Standing and looking out the living room window at the morning sun, I realized that the wind was blowing the powder snow off of the rooftops. All those tiny ice crystals were sparkling in the bright morning sun. So very beautiful. Words can’t really do it justice.
I’ve written what will probably be my last message of hope. I don’t know how much longer they can keep the Internet functioning. It’s a wonder they’ve kept the electricity going as long as they have.
I hope that my message reached the thousand or so people for whom it was intended. People like me. It included my update on safe havens throughout the country. My little town is one such.
I can’t know what the next few months will bring. I feel like there will be a settling in. A digging in for the long haul. A lot of people seem to think there will be a return to “normal.” I think they are delusional. But that’s just me.
The Virus has pretty much changed the world and the creatures living in it. It was not species specific as we had first hoped. Humans were the first to begin dying. But it seems to have jumped the gap and now everything mammalian is at risk.
So far, the birds and reptiles and amphibians and fish have been spared. The insects are thriving. But the whales … it’s so sad to see what it’s done to the whales and their kin. The beaches are a nightmare.
Sometimes I think those who die outright are the luckiest. After making you really sick for a couple of months, the Virus inserts part of its DNA into the host’s DNA. It doesn’t do this throughout the entire body. Generally, a person can guess where it will end up by their symptoms while actively sick.
It can lodge itself in skin cells, or heart cells, or nerve cells. Rarely does it take up residence it more than one kind of cell. Although there was one case reported where it invaded stem cells. That was a bad one.
The Virus sits quietly in the DNA until something triggers it and then it goes to town. I know of one case where it was in skin cells. First the poor man’s skin started to thicken. It became so thick all over his body that he had trouble moving. Then it really got bad. His skin started to harden in patches. First it was his knees and he had to walk by shifting his hips. Eventually, it hardened all over his body and he couldn’t move at all anymore.
His caregiver gave up at that point because she couldn’t move him. He weighed too much for her and she shot him in the head ending both their misery. Her heart gave out not long after that. It just sort of exploded inside her chest.
Not all cases are a drastic. Some are actually beautiful. There is the little girl with rainbow skin. And the man with brilliant green crystals growing all over his body where his hair used to be. Others thought it was beautiful. He thought it was … inconvenient.
Then there are the people who are immune. They call them “Angels.” You can always tell an Angel on sight because they exhibit heterochromia. Their eyes are two different colors. Or sometimes, half of each eye is one color and the other half is another color.
They are called Angels because their blood is the only antidote. It doesn’t cure or prevent the initial infection. But if given soon enough after the initial sickness, it can prevent the further expression of the Virus.
Luckily, you don’t need much Angel Blood to do this. I say luckily, because I am an Angel.
In the beginning, the Government … while it was still functioning … rounded us all up and kept us warehoused and used our blood for members of the government pretty much exclusively.
But when word got out about us, the people rose up and busted us out and farmed us out around the country so we could serve the common folk. We had a little more freedom, but not much.
Then we Angels rose up and demanded concessions. Mine were books and the freedom to come and go as I pleased. Maybe you are wondering what my bargaining chip was. Suicide. Plain and simple. I wouldn’t have done that. My Blood and what I do is too important. But they couldn’t be certain. Doubt was on my side.
I’ve made a home for myself in a library in what used to be a small town and now is a very, very small town.
When they send me to other towns to help the people there, I collect as many books as I can and bring them home with me. Chief on my current list of needs are “how-to” books. But I have books on just about every topic you might imagine.
I am going to protect this library for as long as I can. I will dispense the knowledge I hold here to anyone who comes asking.
But honestly, I don’t know how long we have. The animals are dying and Angel Blood does nothing to help them.
Demoralization is taking its toll. No one wants to work. They mostly bemoan what they’ve lost, when they could be farming and doing what they can to save the remaining animals. Maybe someone somewhere is working on that, but I haven’t heard about it.
Still, I am hopeful. I think that humanity can survive this. Yes, it will be a drastically altered humanity. But it won’t be all bad. I believe we are learning some good lessons and that what we build in the future will be better.
My name is Washte Kte and this is my story.
Every now and then, I will have a hyper realistic dream and then feel compelled to turn it into a short story.
Often, much of the rich detail of the dream is lost to me upon awakening. But usually, I retain enough to flesh out a decent tale.
This is one of those.
My thought after waking from this dream was “and we thought it was global warming that would do us in.”
Obviously, this dream was inspired by our ongoing battle with Covid-19. But it’s taken it a bit further. I hope my dream is never realized in any form.
