I mentioned Monday that I was going to the doctor for my quarterly diabetes check-up. I had an excellent report. My weight is down a few more pounds; my blood pressure was good; and my A1c (a measurement of your average blood glucose, or blood sugar, level over the past three months) was 6.0. To put that into perspective for those of you not familiar with A1c readings:
A person who does not have diabetes has an A1c result of less than 5.7%.
A person with pre-diabetes has an A1c of 5.7% to 6.4%.
A person with diabetes has an A1c level of 6.5% or higher.
This does not mean that I am back to being pre-diabetic, but it does mean that the medicine I am taking is working. The only issue has been that my blood sugar readings have gone down to nearly hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) levels a few times, so my doctor cut back on my medicine by a little bit.
In addition, my blood test results for everything else came back normal. I have no idea what my levels are on any of the other tests because I cannot access them electronically as I usually do. I know they came back normal because my doctor called and told me that everything looked very good. I did not ask for details because my county (he is the only doctor in my town) is having a surge in COVID-19 cases. Thus he is swamped right now. As I mentioned on Monday, his office has no working computers because of the cyberattack, so he has to write everything by hand and use paper charts. I did not want to add any more work for him by asking him to explain all my levels when I wouldn’t remember them five minutes later anyway. It was bad enough he was calling after 5:30 pm when he should have been on his way home.
My doctor has done a great deal to keep our little town mostly safe from the pandemic. Vermont has not been hit as hard as many other states, and we have been fortunate, but that appears to be rapidly changing as our positive case numbers are rising daily. Currently, we are not allowed to have people gathered together from different households. Since the beginning of the pandemic, my doctor has gone on Front Porch Forum (FPF) to update the community on the state of the pandemic in our area and urge people to follow safety protocols. I doubt many of you know what FPF is, especially since it is something unique to Vermont.
Each day Vermonters use FPF to connect with their neighbors and the community by sharing postings. We get the postings through email or a cell phone app. FPF has nearly 160,000 members, or just under a quarter of the state’s population, and FPF is now available in all 251 Vermont towns. Whether it’s a lost dog or car, someone has too many roosters and wants to give some away, the theft of a pride flag, or vandalism of a BLM sign, people post to FPF. More importantly, it’s where our legislators give updates, the town and school board post their minutes, and where my doctor can urge people to follow pandemic safety protocols. I find out so much about what is going on in town through FPF. It’s also local. You have to have an address to use the service, and it ties you to the announcements for that town. I used FPF to find my first apartment. I signed up using the university’s address since I didn’t have a local address of my own.
I have an 8 am doctor’s appointment this morning. It’s my trimonthly diabetes checkup. It’s probably going to be a bit of a different experience than usual, and no, I am not talking about COVID-19 procedures. I am used to those by now. Some of you may have heard in the national news about the FBI investigating more than two dozen ransomware attacks at hospitals around the country on October 28. The FBI believes an Eastern European group, known within the security industry as UNC-1878, is thought to be behind the cyberattacks, though they aren’t releasing much information at the moment. The attacks impacted hospitals in Oregon, New York, California, as well as Vermont. My doctor’s office is part of the University of Vermont Health Network, one of the hospitals attacked.
What does this mean for my doctor’s visit? It means that they are back to using paper charts. When I went for physical therapy last week (her clinic is in the same network), I asked her what was going on. She was not able to use her laptop like she usually does during our sessions. She has to write down all her notes and, after the visit, put them into the computer in her office. She said that her office wasn’t as impacted as much because they have not migrated to the new system yet, but my doctor’s office was having a really tough time. They had wholly integrated into the new system, and it is not known when operations will return to normal.
The University of Vermont Medical Center has regained access to some medical records, but the outlying clinics seem to still be a work in progress. According to the news, IT staff restored access to the “read-only” medical records on Thursday, meaning that nurses and doctors can view patients’ medical histories, prescriptions, and past appointments through Oct. 28. That is good news, but so far, IT staff members have cleaned and restored only 1,000 of the network’s 4,500 computers. They hope the system will be running normally by the end of November, but no one has been given a definitive timeline.
