The government is voting to kill us

March 15, 2017

On the one hand I don’t want this blog to get too political. On the other hand, how can I not discuss politics when the government is talking about taking healthcare away from millions of people!?

There is a lot I want to say, and I can’t say it all at this moment, but rest assured I will be back to discuss it another day!

For today I want to talk about this feeling that the government is trying to kill us, and how healthy, working people respond to that.

You see, I have said many times that the government is trying to kill us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look at that link above. Many healthy friends with jobs think it’s an exaggeration. Most of them will have health insurance through their employers. It might cost more, but they can make up the difference if they cut back in other areas. They hate it, but it won’t kill them.

And if they did lose their insurance, it would suck, but they could cough up the money for the occasional doctor visit or antibiotic. They would hate it, but it wouldn’t kill them.

Then there are people like me. I’m not nearly as well off as they are, but not as badly off as many of my other friends. Because most of my health conditions are pretty stable. If I miss a medication for a few months my health would decline, but I wouldn’t die immediately. I have savings and supportive parents who can afford to help me to a certain extent. We could find a way to cover my more basic health costs for many years. And maybe I would skip seeing the doctors who didn’t feel entirely necessary (though really, I try not to see doctors unless it’s necessary!) And hopefully, eventually, a new political party in office would fix things. We could cover the gap. Besides, I am likely to have some insurance coverage, even though it would be greatly reduced.

But then there are other friends of mine, not to mention the many strangers I have never met. These are people who do not have safety nets. They are more likely to lose their insurance altogether and they do not have the money to cover the costs. For these people, there will be no way to see a doctor or take a prescription. Even worse, many of them have illnesses that will quickly kill them.

These are limited examples, of course. I’m not getting into the many thousands who will become bankrupt and the many other thousands who will have to quit their jobs due to poor health.

These are horrible circumstances. Any reasonable person is upset by this. And then we remember…. our politicians are the ones who want to do this to us. A handful of people with high salaries and kick-ass health insurance (congresspeople have the best health insurance in the country) are deciding whether people like me will be able to see the doctors we need to see.

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, then you know I was working when I started it. I hated to leave my job, but there was no way I could continue to work. I spent years fighting for the benefits I had paid for and deserved. It was a miserable road and I was horribly sick. Now, finally, my health is improving! It is not perfect by any means, but it’s so much better! I’m even looking for ways to start doing a little bit of paid work. This new health insurance situation could destroy that progress. It could stop me from earning any money at all. It could dash my dreams permanently, by making my health worse in a way I might not be able to recover from.

If that sounds dramatic, good! Because it IS dramatic! We are talking about taking away the ability for people to care for their health.

Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich. But that is what the republicans in this country want. They want to give more money to the rich even if it means killing the poor.

They should be ashamed of themselves. They are voting to kill us.


What is that ghost pain?

March 3, 2017

My physical therapist kept asking “Does anything hurt?” It was a good question, but I had no idea how to answer.

I felt pain that I knew was pain, and then I felt other pain that wasn’t real. It wasn’t in my head, exactly. It was more like my foot had fallen asleep, but instead of pins and needles, it hurt. And that spot on my leg. And my shoulder.

I have had so much pain for so many years, I’m good at ignoring it. Then when someone asks if I’m in pain I need to stop blocking it out, and it comes rushing at me all at once. PAIN!

This took it to a different level. I had acknowledged my pain, but by focusing on every movement, every massage, and trying to determine if it was causing more or less pain, I was too focused. It gave the impression that everything hurt. But there were different kinds of pain, and some were more “real” than others.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. But since I was lying on the massage table for a while, I had plenty of time to think about while I tried to figure out if that pain in my back was real pain or this ghost pain. And did my ankle really hurt, or was that more ghost pain?

I wonder if I’ll ever find a way to explain this to someone who hasn’t experienced it? “You see, there’s real pain, then there’s this shadow of pain that can pop up anywhere….”

Have you experienced what I’m talking about? If so, do you have any idea what it is???


Desperately wanting to get off benefits

February 26, 2017

As I started to write this, it felt incredibly familiar. So I did a quick search and what do you know, I wrote this almost identical post a year ago! So much has changed, and yet so much has stayed the same….