Seriously. I have no idea why those things some people put on the front ends of their cars are called bras. They don’t hold anything up. They don’t give a better shape to the front end of the car. They don’t make the front of the car look larger than it is in reality.
What they do is keep road grime from collecting on the front end. It keeps bugs from accumulating and little rocks from chipping the paint. What it does is protect the front of the car.
So why aren’t they called bibs?
Pushing Up Daisies
As a culture, we have so many ways of saying that someone has died that it boggles my mind: lying on the wrong side of the dirt, gone to his/her great reward, sitting with God, kicked the bucket and numerous others.
If the person was a gambler we might say that he’s gone to that big casino in the sky. I’ve heard a number of variations on that over the years. Or if she was a seamstress maybe she went to the big quilting bee in the sky.
Many of these euphemisms have a slightly humorous bent to them. It’s as if we have to make light of death in order for it to be okay. It’s never going to be okay to die even though it’s inevitable. Death is always going to come at the wrong time whether you are two months old or 98 years old. So why not say it like it is?
I love pants with pockets. Pockets help me organize my life. Need a Kleenex. Looky here, got one in my pocket. Need a treat for the pooches I meet on a walk. Well, I’ve got three different kinds in the pocket of my pants. Except that I don’t. Unless I’m wearing jeans, of course. But even then, pockets are not a given.
I bought a really cute pair of denim jeans a while back that had the suggestion of pockets, but no real pockets. It was just a bunch of topstitching. I bought them because the fit was great and they were very, very comfortable. I figured I could live without the pockets. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Why, I ask you, do designers leave pockets out of the pants made for women? I know a woman who wears means sweat pants because she likes the pockets. I don’t blame her. But I can’t do that being as small as I am. I suppose I could try boy’s sweat pants, but then the rise is usually way, way too short. Ouch.
In any case, I suppose an argument could be made that women carry purses and so they don’t need pockets. Men don’t carry purses (except for a little while in the 1980s, boy was that a weird time in our history) so they need pockets. Which brings me to …
How the heck did that whole thing ever get started? I hate purses. I hate carrying them. But since I don’t have a lot of pants with pockets, I’m out of luck on this issue. And the pockets in most of my pants don’t accommodate my cell phone. Well, at least not easily or in a manner that I consider to be secure. As in not falling randomly out of my pocket without me noticing.
When the weather is cold, I’ll wear a coat that has a lot of pockets. There’s an inside pocket for my phone. An inside zippered pocket for my charge card. Another inner pocket for my list (wouldn’t do to lose my list). My keys go into an outside pocket with a Velcro-secured flap and a Kleenex or two goes in a similar pocket on the other side. There are two reach-in pockets where I put gloves or just warm my hands. And that’s all I need.
Summer is a bother because I can’t wear that coat. Well, I could. But it wouldn’t be comfortable. So I have a small purse that is really no larger than most women’s wallets (not a man’s wallet, those are made to fit in pockets and not purses). It’s on a long strap so I can wear it cross body and forget about it.
But just about every woman I see out in the world is carrying a purse. Some are ridiculously large. I wonder what the heck they have in them that they feel necessary to lug around with them at all times. I could fit the entire contents of my silverware drawer, cooking utensil drawer and junk drawer in some of the purses I’ve seen.
And here’s a weird thing. Even though most women carry purses, I’ve seen a large number of them put their cell phones in their bras. Now what the heck is that about? And with the mention of bras, we have come full circle. I do like to tie things up all neat and tidy. Eh voila!
I wrote about the stray cat we adopted in a post titled, “Orange Kitty.” He’s been our cat for a while now and we are all getting along fine … for the most part.
Our dog, Maddie, is still not one hundred percent comfortable with OK. He makes her a bit nervous now and then. She startled him the other day and he smacked her and now she doesn’t want to get near him. It’s been at least a week actually, and she is only just now walking past him without coaxing from us. She has too fine of a memory.
OK has turned out to be a great cat. He must have had people before he became homeless because he knew exactly what to do with a litter box.
He loves to cuddle and seeks out attention and companionship. Even more so than Maddie does.
He loves any sort of toy that is mouse-sized. He also likes stick/string toys. But he does like to chew on the string so we can only let him have that while supervised.
He will eat just about anything … or at least try it once. I figure that is a result of living homeless for as long as he did. He has a morning ritual now. When I sit down with my dry, uncooked rolled oats (yes, I actually like them best that way) for breakfast, he has to hop up in my lap and eat a few bits from my bowl. Satisfied, he wanders off to let me eat in peace.
He doesn’t have much patience for being brushed. Since he has so much long fur, this is a bit of a problem. But we got rid of the mats and are doing a decent job of keeping new ones from forming.
