It’s hot. I’m tired. I’m going back to bed.

Namibia Desert
It feels like I’m slogging through a desert, sometimes. But there’s an oasis in the distance… I think.

It’s a beautiful day. And it’s hot.

I have been getting about 7.5 hours of sleep a night, for the past several days. I’m behind. I didn’t get my nap yesterday, so today it’s time to try again.

I love weekends like this – when I get all my chores done early Saturday, then I have 24 hours to chill. This afternoon, later, I’ll take care of my last few things.

And then supper.

Then bed.

Then back to it.

I’m really proud of myself. I’ve earned a rest. Yesterday, I did something stupid when I was copying files to and from my computer. I got a prompt asking me if I wanted to do something as an “administrator”, and before I stopped to think, I clicked “OK”. And my computer slowed to a grind. I have NO idea what I did, or how it affected my computer, but I thought I was going to have to take it in to get serviced.

And I have no money to get this laptop serviced. I don’t even know a good place to go. I was pretty panicked for most of the day, yesterday, because this is my new, good computer, and I can’t afford to mess it up.

So, I searched around online a little bit, and I found some basic instructions for some things I could do. Run a diagnostic program. Stop some of the processes that start when I turn it on. Defrag. Check the disk. Make sure it doesn’t have too many things running behind the scenes, to slow things down.

I experimented with some things, and I removed a handful of old programs that were just taking up space. Now it’s running much faster. But I’m pretty wiped out from the anxiety and panic and feeling like an idiot.

Now I get to relax. And take a nap.  I feel like I’ve been slogging across the Namibian Desert, in search of an oasis. I’ve also been concerned about work, and I did some research on jobs that might work for me. I found some, but the money’s not as great as I want. I may have to go back to taking the train to a nearby city, if I’m going to earn at the level I want. That could work. It would give me time at the start and end of the day to chill. Read. Blog.

I’ve got some work ideas to “sleep on”. I’m giving a lot of thought to what I want my next job to be. I can’t make the same mistakes I’ve made before, where I described what I’ve always done, rather than what I’ve always wanted to do. I have a lot of good experience, but I tend to not use my imagination in moving to the “next level”.

I hope to change that, this time around.

And I can.

I’m not being rushed, not being pushed, I’ve got some breathing room. And I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary, which means I can then safely make a move without it looking suspect.

I don’t want to be over-cautious, but I don’t want to be stupid about things, either.

So, onward…

Great weekend… and a big week ahead.

Calming it down, one breath at a time
It’s all coming at me pretty fast, but if I keep relaxed and keep breathing, it can all happen. It can all turn out pretty well.

I had a full and productive weekend. I caught up on a number of things I’ve been needing to get done for weeks, now. I also got some things done around my yard that HAD to get done before it rains later this week. I feel pretty good about getting those things done. It was not a small task, but I did it.  Woot.

Some important-but-delayed things I did not get done. But I got enough important things done, that it offsets the disappointment. And it gives me more motivation to get moving on those things I didn’t finish (or even start).

I’ve also been working on my breathing. Focusing on relaxing and feeling where my body is “at” — where I’m tense, where I need to loosen up, where my breath seems to have stopped. I need to keep it moving, not get stuck in fight-flight, which is what happens at times, when I hold my breath unconsciously.

Years ago, I was very intent on working with my breath and getting in touch with my body, so I could more effectively manage stress. It was a regular part of my daily practice, and it did wonders for me. Somehow, I got away from that. I got caught up in everything else, and I was in serious survival mode for several years, while I dealt with creditors and paid down my years-salary-worth-of-debt. I lost sight of the big picture with my approaches, and while some things improved in my life — like my job situation and my perception of myself in the professional world — other parts fell by the wayside.

Including my breathing. I’m working on that again. And swimming is a big part of it — since it involves both movement and breathing. And it’s great exercise. Just great, great exercise.

This week is a pretty big one for me. I have my weekly neuropsych appointment, when I work on problems with making progress and getting things done. I have a whole lot of things I need to get done on a regular basis. I’ve been doing them for years, I just haven’t been doing them as efficiently as I should – and it shows. I may need to take some of them off my to-do list and put them on my ‘would be nice to do’ list… and then not worry about them till later.