My health has continued to improve. No one is more surprised than me! It’s not like I’m well enough to work a full time job, or even a part time job from home that requires set hours. But I’m doing some part time work from home for myself (doing some consulting) that isn’t paying much yet, but there’s some hope. Still, it’s hard to aim for a very specific amount of money, knowing that I can’t earn “too much” because I’d lose my benefits.

Lately I’ve been more desperate than usual to get off of benefits. I hate the feeling of enforced poverty, and I’m not even poor! The income is way too low, but I have a ton of savings from back when I worked, and by cutting out all of my unnecessary expenses and getting a bit of help from my parents, I’m making it work.

The thing is, I don’t want help from my parents. They’re lovely and I adore them and they never do anything to make me feel bad about needing their help. But I was financially independent the day I graduated college (they paid for it, bless them.) I had a job, an apartment, and savings from all of my previous years of work. They might occasionally give a generous check as a birthday gift, but that was. Now, they pay for my cell phone, pick up groceries for me, and do other little things, in addition to helping out in larger ways. I love them for it. But I hate it.

On top of that, I miss luxuries! I don’t need anything too fancy, but I’d love to go out to dinner without having to worry about it. I want to buy a sweater or two to replace the 5 that are threadbare. I hate that everything I spend beyond my rent is coming out of my savings, with the knowledge that I’ll never be able to replace it. Once I was out of work for a while, and I spent money from my savings. Fine. Because I knew that once I got a job, I’d put money back into my savings accounts, and I did. But this is different. If I stay on this path, I will never again be able to save any money at all. And that sucks so much.

My new consulting business is financial coaching. It’s something I started doing ages ago, back when I had a full time job, but now I’m trying to do more of it. It sucks to advise people on how to build up their savings when I can’t do that for myself. I read books and blogs about effective ways to save, thinking about which principles I’d like to apply myself, and then I remember that I can’t, and I never will.

I feel trapped. And lately I’ve been trying to escape from the cage. But there’s no way out.

I do the math over and over. After all, that’s my thing: calculating money. I figure out how much I would need to earn in order to support myself without Social Security, fuel assistance, food stamps, MassHealth (Medicaid), Medicare, or my new affordable housing situation. I multiply for taxes. I do the math and it feels impossible. But what if….?

And then just as I begin to think it might be worth trying, I remember that even if I can manage to work for myself from home for a while, chances are good that my health will take a dive at some point and I’ll be unable to work again. I could try applying for benefits, but it took over 2 years the first time, and I there’s a good chance the next time I wouldn’t get them at all.

If I’m going to get off benefits now, I have to earn enough that I can save huge amounts every year to defend myself against needing benefits again in the future. I have a lot of savings now, but not enough to last the rest of my life, which could be another 50 or even 60 years. I would be too nervous to go off benefits until I was saving large amounts of money. That would be in addition to the money I’d need to earn to pay my regular bills.

This isn’t impossible. My odds are better than 0. It’s just that right now, at this moment, it doesn’t feel that way at all.

Still, I’m aching to get out of this cage.


I couldn’t remember how I “got better”

February 23, 2017

It’s not like I’m “healthy” by any means. But compared to 5 years ago, I’m a different person.

If you were reading this blog 5 years ago, you know that I was struggling to get through each day. If I went grocery shopping, I’d be so exhausted that I wouldn’t leave the house again for the rest of the day, or the next day either. I’d rest up for 2 days so I could spend an afternoon with my family, then I’d need 2 more days to recover. I didn’t leave the house much, and when I did it was really tough. I researched my health issues and began to find answers. I would read 3 pages in a book, fall asleep, wake up having forgotten what I’d read before, and have to start over. The brain fog made it hard to understand any of the medical concepts and I often had to read the same paragraph 5 times. It took ages to get through one book, but I did it. And I learned from it. And then I started the next book.

So how did I get from there to here? Here, where I can go to the grocery store, read a chapter in a book, and cook a meal all in one day, while still feeling ok. It’s like a miracle!

Someone asked me today about medications I’d taken. We’d just met, but I’m obviously open about my health conditions and she’s in the medical field, so she was curious. But the thing is, I couldn’t remember.

Later, it started coming back to me. The diets. The supplements. She asked about prescriptions, but those weren’t what did it. Except the thyroid medication. I’d forgotten about that. Oh yes, that helped a lot. Getting rid of the daily nausea did wonders. And the supplements, slowly over time, began to work. Of course, I forgot about the sleep apnea diagnosis. First the CPAP machine, then the ASV machine (similar to a CPAP, but with different air flow) did wonders for me.

