The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Letting Go of Mother's Little Helper

Posted by Seeking Solace |

Recently, my primary care doctor suggested that I stop taking antidepressants to deal with my anxiety/depression. I taken meds since I was in my 20's. I think I have used every medication out there, as some just stop working after some time. The meds really keep me on an even keel. Kind of like the commercial for Zoloft with the sad brain cell that becomes a bouncing brain cell after taking the medication.

My initial reaction was "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!" I need my meds. I began to think of what would happen without them. Would I be able to function? Would I end up a total basket case of nerves and walk around in a state of cat-like readiness? Would I become so depressed after the anxiety that I curl up in a dark corner of my closet and not come out?

Because that has happened in the past.

Then I thought "Sure, everything is OK now (this was before the events of last week), but what happens when things really get cray-cray? What happens THEN???"

My doctor said that maybe it's time to let go. I am not the same person I was back then. I have developed some good coping skills, especially in the past year that signify positive signs. She said that we would do this slowly and methodically. If it seems that it is too much, then we will stay with a that level of maintenance. She said that I should give myself credit for being stronger now, emotionally and mentally and developing strategies to deal with the anxiety and depression that seem to follow me wherever I go.

After giving it some serious thought, I decided to give it a try. I am now taking the meds every other day. So far, I have not noticed much difference. None of the brain-zaps that sometimes happen if I miss a couple of doses (That usually happens when I am sick to the point of not keeping anything in my stomach to the point of throwing up). Also, even though I did have some meltdowns over recent events, they have not sent me into a tailspin. There has been anxiety, but nothing so dramatic that I am not able to talk myself of the ledge, or have someone else talk me down successfully. And, I suppose if I am going to try this, now is the best time.

I still have some fears. I've only been doing the every other day thing for two weeks. So, I don't know how much is still in my system to compensate for the missing dose. What happens if and when I am working full time and doing the PhD part time or doing the PhD full time and working part time? Can I still balance everything without help? I suppose I should give myself credit for the progress that I have made, but that's just the way that I am...playing the what-if game.

For now, I feel fine. I should just embrace that. Maybe it's OK to let go of Mother's Little Helper.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three Bad Things

Posted by Seeking Solace |

Whoever said that bad things happen in threes may have been on to something...

I've spent the last two days fighting with a specialty pharmacy company regarding my medication for RA. I take one of the biologic drugs, which my insurance company requires that it be filled by one of those home delivery-specialty pharmacy companies. The pharmacy has been making excuses for why they cannot fill the prescription, with the final excuse of "Your insurance doesn't cover this medication." I flipped my shit on that one because the insurance carrier approved the prior authorization from my RA doc for the meds. So, why would an insurance company approve a drug that they don't cover? That would never happen. I went off on the supervisor for the pharmacy, citing how unethical and possibly illegal (fraudulent) their actions are. Husband is working with the insurance company, who has been surprisingly helpful. And, of course my RA doc and her staff have been amazing, providing me with samples of my meds until this is resolved. There seems to be a end to the battle, as I was contacted by another specialty pharmacy that the insurance company uses. Now, it's just a matter of having the new company including my financial support program funding for my meds so I only have to pay $10/month instead of the third tier co-pay. Still, all of this could have been avoided if people would just do their jobs and not break my universal life law...Don't be a dick.

Next, I have yet to hear anything from HBCU about Dream Job. When I called to follow up with the VP of Academics about not hearing from the committee about an interview, I either get voicemail or a secretary that is a very bad actress when it comes to giving the run-around. I've just decided to let it go and move on. Clearly people at HBCU have no interest my skills and/or are just too dysfunctional. I just don't have the energy to fight anymore. Again, it's a case of people being dicks.

