World Mental Health Day

(Just got done writing this one. Heh… sorry, it turned out way longer than I anticipated, but here we go…)

Any time you get on Twitter and scroll through your feed, you see any number of people posting something because it’s a “National (whatever) Day” of some sort. Usually it’s not… but it gives folks a good excuse to post cute pictures of their cat, dog, kid, or whatever – but after seeing several posts and doing a quick google, it turns out today really is World Mental Health Day.

It’s meant to raise awareness, show support for folks getting or needing mental health care, and to also reduce the stigma that’s sometimes involved. Often involved, actually. πŸ˜’ For example, a while back at one of my primary care doctor appointments I was discussing some of the things in my life that were causing me anxiety. My disability, pain, the (then) newly discovered cancer, Mom being sick and now having passed, other close friends dying from cancer, dealing with workers comp, etc… 😟 like I told her – stuff that would probably cause anyone to feel stressed. I was just telling her so she’d have the full story, but she said she could refer me to a counselor if I wanted to talk to someone about it. πŸ‘©πŸ»β€βš•οΈπŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Seemed like a good idea to me. Sometimes just being able to let out your stress or anxiety to someone that’s not involved in your life in any way… it can just take a little bit of the weight off. I saw her like once a month for a few months, and she said she could refer me to their in-house doctor to see if there was any medication that might be able to help. I wasn’t really interested, since I was feeling an appropriate amount of “bleh” in regards to the stuff that was causing it… but I went ahead and took her suggestion.

I now see that doctor about once every six or eight weeks, and I’ve actually got an appointment with him tomorrow where I’ll need to make a decision. πŸ€” Because, despite this feeling like a normal series of doctor visits – just as if I was dealing with a physical health condition – the fact that this doctor gives me medication to help with my anxiety is now being used against me. 😠 And being used against me by the last person that I would expect to further the stigma surrounding mental health care… another doctor. ☹️

And when I say “mental health care” … I don’t even take any type of super serious medication, and I haven’t been diagnosed with any extreme disorders. Until this hiccup happened, I looked at this doctor and my treatment there as “Yeah, I guess it makes me feel a little better maybe… or at least I know it’s not making me feel worse… so I guess I’ll continue going.” Like, in my mind, it was barely a thing, but I continued going since it was now part of my current medical routine.

But when I had to go to the independent medical evaluation for the workers comp system (a week or so before getting that second radioactive iodine dose and scan for my cancer followup) one of the things discussed with that doctor was what medical treatment I was currently getting, and from who. (Regardless if it was related to my WC injury or not, to get a complete picture…) So of course I talked about the cancer doctor and treatment, my WC doctor and treatment, and then my PCP doctor and referral regarding the mental health care.

Now, these exams, they’re initiated by my former employer’s insurer, so of course they’re rarely going to be helpful to my cause. So I expected him to say certain things, but I never expected that being treated by a doctor for occasional anxiety would essentially be “weaponized” and used against me the way that it is. 😟😞 Because this doctor took the names of the two meds I’m prescribed, and picked some of the absolute worst possible reasons that I may be taking them. You know how almost every medication has one “thing” it is known for treating, but then it can also be used for treating a half dozen or more other things?

You could even do this test on yourself. Just grab whatever meds you take, get on WebMD, pick out the most extreme, “worst case scenario” possible uses for each medication, and see how close that sounds – compared to what you’re actually taking them for. 🧐 That’s what this doctor did to me. Taking what is run-of-the-mill, minor anxiety treatment to me, and twisting it into all sorts of implied, speculative, “concerning” mental conditions that could be so severe that they even affect how I interpret / talk about my pain and disability. πŸ˜§πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ˜  Reading those things in his report was honestly shocking. πŸ₯Ί

The funny thing is, for most people… just the pain that I deal with each day, and the sheer amount of things that I can no longer do due to the disability in my left shoulder and arm… just those things alone are enough reason that a person might want to include anxiety treatment in their normal medical routine. And I was doing it mostly because another doctor suggested it, and it sounded like a “might as well” thing, rather than me desperately needingΒ it or seeking it out. And now it has bitten me in the ass. πŸ™„πŸ˜’

Well, maybe it has bitten me in the ass. (Maybe the commission will see right through it, as they should.) I won’t know how his report will affect my worker comp case until the hearing is scheduled and all of the doctors’ information (from both sides) is reviewed. But now I’m stuck, wondering if tomorrow I should let this doctor know that I no longer need his services. πŸ˜ŸπŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ He probably helps me a little bit, but it’s certainly something that I could do away with if it’s going to damage the treatment that I get for my work injury. It’s obviously more important (and logical) for me to want to keep the treatment that keeps my pain to a minimum, which also helps keep my stress and anxiety to a minimum.

