Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Some words

I have 52 drafts in my blog. 52 times that I opened my blog and then gave up because I just couldn’t figure out what to say. That seems to be the story of my life. Eager on the start only to fizzle out and quit. Follow through has always been my weakness. Procrastination always gets the better of me and I resign the attempt to the black hole of “later”. I think it would be fair to say that one of my bigger flaws is always thinking there’s going to be more time. There always seems like there is so much time.

Until time runs out.

So here I am. Three years, three months, two weeks and two days from the last time I was able to finish a thought. It’s hard to believe how much has happened in what seems like such a short amount of time. My daughter is almost grown now. I’ve been promoted several times at work. I bought a house. I’ve made some incredible friends. I’ve been able to manage the depression and anxiety without medication. I’ve helped rescue a lot of dogs. That’s not to say that the past three years hasn’t been without its challenges. The kid’s dad stopped paying child support. My mom and I had a huge falling out and we’re just now starting to speak to each other again. And I got sick.

Since 2003 I’ve been treating life like one big “How to be an Adult” check list. I went to school. I got degrees. I started my career. I bought a home. I tried finding a partner, but failed too hard at dating and crossed that off the list. The next thing to address was my health. For years I’ve put my health on the back burner. Circling that black hole of “later”. I was always too busy and too broke to go ask a doctor why certain things were happening. But I was never too busy or broke to google my symptoms and diagnose myself with a hundred different cancers. Have a symptom? WebMD has a cancer for that. I went to a few doctors and got the same prescription to “take birth control pills and lose weight”. I’d start a pack of pills but then the side effects would kick in or the money would run out and I’d give up. My symptoms would get worse, I’d get depressed. I’d gain more weight, get more depressed and give up even harder.

Then my symptoms got worse. Eventually I couldn’t ignore it anymore so I found a new doctor. One very painful endometrial biopsy later and learned I have Complex Atypical Hyperplasia. There’s several different types of hyperplasia. I have the one that’s almost cancer or already cancer. Turns out WebMD wasn’t too off base.

So here I am. Two days from surgery. A total hysterectomy. I just turned 36. I thought there would be more time. I thought I would get my life together enough to meet someone to build a family with. I thought I could have another chance at motherhood. I thought I could give Jessica a sibling to look after her when I’m dead and she’s elderly. I thought if I did the right things and checked off the boxes on my list I’d reach that point where I had enough to offer someone and get a chance at happy ever after.

I thought I’d have more time.

And then time ran out.

I’ll never have a chance to experience a pregnancy that’s met with “congratulations” instead of “what are you going to do?” and “it’s not mine”. I won’t get to feel a life grow inside of me again. It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t want something when you just think it’s not going to happen. I’ve spent a long time telling myself I didn’t want to have more babies because I was scared to have another kid with Down’s. But when the door actually closes, when the bridge actually burns, suddenly it starts feeling like the only thing in the world that you want. Suddenly everyone is pregnant and there are babies everywhere. People laugh when you say you want another baby. They dismissively say “no you don’t” like they have a clue and it hurts. You stand in front of the mirror pushing your stomach out remembering what it was like to have a baby bump, running your hand over the memory. You pour over your only child’s baby pictures and wonder how the hell 17 years went by so damn fast. Where did all the time go?

I’ve found myself falling deeper into my well of self pity drowning in the sadness of what I’m losing. On the outside I make jokes and laugh and pretend that I’m okay. But inside my house when everyone is asleep I fall apart. I get sad and angry that I have to go through this. It seems cruel and unfair. I get scared thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I panic wondering will happen to my daughter, my dogs and my house if I don’t wake up from this. Then the loneliness kicks in when there’s no one to hold my hand or hug me and tell me that this is all in my head and that everything is going to be okay.

Tonight is the last night I’m allowing myself to be sad, angry and scared. Tonight when everyone is asleep, I’ll lay in bed reminding myself how incredibly blessed I am. Instead of letting my brain think about about what I’m losing or what could go wrong, I’m going to focus on everything that I’m gaining by having this surgery. I’ll no longer be in constant pain. No more periods that send me to the emergency room. I won’t be at risk for endometrial, uterine or ovarian cancer anymore. No more painful biopsies. I wont be as tired all the time and my brain won’t be as foggy. I’ll be on the right mix of hormones so I can better manage my PCOS.

