Wednesday, July 11, 2018

So this happened.

I posted a thing on Facebook that said, in its essence, “Sometimes the thing that is lawful is not the thing that is just.”  I had posted several similar things, but this particular one upset a friend, who thought it meant that I was calling the President a Nazi. Since that is absolutely not what I meant, I explained what I did mean, and my friend accepted my explanation.  A third person commented that she understood my reasons for posting the thing, but felt I was far too soft in my opinions, then attacked my friend personally.  As I will not accept this sort of behavior on my page, I deleted the hateful comment and blocked that person.  Sadly, my friend, the person I was defending by deleting the ugliness, chose to unfriend me.   
We are living in a time when two people holding different opinions cannot discuss those differences civilly.  And even on those increasingly rare occasions when two people can politely agree to disagree, other people will dog pile on the side they oppose and make any sort of conversation impossible.  This is so sad, and such a commentary on the terrible divide that has grown up, not just in our country, but around the world.  Even in the so-called “debates” between candidates for political office in every nation, we are seeing far more in the way of personal attacks and far less reasoned discussion of actual issues.  This, I’m told is simply the way the world is today, and I must accept it.
Actually - no.  I do not have to accept this.  
Paul said to the church in Rome, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
I’m pretty sure the will of God does not call for us to speak hatefully to or about one another at any time, for any reason.  Rather, the will of God is that we are to love one another as we love ourselves.  The will of God is that we treat one another as we, ourselves, wish to be treated. If someone is upset with us, we should seek to be reconciled, for Jesus said, " if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24)
If we are truly to be Christ followers, let us leave behind the ways of the world.  Let us stop allowing the anger that surrounds us to guide us in our own behavior.  Let us instead seek to find the good in everyone, embrace the Christ in everyone, so that all the world may, through our individual efforts, be reconciled in God’s grace. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Take me out to the ball game . . . . please?

There’s a Fresno Grizzlies game tonight, and it’s church night!  The seats were priced right, and lots more people from our church bought tickets than we had expected.  I have my church shirt and my Grizzlies hat and even got some cash for the ridiculously expensive concession stand.  I filled my gas tank yesterday and I know where I’m supposed to park.  I’m all ready to go  . . . 

. . . and I’m having an anxiety attack.  I’ll probably stay home feeling guilty and relieved in equal measures.

I went last time.  I rode with someone else who didn’t want to go alone, and because my back was really bad then we agreed that we’d leave when I was too uncomfortable to stay.   We got there a bit late and left just after the 7th inning stretch. It was lots of fun and I was really looking forward to going again . . . 

. . . but I’m having an anxiety attack.  The idea of getting out of my car in the parking structure and walking to the stadium and then trying to find my friends is overwhelming me.

It’s the being surrounded a huge crowd of people, but not entirely.  It’s the walking into a huge place full of strangers by myself and not knowing exactly where to look for my friends, but not entirely.  It’s the driving to a strange place by myself, but not entirely.  

It’s the not knowing for sure that I will be safe - entirely.  It’s PTSD.

I can’t tell you how often I am all ready to go to an event I really want to attend and an anxiety attack keeps me home.  Then I have to contact someone who is expecting me to show up and come up with some lame excuse because God forbid I should get honest and say, “I’m having an anxiety attack that is keeping me from leaving the house.”  

I’m not an expert on PTSD, so I keep realizing new things about my particular variety of the disorder.  Like today, when I finally realized that the reason I have anxiety attacks that keep me from going to events I REALLY WANT TO GO TO is PTSD.  It’s not one symptom or another.  It’s not social anxiety or agoraphobia or introversion.  It’s the whole Post-traumatic Stress Disorder thing.   In the years since I was first diagnosed I have learned that PTSD is not always a reaction to one specific traumatic experience.  In some cases (like mine) it is a response to a series of events.  So not one punch to the face or kick to the spine, but a lot of physical abuse over a period of years.  Not one rape, but repeated rapes.  Not one instance of emotional abuse, but so many insults and put-downs from so many people over decades.

Unlike the fact that I’m afraid of heights because one time when I was 12 I was in a tree house when it fell out of the tree, a fear that I have been steadily working on eradicating, the events that caused my PTSD were spread over decades.  I know what some of my triggers are, and I recognize some of my symptoms and reactions to triggers, but not all of them.   It took years to realize that the panic attacks when I am not sure where I am while driving were because I didn’t know how to get to a safe place, and that they  were PTSD related (and I am SO grateful for SIRI!).  And today I suddenly realized that my anxiety attacks before going to a new or crowded place by myself are also PTSD related - because I do not know for sure that I will be in a safe place.

I’m getting better at dealing with my anxiety attacks.  I’m much more willing to go to events where there will be strangers as long as I am with friends, and as long as my friends understand that I might have to leave suddenly if something triggers me.  But I still end of sitting in my house way too often instead of being someplace doing something I’d really like to do . . . 

I suppose I really should always find someone to go places with me, someone who is wiling to leave when I need to because the crowd gets too much for me.  I suppose I should be more open about why it is so difficult to go to new places or crowded places at all, never mind going by myself.  I suppose I need to finally get around to finding a new therapist who can work with me, and help me learn how to function better in situations like today.

