I’ve been playing a good-habit game on my smartphone. It’s the only app or program I’ve found so far that actually has me chucking bad habits and going through with good ones. I’m flossing regularly and remembering to blog!
I’m up to my ears in work, which is good, but the little habit game is giving me a new challenge: Celebrate Your Success! I’ve successfully completed a set of good habits for three days in a row and now I have to remember to reward myself for being such a good girl.
So, I’ll call this my celebration for the first day. I’m taking a break from my work to stretch my writing brain and to communicate with the rest of the world…well, at least you guys!
It’s been a rough summer health-wise and I’m looking forward to continuing recovery as the cooler weather comes on. I’m trying to balance my work load, to give myself more time to relax and enjoy life. I’m come to realize how incredibly important that is. My problem is that I’m a Type A personality and any time spent “not working” feels like slacking off and being irresponsible. I’m trying to hide from that mindset and occasionally am successful. But, I’m still dealing with a boatload of guilt every time I do something other than work.
I came across something interesting a few months ago, an inspiration from – of all people – Benjamin Franklin. He was a very busy fellow – inventor, author, diplomat and more. He published an autobiography and some philosophies about how one should live his or her life. Despite his warnings against idleness, he nonetheless did fit an extraordinary amount of free time in his very long day. He even pushed a daily schedule that I’ve found to be quite an inspiration:
I’m not going to follow it exactly, but I like the idea of finding the good in the day and striving towards it. My routine this morning echoed Mr. Franklin’s, although the afternoon fell by the wayside. Perhaps a half day, including some work, is all I can handle at the moment. I took myself out for lunch and then headed over to the library, even though I realized I didn’t have the energy to do any work there. I sat in one of the incredibly comfortable high-backed chairs and went through a meditation routine, then simply sat and took in that portion of the room: the books, the marble fireplace, the iron grating over a door (it’s a beautiful library). Eventually I left, very slowly, and decided to stop at the nearby coffee shop for a decaf.
I almost made it. I was walking slowly, listening to music on my headphones, when I tripped over a cracked part of the sidewalk and went crashing down, landing on my knee, elbow and right palm. So much for my afternoon of peace and quiet. Some very helpful folks helped get me to my feet and I limped the rest of the way to the coffee shop. Sat down with my java and popped a few Motrin. When I was well enough, I walked over to Spy Pond, again very close by, and sat on a stone bench under a tree and watched the water lapping to the shore and the sun shining on the gentle waves. There was a sailboat in the water, which made things even prettier.
There I sat and there I rested. I did eventually make my way home and spent a few minutes sitting in the living room in front of a fan. I was still listening to the music that had been interrupted by my fall. So now I’m back upstairs, talking about my day, sharing the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin and about to check WordPress.com news to see what’s new there.
I visited a neurologist yesterday, the last part of my visual hallucinogenic journey. We were following up on a recent EEG, to see if there were any faulty electrical impulses in my brain. Nope. None at all. Like the rest of my tests, the EEG was completely normal.
At this point, we’ve decided that the visual distortions are tied to my migraines. The neurologist said something about neurons depolarizing, and then went into a rather fascinating description of how the brain processes visual information. Turns out there’s quite a bit of activity in movement, from the back of the brain where the visual signal is first received, towards the front of the brain where it’s assembled and interpreted. It comes in stages. One stage is the recognition of angles, like the corners of tables and doors. From there the brain adds additional visual interpretation, like shape and color, and then figures out what it is. The eyes themselves have very little to do with it.
The theory is that migraines happen during the “angles” part of this process. Neurons depolarize (sorry, I have no idea what that means), leading to a series of misfires (I guess you could call them that) that go on to confuse the interpretive part of the process. That’s what causes the wavy visual aura that often precedes the actual headache. That’s why the visual distortions are geometric in shape – it’s all angles. My hallucinations were similarly angular and geometric, kind of like an aura on steroids.
That makes sense to me, more sense than seizures or any other neurological malady. For now, we’re not doing anything. If I start having these experiences more frequently, then we’ll consider options for medication.
Kinda’ Like That, But Not Really
Phew. I’m sick of running around to doctors and having endless, expensive tests that have nothing but “normal” results. It’s time to get on with life.