Finally, my professor for this semester asked to speak with me after class on Monday. Given my high level of anxiety over the above issues, I shot into anxiety overload and a state of cat-like readiness. For three hours, I sat there wondering what in the world I had done. Did I piss off someone? Did I plagiarize something in an assignment? My professor is the chair of the division that I am pursuing. She wanted to give me the heads up that the admissions committee for the entire department has denied my application to the PhD program. Apparently, my quantitative score on the GRE is just slightly below what they normally accept. Someone on the admissions committee for the entire department has a bug up their butt about that, despite the fact that the rest of my application is stellar. This person has no contact with my subdivision within the department. Everyone in my subdivision is upset about this. So, I've been given some options that do not make me very happy. My professor thinks that we should fight this, given that there are some circumstances that led to my quant score being what it is, and that I should be admitted. This is a case of someone being a dick for reasons that have nothing to do with me, but with the perception of the department to the outside world.

Needless to say, I am pissed off, disillusioned and depressed. I've never experienced this much uncertainty in my life right now. Yesterday, I just puttered around the house, mainly because I needed to distract myself from anything school, HBCU or medical related. The cold and stress have made the joints a little angry, so running has not been an option as an outlet for stress. Although, I am going to give walking on the treadmill a try today. Husband and Junior have provided some comfort, but honestly I just feel defeated.

Now that I've had my three bad things, it can only get better...right? 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Caught in TV Static

Posted by Seeking Solace |

It doesn't snow often in Elsewhere. But when it does, everything shuts down and not much happens. This week, there has been ice, sleet, snow and cold temperatures that has brought the area to its knees. Elsewhere does not have the wealth of winter weather fighting equipment that I am used to seeing in Redneckville or Lake Effect Snow Central, so it takes longer for things to get up and running again. Both PhD and HBCU have been closed for most of this week, so I still have not heard anything on the job front.

Thus, I feel like I am caught in TV static. You know, the snowy picture you see when the cable or satellite goes out? It's like that. I can't see anything and I don't know when the connection will be fixed. The last thing I heard from HBCU was my follow up call with the VP of Academics who said that she would find out why I had not been contacted by the committee about Dream Job. I also applied for a similar job at two other colleges in the area. Again, nothing but TV static.

It's not like I am just sitting around waiting, I do have a huge amount of work for my PhD course. This class is kicking my butt with the amount of work. But, I can only deal with that for so long. It's been too cold and icy to take Junior for a run or walk (He is not happy at all). I've taken to the treadmill for workouts. But, cabin fever is setting in.

A good friend, who is dealing with some stuff, posted that she told her students that they will hit the "reset" button next week. This week has been rough in so many respects for so many people. A "reset" is definitely needed.

Hopefully, there will be an end to the TV static and we can return to normal programming.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy First Anniversary

Posted by Seeking Solace |

With the Plague, the insanity of the finding a job and the mountains of work in my PhD course, I completely missed a major milestone.

It's the one-year anniversary of reaching my weight loss goal!!!!

This time last year, I reached my goal of losing 50 pounds. It took 17 months of calorie tracking, eating less and moving more. Initially, maintenance was tricky. I was so focused on not going over or under 138 pounds. I had a hard time going from weight loss mode to maintenance mode. Having an extra 500 calories to use felt a little awkward, mostly because I didn't need to eat the additional calories. So, I began to slowly allow a little more food or I would use the full fat, higher calorie version of foods. Also, running and walking not only kept my weight down. What I realized after this first year of maintenance is that 135-138 is my weight "sweet spot". I feel my best when I am in that range. I don't want to down any lower or any higher than that.

People have asked me how I was not only able to loss the weight, but to keep it off. Some have asked me how the weight loss has impacted the RA and fibromyalgia. So, here are some things I would like to share...

How did you lose all the weight?
I used a calorie/fitness tracker called Lose It. In the past, I would try to eat healthy and exercise, but see very little change on the scale. With the calorie/fitness tracker, I could see the number of calories that I needed vs. the number that I was actually eating. Husband got me a food scale so that I could measure proper portions of food. Let me just say that pasta was a real eye-opener!

Seeing my calories and exercise all spelled out in living color was a huge wake up call. I though I was doing what I should to lose weight, but the number of calories in was way over what I needed, even with exercise.

