tHe haPPy grOUch

tHe haPPy grOUch

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What a strange couple of weeks it has been.
I have done so much thinking and reflecting, my brain positively hurts.
As I mentioned in my last blog... When you're blatantly reminded of your mortality, it puts things into perspective. Or maybe not puts them into perspective.. Maybe, just puts them all in your face in a giant, jumbled, emotional mess.

I will probably complain off and on (maybe a lot) in this blog, so if you don't want to listen (read), I suggest you close this browser.

Today is my boy's last home basketball game. Last home game as an eighth grader, here in this little school that has been such a huge part of our lives since kindergarten. Tomorrow he has a rescheduled away game, but today is the last one at home. They will honor the eighth graders and the moms at today's game. I will most likely cry. I am in hopes that I won't be the only mother shedding tears.
This morning I told him how happy I was that he made the A team this year, and how happy I was that he stuck with it, even through his frustration.  I told him he was a much better ball player than he gives himself credit for. And how happy I was for him that he was able to create these tighter bonds with all of his friends, develop his skills, be part of such a wonderful team, and just have this experience in general.  He was like- Umm, ok Mom, thanks. Hopefully he heard it, at least a little bit. If not today, then he will hear it someday. I am so proud of him. For this, and for so much more.
The one drawback to living in a choice of high school town, is that all of these boys will now part ways. Some will coincidentally stay together if they choose the same school, but many will part. It is so very sad. These boys have been so close for so many years...
And... FRIGGIN HIGH SCHOOL?????? How exactly did this happen??? When did my youngest, my baby, become high school age?
Sigh.
Time, please slow down. I'm getting older. My boy is getting older. Everything is changing...

He really is the one true bright spot in my life. Of course, so is my daughter, but it's different. She's moved out and grown up, she is a little adult now. I don't  know how or when the hell that happened, either. And I worry about her so. More so now than when she was at home. But she makes me proud every day, too.
But the boy, he's still at home.
He is a mama's boy, and for that I am probably responsible.  I hope he grows "tougher" in time. I hope he gains confidence, loses his naivety, grows a thicker skin... He is so soft. And that is one of his most redeeming qualities. But the world is a cruel place, and "soft" people feel the pains of it so much more deeply... I should know. It is a constant and painful struggle, being a skeptic and soft, being hopeful and hopeless, feeling so much and yet so little, all at the same time.
I have raised "soft" children. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad.
But anyway..
My boy. He's still at home. And he's all I really have now. I am afraid I suck the life out of him, daily. Like some kind of psychic vampire.
Norman Bates's mother.

Him, and work.
Those are the things I have. The things that occupy my mind, my time, and give me purpose.
Thank god for work. Although I've missed quite a bit of it lately, due to basketball games or doctor's appointments. It is nice to hear the complaints of my customers that I'm not there. Someone noticed my absence, at least.
Which brings me to the next thing I've thought a lot about..

When I'm gone, who will notice?
My family, of course. The very few friends I have. But who else? ... No one.
And that is how it is with everyone, not just me. A handful of people will recognize your absence. But that's it. Life goes on, the world keeps turning. I suppose all we can hope for is to affect at least those few people, in such a profound way, that we live a little longer even after we're gone. Because, the world keeps turning.
Sometimes I find myself looking back on my blogs, or on my facebook posts, and saying to myself- Why do you bother, Crista? Because, no one really cares. Every person out there is fighting their own battle, is preoccupied with their own lives. And no one really gives a shit, my love.
No, I'm not asking for attention. I don't need it. I've lived a life without it. I'm just saying that these are the things I've been thinking about lately. These, and much, much more.

Like that Saturday night, almost two weeks ago. When I thought I had had a stroke, or heart attack. When I was so deathly scared to fall asleep. So scared, period. I thought- I am here alone. No one will know if I've died. No one will be here to save me, to call 911, or to just be here while I take my last breath. And the next day, lying in the bed in the emergency department, thinking- Why is no one here with me? Yes, my mother and my daughter were in the waiting room (because I didn't want them coming back there with me). And during my ultrasound and CT scan, mother and daughter were around for those as well, primarily because they wanted to be. But still, I wondered- why am I going through this alone? And again during my stress test. And during all these doctor's visits. And today, for my MRI/MRA... And so on, and so on, and so on...
Alone is something I am getting used to. Well, maybe not. Not really. Ok, not at all.
Anyway..

