Archive for the 'brain damage' Category

we now interrupt this vacation story for a brief prognosis

i’ll get back to the catalan, maurizio, barca, cs lewis, etc. tomorrow.  But based on what people who read my blog seem to be interested in, i thought i’d give the public what it wants by updating an alternative plot-line: the brain damage vs panic saga.

i went back to dr. cranium for the results of my EEG, MRI and baer tests last thursday.  but not before my coworker (brekkies, the brit) totally freaked me out and chastised me for not having someone accompany me to the results session.  he told me it was very serious stuff and that i should not be alone and was there not a single girlfriend or boyfriend that could go with me for support?  i’m like support for what?  we all know the tests will tell us nothing we don’t already know.  he berated me a bit further and reminded me that i’m not a fucking superhero.  i told him i appreciated his concern, but he was actually making me feel worse.  i mean, if i were going for biopsy results or something, maybe i’d ask someone to go, but not for routine tests.  i mean, shit, do you ask your friends to hold your hand for every pap smear result?

dr. cranium was way cooler this time- nice, funny, relaxed.  maybe he was just having a bad day last time.  he told me that everything looked pretty good.  my mri showed only two small lesion-esque things, but he didn’t think they were the issue.  the eeg and the baer were normal, but i’d only gotten the brief, initial tests and they only show damages 50% of the time.  he then offered options: i can let it go, or i can go for further tests. 

the “further tests” is being locked into a room for 24 hours with electrodes stuck to my head, constantly being monitored and occasionally provoked to have “an episode-” panic attack, vertigo, whathaveyou.  sleep deprivation, absence of my klonopin, that kind of stuff.  i can watch movies and have friends over, but preferably the kind that are likely to provoke me into freaking out or disrupting my sensory flow.  who wouldn’t want that?

he stressed that it’s my choice and is less scary than the explanatory literature makes it sound.  since my current meds help me function relatively well, it’s not necessary.  however, without further info, he can’t really answer “what ifs” because the answers could be endless and impossible to guess. 

i told him i thought it would be a good idea (as long as insurance approves) and that we should set it up for a saturday so as to keep workplace busybody-ism to a minimum.  he said he thought that was the best course, but didn’t want to pressure me.  as he says, the ideal number of medications in your body is zero, so might as well shoot for that.

before signing off on this course, we agreed i should read up on it and then make my appointment.  i also threw him a curve: what if i just have panic disorder, with a side order of spatial perception issues?  i mean, i don’t want to be a hypochondriac.  he said that the prognosis of panic was entirely plausible, but not hypochondria.  he’s met tons of those and i am definitely not in that class.  that was reassuring.  i don’t want to be that asshole. 

so, might as well knock down all the possibilities until we settle on the one that fits and then treat that.  makes sense, i think.  but i’m not sure.

any advice?

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but that’s not even on the main periodic table

so, as i mentioned in my last post, i had an MRI this week.  it was, as you suspect, what the kids call “good times.”

i had to schedule it early because i need to keep people at work a little less up to date on my personal life.  leaving early and coming in late may not put me in career jeopardy, but it definitely needs to be a non-issue. 

i got up early, hung over (yeah, i know, but i needed that relief) and headed down to the office.  i walk in and it’s this big, airy, light, monochramtically neutral space with lots of bonzai trees and teddy bears.  the extra touches for comfort somehow make me a little more uneasy.  i walk up to reception and hand them my prescription.  the look of consternation on the nice lady’s confirmed my fears: this was not going to be easy.

i’m one of those assholes that always has a small tingle of impending minor disaster in the back of my brain.  i could be armed with three hundred in cash and six empty credit cards and yet i always feel that i’m going to be humiliated at the supermarket by not being able to pay.  when i am having an easy conversation with someone i’ve met several times, i say their name and am suddenly convinced that i said called them the wrong name.  despite the fact that my fears are almost never realized, they have not abated.

this time, however, i face the self-fulfilling prophecy: something’s wrong.  turns out my scrip is for a +/- contrast test and i didn’t mention that on the phone when i made the appointment.  i explained again as i did when i made the appointment that i can’t make out the doc’s handwriting and gave them what i could get out of it.  the problem is that the nurse is out today and there’s no one to inject me with the gadolinium (the wha?) for the contrast part.  i have to reschedule.

