My Journey To Health, Doctors 101

Lucy-PsychToday I decided to write doctors 101, which I should probably apologize ahead of time to all my friends who are doctor for having the audacity to write this.

This is going to seem fairly simple to some of you, but for others it will help.  I have found a lot of confusion out there regarding the terms we are going to discuss.

First the MD.  MD stands for medical doctor.  A medical doctor is the one who takes care of you when you’re sick.  At this point in time I have 4 medical doctors.  The first one is my Primary Care Physician, otherwise known as a PCP.  In the past we would use the term family doctor, I have no idea why that changed.  Your PCP takes care of your general health.  A cold, the flu, and your regular aches and pains, blessed is the person who only ever sees a PCP.

We need to take a break hear now and add the PA or The Physician’s Assistant.  A PA can do the things a doctor can do only he does them under the immediate supervision of an MD.  In reality I am not sure how this works in the office.  I, however, see a PA and I have a high respect for him.  He treats me well and thinks of alternatives to regular meds which sometimes really help.

Next you have the specialists.  We are no longer in the days of the Wild West.  Where your town had one doctor and he helped you with your cold and set your broken leg.  After a certain level of treatment your PCP may advise you to see a specialist.  I have three, 1, a podiatrist for my feet, 2 a neurologist for my brain and 3 a psychiatrist for mental health issues.

Now let’s take a look at the PHD.  The PHD is a doctor of philosophy and as many as there are subjects under the sun you can have a PHD.  You can have a PHD in English, Math, Botany, Theology, Religion; Music the list is really endless.  I see one PHD and that is my Psychologist.

As mentioned above a Psychiatrist is an MD and he is.  A psychiatrist takes care of the medical side of emotional and mental illness.  He supplies the medications you may need such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.  I have found that there are two types of Physiatrists.  The first you see for a very brief time, they quickly checks your meds against how you are feeling and alter them accordingly.  These psychiatrists are usually the ones you will find that are covered under your insurance.  The second talks to you for a longer period of time and then alters the meds.  These you will rarely find covered by insurance.

A psychologist is different as he does not provide you with medication but instead helps you with what is now popularly come to be known as Talk Therapy.  Talk Therapy is the type that you see depicted in cartoons where the patient is laying on a couch and the doctor is sitting there taking notes.  This differs from Peanuts where Lucy has a psychiatric both and she sits on one side and Charlie Brown sits on the other.  As Lucy only charges five cents I doubt this is much of an issue.

Talk Therapy, in reality. takes place in a pretty relaxing atmosphere.  There can be a couch present but mostly people sit up and talk.  Comfortable chairs are usually available though I can think of one instance where the office was pretty Zen oriented and had two chairs and wall hangings.

The PHD is going to set up his or her office according to their personal choices as well as the type of therapy that they do.  There are many types of talk therapy.  One where you do just talk and the PHD takes notes and listens rarely giving advice, but giving you the opportunity to figure stuff out on your own.

The other will be more active in the conversation and will challenge you while you are speaking as well as help you set goals.  This is the type of psychologist I see.  He was the doctor that had me come off sugar identifying it as an addiction.

Here is the key with all doctors, both MDs and PHDs.  YOU ARE THE BOSS.  If one of your docs isn’t treating you well, go to another.  This is especially true with the psychologist and psychiatrist.  The guy that fixes your leg can be an ass personality wise, but if he is an amazing surgeon, keep him.  You only deal with him for a short time.

With a psychologist or psychiatrist it is very different.  This becomes a real relationship in your life.  You have to like someone that you have to trust with all your deepest feelings and secrets.  Some will even allow a phone interview before you come in for an appointment just to see if the two of you are a good match.  This relationship may be very short term or long term, but you gotta like and trust the guy, if you don’t, or the relationship goes south, fire him or her.  It is your right to do so.

With talk therapy there are also therapists.  These mostly have master’s degrees.  My first experience was with a therapist and he was brilliant.  He gave me two pieces of advice that I now pass on to you.  The first, is a therapist is not a paid for friend.  You are there to accomplish something together then part company, this is not a person who you hang out with.  The second is, if your therapist and you decide that you are to do something, do it.  If you don’t or you don’t have a very good reason for not doing the work, you are wasting the therapist’s time and your time as well as your money.

One final thought.  Medical Doctors and Doctors of Philosophy work equally hard at earning their degrees.  They, as I understand, get there through different processes, but the time and energy spent are probably about equal.  I want to take a second to pause and salute those who have made this achievement in their lives.  Many of them gave as the benefits that we have today in the 21st century, and those that follow will play a key roll in building a better tomorrow.

