Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Homer Helps Hypochondriacs

I knew I loved The Simpsons for more than just their edgy humor. Researchers are now saying that the show is playing a role in the destigmatization of mental illness. The article explains that through humor, like Homer's attempt to cure his depression with a "homemade Prozac," the show acknowledges mental illness as a part of everyday life, rather than pretend it doesn't exist.

“Beer: The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.”
- Homer Simpson

One More Thing for Me to Neglect

I’m a slacker, a procrastinator of the worst kind. I can’t even handle watering my plants on a regular basis. But that won’t stop me from taking on a new project. I opened a flickr account today. You can find it here.

I can’t promise that it’ll be maintained. I can promise that I intend to update regularly, but that means absolutely nothing...

Getting My Ass Kicked

What I thought was a minor sore throat (that I was milking for time off work), turned out to be the beginning of a full-blown cold. I’ve spent the last four days in a haze of sneezing, coughing nastiness.

By Thursday afternoon, this cold had officially resonated in my chest, a welcome relief from the fury of sneezing, until I recalled the events leading to Sara’s cousin’s death. The heaviness in my chest threw me into a fit of panic that I haven’t experienced since my last major throat collapse.

By the time five o’clock rolled around, I was frantic; convinced that the bacterial infection in my lungs was moments away from causing organ failure and heart attack. I ran full speed to the car, where Rey waited to pick me up, burst into tears and begged to go to the hospital.

Rey, experienced in dealing with my hypo ways, calmly refused. Hyperventilating, shaking and sobbing, I spent the fifteen-minute ride home trying to convince him of the seriousness of my situation.

We passed the hospital, and shortly after we arrived at the house, I realized that it was dinnertime—a time I take very seriously—and that I was in no shape to head out to my favorite restaurant for beers and burgers. So, I snapped out of it, drank some generic DayQuil and apologized to Rey for my breakdown.

I forget the power of my hypochondria. Forget the power of my mind. In those minutes making up the car ride home, I truly, truly, truly believed I was on death’s doorstep. So, I guess the bottom line is I got my ass kicked; once by my pathetic cold and again by my crazy mind.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Where Do the Germs Go?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about Germ-X; hell, I love hand sanitizers in general. But, tonight as I sat down to dinner, and ritualistically lubed up my hands and arms with that cold silky gel, the words on the bottle jumped out at me, “Kills 99.9% of germs.”

Don’t worry, I’m not that anal, I can handle the .1% of germs that it doesn’t kill.
But, what I want to know, is where the other 99.9% of the germs that I’m killing are going.

Do they evaporate?

Are these germs dying a slow and bloody death on my hands, only to be smeared across my turkey burger just as I take a bite? Are their dead little bodies hanging from my fingers as I unknowingly suck the ketchup from each one? Am I involuntarily ingesting dead germ bodies at every turn?

I’m totally violated. Any lawyers for the taking?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sometimes It’s Best Not to Share

Along with new friends comes new medical knowledge; something I learned this weekend, when my new “friend” decided to share. Out of the blue, she informed me that, at the ripe age of thirty-seven, she has never tried a tampon. (Men, stop reading here).

Okay. First of all, I’m not one to discuss menstrual issues—even though we all have them—because it’s not exactly a pleasant issue. Second, how do you respond to that? Being inexperienced in this line of conversation, I responded as any baffled person would. “Why?” I asked, with my chin hanging just above the ground.

I was expecting some corny answer like, "I'm scared," or "it's gross," or "I was raised by 18th century nuns." But no, life is never that easy. Her response was this:

“When I was young, my aunt died from getting a tampon stuck in her uterus.”

Too much information!
If my chin wasn’t on the floor before, it was definitely there now. To actually know someone who knows someone who died from having a tampon stuck in her uterus! It might as well have happened to me!

It took years for me to try tampons in the first place. My fear spurred by my mother’s confession that removing a tampon felt like getting your guts ripped out, and then her later warning that tampons caused toxic shock syndrome and certain death. With time, I was able to overcome the words of The Beast. But this…

Not Too Bright

In a state of boredom, I decided it would be fun to put my trusty digital thermometer in a cup of hot tea. Now my trusty thermometer is broken. This is a minor crisis. I'm home alone sick with no thermometer! Talk about a panic attack waiting to happen.

I’m suddenly on fire, and don’t know if the 102.4 reading is my own, or a malfunction. I think I’ll try the fridge…

Home Sick

I woke up this morning to what felt like several large knives being raked down the back of my throat. This isn’t exactly atypical, as sore throats have become my body’s “real” illness of choice lately. Among other recent throat issues, including throat collapse, I’ve had real strep throat twice over the past year. (If you’ve never had strep throat, you have no appreciation for the suffering I’ve experienced; it’s the equivalent of a childless woman trying to understand the pains of labor. If you have had a child, or in this case, strep throat, you know the powers that be are against me). And needless to say, I’m touchy about my throat.

