Self-Renewal

I am relishing the fact that spring has come to my part of the world. The sun is out, the temperatures are verging on hot, at least during the daytime, and my entire outlook is bright. Oddly, even working the same amount of hours and spending the same amount of time on errands and other things that I have to fit around my schedule, these last few days seem to be endless. There is a sense of calm, a sense of relief, a sense that not just the plants are awakening, but that I am as well.

The amateur psychologist within me is wondering if I might have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So of course, I googled it.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that:

“To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years.”

I checked the symptoms of major depression and added my personal analysis:

Symptoms of Major Depression

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day — Not at all
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless — Nope
  • Having low energy — Well do get up at 4:30 AM and often chase a 2 1/2 year old around so…
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed — No
  • Having problems with sleep — I’m nearing 60. I think I read that it’s common to wake up at night, and take naps during the day. Also see the low energy answer.
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight — No, and my weight has held steady for quite some time now. A nice surprise at my last medical checkup.
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated — This one’s a no as well.
  • Having difficulty concentrating — I can concentrate just fine, I just don’t always remember things after I’ve concentrated on them.
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide. — I will admit that hearing that Barbara Bush just passed at 92 years, and that the Queen of England just turned 92 has made me quite aware that I am closer to those numbers myself, but I plan to stick around for some time yet.

I would have to say that I don’t really qualify for the major depression diagnosis. As to the winter symptoms associated with SAD (plus answers again):

Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:

  • Having low energy — I think we covered that one above.
  • Hypersomnia — While I have never fallen asleep while driving, or dozed off while screening a baby, I can easily fall asleep during toddler nap time after lunch.
  • Overeating — Don’t think so, but where does having a strong desire to visit the snack chip aisle in the grocery store fall? I admit to giving into that urge a few times too many. By the way- Lays Kettle Cooked Olive Oil and Herb chips are excellent!
  • Weight gain — No, really I have not gained weight so I think you need to stop asking.
  • Craving for carbohydrates — I always crave carbs. Winter, spring, summer, or fall I do not differentiate with any season regarding my carb craving… ever.
  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”) — Maybe when the thermometer says 20 degrees, but I got a nice new down jacket this past winter so I was pretty toasty warm.

Apparently I appear to be fairly stable in the depression arena, and based on subjective opinion, may or may not have some of the symptoms of the winter disorder, but given the definition above, I don’t think that I qualify.

Perhaps seeing my garden bloom, the birds flying past my window, planning out delicious recipes that highlight all the upcoming spring and summer vegetables, looking forward to getting outside more with the granddaughters, and sipping some chilled wine while relaxing on summer evenings on the front lawn means nothing more than my life is normal. It is falling into place. I am settling in and settling down while moving forward. Perhaps the residual stress of that long journey that I was trying to endure at this time last year is really no longer a part of me.

The road ahead is open and I don’t think that I have to look back anymore.

Advertisements

As Flat As A…

Today was mammogram day. It’s been a few years. I know for many women this procedure isn’t pleasant. I’ve always assumed that unpleasantness might have something to do with size of, or type of breast tissue being squeezed into a pancake shape. Other than the increasing pendulous nature of my 5 decades old breasts, I’ve never really found a mammogram to be unpleasant or painful.

It’s never really been difficult to make small talk either, while I stand nonchalantly waiting between images with my chest exposed, my blue cape casually swept back over my shoulders in something akin to a strong superhero about to lift off into the sky, while the breeze begins to pick up the edges of the material and lift me up and away.

Of course the eyes of the technician never go to my chest. They never dip below my chin, unless she is in the midst of lifting and settling and adjusting one breast after the other. This is the unwritten mammogram rule and my technician was extremely professional. Also, the tech today added a new word to my mammogram vocabulary: Smoothing. Smoothing involves making sure all of the flappy chicken skin on my arm is not going to interfere with the image of the breast while the more vertical image is taken. Ladies you know this one—your arm is allowed to drape casually over the machine in a friendly, but not too intimate hug while your breast is lifted up and over towards your sternum before being squished unnaturally while the nipple elongates toward the back of the machine.

