the saga of my health issues……..and the promises of technology

I”m hoping someone with similar issues will stumble upon this post and share what works for them.

In the meanwhile, I am plagued by two health issues: a seemingly untreatable and serious sinus infection and frustrating insomnia. While they are no doubt related, I don’t believe that the former is the cause of the latter.

1. Sinus infection. After sinus surgery in May to clean out a bad infection that was lodged up near my eye (and to make a few other adjustments), I am back with a sinus infection that feels just as bad as the one that prompted the surgery. So, yesterday, I was examined by one of the three best sinus experts in Connecticut. (Why Connecticut and not Massachusetts, where I live? He is in my health insurance network, plus I didn’t want to go back to the original surgeon. Plus I was impressed by the information on the website.) The little video he took of my sinuses showed that they are an unholy mess. So, we start with a culture. He says that it’s bad, but he will figure out what needs to be done to treat and cure it. I’m sure that my immune system is shot to hell as I try to fight it off, and I feel sick and tired all of the time. I’m wondering if I should go to an endocrinologist.

In the meanwhile and in desperation, based on some of my own internet research, I am wearing this all of the time — and, damn, if it doesn’t make a difference!! My sinus don’t itch or water when I’m wearing it but do when I don’t. It’s not a cure for the infection, but it makes my life tolerable while I’m waiting for the cure. There is no way I would get on a plane without it.

2. Insomnia. Except for the last two nights (more on that coming) I have not slept more than three hours a night for the past several months. And then only for an hour at a time. I don’t fall asleep until 3 or 4 am. I’ve tried all of the suggested herbs, all of the homeopathic remedies, all of the relaxation techniques, just about all of the prescription alternatives. Nothing has worked. So, again, I did some extensive internet research and I discovered this, which is one of many such devices available. A little more research about its effect on the very important vagus nerve made me think that this might be worth a try.

A CES (Cranial Electric Stimulator) is very similar to a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulator), and I happen to have a TENS device, which is used for muscle pain management. So, I decided to try using the TENS the way they use the CES. Did it several times a day, including before bed time.

Last night, I actually fell asleep reading. I can’t remember the last time that happened. On top of that, I don’t feel constantly hungry the way I usually do, and I wonder if that’s because it’s stimulating the vagus nerve as well. I’m thinking of buying a CES if I can get my chiropractor to give me a prescription for it. But, in the meanwhile I’m going to keep doing the TENS stimulation on my mastoid bone and see if I keep getting the same results.

Placebos? Maybe. But the medical profession hasn’t helped me much, and these are technological processes that seem to work and have some bases in science. The medical professionals don’t even bother investigating or considering these options. They probably don’t even know about them

I’d love to hear from others who are dealing with the same issues as I am. Sometimes we just have to help ourselves.

Low Empathy: the root of all evil

LOW EMPATHY

I am obsessed with the conviction that our human race is devolving because we are losing our capacity for empathy. And I am not alone in believing that is the root of all of the evil in this world.

(On the other hand, there is increasing research that is proving how other mammalian species are actually evolving in their capacity to feel and demonstrate empathy. All you have to do is do an online search for “animal empathy,” and you can spend the rest of the day being amazed and gratified at the increasingly widespread “humane” behaviors of our non-human brothers and sisters. (Do an online search for any of the areas of human violence in the world today – shootings, rapes, war zones…. — and you will spend the rest of the day, perhaps, starting to believe as I do.)

The tendency for humans seems to be violent. An online search for “human violence” will provide support for that assertion.

But it’s really more complicated – and overwhelming – than most folks are willing to admit.

Individual research projects are showing that there are complex connections among the healthy functioning of the brain’s “empathy spot,” the levels of the aggression hormone testosterone, the harmful psychological (and, perhaps neural) effects of violent sports/games/language, and this crisis of morality that is plaguing our species.

After spending the past few days searching online for perspectives on this issue, the best piece I have been able to find (although there are others) is “Why a Lack of Empathy is the Root of All Evil,” by psychologist Simon Baron Cohen, who offers this general definition:

Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion,” writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects.