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My Journey To Health, A Trip to the Doctor’s

frodo-and-samI had a trip to the doctor’s yesterday and it wasn’t very good.

I have said more than once that I have several issues with my feet.  Yesterday I went to a New Doctor’s office to have some test run, specifically an EMG.  EMG stands for  Electromyography the test involves receiving several small electric shock to your muscles.  They even you use small needles in the test as well.  It is more uncomfortable than painful.  An EMG is a diagnostic procedure to assess the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them (motor neurons).  Special thanks to the Mayo Clinic.

The test showed that there were definite problems with my feet and legs and what those problems may be, but not the cause and so there were really no answers.  The test can show the cause, but not with me.  This was not encouraging at all.

The doctor did uncover some definite issues.  My feet have the same tremors that my hands do.  On my left foot, when the electricity ran through the nerves my big toe would react.  On my right foot nothing happened at all.  The rest of the test results appeared on a graph sheet which I did not see and couldn’t have interpreted if I had.  The end result was still no answers.

There were a lot of guesses.  Maybe it’s my vascular system, but it is more likely to be a neurological problem.  It was my neurologist that sent me for the test.  I didn’t find this encouraging.  The worst part was that it was time for more testing, at another hospital with another doctor using different machines.  The depression which had come back proceeded to get worse.

It is extremely hard to hold on to hope with stuff like this, so much of my health issues seem to be unsolvable.  The anti-depressants don’t really work.  The anti-tremor medication works until I get a little nervous and then just stops.  At church on Sunday I was in a kneeling position with my head bowed and my jaw started to shake like there was an earth quake in my mouth.  But no one knows why.  This is more of a report than anything else but I don’t want to leave you with all bad stuff so let me close with these words from Samwise to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.

“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.”

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My Journey To Health, Full on Depression

male-depressionFull on depression sucks.

Day one.

I am making the effort to wrote to you today during an almost full on depression episode.  I am also dropping, so how long this is will be is a matter of how long I can type.

Right now I am on the verge of tears and tearing someone apart.  I am extremely sleepy for no reason and the day has all in all been good.  There was nothing to start this downward spiral.

I can’t call anyone.  People already know I’m sick.  They don’t reach out to me so how can I believe they want to hear from me.  I am fat useless and a waste of breath on this planet and everyone would be better if I wasn’t on it.

I don’t want to continue the journey.  I don’t want to give up sugar.  I like sugar.  Sugar is the only real friend I have.  There are small pies available at Giant, right now, I can eat ten of those.  Why am I trying so hard?  It will never work.

People say they love me but they don’t mean it.  More than anything I want my phone to ring and it won’t, because no one knows I exist.

Maybe I should go to the hospital.  But I have been there.  It’s awful.  The beds literally collapse on you.  You aren’t in a ward with just depressed people, you are in a ward full of all kinds of mentally ill individuals and sometimes they don’t stop screaming.  They push pills at you, but I honestly don’t want pills, I just want someone to listen to me.

I don’t know why I am like this.  I hate myself and I am an embarrassment to my family.  I’m 54 I can’t work, because if I get the least bit of criticism these feelings happen or I have a worse breakdown.  As soon as I start I know they want to fire me,  Now I pee myself with regularity because of meds and I poop myself because of a generic thing that I cannot control.  Who would put with someone having to go home everyday.

I wish I were dead.  I really do.  Life is just too damn hard and the burden too heavy.  No one cares at all.  I will always be alone.  I will always be alone.

Day Two

I am still in a bad place though I feel more numb with hopeless thrown in.  I went to church but I had to force myself out of bed and go very unwillingly.  It was good to see people but it hurt as well.

I’m tired, very tired.  I shouldn’t be I slept well.  But all I want to do is sleep.  There is anger burning underneath everything right now.  It’s under control but it doesn’t he;p knowing that I really want to burst out.

People need to stay away or if they come near there is every chance I will take a bight out of them.  I want to fight something but there is nothing to fight.  It’s not like it was yesterday, but it is very bad, maybe worse because it’s boiling under the surface and if I let it go, I will hurt people.

I know this column reads more like a journal entry.  I didn’t want to give you facts or ideas, I wanted to give you experience while it is happening.  I seriously, right now, do not know what the end of this story will be.  If you want to hear about when this passes leave a comment in the space below.  I won’t write about it otherwise.  This could take a week or more to end.  That is really the hard part, never knowing when it will end or worse yet what shape it will take tomorrow if it doesn’t end.

