Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Best Day Of Doctors EVER

I cried driving home on Tuesday from the medical clinic here. It wasn't the first time I cried on my way home from there, but it was the first time I was crying tears of joy.

I don't think it could have gone any better, unless they had told me I was miraculously cured of everything and would never have to see a doctor again.

The last time I saw a doctor at that clinic, he told me that anti-depressants would solve all my Lupus problems. He then refused to prescribe my Lupus medicine and sent me home to wither away until I could see a Rheumatologist my new insurance would let me see. He insulted me by treating me like a hypochondriac and making me prove I even have Lupus by listing my symptoms. He then had the audacity to tell me I don't have a symptom with no evidence to support it. I cried all the way home from that visit.

Finally, A Good Doctor

Tuesday made it all better. I demanded the insurance assign me a new Primary care doctor so they assigned me to a newer, female doc. She was wonderful. She listened. She had her staff get me an appointment to see a gynecologist at the women's clinic there and they managed to get me an appointment an hour after the first appointment. She listened to my health complaints and then did something about it. After the appointment she sent me to the lab to get my blood drawn so they could do some tests. Someone was finally listening.

Then, An Even Better Doctor

Then I went to doctor number two. Another woman. She was there to see me about my possible Endometriosis. First I talked to one of her nurse-staff-ladies. She had freckles. I knew things would go well once I saw a fellow freckle-face (that was also the moment I realized how heavily I rely on signs to judge a place). I just handed over my list of symptoms and she asked me questions to fill in the rest. It was one of the most complete questionnaires I've ever had. They even bothered to ask if I'd ever been abused. I've never been asked that before. I was very impressed at the sensitivity they showed. I do think my sense of humor shocked the nurse though. Not many people find Lupus as funny as I do.

What, are they made in hell? This should have alerted me to how bad this doctor was.
Then I saw the doctor. I was wary at first. I've seen two different gynecologists and neither of them really listened to what I had to say. The last guy told me I can't have Endometriosis because pain and nausea are normal.

But I did not have to worry with this doctor. She listened to everything I had to say. She didn't try to pressure me into taking birth control. We discussed Endometriosis in detail and she wasn't intimidated by my knowledge. Instead, we started talking about how I used to teach an exercise class for those with arthritis and how I want to go back to school and study some sort of medicine. She even told me how I might be able to teach my class here.

I have been worrying for so long about how I'm going to get care here. No one was listening and no one was getting me treatment. And I am finally worry-free. And I am more grateful than these doctors could ever know.
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Friday, October 11, 2013

Healthy Living: Meditation

Health
Health (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
I love my puppy. I love her as much as I could love any human baby. But that doesn't stop her from driving me insane.

Puppies are great until they pee on the carpet, start chewing on your shoes, and take out their teething pains on your hands and toes instead of their toys. That's when you want your puppy in a diaper suspended from the ceiling so you can take a worry free nap.

If you don't have a puppy I'm sure there are things in your life that stress you out. Maybe you even know some people who should be suspended from the ceiling. Your boss? Your kids? Health problems, money problems, and money problems because of your health problems all add up to frazzled nerves.

Stress Is Bad

We know stress is bad. No one has to shove scientific evidence in our face because we know how lousy it feels to be stressed. But it's more difficult to de-stress than to get stressed. Who has time to de-stress when there are things to stress about? We can't take vacations all the time. And I'm allergic to bubble baths so that's out of the question. How do we de-stress in this crazy world?

Meditation

When I worked in a fast-paced minimum wage job an extra 30 seconds on what you're doing could mean 10 grumpy customers. It was that environment that made my struggle with cognitive dysfunction futile. Often, my job looked as hopeless as this:

The line behind my customer was getting longer. Families were impatiently waiting to order food. Little kids ran around tripping distracted people trying to balance their food and drinks in their arms. Anxiety was setting in as the crowd realized they might miss their movie or the beloved previews. I started to get the customer's beverage.
Me:"What would you like to drink?"
Customer: "Coke"
"Regular or Diet?" The next person in line sighed and rolled their eyes. The movie they're seeing came out that day so they've been waiting in line for a while and they have 7 minutes until the previews end.
"Diet"
I walk to the soda machine and fill the cup halfway with ice.
"Did you say regular or diet?" The people in line are ready to kill someone.
"Actually, I'll have fruit punch instead." The customers castrate this person with their eyes, wishing him all sorts of holy hell. Worried that I'll be their next victim, I don't realize I forgot to give my customer his popcorn. And his change.