And so we have rampant misogyny, bigotry, border disputes, extreme nationalism, racism,war, violence of all kinds.

What is fascinating to me is that the home of “empathy” seems to be in the brain itself. Scientific research has identified an area of the brain associated with empathy – the anterior insular cortex.

In other words, patients with anterior insular lesions had a hard time evaluating the emotional state of people in pain and feeling empathy for them, compared to the controls and the patients with anterior cingulate cortex lesions,” said the researchers.

This area of the brain that has been proven to be affected by a variety of variables, including testosterone levels and exposure to violent media.

One of Baron-Cohen’s longitudinal studies – which began 10 years ago – found that the more testosterone a foetus generates in the womb, the less empathy the child will have post- natally. In other words, there is a negative correlation between testosterone and empathy. It would appear the sex hormone is somehow involved in shaping the “empathy circuits” of the developing brain.
Given that testosterone is found in higher quantities in men than women, it may come as no surprise that men score lower on empathy than women. So there is a clear hormonal link to empathy. Another biological factor is genetics. Recent research by Baron-Cohen and colleagues found four genes associated with empathy – one sex steroid gene, one gene related to social-emotional behaviour and two associated with neural growth.

Contrary to what gamer developers would like us to believe, ongoing research is tending to prove that areas of the brain associated with empathy are being affected by constant exposure to violent video and other games.

New preliminary findings suggest that brain activation is altered in normal youths with significant past violent media exposure while viewing violent video games.

The reasons for our devolution are obviously complicated and involve some combination of nature and nurture and the opposite of nurture. As a culture and society, we seem to be intent on denying how we actually are encouraging a diminishment of empathy in favor of greed, selfish amorality, and vested interests — whether they be political, religious, economic, or national.

Of course, it’s easier to deny – from climate change to chemical food contamination, to promoting and glorifying violence – than it is to tackle the daunting job of trying to undo what we have done. But if we don’t, we will be a dead species before long. We will destroy ourselves from the simple lack of empathy.

I am hoping that some less corporate-manipulated and more holistic researchers will be able to bring together all of the factors that are pushing our species over the precipice of widespread violence and come up with a convincing argument for the necessity to put the brakes on across the board. Coming up with a plan after that is maybe more than government is capable of now. But if we don’t….

Having been a fan of speculative fiction my whole life and witnessing the manifestations of many of those “fictional” speculations, I don’t hold much hope.

My Achilles Heel

Ever since I as a little kid with allergies, my sinuses have been my “Achilles Heel.” I remember the doctor having to suction out my sinuses because the mucous was so thick that I couldn’t blow it out.

When I was teaching back in the 70s, I was always sick because of the chalk dust in the air. Teary eyes and a runny nose ruled my Springs and Summers. Over the years, even two rounds of allergy shots (20 years apart), and what must have amounted to millions of allergy pills, never made much difference.

A dozen years ago, an Otolaryngologist discovered that I had a badly deviated septum. I opted to have it surgically fixed. I blogged about that back in July 2002.

Last November I came down down a sinus infection that no amount of nasal irrigation, allergy nose spray, and other non-presription treatments affected. So, back to an ENT, another CT scan, and a diagnosis of scar tissue blockage on one side and a re-deviated septum on the other. Three rounds of three different antibiotics, prednisone, and cortisone nose spray didn’t do a thing.

Surgery, again, done three days ago. Packing and splint, antibiotics, and Vicodin.

I got the packing and splint out today, and I have no doubt that surgery was the right thing to do. The scar tissue blockage had caused puss to back up high into my sinus cavities. And there it remained stuck until the surgeon cleaned it out and removed the scar tissue. While he was in there, he fixed the deviated septum on the other side.

They totally sedate you for the surgery, so that was a piece of cake. These three post surgical days, however, were something I had to make up my mind to grin and bear. (Well, not really grin; it was very uncomfortable.) No bending down or lifting anything up. No nose blowing. No hair washing. You just have to stay at home and do nothing. Even reading is hard because your eyes keep tearing up.