It will be interesting to see how this is going to proceed today. The good news is that my fasting blood sugar readings have been very good with the new medication I have been taking over the past three months, so hopefully, I will have a better A1C. It’s been up a little the past week because of the abscessed tooth, as being sick tends to raise your blood sugar. Also, I need to discuss this antibiotic’s side effects with him and see if he thinks I should call my dentist about the continued pain in my tooth. I am afraid the infection is coming back or may have spread to a tooth next to it. It is still hurt, though less, all day yesterday. Besides my better blood sugar readings, my hip seems to be doing much better. I am not having anywhere near the amount of pain I have been having. I hope the lessening of hip pain is reality because when there are multiple pain sites, the most painful area is my tooth—the other pain sites can seem less.
I have a lot to talk to my doctor about, so I hope he has the time in his schedule. If he doesn’t have the time, I will likely never know it. He has never rushed me out of his office. I have had doctors do that before. They get you in, and they get you out as soon as possible. My current doctor has always talked to me, let me ask as many questions as I need to, and explains things very well. To me, the ability to listen is a sign of a good doctor. My doctor has also done a lot to improve my health. He keeps a close eye on my depression, my headaches, and my blood sugar. He is also the one who helped convince me to go to the sleep clinic for sleep apnea. I used to know a lot of people who would depend on those doc-in-a-box places for their medical care, but it is so important to have a primary care physician who knows your medical history and cares that you are healthy.
*The picture above is of Dr. Tyler Hendricks, MD, who is a Family Medicine Specialist in Fort Myers, Florida. He also happens to be a model. You can see more of him on his Instagram @tylerjh.I’d let him poke and prod me any day.
I ended up going home early from work. I am usually in the museum on Wednesdays and work from home the rest of the week. Yesterday though, the bursitis in my hit was hurting something terrible. My stomach was cramping and in pain from the antibiotic for the abscessed tooth. For some reason, my neck was bothering me. My tooth is still hurting, even though it should be getting better, which caused me to have a bad headache all day. Basically, from the hip up, I was in pain. So, I headed home at lunch. I had to leave anyway for my COVID test that we have to take every three weeks per university policy. After the test, I just went home and worked for the rest of the day from home.
I hate days like yesterday. Nothing seems to be going right. Maybe today will be a better day. I’m sorry to be complaining about my health. I just didn’t feel well yesterday, and I didn’t have anything else to post.
I am not looking forward to today. I have to go in for a root canal. Actually, my dentist said he was going to start a root canal. The only other time I had a root canal, it was all done at once, so I am not sure what he meant. Either way, I don’t think this will be a pleasant experience. I don’t know how I even got an abscessed tooth.
I hope, though, that this procedure will give me some relief. As you may know, I have been doing much better with my migraines since I had my first set of Botox injections. This weekend, however, has been a different story. I have had a migraine since Friday night. It became nearly unbearable Saturday night, and when I woke Sunday morning, I was in complete agony. Luckily, I had some migraine medicine to take Saturday night, but it was the last of my pills, so I had to get it refilled yesterday morning. I was able to take the pill and take a short nap, which relieved my headache tremendously. I still went to bed last night with a slight headache, but nothing on the scale of what I’d experienced over the weekend.
Since I have a dental appointment today, I doubt I will feel like working afterward. So, I took today as a sick day. I know that nobody likes to go to the dentist, but I really hate going. I always have difficulty breathing through my nose when my mouth is open and someone has their hands in my mouth. I feel like I am suffocating the whole time. Wish me luck that this will be quick and easy, though I suspect it won’t be. I dread this so much.
I stayed nervous most of last night (which is when I am writing this). There are things I love about the South, but damn, I hate the politics down there. Alabama and Mississippi politics have always made me sick. As I am writing this, the AP had called Alabama for Trump, but that is no surprise. Just as it was no surprise that Biden won Vermont, and the experts called it just minutes after the polls closed. Even our Republican governor declared he voted for Biden. Governor Scott didn’t vote for president in 2016, but he said this election was too important not to vote, and he could not support Trump.
