Monday, December 28, 2009

Madness known as TWILIGHT SLEEP

We get accused by our partner of having a full conversation that probably sounds similar to this.
He- Hey honey, are you ready for bed yet?
She- Well I have to count the dish towels that will be needed by the four baking pans, next to the library and the tree with the shoes that look like butter dishes.
He- Are you sure you're awake?
She- Am sure that parts of my body are functioning as it does when I am wide awake-
But the cognizance of these actions seems slanted, spewed, and even down right mystical in a Harry Potter must be doing something there kind if way.

In fact, if you are on Ambien, Lunestra, or several other medications that are supposed to help you approach sleep, one of the most common side effects is the dodgy reality that usually is part of our dream life, but at this very point, the voices you respond to in your sleep. The actions you've taken as a sleeping person would be that of an awake person, and for some, even driving or walking to locations that are very familiar. In the safest situation, you are already in bed, safely, and likely your own, or at least a familiar secondary bed. You could be alone, or with a person who loves you enough not to video tape your oddness, and post on youtube to be used as evidence against you.

As you feel twilight sleep taking over, you may hear echoes of conversations you've held in the past. It seems logical to respond to these voices because they are directly speaking with you, about something directly relating to something important to you. For several months, when I first tried Ambien, I would keep a journal of all the weird comments that drift through my head. As I close my eyes, listening to the conversation I'm supposed to be part of, I'd nod along, in agreement. When you are in a half dream, half awakened state, it becomes unclear as to which of these worlds is the place where you resign in reality, actuality.

Do you continue a conversation in your head that may be amusing, but not productive? Do you continue a conversation hoping the glimmer of clarity will bring something to you that may help explain your difficulty in sleeping in the first place?

Your body may do rote acts. For instance, it is documented that those new to Ambien often have sleep walking episodes, and at least one case of sleep TV watching. Many have sleep dining experiences. A man in a New Jersey hospital undergoing sleep studies, got up then drove to his favorite coffee shop... read newspapers from dates that were months old... and then went back to the clinic, greeting the nurses as he made it back nonchalantly to his sleep study room. He never believed this was happening in the least, so the hospital produced, not one, not two, but fifteen different sleep studies videos that showed him driving through different areas of town, hitting the cafe drive through, and shuffling through the recycled paper piles to find the "right" ones.

Another side effect of the twilight sleep hypnosis is the lack of memory of the events afterward. During the moment, patients appear to answer questions, and appear to be comprehending. Any surgical unit can tell you stories of having long conversations with patients who are about to undergo full anesthesia. They say that the patients nods, responds, even jokes back and forth with the team. Yet when surgery is completed, only the most rare of patients will recall even the smallest moment of this social interaction.

Those who study the theories of hypnosis, and the Mind-Body connection studies from the Deaconess Hospital have pummeled into this field, find that it need not be a pharmaceutical interruption to the thoughts. How we pattern our self into falling asleep varies form person to person, but it does seem to follow a track into layers of cognizance. Some scientists believe that without the psychotropic meds, each of us has a specified flow of thought pattern that ebbs and weighs along with our conscience consciousness. It is believed that the medications that leap into a deeper part of sleep prior to our natural flow to that area of consciousness is what leads to the unusual side effects. The meds figuratively take us from learning to tie our shoes to putting us on skis in a very short span of time during a brain-based Olympiad.

One doctor suggested I diary the thoughts that were freely flowing during days when I had no Ambien before bed. Then do the same the following week, when I was on the prescription. Although I truly thought the words would come from a deeper place when on the meds, it turns out that I am really a Rubik cube of verbiage, not quite clear which combination makes the most sense. Yet, when not on the same meds, I write rather simple, non life changing commentary.

Facts are that sleep is the least understood body function for many reasons. We don't know why some people need to have 48 minutes of sleep followed by deep sleep, followed by REM, followed by theta, followed by myriad other stages. Some people seem to thrive on meager hours of 3 to 5 hours a night. Others need to have at least, the bare minimum of 10 hours. One thing is agreed upon. We, as a species, have lost our ability to sleep healthy. We just get what we can when we can, and hope its enough.

When it isn't, the side effects we have for our illnesses seem far more intense. The mood swings we battle with depression, PMT, PMS, or even a tooth ache is magnified. Our concentration for small tasks disappears. We may be diagnosed as having ADHD, when really we are just too tired. Perhaps the mood swings are simply the mind battling against the lack of REM. For those of us who sleep only as long as no other sounds exist in the room, fearing that a sound means someone else is injured or hurt. Lack of sleep even magnifies our concern for others as a side effect. Those who grind their teeth in their sleep during twilight time could attest that for some reason, the reasoning seems to make sense to them just at that time.

Is there a medication that does let us sleep, without skipping cycles that apparently are required for a full restful sleep? The pain killers from over-the-counter stores that offer "sleep aids" don't promise a full night sleep. You aren't supposed to take these more than once in 24 hours. Melatonin- a hormone long tauted by the homeopath community, has some merit as a sleep regulator, but other medications or chemicals in our system counter the effect.

As I type tonight, I drift in and out. I took some melatonin. I'm certainly on the edge of giving in to sleep, and I have weird thoughts regarding detective games and my cat snoring. I wonder if anyone reading will tell about their ambien-nesia. Perhaps someone will post about the sleepwalker who murdered his wife. Some will talk about night terrors, or night paralysis. And I hope all of this happens. The more we understand about what happens when we aren't conscience, the better we'll be able to handle the issues that we face when we are wide awake and searching.

Today's questions- What sleep disorders have you faced? Have you tried to use any pharmaceutical assistance? Do you use "herbal" remedies? What do you consider a good night's sleep?

Monday, November 16, 2009

When A Doctor Is Listening...You KNOW

I've railed about the many medical fiascoes I've battled over the last thirty years. And I've mentioned that there are great resources that help weed out the "professionals" who are urged by pharmaceutical companies to alter our lives by pushing meds for diseases that aren't even recognized by Lancet, JAMA, nor any other medical journal. What I haven't talked about much is the way you need to interview a medical professional to find out if he or she is the right type of LISTENER for your disorders and symptoms.

A friend of mine is going through a lot of the same issues I've been battling since teenhood. She is easy to gain weight, despite a healthy diet. She has very little steady sleep patterns. Her joints are unstable, and her stomach issues are creatiing pain and have no specific source for the issues. I know her symptoms first hand, as I am also someone who can't sleep, gains weight when my calorie count is in the 1200 range, and both of us are consistent at a body temperature of 97.1 or within .1 of this. She has thyroid issues. She has digestive issues. She has connective tissue issues. She's also 20 years younger than I am, and has already given up on getting any help from any medical professionals. Her care has always been during the years when HMOs and PPOs are the only source of care. As a child all the way until my early twenties, I was fortunate enough to have a personal physician- a Family Doctor. Within twenty years, the model of Family Doctor has given way to Corporate Designated Healthcare professional. We no longer have relationships with our doctors. She is a victim of this, and I can see how it is destroying her ability to trust any medical professional.

Concierge Medical Care is the newest catch phrase, but it really is the once common practice of finding a doctor you trust, making an appointment, and having enough time to talk to a person who has professional experience and is willing to use that time to help us discover the reason for our symptoms. Symptoms seem to be lost on the current health care models. Symptoms are secondary to tests. Symptoms are what we are hoping lead to a solution, a diagnosis. But we don't see medical diagnosticians. We see formulaic, must-fit-in-a-medical billing code push to diagnose. We are losing contact with the humanity of our doctors. What once was common and general practice is now an overpriced, option for the have's, and seems out of reach for the have-nots.

I am, as a disabled person, on a Medicare program. This program isn't the government run Medicare- but a contracted health organization that is supposed to help support the system. According to the 153 page package I received this month, allowing me to determine if I should keep this option or move onto a different option, I am supposed to expect to have at least 15 minutes with my healthcare specialist, can have up to four "covered" appointments, and I am allowed at least two psychological related visits per year.

My friend, who has been seeking employment for months, is on a waiting list for Medicaid, a state run program. While she waits for the approval, or disapproval, she is unable to afford any concierge visits. If she goes to a county hospital, she cannot guarantee being seen by the same doctor on any visit. And, she has to pay out of pocket. For anyone on a fixed income, this can be a decision between paying rent or finding a diagnosis. Then, once a diagnosis is reached, medications or tests become another large financial concern. My friend is too sick to afford the help she needs to be healthy enough to find a job that would pay her benefits.

The problems for most who struggle paycheck to paycheck come from doctors who don't take the time to hear and understand the symptoms a patient is trying to explain. Because the low income patients have allotted less than 15 minutes per visit, no real medical history can be documented. The battle is getting years of poor health understood by someone who has up to 20 patients to see a day, and to expect that individual attention to lead to at least relief, if not a diagnosis.

Some ways to expand the amount of time a doctor takes with us is to ensure we schedule an appointment during a slower period of the week. Most doctors are fully booked Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Ask your medical office which days seem to be less booked, and try to get in on those days. Another way to be heard is to find out if the doctor has a history of taking time to read a full chart before s/he sees you. Some doctors will ask for your records, and simply not bother checking through them before you're seen. Ask the NURSING staff of the medical office if the doctor has a set time of day to read through charts prior to your visit. If the doctor is NOT a chart reader, find a different doctor, or you'll be wasting your time repeating information that is already documented.

Do your research with the internet and determine if the doctor you are considering is aware of other patients who have a similar history. My friend will likely see a doctor I spent years seeing because the office is experienced in dealing with people with my condition. Her symptoms are so similar to mine, she can use me as a referral case. YES, letting someone share your doctor and saying "When you saw Cathe you noticed she was experiencing similar issues with pain in joints, a history of insomnia, migraines, and agitation, along with pain when eating." Letting a doctor know that you're aware of similar symptoms in a diagnosed patient can help lead her to the correct tests to offer, and the right diagnostic tools to use.

