Thursday, July 13, 2017

Writing, Literature, and Blood

I've been pondering for weeks now. As I continue to struggle with course-work, a full-time job, parenting, and all that comes with those things, I keep asking myself why I am doing this to myself. Particularly now that I know accounting is not where I want to be in the future. I took a quick peek at the requirements for Associate of Arts in English (Teaching)  and most of the credits I have earned so far count towards the degree. It would mean shifting my focus off of mathematics, and on to classes regarding teaching, special education, psychology, and of course Literature. All of which sound right up my alley, and something I would love to work hard at, instead of feeling like I'm banging my head against a wall, trying to learn something that makes a very little sense. It would also put me on track for the Bachelors program at University of Wyoming I plan to pursue once I've obtained the Associates.

I've emailed my advisor, to see what he says and recommends. As someone who enjoys accounting and math, I know he will be sad to lose a student from that field of study. But I am realizing more and more, this pursuit needs to be about what I want to do with my life. I've wanted to be an archaeologist, a geologist, and all kinds of different things. My mainstay has always been writing and story-telling, for as long as I can remember. Teaching young people about the construction of story, and why story is so elemental to human life, is something I can be incredibly passionate about. And as a writer, well that's the benefit, isn't it? As a writer, you can explore whatever research you want to write about, without needing to pursue a degree in that specific field of study. Although that can also happen.

Once I have heard back from my advisor I will make my final decision, although I already know this is the direction my heart wants to go. I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a College level English Teacher.

I may still see about pursuing a Certificate program in Book-keeping, just because it is practical knowledge to have, and a practical fallback if nothing else. But I am at a point, I just don't feel like I have the time to waste on getting a degree in something just for practicality's sake.

In the meantime, research has led me to finally understanding that you can be iron deficient without being anemic. It's actually a very common cause of fatigue and a plethora of other symptoms I deal with, in women of "child-bearing" (the politically correct way of saying women who still menstruate) age. It's generally not diagnosed, because Doctors pull a CBC, which is great for detecting anemia. However, it does not tell you when Ferritin levels are low, which is a separate and less commonly ordered test, and even those within the low-normal range tend to complain of fatigue, lethargy, brittle finger nails, thinning hair, etc. (Hematology is fascinating stuff.) I also found out that the form of iron found in your typical supplement is not easily absorbed by the body. So I have a chelated form of iron supplement on its way, along with a magnesium supplement. I also learned that it is easier for the body to absorb iron from meat than it is from vegetable sources, and that's part of the reason many vegetarians can still suffer iron deficiency even though they may be eating an iron rich diet. Also high saturated fats, coffee, and tea interfere with iron absorption. Though I don't foresee myself giving up my morning cup of coffee anytime soon.

It will take a few months for iron levels to rebuild, but here's hoping that this will help me get some of my energy back. The Prenatal vitamins I have been taking have helped, but only so much, so I am hoping the supplement with higher absorption rate will make the difference. We also have another blood-draw coming up, and I am eager to see if my platelets have gone back down to a normal range, or if they are still ranging high.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pelvic Floor Taboo


I've had an issue on my mind of late. It sort of came up in Yoga, passively, as the instructor tends to incorporate poses which work the pelvic floor muscles. Yes. You're right. The pelvic floor muscles are located between the legs, in the same area as reproductive organs. Which may be why they seem to be taboo to talk about, but I'm not buying it. She mentioned that she had a friend who was very fit, worked her core, etc. but ended up with pelvic prolapse because she worked everything but those muscles.

Pelvic floor disorders are mostly associated with giving birth, and you hear a little bit about working your kegels etc., but health care providers talk very little about how to perform that exercise, nor do they discuss with their patients, that while it can be done discreetly, it can also be stimulating, which is embarrassing for some people. It's looked upon as a kink in general. One only has to Google pelvic floor and kegel exercises, to stumble across any number of devices for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, with one of the big selling points touted as improved orgasms, and many products providing "discreet stimulation."

There is some mention of treating incontinence relating to childbirth but very little. So I looked to the Cleveland and Mayo clinics to see what the medical field recommends. Not that I'm not a little intrigued by a sexual kink. I'm as curious as the next person about having a little fun. But, mostly I'm edging closer to 40, and I have had three children. In addition, I work a sedentary job, and I take an anti-depressant which sometimes seems to have the effect of interfering with body awareness, particularly in intimate areas. I guess what I'm saying is, that while I enjoy having sex, it's not really at the top of my priority list these days.