The MRI will show the imagery of my brain, and the MRA is to specifically look at the blood vessels. I must admit, I'm a bit stressed out about it. Maybe more than a bit...
An elevated d-dimer, indicating a clot somewhere, with no contributing factors that would otherwise cause an elevated result (such as liver disease, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy, malignancies, etc), no clots in the legs or lungs... This is the last ditch effort. The big gun. This is what I have been pushing for all along, based on my symptoms that weekend and beyond (left handed numbness, right sided vision impairment, the varying confusion, the constant light-headedness, the headaches)...
If my imaging doesn't show anything, then I remain a medical mystery. And THAT is fucking FINE by me. I don't want it to show anything. Please let it look normal. No lesions, no clots, no nothing. Please let it show nothing. Please, Universe, please let it show nothing. Other than the fact that I have a brain.

And, if the imagery today shows nothing abnormal, then what? Who friggin knows.
My PCP suggested that at that point we focus on smoking cessation (that's causing the cystic changes in my lung), address my headaches, and evaluate my mental health... WHAT?!? BUT, I'M NOT CRAZY!
Ok, maybe I am, just a little bit. But not crazy, like, paranoia/hypochondriac crazy. Crazy like, mood disorder crazy. That's not new news. I've been on a few different mood stabilizers, all with varying effects. I've been on one of the top five drugs for bipolar disorder. But that made me feel flat, and so after about 6 months, I weaned myself off them and went on my merry way. And so far, my "disorder" hasn't negatively impacted my life. I manage just fine.
I can't use Chantix (the stop smoking drug) because of it's really weird effects on people with "mood disorders" (hell, Bipolar, guess we can call it what it is, but I hate the stigma). I know, I tried it once. I went nuts. It was terrible. Waking nightmares (to the point of hallucinations), instability in my mood (way worse than usual), irritation, anger, mania. It was so very pleasant.
I'll start with the gum, I guess. I need to at least cut back. I can't go cold turkey. I just know I can't. I don't want to. But maybe I can at least supplement. Smoke less. Cut down. Wean off.
Whatever.

Well, guess I'd better go get ready for my appointment.

I think maybe I'll make myself an imaginary partner. That way, I won't complain about being alone all the time. What should I name him? Or maybe it'll be a her? Or maybe, it'll be a dog. God knows, dogs are more loyal than people. Dogs love you more than most people do. Maybe it'll be a friggin dog.
Ok, maybe I am a bit crazy.

Be well.




Sunday, January 24, 2016

I sit here in the light of dusk, watching the Patriots lose the AFC championship game, drinking coffee, and considering my mortality.
It's funny how a health scare can cause you to re-evaluate your life.. over, and over, and over.

A very frightening episode last weekend, an elevated d-dimer (but no sign of pulmonary embolism on the CT, and no sign of deep vein thrombosis in the legs based on my ultrasound), cystic changes in the lung, a consistent plaguing of "non specific" symptoms... (headaches, chest pain, dizziness)...
Yes, there are several factors that can cause an elevated d-dimer (which is a test that checks for the inappropriate formation of blood clots)... Things like rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease, kidney disease, chronic inflammation, cancers, pregnancy.. All of which I do NOT have. So why do I have those results? No one knows. I am going to push for the head CT, based on my symptoms.
And then the phone call with the news that the radiologist reported cystic changes in my right lung, and yet the resident couldn't quite explain to me what that means. I suspect it means I need to quit smoking. Damnit. Also probably means they'll refer me to a pulmonary specialist.
Tuesday I have my stress test, Wednesday I'll follow up with my PCP.
And then I guess we'll just go from there.

But anyway...
Re-evaluating life...

As I sit here eating junk, watching the Patriots, sipping coffee, facebooking and blogging... I wonder..
Why am I doing these things alone?
I mean, we all know why, per say. Life choices, failed relationships, current circumstances, etc etc etc.. But the question wasn't literal.

