In. Som. Ni. A.

“Hmm. We’re having trouble finding that site.”

Well, then keep trying, bitches! Seriously. Give the damn wifi a minute to hook its ass up to the computer before turning into a big fat quitter. Jeez.

In. Som. Ni. A. That’s what I have. I diagnosed myself. I didn’t even use Dr. Internets, or read Dr. Wikipedia, or anything like that. I just figured it out all by myself because I’m brilliant and have lots of star stickers.

I thought I had cured my In. Som. Ni. A. You can read all about it here if you’re bored or don’t have a sock drawer to arrange or something like that. And while I truly did experience some relief there for a while, and although sleeping with wifi on next to my head is akin to setting off a bullhorn three inches from my ears, I didn’t actually cure anything because the shit came back with a vengeance a couple of years ago and it likes sticking around like a bad rash. It’s like foot fungus. You put on the cream between your toes and a few days later it’s like your feet are normal or something, but really, they aren’t because one day you’ll wake up with a burning fire on your feet and know that the cream did NOTHING.

That’s how the In. Som. Ni. A. is for me. Thought I beat it down. Thought I cured it. Wrong and wrong again. That’s what I get for making assumptions.

Back when I lived in Portland and during the time I had a regular doctor for a decade because I was being the poster child for public healthcare (see that here), I went to her and asked for a sleep test. My best friend suffers from some of the worst sleep apnea in the whole world and she had been listening to me lament my In. Som. Ni. A. for decades, literally. One day after I was complaining in an incoherent rambling manner (kind of like this blog, actually) because I had been without regular sleep for so long, she said, “You need to get a sleep test. What if you have some sleep disease like sleep apnea that can kill you if left untreated?”

This of course scared the crap out of me because I can’t die before my children are grown and really don’t want to die anyway because I’m too young for that shit and who would take care of my animals and I’m digressing, probably because I’m so frickin’ tired. ANYWAY, so I asked my doctor if I could have a sleep test and she laughed at me. Yes, she did. She laughed! She said the sleep testing center told her that if she sent one more person over to have a sleep test for In. Som. Ni. A. they were going to kill her. Well, they didn’t say they would kill her. I actually don’t remember what she said they said they would do to her if she sent another insomniac for a sleep test, but they would do something really, really bad, so she wouldn’t let me go. Bummer.

This is the same doctor who wouldn’t let me have cortisone shots in my frozen shoulder when it was in the freezing stage and I thought maybe I was going to throw up sometimes from the pain in it. She told me she had had two frozen shoulders and they froze, and then they unfroze and so I could just suck it up. I really liked this doctor, but sometimes she was a little bit like Katherine Hepburn or something. I’m not sure why I thought she was like Katherine Hepburn. Maybe she was a little entitled? Maybe she was like someone who had all sorts of people she could order around when her arms didn’t work so it didn’t matter that they didn’t work. I am not like that. I do not have people in my life I can order around when things don’t work. I need them to work so I can do stuff. And sometimes that shoulder would hurt so badly it felt like maybe I would vomit from the pain and I have a VERY high pain threshold, so it’s saying a lot to say it made me nauseated from the pain.

Again, ANYWAY. I don’t know how I ended up here in this story, but I did. The point is that I’m getting tired of being tired all the fucking time. I wonder if some of the many people in my life who have decided they don’t like me and don’t want to know me anymore got together and put a curse on me and gave me In. Som. Ni. A. There are enough of them, I think they could probably put out some really ugly vibes if they wanted to. But at the same time, I also don’t think I’m that important to them in their scheme of things so it’s unlikely, but I do have some sage so maybe I should just burn it anyway in an effort to rid myself of the possible curse. I will try that. I am at the point where I’ll try anything.