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, I set small goals for myself throughout the weight loss period. I concentrated on 10 pounds at a time. When I reached that goal, I would reward myself with a small non-food related treat, like a book download or a bath bomb from Lush. Once I was in maintenance, my goals were fitness related.

Honestly, there was no real trick to losing the weight. No crazy fad diets. No starvation. Just understanding how much fuel my body really needs to function.

Did you give up anything?
Nope. Unlike all these diets that say "Don't eat this or don't eat that", I continued to eat what I liked, only less of it. I still ate pizza, chicken wings and dessert. And, I still had alcohol. A great example was a recent trip to Cheesecake Factory, where I had a slice of the Red Velvet Cheesecake. Instead of ingesting all 1250 calories of cheesecake goodness (yeah, you read right, 1250 calories), I cut it into fourths and had cheesecake goodness for four days. Just enough to get a little taste without going crazy.

How's the RA and the firbromyalgia?
My RA doc did a happy dance with the weight loss and maintenance. At my last appointment, she indicated that the extra 50 pounds that I was carrying was like 100 pounds of excess weight on my joints. I've maintained remission for a year. Eating and living a healthier lifestyle has helped greatly.

So, are you "cured"?
Hells, no! If exercise and diet could cure autoimmune diseases, there would be a lot less people with them. My body is still attacking itself all day, every day, Sundays included. Remission for me means that the disease is not actively interfering with daily life. It also means that I do not need a steroid boost. It doesn't mean that I don't have flares; flares happen because of cold, stress or just because it feels like it. But, the flares have been minimal in the past year with no steroids boost.

But, doesn't exercise hurt? 
Exercise sounds counterproductive when you have chronic pain, but it is really the best thing, so long as you are able to do so. Back in the summer of 2013, I could barely make it from my house to the first streetlight. Today, I have complete my first 5K and training for another.The walking and running helps strengthen the muscles around the joints. I am also very in-tune with how my body feels. If the joints are angry, I may just go for a gentile walk with Junior or forgo the workout until I feel better. For the first time since my diagnosis, I am doing things that I have not done in 15 years of batling this illness. Also, I listen to my body. If I am not feeling right, I slow down and take it easy.  And, of course everything that I do is with the consultation and blessing of my RA doc.

What's next?
Continuing maintenance. The changes that I have made a so much a part of my routine, that I not comfortable forgoing the tracking and weighing my portions. I sometimes wonder if it's a little too OCD, but I know that it is what works for me and doing it is not interfering with my life. I have started doing yoga again for the strength training and for the stress relief. I was really into practice a long time ago, so I excited to get back into it. I am also planning on running another 5K in the spring.

The only challenge that I see is how to maintain all of this when I return to full time work/part time PhD or full time PhD/part time work. Right now, I'm part time work/part time PhD, which allows me sufficient to work out and make healthy meals. I am trying to incorporate strategies that mimic how my life will be should my work and school status change. It's a work in progress.

***

The past year and 17 months of weight loss and maintenance has not only given the tools to not only live a healthier and happier lifestyle, it has given my life back in that I am doing things that I thought I had lost because of the RA. Getting my life back is the greatest victory.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How Long?

Posted by Seeking Solace |

Yesterday, I followed up with the HMFIC for the job that I want at HBCU. It had been two weeks since my positive conversation. I apologized for not following up sooner, as I was suffering from the Plague. I asked her if there was any additional information that I could provide or if it would be possible to meet with her. She told me that she was surprised to here from me in that the committee was setting up interviews with candidates and she thought I was on the short list. When I told her that I had not heard anything, she said she would find out what was going on.

After I hung up the phone, I thought "WTF does all of this mean?"  Does it mean that I am on the short list? Does it mean that I am not on the short list and the committee just hasn't told me yet?

I could feel my over-analytical brain working overtime. So, I called Husband and repeated the conversation without any embellishment, just the word for word content. I did this because I know I am with stuff like this. I look for hidden meanings in words. Then, either my pessimistic nature kicks in, telling me that it's a no-go, or my small-yet-hopeful optimist begins to get too excited, which often ends in my getting hurt. I wanted Husband to give me the no-nonsense interpretation.

