Category Archives: Science & Technology

Bemused…

Slavonic Room, New York Public Library (1919)

I’m a little bemused by my behavior over the last several weeks.

Reality is starting to set in.

As are the migraines – again. But that is another story for another time.

Since I’ve succumbed to the lure of the Library I have made a dent in my non-fiction reading list. Lately it’s been the science of happiness and decision making. I’ve finished “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert and “How We Decide” by Jonah Lehrer  and have just started on “Nudge” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

I also read “Getting Things Done” which has caused a revolution in how I organize myself. Although I’m still adapting the methodology to my specific project issues. As usual such improvements are ongoing adaptive processes, kind of like Agile Project Management.

But I digress.

I’m reading about decisions and happiness.

What I’ve learned is that we need to recognize the power of our brain to lead us through complicated decisions by absorbing the information – distracting ourselves with something else – then coming back and letting our emotions lead us.

Yes… our emotions not the rational, logical, “thinking” portion of the brain.

The interesting thing is that this works best if we have trained our brain to deal with these types of decisions by deciding things. Like an expert authenticating a work of art who in the first few moments knows that it’s a fake. We thin slice the world and make a gut decision. A decision based on the sum of our life’s work, our experience, and made instantaneous by all the decisions, right and wrong, we’ve made in the past.

But now we are into “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.

It isn’t that we are making an “emotional” decision. It is that our brain is processing the information and making an informed decision that it simply can’t put into concrete actionable concepts. So it pushes us by making us feel pleasure – if it’s decided it wants something, or fear – it its decided that we really shouldn’t go into the lion’s den even though mom isn’t around and those cubs look so cute.

The thing that I find most amazing is not what the research is telling us about happiness or decisions. What amazes me, having spent some time in research science, is the elegance of the experiments. People are difficult to experiment on. Plus there are all these nasty rules that keep us from raising children in dark basements to see what impact it has on their development, or deactivating sections of the brain just to find out what would happen.

Kidding aside, behavioral neural science has to work with people, experiment on people, and create experiments that lead to measureable, repeatable, and statistically relevant data.

I now have pages and pages of bibliography from the books I’ve read to sift through and see which ones I can gain access to, to get a better understanding of the methods involved. But if you want a better understanding of what makes us happy and unhappy, or how best to choose strawberry jam vs. an impressionist painting – read up and enjoy.

~ Tess

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The Power of…

Me with my favorite Scotch! St. Pat's 2009

As you all know I have migraines.

I also love scotch and wine, artisan cheeses and newly baked bread, Chinese food and pickles.  

I’ve wiped out cheeses, bread and MSG from my diet (and probably a lot of things that I can’t remember because they were easy and I didn’t miss them). Pickles are new for me as a possible trigger so they will need to go.

My diet is so bland at times and the only thing I use as a reward system is scotch and wine. I don’t eat sweets much and I don’t like chocolate.

I need to give up wine.

The problem is that wine does not equal migraine every time which makes it like playing roulette. Actually the same things that happen in the brain of a gambler happens in mine. Inconsistent stimulus is actually more powerful than consistent. Ask anyone who likes to play the slots.

Unfortunately this is keeping me thinking that the wine is not hurting me – but as a friend pointed out this morning it is, and I need to give it up. I also know that he isn’t going to let me off the hook so I need to really let it go.

The scotch is fine in moderation but I’m starting to have problems with moderation. I don’t tend to an addictive personality so this is new to me and I’ve been trying to sort out the “why” behind the behavior.

Last night, at a party, a friend of mine may have stumbled upon a clue as to why I love scotch so much. And it may also help me go back to moderation. Information, after all, is the beginning of change.

My friend at the party connected my love of the smell of scotch with the fact that I don’t tolerate most scents well. Almost everything that I can smell makes me ill from headaches and sneezing, or my ears will itch and my throat will close. But not scotch. I’ve been known to pour a little bit of scotch into a glass and just have it next to me while I read or write because the smell makes me so happy. I don’t even drink it.

When I had a job, scotch was the thing I did to move from the work day into the evening. The ritual of pouring a glass and sipping it while I wandered the house getting ready for whatever I was planning for the evening kept me sane.