My first case of strep started with swollen lymph nodes after exposure to a particularly nasty co-worker, a co-worker who’d never heard of a shower or washing machine. I immediately went to the doctor. Begged for antibiotics. And after being denied, emerged three days later with large cauliflower growths on my tonsils. When I finally returned to work, ten pounds and one week of vacation lighter, WTP informed me that she’d “had strep throat at least 60 times in her life,” but of course, was positive she hadn’t given it to me.

So that’s my premise for staying home, (1) I don’t want to be responsible for getting my co-workers sick (lie); and (2) I need to baby my throat with Throat Coat and wine so as not to develop another case of strep.

I think I feel the guilt setting in.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mr. Clean

I’m mad tonight. I have a sore in my nose. My throat hurts. I’m broke. And I’m mad.

I actually had an okay day. It’s Support Staff Week at the office, so the day greeted me with flowers and gifts followed by lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant. But, now I’m mad. And when I’m mad, I clean.

I don’t drink. I don’t blog. I don’t eat. I don’t talk. I don’t watch TV. I clean.

I clean not because cleaning makes me happy, but because cleaning keeps me busy. It gives me a fake sense of accomplishment, a finished product. Or maybe I spent so many hours mad and cleaning as a child, it's just second nature.

Either way, excuse me while I go scrub the toilet.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hypochondriac Central

If you're as bored as I am on this lovely Saturday afternoon, let me direct you to a place no hypochondriac should go, New Scientist. They link to every health risk test in the book. It's guaranteed fun for hours; the gift that keeps on giving.

You can thank me later.

Flutter Little Butterfly, Flutter

Drinks in a trendy lounge followed by pool until 3:30 a.m. and a pit stop at Denny’s pretty much sums up my Friday night. If you know me, you know that’s vastly different from my customary Friday on the couch around a twelve pack and chicken burrito. You also know that it would take large amounts of alcohol for me to engage in such activities, and to that I would say, you couldn’t be more right.

I spent all day at work yesterday in a fit of angst over my “friend’s” invitation. But, I guess that’s the name of the game when you’re playing with social anxiety.

Part of the reason why I was so anxious—aside of course from the large crowded spaces and socializing—was meeting my 37-year-old-recently-separated-“friend’s” new “boyfriend.” I find meeting new people stressful; I find meeting new people in front of people I already know even more stressful. But, as soon as I realized that my “friend” and her new “boyfriend” were visibly nervous, I calmed right down. I don’t know if it goes back to misery loving company, but I was able to relax and have a genuinely good time.

Social anxiety may not be my “friend” for too much longer.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Name is Leila and I'm a Skymall Addict

Yes, it's true, I'm one of them.

Truth be Told

There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us.
- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Taste of Sweden

In case I haven’t mentioned it, I fancy myself a chef. Never mind the fact that I typically eat out five times a week and only cook on football Sundays. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t love food!

I know a good recipe when I see one, and Anne’s Food blog is full of them. Guaranteed to leave your mouth watering, (plus she has cute kitten pictures).

I’ve been meaning to share my own recipe for homemade tortillas that Rey’s eighty-year old Mexican Grandma imparted on me last summer. But, I’m greedy and don’t want anyone eating tortillas without me.

Invasion of the Centenarians

I always thought living to see 100 years-old was the exception, not the norm. I had no idea that the gramps and grannys were taking over the U.S. There the fastest-growing age group in America, with their population tripling in the last twenty years.

Now, this is good news!
On the other hand, maybe it’s bad news, considering the way these people drive.

And get this, all you have to do to become part of this group is:
posses good genes, be positive, eat healthy, exercise and don’t smoke. Groundbreaking!

I don't stand a chance.

Another Good Reason Not to Leave the House

The sun is our enemy! All you brave souls out there, take a look at its mark over at Discovery Health’s Sun Exposure Gallery. But, I'm warning you, you will never sunbathe again...

Can you say sunblock!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Just Another Manic Monday

I spent all of Saturday and most of Sunday in an alcohol-induced haze trying to drown out what felt like forty broken bones from my snowboarding fiasco. When I finally came to, yesterday afternoon, and realized that my neck had regained enough strength to hold up my head, I was ecstatic. I stayed up just long enough to do a little dance and pound two more glasses of scotch before bed.

When I opened my eyes this morning, I felt great. I remembered what it was like to breathe without stabbing sensations coursing through my ribs.

