Archive for the ‘health’ Category

changes coming

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Seasonal changes, for the most part.

Many of my friends are busily packing for Burning Man. I’m not going this year, and it’s the right decision, and mostly I prefer it to going (this year), but damn, I miss the playa.

Today I experienced a full-on blood sugar crash for what might have been the first time ever. Martin said, when I got home, “Wow! Congratulations on going this long without!” Honestly, I can do without ever experiencing this again. The 25-minute walk that was the beginning part of my after-work commute ended in me entering the T station, shaking. The train came pretty much immediately, and by the time I got out at Davis three stops later, I couldn’t see or think straight. The ten-minute walk from there to my house was unthinkable, so I sat at a cafe and ate a croissant. And then another one, this time filled with sweet cheese for more fat and sugar. Then I walked home, and felt vaguely week by the time I got there.

What the hell? I hadn’t starved myself today, far from it. I was a bit low on carbohydrates, but not that low. But maybe it just wasn’t my day. Twenty minutes ago I dropped a laptop power supply on my toe; my allergies have been acting up; and mere moments ago a tree fell down right outside my window. It would’ve fallen on top of my car, except Martin was borrowing it to transport some heavy paper objects and moved it a few minutes prior.

I’m going to sleep now. Please don’t let the world blow up in the next few hours. And please let me successfully fight off this cold by morning.


Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Life’s been chugging along, and the best I can do sometimes is keep up. In the now-venerable tradition of good-thing, bad-thing, here’s my week and a half, give or take.

  • ++ Birthday! I had one. I went out to dinner with mom and Vlad, and later had a party. It was well attended by lovely people; Mark supplied lights and gorgeous swathes of cloth to drape around things; the food was appreciated; much merriment was had.
  • – Then last Monday I started feeling sick.
  • – Then last Tuesday I came in sick to cover library supervision in the evening (until 9pm), and proceeded to lie on the table floor for most of the time I was in, unable even to watch stupid TV online, much less work.
  • — Then Wednesday I discovered that what I had was strep throat! I don’t remember whether I’d ever had it before; certainly not since I got to the States almost twenty (!!) years ago.
  • + Yet I recognized it for what it must be, went to get myself checked out (thanks for the encouragement, mom), and got
  • +++ penicillin, which is a wonder of (semi-)modern medicine, even though it’s kicking my butt by greatly diminishing my baseline energy level. But hey, it’s only for ten days.
  • – Meanwhile, I missed my weekly playdate/kid-sitting night with four year old Natalie. SO looking forward to seeing her today.
  • ++ On Saturday, I had fantastic dinner with my family, all of them—even brother Zhenya, sisinlaw Jo Ann and nephew Tesher came up for this—as a first, early celebration of my mom’s 70th birthday (coming up in May). I do so like hanging out with them, particularly when it involves food and then sleeping in my own bed.
  • + The last two nights, I had excellent dates, with conversations and food and laughing that left me feeling hale and whole.
  • + Yesterday, I finally finished up the saga of having had to have a tooth extracted a year and a half ago, then get an implant, then get a crown for the implant. Dentistry has been the bain of my didn’t-grow-up-with-fluoride-in-my-water body, and I’m glad this one’s over.
  • ++ Also yesterday, I acquired a physical therapist and a therapy schedule to finally fix a year-and-a-half-old shoulder injury. I like the therapist, and I like that he’s two T stops away from the building where I work. Major win.
  • + I’ve been productive and happy at work (except for that miserable evening with the strep throat). We submitted an NEH grant proposal; I’ve been talking to faculty about teaching with technology; we have several IT and digital library projects going; and as terrifying as it is to essentially be my own boss most days, I’m also learning new stuff at a pace I can feel. Mostly learning about managing time and expectations. Valuable stuff.
  • – Work is also exhausting and often frustrating. Yesterday I shut down my computer after reviewing and commenting on four long library policy documents, and literally couldn’t think for a while, just let myself be on autopilot going home.
  • + Good thing cooking perks me right up.
  • – I’ve also been chronically under-sleeping again, mostly by making bad time-management choices in favor of being with good people.
  • + Good thing I got plenty of sleep while sick with strep throat!
  • + On a different note, I’m participating in a Tufts study on how people manage their personal finances (or at least that’s what they claim the study is about). This got me thinking more deeply about my own personal finances, and once again coming to a conclusion that I can manage them well even if the jam-tomorrow enticements that just keep coming from my ex never materialize, and I have to pay his share of our mutual debts too. I wouldn’t be happy doing it, but not having any choice, find it more pleasant to be sanguine about it. Of course I have a rant about that, but that’s not the point: the point is, this isn’t driving me crazy anymore.
  • +This past weekend, I saw a bunch of old friends and acquaintances from my days of hanging out on the interactive fiction MUD.  I also got to see a screening of the excellent documentary Get Lamp, by Jason Scott of textfiles fame, which (both Get Lamp and textfiles) I’m highly recommending if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • ++ My house and my life are full of people so good in so many ways, it makes me dizzy sometimes.