I slept in my recliner, blitzed out on Vicodin. Last night, even that magical drug didn’t make it possible to sleep, so I spent the night looking through old photo albums and removing the pictures that I want to scan in to keep for posterity. I had to distract myself from the fact that I could only breathe through my mouth, my throat was getting sore, and my head hurt.

After he removed the packing today, the ENT vacuumed out what was left in my sinuses, even the ones high up over the eye. That wasn’t fun, even though he sprayed lidocaine in first.

It’s going to take me a few days to catch up on some sleep, and even longer than that to get my digestive system back on track after the antibiotics.

Do I think it was worth it? Being able to breathe freely and not feel sick all of the time from the sinus infection is definitely worth it. Hell, yes.

my raging PMS poem

One of the advantages of being post menopausal is that I no longer get the raging PMS that — in retrospect — I think was responsible for messing up my various relationships, including that with my parents.

Back in the 50s and 60s and 70s, PMS was considered a fabricated rationale for plain ol’ female bitchiness. Now, we know better, and I know that what I (and my friends and family) had to suffer through was actually my PMDD.

It’s hard to describe what it felt like to go through those terrible fits of insanity to those who have never experienced it. So, at the time, I wrote this poem — which, I think, pretty much says it all.

Tooth Mother

A sliver of moon
like a sharpened claw
slits the underside of April,
sending clouds as heaving as stones
onto the roiling rim of earth.

It is time for the Tooth Mother’s coming.
She tears through my skin,
talons sharp as the moon,
eyes that slice, breasts like scythes
along my hungry tongue.
She breathes into my mouth
the bold remains of winter,
turning my cries to ice,
my thoughts to stones
that roll like clouds
along my ragged edge of mind.

Insomnia

It’s one of those nights when my body can’t lie still.  So it’s a good time to try out blogging from my new phone pad — lying in bed, Simon and Garfunkel playing in the background because I’m feeling nostalgic for a time that I romanticized even more then than I do now. 

It’s too slow going on this flat screen keyboard. If I’m going to do this I’m going to have to get a little keyboard.

I’m wondering what ever happened to Art Garfunkle.

This is a test. 

the best mother’s day present under $25

I’ll admit that I am writing this because there’s a contest at nerdwallet.com. I don’t know whether my suggestion falls under “service” or “purchase.” I would think both.

I can’t imagine any mother who would not just swoon at the thought of getting a chair massage. Whether you’re a young mom hauling around a baby or toddler, a typical mom keeping up with household chores while also (or not) holding down a job, or an empty nester still carrying around the weight of family cares, your shoulders and upper back can always use some TLC.

Even an enterprising offspring might have a little trouble tracking down a place to get his/her mom that 20 minutes of nirvana, but it can be done. Fitness centers, spas, and Senior Centers sometimes offer them. Sometimes massage therapist offices do. You have to call around. But it’s worth every minute and every dollar spent.

I am lucky. My neighbor, a massage therapist, does them in her home. I think I’ll give myself one for mother’s day.

footloose (or not)

swing0001Almost twenty years ago, I was a pretty decent intermediate ballroom dancer. When the New York State Museum, where I worked in administration, was holding a fund raiser centered around a 1940’s exhibit, they asked if Dan Molloy (a museum scientist and ballroom dancer) and I would do a swing dance performance. This is a rehearsal shot; somewhere, I have videos of our performance and of a television promo that we did for the event. That’s “videos” as in “you need a VCR to play them”. Who has a VCR any more?? Not me.

I put a lot of miles on my feet in those days. By the time this photo was taken, the heels on my dance shoes had gotten considerably lower than they had been during my disco days, when I danced in heels so high that I now marvel at how I ever managed those intricate Latin Hustle steps. (No, I’m not in that video.)

That was then. This is now.

chairMy brand new La-Z-boy glider recliner arrived yesterday. I’m in love. And so are my feet — especially my left knee, which hurts all of the time. I do have an appointment at an orthopedist, but I couldn’t get in for another couple of weeks.

I really haven’t had a comfortable chair in which to relax since I moved here several years ago. It’s a small space, and I had to do some saving and thinking and shopping. I couldn’t have found a more comfortable relaxing place.shoes

Crazy as it is, I still have one brand new pair of ballroom dance shoes that I can’t bear to give up, even though I’ll never wear them again. They have these really sexy ankle straps and a medium high heel. I’m thinking I’ll wear them to my some-day cremation. It seems like a good way to dance my way along to Star Stuff.