Tonight I’ll wipe away the tears. I’ll take a deep breath. I’ll fall asleep knowing that even though time has run out on me having more children, this surgery is going to make sure that I have more time to spend being a mother to the daughter that I already have.

And at the end of the day, I think that’s a win.

 

 

 

 

 


Adventures in Welfare

Dear Texas.

Go fuck yourself.

Yea I had to get that out of my system.

When I was studying working poverty in school a lot of the material came from case studies. It was a common theme in these case studies that the application process for government assistance was a complicated labyrinth of paperwork leading to a lengthy wait for approval. Many people could go from barely getting by to homeless in the time it took for a food stamp application to be approved.

When I was in the hospital for the first surgery I applied for emergency medicaid. I was denied because my income was too high. At the time I was an unemployed student and my only income was my daughter’s child support and social security.  Apparently the state of Texas thought a monthly income of less than $800 was sufficient to finance a $30,000 hospital bill.

So imagine my shock when I was approved for TANF and medicaid.

[cut to back story]

When I applied for the food stamps I checked the TANF box just as a “they’re going to deny me anyways, but what the hell” sort of thing. Later in the process of applying for food stamps (technically it’s called SNAP, but I’m about sick of acronyms) I learned that if a person received cash benefits (TANF) then the state will recoup those funds from the absent parent.  In other words, if I accepted TANF then I was agreeing to forfeit the child support. Given that I’m getting $360 a month in child support, it made no sense to give that up in order to get less than that in TANF.

At this point I asked if I could just cancel the TANF application and keep my child support. Surely the state would be well up for not paying out cash benefits right? I was informed at the workforce orientation that withdrawing the application for TANF would also withdraw the application for food stamps and I’d have to start all over again. So I agreed to just go through the motions figuring they would deny me anyways. A week later I got a call from the welfare office and voiced my concern about the child support issue. The man contradicted what the workforce office said (these are two entities that really need better communication skills) and told me that TANF had nothing to do with food stamps. He said that I could withdraw my TANF application and keep the food stamps and my child support. He would mail me a form, I’d mail it back and bob’s your uncle. Problem solved.

No.

Somewhere in the span of three days my application for TANF was approved! Now I have talked with a lot of women in worse situations than mine who couldn’t get approved for TANF because their non existent income was too high. It’s common knowledge that it’s virtually impossible to get cash benefits in the state of Texas. It completely defies precedent that I was not only approved, but approved so quickly.

Time for some number crunching. Currently I get $360 a month in child support and $268 a month in Social Security. The state had already approved me for $300 a month in food stamps. With the TANF approval the state was giving me $110 a month in cash assistance and $200 a month in food stamps. I was losing $360 just to get $110!!

I called the welfare office and tried to get them to cancel the application (the form hadn’t had time to arrive in the post)  and take back the benefits but alas there was no hope. The best they could do was deny the benefits for September, but August was a done deal. Immediately that knot was in my stomach as I freaked out about how we’d survive August if we lost that much money.

I ended up filing a formal complaint. Apparently this formal complaint was against the man that worked up my case. I thought it was just going to be against the office in general. So he called me pretty pissed off that I was filing a complaint and trying to talk me out of it.

Surprisingly I got a child support check for the beginning of August. My guess is that the payment was processed before the child support office was made aware of my TANF approval. So I was fortunate to be able to pay everything that needed to be paid and have a few dollars left to put gas in the car.

The moral of the story is that the myth of the welfare queen is bullshit. There are no women sitting back raking in piles of taxpayer cash. No one is doing so well on welfare that they can choose it over working. Welfare is temporary. There are time limits on how long people can receive benefits, so the myth that women are spending their whole lives on welfare is bollocks! There are caps on how many children will be considered when approving the benefit amount, so the myth that women are just having more kids to get more money is also bullshit. The fact is that sometimes bad shit happens and people (mostly women) need a little help to get through it.  I didn’t apply for this because I was a lazy cow that doesn’t want to work. I applied for this because I had gotten to the point where my daughter was only getting one meal and a snack during the day and there was no where else in the budget left to cut.

This is only temporary. When I start getting really depressed about this situation I have to remind myself that this is only temporary. That a year from now this will just be one more experience that I look back on wondering how I ever made it.  Just like the broken relationships, the surgeries, the insanely hard semesters at school, this is just another hurdle that I will eventually get over.


