reminiscing in towel pants

This time last year I was strolling around London, pretend-shopping in Covent Garden and wandering back and forth across Tower Bridge. I’d visited London once before this when I was 18, a mere freshman in college, and had never before travelled alone. This time was different – I was 24, had a little money in the bank, and knew how to curate a perfect day of sightseeing and coffee stops.

I was only able to take this trip because June 15th of last year was my last day of work at the job I truly thought was going to be my “finally!” job.

I started working at my first sit-at-a-desk-for-9-hours job in February of last year, after a looong break in employment (the Christmas market had ended in December) that had me craving stability and routine. This particular position involved handling client schedules, coordinating freelance artists, and most importantly – handling client complaints. I know that this is an inaccurate percentage, but it really felt like 95% of the day revolved around resolving complaints. I enjoyed the sense of purpose I found in helping people and troubleshooting their issues, taking angry and often accusatory phone calls from negative to positive.

Still. I would leave the house at 4:50am to get to work by 7, and despite getting out at the nice early time of 4pm, I was so rattled and tense after work that I’d go to the gym (plus I felt the need to use my legs after all that desk-sitting) until 6 and end up home around 8pm – enough time to make a quick dinner and shower before going to bed.

It was a routine. And the job helped me develop some critical skills. Plus, I met some of the best ladies there, whom I still like to see whenever I can. It just wasn’t a routine that worked for me.

I’ll admit that at first, it was worth it. It was so nice to finally have money – and health insurance! But no matter how happy I think I am, if my “stable” life leads to an unstable mind, that is the most important red flag that I have to listen to. I had hours that changed on a week-to-week basis, but it wasn’t enough flexibility that I could go out for an acting gig here and there like I had wanted to. I was finally able to afford the tons of specialist appointments I needed at the time, but didn’t have a schedule that allowed me to get to those appointments. Remember the stroke story? All of that happened about a month into this job. I didn’t find time to follow up with the neurologist until at least a month later (…it was supposed to happen right away. They were not pleased with me).

After a quick five months, I said “I’m off to do other things” and went to London. I drank a lot of (mostly free) coffee and stared at beautiful buildings. I bought my mom a royal baby-themed dish towel. I took a trip to Oxford and laid on a bench in a shopping mall while my kidney had a meltdown. (Worth it. Gorgeous weather.)

I meant to get my life together again when I got back to NY. I started working a combination of super part-time and seasonal jobs. I started applying for acting gigs again (I did a lovely little 3-night show in September). Then came the trip to Scotland, which was the greatest head-clearing break I could have ever hoped for. Over the course of the fall and winter, I scrimped and saved and had to be bailed out more than a few times. I got sick and got better and got sick again. I boldly tried living on background acting alone, for a bit. Then I dipped a toe back into waitressing and absolutely lost my mind.

And here we are.

You know how people say “did you ever think a year ago that you’d be where you are right now?”

Honestly? Still a little bit broke? I could’ve predicted that.

BUT. I think saorza circa June 2018 would never have guessed the following:

  • I had my first speaking, solo role (as myself!) for a well-known company’s promotional shoot yesterday. You might actually see my face places come July.
  • I’m mostly through with the application process for my master’s – finally! And also, again! I’ve applied for 4 master’s programs over the years (acting, tourism/preservation, counseling, and now, nutrition) but this one feels the most right. It isn’t a new idea – just an idea that has simmered a long time, finally ready to be put into action.
  • This blog! It’s alive! This sweet, frighteningly public journal which I so carelessly abandoned for about a month (due to working ALL OF THE WAITRESSING SHIFTS and spending all my non-waitressing time meditating on how to get through work without strangling anyone) is connecting me with fantastic people, and looks pretty freaking decent if you ask me.
  • I moved in with a human ThunderShirt. Or, like…a human lavender candle. It’s absurd how this guy manages to calm me down. He doesn’t think that he does it very well but hey, you! (He reads this sometimes.) You do.
  • I have made peace with not going after every. single. dream. At least, not right now. A little more focus and direction is much needed in my life and I’m finally cool with taking some things off the table to give more of my attention to those which I want to prioritize.

