Tag Archives: health

Coping with Distress

Today has already been what some might call distressing.

I spent my morning in the ER. Again. I thought, perhaps, it was a continuation of one of the two problems I’ve had within the past two weeks: either another kidney stone or another small-bowel obstruction. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it) it was neither of those things. Instead, it was a condition called inflammatory colitis – in other words, an infection inside or outside the small bowel causing inflammation, pain, nausea, etc. To me, the symptoms were very difficult to distinguish from the feel  caused by a kidney stone or a bowel obstruction. There was a slight variance in severity and location of the pain, and the level of physiological distress (I separate this from pain because for me, it is a separate issue) which is a term I have invented for that feeling of intense frustration and anxiety that occurs when one has a medical condition or illness (or even a psychiatric or psychosocial issue) that is continuing to reoccur or worsen despite your best efforts. It is that feeling inside your head that makes you crazy: you start to wonder if perhaps there is no cure, no treatment, no solution that will be effective for you. It starts to seem like no matter what you do, you will always have pain, always be depressed, always have difficulty meeting people or with the opposite sex, or perhaps that you will always be estranged from a friend or family member whom you love.

I may have invented the term “physiological distress”, but I’m betting I’m not the only one to have experienced it. Like pain, or anxiety, this type of distress defies external measurement. It is subjective. In fact, in my experience, it is so subjective as to be unpredictable even to one who has experienced it multiple times in multiple situations. For example, I have had abdominal pain and nausea more times than I can count in my short life. And yet, there is no predictability in the way each iteration of these symptoms will cause physiological distress. Last Thursday I was feeling possibly the worst pain and worst nausea out of the last two weeks. Yet I proceeded to drive myself to the hospital and wait in the ER and explain everything to the nurse who commented: “you seem incredibly calm for someone experiencing the symptoms you are experiencing”. And yet, when went to the ER this morning, I was so anxious and upset that I took the wrong freeway exit, then misspelled my name, then nearly missed the gurney as I tried to sit down. I could barely get the gown on, and for those who have ever put one of them on, they are about the simplest garment one could imagine: there are two holes for your arms in the upper portion of the gown. That is it. Sure, it has a place to tie in the back, but no one expects you to tie it yourself.

I guess this post is really about this idea that the frustration in dealing with chronic or reoccurring problems in my life can actually become a significant, separate issue that may not really coincide with the severity of the inciting incident.

That is really easy to demonstrate, given that today, I was not actively passing a kidney stone, nor had I passed one (at least to my knowledge) in the past several days. A kidney stone SHOULD produce a significantly higher level of distress than a simple inflammation of the intestinal tract. And yet, possibly because it seemed to be a reoccurrence of an incurable and unpredictable problem, today’s pain and nausea (most likely lower in severity than that of a few days ago) produced a much higher distress level.

I honestly don’t know what the application would be. Perhaps all of this just means I need some more psychiatric and psychological help. (that is probably a fact rather than a supposition, whether for this type of distress or for one of the other myriad of mental absurdities my brain and body put me through on a daily basis) Perhaps it just means I am spending more time than I should using my brain to watch my body and using my brain to watch itself – we typically call this “introspection” or something like that, but I find that term to be rather one dimensional as it primarily refers to using one’s brain to ruminate on past actions, behavior, thoughts, and responses rather than focusing one’s attention on what one is thinking NOW, or a combination of those things, or even what one is feeling emotionally and physically combined with what one is thinking at any given point in time.

Enough with the terminology.

My question to myself and to all of you, in light of the distress I was feeling this morning, is this: if and when you are feeling physiological distress, what methods are available to deal with it, and which ones are the most effective? Which ones are healthiest? Which ones support your personal wellness and lifestyle goals?

For example, one way many of use deal with our distress is to eat. Yet for many, that is a destructive way of dealing with distress, and might even wind up causing distress in the future. Another method for dealing with distress is recreational drug use. But if you don’t know from personal experience, then take a leaf out of my book: this is NOT the way to deal with your distress. It ultimately causes a significantly higher level of distress in all areas of life, rather than a single source of distress that may have triggered the drug use originally.

But there are healthy ways to deal with what distresses you. One thing I can almost always count on to alleviate my distress is to act. To DO something that addresses whatever is causing me to feel the way I do. So today, that action was to go to the hospital. Something that, even as frustrating and anxiety producing as it was, was actually less frustrating than sitting at home hurting and anxious.

I wish I could tell you that because I am aware of this dynamic in my life I always choose the healthy ways to combat my distress. In fact, it is probably the opposite: even though I am aware of this dynamic, I still often choose unhealthy coping methods.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences. Have you felt “physiological distress”? If so, what does it feel like to you, personally? What methods, healthy or not, have you employed to cope? What works best, and what just doesn’t work at all?

