Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happiness, pain, health care, buying local and RAK's

I confess: I'm mercurial and high-strung. Yet...I'm mostly happy. With who I am, with what I do, with the mark I'm making on the world, (however small, it's mine, it's authentic and it's not evil,) I'm basically happy. There are a lot of things I want to do, see, be, experience, share. There are people I've yet to meet, love, argue with, learn from, teach. My mundane life consists of a fair amount of frustration, which I accept because it's the nature of changing the world, and I'm committed. Maybe I should be committed, I don't know. I can't give up on humanity or making things better. I'm a fixer.


A number of my online and real life circle of friends have been experiencing either the onset of or continuation of various illnesses. My mother, who drives me crazy and rocks my world, has chronic illnesses and pain. Epic pain. Pain that makes my chronic pain look like a stubbed toe.

Oh, yeah. I have chronic and intermittent pain.
1. TMJ / Trigeminal Neuralgia: since I was 9. TemproMandibularJoint pain, that intermittently gives me earaches, headaches, face pain, and has been known to lock my jaw both open and shut at about a half-inch width. Mom has it, too. The TMJ is caused or exacerbated by a severe malocclusion. I'm not having someone break my jaw, move it, and wire it shut. Not unless I can get way better insurance and find someone to pay my bills for 2 months.  The neuralgia is... who knows? It makes my entire head and face and neck hurt to the point where I'd go for decapitation if it were an option.
2. Arthritis: Due to injury and hereditary. I've broken the same foot 3 times. It has an S-curve to the left. Shoe buying is a form of torture. My joints from the waist down and my hands are affected. It's mostly like a toothache unless the barometric pressure gets really wacky. I can feel the bones in my foot grinding, then.
3. Sciatic nerve / Scoliosis : I have a slight S-curve in my spine, too. One leg is longer than the other, one hip higher. This is also hereditary. The sciatic nerve...that's the torment from hell. Imagine fire shooting down your leg from your buttock, imagine white-hot ice picks stabbed into your joints, imagine not being able to move a certain way because it will cause you to scream. Magnify it by 5.
5. Migraine: Auras, nausea, blurred vision, light / sound sensitivity and pain that makes me vomit. It's hormonal, mostly. I manage it with ice, darkness, and preemptive excedrine.
I'm not particularly athletic, no. I love dancing, I'm lazy about my yoga and pilates. I'm not disabled. I'm used to it. It's background noise, mostly. The little aches and pains that occasionally become roaring dragons consuming me. Those are the days I take painkillers and a mental health day. Every once in a while I need to use a cane.

I'm 36 years old. Yeah, sometimes it fucking sucks.


I'm still pretty happy. Unlike my mom and other people, my pain isn't jacked up to 11 all day, every day. I can mostly get by with OTC meds. I'm grateful for the rare totally pain-free days, and I'm used to the dull, nagging aches. I wear flip-flops, sneakers and boots. I can track my migraine patterns, I keep my ears covered in the winter to minimize the chances of setting off either the TMJ or Neuralgia, (stimulating nerves and muscles into overdrive is a no-no.)
Every once in a while I talk someone into giving me a massage to work the kinks out. The yoga and pilates help, too.
Since the stupid sciatic nerve kicked up today, I thought I'd share once. I appreciate good thoughts, but I'm so used to it that it it's usually no big deal to me.  I'm not sharing this to gain sympathy, pity or anything else.
It's how my life is.
I'm sharing this, because there are a lot of people dealing with a lot worse and someone needs to speak up. Most people dealing with chronic illness and pain end up being kind of invisible. Doctors can't fix it, so they stop trying to make it better in palliative ways. The government closes down options for palliative care or terrifies doctors to the point where they don't use the options they have for fear the DEA will come knocking.
Not to mention, there are an awful lot of people who can't get care at all. They don't have insurance and with pre-existing conditions, can't get it.
And there are people who don't understand why we need Health Care reform.

 Yeah. It's like that.

Since this is more of a kitchen-sink, stream-of-consciousness-with-a-point post, I'll move on to the next subject.
On the long-ass list of Things That Piss Me Off: Factory farms, agribusiness and the corporate welfare given to such. I went to a Lions-sponsored Farmer's Market at a local high school today with my mom.
Pennsylvania has a program that gives every resident 60+ $20 in vouchers to spend at farmer's markets. I wish they did it for everyone, or maybe expanded it based on income. It would benefit our family farms and help poor people afford more nutritious food. There are a lot of communities without full-service grocery stores, mostly poor ones. There are a lot of people who have to choose between foods they can stretch, and produce. Good nutrition shouldn't be class-oriented. Neither should health-care. (See, I told you I had a point.)
A lot of farmers can't afford health insurance for their families. They end up on SCHIP, or if they're lucky, Medicaid. Eligibility is based on gross, not net income. It kinda fucks a lot of people. You try living on 30k a year in a family of four. It's poverty. Really. If your gross, as a farmer, is $100k a year, but you only net $30k and eligibility is based on the $100k... yeah. I used to have to tell people they weren't eligible.
It sucks big time.

We had such a good time at the market. These are good, hardworking people, trying to earn a living. There were a lot of teenagers. One was a kid, maybe 16. He'd been up working since 6 am, hadn't eaten yet. Looked a little woozy, to be honest. His (I think) sister was working with him and talking about food. My mum, who can't avoid junk food to save her life, went to the baked goods stand and bought some stuff. I'd taken some of our purchases to the car; when I came back, she had this look on her face. After warning me to never leave her alone with baked goods and telling me what she bought, she said, "He looked so hungry."
She looked at me, "Do you think it would be weird if I took him something to eat?" I laughed and told her she was, "Such a mom," and then,  "Go ahead." I walked over with her, and she offered the gob to him, he had a stunned look on his face. As if the idea of someone thinking of a stranger, of doing something kind and thoughtful, without any expectation, was alien. The smile that lit up his face when my mom nodded and stretched her hand further out to give it to him, was beatific.

Those are the moments you can't plan for. When something so simple make so many things clear.

There is hope for humanity. We can care for each other, we can be kind to each other, we can help each other. We can share.
My mom, with her paper sack of pastry and her cane, struggling through the farmer's market to make sure a kid had something in his stomach. Is a snapshot of what humanity can be.

So, yeah: I'm pretty happy.

1 comment:

  1. I'm also a TMJ sufferer and my TMJ actually gives me migraines, so in terms of chronic pain I have a bit of an idea where you're coming from. Between this and other situations, it does tend to make you hyperaware of other people's physical situations.

    All this said, I'm proud to have met you both :)