And Life Marches On

I graduated.

That sentence still brings tears to my eyes. It’s been almost a month since I walked across that stage and received degrees in Mathematics and Economics.  Those degrees are currently sitting on the file cabinet by my desk. I haven’t framed them yet because sometimes I still need to open the covers and run my fingers over the parchment to make sure they’re real.

The whole graduation memory is a blur. For four years it felt like a moment that would never come. Now it feels like a moment that was gone too soon.

My painting professor said that graduation would be a moment of incredible happiness followed by an incredible sadness. He was quite correct. I find that I’m already missing my university life. Everything from the excitement of planning classes and buying school supplies to the stress of midterms and papers.

What I really miss the feeling of belonging…the feeling of purpose.  I’ve been a professional student for almost a third of my life. Now that chapter is over. It feels like I’ve lost my identity. Now I’m just sorta here, trying to figure out what to do.

My fixed income has been slashed nearly in half which has piled on the stress. I’ve been applying for jobs every day.  I made it part of my morning routine to check the job postings every day and apply to at least three that I may be qualified for.  One of my greatest fears right now is that I’ll be a 31 year old single mother with five college degrees working at a fast food place to make ends meet.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I thought when I got a car that everything would be okay. I’d be able to get a job and things would work out. Having a car did help out immensely but it also came with so much added expense to worry about.

Then I thought that once I graduated everything would be okay. I’d be able to get a job and things would work out. So far that hasn’t panned out either. Despite good degrees from a great school, I’m still falling victim to a sluggish economy that’s filled with more qualified competition.  None of this is really a surprise. My term paper for my labor economics class predicted this scenario.  I can hear it saying “I told you so” from the stack of discarded term papers on my desk.

In all this I’m trying hard to stay positive. I’m trying to remember what I learned in therapy. Very little of this is within my control, and it does me no good to dwell on things I can do nothing about.  Most of all I’m trying to avoid downtime and all the things that trigger my free falls into depression and self destructive behaviours.

For now I’m focused on staying healthy, paying bills and applying for jobs.

Everything else is just noise.


Lather Rinse Repeat

Lather

Once again I am standing on the threshold of a new semester full of this crazy optimistic anxiety.  Every semester I go through the same resolutions: I will use my planner, I will do all my reading assignments, I won’t leave my papers till the last minute, I won’t be dependent on medication, I won’t let my bi-polar crap consume me, I’ll keep my environment organised, and I’ll strive to reclaim my identity as an honour student.  At the dawn of every semester I run through this list of goals with as much dedication as a junkie fresh out of rehab.

Rinse

I’ve decided to go off my meds again. I can just imagine the eye rolls and exasperated sighs of some people that will read that statement. I’m sure that’s a common occurrence for people dealing with bi-polar people. We’re notorious for going on and off meds. I’m no exception. After a lot of thought I’ve decided that medication and therapy were useful in getting me through the crisis. But I don’t think I’m in crisis anymore. I think that’s why they became less effective. I think I just didn’t need them anymore. I think I’m ready to do this on my own. I made it through the whole summer break without them. That’s a huge accomplishment for me. Summer break is a dangerous minefield of downtime. Downtime is a poison dart to me. I beat summer break. Now I’m going to try to beat Fall 2011.

Repeat

It’s the first night after my first day of class. I’ve diligently used my planner. I’ve colour coded and tabbed my economics books. I’ve finished one assignment. I’ve checked off the misc. stuff on my to-do list. So far I’m doing well. But now the fatigue is setting in. It’s already 11pm and instead of doing my  reading and my other economics assignment I’m blogging and considering going to sleep and doing it in the morning. Just like a junkie falling back on a needle, it’s effortless to fall back into my natural groove. After all it’s a groove that has 20 years of wear.

Lather

Boethius said “The worst misery is to have once been happy.”

I think that’s why I haven’t been able to get back to the academic standing I used to hold.  Back when I was an honour student, I was totally alone. I didn’t have friends, or love interests, or a social life.  I hadn’t tasted happiness yet.  Now that I have, the absence of it has been crushing.  I didn’t know how much the loneliness hurt back then so it was easy to just focus on school and make good grades. Now I’m so painfully aware of my loneliness, it makes focusing on school work difficult.