Thank you for reading. I wish you a distress-free Sunday!

Peace to you,

-Nathan

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A Rolling Stone Gathers No…?

Kidney stone with a maximum dimension of 5mm.

Kidney stone with a maximum dimension of 5mm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

***Disclaimer: This is an absurdly long post. Read at your own risk.***

This post is officially for yesterday. I’ll be posting again this evening for today. For once, however, I actually had a pretty good reason for not writing yesterday. What is that reason, you ask? It is the simple matter of me passing a kidney stone, without any pain killers. Yep, you read that correctly. About 24 hours ago I passed a kidney stone and it was, to say the least, quite uncomfortable.

I knew something was wrong yesterday morning. When I awoke from the couple of hours I was able to sleep, I felt like someone was squeezing my lower abdomen in a vice. The pain got so bad that I began to vomit, and was unable to keep liquids down, rendering the pills I took for the nausea totally useless as twice I tried to take them and twice the just came back up again along with whatever was left of my stomach contents at that point.

But I suspected another bowel obstruction, so fortunately I decided I needed to get things checked out at the hospital. By 1pm I was at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital. I would have gone back to Legacy Meridian Park, where I was seen for the previous obstructions, but when I called, the guy at the ER admitting desk told me that the wait was over four hours long! So since all records are shared between Legacy hospitals, it made sense for me to go to Emmanuel, where the wait was only about an hour long, and where they would have all the records, lab tests, and scans from my previous visits to Meridian Park. Had I gone to Providence (where I would rather have gone, despite the fact that it is further away from my house than either of the Legacy hospitals), they would have had to start from scratch and re-do all the x-rays, CT scans, blood, urine and stool tests that were done originally at Meridian Park. And of course my experience is that sometimes two different doctors will read the same scans or the result of a blood test in two completely different ways.

So it made sense for me to go to Emmanuel rather than Providence.

I made sure I was able to drive; I had nothing left in my stomach, so vomiting wouldn’t be a problem. I was in pain, yes, but although it wasn’t getting any better, it also wasn’t getting worse. I was exhausted, yes, but I certainly was in no danger of falling asleep – there was far too much going on inside my body for me to be able to rest.

Once there, the wait seemed interminable. All I wanted was to lie down – the only position that seemed even remotely comfortable was lying on my left side with my knees curled nearly up to my chest. And there was no place in the ER waiting room for me to lie down like that. Instead I was forced to sit in a chair, hunched over so that my back wasn’t pressed against the chair. Not very comfortable in and of itself, and less comfortable for someone who has (albeit unknowingly) passed a kidney stone just an hour or two earlier.

Fortunately, the wait wasn’t much longer than an hour. By 2:30pm I was back in a room, lying on my side. The nurse placed an IV and drew blood for labs. Finally the doctor came in. He was a kind, partially balding man, probably in his mid-forties. His name was Dr. Gillette, which of course made me wonder if he was possibly related to either the family whose manual razors I have often used for shaving, or to my sister’s junior high basketball coach.

He asked me the obligatory questions, listened intently, then did his standard physical exam. Nothing was out of the ordinary, except that I nearly screamed and simultaneously jumped off the gurney when he pressed on my lower abdomen. I told him that it felt sort of similar to the way I’d felt with the bowel obstruction, but not exactly the same. And then, he asked me to lean forward and pressed on my lower back. I felt nothing when he pressed on the left side, but when he pressed on the right, I nearly vomited it was so painful.

He ordered x-rays to see if the obstruction had reoccurred, and ordered a urine test. Fortunately, I had just enough liquid in my body to be able to pee right away. He also ordered a bunch of IV fluids and some nausea medication through the IV as well. We were very clear that any sort of narcotic pain relievers were not an option.

The x-rays came back completely normal. But when he came back he told me that the urine had a lot of blood in it, which usually indicates either an infection somewhere in the urinary tract, bladder, or kidneys, or else a kidney stone, which he thought most likely. He ordered a CT scan to confirm.

Laying on my back in the CT was excruciating. But one of the great things about CT’s is that they take less than ten minutes. Before long I was back in my room, waiting. I didn’t have long to wait, however, because the doctor came back in to tell me that I had definitively passed a stone sometime in the past 12 hours. The CT scan I had taken at Meridian Park just days earlier had shown two medium sized stones in the right kidney. The scan he had just take showed only one. In addition, the scan showed significant inflammation throughout the urinary tract as well, which solidly proved his suspicion that the stone no longer appearing in the kidney had decided to take a painful tour of my ureter before exiting my body.