Readers of this blog may remember my adventure with visual hallucinations back in November. They lasted for a day, were horrible, and necessitated a visit to our local hospital Emergency Room. Over the course of two weeks I had a CT scan and an MRI, a visit with a psychiatrist, neurologist and ophthalmologist. They took lots and lots of blood tests and I’m almost on first name terms with my primary care doctor. So far we’ve determined that I’m not psychotic, don’t have a brain tumor, don’t have anything wrong with my eyes other than the Fuchs Dystrophy they diagnosed earlier. My blood tests were negative except for a slightly elevated liver function which probably was a hold-over from my cold of the week before. In a word, nothing. They have no idea why I got those hallucinations.
Well, guess what? I just got another set of them today! Oh wonderful – I got to drop what I was doing and get over to my doctor’s office and tell him all about it (this was another doctor on the health care team. My primary is a woman). I described the symptoms: flashy lights, walls that looked “off” somehow: rough, like wallpaper had just been removed. I also saw things in front of the walls that weren’t there, like card holders and drawings. Every time I shut my eyes, I got an explosion of running stick figures or flashy ribbons of light that were turning themselves into people, from the muscles on out. Very, very weird.
At this point, though, we’ve eliminated all but two possibilities: ocular migraine or seizures. I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor’s office with an appointment for an EEG, after which we should have a better idea.
I wonder if this is some type of ocular migraine? According to what I’ve read, they’re very hard to diagnose and are often identified only when all other possible reasons for the symptoms have been eliminated. You can read all about it here.
I’m not experiencing the hallucinations now. I spent a half hour walking to and from the bus stop to get to my doc’s office, then spent another half hour shoveling snow and spreading salt and sand over the frozen parts. I think I beat the thing out of me.
Finally, after yet another bout with an unexpected and unwelcome virus I’ve managed to get myself both outside and active as well as inside and working. At this point, this foolishness has been going on for about two months and I’m not out of the woods yet. So far I’ve had visits from two different viruses, one of which may have been some version of mono. At least that’s what the tests might indicate. I came down with a run-of-the-mill cold about two weeks ago and am still stuffy and more tired than I should be.
And no one, no one, knows why or how I got those hallucinations in November. At this point I’ve had three separate blood tests, a CT scan, an MRI, visits with a psychiatrist, neurologist and a neuro-opthalmalogist. I’ve had my central and peripheral vision tested, my blood drawn and my head examined – literally. So far we’ve determined that I’m not psychotic, don’t have a tumor, don’t have Charles Bonnet Syndrome or anything in my blood that would suggest a source of the visions. The first blood test took place in the emergency room while I was actively hallucinating, so they really started at the beginning. I have an EEG scheduled for January and after that I am done with this crap.
I haven’t had any hallucinations since that one day but am going crazy trying to figure out what the hell happened. Did I eat something? Touch something? Smell something? My doctors don’t think so, based on the sequence of events and the fact that this thing only lasted one day. So, what is it, damn it? Tell me!
I just don’t want that to happen again. It was like going on a bad LSD trip, or so I’d imagine. Whirling things, snakes and bugs, all coming at me. Yuck.
Anyway, I’m back to work and am slowly starting to dig my way out of my backlog. Fortunately, it’s a quiet time of year so I can get away with a lighter task load. I’m leaving for Western New York and Christmas on Sunday. The hubby will be driving out later, after his classes get out. I’m not planning on bringing my laptop along!
Anyway, Happy Hanukkah for those who celebrate the occasion!
Well, one day and $700.00 later, we have new pipes snaking through the now-exposed walls with full access to water, water everywhere. I can take a shower, take a pee and wash my pots and pans in hot water. That is, I’ll be able to do that once I’ve cleaned everything up. My entire kitchen is powdered in plaster dust and I don’t feel like going anywhere near it.
I have to say, the plumbers were fast and really nice. I had another doctor’s appointment late this morning and they were finished and gone by the time I got back.
My health is…well, my health. I might have had a virus a few weeks ago, but it’s slowly going away. My liver enzymes are still elevated, but less so. I feel much better. Still no idea why I had the hallucinations. I saw a neurologist yesterday and he is is as stumped as every other doctor I’ve seen. I’m going to put it down to sleep deprivation and leave it at that.
In the meantime, I wonder if we can swing some new cabinets and a sink? The wall and ceiling repairs are covered by insurance, so that should be okay.