I want to spend these lazy afternoons with someone. I want to fall asleep listening to the breathing of someone other than myself. I want to wipe the sleep from my eyes every morning and see my partner on the pillow next to mine. I want someone to sit with me at every basketball game or soccer game. I want someone to cook dinner with every night (or better yet, cook dinner for me every night). I want someone at home each night who will listen to my stories about the drunks and the unstocked beer coolers and all my other work woes. I want someone to take me to dinner, rub my feet, play with my hair. To talk to. To hug. To turn to. All the time, for always.
I've always wanted that.
This blog probably looks identical to so many others I've written.

Somewhat relative, perhaps...
I recently saw an ambigram (a word or phrase that can be read in more than one direction and have different interpretations) "I'm Fine" in an article online. When written in a particular script, and then seen upside down, it reads- "Save Me".



The origin of this ambigram came from a young woman who had it tattooed on her leg. For her, it signified her fight with depression. When I saw it, I instantly fell in love.
For me it signifies so much more. Yes, depression. And anxiety, stress, addiction, loneliness, broken heartedness, hopelessness. And I am constantly saying "I'm fine". In fact, my mother hates it. I'm fine. But I'm not really fine. Save me.
And so I drew it, as I would like it tattooed. Probably on my wrist.



Not to sound melodramatic, but if in fact my life has become that much shorter, it might be time I figure out how to make it what I want.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Let me preface this blog with- I am the farthest thing from a hypochondriac. I rarely ever get sick or injured. And when I do, I push through it. I'm a- take an aspirin and suck it up- kinda gal. Although I have a very good relationship with my doctor, I only see her when absolutely necessary. Which as I mentioned, is very infrequently. I just don't get sick. I am also not prone to panic attacks or frightened/upset by anxiety. I have a very high-stress life, and I thrive on it.
The only things out of the ordinary lately (past few months), have been more frequent and painful headaches (which I just attribute to stress), and a constant ache/heaviness in my chest accompanied by shortness of breath (which I chalk up to smoking too much).

That being said...
Saturday night's episode was enough to make me force myself to stay awake half the night, for fear of not opening my eyes come morning. That, combined with Sunday's residual effects, my weird generally unwell feeling for a few months, and the pleading of my pain in the ass friends, sent me to the emergency department for the afternoon. But primarily, Saturday night and Sunday morning's symptoms. They were enough to even scare me, and I'm no friggin sissy.
I'm going to try to stay focused and do this chronologically.. starting with Saturday night, and then moving on to the frustration of my ED visit yesterday...