It was a bit of a relief, really, knowing that the stone had passed and therefore the worst was over, however, it didn’t change the fact that I was still in a substantial amount of pain. And it was at this point that the line became a bit hazy, for the doctor, if not for me. It was at this point, having satisfied himself that I was really in pain and not just there to try and scam drugs, he asked me if I wanted him to treat the pain or not. I’m not sure why I had the self-control to turn him down at that point, but I did.

I asked him if there was anything else, non-narcotic, that he could use to treat the pain. He said, actually, there was. Unfortunately, the particular drug he wanted to use was in my medical records in the list of drugs to which I am allergic. But it had been listed as an allergy since 2009 when the doctors at Serenity Lane (the first inpatient alcohol and drug treatment center I attended) in Eugene gave me an intramuscular injection of it, which caused an enormous rash, made me short of breath, as well as causing lightheadedness, dizziness, and a whopper of a migraine.

When faced with those two choices, however, I decided that perhaps taking a chance might be a good idea in this situation. I told the doctor that although the medication (a powerful anti-inflammatory called Toradol, also known as Ketorolac) was listed as an allergy, I would rather chance an allergic reaction than either have zero relief from the pain or take narcotics, which, although they may have helped in the short run, will always make me miserable later. He agreed, and ordered the Toradol, but made sure the nurse stayed with me for 10 minutes or so after she administered the medication, to make sure I didn’t have a severe reaction to it.

Fortunately, I had no negative reaction at all this time. It just goes to show you how complex our bodies are, that once I had a major issue with a medication, and several years later I had no problems with it at all. My suspicion is that the batch of medication given to me back at Serenity Lane was either old, or possibly just bad. Plus, the route of administration was different. An intramuscular (or IM) injection involves the medication being injected into muscle (usually shoulder, buttocks or thigh) and absorbing into the bloodstream from that tissue. It takes longer to be effective, and can sometimes cause a range of side effects that are unassociated with intravenous (or IV) injection. So perhaps that was the major difference. Or perhaps my body’s tolerance to the drug had just changed over the last four years. Who knows, really? The important thing is that the medication worked. I finally felt some relief, and was able to drive myself home, with the doctors instructions being to make sure I kept myself hydrated (as dehydration is the main cause of kidney stones) and to rest and take ibuprofen for the pain.

I could tell that the doctor was surprised that I didn’t accept his offer of opiate pain medication and that I didn’t ask for any to take home with me. Now, 24 hours later, I’m quite glad that I declined. If I had not, I surely would have run out of whatever medication he gave me (if I have access to a bottle of opiate medication, it is typically gone as quickly as I am capable of ingesting it) and would most likely be facing several days of misery. For most people, taking narcotics even round the clock for a day or two would not produce withdrawal effects. But for someone whose brain is still out of whack from years of opiate addiction, it can only take a day (for some people even just a few doses) and the withdrawal symptoms kick in.

Instead, although I feel sore, the pain is easing, and I don’t have to fight through three days of nausea, muscle aches and cramps, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Right now, I’m just sore and tired – I didn’t sleep very well last night, because of the pain. But that is altogether preferable than the alternative.

I apologize to anyone who has kept reading this far. I know this post is immensely long compared to my usual. But it was a story I needed to tell. Not for bragging rights, but to remind myself that yes, I can make it through pain without having to take narcotics, and that I am capable or refusing them, even when they are offered by a sincerely compassionate doctor.

It is the reality that comes with being an addict – sometimes you need to chalk up the wins to remind yourself that you may be powerless over your drug of choice once you have made the decision to put that drug into your system, but that you have the power to choose not to use that drug in the first place.

Thank you all for reading, it is days like today where I am reminded how powerful it is to share your experience with others, even you may not know the majority of those with whom you share.

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Intention vs Commitment

First off, let me briefly apologize for the interlude between the last post and this one. Once again, I had a short bout with some stomach issues that have now been resolved. If you want to know the details, read the next paragraph. For those who are either uninterested in medical stuff or grossed out by what goes into (or comes out of) our bodies, just skip to paragraph three.

I went into the hospital with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting the middle of last week. The ER took a CT Scan of my abdomen and spotted what’s called a small bowel obstruction, which was caused by an adhesion caused by scar tissue from a previous abdominal surgery. While I can’t pretend to understand that particulars, what all that medical jargon means, basically, is that when the surgeons went into my abdomen to remove my appendix back in 2009, they accidentally made a small nick in the outside wall of my intestinal tract. Over time, scar tissue formed there, making the outer wall of the bowels unstable. Then, the outer wall can collapse on itself and “adhere” to itself, which is where the name “adhesion” comes from. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and sometimes for no discernible reason at all. Once an adhesion forms, it blocks off the intestinal tract, causing an obstruction. And, apparently, once it happens in a spot once, it has a significantly higher chance of reoccurring there in the future.