When I voted yesterday, it was pretty easy. If we had not voted early in Vermont, we had to take in the ballot mailed to us. Vermont mailed a ballot to every registered voter in the state in an effort to get people to vote early. I wanted to go in and vote on election day. There was no line when I entered the polling place, and I just took my ballot into the booth, filled it out, and put it in the machine. As I was leaving, there was a fairly long line out the door, so I guess I got there at the right time.
Enough about politics right now. There just aren’t enough numbers to either mourn the United States’ fate or to declare victory. However, I will talk about something else. One day last week, I broke a tooth. Actually, I broke two, but one isn’t bothering me. However, the more extensive break began to be very painful over the weekend. It almost became unbearable Monday night, so I called my dentist first thing yesterday morning. Luckily, they could get me in yesterday at 11 am. They took an x-ray, and my dentist said that the pain and the broken tooth were just coincidences. The pain was not coming from the damaged tooth but an infection around the tooth’s roots.
I had an appointment already for Monday the 9th for a filling. I had a cavity when I went for my cleaning a week or so ago. However, my dentist decided to start a root canal on Monday on the tooth that is infected. Filling the cavity will have to wait. He also put me on an antibiotic. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this, but I am allergic to most antibiotics. He wanted to give me Amoxicillin, but I am allergic to Penicillin. So, he gave me Clindamycin. I can take Clindamycin, but I don’t react well to it. It gives me stomach issues. Anyway, I have seven days of this antibiotic. The last time I took Clindamycin for an abscessed tooth, it relieved the pain fairly quickly. I hope it works as well this time.
To update you on the bursitis in my hip, it is still bothering me, but I don’t see my physical therapist until next Tuesday. If it is not improved by the time I see my regular doctor on November 16, he will probably give me a steroid shot. On the headache front, I am continuing to do better. Yes, I occasionally have headaches, but the most recent ones are most likely due to the tooth infection, not my migraines. I am pleased to be seeing improvement with the Botox injections. My next set of injections will be in December.
So, there you have a rambling, babbling post of various updates.
Morning Update: I went to bed last night just before midnight, and I wasn’t feeling as hopeful as I’d have liked to have been. When I woke up this morning, I felt no better. What I woke to made me physically ill. I don’t usually say this, but I hate many of the people in my country. I don’t understand how this presidential race could even be close. This election should have been a massive, indisputable repudiation of Donald Trump for his mishandling of the pandemic, his uncontrolled White House incompetence, and his disdain for the rule of law. Instead, I woke to the disheartening message that Trump’s support in key states like Florida was, in truth, more significant than the polls had predicted and that Americans would rather have a misogynistic, racist, homophobic, lying, cheating, criminal as president than a good Christian man who wants what is best for all Americans, not just his wealthiest of supporters, because let’s face it, Trump cares absolutely nothing for the American people. He only cares about himself and possibly his wealthiest friends and supporters.
While there is still hope that Joe Biden will win this election, especially if he continues to lead in the states where he’s ahead, and the mail-in ballots continue to go in his favor (that is if those states are allowed to continue counting). However, even if Biden wins, it looks like the Democrats won’t take back the Senate, which means at least two more years of inaction in Washington as McConnell will block all Democratic efforts. The fact that Kentucky reelected a hateful little man whose only concern is his own political gain is disgusting. South Carolinians also sent back to the Senate that lying, self-hating, closet case Lindsey Graham. While those races aren’t terribly surprising, just demoralizing, I did break down in tears when they announced that Tommy Tuberville had won in Alabama. While Doug Jones’ losing his reelection bid was expected, I hate to see a man like Tuberville go to the Senate. He’s a man who, while the coach at Auburn University showed he had no class by gloating about his wins against Alabama in crass and embarrassing ways, he also defrauded millions from investors when he set up an investment firm (unlike his partner, Tuberville escaped prison). There is more I can say about Tuberville, but it just upsets me too much.
The most depressing news I woke up to was pretty much expected: Trump claimed victory even though millions of votes still need to be counted. In the early morning hours, Trump claimed falsely that he had been reelected, and the election was being stolen from him in a massive act of fraud. He vowed to mount a challenge in the Supreme Court and declared that he had already won states that were still counting votes, including Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Trump’s demand for vote counting to stop in an election that is still undecided may have been his most extreme and dangerous assault on the institutions of democracy yet in a presidency replete with them. Trump’s remarks essentially amounted to a demand for American citizens’ legally cast votes not to be recorded in a historic act of disenfranchisement. As Chris Wallace said on Fox News after Trump’s remarks, “This is an extremely flammable situation, and the president just threw a match into it. He hasn’t won these states.” However, Trump is afraid that the mail-in votes will not go his way, which all indications point to that being true.
