Monthly Archives: August 2017

Stop, Drop…and Think.

We live in some really depressing times.  People are sad, angry, anxious, and worried.

I think I can help a bit with that.

Lots of us remember Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, and we were upset then, too.  But I don’t think I have seen the intensity of emotions that I am seeing today, when I compare that event to 45’s chaotic presidency.

Part of it is, I think, due to the outrageous flaunting of public opinion and the blatant disrespect for our Constitution.  I don’t think there is anything to compare to that, in terms of how much contempt the Republicans and the president have for the American people and our democracy.

Putting all that aside, I want to focus on what we can each do on an individual basis to keep our emotional equilibrium.

We live in an instant information era.  Breaking news hits us many times a day, and if it doesn’t get on the TV news it gets on social media and takes off.  News that we had days to digest in the past now has us scrambling to make sense of it within minutes.

That’s cognitively tiring.  Exhausting, even.

It’s easy to just say, “Oh get the hell off the internet and go do something else”, but for those who cannot get out of their homes (due to illness or poverty or whatever), it’s not that simple.

Of course, if you can get out and go camping or take a bike ride or do some kind of hobby, that’s great!  You probably have a lower level of stress than the rest of us.  I am all for that!

My suggestions – for the rest of us – are as follows:

When you read or see a news story that upsets or angers you, stop reacting.  Drop what you’re thinking about.  Think in a different way.

The first part, to stop reacting, is called “thought stopping” (yeah, I know, pretty obvious name). The trick is that you need to be aware when you are reacting, so you can stop it.

Here is an easy way to do that: put a rubber band on your wrist.  When you start to feel upset, snap it.  That is your (slightly painful) cue to tell yourself to redirect your attention.

With time, you won’t need to use a rubber band.  Or maybe you are aware and don’t need to use a rubber band, which is terrific!  You’re ahead of the game already!

You can also use any other attention-getting device, such as a small bell or something. Whatever interrupts your reaction is fine.

Next, drop whatever you’re doing that has upset you – reading news, looking at social media, watching TV, what-have-you.  Immediately go into the “think” part.

You can do this in several ways.  You can redirect your thoughts to something completely different.  Kitten and puppy videos are on YouTube for a reason, people!

You can read a completely unrelated book.  Or a book that’s on the same topic but that sees it from a different perspective – like any book written by your favorite comedian.

You can listen to your favorite music.  Or play your own music.

“That sounds like good old distraction,” you might be thinking.

Yeah, it does.  You can think of it as “mindful distraction”.  The difference between that and distraction alone is that this method is a conscious effort to change your thinking.

It is called “cognitive restructuring”.

Here’s an example:  Let’s say you see a news story about the presidential pardon of Joe Arpaio, or the story about the ban being lifted on giving the police military weapons, or the taunting of North Korea, or…well, you get the idea.

And you react with anger, and/or hopelessness, and think, “We’re so screwed! Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this!  Everyone in Congress is complicit!  My hair is on fire!”

Hence, the “on fire” association when I nicknamed this method.

So, here’s what you do – stop reacting.  Drop what you’re reading, and think about writing your congress person.  If you’re like me, just Googling your congress person’s website tends to turn your feelings down a notch.

Or you could say to yourself, “Self, remember all those crowds at demonstrations and town halls we see!  People are doing things!  And there are more of us than there are of them!”

Keep reminding yourself, Republicans may control all 3 branches of government now, but most Americans are pretty sick of the way things are being handled, as evidenced by polls.  And, Hillary won the popular vote.  There were always more of us than there were of them.

Write these reminders down, if it helps (and it might).

I don’t recommend that you immediately go post your outrage somewhere, like on FB or Twitter or comments sections of websites, because that just continues to make you upset (because you haven’t switched your thinking).

In fact, the more you dwell on something, the stronger the connections between the neurons in your brain get for that idea, and then you can get stuck, unable to stop thinking about it.

That’s called “laying down neural tracks”.   They can be switched/lessened, but it takes more work.   That’s the kind of thing for which I used to conduct therapy.   Therapy works, but it takes awhile.

It takes some effort to do stop, drop, and think, but it’s worth it.  It will lower your stress level, and possibly make it easier for you to sleep at night.

And judging by the way the world has been lately, you’ll have many opportunities to practice this technique – think how good you’ll get at it!   Your health might improve, too.

See? Sometimes I do more on this blog than just bitch.  Heh.

Today’s weirdness comes from Chambersburg, PA (which is about 80 miles SE of where I live):

“Spiritual Sonogram Offers Couple Relief. What Do You See?” (Ali Bradley, Fox43 website, 8/22/17)

The couple sees Jesus in their baby’s sonogram.  I see yet another reason why I need to move out of Pennsylvania.

Today’s recommendation is for Motorola smartphones.  I just got a new one the other day, and it was so easy to set up…ok, with minimal crying, I mean…and I love it.