As I read, I found many mentions of "trauma" to the pelvic region being a culprit for various pelvic floor dysfunctions. I also found that the severity of dysfunction can range from things such as embarrassing incontinence, clear up to something as serious as prolapse which can only be treated through surgery, and the techniques utilized have caused many women problems, particularly with trans-vaginal mesh implants. But, in order to treat and improve things before reaching a severe state, women can do pelvic floor exercises to help avert prolapse, and improve the milder and more embarrassing symptoms of a pelvic floor dysfunction.

My question, as women, why the fuck don't we talk about this?! Is this a new thing? Did we just now discover that these muscles need to be exercised to be kept strong enough to hold our organs in, and allow the internal organs to function normally?

My doctors didn't really talk to me about it after I had children. They told me it was important to do kegel exercises, but never said why. So it was taken in the same context as any other physician that told me I need to exercise. Yeah! Yeah! I know. I'm over-weight and I need to be more active. My heart, blood-pressure, and respiration are fine. So whatever. I've not heard anything on this subject from my mom, or friends. The importance of pelvic floor strength is  pretty much all news to me. I believed the incontinence I deal with was just simply a side effect of giving birth three times, and always thought I just needed to put up and shut up. It turns out, that may not necessarily be the case.

And of course the word "trauma" caught my attention. As they talked about physical trauma to the muscles such as a car accident, childbirth, and/or episiotomies. Well, what about sexual assault, particularly at an early age? Why yes, there is a strong correlation between childhood sexual abuse, other types of sexual assault, and pelvic floor dysfunction. It makes me angry all over again. Why is no one talking about this? We always focus on the mental health issues surrounding sexual assault, but we act like the body comes through the trauma unscathed, and able to heal, to go back to normal. But it doesn't necessarily. Why aren't legislators talking about the long-term physical health impacts, in addition to the mental health portion? Why are we still putting the victim on trial, and telling them they deserve to be left hurting, because of the way they dressed, or what activity they were engaged in?

Oh, and to top it off, it sounds like pelvic floor strength is almost as important to men, as it is to women. Women of course are focused on because of the additional internal reproductive factor, but men run a risk of gastrointestinal issues, with embarrassing side effects, also up to the severity of prolapse. Why is everyone so quiet about this subject?

This is not a kink. This is not about sex (necessarily, though as with any other health issue, it can impact sexual health.) This is not about being lewd, or intentionally vulgar. This is a health issue. Why are we not talking about this?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pictures

It seems my efforts to de-clutter are also going for emotional clutter as well. I brought all of the baby pictures I had with me when I left Tennessee. As part of the final divorce proceeding the judge ordered me to provide an estimate of the cost of reproduction of said photos, and for the ex to pay for the cost, at which time I was to send him the copies, and after 30 days, if the cost of reproduction was not paid, the photos would be considered moot. The funds were never sent, and so the photos were never copied or sent. Pictures including the ex would find their way up to my mom's cabin for safe storage until someday when the children were older, and might want them for themselves.

My mom has had some issues with Rocky Mountain Wood rats, which as it turns out, are more closely related to prairie dogs than rats, but they are highly evolved creatures that can survive almost anything, and can amazingly burrow and chew through all kinds of material. She's been working to exorcise the destructive creatures from the structure, and we think she just about has it done. But she was concerned between the rodents of unusual size, and the repairs needing to be made to the structure, about any kind of damage to the photos, knowing that they are likely the only copies I have. So I brought them home, along with other childhood photos. She still has some albums we will need to sit down together and cull from my childhood, but mainly because she knows that looking through those will be traumatic for both of us, and it is something we will need to do together. I'm thinking after we do, the discards will be fuel for a cleansing fire. But we'll see.

In any case, I've been making an effort to scan in my childhood photos so the kids can see them, and so I can share them with other family members who might not have ever gotten copies of them. And in doing that I had to ponder what the hell to do with the pictures of the ex. So I came up with a solution, finally after all of these years. I created an album on-line, uploaded photos, and sent the links to him and to the children so they can access them anytime they want to. And being that I now have a scanner, I can get it done at no more cost than just my time. I still have a couple of discs to go through and get uploaded eventually, as I have the time and inclination to do so. But now I feel like I can mail the hard copies of the photos to his mom, and not worry about whether or not they'll ever be available to the kids someday. In a digital age, there is just no good reason anymore not to get these to the people who may want them, and to let go of my guardianship of the past.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Disability

I feel absolute relief. I made the call to admissions to find out how my financial aid would be affected by withdrawing from 8 of 12 credit hours this semester, and it is fine, because my course completion rate is on par. I let my mom know I made the decision to withdraw. I know she will be disappointed, but I do hope she will be understanding. For me, it is not as much about admitting defeat as it is being mature enough to recognize my limitations. I explained I would rather focus on and pass two classes than complete and fail three of four, because I cannot keep up with the homework load.