So, while I was not happy to have to spend three nights in the hospital again, I ended up learning something that went a long way toward explaining what was happening to me in late October and early November of 2012, and perhaps even starting as far back as two years ago. I have had quite a few abdominal issues similar to the ones described in the above paragraph that went unexplained. The doctor told me that many of those could have been this same problem exactly, but that unless they take the CT Scan at the exact right time it is very difficult to spot the adhesion, and in fact, often when the scan is taken without contrast, it cannot be seen at all unless the doctor already knows where to look and is looking for it specifically. I asked the radiologist later about it and he said, “It is like spotting one colored line in the midst of many slightly different colored lines. You often can’t see it unless you already know it is there.”

While all that really confirms, on one hand, is that I have indeed had at least a few unexplained hospitalizations that now have a clearer cause. But, on the other hand, I recognized something else that is very useful to me.

You see, while I was living both in parents house and on my own this past fall, I maintained my vegan diet, but I often ate more processed foods and my grain/gluten consumption went way up. This was, in recent history, when my digestive issues began. Then, even more recently, from the end of my hospital stay in December, I have been back on a diet more like what I used to eat in the past, including dairy and even some meat. I didn’t particularly want to eat those things, but I had the riot act read to me by two different dieticians in the hospital because I had lost so much weight so quickly. They wanted me to bulk up and told me I really ought to consider meat and dairy again for at least a short period of time until I gained the weight back, and then just to monitor things more closely once I switched back to a vegan diet.

I also realized that I have a tendency to not eat when I get sick. That seems sort of obvious to many of you, but I often forget about it because I usually feel like I’m eating enough, even when I’m not.

Also, my exercise makes a significant difference in my appetite and in my total calorie intake. It also affects my weight directly: muscle is much heavier than fat. So when I started to get sick, I not only started to eat less, but I also stopped working out, which caused the muscle to atrophe and turn into fat, which caused me to lose weight twofold. Not a good combination.

So, as of tomorrow, I’m back on my vegan diet. That’s really what this post is about. It’s an accountability post. I just tend to be more successful in any enterprise when I tell other people what I am planning on doing. Even if I never know who or where you are as you’re reading this, I know that someone out there has read what I wrote and they will know, and what in my head would have just been an intention becomes a commitment.

I have just enough life experience to understand the difference.

While an intention is nebulous, passive, and unrealized, a commitment is structured, active, and firmly put into place – it is binding, and does not yield to varying future circumstances.

In short, an intention is something you’d like to do, a commitment is something you are doing. It is intention enacted.

So, what does that mean for me from tomorrow on? It means returning to more involvement in my food, cooking more often, and preparing ahead mentally when shopping so that I have the things I need to create dishes for myself that I enjoy. I know that if I don’t really like something, I usually won’t take the time to cook it. Instead, I will often just snack or eat something easy or quick, and it is usually something processed, with all sorts of chemicals and preservatives. It is much less healthy than planning ahead and making at least a general menu for myself so that I cook and have leftovers to eat later. I end up getting more calories and also eating better quality foods that are easier for my body to digest.

At this point, I believe that it was at least partly my vegan diet (and my generally less stressful life) that caused such a marked decrease in stomach discomfort and a lack of any complications in my GI tract that required a doctors intervention. This was something I already knew, but that I briefly discarded in the face of pressure and change. That is something I will have to think about.

Thanks for reading, and I apologize for the lapse between posts again.

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Perhaps That Was Too Brash?

 

First, off, I want to apologize for the bluntness of my previous post. I don’t often do this. But I didn’t think through the fact that the information I was sharing hadn’t actually been disseminated throughout my close friends and family yet, and that it might be not only shocking, but that it might feel like a betrayal to read something so important online rather than hear it from my own lips.

 

 

I guess the fact remains that I am braver in print than I am in person. I’m often willing to admit a lot of things here in my blog that are difficult for me to talk about in person, especially with family. You see, for them, it isn’t just an academic exercise, and I can’t pretend it to be. They care about me, and their emotions justifiably get entangled and so when I post something on my blog that is controversial or shows me in what they perceive to be a negative light or whatnot, it is easy for some people closest to me to take things personally.

 

 

I just want to apologize because I didn’t take that into consideration with my last post. I was attempting to be honest about my experience and I knew that if I just ignored the “green” elephant in the room I would end up just never talking about it in my posts.