My last smartphone was a Motorola, too (there is a post somewhere on this blog about it), and it was a klutz’s dream.  I dropped that sucker so many times, and it never broke or cracked or anything.  It was a Moto G.

This one is a Moto E4.  I imagine it will be dropped a lot, too.  It was very affordable (less than $40), it’s on the Verizon pre-paid plan, and it’s at Target or on target,com.  Has a great battery life and decent storage, with a slot for a memory card.  Best phone for the money, in my opinion.  And no, no one is paying me to write this, I just really like Motorola phones.

Be good.  Be kind.  And remember, the only thing that should be on fire is 45’s pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poverty and the Search for a Diagnosis – Hidden Costs of Healthcare. Plus RWNJ News.

Sorry, had to update after initially publishing because a certain cat was trying to eat my laptop cord and I accidentally hit “publish” too soon.

Very brief lesson in parathyroid glands, calcium, Vitamin D, and doctors who don’t give a crap.

Health update:  Latest test results revealed a parathyroid hormone level (PTH) of 233 pg/ml, which is way over the upper limit of the range (13.2-98.4 pg/ml, which is somehow different at UPMC Altoona labs than the oft-cited 10-65 pg/ml that everyone else has).

My calcium was 9.2 (normal).

My Vitamin D levels were an extremely low 8.7 (normal range is 20-50 ng/ml).

In January, my calcium was 10.4 (too high for someone my age).  My PTH was 60.3.

The problem with that was, as your calcium levels rise, your production of PTH is supposed to shut off – so in this case, it wasn’t “suppressed” and it should have been somewhere around 20 pg/ml or lower.

When I asked Dr. Asshat about this, in January, he just shrugged and said my calcium “isn’t high”.  I tried asking him – 3 times – why the PTH was so high (60.3) when the calcium was high (10.4), and he just kept changing the subject, or said, “I don’t see anything abnormal, your symptoms don’t fit.”

When I asked him this past Monday why the current PTH level was so high (233), he responded as I guessed he would: “Your Vitamin D is too low.”  Yes, Vitamin D deficiency can cause high PTH levels, but then I asked ok why did I have the high calcium and normal-high PTH levels last time?  Those aren’t indications of a Vitamin D deficiency.

He just kind of looked at me.  Now you know why I refer to him as “Dr. Asshat”.

I knew he was going to mention Vitamin D, because it’s the easiest explanation if you disregard the January test results.  He reiterated, as he decided to order 2 more tests, that he doesn’t see an endocrine basis for my symptoms.  Here, then, are some of the symptoms of hyperparathyroidism that I have:

Loss of energy

Sleep problems

GERD (gastric acid reflux)

Kidney stones

Labile hard to control blood pressure

Nausea and vomiting

Heart palpitations

Headaches

Facial flushing (hyperparathyroid crisis)

Diarrhea

(“Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism”, www.parathyroid.com, and “Hyperparathyroidism Symptoms”, www.uptodate.com)

When pressed, he asked me, “Are you on Metformin?” which is a diabetes drug.  I do not have, nor have I ever had, diabetes.  When I answered with a fairly stunned “no”, he then asked me if I “had anxiety”.

This guy, sitting at his laptop, doesn’t even know what’s going on with the patient sitting in front of him.  He can’t remember and I guess he doesn’t take good notes because he still asks stupid questions with the medical record open right in front of him.

I told him, “No, no anxiety”.  He replied, “Oh yeah, your metanephrines are low so, no, no anxiety.”

I then asked, “Yeah, about that…the last 3 tests indicate my epinephrine (adrenaline) is too low to measure – is that abnormal and why is that?”

He told me “they should bottle your blood, you’re so mellow”.   He wasn’t kidding.  He then regaled me with a story about highly anxious patients who “sit there and tell me they aren’t anxious when their adrenaline is off the charts”.

Then he told me to go get a test for diabetes, and one for vipoma (cancer test for digestive issues).  And to take 50,000 IU of Vitamin D once a week.  I followed him out…

“But wait!  What if my calcium spikes too high after taking the Vitamin D??”

His response?  “Oh, someone’s been reading! Ok, if it makes you feel better, I will test your calcium in 8 weeks.”

Dirty look from me.

“Ok, 4 weeks then!” he said, somewhat testily.

High calcium levels can cause strokes.  Giving someone Vitamin D whose PTH levels are high due to screwed up parathyroid glands can result in dangerously high calcium levels.

Got my diabetes test back last night – normal.  Vipoma is not back yet but I bet it was normal, too.

I see a doctor in my PCP’s practice next Friday (Dr. Wonderful is, as usual, all booked up for September).  Since I know this man will sit with me until every.single.question I have is answered, I am looking forward to it.

And I will ask him for a referral to another endocrinologist.  I really hope there is another one in Altoona who takes Medicare, because if there isn’t…well, I don’t know what I am going to do.

