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Posts Tagged ‘health’

  1. Some Might Think You’re A Hypochondriac When…

    June 21, 2015 by Diane

    Shelf with books

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac when you’re abnormally anxious about your health. But when does normal anxiety about one’s health become abnormal?

    A case in point…

    I became concerned about my cortisol levels. All of those adrenaline surges I’d suffered night after night after night had battered my adrenal glands to the point where they were shooting out cortisol like water from a busted fire hydrant. So obviously I needed to reset my adrenals, right?

    There’s a book on how to do that very thing.

    This book was written by a doctor who was on the Dr. Oz show. Not that I watch the Dr. Oz show (although if I was a hypochondriac, tuning in daily would be a tell-tale symptom). No, my mother watches the show, or she watched it this once—when the adrenal reset expert was on—and she recorded it and called me that evening and replayed the whole thing, repeating everything the doctor said about resetting your cortisol levels, which was this:

    “For breakfast, eat raw oats with berries, nuts and coconut milk.”

    I already did!

    So why was I still having those adrenaline surges?

    I looked up this expert online, and got his book, and in the book he clearly states the opposite: that it’s pure protein you should eat for breakfast, meaning MEAT, not carbs. Which is downright confusing! And I told him so in an email.

    Hey, on the Dr. Oz show you said to eat oats for breakfast, but in your book you said…

    Someone in his office emailed back, and gave me this explanation: there wasn’t much to choose from on the Dr. Oz set, so we went with what was available.


    Just who is this doctor?

    Dr. Christianson.

    Yeah, Dr. Christianson! That’s who.

    But I digress.

    In between adrenaline surges, I like to sleep with my left arm flung overhead. The result? When I wake up in the morning it’s numb, which in my book is a clear symptom of a heart attack. Is this the thought process of a hypochondriac? I think not. After all, my arm has gone numb many a time. For instance: one afternoon I set my laptop on the ironing board and stood and typed for an hour, my shoulders pressed into my earlobes, and sure enough, my left arm went numb. Now if that isn’t the start of a cardiovascular incident, I don’t know what is, right? Furthermore, if I was a hypochondriac–which I’m not–I might have called Dr. Oz himself, or even Dr. Christianson, for advice. If I had their numbers. But I didn’t. So I called the next best expert: my mother.

    “Um, my left arm is kinda numb, and it’s bugging me.”

    I was taking a walk when I called her, so it’s unlikely that I was having a cardiovascular incident, which her rational mind pointed out to me. Still, you can never be too sure.

    Now, some people might think that makes me a hypochondriac. And if they’ve read my blog, they might also think that I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and insomnia (NO-ZZZ), all of which add up to an obvious case of Squirrels in the Doohickey (SITD).

    But is my concern abnormal?

    Oh, sure, I’m not above asking people if I can poke around their stomach to see if it feels like mine, since mine feels like a mine-field.

    “That’s your vertebrae you’re feeling,” my doctor claims.

    “That hard knot?”

    “It’s your spine.”

    “Through my stomach?”

    “You’re thin.”

    “Here…that thing?”


    “Can I feel yours?”

    I’m not above asking my boyfriend to offer his abdomen to my probing fingers.

    “Can I…”

    “Oh for God’s sake…”

    And with an audible sigh he’ll roll onto his back and offer his belly, like a dog does, but not as happily, and I’ll knead away, like a cat does, but not as peacefully, and his belly, every time, feels soft and warm and pliant and not at all like mine.

    Now I ask you…does that make me a hypochondriac? Or you, for that matter–if you found yourself nodding with recognition?

    Some might think so.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you have the urge to feel a stranger’s carotid artery in the elevator after surreptitiously feeling the odd shape of your own. “Excuse me…”

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because you count the number of coughs you have in one day (throat clearings don’t count), and by two o’clock in the afternoon you’re up to fifty and wonder if you’re being a tab obsessive.