One project, in particular, has been drawing a lot of energy off the other projects I really need to do. It’s training materials for people who are in a certain part of the job market and don’t understand how things work.

The thing is, if I start on that, it’s going to be pretty all-consuming. It’s not just some training materials — the whole plan also involves public speaking, public appearances, and a lot of writing and publishing and networking. And I just don’t have time for that, now.

It’s a great prospect for me, and it could bring in a fair amount of money for me, but I have so many other things I want to be working on, I can’t really afford to spend the time on it, to do it full justice.

So, I’m tabling that — putting it on the “back burner” to simmer for a while. I’m really treating that like my backup-plan “B”, in case I lose my job or the 9-to-5 thing doesn’t work out for me. That would be the ideal time to cut this project loose and set it free — when I actually have time to fully devote to it.

I’m in the process of cooking up a number of other projects, many of which I find really inspiring and motivational. So, I need to make room for them, and find where I can fit them, while not burning out. I’ll work through this with my neuropsych this week — and in later weeks, as well.

In addition to that, I’ve got a town meeting this week, when we’ll discuss the fate of a company that wants to expand. I’ve had my ups and downs with the board I belong to — they don’t always seem to respect me, and they sometimes ignore me or talk over me. People in town have laughed at me, when I asked one of my “stupid” questions, which was completely disrespectful (and ill-advised, since the board I’m on makes decisions about what people want to do on their properties, and I’m not the sort of enemy you want to have). I let that go, though, and I continue to serve on the board. It connects me with the larger community, and it also puts me on good terms with the local authorities. It’s a lot easier dealing with the local police, when they run my personal details and realize I’m also an “enforcer” who serves the public good.

I probably would have gotten in more trouble, had the friction not dissipated when the cops realized who I was and what role I play in local government.

Another thing is, I’m seeing my neurologist later this week to talk about the headaches and my other issues. Actually, I’ll be seeing their assistant, as the neuro proper has kind of washed their hands of me. They didn’t find anything on the MRI (even the DTI-MRI) that gave them any clues about what was going on with me, and since they can’t diagnose me with anything, how are they supposed to treat me (and bill the insurance companies)? I feel for them, but I don’t appreciate being pushed aside.

Fortunately, while I was sorting through my stack of insurance statements and various papers and notices, I found a promotional flyer for one of those services that gives you access to second opinions by highly qualified physicians and healthcare experts. I’m going to check in with them, to see if they can help me, because this current neuro approach is not working. I really don’t need to take hours out of my day to drive to an office where I’m just going to be brushed off, and my concerns aren’t going to be taken seriously.

Just as an example, the neuro-in-charge told me that my concerns about falling and having a worse TBI than the one I had before, were unfounded. They told me that concussions are NOT cumulative, which contradicts just about everything I’ve read… and after weeks of consideration, I have a lot of reservations about their abilities and willingness to be of help.

Then again, I do fit the profile of someone in the “miserable minority” — I’m very much like the first individual profiled in that seminal 1996 paper, which touched off a chain-reaction of further studies and diagnostic / treatment approaches to folks with lingering post-concussive symptoms. So, maybe the neuro was referencing that profile.

My own feelings of insult and dismissal aside, the “miserable minority” approach may have done more to perpetuate misery, by steering away from the functional and structural issues that come along with traumatic brain injury, and focusing so deeply on the psychological factors.

I’m not saying psychological factors don’t come into play. I’m saying there’s more to it than that, and it’s my belief — after many, many years of unfruitful and counter-productive therapy approaches, followed by amazingly fantastic progress after far fewer years of basic functional retraining — that a focus on psychology, without addressing the underlying neurology, has done more to perpetuate PCS than anyone would guess.

Of course, people mean well. They’re just misguided. And they’re so caught up in proving that they’re right, and they deserve a place at the rehabilitative table, with all the respect due highly trained professionals, that they “circle the wagons” and get Balkanized — cut off from others, hostile and uncooperative and territorial, and always ready to battle over some piece of territory.

Unfortunately for those of us who need their help, we get sucked into that dynamic, and that’s no good for anyone.

But there it is.

There it is.