In the Fall of 2007 I hired a personal trainer.

Not only did he put me on an amazing physical regiment but he also provided me with some dietary guidelines that my body responded well to. I was allowed one glass – 1.5 ounces – of scotch per day. I became obsessed with the exercise and the eating pattern and allowed myself my one scotch per night.

I don’t think there was a time when I was happier.

There is nothing I want more than to get back to that. It was after that, that the migraines started, as everything fell apart. Migraines make me crave carbs, bad carbs, things like goldfish crackers and bread that also qualify in my book as comfort food. I felt crummy, I ate carbs, the carbs added to my body fat, migraines would sideline me for days or weeks, and I would start the cycle all over again.

But like I said – moderation is a problem for me right now.

I’ve always said that the best thing about living alone is the control you have over your environment. The next best thing is not having someone around to criticize your choices – but that is another story. The answer for now is to not have it in the house just like I don’t have soups with MSG, cheese, or bread.

I also noticed a positive shift in my behavior now that I’ve started focusing on exercise and diet again. I make better choices. One of the interesting things that occurred when I was working with my trainer was my unwillingness to work as hard as I was and blow the benefits by poor food choices.

Last night was an example – when I was training I would have left before I poured myself the second drink or ate anything that I didn’t bring. But it was late and I was having fun so I cheated a little. The farther I get into my training the more I know I will be unwilling to cheat.

This morning started the daily weighting portion of the exercise.

From here on out I weigh every day. Cardio is 4+ times a week either 45 minutes on the elliptical or my ~ 4 mile walk. Weights and Yoga start out as twice a week. I eat every three hours and my diet is high in protein and complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. I will stay away from bread, white rice, and cheese… and alcohol. If you want to make it hard to lose weight… keep drinking.

I have a theory that as my fitness level rises my migraines will become fewer.

I’ll let you know.

~ Tess

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AKC or Mutt – Does Your Prized Pooch Need a Flu Shot?

Credit: Neil Manning

With all the media last year about H1N1 we are by now all aware of the risks of the flu for ourselves and children, but what about our pets? In 2004 an outbreak of a new flu strain broke out in racing Greyhounds in Florida dubbed H3N8.

The flu mimics the symptoms of kennel cough and like the human version of the flu is transmitted by contact. Since it is a new flu strain most dogs do not have any immunity and H3N8 can spread rapidly in kennels, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, groomers, day cares and other dog friendly places.

Testing is available through veterinary testing labs so outbreaks can be monitored. According to the CDC as of 2009 only 30 states and the District of Columbia had verified outbreaks. 

Some dogs show no signs of infection, some get sick – coughing, sneezing, and runny nose. A few dogs may end up with secondary infection, pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.

Credit: Neil Manning

So, how do you decide?

As with any flu vaccine the health of your dog and your lifestyle play into it. So ask yourselves these questions?

  • How healthy is my dog?
  • Is it a breed that is susceptible to pneumonia?
  • Does my dog spend a lot of time with other dogs?
  • Do I spend a lot with other dogs?
  • Do you travel with your dog?

If the answer is yes, talk to your veterinarian. They will be able to let you know what the current risks are and if any outbreaks have occurred in your area or the states you are traveling through. The cost is relatively minimal around $50 for the shot and booster.    

~ Tess

Credit:Neil Manning

(This was originally written for an online outlet but I missed the deadline – I know pathetic – but I thought I’d put it up just for the fun of it. FYI canine flu has not reached the west coast – so all of you PNW dog lovers can breathe easy.)

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Random Thoughts and Stem Cells

First off, I need to apologize for being so self absorbed the last month.

Second, I need to warn you that this is going to be a truly random blog.

Ready? Set! Go!

The world got a little bit crazier while I was on my mental health break. What in the world were members of Congress doing inciting violence? I tried to talk to a friend of mine about this and he just pushed it aside to discuss his feelings on the passage of the Healthcare Bill. All my friends have feelings – strong burning ones – and I feel a little like Switzerland.