It’s incredible how competitive Trump has been in this election with 230K+ COVID deaths, his racist and inflammatory remarks, kids being locked in cages, and everything else. Even if Biden wins, he will have to govern in a Trump country. This is who America is, and that makes me saddest of all. I honestly can’t understand how a nation that has always claimed to be Christian can vote consistently to maintain a patriarchal, racist, homophobic, xenophobic country. The worst traits of the United States are more apparent than they have been since the Civil Rights era. Whether Joe Biden ultimately wins the elections or not, the United States will continue to be a nation of hatred and division.
From childhood’s hour I have not been As others were-I have not seen As others saw-I could not bring My passions from a common spring- From the same source I have not taken My sorrow-I could not awaken My heart to joy at the same tone- And all I lov’d-I lov’d alone- Then-in my childhood-in the dawn Of a most stormy life-was drawn From ev’ry depth of good and ill The mystery which binds me still- From the torrent, or the fountain- From the red cliff of the mountain- From the sun that ’round me roll’d In its autumn tint of gold- From the lightning in the sky As it pass’d me flying by- From the thunder, and the storm- And the cloud that took the form (When the rest of Heaven was blue) Of a demon in my view-
Born during the early 19th century, Edgar Allen Poe’s characteristic mood swings were probably symptoms of Poe suffering from bipolar depression which may have led to his alcoholism and other self-destructive behaviors. Poe exhibited many of the symptoms of a man who suffered from mental illness. Trauma can cause mood disorders, and Poe was orphaned at a young age. He was also believed to be an alcoholic, likely the cause of his untimely death at the age of 40. When his beloved foster mother died in 1829, he wrote perhaps one of his most famous poems about depression, “Alone.” The poem illustrates loneliness associated with depression that leaves many feeling disconnected from others.
Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. However, mental illness affects everyone directly or indirectly through family, friends or coworkers. Despite mental illnesses’ reach and prevalence, stigma and misunderstanding are also, unfortunately, widespread. That is why each year, the first week of October (October 4-10 in 2020) has been set aside for raising awareness of mental illness. Each year, mental health professionals focus on educating the public, fighting stigma, and providing support. While mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice. Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week, advocates have worked together to sponsor activities, large or small, to educate the public about mental illness.
Below are only a few of the reasons why it’s important to take part in promoting awareness for Mental Illness Awareness Week. Please use these facts and others to encourage discussions about mental health.
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
Mental illness affects:
37% of LGBTQ+ adults
27% Mixed/Multiracial adults
22% of American Indian or Alaska Native
20% of White adults
17% of Latinx adults
16% of Black adults
15% of Asian adults
Annual prevalence among U.S. adults, by condition:
Anxiety Disorders: 19.1% (estimated 48 million people)
Major Depressive Episode: 7.2% (17.7 million people)
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6% (estimated 9 million people)
Bipolar Disorder: 2.8% (estimated 7 million people)
Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4% (estimated 3.5 million people)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2% (estimated 3 million people)
Schizophrenia: <1% (estimated 1.5 million people)
Remember, people with mental illness need your support, not your pity. Talking to friends and family about mental health problems can be an opportunity to provide information, support, and guidance. People with mental health problems deserve respect, compassion, and empathy.
I haven’t mentioned this before because I think I complain about my aches and pains too much, but I have had a pain in the left side of my hip for about a week now. It hurts to sit, to stand, or lie down. The short of it is, it hurts. I had googled what outer hip pain might be, and the most common answer was bursitis. Finally, yesterday morning, I decided I needed to see my doctor, but what an ordeal. My doctor can’t see me until October 12. They tried to suggest one of the other providers at the clinic, but I shot that down. I have not had good experiences with any of the others except my doctor’s father, who is now retired. When I called, I was told the nurse would call me back. She called, but just as I was starting a meeting I had to attend. Luckily, I was on mute and didn’t need to be heard, but as soon as I got the meeting going on my end and stepped away to talk to the nurse, my computer crashed unbeknownst to me. That’s when my boss, who was also on this virtual meeting, tried texting and calling as I was trying to talk to the nurse.