Friday is free and clear for me — no meetings, no appointments. I do need to do some shopping this week to pick up some black pants for my business trip next week. I’m going to be presenting at a client conference, and I need some black pants. Or maybe I don’t need to go shopping. I have a couple pairs of black pants I can probably wear. They’re just not as casual as the conference wants us to be. It’s definitely “dress down” — although we still need to present in a professional manner.

I also need to practice my presentation. I’m doing one technical talk that’s only about 10 minutes long, and I’m going to be “on call” to answer questions about the company’s full product line, which is a pretty extensive collection. I just need to  have a quick 2-minute “spiel” I can launch into, for a variety of topics. That’s probably the biggest undertaking of this week, and I’ll be practicing while I’m driving to and from work, as well as to and from my appointments.

Memorizing things used to be easy for me as a kid. I can still memorize things, if I go over them 30+ times. 35 times seems to be the magic number, but I don’t have that kind of time — 35 times for each of the 10 different spiels is 350 separate practice sessions. At 2 minutes apiece, that’s 700 minutes (11.66 hours), minimum. I can break it up, sure, but it’s still a lot of time to spend.

So, again, I’ve got to pick and choose.

And so, I shall.

Onward.

#TBI – more questions, more responses

hand-magnify-brainA few more gleanings from my stats… here’s what people are searching for. Maybe I can provide some insights… I’ll try.

after concussion frontal felt like something split

Concussion is a tricky thing. It affects everyone differently, and this is one of the ways it can be sensed. For years after my last mild TBI, I felt like my brain was not communicating properly with itself. And that caused a huge amount of stress for me. I also have a friend who was dropped on their head as a baby. They have had a neuropsychological assessment, when they were told that the left side of their brain was not communicating properly with the right side, and they have a lot of trouble reading and comprehending. They also become angry and rigid very quickly, and it’s like you can actually seeing one side of them not sharing information freely with the other side. Interestingly, they refuse to acknowledge that their issues might be neurological. They are paranoid about the government spying on them, and they are convinced they’re being followed. They grew up in a traumatic environment, and they work in trauma counseling, and everything for them is about trauma. But not about neurology. I often think they could benefit from working with a rehabitative neuropsychologist, but they never want to talk about “brain stuff”.

But back to the stats — that feeling that something is not functioning properly is quite common after concussion / mild TBI. As a matter of fact, things are NOT functioning properly. Here’s a great graphic that shows what the deal is:

neurometabolic-cascade-vulnerability
From Giza and Hovda’s work on the Neurometabolic Cascade of Concussion – click the pic to download the paper

Basically, you’ve got a sudden increase in your brain’s demand for glucose, combined with a sudden decrease in the flow of blood – that’s a pretty significant mismatch, considering that blood is how the brain gets its energy. On top of that, you’ve got a lowered metabolic rate for oxygen — so just when the brain needs more energy to heal, it gets even less energy than it needs. It’s literally not able to function properly to produce the fuel it requires. And that can leave you feeling pretty fogged-up and messed up.

Another thing that can happen, is that your axons can be sheared and twisted. Depending on the injury, axons can be twisted like this:

From Knocking Heads. Brain Damage vs NFL http://neurosciencefundamentals.unsw.wikispaces.net/Knocking+Heads.+Brain+Damage+vs+NFL
From Knocking Heads. Brain Damage vs NFL – click to read the article

That keeps the axons from communicating, and it can even kill them. So, you end up with a “Swiss-cheese” effect, where there are little tiny gaps in the connections in all the networks in your brain.

Or axons can get sheared like this:

axonal shearing
From After Brain Injury: A Guide for Patients and their Families – click to read the guide

And that literally disconnects them from themselves and from everything else.

So, on a microscopic level, stuff is separated and disconnected. And that can leave you feeling separated and disconnected from yourself, as well as everyone else. Your same old processes are not functioning the way they used to, and your personality may change. And the people around you may not recognize “the old you” anymore… and slowly drift away. It can be tough. But it doesn’t always happen that way.

Every brain injury is different. And everyone’s social situation is different. So, you have to just take it as it comes… and understand that A) it takes the brain a while to get back — sometimes several weeks, for it to clear out the gunk… and B) you can rebuild the connections in your brain — that’s what the brain does… constantly… and C) worry is going to make things worse, so just settle in, take good care of yourself, and keep an eye out for things that might get you injured again.

