what are my goals? I said I wanted to be able to spend time with my children and grandchildren – to the extent that they would have me. I mentioned playing music; I mentioned photography; I mentioned riding my bike; I mentioned travel. When it came right down to the idea of working towards those ‘goals’, I foundered. What does that mean exactly? When I have the day off and nothing scheduled, why do I (often) do none of those things?

I told her that in my non-work life, I’ve always followed the path that interested me at the moment without regard to longer-term ‘goals’. That approach led to a bad marriage but also three fine children. How should my goals have been different? How could I, at age 25, made a life goal with any reasonable expectation of it coming to pass? The idea of doing that now is a big adjustment. I told her Zach had goals, lots of them, and now they’re ashes.

I tried to get her to give me an example of what she meant by ‘working’ on my goals but she dodged. She had already told me that until I was willing to work on my goals there was nothing she could help me with. That stung a little.

I promised her I would think seriously about goals and my relationship to them and we will talk again in a couple of months. I set up a new category here so I hope to revisit this subject often.

Life and headaches

Now my laundry is under way and I am thinking about headaches in the light of what I wrote earlier today. I will say that I had fewer headaches last week than the week before. I know that there is a significant tension component to my headaches. In general, when I am busier I get fewer headaches. After my episodes of a couple of weeks ago, I am quicker to take a Maxalt now along with my usual ibuprofens. At that point, I was worried that my three month prescription would run out in a month. Once I was able to go several days without having to take one, I relaxed about it. I also realized that I could  get more if I really needed them and that was better than being miserable.

The other side of the coin is the feeling I had yesterday and the day before of not having enough time to remember who myself was. The graduation speaker yesterday was excellent. I don’t remember his name, but he is the (I believe current) Surgeon General of the US. Speaking to newly minted doctors, he spoke of the diastole and systole of the heart’s rhythm. He noted that the systole is the ‘relaxing’ part of the cycle and is just important to the health of the person as the energetic part. As with all things, finding the balance is tricky.

<Edit: I went back and looked at my posts. The bad headache episode was more than a month ago. Time flies . . .>

cleanliness

For many years, I thought that if only everyone in the world could get a hot shower every morning, we would have world peace. For myself, a shower in the morning was a given before just about anything.

Recently, I’ve come to the realization that there might be another way. It started when I was visiting Sarah in Amsterdam in 2013. She had a room in a house and one of the other roomers very graciously found another place to stay for the week or so that I was there. It was winter and, although we rode bikes everywhere, I wasn’t doing much sweating in the cold weather.

Europe, in my experience, is much more attuned to the need to cherish our limited resources. The extensive train system is well known. In Holland, there are many thousands of bikes in use on dedicated bike paths. The houses are smaller in every way, except perhaps the ceilings as the Dutch are tall.

So I didn’t shower every day and I found that I didn’t get all itchy. Or, rather, my skin passed through the itchy stage into a comfortable stasis.

When I got home, it took a while to really learn this lesson. As the drought worsened in California, I eventually remembered my Holland experience and resolved to shower less to save water. I found that showering every other day, or sometimes every third day, was sufficient to keep me clean and not smelly.

I do wash my hands often as that is a disease vector, and I keep my face clean. I have a filter on my shower head that is supposed to be good for 10,000 gallons. The paperwork that comes with it says it should be changed ‘with normal use’ every six months. I did a calculation. If I use 15 gallons of water in a 5 or 6 minute shower, I can shower 667 times before changing the filter. At, say, 200 showers a year, that’s 3 1/2 years of use!

cleaning teeth

I went to the dentist about a month ago. That’s news because I hadn’t been for 2 1/2 years. The last dentist I went to insisted on ragging on me about not flossing. This even after I warned them that I wasn’t going to start at age 60 after being nagged by dentists for at least 40 years. And I told them not to do the thing where they poke at my gums and hum and haw over the depth of my pockets and talk like it’s a miracle I haven’t gotten gangrene or something and all my teeth fall out. They did it anyway! Screw them!

The dentist before that I got mad at for announcing that she was giving away candy at Halloween. Really?

But I went back to her because Teresa was still going to her and I did think she was a good dentist. I had actually gotten an email from her office telling me I was due for a teeth cleaning so I went ahead and made the appointment. It had been 4 years since seeing her. Persistence pays off sometimes.

I did it all through email. I have a sig on my email that has a link to this blog. I didn’t think much about it but when she came in through the waiting room the day of my appointment she immediately said she had read the blog and how sorry she was over my losing Zach. That night I sent her an email in which I said, ‘I want to tell you how moved I was this morning when you offered me sympathy for the loss of my son. I could go to 100 doctor’s offices and not have that happen.’

Best of all, when I told her and the hygienist about not flossing, they rolled with it. How nice, to be treated like an adult! So then I  agreed to the deep cleaning they wanted to do.

So the hygienist suggested that, since I wasn’t going to floss, I try a Water-Pik. I bought one on the way home and I’ve been using it ever since. The procedure is to do a regular brushing, then go through the teeth with the Water-Pik. What is remarkable to me is that every night, I can see bits of stuff dislodged by the Water-Pik and landing in the sink. It’s pretty undignified, leaning over the sink with this thing stuck my mouth, essentially drooling, but my teeth are cleaner. And I don’t have to floss!

Now the deep cleaning is done and I’ll be going back in 3 months. Finally  I can feel good about going to the dentist. How weird is that?