Don't let a doctor dismiss your history or symptoms. NOTHING is more frustrating than hearing a medical professional say, "oh yeah, that's going around, you'll be fine after a few days." The fact is, you may have similar symptoms as someone with a flu but Lyme Disease can hide that way. Gallbladder disease can appear as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Hives and rashes can appear to be psoriasis, or it may be an allergic reaction. Being dismissed as having something "everyone else" is going through is probably why so many people are misdiagnosed for hundreds of illnesses. For instance, a friend who has narcolepsy was misdiagnosed as having depression. If your illness is similar to common disorders, then you MUST get your doctor to hear you by explaining that this is NOT situational, it has a pattern, and you have documented the patterns.

If your body temperature is 99, and the doctor thinks that's just above normal, having a record of weekly body temperature charts- showing a "normal" for you as 97.1, you have a reason to say, "Listen to why this isn't normal for me." My left shoulder and rotator cuff were dislocated for up to 8 months one year because a doctor kept trying to convince me it was "just muscle strain from carrying a purse." To dispute his comment, I showed him photographs of the shoulder in the normal position on a Monday and dislocated on a Tuesday, back to Normal on Wednesday. Then, since he was just too stubborn to believe photo evidence, I simply put the shoulder blade in a position that was apparently and obviously just plain twisted and then back into the sockets again. After his jaw came off the floor he finally admitted that it might not be a "purse strain" afterall.

Doctors seem to be under the impression that if a disease is in a magazine or on the news that month, we're going to be sitting in the office just to discuss that disorder du-jour. A great many people probably see a disorder and assume that their illness is "swine flu" or something similarly over exposed by the media. In fact, the influx of patients who are armed with Web-MD information has done a lot to discourage medical professionals from listening to actual patient history. But, if you are armed with a family history, a documented history of your own symptoms, and perhaps even a few testimonies from family or friends that state- this is not normal for you- you may be heard with a more sympathetic ear.

Doctors also have a deaf ear to the idea that medications they are giving us could be causing other problems that appear as illnesses. Seniors are victims of this almost rampantly, with blood pressure medications given to someone who is having side effects of cholesterol medication, and then antidepressants given to help battle the side effects of sleep medications. The side effects need to be documented as soon as they appear. Just by documenting side effects, I was able to reduce my medication list from 24 different prescriptions per day to 9. I had a diary of what happened to my body after what prescription was given, and was able to show a pattern of several effects that directly correlated with new medications handed to me to combat disorders that apparently don't exist for me.

My current doctor with the Veterans Health Care office sets up one appointment per hour. That means, she spends 15 minutes before the schedule appointment to read through my charts. When I sit with her, she goes over any tests that were returned, and we also view my weight and temperature history. We go through my menstrual history to see if the depression I have is related to hormonal changes. We do this at every appointment so we can verify patterns. Fifteen minutes of the appointment is her examination to see if there have been any changes physically, mentally, and even if my appearance has changed. The last fifteen minutes is about the current prescriptions, side effects, and changes that have improved or have become worse since medications are added or removed. I see her at least once a quarter due to my autoimmune disorder, and chronic joint dislocations. Because of the documentation in my care, she can easily see when there are decreases in muscle tone, increases in calcium deposits, a change in my general mood, and if my body temperature has steadied at any particular level. She listens and she pays attention when I tell her something isn't right.

My civilian doctor hands me 15 minutes total, including the time she views my charts. She is focused on blood tests, and doesn't fiddle around with small talk. In fact, I think I've said less than ten sentences to her in the four visits I've had this year. Her documentation of my blood work is pristine, but she probably couldn't pick me out in a crowd of people if I left my cane in the waiting room. Because she is all business and no play, I hand her documents of diaries of the changes in my body, physical changes, and even comments from friends and family. She notes these, and after a few weeks, I will generally get a call stating what she sees has changed. The care is not personalized, and it feels like Jiffy-lube medicine, but at least since the homework is done for her, I know she will read through it.

The worst listener is one who is so scheduled that he will only nod at you, tell you what your condition is before you have even opened your mouth, and will shuttle you out with either a pill or a "get some rest". You are a number that fills the quota for the HMO and nothing more. If you find yourself being told your illness before you've had any chance to utter a word, fire that doctor. File a complaint with the HMO, and ask for a history of any doctor you are considering , including references. Not all doctors are working for their HMO quota, and you may find the right one will be the one that has been listening since the days before Concierge and Managed care. Listen to your gut. You'll know if you're being heard. And, if any doctor makes you feel humiliated by your symptoms or illness, again REPORT that doctor to the health care provider. You deserve health CARE not health apathy.

Today's questions- Have you felt dismissed or judged by a doctor before you had a chance to explain your symptoms? Do doctors you see prefer to look at numbers, or are you considered more than the sum of your blood counts? What have you done to get your doctors to hear you, and really listen?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Medicare Scaring Us

You probably have your new "Medicare Options" package sent by your Part D provider. Starting Monday, we're supposed to be able to manage our decisions for the following year. What every senior and disabled person battles for this decision includes-
No Increase on Cost of Living For Social Security;
Increase by up to 28% of the Prescription Plans available;
No Sanctioned Increase of Insurance Premiums
Decrease in Available Medicaid Dollars
Increase in Co-payments (ie. Walgreens $4 prescription copay for generic will be $5 in 2010).

Addressing the obvious first. This year we have more Veterans returning from war than in any time in history since Viet Nam. During the early 1970's, the increase of those who went on permanent disability due to war related illness, PTSD, and other trauma was NOT picked up by the Veterans Benefits, and instead was placed into the general funds of Medicare. Service connected and Service Aggravated illnesses and trauma are not all covered by Veterans benefits. That saps quite a bit out of the funds for those who are in disability or are retiring seniors. Veterans care is increasing the amount we must pay for our prescriptions, and are charging for services at VA hospitals where before these were considered part of the benefits of service aggravated or connected illness.

The VA Healthcare System is being used as the model for Public Healthcare, a huge political battlezone at the moment. The system is very strict regarding the type of prescriptions, treatments, care, and surgeries are authorized per patient. I know, I'm a Veteran AND disabled. I've been on both systems for nine years now. The VA doesn't bill my medicare for anything, but instead, although my information is shared with both organizations and the cost could be spread between the two, I'm out of pocket thousands of dollars per year.

If I want prescriptions that are not in the VA system, I need to see and pay for a private doctor, then pay for the prescriptions, hoping they are covered by the Part D Medicare. There are very few pain meds that are covered by Part D. For those of us with Autoimmunity issues and joint disorders, the catch 22's seem innumerable. I can use a wheelchair but Medicare won't pay for it, but the VA will pay for one as long as it's a replacement of one I used for more than 10 years and was originally Medicare paid. Okay. I can have splints and braces on my hands, but I can't get them remeasured unless I pay for the second appointment, out of pocket, but I have to copay the braces up to 80%, unless Medicare copays, which they won't because they weren't the ones who authorized the braces. Got it? Yeah, me either.

Before the Part D split, I could apply for a wheelchair from Medicare or VA and they'd split the cost, and I'd have a small copay. Now I have to reapply for a chair with both, and if one approves first, the other form is revoked, so I end up paying not only my copay but the copay the other organization would have taken over. See how this gets confusing? See how this makes no sense?

For those on Medicaid- a state run version of Medicare, you have to meet financial limits. For most people on disability, full disability, I mean, you make about $300 to $1000 a year MORE than you should to qualify for Medicaid. So the money you make from Disability, which is borderline poverty level for most people on it, means you are too rich for assistance from your state, thus making more out of pocket costs a mandate. There are people who qualify for SSI, who cannot quallify for Medicaid. There are people who qualify for SSD who cannot get SSI, (such as married people like myself). If anyone thinks this government insurance system which we paid into is a hand-out- they're very wrong. They don't get that mose of us on disability had normal working lives, and had to work at least 20 years to qualify. We aren't sitting around eating bonbons.

Those of us on disability spend hours in physical therapy, sometimes psychological offices, oftentimes trying to find out how we will survive from one check to another. Homeless Veterans make up the largest number of people living on the streets, and without a permanent address, these heroes can't qualify for benefits. They aren't asking for a handout. They earned their place in society. Minimum wage doesn't prevent an adult from living in a hallway or a bus stop. And, being homeless doesn't mean being jobless.

Here comes the time of year when those of us who are trying to manage just being able to sit, stand, or speak in cohesive sentences are handed a book of options. The options are supposed to help us figure out how we want the government to best allocate our funds to pay for medications which may or may not be covered on the Part D of our insurance. I am on Morphine, an antidepressant, and a sleep assistant drug. Only the Morphine is covered, via the VA. I cannot get it through my private doctor. Only the sleep med are covered through the private doctor. Because both are "Controlled Substances" I sign a contract with each doctor and both pharmacies pull my records to ensure I don't double dose. If a doctor wanted me on a different medication, I may have to wait up to three months if it isn't on the approved list. Knowing all of this makes it very difficult to simply check a box and mail a form into Medicare.

I don't have Diabetes, high blood pressure, or a myriad illnesses that come with age. I will someday have some of these, as is the family history. Without the Medicare assistance, the cost of my health is upwards of $500 a month, because I have VA assistance. Without the VA, I would have a cost of about $1200 a month. My pay is nearly just that. I would be a homeless Vet if I wasn't married.