Anatomy of male joint pain in bluelink between fibromyalgia and tbi

I’ve heard there may be a link between these. I’ve heard that there’s a link between PTSD and fibromaylgia. And there’s a link between TBI and PTSD. The three could very well go hand-in-hand.

I know a number of people with “fibro”, including one of my siblings, and they all have a history of trauma. Some of them have histories of car accidents. We’re still learning about fibromyalgia, but if I understand it correctly, it has to do with the brain sending off pain signals in specific parts of the body. Sometimes the signals are debilitating. And the whole deal can be exhausting. It’s a brain thing, so why wouldn’t it be potentially triggered by TBI?

One of my friends with “fibro” suggested (after I told them about my TBI experiences) that they might have had a TBI. Or two. Or three. They’d been rear-ended in traffic a number of times, and they were nearly disabled because of it. After all those years of telling me about their pain in a certain context, suddenly having the TBI information seemed to clarify a lot for them. I lost touch with them, when I moved away, years ago, so I have no idea if anything changed for them. I hope it did.

I’ve had chronic pain issues for many years, and even though I’ve been hypersensitive to touch since I was a little kid, the debilitating pain  started in earnest after a car accident in 1987. Some folks have suggested I might have “fibro”.  I’m not so sure. My pain is pretty much all over, and it can subside and abate for extended periods of time. It also responds well to exercise, which apparently “fibro” does not(?) Also, the crippling fatigue has gotten much, much better over time, and it fluctuates, so I think it’s more related to my mild TBIs than “fibro”. It’s a big old puzzle, that one. I hope they can figure things out before too terribly long.

advantages of bad memory

The pieces are all there. We just have to put them in their places.
The pieces are all there. We just have to put them in their places.

This is one of my favorite subjects, because it’s so close to home. I joke that “the secret to happiness is good health and a bad memory”, but my friends don’t think that’s funny. Too bad for them. I think it’s hilarious. My memory tends to be awful. I forget things I did earlier in the day, I forget what day it is, I forget where I put things, and I forget things I was supposed to do. I have a whole system built up to keep me on track and mitigate the problems of my spotty memory.  It can really be a problem.

On the other hand, forgetting things that are weighing me down provides a much-needed break from the intensity of life.  And it’s been very helpful for me to let old grudges and hurts slip away, as though they never happened. It frees me up to interact with people who may have said or done stupid things in a moment of carelessness or thoughtlessness. Often, they feel bad about it, afterwards, and they’re afraid I’ll hold a grudge.

But I’ve forgotten all about it. And that’s a good thing. It lets us get on with our lives like normal people, instead of a bundle of grudges rolling around, bumping into everyone else’s grudges.

brain mri

I’ve had three of these. No, four. (That memory thing again 😉

I’ve had 2 of them with contrast and 2 without. I’ve gotten sick after 2 of the 4 — but not every time I had contrast. I don’t care for contrast — gadolinium is a heavy metal that has been connected with serious health issues, and I don’t like the feeling of it going into my veins. It makes me feel weird. Uncomfortable.

 

dti-roi-dual
Some of my MRI imaging

I have had a DTI MRI, which was interesting, but it didn’t show nearly as much as I was hoping. Part of that is due to the radiologist. They were doing the bare minimum on the job, and they were probably reading a ton of images, so there was no time to dwell on my own case. I’ve gotten some software that will supposedly let me see my own DTI tractography, but I have yet to learn how to use it. Eventually, I will. Just not today.

My DTI MRI
My DTI MRI

Anyway, that’s it for today.

I’m working from home today — I had a busy weekend, and I’m still wiped out. I have no meetings in the office today, and I think a lot of other folks will be working remotely, as the weather is terrible, and schools may be either delayed or closed. So, I’m taking the space and just kicking back to do my work in peace.

Away from the cubicle.

Away from the crowds.

In the peace and quiet of my own home.

Ahhhhh….

 

DTI went well – now I need to figure out how to look at it

dti-mri-greenI took the afternoon off yesterday to go get my DTI MRI. It went pretty well. I had time in advance to sit and read and hang out… and also rally, because I was incredibly tired.