ugh.  i’m leaving for vacation on weds night (yay), but i’m in cleveland monday (boo), so that leaves little time to get this done this month.  we settle on tuesday, which means i won’t know results until i get back from the canaries.  not ideal.

then, captain radiologist comes to the rescue; he’ll do the injection.  huzzah!

i head downstairs, take everything off and put it in the locker and curl up on the inoffensive beige couch in my robe and settle in to read cosmo girl and listen to the soothing beach sounds emanating from the lighty seascapes on the wall.    after i sit there long enough to become thoroughly convinced that they’ve forgotten about me, they come get me, give me the surgical hair net, put me on the table, put on headphones (they have top 40 or lite FM for my listening pleasure) and put the cage over my head.  i think that’s really the worst part, the head cage.  i’m not claustrophobic, so the super enclosed tube and the inability to move don’t bother me, but the cage is for sure disconcerting.

the test went, well, the test went.  i didn’t have a reaction to the gadolinium injection (huge relief, the disclaimers sounded awful).  for those of you who were wondering, it’s a rare earth metal on that part of the periodic table that has to be shown off to the side like alaska or hawaii on a map of the US.  atomic weight of 157.24 and is solid at room temperature.  apparently, it binds to some damaged areas of the brain.  i looked it up.

then, i was off to work.  i had too much to do to accompany the kids to the 7-11 they’ve made into a quickie mart.  all the adults were at my boss’s son’s briss, save me.  i had a lot to do and i just couldn’t kick my rotten mood.  it was an exhausting day, physically and emotionally, but the worst was not being able to shake off the mood.  i have too much to do for that kind of self indulgence.

anyway, my doc gets the results monday afternoon.  i have more tests at his office on tuesday morning, so maybe i’ll find out then, or maybe i have to wait until i get back.  it’s not like it’s a big deal, really, because my doc gave me the heads up on the situation, which can be summed up in the words of the inimitable david brent: “i have bad news and irrelevant news….”

but i did get a blue squishie.  and it was delicious.  simpsons fan or no, i recommend you hop on down to the quickie mart and treat yourself.

what do you get when you cross a hedge fund trader and a longshoreman?

well, that depends on whom you ask, i guess.  but according to ronnie of carle place, long island, what you get is what i, apparently, need. 

cs lewis and i met at the beer garden for a drink after an especially painful stab therapy session.  as i’d suspected, cs lewis’d made friends by the time i arrived.  ronnie and ralphie, two mooks of the highest order (a sincere compliment in my book).  they were waiting for friends, too and had invited cs to sit with them whilst she waited for me.

i was in a foul mood.  work had been especially rough, i’d endured 6 hours, 2 cancelled flights and several delays at cleveland hopkins airport.  i’d had to meet corky st kurtz, the ‘creative’ head of my division in the president’s club and had a very awkward conversation.  you know when you know that someone just does not like you, especially for no good reason, but you have to have polite, civil, and hopefully productive conversations with them?  and then they condescend to you and tell you to remain there after they leave and have some drinks because they’re free?  did i mention that i’m pretty much the only person out of seventy plus in the division actually bringing in revenue? 

couple that with the painful therapy and the fact that i had to get up early the next morning for an mri, and i was so close to going home and burying my head in my pillow.  luckily, i kept my date with cs because these guys were hilarious. 

ralphie and ronnie were joined by mikey and val.  the former being a high school english teacher living in his parents long island basement with a prodigious early eighties porn collection and the latter being a french immigrant working in technology who thoroughly enjoyed all the racist slurs and gallic slander we could conjure up.  ronnie was married, waiting for his wife to get home from a girls night out so they could celebrate their first anniversary together.

i must tell you that a night out drinking with a quadrumvirate of ball-busting mooks is exactly what the doctor ordered.

they gave very helpful advice on men. mostly from ronnie, who told me i scare the shit out of the stronger sex and that’s why i’m single (yeah, ronnie, that’s what i tell myself).  other roundtable topics included favorite authors, the best lines from fight club, shaving/ hair preferences and personal styles, why, exactly, mikey still lived in the basement, the diamond trade and nifty blackberry tips.

i had intended on going home early so as to avoid being hungover for my MRI, but stayed out late because it was such a fun and relaxing evening. 

i also learned it’s possible to play wingman via text (good luck with frenchy, cs!).

we definitely have to hang out with those guys again.  and, yes, daphne, you’ll be there.