Meanwhile, I guess I will stay home tonight.  Again.  *sigh*  

Go Grizzlies!  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Me, Too.

He was a neighbor.  He went to my church.  He socialized with my parents.  He had seven children and a lovely wife.  His oldest daughter was friends with my sister.  He was my first gynecologist.  

He didn’t have an office nurse, at least, not anytime I had an appointment.  He told me the thing he was doing with his hands was to relax me so that the speculum would go in more easily.   He made sure I was aware of his erection.  He told me that all women were filthy creatures and that I needed to douche every day with vinegar.  He said I had cysts on my ovaries and gave me medication.  But he also said the medication probably wouldn’t work so he scheduled surgery to remove them.  

A week or so later I hemorrhaged, and went to the ER.  When he was called he screamed at me, calling me low class for going to the emergency when it was nothing but a heavy period!  But it wasn’t. I could tell the difference.  He wouldn’t listen.

When I got to the hospital he came to examine me before surgery.  The hospital nurse wouldn’t let him be alone with me - there are rules, doncha know.   He was angry at being interfered with.  He was angrier that my cysts were gone, so no surgery.  No removal of ovaries.  The nurse suggested very carefully I might want to find another gynecologist. 

My family doctor couldn’t understand why I went from having low blood pressure to high blood pressure in a matter of months for no apparent reason.  I learned about White Coat Syndrome.  I tried to forget Dr. Larkin.  Successfully.  For decades.  I just always told my doctors I had White Coat Syndrome and went to female gynecologists.

Two years ago someone in my GP’s office didn’t listen when I said I needed to be referred to a female OB/GYN.  When the male doctor walked into the room I had a panic attack, right then and there.  I suddenly remembered Dr. Larkin and told the story to that doctor and his nurse.  They were horrified, and apologetic, and understanding.  They referred me to another doctor.

It was liberating.  My BP has been perfectly normal at all my doctor’s appointments since that day.  I have answers to some of the questions that came up when I was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago.   

The #Me,Too movement has given me the freedom to tell this story out loud.  I am grateful for all the women and men who have spoken out, and hopeful that all of these stories can bring about change.

Monday, January 29, 2018

My Mother's Pearls

On their 25th wedding anniversary my father gave my mother a string of pearls.  It was one of her prized possessions.  When she wasn't wearing them, she kept them in a velvet pouch.  But she wore them frequently because she said that if pearls are not worn they lose their luster.

When Mother died my sister and I talked about the pearls, and chose to give them to my brother's wife, Carol.   Mother had lived with Nick and Carol for a couple of years before she died.  I knew from experience how challenging life with Mother could be in those later years and really thought if anyone deserved those pearls, it was Carol.  When my brother died a few years later, Carol gave the pearls to me, saying she thought they needed to be in the family.  Although I graciously accepted the gift, in my head I was kind of freaking out. "What am I going to do with pearls?  Do I look like a pearl wearing woman?"   When I got home, I put the velvet pouch holding my mother's pearls in my jewelry box and proceeded to wait for the proper occasion to wear them.

The invitation to a Steampunk themed costume event said, "Here is your chance to wear your best corset and pearls!"  I thought about it for a while.  Although I dearly love costume events (especially if I get to wear a corset!), I gave it a pass.  I wasn't sure that was the appropriate venue for the pearls. Fake pearls, sure.  Pearls I bought myself, why not?  But my mother's 25th anniversary pearls?  I don't think so.

Then came Election Day.   Hordes of pantsuited, pearl wearing women proclaimed their vote with their attire.  I didn't see what pearls had to do with anything.  I mean, yes, I get the symbolism, but we're talking about my mother's 25th anniversary pearls, here!  They are way too important to wear as if they were an "I voted" sticker.

And suddenly I remembered watching Mother getting ready to go out one time, and asking her why she always wore her pearls.  "Because," she said, "pearls need to be worn or they will lose their luster.  They will just be round, white beads, not the glowing things of beauty that you are holding.  They need to be kept warm and cared for and loved."

So I went to my jewelry box and took out the velvet bag.  I poured the pearls into my hand, then put them on.  I felt their weight and warmth around my neck and realized something important.

They aren't my mother's pearls any more.  They're mine.  And anytime I wear them is a special occasion.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Is this for real? Questions about Health Insurance

Is this for real?  Questions about Health Insurance

I got a statement from my health insurance company the other day, a report of what my health care costs were for 2017. 

Background:  I am 66 years old, on Medicare and paying $134 per month for coverage.  Last year I had HealthNet for my doctor appointments and such, with no premium.  I don’t make much money so I have free prescription coverage through Medicare.  That means my total health insurance cost per month is $134.00

During 2017 I had a colonoscopy, a mammogram, an MRI, one (minor) outpatient surgery by my OB/GYN oncologist, several doctor appointments and some lab work.  No illnesses, not even a serious cold, and no prescriptions (except for the colonoscopy prep - yuck.) 