I’ve been debating the veracity of the HPV inoculation, looking once again at the issue of water boarding and whether we should hold individuals accountable for operating under a set of rules we now find morally abhorrent, thinking about the nature of time (and coming up with a really cool new superpower), and wondering if our President understood what he was doing when he didn’t grandfather in the existing stem cell lines?   

Earlier this month I was all set to write a piece how the lifting of the stem cell ban had impacted science. Since no one I currently know is working with stem cells I was going to do some digging on the internet and see what I could find. After all – this had to be good news, right?

Oh, so wrong.

NPR did the first story I heard and it made me incredibly sad.  

Research science is a long process. You think government is slow, try research. For the last 8 years only a few stem cell lines have been approved for government funding in the United States. Last year’s lifting of the ban had a caveat – all stem cell lines have to be approved as “derived without creating a human embryo for research purposes or destroying, discarding, or subjecting to harm a human embryo or fetus.”

The problem is that for most of the last decade research on stem cells was restricted to only a few lines. These stem cell lines were not grandfathered into to the Executive Order and proving that they were derived “humanly” has become problematic. It is devastating for researchers. It’s like being a jockey, who at the eleventh hour, has to switch horses. All that work, training, building an understanding of your mount – it’s all gone and have you to start all over again.       

As much as I like observing complex systems our bureaucracy makes my head hurt.  

There are so many moving parts, and part within parts, that we can never “do no harm”. Even the things that we want – to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – to open up stem cell research so we can compete with the rest of the world – to have health care for all – become wrapped up in conflict and compromise. Every layer of bureaucracy that is added, even with the best of intent, makes the system more unstable.   

I wish I had answers rather than critiques. It is easy to criticize and so much harder to look at the whole problem and start chipping away towards a solution.

The funny thing is that we criticize no matter what happens because no solution makes everyone happy.

Take for example the stem cell issue. If the President had grandfathered in the Bush stem cell lines and it was discovered that one or more of the lines were not derived humanly we would be hearing all about that.

There is no winning in government today only awkward truces and tense compromises.

So, I keep being Switzerland.

Not because I back away from the fight, but because I can see the other perspectives.

~ Tess

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I’m Tired

Allergy Degranulation Process - Wiki Commons

Actually I’m starting to get some place beyond tired these days.

A week ago I would have blamed my insomnia, favorite vice (scotch), or my lifestyle. But this time it isn’t anything I’ve done to myself, its Spring.

My allergies are killing me.

My eyes hurt, which doesn’t help. I think this part is psychological. Our eyes hurt when we are tired, my eyes hurt because of the pollen in the air, so therefore I must be tired.

It isn’t just the tired eyes.

All of me is tired. My nose is raw and my voice scratchy. If I didn’t know better I’d think I had some unusual strain of the common cold. But all I have is allergies. Severe allergies that have decided to get worse each year for the last three years.

Each time I go to the doctor and request help for this they look at me oddly. My main complaint isn’t the sneezing, runny eyes or nose, my main problem is how tired I feel. I can handle the rest, hell that is what my life is always like. Granted usually I only sneeze 10 times rather than 30 but that is merely an issue of degree.  

“Your allergies make you tired?” they invariably ask with just the faintest sound of disbelief in their voice.

Yes they do, and not because I’m a drug whore looking for some medically proscribed speed but because my immune system is having a field day.

Once I was so cranky I almost asked my physician if they remember their immunology. I sure do. But I kept my mouth shut and waited for her to think it through. I’m not sure she ever really got there – it appeared to be a new idea for her.

What I don’t understand is why?

What we call allergies is the equivalent of our immune system crying Wolf! The immune system thinks it is fighting off nasty invaders that must be destroyed before they compromise the system. Or kill all the sheep.

Don’t you get tired when you have a cold? How about how exhausted you feel when you have the flu? The nice thing about those experiences is you are actually sick and your body is doing its job. Unlike my body (and oh, so many of us out there this time of year) who are faced an over-active hyper-imaginative immune system.

Wolf!