And these are just the highlights. Life’s full, and mostly good.

and now for something completely different.

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Something Completely Different — SCD — is the name of my house. It’s a good house, with good caring quirky people who have been extremely indulgent of me these past couple of weeks.

Good thing, because I haven’t been well lately. Out of the last week and a half, I’ve spent about four full days in bed, watching Farscape and intermittently crying, hating the world, hating myself and resenting the fact that sometimes I have to talk to human beings.

I’ve written about SAD before, though not at any length. It’s not cool to write about depression, and I mostly don’t have the words to do it right. But here’s my experience of it anyway, in the name of context and better understanding.  Here are some things that happen regularly in the winter.

  • It doesn’t seem to hit until it gets cold.  Then it hits with a vengeance.  A sane person would move somewhere warmer, but my people and my life are here, and I love it here except for the damn SAD.
  • I cry a lot.
  • Sleep is erratic: I stay up too late and get up too early or too late, and my sleep schedule gets all out of whack.  For example, it’s 1am now.
  • Because of this, a 9-5ish work schedule is excruciatingly hard.  I operate at about a third of my usual capacity for weeks on end.
  • Until I get angry enough that something flips and I’m a productive fiend.  There’s no telling how long that will last before I have to build up an anger reserve again. (Gosh, put that way, there must be a better way to flip that switch.)
  • (There are better ways, but their effectiveness is no more predictable than anything else during the cold season.)
  • Mood shifts are unpredictable.  My arsenal of coping strategies for this is impressive.
  • I get even more down on myself than I usually am.
  • Accomplishments feel hollow unless I work very hard to make my brain think (but not really believe) otherwise.
  • Good, positive things that people say to me take about five times more effort than usual to sustain in my mind without perverting them somehow.  “She didn’t really mean that.  He doesn’t really think that.”
  • I feel helpless.
  • I eat erratically, which in itself affects my mood.  That’s a nasty feedback loop.
  • It’s even more effort than usual to drink enough water.
  • Everything is more effort than usual.
  • I get lonely but can stand to spend only limited time with large groups of people, even people I adore.  Cravings for one-on-one company are overwhelming, so I sequester myself in order to not become a barnacle to my closest people.
  • Accepting genuine offers of help is nearly impossible, and the need to respond to them often reduces me to tears.  Of course, I also crave the offers of help.
  • Everything takes more energy.  Everything.  Brushing my teeth, setting down the computer, reading a book, getting enthused about food, everything.

I could go on.

I’m still functional, still me, still capable of surviving — at least I don’t battle suicidal ideation these days.  But it’s a nasty, debilitating, unpredictable depression, and I’m tired of it.

Still, life goes on, right?  Right.  It’s been intercession for a week now, with a few days to go, and the days that I haven’t spent in bed have been full.  I’ve attended parties, gone through all my clothing and the stuff in storage boxes, reduced the amount of stuff I possess again, reviewed three conference paper proposals, put my dissertation back up online and tweaked it to update the logistical bits, backed up all my data, hosted locally *and* remotely, spent some quality time with friends and beloveds.

The only thing left on my to-do list is this grant proposal that I’m supposed to start writing before the end of break.  Maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow morning and actually have three and a half days of true vacation without any obligations beyond the familial.  Maybe I won’t get to it at all, and feel bad.  The part about feeling bad never goes away.

So I’m exhausted.

Depression is real.  Seasonal depression is particularly hard to deal with because, though it may be finite, it’s also completely unpredictable… like the weather, I suppose.