I have this feeling that November is going to suck, at least based on how it started. In the past 18 days I’ve been in the Emergency Room of Mt. Auburn Hospital experiencing visual hallucinations, in and out of doctors’ offices, had multiple blood tests, a psych eval, a CT scan and an MRI. Tomorrow I’m off to the neurologist for yet another exam, followed by my second visit to my doctor.
The first set of blood tests showed no drugs in my system, at least none that would produce hallucinations. I’m not psychotic, my CT scan was normal, as was the MRI. No tumors or anything else that was notable. I was completely in-reality and lucid when I was hallucinating, so I’m not nuts, at least not yet anyway.
There do seem to be some elevated readings in my liver, which could be a sign of a viral infection. That would explain my feeling low-energy and under the weather these last few weeks. Not enough to put me out, just enough to make me miserable. The second series of blood tests confirmed that those levels were coming down, but still high. Lots of white blood cells, too, fighting off something.
And the hallucinations? No clue. I felt like somebody had slipped me a dose of LSD and I was having a bad trip. It was pretty awful – things coming to life and spinning around, then coming after me. After a while those weird spinning things started looking like spiders and snakes. I remember looking at my glasses after I started seeing those things and noticed that they seemed to be melting, or at least dripping some bright, golden color. My husband drove me to the hospital and I kept seeing things in the street – people, animals, even a shopping cart. They looked like wire-frames of the same, not fully filled in, except for the shopping cart, which is wire. I saw things at the hospital, curling around the nurses and other specialists who were examining me. I knew this was wrong, but I had no idea why it was happening. I still don’t. Maybe the neurologist will have some ideas. I sure hope so.
As if that weren’t bad enough, we started getting a leak of some kind through our kitchen ceiling, just below the bathroom on the second floor. We got a plumber in, who replaced the seal beneath the toilet. He said to call him again if that didn’t work.
It didn’t. Two days later we were back to a dripping ceiling, now bowing under the weight of wet plaster and water. I called the plumber back three times yesterday – no response. Called again this morning and begged – yes, begged – for someone to come over. “My ceiling is going to come down!” I moaned. “Please, please, can you send somebody over? I’m getting really desperate and I don’t know what to do.”
That did it. Two plumbers showed up at the back door 15 minutes later. They started in on the ceiling and found the problem. Oh, dear. We have a problem, ladies and gentlemen. Our main plumbing pipes, the ones that are over a century old, have sprung leaks and will have to be replaced. That means the corner wall of our kitchen will come a’tumbling down and spanking, new pipes will be joining the plumbing forest we’ve already got in the basement.
The plumbers installed shut-off valves to the second floor water, so we can use it when necessary and then shut it off. I have to call the head, boss-man tomorrow morning between 7:30 and 8:00 am to arrange a time for him to come by and set up a work plan.
Fortunately, most of the work will be covered by our insurance. And, yes, it’s an old house (built between 1890 – 1900). A lot of the plumbing is new, a lot isn’t. Ditto for our electricity. Some of it’s still the old knob and tube stuff they used a century ago.
So, a mysterious date with Timothy Leary’s ghost, a virus that may be affecting my liver (or something else affecting my liver, who knows?), a new take on the concept of a dropped ceiling and – oh yes – paid work I still have to get done on time. We’re approaching the holidays, my clients need to market their way to eventual profitability, I need to finish up a wordpress multi-site installation and I need to move my network from one platform over to WordPress so it’ll all be in one place. I also have to launch my forum subscription series for graduates of my WordPress.com class.
I had a standard eye exam a few months ago, just to check things out and make sure my prescription for glasses was still correct. After the letter-reading, blinding light and weird things touching my eyes, my optometrist said she wanted me to see a “corneal specialist,” a/k/a, ophthalmologist. She told me she saw something in my eye and looked to her like a tiny bit of orange rind.
I have a family history of corneal problems, you see. Both my brother and mother had a corneal disease called Fuchs (“fooks”) Dystrophy. My mother had cataracts. My brother has both Fuchs as well as glaucoma. In this case, the optometrist suspected Fuchs, but couldn’t be sure since it wasn’t her specialty. I went and made an appointment with my HMO-approved cornea doctor for later that month, in the morning.