My economics are such that I can’t afford to take the next step and find an allergist. The last time I was at an allergist I received the lovely diagnosis of having a low level allergic reaction, i.e. 30% – 40% if you think of 100% as anaphylaxis, to everything. Beyond the peaks – Mint, Bee Stings, Rabbit Fur, Male Mouse Urine etc.

Really not helpful!

So, I’m just going to whine to you all. Take lots of showers, make sure my Hepa filters are in good shape, eat my OTC allergy meds every morning, and think about getting a neti pot.

Oh yes, and wait for Spring to end.

~ Tess

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How did I miss all that? or Geeking out on Physics!

Actually I know how I missed all that.

It is amazing how wrapped up you can get in your job and your life. My assumption is that this is even truer for those who have kids. Finding out what was happening in the field of theoretical physics and cosmology just didn’t seem all that important.

Yes – this is a true geek moment!

This journey started out because I wanted to remember what the 4 Rules of Happiness were according to Dr. Gilbert (see previous posts on happiness). I spent some time wandering around trying to find the information. Surprisingly enough I didn’t find that – what I did find was TED.

I’d forgotten about TED.

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading! How could I have forgotten? It was Friday I was sick of myself and tired of my work so I wandered around for awhile watching brilliant people talk about fascinating things. (And no I didn’t watch the James Cameron: Before Avatar – but here’s the link.)

What I did watch was several things on physics.

Brian Greene on String Theory and Sean Carroll on the Arrow of Time (Part I and Part II)

And I learned that Brian Greene can give me a glimpse of what is happening in the strings that sit inside quarks, which sit inside protons, which sit inside atoms. Trust me – I don’t get the math and I can barely get my head around the idea of strings vibrating in multiple dimensions, ten plus time = eleven!

Then I never realized how little we understood about Time itself. Vaguely I remember the idea that Time went in a single direction because of Entropy. A single arrow shot out of the Big Bang that moved all things from order to chaos. (On a side note – Peter Segal, of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, discussed children as agents of Entropy on The Late Late Show. I know, I know more geek humor.)

The sad thing is I know now just enough to know that I know nothing – so I went and picked up one of Brain Greene’s book The Fabric of the Cosmos and have put Sean Carroll’s book From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time on hold.

That “on hold” part. The old me would have dropped in on Borders Books or Powell’s and picked up a copy. The new me walked down to her local community Library, got a library card for the first time in 20 years, and walked out with a book.  

I must be getting old… The going is tough. It’s been a decade since I took physics and even longer since I read anything near the cutting edge. The God Particle was my last “pop” physics book. But I know it will be worth it! Nothing is more fun than throwing oneself into the deep end and discovering how to swim again.

~ Tess

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The Unexpected

I guess I should have expected this… but I have learned to submit my stories without linking an expectation to them.

I signed a contract yesterday!

I sold a story and I signed a contract. The glow of this hard won success still sits inside me making me dance around the house and do silly things. It won’t last. Happy moments like this never do. Thank goodness – because the adrenalin surge that occurred wore me out.

But it made me think about happiness and the decisions that we make.

My guru on happiness isn’t the tenants of religion or the rules of a self-help writer. Rather I turn to science and the work of Daniel Gilbert to help me understand what makes us happy.

Right now I am happy – not surging with bliss by any means – but happier now than last year or the years before that. In reality the last time I felt this content was when I worked at Borders and before that my job at the Vollum taking care of Fruit Fly stocks. At the time I didn’t know how lucky I was. Each time I left chasing money and benefits thinking they would have a positive impact on my life. Each time I got the money and the benefits but they didn’t make me happier.

According to Dr. Gilbert, what we think will make us happy is wrapped up in the desires of our genes to procreate and the need of our society. More money, more things, better jobs, etc. are all part of the push that society gives us in order for it to exist. Thus the lure of the “American Dream”.

Apparently us humans are not able to clearly define what future choices will make us happy. We can play with future events, imagine ourselves in future situations, but are usually really bad at deciding what will make us happy. People tend to overestimate outcomes both negatively and positively.