 

 

But I am serious about wanting my blog to be an accurate and honest reflection of my experience. Of course, it will always be my experience, which means it may not always coincide with the experience of others, even when the same events are involved. I think there is some universal moral truth, but for the most part, I think that what is true often gets muddled in the eye of the beholder. I know that my perception of what other people say and do is always, ALWAYS colored by my prior experience of those people, of their actions, their relationship to me, the time of day, how I’m feeling, and a host of other things, up to and including things like the weather.

 

 

But I want to do my best to describe my experience accurately, and to tell the truth as best I can as I have experienced it. I am, of course, always open to comments. But if your experience and mine don’t match, there’s no need to get angry. We just have to find the commonalities in our mutual experiences – they are always there.

 

 

Anyway, I may have erred in posting about the medical marijuana issue so quickly after my return home from the hospital. It just seemed important, and I knew that if I made it OK to skirt around it, I might never actually post about it, and that would have felt like lying to all of you.

 

 

So, that’s the first part of my apology.

 

 

The second part is that I think I made the assumption that those who were reading my blog at this point either already knew about the medical marijuana or were a part of my generation who are more used to such things. But in my haste to be honest, I hurt some people’s feelings, and I think, gave them the wrong idea entirely about my desire to use/not use substances as a medication.

 

 

So to finish, I’d like to make a couple things abundantly clear:

 

 

First – I am NOT using marijuana recreationally. Not at all. I am not looking for a “high”, or to “get fucked up”, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t want to completely numb myself out, the way I used to while using opiates. I want a legitimate medical option to treat the chronic (but intermittent) joint pain and headaches caused by my CF while also helping to treat my anxiety/panic attacks and improving my appetite while decreasing my nausea. I obtained my medical card for exactly this condition and these symptoms. And I want to re-iterate something here: my pulmonologist, (I won’t name him here cause if I were him, I wouldn’t want these words online attached to my name if I was a physician) who actually recommended medical marijuana use to me as a viable option and signed all the paperwork allowing me to get the card, told me very clearly, “Nathan, I would rather have you smoke two whole joints a couple times a day, every single day, than to continue to do what you’ve been doing, constantly going on and off narcotics and taking anxiety meds that are also dependence forming. I think that possibly medical marijuana could be a really helpful option for you. I have had several patients in similar circumstances to yours who have tried it and who had a lot of good things to say.”

 

 

Now, this doctor is no yahoo. He’s in his sixties, he has numerous accolades, and published papers. He has practiced privately at the Oregon Clinic and publicly in the Providence Medical Group hospital system for years. And he has known me for years, and knows my history and my health condition intimately. He has shown me a lot of compassion over the last couple years. I haven’t been the best patient. So I was actually pretty shocked at his thought process when it came to cannabis.

 

 

Anyway, I have had the paperwork done and the medical card in my wallet since early November 2012. I tried it out a couple times back then, but it was very difficult to find a correct strain and dosage, and it cost money, and I was already getting sick, and didn’t want to make it worse, so I didn’t try it systematically the way I am doing this time. I also didn’t have any oversight or supervision.

 

 

This time, since I am still living with my parents, I’ve asked them to speak up right away if they find my behavior to be weird or if I seem “stoned”. Because I don’t want a medication with side effects that will make me unable to function. Opiates do that to me. So, to a certain extent, do benzodiazepines. But in correct dosage and when I use the proper strains for the proper effect, it seems possible that cannabis may provide some occasional relief with a lower side effect profile and no chance of physical dependence.

 

 

And yes, I’m aware psychological dependence is a real thing. I know what it is like to be addicted to something psychologically, to the point that I’ve done stupid things. That is why I am making sure to be open about what my experience with cannabis as a medicine is/was/will be. I also want to point out that this is one small part of my new Wellness Quest 2.0. But it is by NO means the focus.

 

 

I got some criticism last night which I felt was perhaps invalid, but regardless, it deserves mentioning. A close family member told me that in reading my last blog post he/she felt like I was just trying to find another substance to be addicted to and that nothing had changed and that I wasn’t going to follow through on any of my commitments because all I cared about was myself and getting drugs.

 

A couple of photos to illustrate my options:

Medicine Drug Pills on Plate

Medicine Drug Pills on Plate (Photo credit: epSos.de)

English: Organic cannabis Indica purchased fro...

English: Organic cannabis Indica purchased from a Medical Cannabis dispensary per California Proposition 215/Amendment #420/ Health and Safety code 11362.5 and 11362.7 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This?                                                                          Or This?

I can see how his/her opinion could be lead there, especially after the difficulty of the past couple months. I won’t make excuses, but it did feel like going back several steps. Taking narcotics (legitimately or not) messes with my motivation and with my brain and my ability to examine reality in a dispassionate way. Combine that with being sick and dealing with pain, anxiety and lack of sleep…It has been disappointing. November through January have shown me that I wasn’t perhaps as strong as I thought I was.