I don't know how you live your life, but it is my greatest honor to speak with senior citizens. I know the struggles they face. I face them too. It is my greatest honor to meet another person in a wheelchair. I don't know what they do to survive, but I'm doing it too. I know I'll try to elect the right choice that offers me the most of my medications and allows me the smallest of dignity.

Today's questions. Are you disabled and battling the big Medicare Question? Are you a senior and not sure what to do with the lack of COLA? How will you change your medical care this coming year?

And here is the rest of it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tears and Empathy

A lot can be said for a friendly cup of coffee with someone you care about. There's a lot to be said for people who just want to be heard. The issues that many of us who face depression come from places that are chemical, genetic, situational, and even diet based, can often be alleviated by being heard- really listened to- and through the shedding of tears. Sometimes I wonder if the answer to milder forms of depression area as close as the ducts in our eyes.

Tears that come from emotional release have a different chemical make-up than those which come from a reaction to an allergy, a response to an onion's odor, and just about any other form of crying. The emotional tears release a remarkable number of hormones in that salty flavored water. The hormone that produces lactation in women, prolactin, is higher in emotionally created tears. ACTH, adrenocorticotropic hormone, is one that appears to go haywire in people with adrenal issues. Lab numbers in those who have thyroid disorders, and adrenal disorders include measurement of ACTH because depression is so prominent within those conditions. Leu-enkephalin helps work almost the same way morphine does, by alleviating pain, and it is released in emotionally derived tears. When someone says, "You'll feel better if you can cry" they're not yanking your chain.

Like most people who have battled depression, I've gone from feeling as if the sadness was manageable, to feeling like nothing would ever be better, ever. And, like most of us who have depression, I was put on medications before learning if the illness was a manifestation of a side-effect of another medication, if the depression was a matter of female hormone fluctuation, or if it was a symptom of a bigger illness. The problem isn't always the doctors, but it isn't always the patient's either. It is clear that the medical profession has no idea what it is that causes mental disorders like this.

A couple of years ago, a university in North Carolina made it a point of describing Efficacy Rates of Antidepressant medications. Most of us are familiar with everything from Amytriptaline to Zoloft because we're given them to try out- not to see if the medication works for us, but to see if the side effects are tolerable. I remember that Lexapro, Wellbutrin, and Zoloft each made me feel like my skin was crawling, I was agitated, and that nothing was happening fast enough. Whereas, Prozac, Paxil, and Celexa were just making me swell up rather than calm down. I finally settled on SAM-E, partly because it was available without prescription, and partly because it seemed to have the same affect on me that Prozac had without the bloating feelings. I also could take it for a few days at a time, rather than weeks at a time, and feel just as fine. It's probably a placebo affect, but rather than argue that point, I accept that I feel fine on it.

But just as some people like chocolate, better than vanilla, some people prefer blondes to brunettes, some people are happy in the morning and others are night owls- none of us seems to have a single response that makes one pill the answer to depression. My husband shakes his blues away by running at the gym, or having a piece of chocolate. Both give him a satisfied feeling and he seems much happier- except when the chocolate is gone. If I started running, the knees would be so mangled after just a few steps, I'd be more depressed. His answer isnt' mine, and my answer may not be yours either. Except in the case of tears.

A year ago, Science Daily posted an article regarding the power of human tears. It points out that those who have serious mental disorders don't seem to have the same emotional release from tears, but those who are experiencing situational depression and sadness can feel better by crying. Yet some studies state that crying is gender specific- men don't do it, women do. That's simply not the case. The chemicals in depression that cause us to cry don't care if we're male or female. We decide if we are able to cry- in front of others or not- and sometimes our emotions are better accepted if we are female than if we are male. Women are "allowed" to cry. Men may just be better at hiding when they do it.

This comes back to the first paragraph, the title of this week's blog. Sympathy is the ability to feel something for someone based on your own understanding of the human condition. Empathy is the same ability based on shared experiences. Men who sit together and talk with a friend, a spouse, a family member- who need to feel human can and do cry. Women who want to share feelings, who can't express them verbally, and just need the release can and do cry. And, if you're like me, sometimes sitting alone at a beach, or taking a walk, or just being alone for a few moments gives you that key that unlocks tears. The cathartic feelings that flow with those tears are priceless. It can be moments of release or it may last for weeks, months, years. It's just a matter of letting yourself be empathetic- to yourself. It's not a cure for depression- it's just a bandage that life has built into our biology. Sometimes that bandage is strong enough to help us get past the roughest of slices into our psyche.

This week's question- What makes you cry? What do you feel like after you cry? Do you know men or are you a man who likes to let out tears?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weight Loss Goals and Scams

There are almost two internets- the "Lose Weight Web" and the "Porno-Net". Both industries seem to make more money online than any other. It seems that if we aren't concerned about what we're doing in the bedroom, we're freaking out about how people will perceive who we are there by our weight. The most frustrating thing for me as a woman is knowing that curves make the girl, yet those same curves are frowned upon by the media idea of womanhood.

This blog started a week ago when I started to research the pills, potions, sprays, gums and all that other stuff we're supposed to use to use to increase our metabolisms, lower our hunger, and discover the new skinnier self inside. I read blogs, advertisements, watched online videos, and even visited the top five "diet" sites- Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, EDiets, SparkPeople, and Nutrisystem. Then I spent money.

I am one of millions of women who struggle with the idea that Selma Hayak, Queen Latifah, and Kate Winslet, three of the most beautiful women in the world, are called "overweight" by press. They are each shaped like Venus, and each have seduced the world with their beauty, and yet, I turn on the TV, and eveyr show, eveyr commercial, every newscast features some gal who is built like a 10 year old boy from the neck down, but has the correct Botox dosage, preps brows and jawline with the same aculine approach, and the head itself sits twice as wide and three times the thickness of her waist. I have a woman's body, and complain about it. Diet businesses know this and that changes it all- they get wider bank accounts and I am supposed to get smaller hips. HA!

Nearly ever site I went through came down to two facts- put down the fork and get off your butt. Anything that gets you moving is exercise, including house cleaning, gardening, playing with your kids and pets, and yes, sex. Anything that has a high water content- fruit, veggies, oh and this stuff called water- will fill you up and keep you from being hungry- with very little to no calories. You can eat ALL of the arugula you want, fill up on watermelon, and wolf down celery- and you'll be in better shape than if you reach out for the items labeled Drakes or Hostess. And, best of all- if you want a piece of something - do it. If you don't you'll have the "When I CAN have it, I'll have A LOT of it" going in your head- so having a little now and then is just dandy. Wow, a miracle! Weight in control!

If you're like me, you graze all day. There's a fridge nearby. There is also a sink, which has lovely water. If I start getting in that "bessie-moo'd", I wolf down the water first. Every site states that having a full glass of cold water fills you up and helps keep you from craving foods. Not buying that- I see chocolate on TV, and that's my thought like a bad song stuck in my head for the day. But I know that if I end up indulging, I'm too full to eat much, so it's at least better than having an entire cake. Alone. In the dark. Ahem.

People always said I was "naturally thin". "You can eat all you want, you're so lucky!" But I wanted to scream "I just eat ONE meal a day, it's all I can afford, and oh yeah... I have no dessert!" When I had a job that paid more than minimum, it's amazing how much weight I gained! I went from 104lbs to 119lbs. I stayed there for nearly 23 years, though. Why? Every time I thought I was going to go for something in the fridge- I was too lazy to make it. Then all of the foods in the world started coming in Microwavable containers. Suddenly I went from 119lbs to 127lbs. I stayed there for a full 4 years more. Then a doctor decided he needed to give me Wellbutrin, which ballooned me from 127 to 140. I was miserable on that antidepressant. I go off of it, and SHAZAM! back to 130.

Then a doctor gave me prednisone. I went through YEARS fighting with the mediccal community about the effects. I gained 60lbs in less than 3 months and they actually said to me, "you must have eaten a lot in the last few months". What, a car? This is written about in so many prior blogs, all I will say is, I'm working hard to lose that medically induced poundage, and I thought long and hard about the options. I also figured, as readers, you too may have struggled with the myriad options that are supposed to stop us from eating, make our food fat-free, and all of that. And this blog is my resulting conclusion.

I cannot financially afford Jenny Craig. EDiets has many "coupons", but again, their food delivery services are very pricey, and if you don't spend $300 a month on groceries as a couple, trying to reconcile paying that much for two weeks for ONE person seems ludicrous. Weight Watchers takes one addiction- food- and turns it into another addiction "The Program", so that doesn't sit well with me. I saved up three months and paid for three months of Nutrisystem- they deliver by the month, rather than week, like other programs. I lost 11 lbs, after three months, but the soy based foods and I were incompatible- I got very ill on them, and couldn't fathom staying with them much longer. It also led me to multiple meals a day- which turned out to be a bad habit. SparkPeople charges NOTHING, for nearly everything you get in all the rest, and you can use any method you want. I stuck with them.

When I got off of the cycle of having 9 meals a day, (thanks nutrisystem- meals and snacks inclusive), stuck to 1200-1400 calories a day, and moved a bit, the weight started coming off. But, like everyone else, I reached a "We ain't leaving" poundage. The infamous Plateau arrived. I stopped losing. I went to WebMD, my physician, and every website I could and came to the conclusion that the only "magic pill" that would help me would be Alli. In a weird twist- I started as a tester for their website years ago, and never took the pill because at the time, I was on prednisone, and not able to try the product. That, and it was very expensive.

