In Sickness

sick coupleThere’s nothing quite so lovely or nearly as romantic as being sick with the one you love. Ahh yes, gazing softly and tenderly across the kleenex-and-blister-pack-strewn room… peering pathetically into one another’s deeply-sunken, dead-grey eyes and affectionately eeking out the phrase: “My dear, will you please pass the Mucinex?”

If you haven’t experienced this blissful coupled journey already, I can promise that someday you will. And on that day you will come to realize that indeed, the honeymoon is over. When you’re too tired to take a shower or work a comb through your hair and you’re incapable of remembering exactly which day last week the sweatshirt and pair of pajama pants you’re currently wearing emerged from the third dresser drawer — it isn’t a pretty sight.

Nor is it for the faint of heart. No Ma’am. You’ve gotta be 100% committed to this $#!*. Because instead of discussing where to meet up with your friends for drinks on Friday night, what new restaurant you might check out on Saturday or a possible weekend road trip… you’re reading aloud to one another absolutely riveting passages from the dosing instructions and possible side-effects portions of various OTC and prescription drug leaflets and packages.

Yes, “The Crud” has hit our home and hit it hard. And based upon my constant perusal of various social media outlets — it has been descending upon many other households as well. Fortunately (for me I suppose) I have not fallen as ill as Lee. Unfortunately (for him) he has really gotten slammed. And I do hope that he will be on the mend soon.

Quite miraculously it has worked out that (over the course of seven days — give or take) when one of us has been really down, the other has seemed a bit stronger. Initially, out of sympathy, this spurs a kind of trading of roles from patient to caregiver. However, this turn of events can oftentimes trigger a wonderfully entertaining and hearty bout of the game of One-Up-Manship that I like to call: “Who’s Sicker?” a.k.a. “Who Should Be The One To Go Out and Retrieve More Medicince and Comfort Food?”

Slinging phrases such as “My head is really pounding” or “My throat is really sore, I sure could use a slushie from Sonic” or “I’m so weak I need to lie down for awhile” or “I’m pretty sure I’m going to hack up a lung if not a kidney here pretty soon” usually helps in determining the game’s winner. Thus far, I have only emerged the victor on one occasion.

Hopefully, our walk through the wilderness of disease and pestilence will come to an end — soon. Until then I guess we’re stuck with each other — in all of our sniffly, stuffy, coughy, achy, short-fused, wild-haired, week-old-pajama glory. Neither one of us has run screaming toward the hills just yet. So the way I see it, that’s either a sign of true love… or we’re just too worn out to make the trip.

Limping To The Finish Line

Some of the pundits tell us we might be in for a longer haul. It may not be over tonight as was originally advertised. But whether we have a clear winner come Wednesday morning or the presidential election remains too close to call — we will have survived the political storm largely intact. Well, most of us anyway.

Yes, there will be some licking of wounds and necessary rebuilding of morale depending on which camp you’ve staked your tent these final weeks and months. Some of us will have fewer “friends” on social media and perhaps fewer friends in real life too. However, after the red and blue smoke eventually clears and the elephant dust and donkey dander settle, what we’ve suffered as a society should not be minimized.

Let us not forget all that we have collectively endured: We have weathered the primaries, the campaign speeches, the conventions, the debates, the yard signs, the “friendly” disagreements with our peers, family members and neighbors, the seemingly infinite supply of television ads, the attacking, the dodging, the whining, the scaring, the robo calls, the constant-and-ever-shifting “latest” polling numbers, the charts, the graphs, the talking heads, the morality arguments, the ignorant, misinformed, uninformed and enraging Facebook posts, status updates and tweets, the rhetoric, the apocalyptic theories, the partisan politicking and the endless “what-if” scenarios.

I’m tired now. Aren’t you? No matter the outcome, after today, our part is done. We will have (hopefully) drug our bruised and battered bodies to the polls and freely exercised our right to choose a leader — a right that I am no less grateful for no matter how much I complain or how worn out I may actually claim to be. But now I think it’s time we return to our regularly scheduled programming… complete with those good, old-fashioned commercials for antidepressants, erectile dysfunction, indigestion and Black Friday Doorbuster Deals.

Apparently… It’s All Relative

“Shhh! Your dad is upstairs sleeping. He has one of his really bad headaches again.” My mom would inform my sister and me in an attempt to keep us from disturbing our poor father while he tried to recover from the excruciating pain that occasionally plagued him.

