Houseplant Deathwatch: May 2012

You might have been wondering how those houseplants I bought a few months ago are doing. And if you were, I hope you’re not a member of the Society Against Cruelty to Houseplants.

Palm suicide

The fronds on this palm kept turning brown and dying for several weeks. Then one day I walked into my bedroom and felt like I’d discovered a plant suicide. It went from bad to beyond hope in about 24 hours. There’s still some green, so it could probably be saved by the hands of someone who actually knew what they were doing, who is obviously not me. This situation makes me think of how the human body will shut down less vital systems when its starved, like an anorexic girl who doesn’t get her period. The palms kept throwing off fronds in an attempt to keep the plant as a whole alive, until it passed a terminal point. It makes me feel like a plant sadist, quite frankly, and I hope plants don’t feel I guess living with chronic pain makes me more sympathetic to any kind of suffering.

Fern

As for the fern, one day I walked into my office and noticed it had suddenly wilted. I thought it might be too far gone, but I poured some water and it and amazingly enough it had perked up by the end of the day. I guess H20 treatment is like plant CPR.

Spider plant

The spider plant is doing alright, though some of its leaves have turned brown. I was encouraged when it shot out the little feeler with baby spider plants on it over a month ago, but there hasn’t been much growth since then. I might need to transfer it to a bigger pot if I want it to grow.

I still haven’t bought proper pots for the plants, which probably displays a lack of commitment on my part or just my reluctance to spend more money when I’m getting by with what I have.

How do you get rid of a houseplant? I’d feel bad just chucking it in the dumpster. The Orange County trash and sanitation department might get mad if I do that too, since it’s clearly marked as illegal on the dumpster. Perhaps I can drop them off on the front door of a greenhouse, ring the bell, and run away like I was dropping off an unwanted baby at a church.

When did 5K runs get so weird?

I’ve never officially announced my retirement from the 5K circuit, but I haven’t run one for at least a year or two. It’s been so long that I had to strain grey brain cells I haven’t used in awhile to remember when my last race was. I’ve been thinking of getting back into it since I work well with deadlines and clearly defined goals, both of which are exemplified in a 5K. You must run/walk this far on this date! GO!

Yet, I’ve noticed that in the time since I ran my last race, 5K races seem to have gotten a lot more creative. See examples A, B, and C below.

Run for Your Lives

Run For Your Lives is a first-of-its-kind event, one part 5K, one part obstacle course, one part escaping the clutches of zombies — and all parts awesome. Runners will navigate a series of challenging obstacles throughout a 5K course in an attempt to reach the finish line — all while avoiding zombies.

See, it’s a charitable event and training for the post-apocalyptic era.

The Color Run

The Color Run

Each kilometer of the event is associated with a designated color. 1k is yellow, 2k is blue, 3k is green, 4k is pink, and the 5k finish is a “Color Extravaganza.” As the runners/walkers hit the Kilometer COLOR RUN Zones, they will be blitzed by our volunteers, sponsors, and staff with COLOR.

Sounds very colorful.

Devil Dash

Devil Dash

Devil Dash is an adventurous 5K running race. Racers will ascend the “Purgatory” course and conquer obstacles themed after the 7 Deadly Sins, before entering the pearly gates and the “Beer Garden of Eden”. Obstacles include climbing over cargo nets, running through the river, crawling through mud pits, darting through fire and trudging up steep terrain and much more.

I like the part about the Beer Garden of Eden. The mud pits, not so much.

When did this stuff start happening?! Has this playful type of race always been around or is this a new thing? The only similar event I had heard of before is the Krispy Kreme Challenge, which does the seemingly impossible and makes donuts sound totally unappealing.

Whatever is happening, I like it! I just wish one of these races was being held somewhere close to me.

Remind me never to go off my meds again

Note to self: Take meds

Photo credit: Unknown. Let me know if it was you or one of your multiple personalities.

I like to Google the drugs I’m on sometimes, just for fun, like normal people Google their names. That’s how I stumbled upon the fact that Lamictal can cause acne. Suddenly a light bulb went on over my head (one of the new compact fluorescent light bulbs because I like my metaphors to be environmentally friendly), and I realized this was the reason my face had been breaking out for the past year.