I started taking Alli this week, and I'm still watching the portion sizes of everything I eat. I eat what I want, though, and that's never changed. I just eat less of it, which I have worked on for a year now. I drink a LOT more water- which I gather is the biggest problem in weight loss failure. Most people have no idea how dehydrated they are by drinking sodas and coffee and nothing else. Neither the hubby nor I drink alcohol so I don't worry about those calories. I do crave orange juice, but I drink half as much as I normally would and have more water. None of the side effects have touched me at all, and in fact, I feel a bit energized because the program requires vitamin supplements. In the last three months I already added calcium and D, which I will blog about next week, but the increase in the rest of the minerals has changed my skin, hair, nails, and even sleep patterns.

At 45 years old, I can't waste time on fad TV-toys like bouncing weights, and chairs that twist. I can't waste money on capsules full of hot pepper sauce or cinnamon sticks. Having a Niacin makes me blush, but it doesn't do much to burn off those pounds. The one product that I do seem to respond well to is Green Tea, which I drink whenever I crave sweets. If I am jonesing a cheese pie, or a chocolate cake, I'll have a cup of green tea, or a capsule, and I just don't feel hungry enough to bother with it. At night when I think I'm heading for grazing mode, I will pop on the tea kettle and relax with some chamomile. Tea is a great product for so many reasons.

I read every single ingredient in the "Fat Burner" pills and the only thing I see in all of them is Caffeine, a natural diuretic, which may keep you in the rest room, but doesn't really change your eating habits. I also see quite a bit of Niacin- which gives you a warm feeling, and the B vitamin is good for your mood but isn't the big deal it should be in flushing those pounds away. You either get antsy on these, or irritable. What's the sense in being grouchy when you're trying to look your best? You'll scare all the people you're trying to attract away from you.

Finally the "natural" juice products are an interesting choice. People elect to "cleanse" the body of toxins. Water does that, with the digestive system. Anything else is just hype. I even read a blog from a guy who was angry because people were calling liver cleanses "a crock". He claims people were upset because they don't understand the green waste was cholesterol, gallstones, or other such biology. He complained that the olive oil solution is misunderstood. You pass bile, waste, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. This guy was actually furious at people for not believing that the bile waste wasn't gallstones. It's not, but he was pissed. According to real science, none of those cleanses works the way they're hyped to do. Studies done on the products we pass prove that the appearance of the waste may seem similar to the stones visually, but the fact is- it's bile in different forms, and we just pass that naturally. You cleanse yourself by eating greens, drinking water, and letting time pass between red meat sessions.

Noni juice, Acai, fruit tape and all of that is working just as every fruit does. You eat fruit which has water, and fiber, and you will pass waste that also has fiber and water. It's nothing miraculous, and it isn't going to make you lose weight faster. If you eat that stuff instead of a hamburger, you've cut 300 or so calories, and that is probably what makes the difference for you if you believe that works. Grapefruit is shown to have a natural appetite suppressant, but if you add spoonfuls of sugar to the fruit, you aren't really helping yourself.

Go to Ebay and type in Weight Loss. You'll find the craziest methods known to man. And, you'll find that people are buying them. Conversely, there are women and men who cannot seem to gain an ounce who are just as crazed in finding the solutions via potions, pills, and magic powders. Get your thyroid checked. Test your resting metabolism. Get your blood work done for hormone changes. Most issues not directly related to what you put on the fork appear in those tests. Keep the Koala Fat and Kim Chi diets, I'll stick with the safe path of being wise about what's on my plate.

So this week's questions- What crazy things have you tried for weight loss? What is the worst food you tried as a weight control? Have you found that your age has much to do with your weight? What do you think your doctor does to add or detract from your weight control?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Attention Deficiency in Adults and Diet

There has been an onslaught of news over the last twenty years on the progressive studies involving children and adults regarding Attention Deficiency Disorder. We've seen news shows, read magazines, and there are even ads in our children's magazines regarding the ADD, and ADHD diagnoses that seem to be part of every household, in every family. I was one of the millions who felt just sick and tired of the whole "disease of the week" fad attention, and really didn't want to care about it at all. To me, out of lack of experience, the disorder sounded like an advertisement for Pharmaceutical Companies and nothing more than an excuse to give children Ritalin.

But, I've experienced enough life to know that not all myth is fact free. I know that even those who think there are far too many medications piled upon us year after year see the increased numbers of people who are diagnosed as having ADD. And, I know that nutritionists have been screaming "PAY ATTENTION TO US! WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU THIS FOR YEARS!"

Just out of my own curious nature, and through the study of depression, I found that several of the symptoms that are part of my daily life mirror those of ADD. And, I want to know why. I want to understand the reasons why I think I can accomplish much, yet spend most of my time starting much more. The irony is that I finish tasks for the betterment of others far sooner than I do those that would better my own life. I wonder if it hasn't always been this way.

I'm sure you remember sitting in school as a child. The years I spent during the 1970's were mired in distraction. I spent time drawing pictures and when other kids were trying to learn to spell or read, I was already on the fourth book of the week, bored, and waiting for something to happen that wasn't JUST school. If the diagnosis existed as commonly as it is today, it is likely I would have had the title of Attention Deficient. I spent more time with adults than children. I was writing and creating, and even spent days painting murals on chalkboards when other kids studied because my work was finished hours earlier. I ended up in "gifted" programs and spent weekends studying at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in their youth programs.

I was fortunate for having people in my life who saw that I got easily distracted when bored, and they took the time to nurture the boredom into something productive. But, I spent a lot of time during high school, and in the college and Navy years, spending less and less time on projects and more and more time just being not sure what I would ever complete. The more options I had available to me seemed to increase the "mind float", that took me off to new ideas and new options. It was as if my entire years from the age of 19 to 31 were spent wondering "What can I do now?" and I would be antsy for hours at a time. Computers aided in just creating more reasons of distraction- more shiny balloons of time stealing.

The antsy feeling was so strong that I would take long drives to no place in particular. Some days I would drive from Los Angeles to San Diego, while others would have me visiting Palmdale or Temecula. There were days I spent nearly in San Francisco, only heading back when I realized, I didn't have anything to do there. I had always worked more than one job at a time- usually three full time jobs, plus school. In all of the years I was diagnosed and treated for depression, no one ever said to me, "Perhaps you have a lack of attention." I know I brought up many times that I was unable to focus and never felt that I could complete anything. But, no therapist confronted me with this. I tried to get them to acknowledge this, but it just seemed to be who I am.

When one of my doctors put me on Prozac, suddenly I was writing full books. I was able to complete projects. Suddenly, I was focused on life, and what I wanted to do with it. Yet, I developed an immunity to the prescription and it seemed apparent that there wasn't a replacement to keep me in that same state of mind. During the next decade, I spent hours in doctors offices, hoping that I could get back that sense of control, and understanding. Again, I never heard anyone tell me "You probably are ADD, and could do well with a simple diet change."

No one said this to me, yet it seemed when I wasn't eating sugar, when I didn't have coffee, when I was sleeping properly, I didn't need a medication to keep me focused. For only days at a time, I had clarity of mind, and certain completed projects. But, I'm fighting for my health, and I am desperately seeking some solution to the Hashimoto's and the Ehlers-Danlos issues. I keep reading the same websites that are pushing for me to try Gingko, and to increase my Vitamin D, and Calcium. I keep reading that my age has a lot to do with my attention span. But I think that's not exactly correct.

What I do see is the pattern of options growing, and my mind is desperate to play in every sand box it finds. I find that the boredom I had as a child, that was a result of comprehending things a lot sooner than I was expected to, has grown with me, and I spend days trying to complete a single simple task. I always did well in jobs that had multiple roles, and multiple outcomes. I did well in classes that led to even more opportunities. I did better in relationships and friendships that allowed me to see other views. In all of this, I still kept patterns.

The patterns of behavior carried from childhood include that day-to-day battle of "What should I eat that won't affect me and make me feel miserable?" I still wake up thinking of at least one chore that needs completing, and I complete it. I still find myself battling a game of solitaire, and wondering if I should be doing something different instead. I still find myself procrastinating on something that is important, or necessary, and I do this daily, as a habit. The pain from the illness takes away other habits, like driving for hours, or walking at a park. Every day, I can recite the same conversations I'll have, and every day I am frustrated at the lack of completion on any task.

Yet, when I finally conquer a blog, or answer that email, I feel a weight lifted from me. It's "good girl" me. It's like the days when I finished homework in school- when most days I did it AT school, just before handing it in. The last minute deadline made the work immediately rushed, and often I did just as well as anyone else, but I still wonder, today, if I didn't cheat myself out of an education by not taking time, and spending the hours I could have. Today I can spend ten minutes learning Spanish and an hour playing piano, when I could learn much more by spending hours on each.

I looked at my food diary. I don't eat perfectly well, and I haven't ever done so in my entire life. But, the days that I have attention-drift are the days that I sneak in that doughnut, or have candy. It's the days that I haven't had enough protein, and haven't had any vegetation of any kind. The days that I drink less than four glasses of water seem to be just as bad for me as the days that I take in three cups of coffee. The calorie range is always and has always seemed to be in the 1200 to 1400 range, but my weight doesn't reflect that 120-140 lbs that should result from that range. When I feed my body poorly, my mind is also affected. It has to be, as it runs from the same engine.

My medicine cabinet contains minerals, vitamins and supplements. But, I'm not great about taking them regularly. I can tell you by looking at the birth control pill circle, when I am going to have my Irrational Days. This is part of my PMS that I am able to predict simply by watching the hormone levels. But, I don't have the same type of gauge for my lack of attention. I do know that I sleep better when I've taken Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Melatonin. I'm reading nutrition sites, and I keep running across the same diet deficiency. I need to increase the produce in my diet. I need to increase the proteins in my diet. I need to ensure that I am not eating the sugars, and caffeine, and that I have regular and correct liquids. I need to ensure I'm eating as well as I make my pets do- I need "People chow".