All I knew about his headaches were that they were referred to as “cluster headaches” and they made the whole side of his head and face hurt. He couldn’t even brush his hair without extreme pain.

“You girls leave your mother alone. She came home with another migraine today.” My dad would warn us while my mother rested, writhed in pain or ran to bathroom to throw up again. And we would eat takeout for dinner if she hadn’t already suffered through cooking our meal BEFORE addressing her own needs and collapsing on the bed.

What I knew about her headaches were that they were called “migraines” and they typically made her lose her vision along with whatever she ate that day. Oh yeah… and I decided that between her and my father… adulthood pretty much sucked.

Fast forward to my junior year in high school. I vividly remember sitting in art class and reading a text book. I’m not sure why I wasn’t painting or drawing at the time but that is irrelevent here. As I looked at the grey lines of copy on the page I noticed that entire sections of the page began to disappear into what can only be described as bright, white blind spots. I felt funny and asked to be excused.

Sitting in the office while the secretary called my dad to come and get me — a terrible pain I had never felt before began gripping my forehead like a vise. On the ride home with him, the nausea came. He had to pull over just four houses down from ours as my lunch began to resurface. It was then that I remembered the horrible migraine headaches that my mother and grandmother (as I would later learn) got with some regularity. And it was then that I learned how privileged I too was to be a member of that genetic club. Thank you, mom and grandma… I love you too.

I have since learned to manage the migraines that fortunately only come around two to four times a year. I have a prescription, know some of the “triggers” and warning signs and have thus learned how to keep from losing my lunch or an entire day. I count myself lucky that I am not one of those chronic sufferers who get several in one week.

Fast forward AGAIN to four days ago. While managing an estate sale at Lee’s childhood home I began to feel a burning ache in my inner ear and several “ice pick” stabs to the back of my neck and head. I took my migraine medicine figuring it couldn’t hurt and waited for it to work. And I waited. And I waited some more. Nothing. The untouchable discomfort soon spread to the entire right side of my head and face and by dinner time I had trouble chewing because my jaw and teeth ached as well. And I couldn’t brush my hair without wincing. Thank you, dad.

Four days later of ice packs, towels wrapped tightly around my skull and “chill pills” to help me sleep… the headache (though vastly better) is still with me. Apparently, unlike it’s lesser-of-a-pain-in-the-ass cousin, the migraine… these “clusters” can last for several days. Severe episodes are often treated with visits to the ER and injections of steroids, strong pain killers and other drugs to help the sufferer through. OTC pain medications do NOT work and you wanna know the best part — they don’t KNOW what causes them other than GENETICS! Ha!

So, as much as I love and adore my amazing parents for ALL that they have done and continue to do for me and for EACH of the selfless sacrifices they have made in the name of love… I would also like to say a hearty thank you for the great genes too! I know you had nothing to do with it, really. But if I’d had the choice… I would have much rather inherited my mom’s knack for baking chocolately goodness from scratch… and my dad’s green thumb.

The Stupidity of the American Consumer: An All Time Low

Yesterday I found myself in desperate need of chocolate while on my lunch hour so I stopped in Walgreens to peruse the aisles looking for that certain something that would curb my craving. After careful consideration and deliberation I chose a pack of Rolos and headed for the check out.

There’s always been something I have found infinitely fascinating about the items lining the check out area. They are those last-minute impulse buy items… you know, batteries, lighters, matches, decks of cards, emery boards and toenail clippers… candy, gum, mints, Rolaids, miniature tools, scotch tape, pens and lint removers… chapstick, hand lotion, miniature bottles of Jack Daniels (depending on your state’s laws) and tiny packets of aspirin.

I’ll bet stores make a killing off of these items. If you don’t actually need them right then, you certainly will think that you do immediately upon seeing them. They are practical, every day items that will probably never go to waste. So what’s the harm?

Though it was during this time while casing the cache of goods otherwise known as the Gullible Buyer’s Trap, patiently waiting my turn in line (because only ONE of the THREE cashier lines are actually OPEN — which I’ve decided, by the way, is totally a ploy by upper management to move more of this nickel and dime crap) my eyes fell upon something new!

In the center of all of those must-have trinkets was a little display simply called: “help.” It was colorful and unique with kind of a cool design which is probably why it grabbed my attention in the first place. However, upon closer inspection, I discovered how completely ridiculous this thing actually was. In fact, I found it to be so completely stupid that I laughed out loud as I whipped out my camera to document this odd and asinine find.