It is important to know that my skin and my hair are the two features I have consistently gotten compliments on throughout my life. I’ve always had good skin, which is why I never really understood what my college roommate was going through all those months before she got an Accutane prescription. Now I know, and I want to send an apology through a time portal back to 1998 for my lack of empathy. So sorry, K! Now I understand why you went through a drug approval process more harrowing than an FBI background check.

I tried different skin solutions on my face to battle the zits, but nothing seemed to work that well. And I honestly wasn’t that dedicated to a skin regimine since I was rather put out that I had to deal with this at all. I mean, this was also the year that I finally got enough white hairs that I decided to get a color glaze done at the salon, and I’m also getting pimples? Seriously, universe?

Coincidentally, at the same time I was Googling Lamictal my doctor wanted to try a new medication for my headaches. However, since I was already on two meds, he wanted to taper me off one of those since he didn’t want me taking three meds at once. I didn’t want to be taking three meds at once either, since I’d prefer just to take the ones that are working. So I was like, “Let’s get rid of that bastard Lamictal! Sure, I remember feeling better after I started it, but it’s totally making me ugly, so I will choose to believe the other med I am on is the better one.”

Oh. My. God. I was wrong. Oh, so, very wrong.

Like practically every headache drug there is, Lamictal is prescribed off-label for headaches. That means it didn’t go through the FDA approved clinical trials process to prove that it’s good for headaches. It was approved for something else, in this case epilepsy and bi-polar disorder. Yes, the meds I am on are also prescribed to the mentally interesting. Doctors can prescribe those drugs for other things, but drug companies cannot advertise the drug for use against headaches. Another off-label usage of Lamictal is to treat depression.

See where I’m going here?

I have felt sort of crappy the last month or two, which I attributed to my headache or not exercising enough or that time I ate half a cake or the stress from work. Whatever. We always have something going wrong in our lives to blame exhaustion on, don’t we? Recently it got to the point where I felt like I was walking through water to go anywhere. Just replying to my emails seemed like a mammoth accomplishment for the day, even though I could never manage to respond to all of them. It was a slow fall down to the bottom, which is why I probably didn’t notice it until I was staring vaguely into nothingness on my couch. At which point I was like, “I think I should go back on the Lamictal even if he gives me seventy whiteheads.”

So, I did, and I feel so much better! It’s kind of frightening actually, since it makes me aware of how much my personality and mood is controlled by chemicals. Just chemicals. It makes me think that people who have quick tempers could be made calmer just by tweaking those chemicals. Or people who are so annoyingly happy and energetic all the time just have different chemicals than me. I have chemical envy. I certainly believe that we have free will in regards to how we behave and react to things, but I also think the chemical interactions happening in our brains influence the decisions we make way more than free-thinking people would like to believe. I have a transgender friend who said she stopped thinking about sex ALL THE TIME to only part of the time once she went on estrogen. Which is not to say that women don’t have libidos, but that men are dealing with a different balance of hormones and that doesn’t go without effects.

Now I also empathize more with people who go off their meds. It never made sense to me why someone would go off a drug that was helping them. But now I have dreamed that bleary-eyed dream that you might not have to live with acne or insomnia or whatever odd side effects your meds are giving you. It’s odd how easy it is for forget how crappy you felt before you started taking your meds. I had honestly forgotten how bad the badness was. I forgot how horrible the headache was that first year or two. Maybe I wanted to forget. Maybe it’s a survival mechanism. That’s one of the odd things about pain, you can never truly remember how bad the pain was until you’re feeling it again.

I’m back on Lamictal, but I still have a headache. Ironically, like a lot of the off-label headache meds one of the possible side effects of Lamictal is headache, which just makes me laugh and laugh. (Not really. I mostly just manage an exasperated look.) I do now feel like my life is manageable, and I might be capable of blogging about my trip to New York and DC like I’ve been meaning to for over a month. And I can finally get back to all those clients whose work I fell behind on because I was depressed. It’s a tricky situation that, because I don’t want to whine about my health to my clients. I just want to get the work done on time, and sometimes I can’t, because that’s just what life with chronic illness is like.

Good times! So, me and Lamictal are here to stay. We should have a little dedication ceremony in the pharmacy section of Walgreens. I’ll wear a white dress made from pharmacy bags. You and me to the grave, sweetie! And if you could stop giving me pimples, I would love you just a little bit more.