The test went well – I had imaging in two separate machines, but I didn’t have to get a contrast injection, so that was good. I get sick from the gadolinium, plus it’s nasty radioactive stuff, and I can do without that.

I’m now looking at the images on my computer – and I’m trying to find a DTI viewer that shows the fiber networks that DTI is all about.

That’s the reason this whole thing is happening, and I really need to find some software that will let me do that before the doctors meet with me, just so I have some familiarity with the situation and I’m prepared for whatever they tell me.

Supposedly the viewer that comes with the CD can show it, but I haven’t been able to figure that out. I’ll have to take another crack at it. There must be something there. Or I would think they wouldn’t provide a viewer.

One of the problems is that I have a really old computer. It’s taking forever to just load the images – I left it on overnight and when I got up, it still wasn’t done, so there’s something wrong with that picture. I need a new computer, anyway — one that isn’t Windows XP, which is no longer supported (by pretty much everyone). And now I can find a Windows 7 computer for very low cost. So, that’s my next project. I really need to tool up properly all across the board — and not only for viewing MRI images. For everything.

Onward.

Keeping it fresh

PET-imageI’m up early today, with my head spinning about so many different ideas. It’s good – but it has its drawbacks. I could have used a few more hours of sleep, but I’d rather just get up and take advantage of the time while I can. Having an extra hour at the start of the day gives me a lot more room to move and breathe.

I’m taking a break from my daily workouts, to let my body rest. I’ve had a lot of tightness in my back, shoulders, and hips, thanks to my muscles getting a good workout (and how my posture while I’m driving makes my left leg tighter than the right).  I was supposed to get a massage last night, but my appointment got moved, so I’ll need to figure out another way to loosen things up in the meantime. The pain is pretty intense, at times.

It’s important to break things up and keep things fresh, so that my system doesn’t acclimate to doing things the same way, every single day. I love my routine… but if I never break things up, eventually it doesn’t love me.

I think I’ll go out for a walk in the woods. It’s getting light earlier and earlier, and I have plenty of time for a leisurely hike before I go into the office. It will help me clear my mind and get things straightened out in my thinking. With so much going on in my head, it’s easy to lose track of what’s what. I have a list of all the stuff I need to do… but sometimes it’s easier to just back off and clear my head… then dive back in with a fresh eye.

I’ve got my MRI later today. I’m taking the afternoon off, so I have plenty of time to get there. I often take a wrong turn at the very last minute, making myself late, when I was so, so close… and I’ve given myself enough time to find my way back on track. I’ve studied the map a bunch of different ways, and I’ve calculated the time it will take me to get there.

I’m nervous, because I want it to go right. I want to make sure I don’t twitch and move, like I did on my last MRI, which screwed up one of the main images. That was really disappointing and frustrating, so I need to make sure they know I tend to do that. Ideally, they’d strap my head in place so it can’t move, but I’m not sure they can do that, so… here’s hoping it goes okay. I’ll just keep myself calm, do my deep breathing, and rest.

And all the while, keep myself fresh throughout the day, so I’m not too tired, when I get to the imaging place later this afternoon. I have a lot of miles to cover to get there, and I need to be safe.

Safe. And fresh. And incredibly grateful for this opportunity in front of me.

It’s turning out to be a lovely day. Time for a walk.

Onward.

YES. My DTI MRI is scheduled for next week

dti-mri-yellowAnd here I thought they’d forgotten about me…

But this afternoon, I got a call from the MRI place to schedule my DTI MRI. They can see me next Wednesday afternoon, which is pretty awesome.

DTI MRI shows white matter connections in the brain — all the “cables” that communicate between the different sections, showing how everything is “talking to each other”.

Tomorrow, I have my EEG and autonomic function testing first thing in the morning. I’m not sure what I was thinking, scheduling it for 9:30 a.m. on a workday, when I have to deal with metro area traffic.

But there it is. I’ve got my appointments for tomorrow. And I’m looking forward to actually getting some data about my situation, instead of personal accounts and impressions. I need measurements. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

And after that, I have my neuropsych appointment at noon. There are only four more sessions with them, and it seems strange that after eight years, they’re going away.