I had to reason that since this was my first time with smoothing, my flappy arm tissue has only recently become a mammogram nuisance. I’m holding this as a positive. It encourages me that I have reached almost 60 and only now encountered this new feature.

As I was instructed to “hold very still” I let my mind wander back to my first few mammograms. I vaguely remember being self conscious enough back then to actually believe I needed to try to hold my stomach in so the muffin top would be less obvious over my jeans. Now the muffin top, and stomach, make a comfortable rest area for my breasts to sit upon as the technician and I chat. I was actually enjoying the freedom of being allowed to take my bra off for even a brief few minutes in the middle of the day. I consider that luxury.

Also, for the very first time ever, I was offered a deodarant pad when the images were finished. We all know that wearing lotions and deodarants during a mammogram are a big no-no, but never have I had an imaging center actually offer deodarant as they send you back to your cubicle to take off your superhero cape and strap your bra back on.

I left the clinic with a smile on my face, ready to tackle the rest of my day off, smelling like nothing more than the fabric softener on my clothing rather than armpit sweat. Did this post have a point? No, not really but as my days are generally pretty boring, mammogram day was a high point so I thought that I would share.

I will leave you with this: Don’t fear your mammograms ladies. Embrace them for the potential they offer you to accept your body in what ever form it takes. Chat up the technicians while you stand exposed because you just might brighten their day as well as your own. Lastly, wear your capes proudly, all the while knowing that you have a choice to face the world without post-mammogram underarm odor thanks to some convenient little packets of freshness.

 

 

A Divorce Aftermath Story

It’s coming up on 4 months post divorce. I can honestly say that I have no regrets about my decision to end my marriage. My life continues to be consistent in many ways, with a sprinkling of new challenges tossed in here and there. Some aspects sorted themselves out almost without thought. Others have taken a little bit of time and more energy to accomplish. Not ironically, they all focus to some degree on finances, because in this divorce, that was going to be the major change I had to face.

I remember trying to imagine, during one of many sleepless nights pre-divorce, just how I was going to pay for healthcare coverage. I’d done my homework. I knew, at that time, what coverage costs might be and the range in price was overwhelming. A light began to appear at the end of that dark tunnel when I was told that I could likely get healthcare coverage through the military system thanks to my ex-spouse’s service. I was almost giddy knowing that coverage would only cost me about $25 per month.

On August 3, I applied. This process means that I had to acquire my own individual ID card within the military system prior to even beginning coverage. I waited. Two weeks, then 1 month, then 6 weeks. I reapplied. I waited some more. I had a very compassionate customer service person call me, wondering if I had been given an answer somewhere around the 10 week mark. I believe he went to bat for me once more, sending the information a 3rd time.

This morning, my email, just short of 13 weeks after my initial application, I found out that I don’t qualify for continued coverage. The military has a specific system for determining how and if an ex-spouse might still have benefits. I came up 2 years short of the required number of years.

I wasn’t too surprised really. I had assumed at about 2 months in that a process taking this long couldn’t end in a positive way. In fact, just a few days ago, I actually sat down and begin researching plans and costs for healthcare coverage, being 90% sure that I was going to become one of the masses entering into the health insurance circus.

I found a plan, affordable enough with the tax credit that I will receive, although it is definitely well above the anticipated cost of military coverage. The deductible is high, but most of them are unless you can pay $800 per month for coverage. I am fortunate now. I don’t see a physician often. Routine checkups are the norm and then I go about my life. I will pay the $122 premium each month for preventative care because I want to have a clear picture of where my health is and monitor any issues. The key now is keeping myself healthy.

I will also readily admit that in many ways I had a laissez faire attitude when it came to paying attention to healthcare issues. It was easier… much easier, to assume that those problems wouldn’t be my problems. Sometimes we need a good whack to the side of our head to make us aware that those problems are everyone’s problems – regardless.

Not a day over 40

I am 58 years old today. That doesn’t seem possible. How is that in two years I will be sixty? I swear to god that just yesterday I was graduating high school. Only a few years after that I was a brand new dental assistant, already coming to understand what working for a sexist a**hole was going to mean.