uh, i’m not sure how to take that

i have had the grand distinction of being called “interesting” by both a neurologist and a psychiatrist. 

since both of these gentlemen are very learned, been practicing for decades, are unknown to each other and are essentially talking about my brain, i’m not so sure this is a good thing.

in addition to a dental cleaning and a dose of pain management, i had the pleasure of visiting a neurologist for the first time today.  being my second day of hat tricks of doctor’s visits this week, i was at least glad for the novelty. also novel was being scolded for two very contradictory behaviors at the same time by dr. cranium md, do. 

let me explain.  no, there is too much.  let me sum up.

as mouchany of you know, i bumped into a midnight-blue ford econoline e-350 back in high school and the encounter caused a myriad of pesky bodily injuries as well some hiccups in my spatial and visual perception, bouts of vertigo, wee moments of panic and occasional lapses in memory.  as i mentioned in previous entries, i began addressing the soft tissue damage and spinal irregularities a few years ago, hoping various methods of pain management would actually help heal my wounds of nearly two decades.

so, i also go to see a shrink to manage the panic and meds that go with it.  he took the usual history and suggested we meet semi-regularly both to monitor my medications as well as figure out if my vertigo causes my panic or my panic causes my vertigo, or if they are mere happy coincidences.  during some of these talks, he declared me “very interesting” and not in a condescending tone- impressive for a freudian.  he’s also often mentioned that it’s insane that i’ve never been to see a neurologist considering the nasty bump my head received upon impact with the pavement all those years ago. 

so, when i was last in dr. koala’s office (he really, really looks like a koala bear, and his name sounds an awful lot like that as well- onomatopoeia!  in reality.  awesome, no?), i mentioned that i was finally seeing a neurologist this week.  he said “apropos of…..?” 

apropos of you telling me the craziest thing about me is not having seen one in the last eighteen years, maybe.

anyhoo, i go today to see the brain doctor and he simultaneously sternly told me that he didn’t understand why i was seeing him while reprimanding me for not seeing him or one of his colleagues for the last two decades.  he kept telling me it didn’t make sense.  i tried explaining i was fourteen when i was in the accident, that no one would tell me anything because i was a minor and that since my mom has died and i have no reference for that time period.  i was too busy in the two years following my accident taking care of my mom to go. 

since then, how would i know?  no one gave me the manual or sent me the memo on what to do.  what i knew about brain injuries is that they’re permanent and since i have pills to keep the panic at bay, the perceptory spasms are momentary and the memory lapses are minor, what’s he gonna do about it anyway?

after he calmed down and examined me, he suggested a battery of tests because, as he put it, every once in a while you find out that panic attacks are actually small seizures and since my uncle pat had petit mal epilepsy, we might want to run some basics as a matter of course. 

so, i have some more appointments.  as he put it, if we find something, we’ll deal with it, if we don’t, i just have permanent brain damage from a traumatic injury. 

i’m still figuring out which of these is the best case scenario.

footnote: this is not a pity-me entry, it’s being put into the stable of my signature “funny stories” that both friends and strangers alike so completely dread. 

things to do on a rainy day

the one and only 64the 64box of 64that is if you’re an enormous nerd like me.

1.  Watch a Lifetime movie starring Jenna Elfman as a woman obsessed with a surgeon who has invented an entire relationship in her head (as well as a gauzily-lit psychiatrist and a contempt of court-prone journalist).  Best line from the court-appointed psychiatrist: “she has seven of the ten traits of an assassin.”  …?  I didn’t know these had been catalogued.  Fortunately, the good people at Lifetime TV have their eyes on things.

Aside: Thank god people don’t diagnose themselves with imagined illnesses based on Lifetime plots like they do on WebMD.  My friend Christina jokes that she hates that website because somehow, whenever she feels ill and researches her symptoms, she ends up with a diagnosis of testicular cancer and the prognosis does not look good.  The Lifetime result would be neuro-eroticism (Jenna’s official diagnosis) or imaginary child syndrome (featured in an excellent production starring Rita Wilson and Victor Garber, by the way).

2. Color in your coloring books.  Yeah, you heard me.  I do indeed have coloring books.  And man, do I need some new ones.  At this point I’m pretty much down to the German Sesame Street coloring book I got as a freebie at an old job.  It’s not very challenging, but it is awesomely sterotypical as several of the scenes face pages that firmly instruct kiddies on exaclty which colors to use and how one must play properly. 