Rinse

So here I am again. On the threshold of a new semester. But not just another new semester. This is the first semester of my senior year.  And with more dedication than a junkie fresh out of rehab, I think I’m finally ready to let go. I’m not just letting go of those months of happiness that were followed by those years of heartache. No, I think I’m finally ready to let go of all the pain, resentment, animosity, guilt, bitterness, and fear that’s been holding me hostage for most of my life.

Repeat

No.

No, I don’t think I will.


Red Pill Blue Pill

There was an article about a father whose daughter had Down’s. He was a scientist and a mathematician and upon accepting his daughter’s diagnosis, he dedicated his life to studying the condition. After years of research he’s entering into clinical trials for drugs that will help treat adults with Down’s to improve memory functioning.

This leads me to the grand question. If someone developed a cure for Down’s, a little pill that would delete the extra 21st chromosome, would I give that pill to my daughter?

When you have a kid with Down’s you inevitably run into two or three groups of parents. The ones that the Down’s is a total blessing (the crusaders), the ones that think it’s a total nightmare and the ones that don’t have an opinion one way or the other.  I tend to jump back and forth between the last two.  I’ve never thought of this as a blessing. Not once. It’s always felt like a barrier that’s kept my daughter and I from really connecting. It doesn’t keep me from loving her, it has nothing to do with that. I think that’s an important distinction to make. It has nothing to do with how I feel about my daughter, but it has everything to do with how I relate to my daughter.  When I found out Jess had Down’s it wasn’t me I was sad for, it wasn’t my own loss that I was grieving. It was hers. I was so heartbroken over every possibility that had been taken away from her. And as open minded and optimistic as the crusaders want to be, the diagnosis of Down’s comes with instantaneous limitations.

But that extra chromosome comes with more than just certain physical characteristics like those curved  pinkie fingers, and those characteristic flat eyes.  It comes with little personality traits that are unique to kid’s with Down’s.  She’s unfailingly kind, trusting, and forgiving.  She has her bad days, just like any other kid, she can be a total pain in the ass, but unlike kids without Down’s, Jess doesn’t know how to hold a grudge. She has no concept of shame, or inhibition.  In Jessica’s world everything is happy and fun. There’s no such thing as anxiety, Santa is always real, and it doesn’t matter what label is on her jeans.

If there was a pill that could delete the extra 21st chromosome in those 3/10 affected cells, would it annihilate those lovely traits in exchange for giving her the ability to read, write, do mathematics and function at age level? If it did, would it be worth the trade off?

And what about Jess? What would Jess want?

I see how frustrated she gets when she doesn’t understand. I see how sad she gets when she longs to be included with the other kids. She knows she’s different, but she doesn’t understand how she’s different. It breaks my heart to see her struggle so hard with things that seem so basic. Simple addition and subtraction seems so monumental to her, spelling and reading are so hit and miss. I don’t even know if it would be possible to find out what Jess would want. Would she want to change? How would we even begin to find out? It’s barely possible to communicate effectively with her on anything of an abstract nature.

I would be exchanging my Jessica for another version of Jessica. Who’s to say the other version of Jessica would be better, and who’s to say my Jess would like being the other version of Jess more? It’s an ethical mine field. This isn’t a cut and dry “if there was a cure would you give if to Jess?” question.

But when all is said and done, I love my daughter, and I more than anything I want her to have the best chance at life possible. Unfortunately, being mentally disadvantaged isn’t the best chance possible, and so if someone had a cure I think it would be wrong of me to deny Jess a chance at a life free of this disorder.  And while there would be things I would miss (and even writing this blog, and thinking of theoretical possibilities is bringing tears to my eyes) about my darling perpetually youthful little girl, she would deserve an opportunity to really grow up and live her life.

And so I will continue to support Down’s research in hopes that one day they will develop treatments and therapies to help increase functionality. I doubt there will be a cure for chromosomal mutations, but if there’s a possibility that an Alzheimer’s drug can help my daughter learn to read, write, and do math on grade level…it’s a step in the right direction.


Do you remember?

Do you remember me.  I’m still here. I was there when your world came crashing down.  I was content to step back and not push because I knew you had to deal with it in whatever way worked for you.  I tried to be supportive, but you just weren’t receptive to my kind of support.  Part of me is sad and angry at what you let that year do to you.  We were a team and we were doing so well. We had a plan. We knew exactly what we wanted and where we were going and we weren’t about to let anything get in our way.  We were happier than we’d ever been.  We were confident and radiant.  We smiled and finally started coming out of our shell.