I have a friend who made a huge life change last year because she imagined it would make her happier. The reality of the situation is very different and at times she is despondent. There were all these things that the new job was supposed to do and I believe not a single one has materialized. It also appears that the stress has eliminated the ability for her to manufacture happiness by making what she has, what she wanted.

I explained that poorly.

One of the things that we do to create happiness is reframe the situation. (This again from Dr. Gilbert) We’ve all done this. Look at the relationships that have imploded in your life, jobs lost, or promotions denied. We mourn then and then we reframe the story. We say things like “we really weren’t a good fit” or “I’m better off now than if I’d gotten that job” or the classic “it wasn’t meant to be”.

An aspect of depression is not being able to reframe. People get locked into the mourning phase and are unable to move on. There is an advantage to depression. It keeps us from acting on our emotions of the moment and gives us time to adjust to the new situation. It is only when it continues beyond its useful period that it becomes a problem.

But I digress.

The reason I was thinking about happiness is that I got lucky. And I’m not sure how or why. Maybe it was just blind luck that I figured out what I wanted to do with my life and that I’m actually enjoying it.

Not all of it – this isn’t easy.

A friend asked me the other day if I got up excited every morning. I don’t. I still love my bed and hate getting up. But I do and I write almost every day – we all need days off – and I just did the numbers and found that I write more than 5 days a week. This is my job after all.

But I was thinking about my friend and her inability to forgive herself for her decision and start reframing the situation so she can be happy again. It is a different life but it isn’t a bad one and she’s had some tremendous successes. She just can’t seem them.

In the end, we make our own happiness. No matter how bad things get we bounce back and move forward. Nothing in our lives will bring us as much pain or as much joy as we think it will.

And even that is transitory.   

~ Tess

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My Last Vice

Riedel Sommeliers Single Malt Scotch Glass

Sometime last week I realized I was my own worst enemy.

I’ve been suffering from insomnia and migraines but I haven’t stopped drinking. Any idiot knows that those three don’t play well together.

The problem was that until recently I couldn’t see the affect the alcohol was having on the migraines because it was so slight. It bumps an existing migraine about 0.5 on the pain scale. You know that scale. The one the doctor always asks you. “On a scale of 0 to 10 how much pain are you in?” When you are having daily migraines in the 7-9 category the increase in magnitude of a 0.5 just isn’t enough to register.  

My daily migraines are closer to a 1 so now I’m noticing.

It is the insomnia that is the real kicker. Some days a single drink will cause me to wake up every hour or so. But wine and scotch are part of my lifestyle. They are part of how I view myself.

Funny – I’m sure that is similar to how smokers feel.

We have so many hang-ups around drinking in our culture I have a feeling many of you are out there labeling me. Label away. I’ve been referring to myself as the “family alcoholic” for some time now. I’m one of the only ones who drinks.

At least I’ve discovered that I’m not addicted, but I don’t have an addictive personality so that wasn’t a surprise. I can stop and I can limit. I just like to drink. I love the adventure of tasting new wines and visiting old scotches. Only now I need to make the decision about when and when.

It’s all about health.

Health is one of those things that I like to manage myself. Now I know that for me to sleep well and limit that minor bump on the migraine, I have to limit my consumption. Sometimes one drink is too much but often I don’t know until the next day if I’ve caused a negative impact.

Logic says that I should be saying good bye…

The thing is I’ve changed my diet, my exercise program, where I go and who I go out with, all to limit my need for drugs to manage my health. Alcohol is my last food related vice. I never had many but they are all gone. The fried egg sandwiches, nachos, soft drinks, aged cheese, fresh baked bread, and goldfish crackers are all things of the past. There is nothing left to comfort myself with or use as a reward system.

That was what the scotch was for.

Scotch is the ritual that allows me to relax. It was what helped me handle the stress when everything in my life was falling apart. Just the smell of a good island scotch makes me smile. There is enormous power in the wafting scent of peat and seaweed, a strange sort of something that my brain responds to with pleasure.

My scotch brought me happiness when few things in my life did. Often it was less than a glass. Sometimes when I had a migraine I would simply pour enough in so that I could smell it.

I need sleep, but I love my scotch. I wonder if there is any way I can keep my vice and still provide my brain with its much needed downtime?