I got new health insurance and it’s AWESOME health insurance. I’m not with the same medical group I was with when I had the wonderful public health insurance I used to have. I don’t know if that kind exists anymore. Obamacare and all the insurance companies made sure of that. But I have this paid for health insurance and it’s wonderful and I have a new doctor, so I’m hoping maybe I can beg and they’ll find a cure for my In. Som. Ni. A. that doesn’t involve horrible drugs that make me feel like I’m stuck in slime or make me drive my car to my ex’s house in the middle of the night and climb into bed with him. That happened to me once about 11 years ago. Took this stupid sleeping pill and woke up across town in bed with my ex. Didn’t remember one minute of the experience. I have to AVOID that shit for sure. I don’t want to die, remember?

ANYWAY. Digressions seem to be par for the course in this blog post. The point is that I’m going to try and see if a new doctor has some new ideas. It can’t hurt. I’ll also try the sage burning. And maybe chanting. Or maybe moaning. I could be like Harry in When Harry Met Sally and lie in bed and moan.

Moan.

Moan.

Moan.

I can dream, can’t I?

No, I can’t, because I can’t fucking sleep and you have to be sleeping to dream.

Shit.

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A Dispiriting Decline

When one hits the age where things begin happening to their parents in the decline of old age, it is dispiriting. I see my mother declining and I’m not sure she will last the year. I can’t tell her this. She actually believes she is going to live into her hundreds, as many of our older relatives have. The difference between those long-lived ancestors, though, is that they were very active. My mother is not. She is not active. She has arthritic knees. She sits a lot. She ignores advice that tells her movement is better for arthritis and general well-being. She also has sleep apnea but refuses to wear her sleep apnea machine. She has now had a stroke. They say it came from plaque in her arteries. They want to give her drugs (after scraping the arteries clean), but tell her exercise is best. She won’t exercise. The sleep apnea may also have contributed, but she won’t use the machine. What was the point of going to the sleep clinic and figuring out she has sleep apnea if she won’t use the machine to help the sleep apnea? They said she had some of the worst sleep apnea they had ever seen. Not treating it can cause heart attacks and strokes. Does she want another stroke? Is she trying to kill herself by doing nothing?

I stand aside and watch this decline. It is disheartening, and as I said before, dispiriting. One cannot control another or make them do what they won’t do. I want to scream: Just get up and walk down your driveway, already! (The driveway is a mile long.) Yet this would be futile.

Fue Tile. Futile. Dispiriting. Disheartening. All these magnificent little words. I love the words. I do not love how their meanings affect me.

After I wrote this, I asked my mom directly about not using her sleep apnea equipment. She said that her sleep apnea went away because she slept on her side. I asked my friend Debbie, who is somewhat of an expert on sleep apnea, and she said that if she didn’t have the central system sleep apnea, it is possible that it did go away. I hope this is true. I know my mom did not get told by a physician that it was gone, but perhaps it did. Perhaps it did not cause her stroke.

Bummer

I love eggs. I ate two eggs this morning for breakfast. My body does not love eggs. It actually despises them. It is mad at me for eating the eggs. It is giving me hell for eating the eggs. I should not have eaten the eggs. My body is winning in deciding whether or not I get to eat eggs. Even though I love them, it says I cannot have them or it will rebel and I believe it. So no eggs.

Bummer.

Dear Shaun T

Dear Shaun T,

I can’t say if I’m getting ripped. I look the same to me. (Body dysmorphia, much? Nah, I just can’t tell close up.) First I did your Insanity workout and I truly thought it was IN-sane. Now I’m in the Beta phase of T-25, and all I can say is that it kicks my ass to insanity and beyond. I thought 25 minute workouts would be a cakewalk after Insanity. Hell, most of the time those workouts near the end were a full hour. What I didn’t realize was that all those breaks in Insanity are a Godsend and the lack of breaks in T-25 is cruel and unusual punishment. My forearms are quivering as I write this and sweat is dripping down my ribs. My headband is soaked. I feel like I’ve been beat up a little.

I hope to hell I’m getting fit, that’s all I can say. Not because I want some ripped body everyone will envy, but because I want to be strong to live long for my daughters. Arghhh!