Friends with words

I know people who’ve written books! You should know about them!

Don't Trade the Baby for a Horse

I reviewed Wendy’s book, The Wilder Life, last year and now she has a short follow-up called Don’t Trade the Baby for a Horse: And Other Ways to Make Your Life a Little More Laura Ingalls Wilder which is available in digital format only. I have no need for a baby or a horse, so I’d be willing to trade either one for their weight in rock candy.

How to Rock Your Baby

Assuming you did not trade you baby for a horse, you can learn how to rock it in my friend Erin’s third book in her how-to series. This one’s called
How to Rock Your Baby: And Other Timeless Tips for Modern Moms and comes after How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew and How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew. Needless to say she knows how to do a lot more things than I do.

Stranger Here

This one’s not out yet, but I’m excited to tell you that you will be able to buy Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body And Messed With My Head by Jen Larsen in January 2013. You might remember Jen from her Body of Work column on the now defunct site Elastic Waist or from her old blog Hello, I Am Fat, both of which she wrote under the pen name Anne Fitzgerald. She’s using her real name now and I’m so happy she found a publisher because back in 2009 we were book buddies when I was putting together Chocolate & Vicodin. I got an agent and then she got an agent. I finished my book proposal and then she finished her book proposal. I sent mine out to publishers and then she sent hers out to publishers. I got a book contract and then…well, the ellipsis say it all. It was kind of awful, actually. No, let me amend that. It was definitely awful, particularly because Jen is such a great author and I don’t think there is any book like hers out there. But she worked hard, wrote the book anyway, and the fine ladies at Seal Press snatched it up because they are awesome like that. So, yay! Go, Jen!

Headache on the Hill 2012: This is what democracy looks like

Bringing Headache to the Hill

If I’d known it was going to be 32 degrees out as I walked from the DC Metro stop to the front of the Capitol building, I would have worn a coat. Instead I relied on the fiery passion of my convictions to keep me warm as I walked with almost seventy doctors, patients and other advocates taking part in Headache on the Hill 2012. Considering how numb my arms got, the coat would have been the better choice. (My fiery passion burns from within, not without.)

Everyone departed from the hotel at 7:00am so we could take a group photo in front of the Capitol before dispersing into our state-based groups for the day. That’s right, seven o’clock in the morning. The AYE-EM. Which means at 6:00am I woke up in sweaty, panicked confusion to the sound of my phone’s rooster alarm. Cocka-doodle-do-you-remember-why-you’re-getting-up-so-damn-early?

Anyway, I made it there on time and was milling around the seat of our nation’s power when this happened:

The dramatic way of proving we are indeed chronically ill

That’s right! Someone managed to go down before we’d even taken the group photo. Thankfully she was surrounded by enough PhDs to make a hearty meal of alphabet soup, and boy could they run! As all the doctors in our group flocked to the fallen woman’s side, I decided it was best for me to stay out of their way. I never did get the full story on what happened, but I heard the woman was ok.

After we took the group photo, the four of us from North Carolina had breakfast in the cafeteria of one of the Senatorial office buildings. The Capitol building is where the sessions of Congress meet and vote, but each representative has an office in one of the buildings to the north or south of the Capitol. Senators are on the north side and Congresspeople on the south. The distance back and forth between them is about one third of a mile. You walk by the Supreme Court on the way, which is where this was going on:

People were demonstrating on the second of three days of arguments before the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation. It was like that Le Tigre song New Kicks up close and in person! Everyone behaved civilly and the protests were interesting to watch during the down time between our meetings which didn’t start until 11am. That’s right, I dragged my ass out of bed at an unGodly hour so I could be in a photo and then hang out in the Senate cafeteria for a few hours. At least it gave me a chance to recharge my phone. I also got to chat with some of the other attendees, from an 18-year-old headache sufferer to the founder of Migraine.com. I also got to know the people in my group better and gave some of them impromptu tweeting lessons.