The bottom line with the nurse was the same thing I’d heard from the receptionist earlier, and she suggested the ExpressCare Clinic or my physical therapist. The nurse wasn’t sure though I could see the physical therapist without a referral, which couldn’t be done over the phone. I have a good relationship with my physical therapist and already knew I had standing orders to see her. She’s also told me she’d take care of the paperwork to get the necessary referral to take care of any other issues I had. I’d initially gone to her for neck pain, and she helped with my headaches. I just couldn’t afford to see her every time I had a headache. Anyway, I had to get off the phone with the nurse and take care of the meeting’s technical issues, but my laptop crashed again. It could have had something to do with the coffee I spilled on it this morning and not having the power cord, but it just wouldn’t work. I finally gave up. The other people in the meeting didn’t need me anyway.
Once I finally got back to my office, I called my physical therapist’s office and left a message about what I needed. Just as I was taking care of some stuff at my desk, the nurse called back and told me she had talked to my doctor, who said I needed to go to the ExpressCare and did not need to wait. So, that’s what I did. Because of pandemic rules, I had to drive up and park at the ExpressCare Clinic, and then call to get authorization to come inside, but just as I pulled up to the clinic, my physical therapist called me back. I explained to her my issue and told her I was at the ExpressCare Clinic. She told me to go ahead and see someone at ExpressCare but that she would block out a time Monday at 7:30 am for me to come to see her if I needed to and to call her back after my appointment. So, I called the ExpressCare Clinic to let them know I was there and did all my registering for my visit over the phone. Then, I waited. It was about 2 o’clock at this point, and I had to stay in my car for an hour before the clinic called back and said an exam room was ready and I could come inside. They took my temperature and all that pandemic procedure stuff and then took me to an exam room to wait for another half hour.
Finally, the PA came in and asked some questions, then poked and prodded around my hip before deciding to have an X-ray done. Off I go to get an X-ray of my hip. After changing into paper shorts and getting the X-rays taken, I was taken back to my exam room, where I could get dressed again. Eventually, the PA came back and told me that I had bursitis in my hip, but she was waiting on the radiology report before saying more. Out the door she went again. I forgot to mention, I had been in saunas cooler than this exam room. When the PA came back with the radiology report, she showed me that not only did I have bursitis, but I also had the early stages of arthritis. She said I would need to follow up with my doctor for a corticosteroid shot, but in the meantime, I needed to see a physical therapist. So, I told her about my conversation with my physical therapist, and she sent over a referral just in case one was needed.
When I left, I called my physical therapist back, but it was already 4:30 pm, so no one answered the phone, and I left a message. I already knew no one would be at my doctor’s office answering the phone at 4:30, so I will call them this morning and get the earliest appointment I can. Geez, what an ordeal. It took all afternoon for something I’d already googled and found out the same thing. At least, though, I hope to get some relief from my physical therapist and later from my doctor. I’m just getting old and decrepit at this point.
Sometimes you just need a break from life. It can be because of a lack of motivation, general irritability, zero interest in work or activities you once enjoyed, or feeling overwhelmed and like you’ll never check off everything on your to-do list…. All of these things can contribute to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and burnt out.
Here are nine signs that you might be experiencing burnout:
Irritability & quick temper. ✔️
Withdraw from things that used to be fun or meaningful. ✔️
Constantly feeling anxious. ✔️
Feeling detached from both work and others. ✔️
Lack of motivation or focus. ✔️
Feeling exhausted. ✔️
Lack of self-care: exercise and nutrition. ✔️
Feeling physically sick. ✔️
Do these sound familiar to you? I know for me they do. It checks all my boxes. For no apparent reason, I have been unusually irritable lately. There are things that used to be fun, that I just don’t want to do. With the coming election, I am definitely feeling anxious. Working from home has me feeling detached not only from work but form others as well. The current Republican administration has me feeling cynical, because who can trust any of them. In general, I am lacking any kind of motivation. The only motivation I have is to occasionally rant in my posts about politics. I am exhausted all the time. I have not been exercising nor have I been eating the right foods. You all know about my headaches, which are part and parcel to all of these.