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

This piece was published on Huffington Post.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

I have figured out one possible cure for insomnia.

I started having insomnia in the mid-1990s. Mine is the sort that wakes me up at night, my little brain buzzing like an electrical transmission tower, thoughts of work, thoughts of family, song worms, you name it.

To keep reading, click here.

My Statistically Improbable Pets

I have a little bullseye on my head, up on top where God can see it. It’s so God knows I am here and can send me pets with the rarest disorders so I can care for them. Maybe God knows I will treat them and care for them, and not put them to sleep or ignore their ailments. That has to be the reason. I think statistically I have got to be a the far end of the range, not only for the dogs I have had with rare disorders, but also for the fact that I have had more than one of them.

The first was Autumn. If you are interested, you can read her entire story beginning here. Or you can read an elegy of Autumn, as well as some of my other canine friends (living and dead) here. Autumn had something wrong with her adrenal gland. We didn’t really figure that out completely until years after her death when studies began to link the issues she had with that gland. I suspected it during her life, but we were never able to confirm Cushings, the most likely suspect. She lived with interstitial cystitis, an ailment so rare it wasn’t diagnosed until after I read an article about a human suffering the same condition in a woman’s magazine, mainly because no one even knew what it was. Then she got Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) and everything that goes along with that. It was just one thing after another.

I also had Poppy, a Jack Russell terrier who was allergic to just about everything, but particularly grass seed. I live in the Willamette Valley, the grass seed growing capital of the world, so life was rough for Poppy. She would develop fungal infections and scratch herself silly. I was constantly having to change the round of allergy shots to account for new allergens. It was frustrating and expensive.

Now I have Oliver. I love my little Oliver. It’s a good thing he’s such a funny, dear little angel, otherwise it would be difficult to tolerate the fact that he drinks about a gallon of water a day and subsequently pees as much. He leaves little puddles on top of the grass. He will pee for a full two minutes, which is a LONG time for someone to pee.

Did I mention Oliver weighs 8 pounds? Imagine it:  This tiny sprite of a dog drinks so much water that he can stand and pee for 2 minutes solid. I have no idea where in his body the water fits. His waist isn’t distended, but he’s got to have the stretchiest damn bladder on the planet.

Oliver came to live with us in late May. His previous owner lived on social security and could not find a place he could afford to live that would take pets. He mentioned that Oliver drank a lot. After several visits to the vet, I contacted this man and asked if he knew what was wrong with Oliver. I told him it didn’t matter what it was, I would never get rid of him, but trying to make the determination was killing me financially. He said nothing was wrong, Oliver just drank a lot. I hate to break it to you Guy, but dogs of 8 pounds do not drink a gallon a day and Oliver drinks a gallon a day. I know. I measured.

In any case, we started with all the usual tests, expecting Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) or some bladder ailment. Those tests went nowhere. Then Addision’s. Nowhere. Then Cushings. I KNEW he did not have Cushings. Autumn was cushinoid. Oliver was not cushinoid. For one thing, he’s the pickiest eater in the world. He eats like a teenage girl afraid of getting fat. He turns up his nose at raw turkey. He turns it up at cooked turkey. He turns it up at about 10 brands of the most expensive canned dog food in the world. I have finally gotten him to eat the Steve’s Real Food I feed Ava. It took two months to get him there. What he really wants is food I won’t let my children eat:  potato chips, french fries, junk. Anything junk food, Oliver is all over it. Good, healthy food? No, thanks. He also has beautiful, thick fur. Cushinoid dogs have thin, dry fur that looks awful. They also have sway backs. If anything, Oliver’s back is humped.

The point is that I was spending a fortune and finding nothing wrong with this little guy. We even did a test to see if it was psychosomatic, meaning he was drinking compulsively because of a behavior issue, but that failed as well. You can’t fake urine concentration, and Oliver’s urine would not concentrate.