Also – I have a great to-do list on my fridge that keeps me going, which reads as follows:

  1. JOB
  2. GYM MEMBERSHIP
  3. HAIRCUT
  4. CREDIT CARD
  5. FIND A LADY OBGYN

Number 5 isn’t on the fridge, actually, because I like how the first four look all on their own. But it’s there in spirit. I have a strong gut feeling that #5 will be a key move in nailing this wacky pain situation. Also, perhaps I should say hi to my primary care doctor sometime soon. The poor man hasn’t seen me in…a year and half? Possibly more? Oh dear.

Things were just restarting this time last year. And so they shall restart again. You have to look back sometimes to see the progress. Yes, I’m drinking cold coffee and wearing a beach towel for pants, and so might you be. It doesn’t mean we aren’t determined badasses out here doing what we have to do.

And what I have to do right now is continue my job hunt, which just to note, started in 2016.

I’ll be back SOON. Promise.

vain? or just veiny?

Did ANYONE catch Miss USA last night? I’ll assume most people didn’t. I’m not living under the delusion that many people are into pageants. Just roll with me for a minute.

I didn’t have much of an opinion about pageantry at all before making a spur of the moment decision to enter one – and then getting in – about two years ago. It was a serious pageant, too – the most competitive of the state pageants leading to Miss USA. Now that I’ve seen the pageant world from the inside, I can’t help but get excited for events such as Miss USA. You feel so much more than simply “beautiful” standing onstage with dozens of other women radiating crazy amounts of confidence. I felt like my strongest, most unstoppable self. I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be crowned at my first ever pageant, and that was okay. I still felt deserving. We all did. You may not believe this, but you really are a unit up there, rooting for everyone around you and basking in each other’s light.

Anyway, that was sappy, but I needed to share in order to justify why I was fully screaming at the TV last night. If you think that pageantry and feminism can’t coincide together, I encourage you to look up our new Miss USA’s answer to her onstage question (not the one about millennials, the other one). Not only am I ecstatic that Miss USA is an incredibly articulate, intelligent woman, but we also have…for the first time ever…a Black Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America. I mean, that took us long enough. Amazing stuff.

Health and beauty really do play off of each other more than I used to believe. There’s the obvious notion that if you eat well and move your body, you’re going to look and feel better than if you don’t.

There’s more to it than that.

Caring about your appearance and giving some love to the external bits of your body really can change what’s going on within you. When I’m anxious or depressed, or even on the verge of being there, one look in the mirror can trigger a spiral. I see blotchy skin, stained teeth, and even my lack of enamel becomes a weapon my brain uses against me. It is truly nuts. I see spider veins on my left leg and suddenly – oh my God, I’m old? Time is running out? I’m this ugly? How does Sean even look at me? I’ll never get a job on-camera again, let me just go work in the mines, I’m done with everything.

The extra fun part is that my stressing out over these things 100% makes them worse. My typically cooperative skin senses my panic and decides to bless me with acne. I bite off my fingernails. I scratch at my skin, leaving bruises and dry patches.

Just as I’ve mentioned my anxiety toolkit, I have a secondary but equally important toolkit to keep this version of myself at bay…and it’s in my medicine cabinet.

Why do I even own nail polish is the real question…

There are tools in here which I use daily that leave me with a curious sense of mental peace. I’m honestly not sure if it’s the products working, or the fact that I’m not stressing out thinking that I should’ve done one thing or the other to prevent a breakout or that line on my face.

What I’m getting at: when I follow a simple health & beauty routine catered to my particular issues, I eliminate triggers that could otherwise lead to more anxiety-driven self-deprecation.

I’m posting pictures of my favorite things below, all of which were extremely inexpensive and have helped me chill the heck out.

The rose water toner is a new thing I’m trying and I’m not convinced I’m using correctly in sequence with my other goos, but it feels great after running around in the city or being on the subway, standing around a hot set, any of that. The “enrich” lotion (also from Trader Joe’s) is so light but thorough. I’ve been using it for years. Other moisturizers I’ve tried have left my skin a little bumpy or sometimes rubbery, but this one is class. I switch to the Clean&Clear moisturizer if I’m breaking out, and it usually stops things from getting any worse.