 

 

They have also shown me that even when I do everything in my power to maintain my health, it is still possible for me to get sick. That means I have to push myself, work myself back to “full strength”, in a timely manner, and that I must be extremely diligent about my CF treatments to make sure that when I DO get sick (because it is, in fact, a “when”, not an “if”) it doesn’t get as bad and if I keep up with it and monitor it, there’s a good chance I get get to any infection before it gets out of control and, for lack of a better phrase: “nip it in the bud”.

 

 

But still, after having reach such peak condition for myself near the end of September, it has been very disappointing to me to realize that even when I am in the absolute peak condition possible for my body, it can still betray me.

 

 

But I am trying to come to grips with that.

 

 

So please, if you can, take the cannabis factor into account as one single option. There are many others, including treatment that doesn’t include anything for pain or for my mental health issues. I have to talk to a professional about my mental health, because these last couple months have been painful, and the last five years have been devastating, and if I’m honest with myself I need a psychiatrist, sure, but I also really need a therapist who will just work with me on how to move past this history I have with drugs and help me understand my reaction to cannabis and advise me professionally as to whether or not it is possible for me to use any substance for pain/anxiety relief without becoming dependent.

 

 

But one thing is sure. For all of you out there questioning my decision here, I want you to know that I question it as much as you do. Even as I have gone about attempting to try it, I am constantly questioning: “is this the right thing? is this working? is this giving me a feeling I want, or is it just making me feel sluggish or out of it? is this going to make me want to use other drugs? how do I feel, right now, and why do I feel like I need to modify or change how I am feeling mentally/physically at the moment?” And those are just a few questions running through my head that I thought I’d share with you.

 

 

While I am pretty certain that while in and of itself, cannabis is not harmful to me, I am not yet certain about whether it can be used as a viable medical option for me.

 

 

Just like I wasn’t sure about Tai Chi at first, or about my diet affecting my health, or about many of the suggestions made by my aunt and uncle at the start of Wellness Quest 1.0. While I am making up some of the new experiments myself this time, the idea is the same: to promote Optimum Wellness – mind, body, and spirit, while using an absolute minimum of unnatural substances in my body.

 

 

One other option I want to mention right now as it may actually be more promising than the cannabis idea is the option of bio-feedback. A physical therapist came to visit me in the hospital this last time and gave me a huge packet of information on how pain works (not a revelation to me, but still, nice of her). If I enroll in a a two part workshop that helps education patients with chronic illnesses about pain and how to deal with it it sans pharmaceuticals, I will be able to make an appointment at their specialty rehab/physical therapy/pain management clinic where they have true bio-feedback machines.

 

 

Bio-feedback is simply a way of giving you a way of visually seeing the way your brain waves are reacting to stimulus and giving you the opportunity to learn to modulate them to do all kinds of things. Once really trained in biofeedback, a user should be able to calm his/her heartbeat, quiet pain throughout the body, focus and engage more effectively, and stop a panic attack in its tracks. It is being used experimentally to treat chronic pain, ADHD, Anxiety disorders, and even being used for athletes, to train them how to get their brain into that state we would call “The Zone” where the body and mind function as one unit. Because studies show that if an athlete can practice “The Zone” in a lab or even at home in bed, it is the same experience to his/her brain as experiencing “The Zone” in an actual competitive situation.

 

 

So needless to say, I am pretty excited to try this out. I know it will take quite a bit of work on my part, but if I can truly learn to train my brain, it should greatly enrich my life and allow me to take advantage of opportunities that have been out of my reach for a long time.

 

 

Thanks for reading this long post.

 

 

I don’t often refer to previous posts, nor do I usually offer apologies or disclaimers. But my blog isn’t about being inconsiderate or just writing whatever the hell I want. I can’t claim journalistic license. I simply didn’t think about the consequences of what I was writing – I didn’t consider how others might feel or react to an issue that could easily seem huge, when to me, it seems a piddly little thing. Perhaps that is denial on my part, or minimization. But I know that the less energy I put into it, the less I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t work, and frankly I am skeptical. So I just haven’t given it a lot of attention aside from some research and some conversations with “experts”.

 

 

Anyhow.

 

 

If you have questions about this or the bio-feedback idea, email or leave me a comment.

 

 

But unless there is an important event or change, I probably won’t write another post about this for a while. As I said before, this is one small part of my revised quest for optimal wellness, and it may not even work out in the long run. I am just happy to be writing again, and grateful to be home and to have a vehicle and to have a supportive family and doctors who continue to encourage me to do what is best for my health.

 

 

Peace to you all,

 

 

-Nathan

 

 

 

 

Takin’ Care of Business

English: Emergency room after the treatement o...