Then one of the vets described Diabetes Insipidus (water diabetes) and it fit. I knew this was what Oliver had. The specialist I was seeing wanted me to spend a bunch more money that I didn’t have to rule out every other cause, but none of those other causes fit, not even close. And I could not afford it. There is a simple test that can be done for Diabetes Insipidus, but they wouldn’t do it without running through these other damn tests, so I called in the big guns. Ah, not really. I called a friend who is a vet, but doesn’t live near me. He has a vet friend who works near me. He said she would do the test and she did.

In a normal dog, the body has a complex system for balancing the volume and composition of body fluids. The kidneys remove extra body fluids from the bloodstream. These fluids are stored in the bladder as urine. If the fluid regulation system is working properly, the kidneys make less urine to conserve fluid when water intake is decreased or water is lost, for example, through sweating or diarrhea. The kidneys also make less urine at night when the body’s metabolic processes are slower.

To keep the volume and composition of body fluids balanced, the rate of fluid intake is governed by thirst, and the rate of excretion is governed by the production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin. This hormone is made in the hypothalamus, a small gland located in the brain. ADH is stored in the nearby pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream when necessary. When ADH reaches the kidneys, it directs them to concentrate the urine by reabsorbing some of the filtered water to the bloodstream and therefore making less urine. With Diabetes Insipidus, either the hormone isn’t produced (rare) or the kidneys don’t have the receptors to receive the signal from the hormone (really rare). There is a test that can be done where the dog is given reduced amounts of water over time at the same time it is given the hormone. If they have the type where the hormone isn’t produced, there will be improvement and the kidneys will concentrate the urine.

In Oliver, he had improvement, but his urine didn’t concentrate. This baffled me. I’m not a vet, but I understand biologically what is going on. How could he drink and pee less, but his urine still not concentrate? Apparently, there is a combination version that is even rarer than the other two, and it appears from all observation that this is the version Oliver has.  Why, oh why? Oh right. It’s that damn bullseye on my head. So now Oliver has to take medicine, but he also has to keep wearing diapers and we have to be more sure than the average doggy that he has lots of fresh water around him all the time. He can’t go all day like other dogs. He has to have a special waterer in his kennel during the day when we’re gone. He gets up at night to drink and pees in his diaper. Good times.

Ava has an issue too. Hers isn’t rare though, but I had not heard of it. It’s actually quite common in girly dogs. Considering all of the dogs I have ever had except for two have been females, I’m lucky I haven’t gotten it. I get dogs with problems I’m statistically not supposed to encounter and don’t get the problems I statistically should have encountered. Go figure.

Ava’s is kind of funny. It isn’t funny for her, but it is still a funny disorder. Her little vulva gets sore because her chubby legs rub together and cause it to become ouchy. She then licks it which makes it more sore and inflamed. Because it is sore and inflamed., the chubby legs cause more discomfort, which leads to more licking, and on and on. Poor little thing. Her chubby butt causes vulvar inflammation. Who woulda thought?

 

How to Stop Coughing

For those of you who know I am a fan of Vicks™ on the feet, and think that this post is going to reiterate that, think again. I have something better that works like a charm. It seems magic, it works so well. It works for adults as well as children.

A couple of years ago during a particularly bad cold where I could not stop coughing no matter what, I wanted to determine what a cough was exactly so that perhaps I could then figure out how to stop it. I had been coughing for days, couldn’t sleep, and was sick to death of the constant tickling in my throat and ache in my head from coughing and coughing and coughing.

I figured out that a lot of cough is a reflex designed to prevent pulmonary aspiration, promote the movement of cilia in the lungs, and to clear airway debris. The reflex is partially triggered by blood in the throat. The purpose behind plasters (covering the chest or feet with different ingredients) to stop coughs is to pull blood away from the vessels into the throat. The point then, of putting Vicks™ or its equivalent on the chest or feet is to draw blood away from the throat, thereby relieving the cough.