My children are adults, like real adults, not just beginning the “newly out of college phase” but actually marking their own year by year climb up the age ladder. Okay, I have to give Alison a little leeway- she’s only 24 so still just a toddler in the adult world. I can remember every moment of labor with each of them. How can I be almost 60 and remember those events, but forget where I put my phone only seconds after setting it down?

I have two grandchildren. Aren’t grandma’s supposed to be all round and cushy and wearing a full head of white hair while carrying around lined faces and crepe-skinned necks and saggy jowls and chicken wing arms? Alright, I will admit to a degree of round, but hey, I carried and birthed 3 children remember. I do have some crepe-ish skin, somewhere under my drooping eyelids, and I will admit to a few fine lines, but those are mostly on my well-worn hands. Chicken wings for arms–yeah, it doesn’t take much to get some flapping to occur under my arms, but white hair- no way! Garnier Nutrisse 5RB will never allow me to look like a snow queen.

I wonder, on the day I turn 68 and realize that at that time I am just two years shy of seventy, if I will finally be able to acknowledge feeling mentally the same age as my body tells me I am. My head consistently tells me, on these annual birthdays, that I am somewhere around 25. I used to say 18, but that’s pushing a bit these days. I’ve had too many life experiences to claim to be the mental age of a naive 18 year old.

I wonder when the mental clock will finally catch up with my chronological age. Perhaps we always imagine ourselves to be younger. Maybe it’s some sort of self-preservation mechanism, a way to stave off our mortality. If that’s the case, then today I’m going to hop back to about 40. I think that was a pretty good year.

Am I the only one who experiences this? How old are you- in your head anyway.

Here’s Looking At You

Because I can now, look at you and see you that is, at least with my right eye.

The cataract in that eye is gone as of 3pm yesterday. Broken up and sucked out and gone.

What a surreal experience all of that was, but I feel it might be best to spare you some of the gory details. I will say, mostly because I never believed it when everyone said, “Easiest surgery you will ever have!” that it’s true. ‘Those people’ aren’t lying, nor have they been paid to tell you how simple and life changing 6 minutes can be. Yep, 6 minutes from the time the surgeon rolled his chair up to my head to the time the tape went on my new eye. So believe it, and don’t worry about it, if you ever face this surgery like I have been doing for the past two months.

I will share that my nurse-anesthetist, Kevin, was rather gorgeous. It was truly a shame that after loading my eye with lidocaine that he then placed a hefty patch over it while I waited to go into the surgical suite.

They warned me after, during post-op instructions, that glare, even from simple daylight, might be an issue for awhile. I even got some special glasses, which I have not worn not because they don’t help, but because I don’t feel like I’m quite so much a senior anymore and we all know what it means when we see those white haired seniors wandering around with those very dark glasses…

My world is brighter however, now that I am not living behind a constant foggy cloud. And truly an odd thing, but driving this morning I noticed that my world seemed bigger. My perspective of the lanes on the highway was that they were wider than just a few days ago when I drove those same roads pre-surgery.

I will clearly need some readers, those stylish magnifiers that help you read close up, because I chose not to have multi-focal lenses. Would have loved to banish the old-eyes presbyopia, but the cost for those lenses was definitely prohibitive right now. I will be on the lookout for a stylish chain to hang my cheaters from around my neck I think.

I am off in a bit to have a follow-up check of the eye. Even now, less than 24 hours post-op, I can tell that the vision is my left eye is lacking. I knew the cataract in that eye wasn’t as bad, but I never noticed it really much at all, apparently because the right really was that bad. 

I wonder just how big and bright my world will appear once I have a new left lens as well?

 

 

Hurrah! Hurray? Update

I’m going to go out onto a rather short limb here and say that I feel pretty confident that cataract surgery is really a thing that’s going to happen.

I picked these up at the pharmacy this morning:

img_20170209_104704424

To be used in my right eye beginning the day of surgery, which is…

March 1st!!!