Work wasn't the only place I'd forget things or struggle to find my words. Did I mention the comprehension problems? Sometimes sounds reached my ears after pushing through a layer of invisible jello. My tongue had a mind of its own and would garble my words. The dissolution of my brain was unbearable.
Meditation
Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)
Like I do with any substantial health problem, I asked my doctor what I could do to make it go away. He suggested meditation along with cognitive therapy. I never got around to the therapy, but I did meditate more. The difference was striking.

How To Meditate

I copy the methods that Buddhists use. I figure if they've mastered the practice of meditation for thousands of years, they probably have some inkling of how to do it right. 

My favorite meditation exercise is simple. You fixate on your breathing. All your mind power goes to listening to the sound of your breath and experiencing how breathing feels. Have you ever sat and focused on how breathing feels? It's not something you think about that often.

While you're breathing focus on releasing the tension you hold in your body. Keep your mental spotlight on your breath. If you notice yourself thinking of other things concentrate on the sensation of breathing. In the beginning your mind will drift. That's okay. It's okay to be imperfect. Just bring your attention back to where it should be.

Resources

I've made some lists on StumbleUpon that you might find useful if you're undertaking this Living Experiment with me. I'll leave the links below. Feel free to follow the lists you enjoy so you can stay up to date on the fun stuff I find.



Do you have any favorite meditation practices?


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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Life Enrichment: Education

Have you ever heard of the website Coursera? Until my recent StumbleUpon marathon, I had never heard of it before. But after taking a look, I got really excited.

An important part of this month-long journey is 'Life Enrichment'. We started this month off with practice in gratitude, which is part of 'Life Enrichment', and meets the qualifications. What I strive to do is learn new things and gain new skills. Coursera.org is the perfect place to start and will last me this whole month and a little into the next. Coursera is a website where you can take college courses online for free. You can even get certificates for some of the classes.

Expanding My Knowledge

Health Care Cost Control Signing
Health Care Cost Control Signing (Photo credit: Office of Governor Patrick)
My first class started last night at 12 EST. I decided to take Understanding and Improving the U.S. Healthcare System from the University of Michigan. With Obamacare taking effect and my life directly influenced by the healthcare system this was the perfect class to sign up for. I know that Obamacare has some pros (like people with pre-existing conditions can't be denied coverage) but I have also experienced some cons when I was working and they significantly cut our hours to prepare for the new rules. I am eager to understand how healthcare in this country works. The advice I always give people is be an informed patient; this is an excellent way for me to keep informed.

A Tidbit About Coursera

I like Coursera because you can take as little or as many classes as you would like. Since this is my first time I decided to stick with just one class. I want to get a feel of what these classes are like. Plus, I really wanted to devote my energy to learning while still working on the other aspects of this Living Challenge.

Another thing I absolutely LOVE about Coursera is the cost. It's as free as America (I'm sorry, I had to say it). And the courses come from colleges like Stanford, Berklee College of Music, and Johns Hopkins University. On top of the US colleges, they have courses from around the world. For example, the University of Copenhagen has a class called The New Nordic Diet - from Gastronomy to Health that starts on October 21st, 2013.

The last thing I'm going to mention is the topics aren't all about health. They have classes in Art, Chemistry, Law, Medicine, Economics, Business & Management, and the list goes on. So you get to pick what you're interested in.

Have you taken any courses through Coursera? What has your experience been?

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Practicing Gratitude

I've been on hundreds of self-help sites trying to figure out what I should do for Day 1 of this life-improvement series. One exercise that dozens of blogs suggested was an exercise in gratitude.

Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama (Photo credit: Joi)
Grateful people are happy people. I know this. Just look at the Dalai Lama. He's a pretty grateful human being. And happiness shines from his face like glowsticks in the dark. I'm pretty sure I've done a post like this before but taking time to feel gratitude isn't something you should do only on Thanksgiving. A lot happens during those 364 inbetween days. And not all of them will be "good days". But that's why we practice gratitude. It's to help you realize that every day is a good day. Even when Lupus is knocking you down.

5 Things I'm Grateful For

Here is an interesting site on practicing gratitude and all of its benefits from UC Berkeley. If you want to get all science-y, you should click on this link

I've been told that it takes only 5 expressions of gratitude to make changes in your attitude and practiced daily it can cause incredible changes in your mood and will help you be a better person. I'm just going to jump right in with my gratitude and get things started.