I guess the brain fog still rears its ugly head, because I honestly could not remember any of that in the moment that she asked. I think every day about how much better I’m doing. I am so happy, grateful, appreciative. There are a million “What ifs” for how I might not have improved. But I did improve. Thank goodness.

So the next time I can’t remember how I did it, I will remember to read this blog. These 5.5 years of writing are like my medical diary. It covers all of the big moments, good and small. Not to mention the hell of dealing with benefits (my food stamps got cut off again last week! For crying out loud! I got them back, but come on….)

The thing is, I couldn’t remember today how I managed to improve. But I didn’t forget that I had. I didn’t forget February 2012 when I first cut out gluten. I didn’t forget falling asleep while I struggled to read a book about hypothyroidism. And I didn’t forget how grateful I am for the improvement.

I remembered the important parts. I blocked out the struggle.


I need help but I’m not helpless

February 13, 2017

Maybe it’s because I have a disability. Maybe it’s because I ask for help. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman. Maybe it’s all 3. Whatever the reason, it’s irritating.

It’s winter in Boston. Winter in Boston means snow on the ground. Not every day, but enough of the time.

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It’s beautiful. It’s picturesque. And it’s a pain in the ass.

I love the snow when I’m indoors, but then I need to go out. It’s slippery, and I’m terrified of falling and further hurting myself. I’m not steady on my feet, so a fall is more likely. I need help shoveling out my car due to my back and wrist pain. Suffice to say, it’s difficult.

Luckily, friends and strangers have been kind over the years, and in my new home, that hasn’t changed. Folks have helped me shovel out my car, and for that I’m grateful.

What I could do without is the “explaining.” Today a neighbor helped to shovel out my car while I cleared the top, which thankfully I’m still able to do. It was really sweet – we’d never even met before. I was really appreciating his efforts. Then he told me to “try moving back a bit, don’t gun it, if you get stuck you’ll want to…” and he proceeded to tell me how to back out of the parking space. I’d already told him I’d grown up here and lived most of my life here while we chatted about Boston winters. So why did he think I couldn’t back out of a parking space in the snow (if you’ve never done it, yes, it’s tricky. But once you’ve done it for 20+ years, you usually know what you’re doing.)

The other day it was someone else telling me how to back out of a space. A couple weeks ago, someone warned me as I got in my car that the roads would be getting slippery soon. What the $%#@?!? I learned to drive in this stuff back in the ’90s! I know how to tell when roads are getting slippery, for crying out loud.

I need help. That’s true. I won’t deny it for a second. But I’m not entirely helpless. There’s a lot I can do and there’s a lot that I know. Driving in the snow is one of those things. So I wish people would stop condescending to me.


Sometimes I just need hugs

January 23, 2017

It’s been an interesting time. Last month I moved to a new apartment in a new town after 10 years in my last apartment and 13 in that neighborhood. I’m meeting new people and getting used to a new way of life. And 2 days ago I went to a massive protest to protect my rights and speak out against those who want to destroy them.

I’m sure I’ll talk about the politics a different day, but today’s post isn’t about that. It’s about needing a hug.

On the weeks I don’t always see friends. When I do, we might give a cursory “hello” hug. This time of year I usually avoid those hugs, since it’s flu season my immune system sucks. But sometimes I just want one. And not a cursory hug. No, I want a REAL hug. The strong kind. The comforting kind.

The protest was emotional. 175,000 people flooding Boston Common. I’ve never seen or experienced anything like it. I hadn’t made plans to meet up with my friends beforehand because they were going to stand and watch the rally, while I was going to be in the accessible seating area. It was a great area, if only my friends had been there. We were going to find a way to meet up before the march began. Unfortunately, the cell phone towers couldn’t handle 175,000 people and the lines went down. I lost my signal for an hour and a half. By the time it came back, the march was starting and it was impossible to reach anyone. I was lonely the entire time. I chatting with folks, because that’s who I am, and it was great to talk to them. I probably wouldn’t have talked to so many strangers if I’d been with my friends. But I needed my friends. I needed to be around people I knew and who knew me. And I needed hugs. Alas, that never worked out.