His face has finally healed. He had one small spot that was stubbornly refusing to heal. He would rub the scab off and it would have to start over again. But that’s done now and the fur is doing a good job of growing back. Also the fur that the mats pulled out is growing back.
He is a mighty nice looking cat. He has lovely expressive eyes and a quirky little smile. He makes the most of his eyes, though. They can look hopeful or teasing or sad. They are also appraising. I’m certain, sometimes, that I have failed his appraisal but that he accepts his situation.
The first couple of weeks after he spent the first night in our house, he would sit at the storm door and ask to go out. We took him outside on a couple of occasions and supervised his roaming and brought him back inside after a time. But then the weather became too cold to spend much time outside with him. So he’s been an indoor only cat for quite some time now.
He seems to have adjusted to life indoors. I play with him several times a day. He plays with the “mice” on his own. He gets the zoomies now and then. The house seems to offer him enough places to run and sleep and look out on the world.
You should see him as he plays. He’s like a little kitten with his ears perked and firmly pointed at the source of his play. He pounces and runs and rolls with delight. His excitement is contagious.
He’ll take one of his “mice” in his mouth and walk all over the house, meowing all his thoughts about the matter. Then he’ll drop it and bat it around so well that you would swear the thing was actually alive and trying to escape him. It’s a joy to watch.
So far, Maddie has not tried to join in his play. She learned with our previous cat not to get too excited because our previous cat would sometimes reprimand her with a smack on the head if she tried to take his toy.
With Orange Kitty, Maddie surreptitiously steals his toys. She takes them when he is not looking and gently chews on them for a while. She doesn’t destroy them. She doesn’t destroy her own toys either. That’s always been a wonder to me.
OK has learned to move slowly past her. There’s nothing more enticing to a dog than the opportunity to chase something. But there is no fun in “chasing” something that is walking past you at a snail’s pace.
For the most part, Orange Kitty doesn’t try to slip out the door when we go in and out. It’s as if he realizes that it’s safer and more comfortable in here. Maybe he remembers the stress of living on his own … or maybe it’s just that we’ve made a nice place for him.
I think he has decided to keep us. He likes to lie in my lap in the evenings. I think he even looks forward to it. He’ll follow me around as I do all the final things that I have to do before I can sit quietly for an hour or so before going to bed. He meows at me and makes this soulfully pleading expression with his eyes. As soon as I get settled, there he is, ready to take up his position.
We haven’t been able to come up with a good name for him. My husband is content to continue with Orange Kitty as his moniker. Sometimes I do call him OK. We also occasionally call him Mr. Fuzzy Pants. The view from his rear tells the story.
We have been considering calling him Cheeto because he is orange, fluffy and weighs next to nothing. But it doesn’t really seem to suit him.
As for love … it took me no time at all to fall in love with the rascal. I still don’t know if he loves us, but I think he does like us, including the dog.
We will continue to get to know each other. But I’m sure this will be a great relationship.
That’s kind of cheat really. What I’m really reviewing is one person’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, originally written by Lao Tzu. It’s is most often pronounced something like “dow day jing.”
Most sources will tell you that the text was first written around 400 BC. That it is still relevant today is a testament to the wisdom it dispenses and Lao Tzu’s understanding of human nature.
I have several different copies of the Tao Te Ching, translated by several different authors. They all offer a little something different. But I do have a favorite. It’s the one I go back to over and over.
This version is by Stephen Mitchell and is published by Harper and Row Publishers. The translation’s copyright date is 1988. I own a first edition. Had I known then what first editions with intact dust jackets can sometimes be worth, I might have taken better care of it. Not that I would ever sell it.
It’s worn and stained and bookmarked and shows the many times I’ve picked it up and put it down. I cherish this battered copy. It’s one of the few books I will never pack away or give away. It sits prominently in a bookcase in our living room. Always ready to hand.
Over the years, I have found this translation the easiest to understand. The way that Mitchell presents the 81 verses resonates with me. His use of the English language to convey concepts written in Chinese is, to me, masterful.
It’s a wonder that it can be translated at all. The modern usage of the Chinese language is very dissimilar to the usage of the long gone feudal China of Lao Tzu’s time. So it is no wonder that the various translations can differ as much as they do. It’s often a matter of personal interpretation.
I have a number of favorite verses. But one in particular sums up why I come back to the Tao Te Ching over and over. That would be verse number nine. Here is Mitchell’s translation:
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench
Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner
Do your work, then step back
The only path to serenity
When I first read the Tao Te Ching, I was very, very young. I was looking for guidance for how to live a moral and honest life, which is a fairly adult thing to do. Even so, I was young and, in the way of youth, looking for shortcuts. At the time, I felt that verse #9 was giving me permission to quit if something was taking too long or was too difficult.