English: Emergency room Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish I could predict things before they happen. Well, perhaps not. But it would sure be nice to know in advance when I’m going to get sick. I know that when I listen to my body I can notice those signs that precede a major illness, but some of the smaller, more complicated problems that can be caused by my CF are harder for me to predict, and I can sometimes confuse them with normal CF symptoms I feel every day.

Anyway, I started this entry last night, so I’ll be writing you another for today later on.

But here’s the crux of yesterday for me: I had some pretty serious pain in my flank and in my lower abdomen again and when I called my doctor he was concerned and once again directed me to go to an ER asap. So I did, not having a clue what they were going to be able to do.

It’s tough for me when I am in the hospital and I am experiencing real pain to not give in when offered narcotics and if they aren’t offered, it can sometimes be really hard for me to not ask for them. Despite the fact that I know where that leads, part of my brain always tries to rationalize it: “Hey, it’s ok,” it says, “you’re sick, in the hospital, the doctors are monitoring all your medications, they know your history, they won’t give you anything too strong and they won’t send you home with anything so it’s not like you’ll have to go through withdrawal again, you’ll just be more comfortable here, right now, in the hospital, and then they’ll figure out the problem, treat it, and you can go home and the pain will be less and you can handle it.”

But all that boils down to is that the part of my brain that still wants to numb out the rest of the world wants to take drugs now, for immediate relief, and not worry about potential consequences in the future, and in fact, not even think about consequences as a possibility. My logical brain knows that consequences are inevitable for me if I even take one dose, even if it is supervised and in the hospital. And yeah, there are exceptions. If I got into a car wreck or broke my arm or had any other obvious, serious, pain causing injury that can be objectively observed, then yeah, they can give me narcotics. I’d probably need to stay an extra week in the hospital so they could supervise me tapering off of the drugs, but obviously if I have a real injury or illness that they know causes pain, the rules change. But barring that, I need to always remember that I can handle pain. I just have to commit to not letting myself go down that path again despite how much something might hurt.

It is tough though, because I feel sometimes that when I get sick I might as well have a couple doses of pain medication while in the hospital. Because it won’t be long enough to cause dependence, it would be supervised by medical professionals, and it would make being in the hospital so much easier.

But on the flip-side, even a dose or two of those medicines get my head spinning, and I always want more. Even if I tell myself and tell the doctor I only want one dose, I inevitably ask for more, and inevitably try and convince the doctor to give me something to go home with.

So I know that I really can’t do that. I made that mistake back in August, allowing myself a single dose while in the hospital, and it sure did make me want more.

Here’s where I tie in the title: my health is just one more aspect of my life where I just need to take care of business. Sometimes that means going to the ER. Sometimes it means just staying home and resting instead of going out. Sometimes it means doing an extra nebulizer treatment during the day, or changing my exercise routine based on what my body is telling me.

But the point is, I have to take care of business when it comes to my health. It really is not negotiable. There have been a couple days where I’ve let things slide, and there have been a couple days when I really didn’t feel well but I forced myself to do things anyway, which is fine, but there’s a fine line between working through something difficult and not taking care of myself.

I just have to keep in mind that I will suffer the consequences should I be lax on my meds or forget to take my digestive enzymes, or just stay up too late and get up too early. I am coming to learn that almost everything I do has an effect on my body, and it is all I can do to make sense of those many influences (both major, obvious ones and smaller, less noticeable ones) and try to respond accordingly.

What my body tells me right now is that I probably need to eat and take a quick nap before finishing my work.

I can tell my body and my brain are tired, and that is usually the perfect time for me to take a break.

Thanks for reading,

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Where I’m At, Now

I could give you all a lot of garbage reasons for why it has been (and this is ridiculous) I don’t know how long since I’ve posted. Some of those reasons might even sound rational. Hospital this, infection that, moving in, moving out, busy with work, blah, blah fucking blah.

The truth is that after finally moving into a new place, I realized quickly that it wasn’t working for me. Not enough space, nowhere to truly cook for myself, and a generally unhygienic atmosphere. I felt more unhealthy there than I have since the beginning of my wellness quest, and I have had to look at WHY I have felt that way.

Here’s what happened – I let my routine lapse. I tried to create a new one at my new place and failed. But I took just a little too long to ask for help. I left myself open (so to speak) to illness, and sure enough, illness came.

I’m not saying that I can always control my disease. Cystic Fibrosis isn’t always logical and I can’t always control when and how I do or don’t get sick. But one thing I know for sure – the chances of me getting sick are significantly increased when I don’t follow my routine: meds, exercise, diet, meditation, and writing. All of those things have helped me on a daily basis work toward optimal wellness, and I was all too quick to “modify” or “alter” or even to completely eliminate some of those elements because I was feeling well and doing well.