Can’t travel – no car, and no way to pay expenses of train, etc.

Mispauperism, Right and Left

Update: I haven’t been keeping up with my blog.  I haven’t posted since I got out of the last long hospital admission I had in October, 2016.  Much of my absence is due to attempts to control my symptoms and possibly get a proper diagnosis, with limited success.  Some of it was just plan “bleh” due to the election that the Republicans stole.  At any rate, I will be writing weekly again.  Publishing early this week because I have more tests for pheochromocytoma again tomorrow.

I made up that word, “mispauperism”.  It means “hatred of the poor”.  I wasn’t able to find out if there is an actual word for this, and I invite any readers to let me know if there is.

There are multiple reasons to be concerned or downright scared of the political climate in this country right now.  To me, it’s different only in that it’s more visible than it’s been in a long time. Things that people used to say and do behind closed doors in public and private offices are now proudly being loudly proclaimed by our illegitimate president, his henchmen, most Republicans, and fascists/white supremacists/Christofascists.

You guys know that, though.  You pay attention.  You speak out and you demonstrate, write your congress people, sign petitions, vote, and so on.

What I want to write about today fits in with the theme of my blog, which is “what it’s like to live in poverty”.    I hesitated about this topic today, because I really don’t want to come down too harshly on anyone on “the left” (being a leftist myself and all) – now, more than ever, is a time for unity.

HOWEVER, having been nearly banned from the Raw Story comments section, and having people jump down my throat on other “left-wing” sites’ comments sections,  I want to address this.

We all know the right hates the poor.  From Libertarians to Republicans, there is a deep-seated mindset that people are poor because we are lazy, stupid, uneducated, and addicts/alcoholics. It’s our fault.  No one should help us because that’s just taking money from hardworking people and giving it to us, so we can buy iPhones, big cars, lobster and steak, and our drugs of choice.

Ok, done with them.  I have written about this extensively in my blog already.

What some of us don’t realize, or won’t admit, is that many on the left hate the poor, too. It seems to be on a continuum, though, because the farther left you go, the more compassion you find towards us.  This is where you find real community organizers, ones who come to our neighborhoods and help us lead our own mass actions and what-not.   They are from all kinds of cultural and racial backgrounds.

Nope, this hatred comes from white liberals and white “intellectuals” – strictly middle to upper middle class white “progressives”.

I am not going to give the standard disclaimer of “not all white people”, because if you are getting all defensive….well, I don’t care, actually.  If you don’t hate the poor then you won’t object to what I am writing.  If you do, you’re probably one of the people I am writing about.  And what I write won’t change your mind.  Also, if you hate the poor, you are not one of my friends or one of my family members, so again, I don’t care.

What got me started with all this was the media and the comments sections categorizing 45 supporters as toothless, uneducated rednecks who were virulently racist/sexist/homophobic/xenophobic and so on.  They think that all 45 supporters are on Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and SSI/SSDI (or “welfare”, as they ignorantly call it, not being aware that there is very little “welfare” as they heard of it – being middle to upper middle class and all, they don’t keep up with those things).

They think that all 45 supporters live in red states, as if not one single person in blue states voted for 45 – or that no one voted for Democrats in red states.  Even if those of us did vote for Hillary and we live in red states, well it’s our fault anyway because there weren’t enough of us.

And the kicker?  The “progressives” opined that every single poor person should lose their healthcare and die, because “they all voted for 45”.  Those inbred, genetically inferior (yes, they really do write that) yahoos who live so far into the country they have to pipe in sunshine – which is paid for by precious folks’ middle to upper middle class tax dollars, or something – are all “typical Trump voters”.

I thought, “Well, ok, these are supposed to be progressives, maybe they just don’t realize who 45 supporters really are – that the people who elected 45 are not the poor.”

So…I went researching.  And I found this:

The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both.

(“The Mythology of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support”, Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight website, 5/3/2016)

I have mentioned this on other blog posts, so it might not be new to many of you.

But, despite this oft-quoted and referenced source, and even some from other sources that say the same thing, the “progressives” didn’t believe it, wouldn’t accept it, and some even accused me of being a 45 supporter!

Even the Occupy Democrats told me to piss off, when I cited this and asked them to please stop publishing memes of hillbillies as the sole supporters of 45, because it wasn’t accurate and it contributed to hostility and fear of poor people at a time when we really need allies.

It defies logic.  Poor people make up 14% of the US population (“Basic Statistics”, Talk Poverty website).  Even if every single poor person voted, they wouldn’t make up even half of 45’s base.  But that assumes that there is no voter suppression, no gerrymandering, no economic barriers to voting, or the sense that no one gives a crap about the poor so why vote?  And it is backed up by research that poor people tend to vote for Democrats, when we do vote (“The Politics of Financial Insecurity”, Pew Research website, 1/8/2015).

So it’s not even statistically possible that the majority of 45 supporters are poor.