When I’m really tired, or experiencing a spree of sick days, or if y’know, it’s winter and I look decrepit, I love using self tanner to make myself look (and feel) a little more alive and well. St. Tropez typically goes for a bit more than I’d like to spend, but I can get these little tubes at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx for under $10. I don’t have to use it often and it doesn’t turn me orange – just adds a light glow as if I actually got some sun. I also buy my retinol oil at Marshall’s/TJ Maxx because it’s so freaking affordable and they have a billion brands available at any given point in time. Now the Nair, I love and hate. This particular variety is for the face, and it does work, but you have to play around with how long you need to leave it on before it will actually remove any hair. I believe it says 8 minutes max on the tube, but that has never worked for me. 9-10 (closer to 10) minutes usually does the job for me, but I have also burned my skin on one occasion when I decided I didn’t need to use my phone timer and I just barely surpassed the 10 minute mark. Don’t do that.

Last but not least…yoga! I’m becoming a yogi, sort of. I read that poor circulation is one of the causes of spider veins, and yoga can help with poor circulation…ergo…I now practice yoga. I have an app called Keep Yoga which provides me with *free* instructional videos that follow a weekly plan. I just did Tuesday’s video today. It’s fine. We’re all busy people. I don’t think yoga will resolve the cluster of veins that already torments me, but it may help prevent the cluster from spreading…and the thought of having some amount of control does make me a slightly happier lil’ bean.

Did this post seem pointless? Hopefully not. I just want to remind everyone that your external and internal self are connected, & maintenance of each helps the other. 🙂 Ya gorgeous, regardless.

when your pain isn’t travel-sized

Last week, I shared some lovely, Instagram-able pictures from my Florida trip. Now I want to get into a detail of the trip that I didn’t bring up before – the fact that health issues don’t necessarily take a chill pill just because you’ve headed away on what is meant to be a relaxing vacation.

I love traveling, but for the past few years the excitement of an upcoming trip has come paired with nervousness regarding how my body will handle the changes in my day-to-day life. When I went to Scotland in October, I had some very sore days that left me curled up on my hostel’s couch with single-use pain relief hot packs all over my body. I wasn’t upset, though, since I had given myself plenty of time to go exploring on days when I felt well enough. Plus, I was thrilled just to be in Scotland. Freakin’ love Scotland.

The stakes were a bit different with Florida. A lot of the aspects of a typical warm-weather getaway involve exposure to things that make my specific symptoms worse: being out in the sun & heat, spending a lot of time walking around, drinking (the fun drinks), eating outside my normal diet (the fun snacks), and sleeping somewhere I’m not used to. I knew that completely “letting loose” would be a bad idea, but decided to allow myself a bit of indulgence, since my symptoms play by no one’s rules, anyway. I can sleep 9 hours a night and eat salads all week and still end up in pain, so I wasn’t about to turn down a $0.99 margarita. (Note: I would like to update my research to reflect that my body gets along with tequila juuuust fine.)

Looking back, I’d say the most challenging part of this trip ended up being how hard it was to stay hydrated, but also not wanting to take too much fluid at once. Drinking a lot of anything too quickly is rough on my kidney, even if my body needs it. The day Sean and I went to the zoo, we could not drink enough water no matter how hard we tried. Granted, we spent an absurd amount of time at the zoo. It was wonderful. The day that followed the zoo visit and the day we wandered around Del Ray not knowing that the UV index was at 11 were hands down the hardest. All my body wanted was to lay down somewhere cool, but I also wanted to see and do as much as possible, and of course, make sure Sean got to do everything he wanted to do. Thankfully, I’m comfortable enough with him to say “no” to things. I did turn down some of his suggestions for the sake of not being miserable for days to come. While we were in Fort Lauderdale, a huge music festival featuring artists we both really like was going on, and Sean suggested we could go to that. Typically, we are “let’s DO IT!” people. However, the purpose of the trip was R&R and a full day of festival debauchery in the sun would not only be a huge, unplanned expense…but would likely leave us sunburnt, sick and exhausted. I’m grateful that each of us was able to remind the other that we don’t have to do it all and to find satisfaction in downtime somewhere a little more exotic than home.