So, after working a double on Saturday, I headed home at around 11:45. Yeah, I was tired, I'd had a lot of coffee (but not much more than normal for me). But I was fine. I had eaten. I'd been drinking water. I didn't feel exhausted, I didn't feel sick, everything seemed "normal". Or, as normal as usual.
I was about three miles from home, singing along with the radio, looking forward to my couch and fuzzy pjs and netflix, when a few different things happened simultaneously...
I suddenly became very dizzy. Not light headed dizzy, but like- oh shit, I'm gonna pass out right friggin now- dizzy. At the same exact time, I was hit with so much heat in my chest that I pulled off my seat belt and ripped the zipper off my coat. I literally thought I was on fire. No, not heartburn, I've had heartburn and associated pain, among other things.. (My doctor and I have been battling my GI upset for years.. I've had poop tests, blood tests, barium swallow esophogram, upper GIs, etc, etc etc,) Anyway, I digress.. And not a hot flash. Although, I'm not sure I'd know what one was. I didn't sweat, that I know. Like I said, I could have sworn my I was on friggin fire. Again, at the same time, I developed a weird  "lump sensation" in my lower throat/upper chest. As if I'd swallowed something sideways, or had an air bubble, or a hiccup stuck down there. Not quite painful, per say, but very uncomfortable.
All of these things happening at once, while I was driving.. and then I realized I'd slowed to a stop in the road. I thought- I should pull off to the side. I need to call someone. Something's happening. I'm going to go off the road because I'm going to pass out. I'm not going to make it home. I should call someone...
But, I didn't. I know, pretty stupid for a smart girl. I came out of it enough to gimp it home. I drove very slowly, only about 20 mph the rest of the way home, just in case I did go off the road (ah, such silly logic).
By the time I got home, the burning in my chest was gone, just a warmth left over. The dizziness was still in full force. I also now had pins and needles in my left hand and wrist, primarily in my pinky and ring fingers. Like they just kind of wanted to curl up and be numb, which is exactly what they did. I pulled into the driveway shaking my left hand, trying to wake it up. Got out of the truck. Grabbed the stair railings and pulled myself up the 16 steps. By this time I was in full panic mode.
The tingling and numbness subsided, but I was still so friggin dizzy. Still had the lump in my throat/chest... I changed into my pajamas and sat on the couch. Made myself stay awake. Should I call someone? I should call someone. Watch some tv. Drink some water... Starting to fall asleep. Am I falling asleep or am I fainting? I can't tell. I should call someone. Get up and walk around. Almost fall down. Sit back on the couch. Watch some more tv. So, friggin, dizzy.
I finally went to lay in bed because I was succumbing to exhaustion. But I made myself sit upright in bed and stay awake for a while longer. I was afraid to go to sleep. Still thinking- I should call someone.
But I didn't.
Still dizzy, still with the weird uncomfortable lump thing in my chest/throat.
Then, the tremors came. I'm not being over-dramatic here. My heat was turned up in the house and I was covered by a fuzzy blanket, a comforter, and a quilt, and dressed in my fuzzy pjs. And I was cold. I was freezing. Not just teeth chattering cold. My entire body was shaking from head to toe, quite uncontrollably. It was enough to keep me awake for a while longer.
And then I just let myself sleep. I gave up. I thought- if I'm going to die, I'm going to die. Makes no sense to call someone now. I'm too tired. I think that was around 2am.
And so I slept, fitfully. Waking every hour or so and thinking- oh, I'm still alive, sweet! Guess I can go back to sleep!
When I woke up for the last time, it was around 7:30 or so.
I was still dizzy. So, friggin, dizzy. I still had the weird lump sensation in the bottom of my throat/top of my chest. And I felt so weak. Additionally, my vision was blurry, like double vision. I kept rubbing my eyes. I flushed them out, thinking maybe I just had sleepies in them. I couldn't read the words on my computer or phone. The vision in my left eye cleared, but my right eye stayed blurry for about an hour before finally clearing
My skin in my torso and ears and left side of my face felt hot, as if I had put vicks on. I didn't have a fever. I wasn't nauseous. I wasn't in any real pain anywhere.
Then I wrote the post on facebook, looking for someone to relate to.

By yesterday afternoon, I felt funky (and afraid) enough to go in. Something wasn't right. Listen to your body. And so I started getting ready to go. I felt stupid. I kept losing my phone. Putting things in weird places and then forgetting where they were (my bra, my makeup bag, my toothbrush..). I'm too dizzy to drive myself, so mom took me. Logan met us there.

I laid in a bed in the hall, with a curtain for "privacy" for three hours. I talked to several different nurses, assistants, clinicians... Never really getting to tell any one person the entirety of my story or symptoms. I had an EKG, chest x-rays, blood panel, urine test, and a bag of fluid.
Everything was seemingly normal. No evidence of heart attack according to the xrays and EKG, no evidence of heart damage based on my enzymes in the blood work. No infections, nothing out of the ordinary. My symptoms were "non-specific". They did mention MS but quickly discounted it almost immediately based on my age. They didn't think I had had any kind of stroke based on the way I was presenting. They never mentioned lyme disease. I was released with instructions to follow up with my doctor.

What a total waste of a Sunday afternoon.
But hey, I'm not dying, evidently.

Today I'm still dizzy, but not as bad as yesterday. I'm tired and weak. I still have this weird air bubble/lump feeling at the base of my throat; it's quite annoying. A raging fucking headache (pardon the language, but it was bad) woke me at 7. I took four ibuprofen and two benadryl immediately. I've taken a couple aspirin in the meantime. I've sat with random frozen bags of food on my head for most of the morning. I still feel "off". The head pain has subsided now to a tolerable ache, with the occasional (and fairly debilitating) flare up. I need to get showered and get to the grocery store, as much as I hate to.