3.  Brush your teeth a lot.  For some reason, being lazy makes my mouth feel dirty.  God help me if a Freudian gets a hold of this sentence.

4.  Watch Empire Strikes Back.  Awesome, it is.

5.  Play word games on a website designed for seven year olds.  It’s not that I’m looking for easy- I can usually nail the Sunday Times crossword in half an hour flat- I just need enough points to buy my virtual pet some food and books.  I don’t want my red, bowtie wearing penguin to be considered stupid, after all.

6. Whatever you do, don’t clean, organize, balance your check book, pay bills, write to people or make overdue phone calls.  That sounds like work, man.  And we cannot have that on our rainy day off. 

7. Write inconsequential entries on your blog to bide time until the Psychic Detectives marathon begins. 

the boss of me

literalismi’m totally having one of those “dancing in the dark” moments.  you know, “i wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face…”

i’m not sure if bruce meant that expression of ennui to extend to your job, friends, family, name, home furnishings, country of residence… but i think he did.  and man, was he singing my tune.

you know that girl who has a great, fun job, an incredible apartment, many and good friends, is (relatively) financially solvent, blah, blah, blah and has no apparent reason to complain?  well here i am, and i’m doing it anyway.

i’m just exhausted.  i have to tell you (whoever you are, dear reader) that chronic pain really can put a damper on all the other stuff you’ve got going for you.  for years and years, i thought it was something i just had to live with and i was tough about it, and didn’t complain.  hell, my gimped out leg, banged up brain and creaky, crackly neck were not going to be the boss of me.  i laughed at their petty attempts to slow me down, to make me uncomfortable, to turn the world and my stomach upside down.  and i wasn’t going to take no pain killers or sleeping pills neither.  it just was.  me against them.  and i knew who was going to win that war.

 so then, a couple of years ago, i go to a new doctor and i hear this new whispering on the wind: you don’t have to hurt, you can be healed!  you can be saved!  you can be whole again!  it was like a tent revival with the elders speaking via the tongues of acupuncture needles, electronic stimulation and lidocaine injections (among other fun for the whole family).

there was this totally weird side effect: a begrudging hope.  i might wake up one day and not be hurting?  hell, that’s putting the cart before the horse.  i might be able to fall asleep one day, and not have the pain and tension keep me up and wake me up and wear me out the whole night through?  at first it seemed crazy talk.  but the more people i saw, the more my impending recovery was touted, the more i believed.

so, i go.  i get injected with syringes full of lidocaine in my neck, shoulder, hip, head and face twice a week.  about forty to fifty shots in all.  i get cracked and realigned and twisted and pushed and stretched at least once a week. i am coached to make my body relax to ease the pain in the name of rest and sleep for a couple hundred a month.  i spend seventy percent of my disposable income on copays, treatments not covered, prescriptions, you name it. 

 now comes the next weird side effect: defeat. 

 i’m not saying i don’t feel a bit better.  i do. a bit.  after treatment, usually the next day and maybe the day after that.  better, not good.  but the raised expectations have made the reality that much more demoralizing by comparison.

now, don’t get me wrong.  i know in the grand scheme of things, i’m floating on air.  nothing fatal, nothing debilitating, nothing acute.  it’s hard to articulate.  sometimes i think the worst part is that people are understanding, but they don’t understand.  get vertigo and have to will yourself not to wretch in glass building? i know trust me. pull a muscle?  that’s my daily condition.  tear a rotator cuff, arthritis stinging, strain a ligament?  i know i live it.  all the time. 

people don’t really want to hear it.  and you know what, guys, neither do i.  seriously.  i’d love not to talk about it, or think about it, or complain about it.  i feel like a heel right now.  a totally selfish, self-sorry jerk.

so what do i do now?  i keep trying.  i take the painkillers.  get the sleeping pills.  and if that doesn’t work, i think i might want to go back to my roots: telling the pain to fuck off and pretending it did.  it may not get better, but it will stop ruling my world. 

 just needed to get that off my chest.  thanks for listening.  i’ll go back to writing about inanity and pop culture and digital etiquette.

i promise.


truth

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

truth

Upon common theatres, indeed, the applause of the audience is of more importance to the actors than their own approbation. But upon the stage of life, while conscience claps, let the world hiss! On the contrary if conscience disapproves, the loudest applauses of the world are of little value - john adams
November 2017
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from the man who taught me everything:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

bygones