When I was a little older, I had a different take on it. It seemed to be saying to me that life is often futile. You do the best that you can and frequently it turns out badly. It was a bit of a dark span of years in my life with my mom and grandma dying and also a number of aunts and uncles. It’s easy to see now why I might interpret that verse the way I did.
These days I hope I have a more enlightened approach and I realize that what it says is that excess leads to unhappiness. There is a fine line between enough and too much. So do what needs to be done and then let it go.
There was a time when I was particularly vexed at the job I had then. I turned to the Tao Te Ching for inspiration. Beginning with verse number one, each day I wrote a verse on a slip of paper that I kept with me at work. Periodically throughout the day, I would take out that piece of paper and read the verse and relate it to my current experience.
At the end of 81 days, unfortunately, I was still vexed at work and I quit that job. But I think that my “meditation” on all that the Tao Te Ching had to offer helped me to come to the realization that quitting was my best course. And as it turned out, it was.
Not everyone will find value in the Tao Te Ching. But I believe that everyone should read it at least once. You never know, you might just find one verse that sums up the whole of your existence and makes sense of your life where you thought it was not possible.
A Little Bit About Stephen Mitchell:
Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1943, and studied at Amherst, the University of Paris, and Yale. His previous books include “Dropping Ashes on the Buddha,” “The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke,” Rilke’s “Sonnets to Orpheus,” and “The Book of Job.”
He has many more books to his credit: four novels of fiction, four of non-fiction, and 24 translations and adaptations. He has edited seven books and has eight children’s books.
When his translation was published, he lived with his wife, Vicki Chang, an acupuncturist and healer, in Berkeley, California. Wikipedia will tell you that his current spouse is named Byron Katie, who is the founder of The Work (as she puts it, it is a simple process of remaining alert to and questioning stressful thoughts).
We’ve lived in our current house for over a year now. Sometimes it still seems foreign to me … as if I am living in someone else’s home.
It all looks familiar to me now. But every so often, it also looks wrong. It’s a strange feeling. Like I am totally out of place.
We lived in our previous house for over 27 years. Chances are good that is why I sometimes feel the way I do. It occurred to me that it explained something my Grandmother did many years ago.
Grandma’s husband died a year before I was born. That was sometime in 1951. Grandma, Dad’s mom, moved into a small one room apartment shortly after his death.
It wasn’t much. A living room that struggled to hold her living room furniture. A bedroom that did the same with her bedroom furniture. A kitchen that barely held a table for four. And a bathroom that was sumptuous by comparison.
She lived in that apartment until she could no longer live on her own. She knew everyone in the neighborhood. She had bank accounts at three different banks so she could stop in and get coffee and cookies and conversation any time she pleased. She walked to all her shopping needs. It was perfect for her and she lived there until around 1979. Twenty-eight years in the same place. I can relate.
So when we had to put her into a managed care facility, she didn’t go willingly. She was at an age where her cognitive faculties were declining and really needed the stability of all the things she had known for so many years. Alternatively, we should have taken her in, but we couldn’t care for her.
My husband and I both worked full time and had no place for her in our tiny condo. My sister worked full time and had no place for her in her tiny apartment. Our mom had health issues of her own to deal with.
So my mom, sister and I found a place in a managed care facility for her. We got her a private room and moved as much of her own furniture into it as we could. But, apparently, it wasn’t enough. There is much more to a home than some furniture and a few pictures on the walls.
More often than I care to think about, I’d get a call from the facility saying that my grandma had gone missing. How she managed to slip out of the place unnoticed was never discovered. Wily old woman.
The facility was many miles from where her apartment had been. I’m not sure how many but I bet it was at least 20. Yet somehow, she would manage to get back there, to the place she knew most well. Maybe a kind soul would pick her up and take her to the only address she knew by heart. In any case, the apartment had a new resident and police were called and they would take my grandma back to the managed care facility only for her to slip away again.
At the time, I couldn’t understand how she could not understand that her home was there now. But maybe now I do.
When we are young, everything is fresh and new. We haven’t seen it all a hundred times as when we are older. Change is a fairly normal thing in our youth. I guess that as we age we start to expect that certain things will always remain the same.
We want what is familiar most of the time. Novelty and new experiences are fine in the moment. But I believe that ultimately we have an enduring need to be rooted, to know our place, to see the sights that we are accustomed to seeing, to be surrounded by all things familiar.