(This was written during an attack of a full on depressive episode and the following day.  This is as far as I could write.  I wrote this so you can see what is in the mind of at least some depressed people.  The loneliness hurts the worst.  Don’t let your friends go through this if you can help.  Help.  Just a hug can help)

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My Journey To Health, Depression

depression-in-menDepression is not something you just get over.  Since being diagnosed with severe chronic depression almost 20 year ago, I have heard every possible good natured “cure” imaginable.  “You can just get over it.”  It’s just feelings.”  “Have you prayed about it”.  “Other people have it worse than you do.”  “Be a man.”  “Read your Bible more.”  The list does go on and some of them even work for a short period of time, but not for long.

First the disclaimer; I am not writing this for me.  I am not looking for attention of any kind.  It seems in my experience that people who don’t deal with severe depression really have no idea what their friends or family may be going through.  As self serving as some may think this is, my hope is, that anyone who reads this helps others with a gentler heart and a patient spirit.

Right now my own form of depression is light.  So I am going to explain to you in my own way what the worst feels like.  Imagine that all of your friends died in a car accident and your house burnt down the same day with all of your family in it, then times that feeling by ten and you will have an idea.

Severe depression incapacitates you.  I literally, at 370 pounds, get myself into the fetal position and stay there for hours.  You lay there and you hope that something will happen that someone remembers you’re alive. That someone cares that you’re alive. That somehow you will find hope, but it doesn’t come.

And it hits out of the blue from nothingness.  I can be at one end of an aisle in a store and more or less ok, and by the time I reach the other end it’s like lightning has struck.  I have to fight to keep myself together.  I have to get out as soon as possible.

Some of you may be asking “what about medications?”  There are a lot of medications out there, and most of the time a qualified doctor has to mix and mingle them and experiment with them until they find the right combination that helps you.  It is hit or miss.  I have been experimented on for almost 20 years and the right combination has not been found.  What I do know is that if I stop them things will get a lot worse.

There really is no science to anti-depressant medications.  Yes someone cooks them up in a lab and they are supposed to work.  You may have heard that anti-depressants raise the serotonin levels in your body.  The problem is that this is more theory than fact.  There is no test to check serotonin levels and therefore no way to know, for sure, what is happening.  No one taking anti-depressants get any blood work for them, this is why it is a hit or miss game.  Unfortunately in this game instead of being the player you are more like the ball,

Briefly let’s discuss side effects I can only speak on some of these from a male point of view.  Some side effects such as drowsiness or an inability to concentrate can be overcome with practice, but there are others.  For men the inability to ejaculate is a side effect of one medication, erectile dysfunction is a side effect from another.  The worst one is after you take the pill for a while your penis retracts into your skin and you can’t pull it out.  It also slows your urine down to a trickle making you wet yourself at least once a day.  These are known side effects of different medications I won’t name them as I do not want a law suit.

Medications are good if the right combination is found and the side effects are minimal. The problem is the amount of time it takes.  I had one psychiatrist, after treating me for a year, and nothing working, tell me I had better get used to what I was as there was no more he could do.  I fired him, and now am being experimented on by someone else.

Those of you reading this that do not deal with depression but have loved ones that do, what can you do?  Call them regularly, visit regularly.  Don’t tell them to call you.  When depression is really bad you have no good feelings about yourself.  You believe you are a burden on the world and you won’t ask for help.  You believe you don’t deserve it.  You believe you are not worth it.

When I am on my way down, I can ask for help, when I hit bottom I can’t.

Now this is not to say to feel sorry for the person.  Let them know you love them but do all you can to make them move.  Get them out of the house and stay on them about getting out of the house.  One friend of mine continues to do all he can to push me forward.  This friend has had to teach me how to interact with others.  He has helped show me my worth, and he said four words to me that have helped me more than anything else.  He didn’t say I love you, to be honest, I don’t really trust those words.  He said, “Mike, I’m your biggest fan.”  He then told me to go into the other room and start talking to people.  I don’t know that he even remembers the incident, but it changed me.

Rosalind Russell, one of the great ladies of the stage and screen said once that acting was “like standing up on a table with a room full of people and turning around very slowly,” Writing this today had put me up on that table and I have never moved more slowly in my life.  Be careful where you aim the tomatoes.

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It’s National Coffee Break Day!

Make a Break For It – It’s National Coffee Break Day!

Women are laughing with a white coffee cup

(PCM) Not to be confused with National Coffee Day (September 29th), January 20th is National Coffee Break Day. While we can certainly use this time to celebrate coffee itself (for some of us, every day is coffee day), Coffee Break Day honors that all-important workday interlude.

A coffee break is a brief period of rest (10-20 minutes) within a work shift; distinct from a lunch break, a coffee break usually occurs in mid-morning or afternoon. Despite its name, drinking coffee on a coffee break is not required – you can take a tea break, snack break, smoke break, water cooler break, potty break, a quick walk around the office, or even just a breather.