Since that doesn't exist, I am tasking myself with being parental to, well, to me. I am the one who has to regulate my eating habits, in order to help alleviate those drifty days when I just can't seem to accomplish things. It's up to me to discover if I have patterns that change based on the foods I've eaten. With all of the options, I have the ability to transform my eating habits easily. It doesn't have to be expensive to care for myself, as much as I want there to be a single pill to fix me. It won't. I need to be responsible and care for me.

Pharmaceutical companies want us to take Ritalin, Prozac, Paxil, or any of dozens of other compounds to cure us of our own human nature. In my case, I'm naturally drawn to distractions and bore easily. Yet, if I give myself the time and care for myself well, I do finish things, and I do complete projects. I don't have side effects, and I don't need a Prescription card. I just need to eat properly, sleep properly.

I think we can learn much from house plants in this. I bought many new plants when we moved into our home last month. I have seeds, and pots, full plants, and cacti. I noticed some house plants do better if they're started as seeds indoors, groomed to a specific growth, fed a bit of water, and then brought outdoors. Others are very difficult to raise from seedlings, and need to have specific light, specific water, and some require plant foods. But if I stray in the slightest way from the necessary nutrients, water, or day light, the plants wither. If I offer too much, the roots soak, rot, and die. If I offer too little, the plant starves, becomes weak, and dies. If I am inconsistent, the plants may grow well but suffer long term damage. Just like plants, each of us has our own requirements, and it takes time to discover what the right formula is for each of us.

Just like the cycle in my pills helps me figure out what days I'm less rational, the cycle may also help me focus on what days I need more proteins, or water, or green leafy veggies. There may be days when I'm not very well focused that I stray from caring for my roots properly- and it will have long term affects. So it is up to me to develop a consistent pattern, and a method of ensuring that I'm faithful to my own care. For me to be a focused, clear, attentive person, it's up to me to find the right combination that allows me to flourish. It's taken me 45 years to learn this, and it may take another few years to find the right combination of foods, but I will.

So today's questions- What patterns in your life do you attribute to diet, or sleep problems? Do you know if you have ADD or ADHD, and if so, have you taken medications for it? Do you think that diet is able to replace medications for us in general, or just for specific illnesses and disorders? What foods do you feel are the biggest issues for us and our mental acuity?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Give Me A Break

It's hard to handle all the stresses of a life filled with layoffs, debt, foreclosures, and should I add children? We watch each other with cautious eyes, wondering who will be the ones who cut us off on the freeway? Who will be the ones who take our jobs if the company rehires again? Who is the teacher that will be deciding if we go forward or step back? Why can't we get through the month without cash advances, or will there be a check at the end of the month? Don't we all just need a break?

The recent increases seen in the number of people visiting 24-hour clinics, the increase in the number of those entering emergency rooms isn't based on the flu or the season- it's based on stressed related illnesses. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD), once assigned as the psychosis of soldiers, is now believed to be on the increase in those who have had multiple layoffs. The fear and stress is so great that people who are on unemployment are afraid to try another job. Those who remain also fear the ax, or worse- they carry the guilt of being able to remain in a career, wondering if they will feel retribution from a former co-worker. No one feels financially safe in a time when foreclosure rates are higher than they've been in history.

But, even the every day life that isn't filled with imminent drama seems to be overwhelming. In the last thirty years, we've gone from a society that is able to communicate verbally, attend social events, and allow our children to play with each other, in public parks, or even in our own yards to a new world of Social Media, Wii Gym Class, and "smart phones". Our ability to communicate has decreased with a great increase in tools that are invented to help ease communication. Television isn't just a machine for entertainment, it is now a programmable recording device, takes in hundreds of options, and expects us to understand "on demand" and play lists. Even a Sunday drive has changed from loading kids into a car and meandering across town to plotting on GPS, adding DVD's to the mix, and perhaps self serving at a gas station, while driving through a restaurant. We can't relax anymore even when we try.

This is the beginning of a new revolution. The stress related illnesses are creating a public that relies on the latest and newest fad fixes. The vitamin industry is seeing a surge in sales. Late night television has a glut of stress reduction programs, exercise programs, sleeping programs, and we're still stressed. The revolution isn't going to be in purchasing new items that fix us- it is the idea that we're better as people when we aren't attached to all of the gizmos and technojunk and all of that which takes away our humanity, that we can still be people.

That sounds a bit hippy-new-age-froo-froo for me, right? Well, it's a fact that I spend at least an hour a day sitting quietly with my pets. It's a fact that when I'm anywhere near the ocean, I take that drive directly to the beach, sit on my favorite rock and find a moment to scream or cry, or do what it is that needs to be done to remind me that I'm able to control that one moment of nothing for just that moment. It's mine to have, no one can share it, or can steal it, and it's mine for as long as I need it. When I moved hundreds of miles away from my beloved salty seas, I found that I could still take a walk, move towards a valley, find bliss in taking photos of places that were never part of my life until I discovered them.

Sometimes those moments come in traffic jams. You listen to songs on the radio, or CD's, or MP3s, and you find it in you to belt out the tune as loud as you can. I do it too. Sometimes the moments come in unexpected packages- neatly wrapped up by memory and time, and you find yourself laughing at something silly you wrote, or something a child says, or something that you think is odd about life- but you laugh. I do it too. Sometimes the moment comes in just a glimpse of unexpected joy. You see a flower as it just starts to bloom. A shooting star flies above your head. A rabbit walks in front of you in the quiet of the day and you get that life is bigger than the computer and the remote.

For me, stress disappears when I make people laugh. It disappears when I sing. It vanishes fairly rapidly when I write, or read, or become part of a drawing that I sketch. This is the revolution. This is the break. "Break". As a noun, my favorite descriptor is listed as number
72. "a sudden dash or rush, as toward something". We rush from the stress, and take the dash - the moment-the minute sprig of time itself, and become someone who wants to head towards something. We make our breaks. If we don't embrace the revolution of leaning towards our own moments of freedom, we become the stress that makes us sicker. We need to break from that which is perception of need, and embrace our real need- our humanity. Stress kills. None of us spends time in hospitals because of feeling wonderful, free, and limitless.

Those of us who battle chronic illness, pain, and mental distress can still find moments of that revolution. Laughter is something an infant can embrace as strongly as a senior battling Alzheimer's disease. Music is shared between the instrument and its master- whether she be a deaf dancer, or a blind singer. Five minutes watching fish in a tank is said to soothe those who have panic disorder, and six minutes of singing is supposed to calm the grumpiest of moods. Kids who have autism respond to water, or sitting on a horse, or petting a rabbit, just as seniors who have dementia respond to gentle tones, and soft warm breezes. Everyone of us has a trigger for stress, but at the same break EVERY one of us has a trigger of release. It's a choice to be part of the revolution that embraces that break.

The failure in our government is the removal of arts from our education, and the loss of public parks. If we rely on government to rescue us from stress, we're seriously deluding ourselves. We can't rely on city, state, or federal rescue from the world that has changed into a techno-planet. We can only rely on our ability to realize there is life beyond the electronics and layoffs.

We need to create our own arts, our own music, our own beauty. It's up to us to be responsible for the beauty of a garden or the treasure of an orchestration. If we let go of the expectation that these things are required to be available to us, we will start to respond by creating. We will be singers, writers, poets, actors, artists. The laughter lies within, and not by mandate. The government removed the arts from our lives, so its up to us to embrace them and share them with others. We can take a cue from the USO, (, which is a private organization that gives breaks of laughter, music, art to those who are battling the stress of being in the military.

We can only live our dreams if we give ourselves permission to dream. This means refusing to let the stress take us in. This means refusing to be part of the non-stop technology that is so infused in our lives that we cannot even write a check to a store anymore. This means not relying on the government, or any other entity, to decide or give us those moments. It's up to us to shut off our experience with the pain and stressors of life, and to allow the enjoyment of the smallest of moments, (the smell of a crayon, the sound of a childhood song), to take us to a place of calm. When we accept that stress can be countered by calm moments, we have truly become revolutionaries. You have permission to laugh. You have permission to breathe freely without strings attached. You have permission because you are human and that's all you need to laugh or feel. It's a novel idea, and we should all embrace it. Maybe we'll see fewer doctors. Less bills sounds like a whole new level of stress-free life to me!

Today's questions- Has stress affected your health? Do you find yourself taking breaks from your day? What do you think would be a good way to add a moment of freedom to your day? What do you miss about childhood that you think was a release for stress?

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Question of Cancer

When I wrote a veterinary blog, the most common question I had was "What IS this tumor on my pet-what is cancer?" With the passing of Ted Kennedy, the Senator and friend to most everyone he ever met, the magazines and periodicals are putting out information relating to brain cancer. Recent studies, showing that Prostate cancer is greatly over-diagnosed, are making rounds in the health columns. Stores sell pink products in support of the efforts made by the Susan G. Komen Foundation against breast cancer. The common tie to all of this is many people just know that "cancer" is the bad thing that kills people, but what cancer really IS seems to be lost in the headlines.

Cancer is a term given to cells in the body that grow and absorb other cells which in turn grow and absorb other cells, and the growth continues until the cells become toxic to the body. Cancer cells become toxic to the body for a few reasons. First, some of the growth happens so quickly that the function of the organs, bone, nerves, or blood vessels stops, and the body cannot work properly. Another way cancer cell growth becomes toxic is when the mass is so large that it ends up carrying its own blood supply-- so much so that other parts of the body lose oxygen, nutrients, and enzymes, and dies little by little, until the body ceases to function. Another way cancer becomes toxic is when the location of the growth interferes with key body functions, and the body cannot heal itself fast enough to battle the cell growth.