I've never viewed my depression as "severe" enough to be considered a disability. I often find myself frustrated with people who appear to have a higher level of function, and accept the classification and services associated with being legally disabled. But I can definitely look back on my life, and identify many places where depression and anxiety have been absolutely debilitating to me. These last few weeks have been a small example of that. I mentioned the same to my oldest daughter, because she's noticed, and we were talking a little bit about the limitations and expectations of persons with disabilities, particularly in reference to an Autistic young man she knows. We were talking about the need to coach and teach people how to work around and overcome their limitations, while at the same time, as outsiders being understanding of the limitations there aren't ways to overcome or work around.  She said to me, observing on the outside as she has, that I could probably qualify for a disability status. I told her that was not something I really want though. Despite the challenges, I want to live as much of my life as I can, and try to participate in and function in life as normally as possible, despite the dark moments. We talked about the chicken and the egg, with chronic pain exacerbating depression, and chronic pain being a symptom of depression. I think these conversations are helpful, as I know she at least inherited the anxiety I carry, and I hope that it will help her understand herself a little, and to be able to openly discuss mental health issues in general.

So I guess this semester has been valuable for me in that I am able now to recognize, I do have a disability, even if I do not legally or otherwise claim the status of being disabled. Sometimes it does limit and debilitate me. It is not a crutch or an excuse not to participate in life, and I have not, nor will I use it as such. But maybe I can be a little more forgiving of myself for the path I've taken in life, and feeling like I've wasted a lot of time. Maybe I can start accepting that time spent on self-care is not selfish or wasted, but it helps me to cope with the dark moments, so I can participate in and enjoy the larger more positive make up of my life.

I'm ok with my decision to withdraw. It will mean more credit hours taken during regular semesters, and a little extra effort down the road. It may even mean a delayed graduation goal date. But that is ok. I will get this accomplished, in spite of, and maybe in part because of this disability of mine.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Try

Depression is a tricky thing. It causes pain sometimes, and sometimes it's exacerbated by pain, it's an endless cycle. My husband adjusted my back yesterday, and something was extremely out of alignment. As soon as it moved, my mood lifted, my energy surged, and the clouds seemed to roll away. I forget sometimes just how depressing it is to be in chronic pain. I've learned to disconnect from it, to tell myself I can manage, that it's bearable. I push through because I have too much to get done. I often forget to connect the dots, that because I have unlearned how to listen to my body crying uncle, I translate it as emotional pain, and assume body aches are a symptom of the depressive mood, rather than a potential cause. After the adjustment, I went to yoga, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The meditation at the end included a supported spine pose, and I was so grateful for it.

Today I'm frustrated with myself. I'm over a week behind on school work, and it turns out a week is huge for a Summer semester. I may withdraw from my Accounting and pre-calc classes after all, so I can focus on keeping decent grades in the other two classes, and try those again later when I have time to absorb the information, instead of trying to rush through it. I'll talk to admissions about it tomorrow.

The downside of struggling with the depressed state is that I feel I sabotaged myself. I know it wasn't intentional. Apathy is a bitch to fight while you are in the throes of it. But I wish I'd identified the seemingly huge contributing factor much more quickly than I did. Maybe I am demanding too much of myself right now. Maybe there is no shame in admitting partial defeat and scaling back a little. It will mean adjusting my timeline for graduation, but I'm ok with that.

I also applied for a job with a different company. It's as a receptionist, but in a medical environment, and it sounds as if there's much more involved than the mindless answering and directing of calls, and scheduling appointments. The upside would be it puts me closer to home, more central to where the children go to school, and closer to campus. I'm assuming their health insurance would be as good, if not better than my current employment, and insurance is the biggest reason I stay on where I'm at. The down side are the unknowns, meaning I don't know if it would mean a raise in pay, or comparable pay. I certainly hope so, and also I don't know what their flexibility in regards to family might be. I also don't know their view on supporting employees in continuing education. So we'll see. I don't know if I don't try.