While my Botox treatment seems to be helping my migraines, they are not helping my sinus headaches. The weather has been changing drastically here in Vermont. Each day we are having 30 to 40-degree swings in temperature, and there is a storm front that will be moving through in the coming days. These things wreak havoc on my sinuses. This weekend was not a good weekend, and I’m to the point that I need a mental health day. The problem is, I have meetings today, a class to teach tomorrow, and I have to be in the office on Wednesday and Thursday. Therefore, I am checking out today except for the short meeting I have this morning.
The truth is, we can all benefit from a day to clear the fog from our heads. I have read that taking a mental-health day can improve energy, motivation, mood, and one’s ability to manage stress, and time off might actually increase overall productivity rather than decrease it. While officially, I will be working today, I doubt I will be doing much of anything.
Today, I am driving down to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital’s Headache Clinic for my first set of Botox injections for my migraines. The Botox will be injected around the “pain fibers” that are involved in causing my headaches. According to the Botox website, Botox enters the nerve endings around where it is injected and blocks the release of chemicals involved in pain transmission to prevents the activation of pain networks in the brain. Botox is supposed to prevent migraine headaches before they start, but I’ve read that it takes time to work. It can take two to three treatments (6-9 months) before the treatment reaches its maximum effects. A treatment lasts for 10-12 weeks, and patients report that in as little as two Botox treatments headache days are reduced by approximately 50%.
In general, the FDA-recommended dosage of 155 units costs between $300 to $600 for each treatment. As I understand it, Botox is packaged in 200 unites, so many doctors inject the remaining 45 units into the worst affected areas so as not to waste the medicine. Luckily, my insurance company seems to have approved the treatment. I have not heard anything to the contrary. It has taken over a month to get the treatments approved. My insurance company has fought my doctor and me on each of these new migraine treatments, but my neurologist is very good at getting appeals approved. I have tried the CGRP migraine preventive medications (Emgality and Aimovig), but the first was not deemed successful enough by my neurologist, and the second caused no improvement at all. In fact, with the second, I went back to having daily migraines. Throughout my life, I have also tried a variety of antidepressants and blood pressure medications that are typically used to prevent migraines. I am unable to take any of the anti-seizure medications because I have a sulfur allergy and thus would likely be allergic to those medications. The Botox injections are getting close to the end of the line of possible treatments. I’m not sure what the next step would be, but there are some alternative medicine techniques that have been helpful in some migraine sufferers.
My appointment is expected to only take about 20 minutes, a short appointment for an hour’s drive down to the clinic. The doctor will use a very small needle that I was told would feel like a pinprick. At my last visit, she told me that it would be painful and/or uncomfortable but with my history of migraines, it should be a breeze. Each treatment typically involves 31 injections in seven key areas of the head and neck. Sadly, it can take up to six months to see the maximum benefit from Botox. I just hope and pray I see some improvement fairly soon. I am at my wits end with these migraines. I’ve read that I could see results in as little as two to three weeks after my first treatment.
UPDATE (2:30 pm): I just got back home from getting the Botox treatment. It was a little painful and uncomfortable but nothing too bad. The whole procedure took less than 10 minutes, actually closer to 5 minutes. I have little red dots all over my head form where I bled at the injection spots. I am not sore from the injections which is good. Time will tell how well it works. I currently don’t have much of a headache, but I slept wrong last night and my neck and shoulder are in a lot of pain, so that is overshadowing any headache I have. I just wanted to give a quick update and say that all went well.
Yesterday was another headache day. I am going into the museum on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but I left after lunch yesterday. My head was hurting so bad, and I just couldn’t stand the thought of being there all day. I went home and went to bed.
A week from Monday (September 21), I will have my first Botox treatment. I’m praying that it helps. I really need some relief from these headaches. I have not had a headache free day in over four months. It hasn’t been a constant headache, but they come in waves of intensity.