Tumors and lesions are not always "cancer". The shape the cells take, and the manner in which they grow are the key differences. Almost every human, at one time or another has a bump, lump, or growth that is certainly not a cancer. Warts, cysts, clogged pores, and nodules are not always cancerous, but sometimes lead doctors to watch for signs of future possible tumors. When a woman has a mammogram and a lump is discovered, it is usually cause for further testing. Some women have fibrous tissue, "dense breasts", and false positives for cancer. But with the proper follow up exams, cancer can be ruled out. Proper care makes the difference.

Cells that trigger to grow at a different rate than neighboring cells change shape, and density. Some of these cells become solid, others become soft. Softer cells are generally benign tumors, or appear as abscesses. Other soft cells end up appearing as lesions, that appear as openings, rather than lumps. When lesions occur, doctors are likely to assume the area is cancerous rather than benign. A benign tumor is likely to stop, lessen, or reduce growth after the correct treatment.

So what treatments stop the growth of cancer cells? Why is it that cancer seems to elude cure? Science reveals the key factors lie in genetics, chemical and biological influences, age, time- the issues that cause cancer in one person may be an entirely different in someone who has the same type of cancer. There are correlations that some women who have a cervical virus can develop cervical cancer later in life. There are some correlations with those who smoke developing lung cancer. Not all women who get cervical viruses, nor all people who smoke, develop cancer. If cancer held a definite cause and effect then it would be far easier for medical professionals to cure or eradicate the disease.

Cancer also seems to carry a clock. For some people, the clock is set to be fast, while others seem to stop. The remission of cancer happens for some but not others. What is remission? For some reason the cells that are eager to grow turn off that growth. Remission is the period of time that the cells stop growth. The period of time can be weeks, months, and for some the growth stops altogether. Most cancer treatments are designed to put those cells into full remission. Remission means there is always a stronger chance that the cancer will return later on, than for those who have no cancer at all.

Some patients have surgery. Areas of the body affected by the growth are removed, along with healthy cells nearby, in order to stimulate the growth of the healthy cells. Medications, or chemical-therapy, (chemo), are blended together to cause cells to stop growing. When chemo is combined with radiation, the 'bad' cells are killed off. Since the body has a weakened immune system during chemo, it doesn't fight against the death of the bad cells, and the body can begin to heal.

But other treatments are starting to come to play, in the advances of bone marrow and stem cell transplants. The concept behind these treatments is healthy cells that have the function of growth and support of healthy cells will replace the bad cells that are attempting to take over the body. The advances in this research over the last decade are vast. Even those with breast cancer and lung cancers are seeing results. It isn't the cure, but for some it means full remission.

There is hope that some day a "cure for cancer" will exist. It will likely have to be a genetic change as well as a chemical or surgical option. Because so many varieties of cancer exist, and so many causes are discovered, scientists are attempting to find a way to turn off the genetic factor that tells cells to start growing in the first place. The biggest struggles come from learning how to turn off the bad cells without stopping the growth of healthy, good cells. Biologists are learning from species which appear to be cancer-free, including sharks, as to what the genetic difference they carry that we could adapt for ourselves. The answer may be just one discovery away.

Life expectancy for those who have cancer is greatly different than it was just twenty years ago. The care for those battling the disease has greatly improved. We aren't killing the patients with the treatments as often as we had in the past. We are learning how, as patients, we can reduce our chance of contracting cancerous cells by eating the right foods, avoiding sun, refraining from smoking, and avoiding chemicals in the workplace. We screen for lumps, polyps, and lesions, and doctors are better trained at finding the cells that will result in cancer. Our awareness is greater, and our doctors are better educated. Until there is a cure, this is something we must rely upon.

This week's questions- Has cancer affected your family or your life? Have you discovered lesions or tumors and had them turn out benign? Do you feel the government should support medical research if it involves stem cells? Do you think private labs will discover the cure for cancer?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Public Healthcare in the United States

The issues of Public Health seem to spur more than just passion from people who haven't actually read the latest plan. It seems to be bringing a near "Red Dawn" scare in those who lived through the Cold War, a taste of McCarthy Era panic, from those who don't comprehend socialized medicine. And for others, it's a desperate plea to finally find a way to get care into their lives when they've had none. First of all, I want anyone reading this blog to READ the plan before they assume any positions on the matter.

It's hard to make an informed decision unless you really understand the points being made. The fear is that we will have huge tax increases, that our choices will be limited. The fear is that those who have chronic illnesses and those who have terminal illnesses will be excluded from the plan. The fear is that those who have private care will no longer be allowed to keep the doctors they have. The fears are enormous, and largely fanned by a media pool addicted to dramatic town meetings. The media isn't showing those discussions that are allowing people like you and me to ask questions and get answers. The media isn't showing the number of letters responded to on both the President's websites, nor the letters written by the Senators and Congressmen who try to explain the facts from the drama.

I do see the issues that have taken place in the Veterans Health Care system and with Medicare that have caused people undue hardships. These are both well documented over years, and with my personal experience in both programs I also have found some of the issues are infuriating. Mental Health, especially, seems to be poorly funded and the issues with those who have long-term illness are often mired with red tape long before care is recieved.

But, both programs are run without the sky-rocketing tax increases threatened by fear-mongers who assume that the Canadian and British taxation that pays for those country's health programs are similar to what we'll experience. It's just not going to happen that way. With nearly 50% of the American public on either VA or Medicare, Medicaid, or other governmental programs, we have a long term history of not using our tax dollars on these. Our construction bonds, military spending, and now "bail out" spending has taken a far greater percentage of our tax dollars, and education, once a larger pie slice is now whittled away.

Be educated about the plan, and you'll see there are faults, but there are benefits. There's not a stipulation stating that those who have private care MUST convert to this program, although I've heard both reporters and politicians state this. Several key points seem to rely on the "Once the Program Is Running" solutions to imminent issues. There is just no way to have millions of people under one system without bumps, potholes, and even traffic jams on the road to the change. There hasn't been such a large scale change expected of the American public since the days when we were allowed to go to gas stations only on odd or even days. Be aware there are going to be problems, but don't be afraid that you will be expected to solve them, or that the solutions lie in your paychecks. We'll all be adjusting, even those who are not electing to take part in the program. And, just be aware- being part of a Socialized Health Care System does not make you a Socialist, which also seems to be the war cry of those who haven't read the plan.

The program is expected to change the way we get our care, but it hasn't fully addressed the FDA, and I believe this is a key gap in the idea. We have had a governmental program in place to protect consumers against failures of medical treatments and pharmaceuticals, but the length of time and the manner of the testing doesn't seem to address the failures of drug companies to work towards healing ALL people, rather than those who will provide the largest dollar amount to the trustees. Until that issue is completely, and honestly addressed, we simply don't have any chance of Universal Health Care. A child with Down's Syndrome deserves the same medical breakthrough research as someone who wants to look younger on television. Yet, there isn't anything in the new plan addressing this.

Whether you support Democrats or Republicans, or if like me, you prefer to remain label-free, you don't have to use that label to determine your agreement to the plan. Libertarians will disagree- by the nature of the beast having one more governmental program is completely against all they stand for, but the concept of choice isn't lost on them either. This is still the land of the free, and the home of the brave. We are part of a growing problem. As Los Angeles and other cities have events that bring thousands to the doctors' office for the first time in some lives- the fact is there are millions of people who have had no care. Ever.

As much as we'd like the government to stay out of our personal lives, we've built a long-term relationship of reliance. The war exists between those who work hard and get very little and those who don't work at all, and get everything handed to them. The word "Free" is a four-letter f-word that inspires hate in those who are tired of seeing people abuse the system. But, the fact- another f-word- exists that there are millions of people who are living paycheck to almost-paycheck. Millions are out of work because jobs are sent overseas. Millions are out of work. Period. The biggest population growth in the last five years is in the senior population and jobs for seniors are harder to obtain. Age descrimination exists in the country obsessed with youth.

We can pontificate the issues of birth control. We can claim that illegal aliens are the reason for the full emergency rooms. We can spout on about the failures of corporations in the concept of employee retention. We can disect the issues of the bad financial management. The country is full of thieves, and it's full of poverty. The fact exists that people are struggling. The fact is people are the country. We, The People. If we deny care to one, we have denied care to all. Pointing out flaws doesn't solve the problem- it only states obvious issues. In the ideal of a country based on the dream that anyone can succeed if only given the right tools- the tools may be something as simple as a pair of glasses, or as complex as surgery for spinal bifida. And, the fact remains, an educated person and a healthy person provide more to a society than one lacking both.

Today's Question- Do you feel comfortable discussing the health plan with peers, family, or employers? Have you read anything about the plan before, and if so, do you plan to note your objections or agreements with your political leaders? Where do you see the health care program in 5 years?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Genetic Anomalies

Very few of us get the opportunity to speak with a genetic specialist, yet doing so can help prevent years of pain, and even give us the clarity of vision for our future health. In the last 18 years, genetic medicine has changed lives. Adopted children who have no contact with birth families can get a better idea of the medical history of their family tree. People who have parents with history of cancer can now treat far earlier. People deciding to be parents can determine if their genetic combination will lead to complications in a child's life, and therefore can decide to adopt instead. Prenatal care becomes a matter of less invasive procedures, also includes statistic genetic evidence of possible issues in the fetus. Those who are unsure as to why they are experiencing mental health issues now have a clue with the genetic tests that reveal a serotonin issue.

But, genetic testing isn't part of the normal medical screening done by family practices. For today's blog research, I've found there are no HMO's or PPO's that put "Genetic Testing" as part of the routine care for pregnant women. When people start to show signs of Alzheimer's, joint diseases, or even depression, there isn't an obvious step by physicians to screen for genetic anomalies. The cost is listed as too prohibitive. Yet, the dollars that health care systems can save simply by ruling out genetic illnesses, disorders, or even traits for future generations could mean millions saved in health care costs- per patient.