Yeah, so anyway, it’s a bit of a clusterfuck… and, unfortunately, anyone that reads my story here… anyone that may have been considering seeing a counselor or psychiatrist for the first time… they’ve now got something to add to their mental “nope” list when it comes to the pros and cons of seeking any type of mental health treatment. πŸ˜’ I don’t take it personally, what the “independent” doctor wrote. I understand that his job is to come up with all of the “worst case scenario” stuff that he can, since my doctors will obviously be talking positively about all of the ways that my current treatment is as effective as the WC situation will allow.

I guess I look at those types of doctors the same way that you might look at public attorneys who are appointed to defend obvious criminals in court. They still have to give that defense their maximum effort, even if it goes against what many people would consider to be “right.” That doctor has chosen that job for reasons only he would know… so I can only hope that sometimes he stops to think about the effect that his actions have on us folks who rely on our WC treatment to keep our pain and lives at least tolerable. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ˜Ÿ

Happy World Mental Health Day 2019. πŸ˜’πŸŽ‰

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See, I’ll Still Ramble…

I had a good day out of the house yesterday. Well, afternoon anyway… did some “chore” running that I had to do, stopped off at a couple thrift stores, and then went out to visit with Dad for an hour or so before heading back home. πŸ™‚ Did quite a bit, relative to the same time several weeks ago, and it didn’t take too much out of me… but I did fall asleep way too damn early yesterday. πŸ™„πŸ˜ It wasn’t that “drained” type of sleep… I just went back to the bedroom early, figuring I’d watch a couple movies before I sacked out, but I ended up actually falling asleep around 7pm. 😴

Woke back up at midnight, watched the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies (since I watched the first one again a couple days ago), then fell asleep near the end of the last one and didn’t wake up until around 10am this morning. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ So it’s 11pm now, I’m in bed, and I’m tired – but not sleepy – so I really have no idea when I’m gonna fall asleep or when I’ll wake up. πŸ€ͺ Luckily the only thing on my agenda tomorrow is going out to see Bri at some point. She’s one of my friends that I didn’t want to see me in as bad of condition as I was for those several weeks, especially considering that she lost her mom to cancer last year. 😟

Two totally different kinds, so any symptoms shouldn’t be compared at all – but I just know that if people saw me during the really bad week or two, they could definitely get the wrong idea about how good or bad I was doing. 😳 But anyway, I’m feeling “better enough” now that I don’t think I come off as “concerning” anymore… at least no more than usual. 😏 So I’m 99% sure I’ll still end up seeing her tomorrow, it’ll probably just be later in the day than I was thinking when I talked to her earlier. She’s great though… and a little frustrated with me at the moment… because like she repeatedly tells me – she’s been through the worst of the worst with her mom, so she doesn’t want me to feel like I have to hide anything from her for her sake. πŸ˜ŠπŸ’•

But my little thrifting trip… it was productive as well. I got a couple shirts, picked up some cheap stereo speakers for Cassi’s receiver that she got, and then found this strange, lone drinking glass with the silhouette of just a woman’s black hair and old-school glasses. 🧐😯 It immediately reminded me of Mom… from a few of her photos when she was really young… and when I showed it to Dad, unprompted, he immediately saw the same thing that I did. 😊 So that was kinda neat, and such a random thing for me to have spotted on a shelf where I normally wouldn’t have even been looking. I’ll have to take a better photo of that glass and then find one or two of the pictures of Mom that it resembles. πŸ™‚

Even more random, Genesee was heading back home from a trip she had taken with her family over the long weekend – and at the same time that I spotted that glass, she sent me a photo of an exit sign that they had just passed under, showing that they were only a couple of miles from the Atlantic City Expressway. 😊🎰 So, yeah… even though I think about her every day, it seems like Mom wanted to make sureΒ that she definitely got our attention that day. πŸ™‚Β And it worked…

Method To My Madness

You may or may not have noticed, but over the past many weeks – especially in the time right before and after my scan – I’ve been posting a lot more entries to the blog than usual. Even if not in quantity, I’ve definitely been ramblingΒ more than I typically do. Now that I’m most of the way past that phase, I’m probably gonna end up slowing a little with my postings – not necessarily on purpose, but because as things start to feel like they’re returning to normal I have a feeling I just won’t feel like I need to post quite as much.