And then 2009 happened.  Our great depression.  Everything broke.

It broke my heart to watch you struggle through all that pain. It angered me to watch your self-destruction.  How could someone so strong crumble so easily? You had worked so hard and accomplished so much and it infuriated me to see you throw it all away so easily.  I guess I gave up too. I imagine that I’m just as much to blame.  I walked away when you needed me the most.  Years of hard work, down the drain over something that should have been so trivial.

But I guess broken hearts, minds and bodies are not so trivial when they all happen at once.  But for the love of all things important why the fuck can’t you just snap out of it? It happened. It’s done and there is nothing you can do to change it. That year happened, and I know it was brutal but it’s been two years! When are you going to let go? How much longer can you keep looking back and feeling sorry for yourself?

You keep looking at everything you lost whilst ignoring everything you still have! I’m still here! I believe in you! I know you can do this because you’ve done it before. You survive. No matter what has happened in your life you have always survived.  You keep missing all the things that were toxic and it’s like you totally ignore me, the one that helped you, the one that was actually good for you! Forget them! Move on! I promise your feelings are not reciprocated and pining away is foolish and totally beneath you.

I’m ready to do this, and I know you are too.

So what will do you?


Dry Spell

During spring break I had decided I was going to start hydrating via actual H2O instead of just coffee, alcohol and energy drinks.

So last Thursday I finally got around to acting on it. I bought a spiffy new water bottle, because bribes motivate me, even when I’m bribing myself. So I got this water bottle at school. A stainless steel beauty with a poptop and the university brand in a linear pattern of gradient school colours. I was stoked.

The next morning I filled it with water and felt I was really getting one over by not paying $5 for a morning latte and $3 for an afternoon Rockstar. Instead I was filling my $9 water bottle with FREE water. WIN!!

I carried my awesome bottle around that whole day. I felt so in style. Like my water bottle initiated me into the first step of being one amongst the trendy coffee & chemical hating health hipsters. I made it through my first liquid stimulant free day pretty well. Upon walking in the door I was feeling a bit parched so I reached for my lovely water bottle to partake of a refreshing drink of lukewarm tap water.

GASP! It was gone!

Had the health hipsters gotten wind of my wrongful admission and reclaimed my water bottle? Frantically I searched everywhere to no avail. Mentally retracing my steps of the day I suddenly realised that I had left it in my Theology class.

Feeling defeated I limped back to the coffee shop the next morning for a grande dirty chai w/ whip & extra shot. The coffee ladies welcomed me warmly. I saw the bottles of Aquifina lined up in the cooler mocking my failure, so I quickly took my cup of over-priced buzz in a cup and left. That afternoon I headed to the campus bookstore. This time it was the water bottles lined up on the shelf that were taking the piss. Like an affectionate dealer the Rockstar punch took me back no questions asked.

Today I went back for my afternoon energy hit. Out of the corner of my eye, next to the spring sale table I saw a cute little water bottle all on its own. I felt a sense of connection to the marked down outcast so I picked it up. Perhaps I had simply set my aims too high with that posh bottle and what I really needed was something a bit more understated and humble.

I felt an immediate connection with this water bottle. It was a clear blue BPA free plastic with a simple StMU logo and poptop. It even had a quirky loop to hook it to my backpack or hold it with my finger. I could tell this was a match. This time it was going to work. I immediately washed it out & filled it up with the brain-freeze cold water from the fountain.

I left work with my new water bottle dangling from my finger. How fun and not nearly as needy as the previous bottle that had to be carried with the whole hand. I went to drop off some paperwork and make an advising appointment. I set my water bottle on the secretary’s receptionist’s man-that-answers-phone-and-makes-appointment’s desk.  I dug out all my forms, wrote the appointment in my planner and dashed out to catch my bus home. It was pulling up right when I got there. SCORE!

I hopped on, set my stuff down and reached for my water bottle in anticipation of a cool crisp drink.

WHAT THE FUCK!!!

It was gone.

Are you kidding me?

So now I’m on my third bus home and about to pass out from dehydration while my little discounted water bottle sits in a dark desk drawer in the Student Rentention office.

So in total that’s $20 in water bottles and  0 thirst utils .

Damn I’m thirsty!!