Husband thinks that the HMFIC is on my side and her surprise is genuine. He thinks that perhaps this committee does not have their shit together. Or, it may be that they have someone else in mind that is not who the HMFIC wants. Either way, he thinks that the conversation was positive.

OK, but still, I just don't understand why this process is incredibly screwed up. I mean, if I am not in, then do me a favor and just tell me, so that I can get on with the rest of my life. As it stands right now, I am neither excited or discouraged. I do not want to get my hopes up or start beating myself up. I am in a state of indifference. I will follow up again at the end of the week.

In the meantime, I applied for the exact same job at another SLAC just down the road from HBCU.

We'll see how long that one takes. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Please Excuse Seeking Solace...

Posted by Seeking Solace |

Please excuse Seeking Solace from the past couple of weeks of blogging. I've been battling some minor health issues, which by themselves, are not that big of a deal. But, when then pile on stuff one after the other, it's all-out war.

First, and I do apologize if anyone is offended by my TMI, I am getting to the age where "Auntie Flo's" visits are no longer predictable. There was a time where I could predict the exact hour of her arrival. Now, she just shows up when she feels like it. It's rather frustrating to plan your life around that kind of thing. While it's not the worst thing in the world, she did bring some additional baggage that I really didn't need to deal with at the time. This was the beginning of a blitzkrieg of issues.

Second, I had a minor RA flare last week. This was due to what I wrote in my last post. If the flare was the only thing that was going on, it would not have been a big deal. But, with Auntie Flo's surprise visit with unexpected additional baggage only added to the pain, discomfort and overall craptacular feelings I was experiencing. I made to Saturday where I thought I was finally in the clear.

I was wrong.

Saturday began the itchy, watery eyes, the sinus headache and my head feeling like a regulation inflated NFL football. (Yeah, I couldn't resist one last jab at Deflategate.) By Monday, my sinuses were so clogged that I could not function. I was also so nauseated that I could bare eat or drink. Then the vomiting began and a trip to Urgent Care revealed a sinus infection and an upper respiratory infection. I was given anti-nausea meds, a nasal spray and a steroid dose pack to battle the infections. The doctor did give me an antibiotic to use if the other meds did not give me relief. Because the biologic drugs for RA suppress the immune system,  antibiotics can cause some serious issues. She said I should check with the RA doc before taking them. Luckily, the current medical treatment is working, so no antibiotics needed.

Today is the first day that I am feeling human. The nausea is gone and I am slowing introducing real food back into my diet. I am still flushing out stuff from my nose, but it's clear, not milky green. And, the steroids have given me my energy back, along with the insomnia, energizer-bitch side effects. I don't consider this round of steroids as ending my one-year remission, as I was talking them for a different purpose. Husband did a great job getting rid of some of the excess dust and dander that seemed to pile up around the house, despite my efforts. Junior was a great snuggle buddy while I was sick, although I think his dander may have played minor role in my illness. Someone is having a spa day tomorrow.

I think the blitzkrieg is over. Now, it's time to get caught up on all the my missed work. 

So, to borrow a line that students use all too often...

Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Coldest Time of the Year

Posted by Seeking Solace |

It's officially the coldest time of the year in Elsewhere. Granted, people would be jumping for joy in Lake Effect Snow Central for temperatures in the upper 30's to low 40's in January, but here it's considered cold. Having lived here for 5.5 years, I can say that my blood has thinned out and I consider this to be very cold.

What this also means is that the RA is flaring up. Yesterday was a bad day. I had a hard time doing everything from walking to brushing my hair. I am pretty much useless on days like that. Rest, warm baths, rest some more are really the best and only thing to do, other than doing a steroid dose pack, which I only do when things get so bad that I cannot get out of bed. I have not used on in a year, and I don't want to.  I count my remission period in how long I go without a dose pack. I am moving a little better today, so I am hoping that this flare will pass.

Signs of spring start showing up around Valentine's Day. I'm hoping this flare will be way over by then.

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