I called my doc's office, and I have a follow up appointment tomorrow afternoon. She's always been quite thorough, so I expect she'll agree to the CT, perhaps an MRI, probably a test for lyme.
I'm no medical professional, but I'm a fairly educated layperson. I hope that I test positive for lyme disease. Or something. Anything. Because then it means it's not TIAs (Transient ischemic attack), or, "mini strokes". Because that's sure as hell what it looks like to me. Or worse, a brain aneurysm... I recall my beloved Kevin, who suffered from similar symptoms for almost two weeks, when his undetected aneurysm finally ruptured.  He survived it, but he is a different man now. Not Kevin.
Hopefully, I'm not right, this one time.

Anyway...
That's my interesting story of the day/weekend.

Everything else in life is status quo.
Things are weird. They're always weird. Not weird in an interesting and entertaining way, but weird in a disenchanting kind of way. I think that's my middle name, Crista "friggin disenchanted with life" Jaka....
Anyway...

Be well.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I opened this browser yesterday morning. I’ve opened it several times yesterday and today. I’ve started typing, and then stopped.
I am full of "stuff" that I want to get rid of, yet I can’t put it all in print. These are the times I should probably be paying for a therapist.

I am currently sorting through a long list of frustrations. Little ones, big ones. Minor stuff, debilitating stuff. Just like everyone else in the world; we all have our struggles. There are lessons in the struggles, though. We just have to see them. I am trying to see them.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ...

I am particularly upset about the fact that the once very important adult in my son's life has suddenly lost enthusiasm for maintaining their relationship. Interest in basketball games, ideas about going to the gym, the university rec center… phone conversations, Facebook messages, etc, etc... It seemed so sincere... And I supported it...  I shouldn't be surprised, based on history. I can only assume it was all part of the agenda. Actually, I don’t have to assume, at all.
Fortunately, my son hasn't yet noticed the abrupt withdrawal. I am brainstorming explanations for when he finally asks- why haven't I/we heard anything? But when he does notice (and he will), when he finally realizes it, when I see the disappointment and sadness in his face... Well, I don't know what I'll do. I am furious enough as it is. Sad, disappointed, furious. I should be used to these feelings when it comes to this one.

Anyway...

I recently got the “step-up day” information for the area high schools (we are a choice of high school town). I think I may have cried a little while I was reading it. It doesn’t seem possible that he will be entering high school later this year... But, but, but.. He is my BABY!  It just CAN’T BE!
Sigh. Seriously, it kind of breaks my heart. Not even kind of.

My oldest baby is still always on my mind as well. As I mentioned before, it’s no easier when they leave the nest. In fact, it’s harder.

Work is a whirlwind of change, as always seems to be the case. We are handling it though, pushing through it. That place keeps me busy. It also keeps me on my toes.
Managing the bar is a constant challenge, a source of stress and frustration... And yet it is also a constant source of smiles, laughter, teamwork; a sense of fulfillment and pride.

It takes a certain breed to be able to work in this line of business; the bar business. Some days I still struggle with it. And yes, I know, that all of you know, that I don’t like people. But it’s not even that. It’s not the people; it’s the environment, the lifestyle. Like I said, it takes a certain kind of person to be able to function in this kind of business. Considering that my father died of alcoholism, it’s extremely ironic that I’m still in it.
It also takes a certain kind of person to be a partner to someone who works in this business. I always wondered how my mother dealt with my dad being in bands all those years. Or vice versa, as she was in bands as well. One or the other, or both, being away from each other, in the bars all weekend. I was in bands for years before becoming a bar tender. I’ve been a “bar employee” of one kind or another for almost 25 years. And not all of my partners have been able to deal with it. And let’s be honest, who can blame them? The person you love the most, in a workplace where they’re constantly surrounded by alcohol, drugs, a party atmosphere, and loads and loads of temptation. Let’s face it, even the most loyal partner can be tested when all of those things are combined. I should know, I’ve been there. And knowing all that I know, I could never be the partner. My trust issues run far too deep as it is.
Anyway, I ramble…

It’s now 7pm, the day after I originally started this blog. Usually it’s coffee and blogging. Now it’s milk, peanut butter cookies, and blogging.

Speaking of which, I should probably get control of these terrible eating habits. My waistline would thank me.

Be well.