I’m not a wimp when it comes to medical procedures. I have no problem when people draw blood or conduct colonoscopies. I’m not even afraid of surgery, either knocked out or conscious and numbed. I can handle trips to the dentist. However, I’ve always been afraid of anything that comes near and/or touches my eyes. That makes eye exams particularly daunting. No matter how much I prepare (deep breathing, trying to focus my mind on something else, even drugs to dampen anxiety), I always end up blinking or pulling back whenever the machine that touches my eye comes into view. I’ve had eye doctors literally hold my head still and move that machine at the speed of light to use it on me.
Now I was in for even more poking around and the thought did not set well with me. In fact, I was more upset about that than about the possibility that I might have Fuchs. If the trip to an optometrist freaked me out, what was a corneal specialist going to do? I actually skipped my first appointment out of plain and simple fear. I am not easily frightened, but I was then.
It took me a while to reschedule, but I finally put my foot down with myself and made another appointment, for yesterday morning. Overall, it wasn’t that bad: more bright lights than anything else. But, I did get weird around the instrument that touches the eye, even with the drops that numb your eye. I needed something to numb me. The medical assistant finally ended up using a hand-held device, which I could tolerate.
And the final result? I do have early-stage Fuchs, in both eyes. I have the beginnings of cataracts as well. Oddly, the realization does not distress me. I saw my mother living as she always did with Fuchs in her later years so I was used to it. And, my brother has it. And, my eyes are fine at this stage so nothing is really imminent. Now I know why I have trouble seeing at night to drive. Not the Fuchs, by the way, but the cataracts.
So I’m taking eye drops, which I’m really bad at for the above-mentioned reasons. I think I’ve emptied half a bottle of the saline solution just trying to get the damn liquid to go into my eyes and not down my cheeks. More drastic procedures may be in my distant future (my mom had a corneal transplant) but I think I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
I’m starting to regain my equilibrium after my mother’s wake and funeral. Everything was, thankfully, short. This is the first day after all that and I’ve pulled out the computer to start answering emails and otherwise getting back on track.
This will take a while. Being near my mother’s usual haunts is especially difficult, but I seem to be holding up.
Many of you have sent your condolences and I want to say thank you. It’s made a tremendous difference. I’m going to take things as they come. NaNoWriMo might have to wait another year, along with some other things I’ve been planning to do. The important thing is that I’m getting back to myself and am moving on from here.
My dad seems much more at peace than when my mother was alive. She was in very poor health and he carried the tremendous burden of her care. There were 24-hour aides and then a skilled nursing facility, but he still bore a tremendously heavy burden. I was worried about him, but he’s been far more resilient than I was expecting. My entire family has been, actually. I am grateful for that.
My mother passed away last night. She was 89 years old and in poor health for many years. She was in a skilled nursing facility and had recently contracted pneumonia. I am told that she died peacefully, in her sleep.
I’m saddened but also relieved. In some ways I lost my mother some time ago, as her mental and physical health declined. She was no longer the same person. My own expression of grief occurred a few months ago, following a message from my sister. At that point my mother had again fallen and was in the Emergency Room. My sister was of the opinion that she would not be coming home. I remember sitting at my desk in front of my computer and writing this in my personal journal. I cried for her then and said goodbye. I let her go in my heart, wrenching as that was. I remembered that time when speaking with my brother this morning about what had happened. I relived it in my mind’s eye.
Will I cry again? Probably. But the wrenching, goodbye grief may have already passed. I’m waiting to hear back from my sister with updated funeral arrangements. After that my husband and I will prepare for our trip back to pay our final respects and lay my mother to rest.
I was very close to my mother and knew that she had limited time. I made a decision over a year ago to spend as much time and share as much joy as she needed. I cared for her in Buffalo for seven weeks, then regularly went back and forth to visit her for shorter periods of time. I spent one Thanksgiving in Buffalo General Hospital when she was there. I also saw her at home and had the time to take her out and about. She and I savored walks and gardens together (she was in a wheelchair). We laughed. We had meals together. We opened presents on Christmas, Father’s Day and her birthday. I feel content with that. I did what I felt I needed to do.
So, farewell Helen Rydzynski. If you have an afterlife, may it be filled with the joy you gave us. I’m sad to see you go, but relieved that your suffering and illnesses are finally at an end.