The statement said that my medical costs for 2017 were as follows:
Amount billed by medical providers $27,560.71
Amount approved by insurer $. 4,036.19
Amount paid by insurer $. 3,668.96
My share $.   335.00

So, what I want to know is - what about the $23,524 that wasn’t paid by either my insurance company or me?  Do all doctors and hospitals and labs, etc. overcharge by that much knowing they’re going to receive such a small amount from the insurance company?  

And, if I didn’t have insurance, would I have been responsible for that entire amount?   Never mind.  I already know the answer to that one.  :( 

I know at least one woman who has health insurance through her employer and can’t afford an MRI of her lower spine because it would cost her $2,000 out of pocket.  In December I had the same procedure at a cost to me of $215.    There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

Mind you, I don’t know much about health insurance.  I don’t even really understand my coverage, or the difference between Part A and B and C and whatever.  When I have questions or problems I contact my insurance agent, who does understand all the things that confuse me.  

But I do think that there is something seriously broken in our health care system if someone who is really pretty healthy had medical bills that exceeded my annual salary - and because of my insurance coverage less than 1/4 of the billed amount actually had to be paid.  I mean, how is that even possible?  What if I had been really sick?  Or been in an accident? 

And what about that $23,524 that neither the insurance company nor I had to pay?  Are those legitimate charges that go unpaid or just seriously inflated so they will get what they actually should charge everyone from the insurance companies?  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My husband died last week

My husband died last week. 

Yes, we have been divorced for a year.
Yes, we were separated for a little over three years.
And I have mourned the loss of our relationship - I started mourning that loss years and years ago until it was finally and irrevocably over.

But we were married for 25 years. 

So when I say, "My husband died last week" please understand that I am grieving him,
the person to whom I was married and in love and comfortable with for a very long time.   

I am mourning the loss of
my best friend,
my lover,
my co-conspirator in silliness,
my brother in recovery.

I am mourning the loss of the man who taught me to window shop,
and to spend an hour trying to decide which one thing I couldn't live without at the Dollar Store,
and that it's fun to just drive for the sake of driving - without having a destination in mind,
and that everything is a lesson - we just have to look for it.
And that gratitude is an action word, not a feeling.
And how to play.

So even though I thought that for some reason my grief should be less, because he was my

I was wrong.

I'm not getting over this in a hurry.

This is going to take a while.

I miss you, Ton'Ee.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why couldn’t the doctor tell me that?

“My knees hurt,” I said to the doctor.
“You have osteoarthritis,” she replied, smiling.
How does she know that?  She never even looked at my knees.  She didn’t touch them.  What is that, anyway?  Is it bad?

Two years later.  
“My knees hurt,” I said to the nurse.  Smiling, she said, “Yes, osteoarthritis comes to all of us as we age.” 
Oh.  Why didn’t my doctor say that?  How hard would it have been? 

Last Year.
I asked the doctor, “What did the Xray show?  Does it tell you why my back hurts? It’s been like this for months.”  
“You have a compression fracture,” he said.  “It’s old, and it’s above the site of the pain.”
Oh. Old?  It must be healed, then.  Maybe it’s from when my ex-husband kicked me in the back 40 years ago.  I wonder what is causing the pain?  What is a compression fracture, anyway?

I said to my new doctor, “My back hurts.  All the time.  I’m tired of hurting.”
(After the exam, after laying down on the table with great difficulty because of the pain, and needing her help to get up again because of the pain, and after we talked about how maybe physical therapy and exercise might help, she looked at the Xray from last year.)
“No PT for you,” she said.  “You have compression fractures, right here, directly above the pain.  You need an MRI, and maybe they will be able to inject cement in there and make it better. And you need to take twice as much calcium as you are taking.” 
A solution?  Maybe?  More calcium?  OK.  And what is a compression fracture, anyway?  Wait.  It’s not that old?  It’s not healed? An that the donut machine or the long scary one?  I am so confused!

Her nurse helped with some of my questions, and gave me some written information about others, but I was too confused really to think of everything I needed to know.

 So I Googled compression fractures when I got home, and discovered that they are related to osteoporosis, and often caused by a fall.  I fell two years ago - tripped over the Cat and landed flat on my back - and I’ve been in pain more often than not ever since.  Compression fractures apparently usually heal on their own in a few months.  But they are usually up higher on the back, not down in the lumbar area where mine is.  Lower back injury is harder to heal?  I guess?  

Why couldn’t the first doctor tell me that?  Why didn’t this doctor tell me that?  Why did I have to go look it up on the internet? 

I am in a field that has its own specialized language.  I spent eight years in college and graduate school learning that specialized language, but when I am speaking with people who are not in my field, I am careful not to use those words and phrases. I am careful to use language they will understand.  If they do not understand me, what’s the point of talking?

Why don’t doctors feel that way?   I am not a stupid person, but I feel stupid when they use words I don’t understand, and don’t explain them, and I know I don’t know enough even to ask intelligent questions.  I go in with a list of questions and topics I need to tell/ask them about, and I do manage to get through my list more often than not.  But if anything else comes up, I am out of luck.  I can’t think of the right questions.  They are usually overbooked and in a hurry to get to the next patient.  So I leave, confused and usually totally misunderstanding what I have been told.   And I don’t trust Google.