    Some might think you’re a hypochondriac because one whole bookshelf in your bedroom is filled with medical tomes. Especially if it’s a paramedic looking at that shelf (the night you end up going to the hospital wearing your own pajamas and come home wearing someone else’s), and as he scans that row of medical titles, his eyes flash a warning to his buddy that says, “uh-oh, hypochondriac,” ….well, I’m here to tell you one thing: don’t believe it.

    Not for a second.

    Because in my mind…

    (that is, if we’re really talking about you in this scenario, and not me),

    …in my mind you’re perfectly normal.

  2. Doc, I’ve Got This Thing…

    December 14, 2014 by Diane

    Portrait of senior male doctor with documents in hospital

    “Can you eat apricots?” the doctor asked.

    This is the doctor who decided that I might have a tumor in my neck. That slight bulge under my carotid artery, “It might be a tumor,” he said. “But don’t worry about it.” And he leaned back in his chair, looking pensive. “Can you eat apricots?”

    Wait. A tumor?

    And he wanted to know if I could eat apricots?

    When I go to a doctor with a thing, I want to know exactly what that thing is. I don’t want to hear “could be,” or “maybe,” or “probably.” I want that expert in the white lab coat to utilize his vast knowledge of the human species, his years of medical training, to offer a solid scientific explanation for what’s occurring in my body. After all, I did my part: I dragged my body to his office, and paid large sums of money to keep him available on a moment’s notice to diagnose and treat whatever the heck that thing is.

    Doctor Apricot, though, seemed to be on the tail-end of his professional career. He looked like the kind of old-timey doc who happily carted a black leather bag from house to house in the countryside and sat around  kitchen tables discussing dried fruit. In his defense, he had felt my neck–which I, in my infinite number of hours on earth, had also felt, prodded, and poked, reaching the same dire conclusion on my own. Without medical school.

    A tumor.

    As I sat across from him, stunned, my head swimming, he turned his worries to my diet. I’d mentioned all of the foods that I avoid due to sensitivities, or allergies, or whatever response my body chooses to communicate, and this age-old doc, after examining my neck, propped his sagging face onto one finger and asked, can you eat apricots?


    I never saw him again.

    I did, however, schedule a scan of my carotid artery, a procedure that involved shooting me with a contrast solution which…oh…“could kill you,” the nurse said as she stood over me with a clipboard, “so will you please sign this paper first?” I blinked at the nurse, and called my stalwart protector into the room (my advocate whom I had dragged along with me), and my advocate suggested that I “suck it up” and get the scan.

    So I sucked it up.

    I got the scan.

    The nurse injected me, a radiology technician slid me into a cold, indifferent scanner, and my heart surged and raced. I mentioned the surging and racing afterwards, and the technician said, “Oh, that’s from the solution. We didn’t tell you.”

    We didn’t tell you.

    And the tumor? There was none.

    Unless they’re not telling me about that, too.

    “So what’s the bulge?” I asked my new doctor, who shrugged. “Probably the weird way you’re made.” An expert diagnosis if ever I’ve heard one. I wanted to ask: “Did they teach you that in medical school?”

    Because really, what do they teach?

    Certainly not good hygiene. I can’t tell you how many doctors insist on shaking my hand before washing theirs. One doctor had mustard under his fingernails. Mustard! Or what looked like mustard. For most of the appointment he sat in the next room conversing with another doctor on the phone while I lay sweating on the exam table. As I listened to his muted voice, I was thankful that at least he wasn’t examining me with mustard fingers.

    And what about examinations? I had one doctor who must have skipped that lecture, because he didn’t examine me at all. I sat on the thin crackly paper while he asked a series of questions and then pulled a medical tome from his shelf, ran his finger down several entries, paused to read, snapped it shut, and told me I probably had an infection. Probably. The spiderwebs in his waiting room, and the lack of a receptionist, should have tipped me off: this guy was not rich with patients.

    Do they teach bedside manner in medical school? Evidently not. I had a consultation with a surgeon who was overweight, reeked of cigarettes, and had a nasty attitude. He strode into the exam room wearing scrubs that he must have dug up from the bottom of the laundry basket. And he was going to slice open my body? Uh…no. Obviously, he missed the lecture on healthy habits.