But this happens all the time. And after being all torn up over it last weekend, I’m dealing.

Just get on with it.

So, that’s the news. I’m really excited to be getting all this done. It’s going to cost me some more money, but that’s what my flexible spending account is for at work. To offset this cost. So, it will.

Onward.

MRI is done

Not me – but similar

Yesterday was a long friggin’ day. I had my MRI at 7:30 a.m., to get it out of the way. It was fine. It was in one of those mobile units, which I suppose are wonders of modern science, but was still basically an MRI lab in a truck. It was fine. Not exemplary, just fine. The technician doing the work was in a mood, and they were just cranking out patients at a brisk clip. They had a bit of a problem with getting the IV in me, which wasn’t my favorite thing. The other weird thing was, I couldn’t feel the saline they put in, or the contrast agent when it went in. The first time I had it done in 2009, I felt everything. But yesterday I couldn’t feel any of it, past the iv going in.

Odd.

Those kinds of things are exhausting for me, because I have to work really hard to keep still. I tend to twitch and tic involuntarily at times, so I have to really focus on keeping relaxed and still. By the end of the hour, I was beat, and I had some difficulty getting on my feet and walking away. It was a pretty involved brain MRI, and the equipment wasn’t exactly top-notch.

The good thing is, I got a copy of it all right afterwards. How cool is that?! It gives me a chance to study my brain before I go to the doctor. Of course, if I find anything amiss, it could throw me for a loop, but I’d rather be thrown for a loop in the comfort and privacy of my own home, than in a doctor’s office.

Anyway, the MRI hadn’t been read and annotated by someone who knows what they’re looking at, so I didn’t really have any points of comparison to go by.

I did pop the CD in my computer last night and take a look. I found one image that looked like I had a bunch of microbleeds going on. There were all these little clear dark spots speckled throughout my brain. I Googled them and found similar pictures of MRIs of people who had microbleeds. That concerned me a bit. But when I looked at the other images, there was no sign of those same dots, so I’m probably not reading it right.   Also, someone told me back in 2009 that those are actually blood vessels, which makes it good to see them.

It’s always nice to know you’re getting blood to your brain.

So, I have the disk, and I have my 2009 disk. I pulled them up side-by-side yesterday to compare how my brain looks. The problem is, different software is used to view the imagery from different years, so I don’t have a simple point of comparison. Also, the way the files are organized doesn’t make sense in the new one.

Although… I could try copying the files into BOTH software, and look at both years in the same program. I’m not sure that would work, because they appear to be different formats. But that could be confusion on my part.

I hope that works, because I really want to be able to see what’s what.

Just from an initial cursory look, it appears that

A) My pineal cyst looks bigger than last time. I’ll have to wait till the MRI gets read and annotated (and then I’ll request another copy with the radiologist’s notes in it).

B) My brain looks a little smaller than last time. There seems to be more space between my brain tissue and the inside of my skull, and my brain isn’t smushed up against my skull like in 2009. There’s more clearance, and there’s also more definition between the different folds (I think they’re called sulci). I don’t know what that means. I’ve seen pictures of people whose brains have shrunken — a lot — and it’s a little freaky.  On the other hand, if I’m losing certain white matter or grey matter, there may be a way to beef them back up. I know that regular meditation increases gray matter — it’s been documented. So, that’s fairly straightforward, I think. Also, certain types of things will actually shrink your brain — depression and stress, for instance.

Anyway, it’s impossible to say what the deal is with me. I’m not an MD or a radiologist, and who knows what the deal is.

The neuro is supposed to call me with the results, so we’ll see. I have no idea when that will be. I guess no news is good news.

In the meantime, I’ll get my systems together, I’ll spend some time this weekend looking at my MRIs, and I’ll see what I can find about fixing whatever I can.

Oh, as a side note, I am not all that impressed by the quality of the imaging taken in the back of the truck. Maybe it’s the type of MRI I got, but the images are not as clear, they don’t have the same level of detail as the 2009 ones, and some of them look “smudged”. It could be because I may have moved, but there is absolutely no smudging in the 2009 MRI, and I was in worse shape then, than I am now.

At least, I think I was…

Anyway, if I ever get that done again, I’m going to a proper hospital — preferably the one I went to before — to get this done. If I’m going to have heavy metals put into me intravenously, I’d better get some damned good imaging out of it in return.