Moderation in all things I suppose.

We shall see.

~ Tess

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In Search of… Information on Insomnia

Since I had yet another fun filled night of dreams and delusions I decided to do some research on insomnia. Nice to know that I’m not alone – 20% of the population will experience insomnia at some point in their lifetime.

Unfortunately the really interesting bits are locked away in scholarly journals I don’t have access to (I’m hoping there is a “yet” in there). But with a little judicious Googling I was able to find some additional information in the hope that tonight will be better

The Three most Common Causes of Insomnia

Snoring, Stress & Lifestyle

First – I’m going to assume that I don’t snore. In 20 years of relationships I’m sure someone would have mentioned it. So I don’t have to worry about that.

Second – Stress sounded like a good target. Part of their description is “When the mind is occupied, it is hard for it to shut off and sleep.” They mention reliving events, conversations, etc. All that good work stress stuff. Like when I started a new job and used Excel for the first time all day long. I dreamed about spreadsheets for weeks.  

This article recommended that I use aromatherapy or background music to quiet my mind. Nothing that smells is a possibility in my life but I could try my “soother” I love the sound of thunderstorms and that may successfully occupy my brain and let me sleep.

I’ve decided for the next several weeks to give up all alcohol and to limit my caffeine to coffee in the morning and tea only until 3 ish.

Third – Well, yes… I don’t maintain a normal schedule anymore, I could probably cut down on caffeine and alcohol, and although I have a new mattress I could use new pillows.

I’ll try and maintain a normal schedule – I wanted to get to bed early last night (10 pm) and it really didn’t work.

Oh, and melatonin and some chamomile tea 30 minutes before I go to bed sounds easy enough.

And then for the bad news article… if the “sufferer has experienced continuously broken sleep patterns for more than four weeks…a symptom of something far more serious – clinical depression.”

Lovely – I’ve been in this state for at least six weeks and probably more.

Interestingly enough the same article hinted at another player in the insomnia game – allergies. Well, I’ve got those in spades. Wonder if they might be adding to something going on in my life?

Oh, and then I found the article that stated even “extreme joy” is a stressor. So maybe it isn’t stress but the joy I feel in my new life and my subconscious is just trying to help me out with so many ideas for stories I can’t stay asleep.  

The article did go into some of the science behind my lack of sleep.

“Furthermore, chronically elevated levels of cortisol and its precursor, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), can make sleep shallow, fragmented, and unrestful; delay the onset of sleep; and produce more frequent nocturnal awakenings.”

Oh, we are getting somewhere that sounds like me.

“Do you observe a nightwatch, awakening to muse or meditate some time during the late night or early morning? That’s normal, too, and it can be richly rewarding.”

Yes, my whole night is one long nightwatch – with ideas tumbling out of nowhere. Please no one ask me how creative people get their ideas after this. I’d actually like a bit fewer of them.

I’m so liking this writer – however he wants me to buy his book to discover his secret to good sleep without drugs.

But there has to be more information out there that isn’t locked away in scholarly journals and books I can’t afford to buy.

Sleep Foundation  has a list of things you can do for stress induced insomnia.

  • First, set your bedtime and your wake-up time according to the number of hours of sleep you are getting currently. For example, if you are sleeping only five hours a night (even though you usually plan to spend eight hours in bed), set your sleep time for that amount. Then gradually increase the amount of time allotted for sleep by 15 minutes or so every few nights. The idea is to “squeeze out” the middle of the nighttime awakening and gradually increase the amount of sleep you will get during the night.
  • Spend some time “winding down.” A person with insomnia needs a “buffer zone,” a period of time to allow the activating processes in the brain to wind down to allow the alerting mechanisms to decrease their activity so that the sleep systems can take over. I suggest that you start winding down two hours before bedtime. Stop all work and end phone calls to family and friends, as often they are activating. Watching television is all right in the evening. However, an hour before bed, I recommend reading or listening to music.
  • Finally, focus on conditioning yourself for different sleep behavior. Insomnia is painful for people—it can take control of their lives. When someone suffering from insomnia walks into their bedroom, they often feel anxious, uncomfortable and tense, as they know from their experience that they might spend the night tossing and turning. They need to set up a situation so that they like going to their bedroom. The bedroom should be visually pleasing and very comfortable. One should use the bedroom only for sleep, sex, and changing clothes, pleasant activities, and if awake in the night should leave the bed and bedroom and spend “unpleasant” times awake in another room. “Waking” activities such as working on the computer, talking with one’s partner, talking on the phone and watching TV should take place out of the bedroom.  