Grandma never did get comfortable there. But soon her health prohibited her and her roaming days were over. It wasn’t very long and the facility could no longer manage her care and I had to move her to a convalescent facility. She declined rapidly after the move and died very shortly thereafter.
She didn’t know who I was when I would visit. She thought I was one of her sisters. She didn’t know where she was. She thought we were all back on the trading post in South Dakota where she grew up.
In a way, she found her familiar environment again. Maybe it was one too many transient ischemic attacks. Or maybe it was an intense desire for home. I’ve no real way to know.
My husband and I have made a home in this new-to-us house. If we are lucky, maybe we’ll have another 25 years here and the feeling that it isn’t quite right will be a thing long in the past.
In any case, I will never look at the uprooting of a life in quite the same way as I did when I was younger.
We all need a home to … well … go home to. I hope you have yours.
We could not get along in today’s world without physicians. That’s pretty much a given. I would not still be here were it not for some really fine trauma doctors. But …
There is a limit to what physicians can do and that limit is that they are human. They are subject to all the foibles and follies that the rest of us are. They are opinionated, biased, hidebound, blind and sometimes just plain stupid.
It is their job to diagnose what is wrong with us. Sometimes it is cut and dried. There are tests that are specific. Results that can be interpreted only one way. Other times, there are no definitive tests and interpreting the results is a matter of opinion and feelings. A doctor might say to you, “I think that what you have is polymyalgia rheumatica. There is no test for it. There is no cure. The treatment to manage the symptoms is steroids.” The important takeaway is this, the doctor does not really know for sure and that doctor is going to experiment on you by having you take a drug and then looking at the results. If the drug helps, then that doctor will most likely think that they were correct. If it does not, then it is time to maybe run some more tests and then experiment with a different drug.
We go to physicians for healing and to get well. But for the most part, all that happens is that they put a patch on the problem. For some people, that patch leads to other problems. Think of a dam that is failing. You have a spot where the water is leaking out, so you put some extra concrete on that spot. But the whole dam is not in the best shape, so water starts leaking in a new spot. So you patch that area and then a leak stars in another place until the whole thing is so messed up that it fails completely.
Some people have good experiences with physicians throughout their lives. Some people have a mix. And some people have nothing but trouble. For the latter group, trusting physicians can be difficult.
I fall into that latter group. Throughout my life, when I have gone to a doctor for one problem, I’ve ended up with several more and not always found a fix for the original problem. It is not directly the physician’s fault. I have a very sensitive body and tend to get every drug’s side effects. But it is indirectly the physician’s fault for not listening to me when I explain about my sensitivities and ask for help other than drugs. Handing me a prescription and having me go away is so much easier than actually helping me to overcome what is wrong.
I had migraine headaches every day for a little over four years. I did not get the classic migraine with the aura that alerts you it is on the way, then lasts a few days, goes away, and then you do not get another one for a month or so. I had two on most days. One in the morning and one in the afternoon with a couple of hours in between where I could wash my face, brush my teeth, eat a little something, do the dishes, start some laundry … have a life more or less, in two or so hours a day. The rest of the time, I was flat on my back, in a darkened room, hoping the neighbors would not be too noisy.
About two years into the whole mess, I saw a neurologist. He did an exam and a long interview. It took about an hour and a half. At the end of it, my afternoon migraine had started and I was feeling awful. He said to me, “You definitely have migraine headaches. You are having one right now, aren’t you?” I told him that yes I was. Then he said, “Dianne, what is it that you want me to do?” I said, “I want you to help me to figure out why I get migraines and what I need to do to stop getting them.” He said, “Dianne, you get migraines because you get migraines. There are a couple of drugs we can try.”
That was not what I wanted. He did not even consider trying to help me to accomplish my goal. He thought he knew what the only answer was. He was not going to look beyond his beliefs.
He talked me into trying the first anti-hypertensive that was ever developed. But I told him that I didn’t think it was a good idea. My blood pressure was already on the low side and my heart rate was slow for someone my size. But he said it was a very low dose and had worked as a preventative for migraines for a lot of people. I was desperate so I relented. But doctors are generalists. They look at populations and extrapolate to individuals. They think they know all that they need to know, but they often do not. And an individual is just that … individual.
Within a couple of days of taking the drug, I could not walk from the living room to the kitchen without taking a break in between. When standing from sitting, I would nearly pass out and usually fell back into the chair no matter how carefully or slowly I stood up. I could no longer make use of my couple hours free of migraine headaches during the day. My life became even more constricted than it was already and it did nothing to relieve my migraine headaches.