More to come.

Onward.

Getting my life back

There is more out there waiting…

So, the bulk of the Project From Hell is done, and the remaining pieces are mapped out to be completed in the coming weeks. So, that drama is behind me, more or less. I’m still exhausted — came home from work last night and crawled into bed to sleep for 3 hours… then had to go to bed after eating dinner, watching a movie and running out of steam. My exhaustion wasn’t just work-related. I also had a doctor’s appointment to follow up on some tests I had done over the past months.

Last spring/summer — about a year ago — I had some weird pain that wasn’t going away, so I visited my doctor and they ran some tests. They did some scanning and bloodwork, and they ruled out the cancer they thought had started up with me. The weekend I spent between being told “well it might be cancer”, having my blood taken and then getting results back the following Monday/Tuesday was probably the longest weekend I’ve had in a long time, and as a result of the existential crisis I plunged into, a lot of my outlook about life and work has shifted.

There’s nothing like lying awake in bed at all hours, staring at the ceiling, wondering if the life you’ve led has really been the kind of life you wanted to lead.

Of course, by the middle of the next week, my test results were back, and there was no sign of cancer, but still… Pondering that whole scenario — and wondering if it would even make sense for me to pursue mainstream treatment options at all — and wondering if maybe it would be better to not fight it but deal with it and check out with my own dignity intact (we’re all gonna die sometime, after all) — well, it changed a lot for me.

All of a sudden, I was keenly aware that I am in fact pushing 50, that life isn’t going to go on forever, and I have this one chance to do the things I feel I’m supposed to do… and what the f*ck am I doing?

All of a sudden, the chasing after this-that-and-the-other-thing made a lot less sense, and I decided to shift my attention away from climbing to the top of the corporate heap… and towards just being happy. All of a sudden, the track that I was on made a lot less sense and seemed like it just wasn’t delivering the goods I was looking for. All of a sudden, the things that really matter most to me — keeping this blog going, having a decent marriage, enjoying the house I’ve worked so hard for, and finding things that bring me actual bona-fide enjoyment — those things started to come front and center.

Of course, it didn’t bode well at work. I mean, people there are crazy. Seriously. They seem to use work as a drug to dull their pain — when they’re not drinking heavily or sleeping around or chasing some exotic high that makes them the envy of their professional peers. The Folks In Charge (FICs) are power-tripping yahoos who run around high-fiving each other like they’ve scoring a couple of overtime goals in a hotly contested, tied Olympic ice hockey game.

Dude – seriously? Your kids are the competitive athletes, not you.

Anyway, I guess the organizational changes have thrown middle management into a tizzy, because they’ve all behaving badly. And the worse they act, the more the pressure the folks in the trenches to PERFORM, the more they play their power games where only certain people get certain information, the less engaged I am, the less inclined to become engaged I am, and the more I look beyond the hallowed (and incredibly boring — would a little non-corporate, non-brand-specific artwork kill you?) halls of the WorkPlace for satisfaction and meaning.

Which is probably just as well. Because my devotion to my Work in the first year of my current job was not very balanced and probably not entirely sane. Ask my spouse; they can attest.

Anyway, back to the present…Yesterday, I had a doctor’s appointment to follow up on some testing that was done as a follow-up to last year. I was supposed to go in for testing, six months ago, but the job change threw me off, and I just didn’t go. I also didn’t feel like dealing with doctors and diagnostics and what-not — even if they were worried about me having something serious wrong with me. The change of commute was bad enough, and I figured that if I went in for testing before I was adjusted to the commute and my system had calmed down, they were going to see a bunch of weird spikes in my levels and readings that had more to do with my relatively normal system responding to unusual circumstances, instead of an unusual system operating in relatively normal circumstances.

So, I showed up at the doctor and met with the physicians’ assistant, who is capable and personable and has been more helpful to me than the doctor, proper. We had some good conversations, until we got into the testing talk and I got the lecture about not coming in earlier when they wanted me to, and they started talking about doing more testing. I did consent to getting some more imaging done, which was fine. But when we started talking about the more invasive procedures, I had to stand my ground and dig my heels in.