While my body only misbehaved a little, my attention-seeking anxiety brain found lots of reasons to make an appearance in Florida! It started early – I had painted my nails a bright white before leaving to catch our flight, but I didn’t even make it to the place we were staying before I had peeled/scratched it all off. (This is one of my biggest anxiety tics. Do we call them tics? I can’t really paint my fingernails because the slightest chip or imperfection causes me to destroy all of my hard work.) Anyway, that’s what I get for making myself look trendy for the ‘gram.

As the trip went on and more money was spent on car services, sunscreen (so much sunscreen), snacks and various expenses, the more panic started to grow in my mind. It’s extremely normal to worry about finances, I know this, but anxiety takes everything to the next level – where one small unexpected purchase can push me to question/distrust everything…and then I’m itchy and lose my appetite and all in all it’s just not a fun me to be, or be around.

All flashes of pain and panic aside, the trip was a huge success in my book. Sloths were pet, oceans were splashed in, TONS of hockey and soccer games were watched, and Sean got some sleep. Maybe this is a weird comparison, but I feel a bit like a mom to my bratty toddler of a body. See, if I make sure I have some snacks and water packed when I leave the house, that I build time to rest into the daily schedule, and that I’m paying attention to red flag situations like expensive adventures or places where I’m going to feel pressured to push myself…everything goes pretty smoothly!

…I’m realizing now that not going on my college spring break trip might have saved my life. Y’know, being the type of person who is always trying to keep up with the rest of ’em, especially in those days. Thankfully, I am slowly but surely letting go of my need to please and impress other people. What matters is how proud I am of myself when I do something good for my body or mind, or when I pass on a night out and end up finishing a book or chipping away at a writing project.

Speaking of projects, I’m going to go ahead and spoil what would have been a cool surprise – I’ve decided it’s time to make an Instagram account for saorza! However…someone already has the account name “saorza”. I’ve done about all I can to try to get the username for myself, since the account is very obviously inactive. (If anyone has any friends that work at Instagram…let’s talk.) It doesn’t look super promising.

I’m open to suggestions, pals. Does anyone have an idea for a variation on “saorza” that would make a good Instagram handle? Alternatively, any ideas on how to overthrow Instagram? I mean come on. It’s a made up word. I don’t understand.

I appreciate any thoughts/suggestions and hope everyone has a wonderful weekend doing whatever it is you need to do. And stay hydrated. x

hit “play”

This is the longest I’ve ever put my life on hold, and all to find out that I do not have Nutcracker syndrome.

It’s not entirely accurate to say I put my life on hold, I suppose. Some wonderful things have happened over the last few months. It might a better analogy to say that this is longest I’ve held down the pause button on my own timeline, even though I’ve been able to participate in other people’s timelines as they move forward.

It has been one week since my venogram revealed my left renal vein’s truth – he’s just not that constricted. He’s a normal amount of constricted. He’s basically chillin’. The good news is that even if it appeared that I did have Nutcracker syndrome, it is unlikely that I would’ve been able to undergo corrective surgery because I have so much scar tissue in that location from my last procedure. The not-so-great news is that this line of inquiry is now closed, and I am back to a blank whiteboard.

Honestly, I don’t want to think about any of this anymore.

Truth be told, I would like to just stop. I want to stop with the bus trips and the copays and the blood work and the imaging. I want to stop living appointment to appointment. I want to prioritize financial stability, a healthy routine, and contributing equally to my relationship. I want to do all of this without the same old cloud hanging over me – the fact that I’m waiting for someone to tell me how to take care of myself, how to stop making my body so angry at me. My body has been this perpetually crying baby that can’t communicate what it wants me to do, regardless of how simple that need might be. Is it sleep related? Food related? Positional? An environmental trigger? I don’t understand!

When I don’t understand things, I lay on the floor. There’s a lot of healing power in laying on the floor. I spent Tuesday morning on the living room floor with what started as a sort of meditation, which triggered the urge to write out everything that was going through my mind.