The two guys in my group were headache doctors, one of whom was the neurologist for the other woman in our group who was also a doctor and a migraine sufferer. Earlier I’d asked her where she worked and she told me she was in between jobs. I soon learned this wasn’t because she’d fallen on hard times but because she had recently sold the drug company she’d founded that had made a breakthrough in Hepatitis C research. I was happy to let her pay for my coffee! She made it through the many walking miles of the day wearing two-inch heels, which must be a skill she learned as a former vice-president of a major drug company. I did the best I could to dress professionally and wear flattering makeup, but I felt a bit schlubby next to her. At least I didn’t split my pants like one of the guys in our group did. Whoops! Thankfully he was wearing a long sweater and didn’t moon any Senators on the way out of our meetings. We’d like for them to remember us, but not for that :)

We had four meetings that day spaced evenly apart with a break for lunch. The meetings were all fairly similar. We arrived a bit early at each office where I took a photo in front of the representative’s plaque:

How Senatorial of me

Each office had a basket of North Carolina Peanuts available which were tasty and informative too since I didn’t even know we were known for our peanuts.

Working for peanuts

And at Senator Hagan’s office I got to stick a pin in the map for the place where I lived.

Bringing old meaning to "pin it"

At each appointment we met with a staffer who’d been assigned to take our meeting. Confession: during these four meetings I didn’t meet a single Senator or Congressperson. I did see two of them coming or going, but the ones we had been scheduled to meet were away voting during our typical 15-minute long meeting. That’s just how it goes, and honestly it made me less nervous to talk to a staffer who was about my age than to an elected representative. That said, my face still got warm when I got a chance to tell my story at a speed approaching that of the Micro Machines spokesperson.

When one of the doctors started talking about which buildings had the best cafeterias, I was like, “Hey, you’ve been here before, haven’t you?” It’s not like the Congressional cafeterias are on Yelp. (Are they?) He’d attended 4 out of 5 of the total Headache on the Hill events in the last five years, which made me feel a lot more comfortable in these meetings. He already knew many of the staffers and was more familiar with the details of our requests. That allowed me to focus on telling my story and making a personal appeal for progress on this issue. In turn the doctors liked having patients with them because when doctors ask for more funding it can seem like they’re motivated by money for their projects and personal career advancement. Having two headache sufferers plead our cases put a human face on the issue.

Interestingly, our meetings got progressively better during the day. The first staffer we talked to had a mean poker face and we didn’t get much of a positive or negative reaction from her. Honestly, she seemed a bit bored and I had to wonder how many meetings like this she takes in a month. The second staffer responded in interest to the copy of my book I dropped off at the office, which I did in each meeting. (That totally made this a Capitol Hill book tour. I can write it off on my taxes, right?) But she was non-committal about getting anything actually done. The third staffer was an old friend of one of the docs and by that time I’d gotten better at telling my story, so we seemed to have good chances there. The final staffer has a sister with Migraine disease, so she was very sympathetic to our requests.

The next step is to follow-up with the people we met, which I’ll be doing in a week or so via email. Overall it was a good experience and something I’d consider doing again. It was fascinating to walk through the buildings where people as powerful as they are dysfunctional do business. We’d be wondering down a hall (one of the oh, so many halls) and suddenly you’d see the plaque for Nancy Pelosi’s office or you’d stroll by the office of a former presidential nominee. It’s surprising how easy it is to get into the office buildings too. No ID is required. You just have to have your bags x-rayed while you walk through a metal detector. If you’re wearing metal-tipped shoes, please take them off please as the other woman in our group learned.

All the office buildings are connected via tunnel, so once you’ve gone through security in one you can get to all the others. There’s a maze of hallways and tunnels that seem to go on forever, so it can be easy to get turned around. We managed to get everywhere on time (sometimes just barely). I wished I’d checked my Gmail in between meetings because it turns out that one of my readers was a staffer I would have liked to have met. Maybe next year!

Big thanks to the ADHA for planning this event and for paying for my hotel room for one night. It’s given me insight into how much work and planning goes into advocating for issues. Just scheduling meetings for sixty-some-odd people must have been a, dare I say, headache? Hopefully we helped make some progress! If not, at least I got some peanuts out of the deal.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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  • New blog post: Wilmington, North Carolina: The sequel! http://t.co/sOfRt0Vjke
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I tend to stay at home a lot, but 21 days stuck in my apartment would drive me crazy.

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Money can buy happiness if you spend it on experiences, not things.

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I'd heard of Pirate Joe's before but this article gives a real in-depth look at it.

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