  1. I am grateful that I haven't had a bad flare in a long while.
  2. I am grateful for the new addition to our family: Princess the puppy.
  3. I am grateful that my sister and I have been a lot friendlier towards each other.
  4. I am grateful for my friends, who are precious gifts in my life.
  5. I am grateful for my husband for being all-around awesome.
Well now that I've finished, I can say that it has already me feel a bit happier. It's a bit like remembering happy memories. They make you happy when you remember them. That's why they're called happy memories. Duh. 

What are you grateful for? They say you should write down 5 things you are grateful for every night before bed. Do you practice gratefulness in this way or do you have another method? Let me know in the comment area.



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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lupus Living, Not Existing Experiment

When you live in the middle of nowhere, but close to a big city, it's difficult to get good health care. Most of the good doctors go where the money and the patients are. And the small nowhere cities get the doctors that couldn't survive a big city or the doctors that have chosen to practice in the small places. The Gynecologist I saw was on the lower end, but not a complete nightmare. He's the kind of doctor I can't stand. Didn't listen. He brushed off my symptoms and had the audacity to tell me that I don't have Endometriosis even though he and I both know that the only way to make a definitive diagnosis is with laparoscopic surgery.

"Maybe the visit would have gone better if I had better communication skills."

The regret and guilt I felt after that awful visit to the doctor prompted me to do some tune-up work on myself. I spent that day browsing the web for some sort of magical answer to make this problem go away. What began as a Google search on "How to Communicate Effectively" transformed into a StumbleUpon marathon on self improvement. Where is the hidden Holy Grail of health and happiness? (Ha, an abundance of alliteration!)

A Month of Change

After the self-pity wore off and a few hours of Self Improvement browsing had passed, I started to notice that everyone was sharing the same formula for happiness, just written in different styles. So why not take a stab at it?

For the entire month of October, I will be taking on a huge challenge; I am going to make small changes throughout the month in the hopes that my life will be a little healthier and happier by the time Halloween comes around.

This is a three-part process: Healthy living, physical well-being, and what I've been calling "Life Enrichment". 

My goal is to live a more purposeful life. We only have a short amount of time on this Earth, and it's criminal not to take advantage of it. It seems like it's in our nature as humans to stress about things that aren't that important in the scheme of things. We focus on things that don't matter, and we live like we're immortal.

I'm going to stop right there before I sound like a self-improvement seminar.

Part 1: Healthy Living

This part really covers a lot. There are many facets to healthy living. I can't hit all of them in one month, but I can scratch the surface during this month of experimenting.

Here are some examples of changes I'll make:
  • Reducing my exposure to chemicals
  • Eating healthier foods and limiting junk food
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Staying hydrated
  • Reducing stress
Health is important to me, but I can't be as healthy as I possibly can when I drink Monster Energy drinks to battle fatigue and when I engage in chemical warfare against the army of bugs that would like to get in my house. It's time to stick to good-health common sense.

Part 2: Physical Well-Being

This part will probably be a lot easier now that my husband and I have gotten a puppy. A very young puppy. We've had her for three days now and I've been chasing her around the house trying to stop her from peeing and pooing all over our carpets (without success). I will be spending lots of time running around with Princess trying to wear her out, potty train her, teach her not to bite my ankles, and master the basics. It's a good thing she's cute because I didn't know getting peed on was the price I had to pay for unconditional love. 

When I'm not running around with Princess I will be working on my physical well-being in a more traditional way:
  • Building strength
  • Building endurance
  • Work on stretching and flexibility
  • Avoiding flares
  • Getting to know my body each organ at a time
I have said it billions of times and I will say it again: Good exercise habits are a great way to reduce all types of arthritis pains (arthritis is defined as painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints, so joint pain in Lupus qualifies as arthritis). And a wonderful exercise program comes from the Arthritis Foundation

Part 3: Life Enrichment

Part Three also covers a lot of ground. This section covers the things that make life more "valuable". At funerals, this is what the loved ones talk about. It's the intangible possessions.

Here are some things that I will be working on this month:
  • Spirituality
  • Finding things I'm passionate about
  • Giving love and receiving it
  • Travel and adventure
  • Volunteering
  • Living in the moment
  • Patience

The Desired End Result

Like I said earlier, the most important things to me are health and happiness. Not the fleeting kind of happiness. And health that looks at all portions of my life, not just the Lupus part.

What will you do this month to change your life? Leave a comment below.

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