There’s no way to explain to someone who hasn’t gone through it, how it feels to sit with an unspecified amount of cancer in your body, jumping through all of the hoops for the tests, which includes gradually wearing down your energy levels to nothing, and then just sitting there, not knowing, waiting, worrying, hoping, etc. 😟 There isn’t an emotion that you don’t experience, ranging from hoping that it’s completely gone – to hoping that if it isn’t gone, that you at least get an expiration date… just to finally get rid of the uncertaintyΒ more than anything else. 😞 I suppose I can only speak for myself, but I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t feel most of the things / ways that I’ve felt. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

But my way of dealing with all of that (or distracting myself from all of that) was by posting here. Didn’t necessarily want to talk to anyone about it in person, or in any detail or whatever… but also couldn’t just sit here and stay all bottled up about it. So whether my posts had something to do with my medical stuff or not, it’s been a big reason why I’ve been so active lately. Now, I’m not saying that I’m gonna stop blogging… I mean, rambling is sort of my thing, it’s more that I just wanted to come here and finally explain.

Of course it doesn’t help when in the middle of all that, I get new “neck stuff” (unrelated to cancer) to eventually be concerned about. πŸ˜’ It’s hard to stay positive and try to get back to normal when just as you’re finishing up with one thing, something else fairly big comes along right on the tail of the last thing. And that’s what a lot of my postings have been, whether they seem like it or not… trying to find the silver linings, trying to reassure or even convince myself that I have the ability to take the good for what it is, and work around whatever negatives are left after that. (Bleh… that sounds cheezy.)

I’m still not back to normal, but I’m definitely getting there. I found out, thanks to the festival, that even though my energy levels are a whole lot better – there’s still a wall there to be hit, and I still don’t get a sign when I’m approaching it. I’m assuming that’ll just continue to get better though, because it has so far. I’ve barely been doing anything with friends yet, and still haven’t been on Facebook for over a month now… so I’ve still got a few of those types of hurdles to get over, but it’ll all come in time. πŸ™‚ I’m not setting goals or time-frames or anything like that… just trying to always make sure that I keep moving forward with all of it. And as for the stuff that I’ll have to face in the future, whether it is spine related or cancer related (or something as of yet unforeseen), I can’t let it chew up all my thoughts and actions between now and whenever that will be.

So whether it helps me because I’m just getting stuff out, or because it also helps to reinforce the positive thoughts… whatever it is, it’s just what I’ve needed to do during this more-uncertain time in my life. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ But as I continue to get better, it should require less energy (or rambling about it) in order to keep the progress going. I made it up and over the most recent hill, so now I can hopefully start to coast a little more if that’s what I decide to do.

Meh… I could obviously continue with more on this topic, but this basically explains what I wanted to be explained. We’re all works in progress, and I’m no different. And if it’s not one of the issues that I’m currently focused on, there’s always gonna be something else that tries to damage my calm and toss some grenades in my life’s direction. 😟 I’m just hoping that I can take the things that I’ve learned from dealing with the current situations and apply them to those other things when needed. πŸ™‚ Maybe get a little better with the “ups and downs” since we all seem to come with an endless supply.

It Shouldn’t Be This Challenging

Today’s been kind of a flop. I didn’t have anything on the schedule really, but even after not getting much sleep – I still woke up with some motivation to work on one or two of my extra projects around the house. Also, between the lack of sleep and the shitty weather, I knew today wasn’t a car or glasses day either… so I’ve spent most of the day waiting for my upset stomach to go away so I could do a little of the work that I wanted to do without feeling like I was gonna yack. 🀒

It did make for a nice lazy day though, something that I sometimes struggle with allowing. Texted with Dad quite a bit, along with a few other friends, and then finally decided to go in the kitchen to chop up some green peppers to make some tuna salad for sammiches – to hopefully settle my belly, which it did. πŸ™‚ And to be honest, I was glad to just wake up today without my back being screwed up… something that it was showing signs of before I ended up falling asleep early this morning. 😯😬

So it wasn’t really that today was a flop… it was just unremarkable for the most part, so I wasn’t looking at it in the right way. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ˜ And now that I’m feeling better since this afternoon, I know it’ll help my mood to get some more of my “unessential” stuff done before whenever I fall asleep tonight. Normally my lack of productivity would have made me a little twitchy, but I think I’m still riding along on the thyroid med train – still seeming to get back a little more energy with each day that passes. πŸ€’πŸ€žπŸ» I wish I could explain how bad the bad days really were just a few weeks ago, to emphasize how these little improvements are still a big deal.