This week the National Institute of Health released information about a genetic factor found in those who are experiencing major long term depression. Millions of people aren't even treated for depression, and instead get misdiagnosed with other disorders because the symptoms of pain, lethargy, appetite change, sleep loss, and weight change can be traced to other illnesses. And, those who are actually suffering from Cushings Disease, Adrenal disorders, pituitary illnesses, and other disorders are often misdiagnosed with depression and mental health issues. Knowing the genetic marker for depression is a leap in proper diagnoses.

Genetic markers exist for Tay Sachs disease, Huntington's Chorea, Polycystic Kidney disease, Hemophelia, amongst other rare and not-so-rare disorders. Early detection can not only arm medical professionals with the tools needed to treat and heal, but the patient can be forewarned regarding any impending issues based on a genetic probability. And, testing for genetic markers can help to find out if patients have single gene issues, or polygenic disorders.

The single gene issues include Autosomal Dominant which means just one copy of the gene marker can create illness. One parent contributes to the issue. In the Autosomal Dominant marker, there is a 50% chance the child will inherit the problem. In Autosomal Recessive genetic marker, both parents must contribute a malformed genetic marker for a child to have an issue. Cystic Fibrosis is an example of Autosomal Recessive, and Huntington's Chorea is a Autosomal Dominant genetic failure. Knowing if a genetic marker is X and Y linked dominant and recessive in a single gene can help define if a male or a female will have the disorder. Muscular Distrophy and genetic male infertility is discovered via the X and Y linked markers.

Maternal Inheritance, found in Mitochondrial DNA, is a method of measuring issues mothers can pass on to embryos. This form of disorder is much less likely, and only exists in the rarest of genetic disorders. But, Polygenic issues can arise in many instances and can lead to the discovery of heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and other more common illnesses. The screening of polygenic failure can not only save lives, but again, millions of dollars in health care costs.

The Human Genome Project offers insight into thousands of issues that can be treated once found through genetic screening. However, there are not cures for all genetic disorders, and some issues don't even have known treatments. This raises the question of offering screenings to those who cannot be helped. Does the cost of the test include the fear that comes along with it? Do you warn a patient about impending illness if there isn't any way that the patient can help herself? Is there an ethical issue involved in these tests that counter the oath of "First Do No Harm"?

I am a patient of a genetic disorder. My parents showed no obvious signs of the joint condition that leaves me in a wheelchair or in unbearable pain. My grandfather on my mother's side has obvious signs of Marfan's Syndrome when you view his photographs. The clues include a sunken chest, tall lanky frame, and long spindly fingers and toes. He also died of a lung illness, battling the disease from the time he worked as a coal fueler on the railways as a young man. Although I didn't show severe issues until I was well into my 30's, knowing that I could help prevent some of the damage that results in my current condition could have been useful. In fact, years of misdiagnoses could have been averted all together.

With the NIH commenting this week on the discovery of the "depression gene", there is an upcoming event where hundreds of medical professionals will discuss the issue. The European College Of Neuropsychopharmacology meets in September in Turkey, and will discuss treatments options, genetic testing, and other key points in helping not only to treat but to cure mental illness and depression based on the genetic findings. A program at Louisiana State University will study issues with genetics and brain functions, primarily of depression, through a grant received in the last two weeks. There is hope that the knowledge will lead to a cure.

Today's questions- Have you ever undergone genetic testing? What do you feel is the best use of Genetic Testing? Could you see medical organizations adding this as a preventive measure for patients? Do you feel the costs of knowledge outweigh the price of the test?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Psychological Fail, or Fair?

In the last thirty years, the mental health industry has shifted from the idea that patients can talk through their issues to a push of managed medicines. I've been highly suspicious of psychological programs for as long as I can remember, and as a teen preferred a "brain doctor"- the psychiatrist. The biggest issue I have with psychology is that the studies of the human mind have swayed from that of comprehending, and resolving issues to that of placating and adding the concept of generalizations to the point where we have psychologists running lives via television, and people blindly believing in all these people say without question. There is a drive by managed health care to keep people under umbrella diagnoses, and we, as a species, don't always fall smartly into categories.

You can surmise I'm not a fan of Dr. Phil. This person has crafted his manner of generalized pop psychology to the detriment of anyone who believes or is easily swayed to believe that s/he is suffering a psychosis, rather than simply experiencing real life issues. If Dr. Phil has a show about bad parents who are cruel to their step children, suddenly mental health clinics are filled with parents and children who are frought with issues brought up by the television show. In fact, all families are dysfunctional, and all families work through quirks. The same goes for Dr. Laura- who has somehow managed to bring women to tears believing that they lack the skills of a Donna Reed 1950's TV character and therefore should be ashamed, as women. It's just not a realistic expectation- our mental health experts must be aware of individual needs and not so eager to label people through conveyer belt psychology.

In the United States, the word "therapist" is greatly abused by those who are not licensed through medical boards. It takes a business license and not a history of education, years of experience, nor reviews of peers to wear that title. This is why you can look through any phone book or search engine and find therapists who only use "Color Wheels", others who use "Smudge Sticks and Reiki", and still more who are "life coaches". Psychotherapy is the notion that you and your medical professional work to find a common goal of mental wellness, or at least a position of mental strength so you can live a life as normally as you wish. I've said this numerous times- My Normal isn't Your Normal, nor should it be.

Last week's post was skipped due to the inundated news wire sources that were focused on the mental state of Michael Jackson. I did not know the man nor do I know of his life other than what the media portrays so I have no comments on his state of mind prior to his death. I did read that one of the children was made to speak to a mourning fan base at a memorial, and again, her normal is not my normal so I don't know what damage this did to her, or if it was just another day in the life for her. Yet, pop psychologists all had commentaries regarding the life of the children, the man, and the family. I will not make any conclusions because I lack the knowledge to do so.

I do know a bit about the changes in the field of psychology over the last thirty years. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, a revolution of sorts was started by the increased use of antidepression medications. There was a time when psychiatrists would sit with patients, and take the time to learn about their illnesses. With the return of veterans from Viet Nam came the increased studies of prescription medications. By the mid 1970's, Prozac became a household word. In the 1980's, the release of seratonin and neurotransmitter based drugs were not only prescribed by the psychiatric professional, but by the general practitioner, the gynecologist, and DO's. And, television commercials have increased our vocabulary regarding Uptakes, Inhibitors, and Blockers. Children are now versed on Ritalin and Risperdal as well as they are Flinstone Chewables. We are prescribed mental wellness, yet we have no long term proof that every drug works for everyone. Just as we have no long term proof that one form of psychology is the best for all, yet we are often find that psychologists place cookie cutter expectations on our mental health.

How do you know you are receiving proper mental health when the methods of assisting seem to come not from medical journals, but from magazines? Everyone has times in life that are stressful, or too painful, or even times that seem to change who we are. Job cuts may make a calm, relaxed man turn into a scared, unsure boy. A divorcing couple may experience entirely different responses to the event- one partner may be relieved and feel elated, the other may feel grief, remorse, or even self-blame. A child who fails at class task may become self destructive in other ways, and yet another child may use that failure as a challenge. How do we get the right mental health for our conditions, and how do we ensure we are getting medications when we truly need them and not just because a doctor was swayed by media and sales pitches?

First, realize that a psychotherapist, a psychologist, a therapist, and a psychiatrist are each different job titles for completely different reasons. You may find that just talking to someone will help you clear your mind and see what it is that is causing you stress or pain. For this you would do well with a therapist, social worker, or psychotherapist. You can speak to each one for far less than you would a psychologist or psychiatrist, and you can expect the time spent will be shorter.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who studies the disorders of the mind, just as a cardiologist studies the disorders of the heart. For years, the amount of time alloted by patients to see psychiatrists has greatly been reduced, and some Managed Care programs only leave you with 15 minutes per quarter to talk about medications and side effects, and nothing more. Although a psychiatrist is most skilled at determining a prognosis between neuropathy, psycopathy, and psychosis, the patient to doctor time is limited. If you have a true mental disorder- hear voices, believe two people live inside you, or even believe you are the sole being on the planet and the rest of us are your imagination, if you are two people inside, and just can't win an argument with either one- you probably need a psychiatrist, but will likely see a psychologist because of the health care system.

Psychologists go to graduate school, some are PhD's and can use the title Doctor. Some are specialists, and I find those who specialize are likely to be better aware of particular illnesses, but may label all who come to them with that illness. The meaning of the word Psych-ologist means LOVE of the Mind, not scientist of the mind. So they have definite ideas of people, thoughts, and reactions. A psychologist whom I find to be greatly helpful may be someone you think is completely off base and not worth speaking to- and that would be great if it happened more often. Unfortunately, managed health, and insurance companies, limit who we can speak to and about what, so we may find ourselves in the office of a very religious, or polar political opposites to us, and we are expected to speak comfortably to the professionals due to a title. This isn't good medicine.

We need to have the ability to interview our mental health professionals as we would any employee we would hire. We need to find ourselves at ease in their company, and in complete trust of their abilities to understand who we are as people. If they can comprehend our manner of thought, then they are better equipped to help us be our best "normal". We don't need them to simply label us, package us, and send us out on their mental health conveyer belt of "cured" patients. We shouldn't feel manipulated by our therapists into thinking that their version of normal is ours. A good psychologist understands this. The problem is very few good psychologists are available, and far fewer still are able to fit us into their schedules.

Ask your mental health professional some questions to find your correct fit- and you will probably find yourself without a handful of pills, and with a better sense of self.