So it is time for a re-frame. I could kick myself while I’m down. Or I can remind myself how far I have come and how well I have done, and get myself back into gear.

So here’s where I’m at, now: I’ve moved back in with my parents till I can find a place of my own that supports my wellness goals. I am restarting my one-post-a-day rule for myself, here on The Wellness Quest. I am recommitting to stick to a plant-based, vegan diet. No “cheating”. And I am recommitting to exercising daily, including my Tai-Chi practice, cardio, and strength-building exercises. Finally, I am re-establishing my daily meditation practice, at least ten minutes a day.

Those were the things that got me here. They are the things that will continue to move me ahead. I have confidence that I can create the routine I know I need while allowing myself some new freedom at the same time.

We all have to learn to adapt. The realization for me was that I was not adapting, I was regressing. So it isn’t back to the drawing board. It’s back on the horse. (sorry for the mixed metaphors. But this isn’t a literary blog, so who gives a damn, right?)

Thank you all for staying with me. And I thank you all for your encouragement and support even when I disappeared from the blog-o-sphere for some unconscionable time period I haven’t even wanted to quantify.

Peace to you, as you move through your day. May you find your freedom within the routine, and beauty, within the mundane.

-Nathan

No Excuses

Ok so no excuses. I have been majorly lax the last week about posting on my blog. I feel guilty about it because I had time to post but kept putting it off until I ended up NOT having time. And yeah, this last week was a bit crazy for me because I was sick and still trying to keep up with things, but it looks like all of that is resolved and rather than getting into it, I think I’m going to stick to a couple things that have been rolling around in my mind lately.

First of all, I need a system. One of the things that worked so well for me when I lived at my Aunt and Uncle’s house was that I had a really set, established routine from which I hardly ever deviated. However, with my newfound freedom and independence coupled with living on my own for the first time in a long while, I have found that some of that routine has deteriorated.

Besides that, I have made several commitments and either double-booked myself or ended up just completely forgetting about them. Either way, I’ve made my own life more difficult by not having a system set up to track the commitments I have each day, and by not having set space blocked off for things like writing my blog, working on my pieces for FeelGoodNow, doing my meds, exercising, etc.

Fortunately, I’ve still be keeping up with a majority of these things really well despite the fact that I’ve been doing it haphazardly.

I used to use the google calendar, but then I started using Microsoft Outlook for my emails and so that calendar fell by the wayside. Now, my Outlook keeps freezing up and not working so I’ve switched back to gmail  online, which means I might as well revive that old google calendar which (I believe) is still synched with my iPhone.

But it isn’t just a matter of creating a system. It’s the underlying problem that I often say to myself, “oh, I’ll remember to do that”. I may even jot down a note. But then I see the note or remember that thing I was going to do and just tell myself, well, I’m busy right now, I can put that off till later. And then later becomes much later. And soon enough weeks have gone by and I haven’t gotten back to someone or I’ve fallen behind in my work or, as was the case this last week, I neglect one of the critical parts of my wellness quest – this blog.

There’s no one watching over my shoulder anymore to make sure I’m doing what I need to do. It all comes down to commitment. How committed am I to this quest for optimal wellness? What sort of system can I come up with or create that will work for me and support me in maintaining the goals I have already achieved?

I have something in the works, and you’ll see more about this tomorrow, most likely, as I am still working it out in my head.

But what it comes down to, as usual for me, is balance. I need to balance the amount of time I spend on any one activity with other activities of different types so that I have all the resources in my day to promote and improve my physical, mental and spiritual health – my total wellness – in a holistic way.

Thank you all for being patient with me, and thank you for the concerned comments and emails I received from all my regular readers.

This blog is about me being honest with you and with myself. I could use the fact that I was ill and had to see the doctor several times last week as an excuse and you guys would totally buy it. But that just isn’t the way it works. I totally had time and I definitely had the material to post. I just often wasn’t near my computer, or just put it off until late at night when I had no energy and said to myself “I’ll do it tomorrow morning” and then forgot or just decided I had better things to do.

But I was reminded today by a chance occurrence how important it is for me to make and keep my commitments. Not just for the other people involved, but for me. Because the more often I meet deadlines on time, get things done when I say I will, and am true to my word, the more I trust myself, and the more others will trust me and the more they will be able to feel that they can rely on me.

It has been a long time, I think, since anyone close to me has felt able to really rely on me to do what I say I am going to do. But that is changing.

But I have to continue to take active steps in order to make it happen in this new environment.

Thank you all for reading,

Peace to you,

-Nathan