I think I might go ahead and pull out the 360 cam and charge it up, in case I feel up to shooting any video at the SCF here in a few days. If not that, I plan on taking a lot more regular pictures this year. It’s been a few years since I’ve bothered, especially since last year’s trip was kind of a shit show from the start. πŸ˜’ And with my mood being decent lately (for the most part anyway…) I’m hoping that it’ll also nudge me towards getting interested in my hobbies like video and photography again. 😟

Every now and then Jim will post one of goofy our old videos on Twitter and I’ll come across it, where we were just goofing off and having fun for random Squirtman themed videos, and it makes me realize how long it’s been since I could truly say that I was having fun at anything, or that I was in a good mood for more than a couple hours out of one day. 😞 I’ve gotta start trying to figure out how to get a little more of that back, despite all of the other non-fun stuff I’ll obviously have to be working on (or facing) as well. 🀨 It wasn’t that many years ago that I was a totally different person, and it’d be nice if I could find my way back toward that at least a little bit. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ If my body will just stay physically un-fucked for a while, I might have a shot at it.

Meh… just thinking out loud again I guess…

Focusing On The Positives

Went to my follow-up appointment yesterday with the endocrinologist after my full body scan. I dunno, I guess it was mostly good news, but it wasn’t the “all clear” that of course anyone would prefer to hear. πŸ˜• But honestly, the chances of a doctor saying something like that are probably pretty slim anyway – since the last thing they probably wanna seem like they’re doing is handing out “guarantees” when it comes to something with such serious potential consequences.

The Negative: The scan did show a few tiny areas that lit up, meaning there’s some remaining thyroid cells there – as they had absorbed the iodine radiation and blew their cover during the scan. πŸ”¬πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€βš•οΈΒ Also, there’s no way to determine if those thyroid cells have cancerous cells in them as well… it just confirms that thyroid cells are there, and that we’ll need to periodically keep an eye on them. πŸ˜’

The Positive: The tiny bits that lit up were where they should be, where my thyroid used to be, meaning that none of those cells had migrated to any other locations where they could cause different kinds of trouble. The radiation that made those cells visible to the scan also serves to continue killing and shrinking those cells, so even over the next month or so they should continue to decrease in their already small size.

You can think of the surgery in the same way as someone trying to carve a hunk of fat off the edge of a steak before grilling it. Someone like me, I’d want to get as much of that fat cut off as possible – but at the same time you don’t wanna accidentally cut away good, non-fat, steak meat. 😏 Same thing with my surgery. The surgeon tries to cut away all of the thyroid, but not at the expense of accidentally cutting away non-thyroid meat. 😳 I guess it’s not terribly uncommon for tiny bits to be left behind because of that logic.

It won’t be for quite a while, but next year I’ll have to have an ultrasound of that area, to see if those cells appear to have grown. And since thyroids don’t grow back, I’ll assume that would be a bad thing. So at least the next “next step” isn’t stopping my meds and getting dosed with radiation again. ☒️🀒☒️ That tells me that while there is reason for concern and monitoring, it’s not of the “oh shit” variety where one of the most extreme measures is the first measure taken.

So, like I said, I guess overall it was a good result. I mean, there’s plenty of ways where it obviously could have been worse, but it’s still shitty that my first radiation didn’t kill offΒ all of the thyroid cells – because there’s no way that this won’t be something that floats around in my thoughts more than I’d like it to. πŸ˜’ I guess all my other recent lab numbers are good though, and I still feel like I’m gaining back more energy with each day that passes, so there’s that as well. I just wish that was the only thing that was going on with my neck.

So, yeah… πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

I Have My Reasons

Still hangin’ in there, still waiting through this process… 😟 of which the next step will be Monday, when I’ll get (what should be) my final lab work done before they decide if my levels are where they need to be for the radiation dose the following week. πŸ’‰πŸ˜¬πŸ“‰ I’m more anxious about the test than I am the dose later, simply because there’s a chance my levels won’t be right – which would mean going even longer without taking my thyroid meds, until they are. 😐 Without elaborating, I really, really don’t want to have to do this a day longer than I absolutely have to.