No stress when I enter my bedroom. But I probably should get up rather than toss and turn when it gets stressful in the middle of the night.

Lots of food for thought and I’ll muse on these for a little bit longer and see what I can change quickly.

Here’s to some good night’s sleep!

~ Tess

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Tired of taking care of myself!

Last year, about this time, I simply got tired of taking care of myself.

I was seeing a Naturopath, an Acupuncturist, a Massage Therapist, a Chiropractor, and a Neurologist in an attempt to get my migraines under control. I wanted to have some level of quality of life. I also wanted to feel like I was “doing” something and not just giving into the migraines.

Those who know me well know that I fight.

So I fought.

Not only was I spending a small fortune on my healthcare providers I was also on drugs, supplements, and vitamins.

I started to wonder what was working and what was window dressing? But I had been in such bad shape and I wanted, so badly, to feel better. At the time I was keeping a migraine journal – the migraines, what I ate, the drugs/supplements/vitamins I took and when, and any exercise I was able to do.

I keep my appointments but I stopped writing in my journal. That was the first sign. I was exhausted. Taking care of myself had become a full time job.  

Then I was laid off – and anyone who has been surviving on unemployment insurance knows that there was no way I was going to continue my healthcare lifestyle on what I was receiving weekly.    

So I had to prioritize.

What was the most bang-for-the-buck and what was really required and what could go away. I don’t want to think about the money I’d been spending. Several of the things I was taking cost upwards of $90 a month. Trust me, I could do the math but it would make me cry.

Now don’t think that anyone was taking advantage of me – they weren’t. I made all the decisions with my eyes open. Granted the decision was to throw everything at the migraines, but that was my decision, and it did help.

It also helped knowing that they cared and wanted to help. I have great doctors!

But now I was facing financial disaster at the same time as I was becoming tired of working so hard just to make it through another day.

My decision was very unscientific. I kept taking everything until the supply ran out. Then if I got worse I put it back in and if I didn’t notice it was gone I left it. As the months went by the migraines ebbed and flowed with no real rhyme or reason. Except, as the months passed, the daily ones became less severe and the sever ones less frequent.

For years one of my doctor’s was of the opinion that my job was killing me.

I think she was right.

The farther I got away from the job, the more I went back to my old habits of scrimping and saving. The more control I had over my life, my time. Going back to working hard only for myself rather than being a tiny cog in the huge mechanism that is business in the US the better I felt.

I still have migraines. But I’m getting better at controlling them through diet and exercise.

I still take drugs and supplements – but I’ve pared them down to the essentials and got lucky. Two of the drugs I’ve been on in the last 12 months have gone generic.

And I wonder…

One of the things that has always bothered me is when I take a drug and it has an unacceptable side effect, so I take another drug for the side effect.

What if the root of my problem was the job, the migraine was the side effect, and the drugs I was taking to control the side effect?

We so rarely look at our lifestyle.

All of our lifestyle.

Just before the migraines hit my exercise program started to fall apart. It was a gradual thing but as my exercise decreased my migraines increased. As long as I had the migraines on a daily basis I couldn’t exercise.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this ramble.

Today I woke up without a migraine. It’s happening more and more often.

I’m grateful for everything my doctors did for me – they kept me sane and productive when my world was falling apart.

I think my doctor who said my job was killing me was right. I’m not really built to work in corporate America.

I’m even more grateful to the recession since it caused my company to have to shrink by 10% – and so glad I was one of the causalities. As brave as I usually am I was terrified to lose the paycheck.

I’m exercising more, my migraines are less, I am productive and I’m content.   

~ Tess

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