Then I tried to lift my head. This is when things started downhill. The stabbing sensations from the ribs and lungs had relocated to the right side of my neck, one of the few areas of my body that hadn’t been sore the days before. And of course the neck pain couldn’t stand alone, my right jaw was locked up too. But, no big deal, I’m a big girl. I can handle a stiff neck and lock jaw. After all, I am a TMJ survivor who lived with my jaw wired-shut for three months.

But as the morning went on, I realized that my stiff neck and lock jaw weren’t stiff neck and lock jaw at all. They were side effects from a tumor on my jawbone. I came to this diagnosis after unintentionally shoving my thumb into the bone that lies just above my lymph node. The pain was excruciating, like I’d been hit in the head with a baseball bat. I knew instantly that no odd sleeping position could cause such discomfort.

And so went my Monday, checking the bone tumor, in between drinking green tea, and checking the lymph node for tumor spillage.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hypochondria, Malingering and Stigmatization

Any hypochondriac will tell you that stigma is a part of their life. On second thought, most hypochondriacs won’t even tell you their a hypochondriac in an attempt to avoid that stigmatization all together. I’m part of that group, I won’t tell my family or friends, let alone my doctor.

I think part of the stigma surrounding hypochondria is the public’s misperception of the disorder. Many people incorrectly characterize hypochondriacs as individuals who intentionally fake illness for gain. Contrary to popular belief, that is not hypochondria, it’s malingering.

Hypochondria is an excessive preoccupation with illness. An internal battle of an individual who wants nothing more than to be healthy, but obsesses that she is sick. Quite adverse to malingering, many hypochondriacs—though they believe they are sick—intentionally fake health to avoid stigma.

Malingering on the other hand, is not a preoccupation with illness, or an internal battle. It’s a deliberate falsification of illness for gain. An example of malingering would be an individual who fakes a fall at work in order to receive workers’ compensation. The malingering individual knows she is not sick. The hypochondriac believes she is.

I think once the public realizes that hypochondriacs aren’t conniving individuals, there will be sympathy for hypos rather than disgust. Hypochondriacs will no longer be dismissed, but treated as individuals with a tangible disorder.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cracked Rib, Possible Punctured Lung, Definite Concussion

Lifting the pain medication (read Sierra Nevada), is about all I can handle right now, so excuse me if this post is only long enough for me to bitch about every ache and sunburned portion of my body. And speaking of aches, holding down the shift key to capitalize that last sentence just sent my pinky into a fit of convulsions.

I took the day off work today to go snowboarding with Rey and our houseguest, (our ten-year-old houseguest). A trip that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks on end. Cuz, after all, I am a totally hip snowboarding chick!

Ummmmm, no. Leila, meet Reality; Reality, Leila. I’m officially old and uncool.

Today I realized that I’m more out of touch with reality (and my body), than I previously thought. I only made it down the bunny hill twice, which is not as pathetic if you consider that Rey, who is normally much tougher than me, only made it down once. And my second trip consisted of chaperoning a bawling ten-year-old.

I thought having an aneurysm was bad! Snowboarding is worse. Two words: don’t believe the hype! Snowboarding sucks. And if you can snowboard, you suck too.

Did I mention my eyelids are sunburned?

(That's me face down in the snow, and said ten-year-old carrying his board down the hill.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Are You Sick?

Want to know if your neighbors are? Or maybe you’ve just run out of symptoms? Find out what’s plaguing your area here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's All Making Sense

In case I haven’t mentioned it, I’m half McCoy and half bastard. Over the years, my bastard half has morphed into my “Italian” half, because I don’t know…it sounded good at the time…and I have dark hair. But, since we’re all being honest here, I’m not Italian at all. I’m half McCoy and half McGrath, which makes me a certified Mick. And according to this article, 100% fucked.

Usually I avoid divulging my McCoy heritage in an attempt to avoid the smirks, tasteless jokes and association with the Hatfields. But apparently, I have more reasons to avoid the name than I realized. The infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud is now being blamed on an inherited rage disease carried by yours truly…

Von Hippel-Lindau disease, which afflicts many [McCoy] family members, can cause tumors in the eyes, ears, pancreas, kidney, brain (my brother) and spine. Roughly three-fourths of the affected McCoys have pheochromocytomas — tumors of the adrenal gland…[which causes] high blood pressure (me), pounding headaches (me), heart palpitations (me), facial flushing (totally me), nausea and vomiting (me, especially after a twelve pack of Guinness).

The Hatfields never stood a chance.

I’m making an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. I knew there was something wrong with my kidney.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Frumpy Old Librarian

There’s nothing like a mother’s words to send you wallowing into a pit of low self-esteem; something that I’ve learned particularly well over the course of my existence. And my darling mother, The Beast as I lovingly refer to her, has done nothing short of mastering the art of saying the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.