Unless it’s unavoidable I’m pretty much just staying at home and trying not to move around too much, to keep from throwing everything even more out of whack. I can’t fake my way through feeling okay right now, so staying at home lets me feel how I feel, protects me from anything that might make it worse, and protects others from having to see me like this, acting how I actually feel. πŸ₯Ί My “game face” is out of order. (I haven’t even been on Facebook for days and days, and the last time was to just let everyone know I was okay. I really hate how this has been affecting my interactions (or lack thereof) with friends and family.)

And I don’t blame people for being concerned, or not knowing how to react, when the topic is cancer and there’s still more “unknown” than “you’ll be fine” at the moment. But this current craptacular phase of “bleh” isn’t (likely) caused by anything cancer related, but is actually due to not being able to take the thyroid meds that I need. But to everyone else, I’m sure it looks and feels as if cancer is kicking my ass, which leads to all sorts of difficult and crappy emotions.

Toni and Shannon invited me out for a bonfire last night, and in my heart I wanted to go… but I wouldn’t have been able to conceal how I felt, physically or mentally, and I honestly didn’t want to be a buzzkill on their evening – which is what I likely would have been. πŸ˜’ If it turns out that the doctors weren’t able to remove all of the cancer, or if it has spread or changed or anything… that’s when I’d be more willing to let people feel bad for me, to treat me differently, etc. I do feel like hell right now, but I would feel like it would come across as “crying wolf” – since even though I know why I’m sick, that’s not how everyone else is gonna see it. I reassure people that I’ll let them know if there comes a time when they truly shouldΒ be concerned or worried for me, so I hope they know I mean that.

Meh… anyway… see what I mean about my mood? The same way I ramble about it on here now and then, I just didn’t wanna end up doing that to them last night. (Or to anyone, really…) Instead, thanks to Shannon texting me again this morning to let me know, they all had a good evening. Sharing lots of happy memories and stories about Mom, while still commenting on how it doesn’t seem real, how it doesn’t seem fair, and how as we all get older – how it’s getting harder to escape all of this type of bleh. Having me there, in my condition, certainly wouldn’t have helped to change that opinion.

But with any luck I’ll get to be one of those surprise cases in the future, where we’ll all be sitting around together, upset at whatever injustices we’re seeing or experiencing, but then someone will be able to say “But hey, you had cancer and you’re still here and fine now… so there’s always hope…” πŸ™‚πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ™πŸ»

Something Like That

This heatwave that we’re currently going through… it’s a pretty good way to explain how I’ve been feeling over the past few days. Just go outside, walk around your property for about 15 minutes, then stand there a while… and that’s basically how I’ve been feeling each day all day. Again, not bitching, just trying to describe it in a way that people can understand.

Thankfully I’m almost half way through the process, so at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that I can look forward to. No matter what results I get, at least I can get back on my thyroid meds after the scan has been completed. It makes me feel bad for folks who have suffered with thyroid issues all of their lives, because the constant nausea, overheating, and dizziness… it’s no joke. Not thrilled that it has been made crystal clear that this will indeed be a medication that I’ll be taking for the rest of my life though.

I’m a cheap-ass, so I usually wouldn’t do this, but last night I turned the thermostat all the way down to 68 when I went to bed. I knew I’d be sleeping at least part way into the day and the house would heat up quickly, but despite it staying that cool in the house – I woke up early and completely drenched in sweat again. (Also… gross.) That’s why I mention how far along I am in the process… because if I didn’t know that there was an end to this, it would be some scary shit.

I’ve been drinking a lot more water, so the muscle spasms and dehydration hopefully won’t become an issue. It’s pretty shitty though, that the insurance industry has decided that this is an acceptable thing for patients to go through while preparing for their second radiation dosage. The alternative way, staying on your meds and just getting two injections before the scan… that costs several thousand dollars, so I guess you can’t blame them for trying to find somewhere to cut costs in what has likely been a very expensive surgery.

Again though, knowing that this is a temporary thing for me, it really makes me feel for those folks who don’t have insurance at all, and even for the people that do but have a chronic condition that still isn’t covered by their plan for whatever reason. As with most things like this, it’s something that we don’t think much about until it starts to affect us personally. So, yeah… still feeling super awful… and I feel like it’s continuing to slowly get worse, but I’ll be good as long I just keep reminding myself…

“It’s only temporary. It’s the lack of meds, not anything more scary. You’ll have more answers soon. Just (n) more days and this will all be over. Consider yourself blessed that you’ve made it this far. Plenty of other people have it worse than you, and it’s not temporary for them. Yeah, it sucks… but don’t be a pussy. It’s only temporary.” etc…

I’m trying to stay positive. I need to stay positive.