I tried the drug for a couple of weeks because the neurologist said that I should give it at least that much time and that it would get better. But it never did. So I tapered off of the drug and went to see him again for my follow up. Then, stupidly, I let him talk me into trying another drug that had helped other migraine sufferers. This time it was an antidepressant. Again, I was desperate so I gave it a try.
I got every side effect in the book. I had insomnia. When I did sleep, I had terrible nightmares. I had waking nightmares. I might be doing the dishes and I would see horrible things that looked so real I would go into a full on panic. Every muscle in my body twitched. Constantly.
After several weeks and no relief from my migraine headaches, I had had it. I hiked out into the forest near our home. I went as far out as I could. I took my gun. I was going to end it all. I wrote my note. I put it in a plastic bag and duct taped it to my thigh under my jeans. I put the gun to my head.
Then I thought, as miserable as I was and as much as I wanted to die, I couldn’t do that to my husband. I remembered a woman I knew who had killed herself and how devastated we all were by that. And during that pause, I also remembered that suicide is a side effect of antidepressants and I decided I was not going to let some damn drug kill me.
I tapered off of the antidepressant and never went back to the neurologist. That whole experience cemented my distrust of physicians and set the stage for the rest of my life.
There are many more instances of doctors hurting me more than helping me over the years preceding my experience with the neurologist. But that one experience is the best example of what I am trying to say. They do not really help. It is rare that they actually help. Mostly they just patch the problem rather than getting to the root of it.
So once I was off the antidepressant, I went to the library when I could manage it. I researched headaches in general and migraines in particular. I learned about food triggers and environmental triggers. I read about elimination diets and food challenges.
It took me about two years, but I found all the things I should not eat. I found all the things I should not expose myself to. I got to the point where I was having only four or five migraine headaches a week. Then I found a biofeedback therapist that helped me get rid of the rest of them by learning how to warm my hands and relax the muscles in my neck and shoulders.
I did just what I had asked that neurologist to help me do … I figured out why I got migraine headaches and what I had to do to stop getting them.
Most physicians approach the human body as if it is a closed system full of all sorts of other closed systems. But it is not a machine. It is a finely tuned thing, sensitive to everything around it. It takes in air filled with all sorts of chemicals and gases. It absorbs things through the skin and gums. We eat all sorts of things with all sorts of chemical constituents. You cannot look at any one part of it and say, “This will fix this.” Because whatever you do to one part, affects every other part. Sometimes negatively.
There is a holistic movement. It has been gaining momentum. But in most cases, you will be told it is not meant to take the place of traditional medical care. And I am sure that is valid for a great many people. But until holistic health is taught in all the medical schools and until all physicians and healthcare providers of every sort everywhere embrace the concept and accept it and implement it, people like me are going to suffer.
I am an extreme case in point (although studies show that most prescription drugs have their intended effect in only about one third of the population), but I do not believe that other people are less affected. I think that they are simply less aware. Do you get a headache when you walk into certain stores or buildings? Do you wonder why? Or do you take a pain reliever and go about your day? How many pain relievers do you take and how often do you take them? They have side effects too. Stomach troubles are common to a lot of them. Are you also taking an acid reducer on a regular basis? Have you asked yourself why you might need an acid reducer?
The fallacy is that we assume doctors are going to heal us. For the most part, they do not. We heal ourselves. You get a throat infection. You go to the doctor and you get a prescription for an antibiotic. You take it for ten days. You have diarrhea and some other discomforts, but at the end of the ten days, you are basically over the throat infection. Also consider, you get a throat infection. You do not go to the doctor. You do not get an antibiotic. You do not have diarrhea and a few other attendant discomforts. And in about 14 days, you are over your throat infection. So, yes, it took four days longer. But you didn’t destroy your intestinal bacteria in the process. And it is being shown today that the health of the bacteria in your intestines is directly related to the health of multiple organ systems in the body. Yes, I know there is MRSA and other resistant bacteria and those definitely need some strong antibiotics. But regular illnesses often do not need intervention.
Yes, when you need an operation to fix a defect like a hernia or an artery that is severed or to remove some really bad hemorrhoids, a surgeon is a good thing to have around. And they do fix the problem. But they still do not heal you. You do that. And in that last case, does the physician talk to you about why you got them in the first place? Do they question your diet? Or your exercise regimen? Do they work with you to create a life in which hemorrhoids do not happen? In my experience the answer is going to generally be no. But if yours does, that’s great and a step in the right direction.
Nothing much will change until we all begin demanding that things change. We need to demand better and more complete care. We need to demand that doctors actually listen to us and what we know to be true about our bodies.