Oh yeah… and I knew without a doubt that it would also be the subject of my very next post. Which, as you see, it has become.

The rack held six different color-coded boxes each containing a different product for a different “need” spelled out in very simple letters on a plain white cover. They were (yes, in all lower case lettering—probably because some focus group of imbeciles told them it looked cool): help I have a headache, ” “help I have a stuffy nose,” “help I can’t sleep,” “help I have allergies,” “help I have a blister” andhelp I have an aching body.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Are we really THAT stupid that we either A. Don’t know what the hell to buy for what ails us? Or B. Don’t know how the hell to ASK the pharmacist for a suggestion on what to buy for what ails us?

Listen people, if you don’t know what to buy then you should be talking to a doctor not searching for boxes at the check out counter as though it were some sort of pharmaceutical Magic 8 Ball!

So, I thought that perhaps I could help by offering a bit of advice of my own to assist anyone who feels that THIS is indeed the place to go for medical “help”…

  1. Problem: You have a headache. Solution: You have a hammer in the shed?
  2. Problem: You have a stuffy nose. Solution: Suck it up. It will pass.
  3. Problem: You can’t sleep. Solution: Try a bottle of wine and some Leno. His jokes put me to sleep every time.
  4. Problem: You have allergies. Solution: That hammer still lying around? Seasons will change soon enough.
  5. Problem: You have a blister. Solution: Ever heard of gloves?
  6. Problem: You have an aching body. Solution: Stop doing the thing that makes your body ache.

See how simple that was? And it didn’t even cost you a trip to the store or God forbid — interaction with another human being.

Out of the Rabbit Hole

As the fog of slumber lifts and the reality of wakefulness settles upon me, it is there. A heavy stone—which may as well be a boulder—is pressing against my chest. The full weight of it constricting my breathing and creating a pain that radiates out into my limbs and up into my neck and head.

Putting my hand to my forehead I think: Not today. Please let’s not do this today. Yes, it is Monday, but that isn’t reason enough for this. Quickly I run down the bullet points of the day that lay in front of me and of the events of the week and evening prior… looking for any sign of trouble that might be to blame. But there is nothing there.

As I toss aside the blankets and set my feet upon the cold, hardwood floor my breathing quickens and my heart races. The bedspread doesn’t look quite right. The notion of making my bed like I do every morning without thought or consideration suddenly overwhelms me. I feel nauseated. Everything around me unfamiliar yet familiar at the same time, like walking down a hallway of funhouse mirrors.

Looks like I have fallen into the hole again and I have no choice but to climb back out.

For those of you fortunate enough to be unaware of what I am describing… allow me to introduce you to the adventure that is a panic attack. To help you gain a more accurate perspective, imagine Alice in Wonderland plus a sense of impending doom but minus the tea parties, talking critters and croquet—in other words—all of the disjointed creepiness and none of the fun.

As much as I want to fight it, I suppose this is one of those rare but “as needed” mornings that the prescription bottle clearly addresses. Like Alice in the rabbit’s hole, I follow the instructions of the container on the table. Hesitant and grateful all at once for the way this will transform me, I swallow the contents and grasp for my footing.

Saints and Spaghetti Throwers

No one knows you quite like your sister does. Especially if she’s the big sis’ and you’re the lil’ one. Older sisters not only know you but with their level-headed sensibility, they somehow manage to love you despite all of your crazy-little-sister, attention-seeking idiosyncrasies anyway.

My sister and I could not be more different. She is only three years my senior but the age gap may as well be 30. She is far more mature and “grown-up” than I am. She is raising seven children and acting out the part of the dutiful, loving wife and little-league-wrestling-basketball-band-choir-soccer-mom like a champ.

My sister is also a saint. She assists in the day-to-day operation of my brother-in-law’s business, works a part-time job, does the laundry, cooks the meals, drives random neighborhood kids (as well as her own) all over God’s green earth, does the household shopping, plants flowers in her yard, hangs little, cutesy, seasonal, artsy-craftsy things on her front door and runs the church nursery. I honestly do not know how she does it. As far as I know… she does not take drugs… So I’m just assuming that she is some sort of non-human, pod-person. It’s either that or she never sleeps.

I, on the other hand, am a spoiled brat. I become completely overwhelmed at the thought of feeding myself, emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry in the same evening. When I’m not at the office, I like to sleep or lounge around watching countless hours of Seinfeld re-runs, Hoarders, cheesy rom-coms or mafia movies while eating food that I did not make.