Life goes on, and we all go on, but some of us are craving sunlight and warmth a little more than others.  Probably more than is reasonable.  If you don’t, and you have the opportunity to be someone’s ray of sunshine, please do.  ‘Tis the brutal season.

healthcare, now

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I have NO time to write this, so it’s short. Here’s part of an email from Obama’s PR people I got today:

Last week, Republican Senator Jim DeMint made it pretty clear why the opponents of health care reform are fighting so hard. As he told a special interest attack group, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” Here’s how the President responded:

“Think about that. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America’s families, breaking America’s businesses and breaking America’s economy. And we can’t afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time, not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake.”

With Congress only days away from finalizing their plans for reform, it’s time to stand up with the President and fight back against this disastrous brand of old-style politics. So we need as many people as possible to publicly support the President’s principles for health care reform and call on Congress to act.

Please watch a 1m22s video of Obama’s response here, and if you wish, declare your support by filling out the form that only asks for your name, email address and ZIP code (presumably so that they can pass this on to your congresspeople).

Do it. It’s a tiny thing, but Obama’s campaign was one of many significant recent events that prove the power of social media and grassroots activism. Do it, please. We need different healthcare, and even if what he’s proposing won’t work, it’ll be something new to try. What we have isn’t just “not working,” it’s appalling. Please spend the four minutes on this.

EDIT: OK, so it takes you to a donation form. I should’ve checked before writing this. You don’t have to donate; your support will still be registered.

National health care and how we elect people

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

This has been sitting in my blog as a draft for a couple of weeks. It’ll be old news by now, but healthcare is a long-range political issue, and Lawrence Lessig and Joe Trippi‘s latest project Change Congress is still pursuing it, and I think it’s worth a read.

In short: Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson opposes to Obama’s health care reform work. Obama is all, hey, we got a broken system. Maybe we should rethink children’s health insurance and also how completely unaffordable COBRA is and what we can do about it, and, you know. Health. It’s one of those most precious resources.

And Nelson is all, Obama is trying to hurt private health insurers by making health insurance public! Socialized medicine! What next, THE FROG PLAGUE?

…Huh. What do you know, Nelson has received quite a bit of fundraising money from private health insurance companies. The article I link to here has Nelson attacking back, but he doesn’t seem to refute the donations.

Healthcare is a tricky and complex issue, and I’ve got no rosy sunglasses on about socialized healthcare. But this isn’t about public health insurance, it’s about elections. Frankly, anyone dismissing an organization run by Lessig and Trippi as a “special interest group” running “a fundraising gimmick” is automatically suspect in my book. And the vehemence of Nelson’s language combined with his considerable extremely-special-interest funding makes me want to go march somewhere and put flowers in these people’s fountain pens. It wouldn’t help, though.

So, how about changing election rules? How about entirely publicly funded election campaigns? Can you imagine how things might go when advertising time is roughly equal and people have to really think before they hurl insults at each other? What if no special interests got to financially contribute to a campaign? Wouldn’t that be nice? I think that’d be nice.

(Edited Friday 12 June to add this update from Lessig on the Nelson thing.)

moods, reflections, re-collection

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

S.A.D. is kicking my ass this year, but this doesn’t come close to last year’s suck. Of course, I’m also not in crisis mode this winter, but there’s still a lot going on, and it’s good and bad and hard to keep up with, and I’m swimming more than sinking, and that feels good.

Last winter was easily the worst time I’ve yet spent on this planet, but it taught me a lot about my own strengths, and these days I’m remembering the lessons and putting them into practice in completely different contexts. That also feels good.

Today I was… moody; let’s say, it wasn’t full-blown SAD crashing down on me like a storm cloud, there were just things that kept throwing me off-balance. I made it mostly a good day, but couldn’t stop the wild swinging until I started cooking. Only a few minutes into it I felt this weight that I hadn’t even known was there fall away. Happy conclusion, or re-learning, or what have you: cooking is not something I indulge myself in and carve out time for here and there. It’s nothing short of medicine. Remarkable, really.

drugs for the competent

Friday, December 12th, 2008

A bunch of scientists have written a commentary in Nature arguing that mentally competent adults should be able to use what have been referred to “brain doping” drugs (Adderall, Ritalin, etc) at will, for cognitive enhancement. The idea is responsible use, of course, and of course I’m for it in theory. (For me this falls into the same category as my firm pro-choice stand: anyone who can soundly judge what they’re doing should be able to do what they consider needful or desired with their own body. And face all consequences arising from their decisions.)