I took pictures because I was so content in my lil’ sun spot and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED! I caught a lens rainbow! Right over the bit of writing I had just busted out. (And my coffee, obviously.)

Aside from the rainbow, I’m not going to pretend anything magical happened. Writing didn’t fix everything. I gave in to frustration crying later that same day. I’m still tensing up every time someone asks the tiniest question to do with my plans. I keep falling off the anxiety ledge and either pulling myself or being pulled back up – but I haven’t made it very far away from the edge yet. Doing a little something for myself on Tuesday, though, led to me doing a little bit more on Wednesday, and now today I’m starting to feel even a bit more settled and motivated. “Focus on days,” says Austin Kleon in one of my favorites, Show Your Work! …and that’s what I’ll do. A single healthy, productive choice per day over whatever may be its alternative is progress.

Pre-venogram, 3/20.

This is a woman who thought she was going to get knocked out and wake up with answers and next steps. I was also definitely thinking about the coffee I would get when this was over. I didn’t get answers, but I got the coffee. I did some shopping with my dad. I ate Sonic for the first time (never again). Then I went home, let Sean calm me down a bit, and went to sleep.

You can’t rush anything.

You can’t. rush. anything.

So for now, let’s move on with heads held high, shall we?

spring meltdown

hellooo!

Two things. That’s all. I’m heading back home tonight in preparation for my venogram tomorrow morning, where I’ll find out what’s going on with this potential Nutcracker syndrome of mine (or not of mine). I feel like I’ve been spinning in place from my last appointment in February until now. Not knowing if I’ll need surgery has made it difficult to move forward, especially when it comes to job searching.

Thankfully, I lucked out big time with some acting work in the past few weeks that not only brought in a little income, but gave me the sense of productivity and of being a real person that I’ve been craving. I’ve also had distractions, the very good kind, in the way of a surprise birthday party and some unexpected time spent with people I highly enjoy. I did have some minor panic moments here and there and, in a sort of “grande finale”, I completely fell into the abyss on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, I was ready to delete all traces of my life and move into an apartment in some town where I would just work and sleep and have no relationships or life goals. Because that’s not dramatic. Seriously though, I can poke fun now, but in the moment that always seems like what I have to do. I’m lucky that I wasn’t home and didn’t have access to a computer because I wanted to delete this blog…and everything else. I find it interesting that despite being aware that it’s not really me behind the wheel in those moments, I still believe that version of myself’s truths to be real. By Sunday night, however, my normal brain and my funky brain had reached somewhat of a compromise and decided on something that would actually help:

…s i m p l i f y.

I didn’t delete everything, but I deleted some things.

I’m not anti-social media because it has the potential to be used for good, but I do know that it can affect people very differently. At my most healthy, mentally, certain apps are nothing more than a huge distraction. When I’m in a different mental place, browsing through social media can be like throwing gas on the fire. I love to record moments of my life, and sometimes it feels like “what’s the point of recording these memories if I don’t share them?” I think we’ve forgotten how normal it is to share moments with our friends and family and not the whole world. My home growing up was full of photo albums, which were treasures and would never be as special to strangers as they were to my family. This is not at all to say that publicly sharing snapshots of your life is wrong or bad, but I personally fell into that inaccurate mentality of “the more people that see these portraits of your life, the better your life must be.” If I was using other apps for the same purpose that this blog exists, that would be a different story. But I was not. I was mostly:

  1. reliving my past through the posts of people I still follow
  2. feeling inadequate because I can’t afford the adventures or clothing or food that I see people posting about, &
  3. stressing over what/when to post to make people feel a certain way about me.

Anyway, that was a long road to get to the point that I got rid of Instagram and Snapchat. Insta, Snap…it’s not you guys, it’s me. Well, it’s also a little bit what you’ve turned into. But I respect you. I’m just terrified of you and what you do to me. Will I come back? Maybe, when I think I can handle it. I’m just a little too distract-able and impressionable right now, that’s all.

I kept Tumblr, who has never done me wrong.