I went home alone. I hung out with a neighbor who I like, but we’re not at the “comforting hugs” stage of our blooming friendship yet. Since then I have been at home, resting. In a few minutes I’ll leave my apartment for the first time since the march to take my car in for service. I doubt I’ll get a comforting hug there.

It’s not the end of the world. I’ll manage. But sometimes I just need a hug, and this is one of those times. I wish I had a friend or significant other who I could just hold and cuddle with until I felt a little less scared, angry, and bad.

Some of my restriction is me. I should have reached out to friends before the march to make more concrete plans. I should have asked them to join me in the seating area (why didn’t I ask? That’s something to explore another day.) Some of it is my health. I couldn’t go out yesterday. It was Sunday, and a lot of people were out and about, talking about this. I was at home resting. It was needed and it worked. Without that day to rest, I wouldn’t be able to bring my car in for service today. I was online talking to people. That helped. But it wasn’t the same as being with them in person. It was good, just not enough.

Because I still need a hug.


When everything goes wrong

January 17, 2017

Lately I feel like I’ve been working all the time. But I don’t have a job. So what the hell is going on?

I had to sit down and think about it, but I think I’ve figured it out. It’s things like the last 24 hours:

  • I got my new laptop, opened it, started it, and found a problem. After an hour on the phone with tech support I was told the laptop needs to be replaced. But the office that handles that was closed for the holiday, so I had to call back today to arrange that. They put in the order and someone will be in touch with me within 48 hours. So I STILL don’t have a working laptop and I’m STILL spending hours doing things that should take minutes. Like the super-long message I was writing, that was almost done, and that was lost when my laptop crashed for the millionth time a few minutes ago.
  • My new apartment is still a mess. Since I can’t set up my laptop, I might as well put together some of the Ikea furniture. I opened the box last night, make sure I had all the pieces, and reviewed the instructions. Totally doable. Today while I was on hold for the SSA (I’ll get to that in a minute) I figured I might as well put it together. There were 8 steps. After 4 steps I was in pain and was going to take a break, but I was excited to be making progress. Everything else is a mess. I wanted to at least get one thing right! So I did step 5. And then steps 6 and 7. I did half of step 8 when the phone was answered. I spoke to the guy for a while, then returned to the furniture. I just had to put in 3 screws! Yay! Except the last 2 wouldn’t go in. I played around and found the problem: 2 of the holes weren’t drilled right. I can’t finish it. I need to exchange the piece. Ergh!
  • I had a simple question about my social security disability. I didn’t have the number for my new local office so I called the main number. I was on hold for 45 minutes, but at least I was able to almost put together some Ikea furniture in that time. Finally I spoke to someone who couldn’t answer my simple question. He gave me another number. They could definitely help. I was only on hold 5-10 minutes before I spoke to someone who gave me another number. This time I’d get answer. And I actually did. It took well over an hour, but I got an answer to my simple question. Why can’t the SSA’s folks at the main line answer such simple questions? Still, now I have to find a way to get the paperwork done without a reliable computer. Hmm.

No wonder I always feel so busy! I’m trying to move into a new apartment, but I can’t make progress on setting things up. I have digital files scattered everyplace. Things are a mess, and it makes my brain feel messy.

This isn’t so bad. I know it. These are pretty simple problems. A messy home is ok. A lack of computer for 6 weeks sucks, but isn’t the end of the world. Spending hours on the phone (if you include the computer stuff and SSA) to not have my problems fully resolved sucks, but it’s survivable. Still, when I add it all up, it’s no wonder I feel like I have a job, like I’m always working. If only I was getting paid for this “work”!

Now the key is to find ways to relax. To de-stress. Because stress is bad for chronic illness and I’ve been feeling it. I slept a lot last night. Too much. And I woke up tired. This is taking its toll, and I need to maintain my health. I intentionally blocked out 3 days this week as “me” days. Yesterday was the first. I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked (setting up the new laptop was on my list) but I made some progress. Today I made more (even though the furniture wasn’t fully built.) I just have to remember that it’s a process. And then I need to take time to relax.

Which means it’s now time for a hot shower, a long walk, and a good book. Then I’m off to my new mah jong group so I can use my brain in a better way.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed and you need to relax? What are your favorite go-tos?


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