I enjoy being “Crazy and Fun Aunt JoJo” to my nieces and nephews, getting HER kids so riled up that she has trouble getting them to go to bed. They are teenagers… yes, I said teenagersS-E-V-E-N of them. In fact, she has more kids than there are letters in the WORD “seven.” I know. It is mind-blowing. And I—having no children of my own and even less responsibility—love to teach them things that will annoy her.

Once when she and my brother-in-law were going out for the evening and she asked me to come by and “help” the kids with their dinner, I thought it would be much more fun to teach them how to tell when the spaghetti was done by throwing it against the walls of her kitchen. We had a blast. And the kids, in turn, thought it would be fun to teach me the “Target Denim Song” in order to further irritate their mother because they of course knew that I would sing it… incessantly. You know the song… the one that goes: Denim. Graphic Tees, leggings and tunics. Well denim, backpacks, headphones, hair-ge-e-el. Denim. Shaun White hoodies and denim… Something like that anyway.

Good times.

But here’s the kicker… I am the one who is an emotional mess. I am the nervous wreck. I always have been. I am the one with all kinds of time and freedom and zero tax-deductions and I’m the one taking meds! It boggles the mind how two people, born of the same parents and raised under the very same roof could wind up so completely different. But what I love, what I LOVE about my sister more than anything is that even though we could not be more different… she GETS me. She gets me and she loves me anyway.

The sign hanging above my stove is a recent gift from my sister “just because.” Does she know me or what?

Clinical Trials?

Every other day some drug company announces that it has a new product and is conducting a clinical trial. These companies attempt to solicit potential lab rats for their experiments by advertising on TV, radio or the internet. It seems that any “eligible and willing participant” (whatever THAT means) will be compensated, usually in the form of cash, for their involvement in said trial.

I usually don’t pay much attention to these commercials as I have never been willing to apply, insert, inject or ingest some unknown substance manufactured by a company who feels the need to advertise to the GENERAL public that they are in want of “test subjects.” However… one commercial DID capture my attention recently.

I heard on the radio that someone (I really don’t know who or what organization) is looking for individuals who are currently or have at one time been on prescription anti-depressants. They want to test “several new types of antidepressants” on any depressed person who is “eligible and willing” between the ages of 18 and 65. I don’t know about you, but this scares the hell out of me that there could be diagnosed, already-depressed people LEGALLY walking around out there on EXPERIMENTAL, mood-altering substances, and getting paid for it!

From previous posts, anyone reading this ought to know by now that I am certainly NOT anti-anti-depressant. I have freely admitted to using and benefiting from them… under the careful observation and supervision of a REAL medical doctor or psychologist!! It is typically a risk starting any mood-altering medication, even under the best of circumstances and surveillance. There’s a reason those drugs carry black-box warnings you know. There is no way to anticipate how any given psychotropic drug is going to affect you physically, cognitively, emotionally and mentally. However, with a prescribing doctor nearby, an informed person can usually get through any trouble that may occur during the initial start-up period.

It seems alright to me for people to try a new energy drink or diet supplement or appetite suppressant here and there… or a ground-breaking skin cream for acne, psoriasis, stretch marks or eczema… Some unique teeth-whitening paste… A potion that promises a potential cure for baldness… that’s OK. But I’m sorry… no good could possibly come from something “experimental” being marketed to an already vulnerable, clinically depressed population.

See, the thing is… with the earlier mentioned items… what’s the worst that could happen? An upset stomach, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excess gas and bloating, flatulence, headache, skin rash, hives, itching, dry-skin, oily-skin, scaly skin, weight gain, weight loss, hair loss, tooth loss, dry mouth, sleeplessness, restlessness, ringing in the ears, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue, chest pain, dark urine, fast, slow or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, sore throat, swelling of the hands, ankles or feet, unusual bruising or bleeding, excessive tiredness, vision changes, muscle soreness, strange watery discharge, night sweats, numbness, nose bleeds, bleeding out the eyes… that stuff is child’s play compared to what might happen when you carelessly tinker with the chemistry of the brain.

Just imagine someone participating in this highly-solicited clinical trial who is a crane operator, taxi-driver or middle-school teacher… ALL of which are extremely perilous jobs. HELLO!? Does the idea of this stuff being offered up to any psychologically-medicated person within earshot of a radio scare anyone else? Or is it just me?

Perhaps I am paranoid.

Maybe I should give that 1-800 number a call. I could use the extra cash.