Three things worry me. First, where’s the line of mental competency? This isn’t a new question, and I don’t pretend to have an answer, but it’s relevant here. Second, even assuming competency, what about sound judgment? (Ah, but here’s where their responsibility begins, and nobody should stand in their way.) And connectedly, what about physical addiction to stimulants of various sorts? This ties into both competency and sound judgment. But also, successful navigation of the addiction bit heavily depends on education, and that’s what I see as lacking.

So, we need, must have education on this topic that goes along with the freedom to experiment with one’s own brain and body chemistry. And allowing people to do so at will involves implicit acceptance of some incidence of drug addiction. But just as alcoholism is no reason to reinstate Prohibition, addiction to drugs — prescription and otherwise — is no reason to restrict those drugs.

Of course, there are drugs whose addictiveness is so overwhelming that I wouldn’t particularly want those available without a prescription. But, having seen people around me take Adderall and the like for some years, some of them getting addicted, some — not, I think cognitive-enhancing drugs aren’t physically addictive enough to worry. We just need to make sure to get information to people, enough of it that they can make their own informed decisions.

(Edited to add: But I do wish people would stop calling them brain doping drugs. That puts a derisive spin on what isn’t an inherently bad practice.)

why technology is awesome, flu season edition.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

“We’ve found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in your state up to two weeks faster than traditional flu surveillance systems.”

Once again I fall a little bit more in love with the 21st century.

of dust and sneezing

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

After an almost three-week absence, I have not quite gotten my room back to an acceptable allergen level. This is a daily challenge even normally, no surprise considering I live with five cats and a dog. So the rest that my immune system had gotten and the full frontal assault upon my return from the desert to the humid state, and we’ve got fun times.

Today my Burner campmates and I, along with some hundreds of others, unloaded the two 53-foot containers whose rental our fearless container leader Cris Wagner organizes every year. They get loaded up with stuff people are taking to the playa two weeks before Burning Man, and unloaded two weeks after the event.

Everything comes back covered with the tenacious, alkaline playa dust, of course. I now have several bins of stuff to de-dust, launder and re-organize, plus a tent and an aerobed; I hope to deal with most of this tomorrow. Ah, the bliss of weekends when I can dedicate so many hours to a project.

On Monday 25 August, I drove the last westbound leg of my road trip, and entered Black Rock City, NV (just northeast of here, in the big white Black Rock desert). I drove in in a dust storm several hours long. It took me an hour or so to get from the ticket-check gates to the greeters’ station, and a good couple of hours more to get to my camp – visibility was that bad, and even though there was an endless caravan of arriving Burners all going 5mph or less, at some point everyone just stopped, got out of their vehicles and hung out for a while. Note to self: do not pack goggles on the Burning Truck. Seriously, bring them with.

I got to camp caked in dust, with my eyes burning and happy as happy could be. Hello, playa, I’d missed you.

The rest of the week proceeded to be gorgeous – only reasonably hot desert days and holy-gods-warm nights when I don’t think it got below 60 – right up until Saturday, when there was another half-a-day-long dust storm. By then I was exhausted and not a little strung out; emotions of all sorts are heightened at Burning Man, and this can be tiring. So I hid from the world for a while with great company of several people in succession. Lucky me – when I returned to Boston, I also returned to most of those people living within a five-mile radius of my house.

some notes on health

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I got hooked on tobacco several years ago. Been quitting it ever since.

It’s easier not to smoke when it’s warm outside. Particularly when it’s warm and humid. And in the past six months I’ve had maybe a dozen cigarettes, if you don’t count the Quebec trip where I slipped and had, like, five. But sometimes it’s really damn hard. I didn’t know the meaning of addiction before tobacco. It’s been particularly difficult to stay away lately, and I don’t even know why.

Tonight I spent half an hour looking at anti-smoking ads on YouTube. Suddenly it’s a lot easier to resist.

On a brighter note: those new glasses I got have literally changed the way I look at the world. This happens every time I get new glasses, but it is no less amazing for its frequency. My eyes used to be rather far apart in their sharpness; my right eye had almost perfect vision at one point, while my left eye had deteriorated a lot. Now my right eye has mostly caught up with the left, which – the optometrist said – is actually better for my brain, even though my overall vision is worse. The glasses have restored some fundamental balance, [it feels like] somewhere around my brain stem. All I want to do is look at the world.

I want to be in the world. Perhaps, next time I get a cigarette craving, I’ll go look at more YouTube’d ads.