No way was I going to submit to what they wanted me to do. The last time I had it done, I felt like crap for days after. And I also started seeing articles about false positives and permanent cell damage from those sorts of diagnostics. And I told the PA that I’d done my research and if they wanted to know such-and-such about me, they were going to need to find another way to do it.

And the PA gives me a lecture about how they care for people who are seriously ill with what they would be screening me for, and they don’t have any other viable options available (at their facility), so that’s the best they can do. But it’s better than nothing. Or so they said.

I told them that there had to be a better way to screen for that sort of stuff, and I’d been doing some research and had found some new technologies that were looking promising — and I’d be going down that route, rather than helping their facility recoup their investment on that certain kind of imaging technology.

The PA could at least hear me. It wasn’t like I was afraid to have testing done. That’s not it at all. It’s the kind of testing that they use and make available. It’s the sub-human, degrading, painful, potentially health-damaging approach they take, all the while saying, “It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we have right now.” Bullsh*t. It’s the only set of technology eggs they’ve put in their diagnostic basket, and they’re going to push that “solution” until it finally pays for itself.

Please. As though the scientific research from nearly 100 years that has warned consistently about this certain type of diagnostics didn’t matter… and would in fact save me. Again. Please.

Again, at least the PA could understand where I was coming from, and they didn’t keep pushing me. But they gave me this long, sad look — like they expected me to come down with this condition, and they expected to see me back with them in a matter of years, as I slowly (or quickly) died from this dread disease.

Yeah, okay, whatever. I’ve heard too many stories about “deathly ill” patients outliving their doctors, to lose much sleep over it. Plus, my triglycerides are a whopping 44, my HDL (good) cholesterol is at 85 — way over the 40-60 desired range, and my LDL (bad) cholesterol is 84, which is in the middle of the desired 40-130 range. Overall, my cholesterol is 178, which pleases me. And aside from a couple of red flags about vitamin deficiencies which can be supplemented, my bloodwork looks like it belongs to someone half my age. So there. I’m sure folks will pardon me if I don’t panic 😉

It’s not like I am courting my own demise, but of all the things that can and may “get me”, cancer contracted from their diagnostics is not going to be it. I’m not losing any sleep over this, now that my bloodwork is back and looking good.

Quite the contrary — if anything, the exchange (on top of the past three weeks of unmitigated crunch-time) put me to sleep. I hate feeling like I have to fight with my healthcare provider to just answer basic questions, and it really took a lot out of me. It was all I could do, to keep focused the rest of the day and get my work done. My afternoon was slow and deliberate, then I drove home to crawl into bed and pass out for three hours.

So, now it’s Saturday. The work week is done, I have some chores to do, the weather is beautiful, and I am presented with a number of choices about what to do with myself. I need to get out of this house, for sure — I’ve been stewing in my work frustrations all morning, looking around at different opportunities online, and giving thought to what I’d like to do with myself. I’ve toyed with the idea of going out for a walk in the woods, but I’ve been so bent out of shape about my work situation, that I didn’t relish the thought of spending my time in the woods obsessing about my job, which I would have.

So, I’ve stayed inside and pondered what I want to do, as well as what I can do. I have a hefty mortgage to deal with, so I can’t just take any old thing. And like I’ve been saying, there are things that I’ve been doing for years and years that are no longer easy and enjoyable for me. So much has become a chore, so I’ve been spending some time thinking about what would make me really happy — what would get my life back.

I once worked with someone who believed that we are all working to earn/purchase our freedom. They believed that we come into the world beholden to the world around us, and we have to spend our lives earning our freedom. They did not believe that it came for free, but that it was a struggle for each and everyone of us to get free. Not everyone does, not everyone can. We all do it to the best of our ability and belief. But that was what they believed that we are doing on this earth.

I can’t say that I agree or disagree. I do see some logic to that outlook, and it has certainly seemed to be true for me.

Whatever the facts of the matter, the bottom line is that nobody but me can secure my own happiness and fulfillment. That is my responsibility, and I take it on willingly. Now, in that spirit, I’m going to get on with my day and get out in this beautiful weather. I may obsess over my job situation while I’m walking in the woods, or I may not. But I won’t know till I step out and go out to find out.