“the sun, the sun, and all we can become”

It’s sunny out today, finally, although the temperature still hasn’t hit 50.

The title of this post is from the end of this poem by Theodore Roethke, one of my favorite crazy dead poets.

Gilda Radner
‘s signature phrase “it’s always something” is playing through my brain today. Just when I’m revving up for some physical movement and some windowsill seed planting, I do something to my left knee and I’m down for the count. Ice packs and visits to the chiropractor are helping, but at my age healing takes a lot longer than I like.

I’m not exactly sure what I did to my knee, but I think it has something to do with rolling out of bed one night a week or so ago in the middle of a dream about Bing Crosby. (I have no idea why I was dreaming about Bing Crosby, but, as he was sitting in my living room singing to me, I reached over to pick up a sheet of lyrics that dropped on the floor and that’s when I rolled out of bed.)

I am an elaborate dreamer, often playing out scenarios that seem so real that, when I wake up, I’m not sure where I am.

Hmmph. The sun is gone again. Maybe it will be back tomorrow. Maybe my knee will feel better tomorrow. Maybe my son will find work.

The sun. The son. The sun.

lost books that need to be found

I know that at my age I could easily be misremembering, but I don’t think so.

Back in the early 1980s, I found two books that I gave to my pre-pubescent son to read.

Girls: A Book for Boys and Boys: A Book for Girls

They were the best two books for kids that I ever saw analyzing gender/sex and the physical and psychological changes of puberty in a way that supported respect for both your own and your opposite gender. Both the explanations and the illustrations were clear, honest, and age-appropriate. Together, they provided an approach to sex education that also placed a high value on each gender, encouraging understanding of the differences and appreciation of the human similarities. I eventually I gave them away to another mother, and now neither Amazon nor Google has any mention of them.

I think of these books now because of all of the discussions around the rape of the 16 year old girl by the high school football players.

My son says that he doesn’t remember reading those books, but I sure do remember sitting there and watching him read them, ready for any questions he might ask. Even though he doesn’t remember those books, the reality is that his strong respect for females can be traced, in part, back to the concepts in those books that became embedded in his subconscious.

Next month he’s participating in this, offered by Ball State University:
Gender Through Comics: A Super MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that examines how comic books can be used to explore questions of gender identity, stereotypes, and roles. This highly engaging learning experience is designed for college-age and lifelong learners. I guess that there are some things I did right as a single mom bringing up a son.

I keep thinking that kids today need those two books more than ever. But all traces of them seem to have disappeared from both the real and virtual face of this earth.

If you know any feminist parents who were raising young kids back in the 80s, please ask if they remember those books. They were published about the same time as the original Our Bodies, Ourselves.

a total spring cleaning

Obviously, I’ve cleaned out my blog house, going for a fresh new look. Now, the challenge is to clean the cobwebs out of my head and start to write here again. It’s not unusual for bloggers to take a break every once in a while.

I’m also motivated to tune up physically — went to the chiropractor today. Of course, it helps a lot that my daughter (who cooks for the family) has upped our intake of delicious vegetables and cut down the fleshy portions of our meals. That means I’m eating healthier (except for my late night snacking, which I’m trying to control). With Spring will come more walking and a greater willingness to get myself out for the exercise classes at the well-equipped local Jewish Community Center.

My next challenge is to clean out my living space and make room for the new Lazy-boy glider recliner I bought myself for my birthday with my tax refund.

In the meanwhile, I’m still putting out heirloom seeds for wintersowing, even though it’s kind of late for that. I can’t wait to get out and garden.

My son, who is still job-hunting, has been motivated to publish his late father’s novels, which have been sitting on old 5 inch floppy discs in WordPerfect. They are available via Amazon Kindle, and he has put up a website to promote them: www.myrlnbooks.com

10-the-wheel-of-fortune
The Wheel turns.

The wheels turn.

Spring. Sunshine. Energy. Hope.