    So what do they teach in medical school?

    My guess, based on my vast experience in doctor’s offices, is this:  do not, under any circumstances, admit to a patient that you’re clueless. Instead, use the words “probably,” “maybe,” or “could be.” Or change the subject. Talk about apricots.


  3. Rewriting: Ten Ways to Ease the Pain

    August 10, 2014 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    If you peeked behind the curtain last week and didn’t see me, it’s because I was recharging instead of rewriting.

    Now I’m back. With a list of ten ways to ease the pain that comes with all of that mental activity. Ten ways to keep the body and mind healthy in the midst of tackling a rewrite.

    Here goes…

    1. Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can in the current moment with the knowledge you have.

    2. Schedule a time to write, and stick to it. Be mindful during this sacred time and focus only on your novel. Don’t engage in other activities. When the time is up, leave the writing and do something else. If ideas come, jot them down. Try not to obsess about your novel outside of that scheduled time slot. It tires the brain.

    3. Trust that the muse will appear at the scheduled time. Trust that the words will come when you begin typing or when you touch pen to page. Start the movement and let the words flow.

    4. When writing, get out of the chair every twenty minutes. All that sitting is bad for your heart, not to mention your spine. So get up. Do ten jumping jacks. Or five squats. Squats are good. You want to keep those leg muscles strong so you’re not relying on a walker when you’re eighty.

    5. Sit upright. Your head doesn’t need to be five inches from the screen. At the bottom of your pelvis are a couple of knobby muscles: the “sits bones.” Rest on them, and then roll forward so you’re sitting on the forward, flat part. This will align your pelvis so your spine can stack up properly. Your back muscles and digestive system will thank you. If you can’t manage to sit upright on your own, invest in a Nada-Chair. That “slouch-buster sling” will do the work for you.

    6. Or don’t sit at all. Build your desk up. Or invest in a treadmill desk. A doctor I know wrote a whole book in that fashion. You might find deals on eBay.

    7. Make sleep a priority. Set a bedtime schedule and stick to it. This gives the body a clear message that it’s sleepy-time; something your parents would announce if they were on hand to do so. Turn off all electronics an hour beforehand. If you slip up, and you’re on the computer writing into the wee hours of the night, at the very least download the free software program f.lux. It calibrates to your timezone, dimming your computer screen to a warm hue after sundown so all that blue light isn’t mucking up your melatonin, keeping you awake.

    8. As a pre-sleep ritual, do some light stretching to work out the tension in your muscles. This will also relax the brain. Another tension-buster is to lie on a mat, place a tennis ball on either side of your spine, and roll on them, pausing at the knotty areas and breathing deep to release the tightness. Do something to quiet the mind. Meditate, focusing on sounds, for five minutes before bedtime; or listen to a calming CD.

    9. Try to stay in the moment. When you write, write. When you sleep, sleep. When you plan, plan. If you find yourself planning the next chapter when you’re in bed trying to sleep, say to yourself, “planning, planning,” and let it go. If your mind is churning with thoughts, observe them as if they are leaves in a stream or clouds in the sky drifting by. It takes practice, but it works.

    10. Spend time in nature. Reconnect to the energy of the earth, which vibrates on a frequency that matches your own. All that sitting in front of a computer unsettles the nervous system. So go outside. Walk barefoot on the lawn. Or stretch out under a redwood tree and read a book. This isn’t being lazy. It’s called Earthing. And it’s healing.

    and a bonus tip:

    11. Know when to write, and when to walk away and be a good animal: eating, sleeping, and hanging out with the tribe. You’re a creative being in a physical body with human needs. Moderation is the key.

    Takeaways this week:

    Pain-Free Sitting, Standing, and Walking: Alleviate Chronic Pain by Relearning Natural Movement Patterns, by Craig Williamson, MSOT

    This. Only This: Mindfulness Strategies for Developing Peace in Every Moment by Michael H. Brooks

    Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? by Clinton Ober and Stephen Sinatra

    The Nada-Chair

    Treadmill desk

    F.Lux Software

    In case you missed it, my rewriting journey began here.