But “coffee break” works for good reason. A majority of American adults are coffee drinkers, consuming more than 2 cups per person per day, on average, or 400 million daily cups nationwide. Many find that the caffeine in coffee helps boost their energy and focus so they can be more productive for the remainder of their shift. For others, a little chit-chatting with a co-worker can be as psychologically refreshing as a hot cup of joe – coffee is just a handy excuse.

Popular theories on the origin of the coffee break link it back to the late 19th or early 20th centuries. As American industrial culture was developing, employers began to offer benefits and accommodations to their workers, such as short breaks with complementary coffee and snacks.

Nevertheless, coffee breaks are not universal to this country: while some jobs come with mandatory break times, others discourage them. A lot depends on your employer, your job title, and the state you are employed in. Compare this to other countries, like Sweden or Finland, where everyone’s coffee breaks are protected by law, or Ethiopia, where formal coffee drinking ceremonies can go on for hours, multiple times a day, and are steeped in social significance.

Still, coffee culture and U.S. industry are as inseparable as a venti latte and light foam. From coffee runs to “coffices” (coffee shop offices), America runs on the stuff. So be on the lookout for National Coffee Break Day discounts and specials at your favorite donut shop or coffee oasis! Maybe pick up something for your colleagues, too. Share some muffins, share a moment. Everyone deserves a break today.

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My Journey To Health – Injury

Foot-smurfBeing obsessive compulsive is no fun at all. In fact it can be bad enough to cause an injury.  It is a constant battle to stop yourself from doing spur of the moment things as well as stopping yourself from doing things that feel you shouldn’t stop at all.

For a bad example of this behavior, I am going to tell you about the last trip I took to the Super Market.  First I had no plans to go to the market at all, but I thought than since I was passing it and it was snowing why not?  I got into the market and planned on buying a few things, milk, spreadable butter, whipped cream cheese, and at least one bag of raw spinach for salads.  Now on the plus side I added strawberries as they were on sale.  On the negative side I passed the end cap where the DVDs are kept saw one scooped it up and bought it.  I can almost never go into any store without coming out with something I do not need.  This is compulsive.

As for obsessive, there really is too many things I can get obsessed with.  I was obsessed with GLEE and if I get the urge will rewatch the whole series I will literally watch non-stop.  I am definitely obsessed with Downton Abbey, Arrow, Flash, The Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who.  I am not only obsessed with the shows, but the awesome memorabilia and toys that go along with the shows.  My apartment is a museum of Pop-Culture.  When I get comments on this, my friends will remind me of the things I have not put on this list.

Now compulsive for the most part is bad and can’t really be used as a tool for helping with your life.  Obsessive, however, can be taken advantage of.  I have found this true with weight loss and exercise.  If I become obsessed with the idea of weight loss I can usually make great strides in accomplishing what I need to do.  The problem has been that not long after I take off the weight I can become obsessed with cherry pie, McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King and the weight returns.  Lately the compulsion has been exercise, but that too, though good, can be dangerous.

As has been related earlier I started walking and then I found my phone has an app that tells you how many steps to take during the day to lose weight.  Mine is somewhere over 7000 steps and the app keeps track.  I love this.  Walking became an obsession alongside meeting the total number of steps required.  I made plans on how to accomplish this and make it interesting.  Then the injury happened.

It wasn’t another fall and it may not really be an injury per say, but it is a hole in my foot and I don’t know what else to call it.

I have extremely dry skin on my feet as well as no feeling in them for the most part.  Occasionally the dry skin will crack and cause what looks like a cut about an inch long on the bottom of my foot.  Normally I make sure I use medicated cream and keep it covered, as well as staying off of it as much as possible, and it usually heals in less than 48 hours, but not this time.

This time I used iodine and the cream and I kept it covered but I didn’t stop walking the obsession kicked in and I kept going.  This is where it got bad.  The cut did not heal at all; in fact it got deeper and more painful.  But I still didn’t stop.  It was finally the other day when I looked at it and thought that it looked infected that I did stop the walking.

If I had stopped when the cut first appeared it would have taken 24 hours or so to heal.  Now it has been two days and though it no longer looks infected it still hurts to walk on.

There is a moral to this story.  If you find yourself injured don’t just keep going.  You will end up doing yourself more harm than good.  Get yourself taken care of and give yourself time to heal.  The food changes remain the same during this journey to health, but the exercise stops.  Stopping the exercise until you are healed does not make you a quitter, it simple makes you wise.

So now I am still eating better and making other changes that are needed, but for another couple of days I am out of the game.  If I had taken care of myself sooner I would have been back in the game a lot sooner.

Now, excuse me, I need to go watch another episode of Doctor Who Season Six.

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