1. Do you have any qualms talking about sex, or other intimate topics? -Your care may depend on the ability of your professional to speak as freely or as infrequently as you do on this.

2. Can you tell me what experience you have with...- then fill in the blanks as to what you THINK may be the reason you're not feeling your version of normal. For some, it may be self-persecution, for others it may be narcissism. Be very clear about what you think you are going through- even if you think it may be wrong. The better you are at understanding your needs the better the professional will be in assisting you with them.

3. Will you expect me to be in group sessions for my issues? -Some professionals find that patients with similar issues, backgrounds, and needs do better in group situations. Others find that groups are a failure of self-discovery. Be clear in what you expect, and don't accept a group session if you feel that it's not what you want.

4. Can you be reached in case of emergency? -Many mental health clinics expect you to visit an emergency room rather than speak with someone who is aware of your situation. If you are going through a personal crisis- career, health, marital, et al- and you know you may have cause to call a mental health professional during this time, ensure you have a way to contact someone you feel most comfortable with before you are handed off to an emergency room.

5. How long do most of patients stay in your care? -Some mental health professionals believe that people with issues of the mind will have them for life, and others think that most are situational. Decide if you're getting into a marriage, or a short term relationship with this person.

6. Do you often give prescriptions to your patients, or do you prefer other methods of treatment? -Learn this from the start! If you don't feel your problems will be solved by a drug, studies have shown that you are less likely to have positive results. (In fact, the FDA studies on a majority of psychiatric medications show that the efficacy rates of antidepressants are no better than placebo in many trials- be sure you understand medications!)

7. Have you published any works in your field? -Get to know your doctor before you get to visit him. If he writes about fetishes and abuse, chances are your treatment will focus on such things.

8. Do you take part in clinical trials? -This is a huge question many doctors will not answer right away. You may be pressured into taking a particular treatment simply because the doctor is involved in the research of that treatment. Do not walk, but run away unless you want to be involved in the studies.

9. After the treatment, is there follow-up care? -Can you come back to the mental health clinic if you have any relapses and if the issues you face seem to return? Many doctors sign you out of their care and completely out of their practice. Ensure you have the right to come back if you need to.

10. How many visits does my insurance cover with your office? - Be SURE to ask this question. So many health programs limit mental health coverage by the number of visits to ALL professionals. For instance you may be alloted 10 mental health care visits a year. This must be shared between a prescribing psychiatrist, a therapist, and a psychologist.

Keep in touch with your insurance, or state care agency to learn what mental health options are available to you. The United Way, for instance, is a private organization that maintains databases of sliding scale or free mental health clinics. Do your homework before you walk into the door, as much as you can.

Today's questions- What have you noticed as a patient in the change in mental health care? Do you find pressured to take medications when you don't want to? Do you ask for medications and aren't given them? What can you see will improve mental health in the future?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stress Kills.

In the last few weeks, my husband and I have gone through more than a small amount of stress. We are house hunting, and as first time buyers, we're treading in a market that is full of homes due to foreclosures. Many people are working to try to save their credit by offering to go into a Short Sale, and this is also stressful to both the seller and the buyer. Then, mortgage companies, slammed with new applicants who want to get in on the $8000 new home owners tax credit, are pushing for people to take houses far sooner than they are ready, so as not to start the loan process again. Short Sales, foreclosures, loan processing, and then packing up belongings to move to some place else- it's all stressful, and it's all a great impact to our health.

You don't need to be struggling to keep a home, or struggling to buy a home to feel stress. Parents are pulled in thirty directions to be the carpool for sports practice, to assist teachers who are unable to afford supplies for classrooms, to handle the every-day issues of sibling rivalry, illnesses, and peer pressures. Single people struggle with the idea of finding partners, or finding jobs, roommate hell, and of course, parents who pressure them not to be single anymore. Seniors are struggling with the lack of health care, the lack of assistance and an ever-growing cost of living that is pushing higher than the amount of Social Security available to them. Everyone is feeling the struggle of an economy that has only started to see changes of a more positive future.

Stress changes us physically. We lose sleep. We change our eating habits. For some of us, our psychological welfare is harmed- we may get panic attacks, or feel depression. We may find our relationships are suffering. The people around us just don't understand what it is we struggle with and we may wonder this ourselves. And, our bodies will react to stress even before we realize we're going through it. Some will have irritable bowel syndrome, others will develop hair loss, still others may find that skin becomes an issue.

When we have an adrenaline boost, the "fight or flight" reaction, we have a variety of responses that aren't always conducive to either. Athletes who feel stress may find they perform better whereas some athletes discover that the moment they feel pressured, they have the opposite reaction- and fail in major ways. For instance, an ice skater who aces local trials in her region may fall several times during a simple routine simply because the stakes are higher. Someone who can speak to a classroom of 20 children may find themselves forgetting words, or even unable to speak to a room of 50 adults. Simply put, we aren't ourselves anymore.

Some physical changes relating to stress can be so damaging to our health that we may end up in the hospital. Our hearts may race, or we may have lost so much sleep or deprived ourselves of nutrition that we've become ill. For some, there is a dismissive response to the idea that stress is creating havoc in our bodies. These people suffer greatly, and could even find themselves at death's door sooner than not.

There's a reason why people offer food to bereaved family members during a funeral. There's a reason why people have dinners at weddings. Housewarmings involve food. Celebrations of birth involve food. People who don't eat during stressful times are shown the option of food during those times that are generally very stressful.

It's been proven that those who are given a big picture of things to expect before stressful situations are likelier to handle the stress far better. There is a reason why new employers, universities, schools, and even day care centers offer orientation classes. There is a reason why new parents are pushed to go to 'birthing' classes. There is a reason why doctors visit prior to surgery. Life isn't about having things easily laid out, but having a little bit of an idea of things that are likely to happen ease the surprise factor.

We aren't wired to be a 25 hour a day society, and yet, we live online which is a non-ending location of information and interaction. We work jobs that often have hours that are far longer than 9 to 5. (I can't even remember the last job I had that didn't require 8-6, with a nonpaid lunch.) Companies that lay off workers are expecting those left behind to work more hours. Children aren't just asking for a bike, a baseball, or Barbie, they're asking for high-end electronics. We don't just pay for phone, gas, and electric- we now pay for cell phones, television, internet, gas, electric, land lines, HOA's, and oh yeah, shipping. The parents are moving back in with their kids, the college grads are moving back in with parents, and kids seem happier with their Wii's and burger meals than with a dog and a day in the park. People we don't know want to "friend" us, "tweet" us, and sell us products. For some reason, we're all lacking in our acai and viagra supplies. The world wants so much from us, no wonder we're screaming at strangers in traffic, and making comfort foods the best sellers in grocery stores.

The one way to get rid of stress is to give our bodies something better to focus on. For some people, the day only works well if they've hit the gym first. This is an ideal way to decrease stress. You don't have to be into working out- DANCE! Listen to your favorite music and move around. The endorphins get released and the chemical changes we feel for depression also seem to lessen. Music is a great release- get out your favorite songs, and sing like no one is listening. (I'm partial to Rollins Band when I need to scream, Gap Band when I need to bounce, and Rubber Band Man when I need to dance.) Just singing to ourselves in a shower, or dancing around the house in our favorite sweats burns calories, reduces stress, and gives adrenaline no chance!

Feel no guilt about hobbies! Our culture seems to be divided over the idea of using our time for personal pursuits rather than taking care of others, or career pursuits. You can reduce a lot of stress by giving yourself permission to have a few games of solitaire. Let yourself play with those yarn needles. If you want to race slot cars, what's the problem? Do you like pets and want to give Rover some TLC? Go for it. Having recess from life is how we can cope better with stress. You had recess in school as a kid to burn off the energy that was stifled by classroom time. Think of stress as one big classroom time, and you got a reason for that recess.

Laughter is proving to be a great player in good health. More studies have shown laughter to reduce stress than even some depression medications. Go hit a comedy club, go watch an old movie, or even hit up and check out classics from Phyllis Diller or Laugh-In. You don't need money to laugh. Read a comic book, write a comic book! Find the absurd in your stressful situations and you'll laugh a lot more.

Private time is a great way to reduce stress, but it isn't for everyone. Some people use private time to let those worries just cycle through like a whirlpool in the mind. But, some people find that just taking a walk, or hitting a bubble bath, or even sitting with a book is a great way to tune out the world and just sit within oneself. Those who practice meditation are said to feel stress far less than those who don't. I don't know if that is true for everyone, but I do know that some people find great self strength in silence.

Face the stress - completely confront it! When I was battling IBS, I had tried to hide from other people, and tried to hide from myself. I let my body decide my social life, decide my reactions, and generally rule me. But, when I started to confront the things that caused the stress, the IBS started to appear less and less. If you know work is giving you stress- then figure out a way to accomplish your tasks without conflicts. Ask for help. Talk to those who are creating emotional upheaval. Ask questions. If family is too demanding, demand back- and let people know that you're in over your head. You may be surprised that just opening yourself up to communication will dissipate stressful situations.

Don't kill yourself over stress. If you find you've changed your eating habits, then set up specific times of day to eat. If you find you're not sleeping, talk to a doctor about either getting a prescription to help, or find melatonin, bubble bath, a scent, or something that calms you enough to at least nap. If you have heart racing responses, be sure you see a doctor and that you aren't ignoring an bigger issue. It's okay to feel out of control some days. It's okay to feel lost and confused some days. Let yourself feel allowed to talk to someone about it- anyone- just so you can relate to the human race. It may save your life.

This week's questions- What do you do to combat stress? How have you dealt with it in the past? Are you able to do something that's considered recess?