I became a major fan of the Vicks™ approach because it worked so well on my baby daughter, who was age one at the time. I figured this out and was suffering mightily from a cold as well. I had given her the children’s version of cough medicine and it wasn’t working any better than the adult version was working for me. My research also brought up medical study after medical study showing how ineffective cough medicine really is. When I put Vicks on my baby’s feet, her coughs would stop within a minute. It was miraculous. She would be sleeping peacefully within minutes.

Yet the Vicks™ approach did not always work so well for me during a particularly bad cold this fall. I have a friend who complained it did not work for her at all. Lying awake coughing one night, I pondered this. Why would it work so well for small children and not adults? The answer it seemed to me was that the soles of the feet of adults are thicker than those of small children. One part of the Vicks™ on the feet approach that I did not like was that I had to spread it on really thick and cover my feet with socks, otherwise the sheets would get covered in petroleum jelly, the ingredient in Vicks™ that holds it together. I scanned my body, considering all the places where blood vessels would be near the surface that would take blood away from the neck. I realized that the wrists are just about perfect. The veins are right there near the surface of the skin, and wrists are far away from the neck.

I started putting Vicks™ on my wrists. It worked much better than feet. However, there was still the issue of petroleum jelly getting all over everything and leaving an oily residue, even after washing. The ingredients in Vicks are camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus. (Incidentally, I never actually used the Vicks™ brand because it is stupidly expensive and the generic version is exactly the same thing.)

Then one afternoon my teenage daughter pointed out that the ingredients in pain relieving cream (aka BenGay™, Icy Hot™, Mentholatum Deep Heat™, and the lot) are virtually identical, except without the petroleum jelly. We had a couple of tubes of generic pain relieving cream. The next time Milla had a cold, she used this on her wrists and claimed it worked better than anything we had used to date. The ingredients are camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate, which is essentially wintergreen oil. The best part about this stuff is that it is extremely cheap (I paid $2.39 for a 4 ounce tube), and because the veins in the wrist are so close to the surface of the skin, you do not need much to get a result. The cream is not greasy and doesn’t leave any residue on the clothes. Plus the wintergreen smells good. I was also able to purchase a menthol stick designed for sore muscles, which is the best approach of all. Menthol has become our new coughing charm.

My 5-year-old has had a cold for about a week. She sleeps with me and started coughing several nights ago. I keep a stick of menthol rub on the bedside table. She coughs, I rub a small amount on her wrists, the coughing stops in under 20 seconds and she stays asleep for several hours. It’s miraculous. One night, I felt a tickle in my throat that kept on long enough I thought it would erupt in a huge cough. I rubbed on a small amount of menthol. The tickle disappeared. We are both getting sleep, and sleep is the best remedy to cure the cold that causes the cough in the first place.

One small caution: menthol is painful if you get it in your eyes. Be sure to wear long sleeves and cover your wrists after applying so that if your arm is up near your face, you don’t get it in your eyes. I’ve applied it to the inside of the elbow with the same success as the wrists, but with less risk of getting the menthol into the membranes of the eyes.

This works. I can’t recommend it enough. Want to stop a cough? Put menthol on your wrists or anywhere else you see veins near the surface of your skin. It works.

Interestingly, over the summer, we spent a weekend at the coast. I’d had a bit of a niggling cough off and on. Nothing major, but irritating periodically. I did not bring any sort of menthol to the beach with us. Lying there awake with the niggling cough, I considered what else might work. I had read that toothpaste has menthol in it, and it certainly has peppermint oil, which is the original ingredient in menthol. Worn out I figured, why not? I got up, got the travel toothpaste, and smeared some on my wrists. The cough ceased. Both nights we were there it worked. I slept and the cough was never able to really take hold.

One thing to note, if your cough is caused by inflamed lungs, smoking, or something more chronic, this won’t work. This is for the cough that is caused by blood in the blood vessels of the throat. If the cough is caused by something other than blood in the blood vessels in the throat, this is not the remedy.

If you try this, let me know how it worked for you in the comments section. I’m sure others would love to hear of your experience as well.