One last short story. My mom had pain in various parts of her body for a lot of years. Mostly, it was in her shoulders. Our family doctor kept telling her it was bursitis and recommended aspirin. She kept telling him it was something more. She felt there was something fundamentally not right with her body. Our doctor wrote it off as the maundering of a woman who had more than once displayed hypochondriacal tendencies. As a result, she was not diagnosed with lupus until the disease had a death grip on her.
No matter how much they know … and yes, they know a lot … they still do not know our bodies as well as we know our bodies. They need to drop their preconceptions and be open to what we think is going on inside of us. They need to listen.
The desire for one small tooth, a molar, in my lower jaw on the right side, has pretty much ruined my life.
I tell myself that vanity had nothing to do with it. Truthfully, my mouth is small and even when I smile widely, you don’t see the huge toothless space in my right lower jaw.
I desired a molar, the first one after the premolars, so that I could chew on that side of my mouth again. But honestly, after more than five months of chewing only on the left side of my mouth and having become accustomed to it, I wonder if I should have left well enough alone and not ruined my life.
You do the best that you can at any given moment in your life. You make the best decisions that you are able. And what might seem wrong in retrospect often seems so very right in the moment.
Do you ever find yourself thinking that life just isn’t fair? Well here’s the thing, it isn’t. There are a lot of people who think that it should be. I never thought that I was one of them. I thought I was too rational for that. But now I wonder.
You do your job. You eat healthfully. You try not to pollute the environment. You are kind to animals. You are helpful to those around you. You do your best to be a good person. And still the universe dumps on you. Where’s the justice in that?
Then maybe you begin to wonder if you are a good person. Is there some sort of cosmic balance sheet and you’ve just come up short. Had one to many bad thoughts? Maybe been a little too judgmental? Didn’t give enough to charity? You wonder, is there some sort of fairness to the universe and you’ve failed the test.
So I wanted a tooth.
That poor tooth that I wanted replaced had been through a lot. It had been filled when I was young and refilled when I was older. It had cracked and needed a crown. It was damaged in a fall from a horse and needed a new crown. It was damaged again when a horse head-butted me in my jaw and then it needed a root canal. Then finally one morning while eating breakfast, the crown of that poor tooth cracked right off of its roots.
It had to come out and I was going to be left with no molars in my lower right jaw. At the time, I couldn’t accept that. So the tooth was pulled and an implant was put in place by an oral surgeon.
I do not like anitbiotics. Antibiotics give me nothing but trouble. When I take an antibiotic, it takes my intestines six months or more to get back to any kind of normal. So when the oral surgeon told me that I was going to have to take an antibiotic, my first reaction was no way was I going to do that.
But he convinced me, scared me actually, into taking it. He offered to let me take it for only five days. I accepted the offer. But when filling the prescription for clindamycin, I found that he had compressed a normal ten day amount into five days. It was way too high a dosage. And my troubles began the very next day after just two double doses taken on the day of my surgery.
I am constantly in pain. Sometimes, if I move wrongly, the pain becomes excruciating. I’ve nearly passed out from the pain on a number of occasions. I find panting helps.
My joints are a mess. Shoulders and elbows, hips and knees are stiff and very difficult to get moving. Most of my muscles hurt too. Although, I suspect that much of that is referred pain from my joints.
I’ve had a number of setbacks. One came about two months after the oral surgery when it seemed like I was beginning to recover. I got a flu shot. It set me back to the beginning … and perhaps further beyond that. The pain I experienced from that point on was worse than it had been.
But things eventually started to get a little better. My hips and knees were improving even if my shoulders and elbows were not.
Then, a couple more months down the road when I was feeling a smidge better, my husband thought that what I needed was a probiotic. So we bought one and I took one capsule and the next day I was in so much more pain that I could not believe it. And now my wrists were also involved. And I can’t raise my arms above my head anymore. Getting my hands to the top of my head to wash my hair is a major endeavor.
Early on in the process of the ruination of my life, I had some blood drawn. Here, where we live, you can do that without involving a doctor. I ordered tests to check the function of my liver, kidneys, and thyroid and also check blood glucose. I ordered a lipid panel and a complete blood count with electrolytes.
The results showed that I had some liver damage, which is what I suspected. But everything else looked good enough. There was nothing in the results that stood out to explain the joint pain and the muscle soreness.
I learned later that other tests were going to be necessary. Tests for autoimmune diseases.