For instance, shortly after meeting Rey, she decided to impart a pearl of wisdom onto her daughter in the presence of her newly found boyfriend. That pearl, or big hunk shit, looked something like this, “Leila, let me tell what you do, and Rey you listen to this too. Have a kid. As soon as you have the kid, you put it in daycare and get a job. Then, when the kid gets old enough to go to school, you quit your job and stay home.” Luckily for me, Rey has a sense humor, and he laughed instead of ran.

Similarly, when I hit puberty, and to my dismay developed an attractive farm of acne on my back, my mom had these words of encouragement to offer, “Oh my God! How can you live with those zits on your back? Don’t you just want to take a razor and shave them off?” That one still stings, and the scar from the razor aint pretty. But I digress.

In an effort of good faith, I contact The Beast about every other week to say hello and listen to her bitch about her never-ending divorce, which is just about as exciting as having my toenails yanked out with a pair of acid dipped pliers, but I do my duty as a good child, and make the call anyway.

This week when I made my obligatory call, I was greeted with the following, “If you look at yourself now, compared to the way you looked during your last couple years of high school, you look like a frumpy old librarian.” I semi-jokingly told her I hoped she died and hung up the phone. I cried myself to sleep that night.

The librarian part I can live with. But, frumpy? Frump·y, [fruhm-pee]: A girl or woman regarded as dull, plain, or unfashionable? Now given, I don’t read Cosmo, nor do I prance around in four-inch heels, but to be so harsh? Why not just kick me in the teeth and spit on my face?

I know I should keep in mind that this is the same women who once implied that drugs were an easy way to maintain a girlish figure, because duh, “what do you think the models do?” But, it still hurts.

Part of me continues to romanticize the mother-daughter relationship. I can’t fully accept that my mother is an emotionally fucked basket case; and that she's doing her best to bring me down with her. The root of my anxiety is suddenly becoming so much clearer.

Woe is me.

Happy Easter

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Truth be Told

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension and not in another, unevenly. We grow unevenly. We are relative. We mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.
- Anais Nin

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nature's Cure

There’s something about hiking along a stream, on a pinecone littered path, that sweeps the anxiety away. Either that, or the three miles of uphill terrain drown out the craziness.

The order and beauty within the chaos of nature is truly humbling. Then again, maybe that's just the city girl in me talking.

And finally, pictures I haven't lifted off the net, but my amateur skills don't do the trail justice.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Please Not the Bowels

Within the last year, I’ve developed a tick in my left eye. When it unexpectedly made its first appearance, I was distraught. I was nearly in tears under the assumption that part of my brain was malfunctioning.

Then, as time went by, and the twitch came and went, I reached the understanding that it was just part of aging; bad stress management. I came to terms with the rogue eye twitch, and accepted it as benign.

The past few days brought an abnormally long visit from the twitch, so I decided to take matters into my hands and [cue scary music] google the twitch. It was shortly thereafter that I stumbled upon this lovely little site, which states in part:

…eye twitching is believed to be caused by an abnormal functioning of certain nerve areas located at the base of the brain which control the coordination of muscle movements…

Okay, for some reason, the whole “abnormal functioning” part is not jiving well. I’m suddenly back to being distraught. I can’t help but wonder what bodily function will deteriorate next.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Respect the Bubble

Some people don’t seem to understand the concept of personal space, so I thought I’d take the liberty of explaining it here.

Personal space is that area around a person’s body that another need not enter without clearance. It’s the invisible bubble that surrounds us all. Sizes may vary, but always, always err on the side of caution. Invading a person’s bubble is a serious offense.

My bubble, for instance, surrounds my head with a two-foot radius. This means that when you speak to me, there is no reason I should smell your breath, or your body odor. This also means that as you animatedly tell me a story, your hand does not need to be two inches from my face. Believe me, the story is just as enjoyable with out your filthy hands threatening to transmit your disease.

There’s nothing worse than a person who can’t respect the bubble. So please, please, please be cognizant of the bubble!

Something Smells Fishy

Earlier this week, there was an article in the paper about arsenic in our water supply. Nothing to worry about, of course, because the city is devising a way to the lower the contamination levels, (because apparently, there’s a safe level of arsenic to ingest).

Then, later this week, another article runs warning people that the water may be cloudy, but once again, there’s nothing to worry about. Supposedly, the clouded water is a side effect of firefighters testing fire hydrants, not arsenic.

And isn’t it ironic that these stories run right after I finish the book A Civil Action, a true story about people developing leukemia from consuming contaminated drinking water?

The Hypchondriac's Toolbox

Encephalitis was one of my favorite diseases before I got one of these babies. I used to die at least once a day from high fever and brain swelling.

The digital thermometer stopped me in my tracks. It can be considered nothing less than a cure for hypochondria-induced Encephalitis; which is why I declare the digital thermometer a must have item for every hypo.