But based on my severe reaction to the probiotic, we began to suspect that I have a very leaky gut. And I started thinking about it. I realized that I’ve probably had a leaky gut for the last 30 years or so and possibly longer. When I was about 39 years old, a doctor prescribed a high dose of erythromycin for a bronchitis I couldn’t shake off. I told him it was too much. He convinced me to take it. It triggered Meniere’s Syndrome in my left ear. The dizziness, nausea and inability to stand and walk did not go away with stopping the antibiotic. I was a real mess for several weeks until we got it figured out.
The ear/nose/throat specialist I eventually went to when my regular doctor refused to accept that the antibiotic had done that do me, confirmed that yes I had Meniere’s Syndrome, yes I had developed it about 30 years before what is normal, and yes it was likely the erythromycin had done this to me.
Right about the same time as developing Meniere’s Syndrome, I began having migraine headaches every day. It took about four years of suffering with them for me to figure out all the food triggers and environmental triggers. And during that time, I constantly wondered what had changed so drastically in my body that suddenly things I had eaten all my life now gave me migraine headaches.
Looking back on it now, I realize that most likely that high dosage of erythromycin took an already leaky gut and made it even leakier.
So, why did I think I already had a leaky gut?
I had spent all my life growing up having throat infection after throat infection with attendant bronchitis about six times a year and getting erythromycin every time due to my parents’ insistence on the antibiotic. It was determined by our doctor that I was getting sick all the time because my parents smoked and I am allergic to tobacco. The constant post nasal drip created a fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Studies have shown that antibiotics taken in childhood can have detrimental effects later in life. It took a heavy toll on my intestines, to be sure.
So my intestines were already compromised and that large dose of erythromycin for the bronchitis pushed me right over the top. Which brings me to now.
When I had the oral surgery and took the clindamycin, I had no idea I might have a leaky gut. I just thought I had food and environmental sensitivities. I’ve had them for so long now that they are a part of my life and I’ve lived with an adjusted diet for so long that I give it very little thought. But it would seem that the high dose of clindamycin pushed my guts right over the top again. It’s about the only thing we’ve come up with to explain what has been happening to me. My hope is that this is not like with the Meniere’s Syndrome and that this pain and stiffness is not now a permanent part of my life. But I fear that it might be.
Most days I can handle the pain as long as I don’t make a wrong move. It’s really slowed me down though. Getting dressed for the day first thing in the morning is a fifteen minute exercise in pain and frustration. But what is really wearing me down is my inability to get any kind of decent sleep. During the day, with the distractions of the few chores that I can still do, I can ignore much of the pain. Lying in bed with nothing else going on, sometimes … often … nightly actually, the pain is too much to ignore and I find myself sitting up, in the dark, and wishing I could just sleep. I’m so sleep deprived right now I often wonder how I am still functioning.
And then, my sleep deprived brain wonders if I could just think about this all positively, would it all go away? People are always touting the benefits of positive thinking. But what about the converse? Do negative thoughts bring about negative results? My sleep deprived brain wonders if I’m perpetuating my condition by not embracing it somehow. It wonders if I could just make peace with my plight, could I begin to heal. Sometimes, I’m convinced this is the case. Sometimes I think that for sure I’ve brought this on myself. Maybe if I’d been a better sister over the years, or done more for others, thought less about myself, maybe then I wouldn’t be going through this.
I don’t think I hate myself. But if I liked myself a little more, might I be not suffering right now? If I were a little less uncertain about my goodness, would I then not have this problem that I do? It seems unlikely when you look at it rationally. But a part of me wonders.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually a bad person and I deserve all of this.
And all I wanted was to be able to chew on both sides of my mouth. Who knew the desire for one little tooth could cause so much trouble?
I first wrote this quite some time ago now. It’s been through a number of edits. Since writing this, I have been to see a nurse practitioner. She ran five other blood tests, all for autoimmune diseases. The tests came back negative. She did say that some inflammation markers were slightly elevated. I could have told her that.
The upshot is that as of right now, we have no idea what is wrong. She wants to run more tests, but I’m reluctant. During the consultation, she pretty much flatly refused to discuss our theory about leaky gut. It’s been my experience that most western medical professionals do not recognize leaky gut as a syndrome. So I may have to turn to alternative medicine to get some relief.
For now, I am waiting out my six month window for my intestines to heal from the clindamycin. The six months will be up on February 9. If in a couple of weeks after that I do not see some improvement of my symptoms, it will be time to seek out further help.
On a lighter note, I got the new tooth installed on the implant and it is working like a charm. I am happy to be able to chew on both sides of my mouth. But I do still wonder if it was the wisest of decisions.
I would like to figure out what is wrong with me and what I need to do to correct it. I worry that there is no answer. But if there is, I will find it … eventually.