I brought this up in my last post (I think?) when I wrote about having a kit for the bad days. I’m a very visual person, and for seven years I’ve had a Tumblr account where I’ve collected things that catch my eye and attention. It’s never been a competitive thing for me, and that’s been really nice to have. It’s full of pictures of old buildings, artwork, fashion photography, cups of coffee, FOOD, animals doing things, quotes, poems, the occasional PSA, really weird meme videos that no one ever reacts well to…anything that gives my brain a little happy spark, or that I find really important.

So I did a thing. I re-vamped my Tumblr, making it a sidekick to this blog. They were already working together to achieve the same sort of goals, in a way, so it makes sense to share the page with you.

…but of course, when I changed my Tumblr name the url “saorza” was already taken, so if you come across that one, it is NOT ME!

It’s called calm & collection and because I redid the whole thing, there’s not a ton there – yet. I’m not doing anything differently compared to how I managed the page before…it’s still my collection of doodads, gathered together for myself above all else. Give the page a glance, or don’t, but I want to give credit where credit is due: thank you to Tumblr for simply being there, and to everyone who uses it to take care of themselves & others.

One more time, I’m giving the link its own block:

calmandcollection.tumblr.com

And now, I leave you with some pictures from March so far. See you on the other side of the venogram.

25 before 25

It’s a list! Like Taylor Swift’s…but with a twist.

I was at a loss (again) for what to write while I wait for my next appointment/procedure, when I came across Taylor Swift’s “30 Things She Learned Before Her 30th Birthday” article in Elle. This was a great find because I happen to be turning 25 in a little under a week – woop woop, Pisces friends. I’m not a big birthday gal anymore, since I had the best parties as a kid and got that out of my system. By best parties, by the way, I don’t mean the glitziest or that I had tons of guests. My mom was just great at tailoring themes to my weirdness.

I don’t want to blatantly copy Taylor’s idea with 25 things I’ve learned before 25, so I give you…

25 Health Lessons I Learned Before 25

  1. Write everything down: You’ll have much better luck identifying trends and going head to head with doctors who challenge your symptoms.
  2. Flavored water: I’m the worst at drinking enough water, but I love flavored sparkling water. When I’m feeling bleh and know I’m not hydrating properly, I head to CVS and load up. It helps me feed my sweet tooth, as well, without doing myself the disservice of getting back on the soda bandwagon.
  3. Hot packs (and ice packs): The loves of my life. The ones with straps that allow me to hobble around the house (or sneakily wear them under my clothes in public) are even better.
  4. Always have snacks in your purse: Especially salty snacks – gotta keep the dizziness at bay.
  5. Always carry bandaids: This one is less personal and is more of a general fact for women. Will they ever stop making shoes that are designed to hurt us?
  6. Keep the receipt for your copay: Hospitals and urgent care centers love to send me bills after I’ve already paid for my services in the office. I used to just pay them the second time and they would pay me back, and we would have this nice little back-and-forth.
  7. Defend your preferences: I had a horrible, painful reaction to morphine the one time it was administered and the nurse told me to tell future nurses that I’m allergic. Every time I do this, I’m asked how I know that I’m allergic and what happens, and I used to feel bad for saying “well, it hurts” as though that isn’t reason enough. Not gonna lie – I fluff up the story a bit now. I was close to blacking out from the pain that shot up my neck and into my head, so whatever I think is necessary to avoid that, I’m going to do it.
  8. It’s okay to ask to schedule around that time of the month: Woo, being a lady! Maybe this is just me, but I never thought to do this before. I used to just hope for the best. But, after a particularly awkward OBGYN appointment, I thought to bring this up when my vascular doctor scheduled a procedure about a month out of the appointment I was in at the time. She was glad that I did, and honestly, there was nothing awkward about it whatsoever. Why haven’t I been doing this from the start??
  9. You can explain yourself without apologizing: I’m still working on this one, but I’ve improved over the years.
  10. Skip mass transit if you have to: I hate to spend money, but I’ve learned that sometimes I have to prioritize getting home quickly and safely. This has involved taking a car service or a cab, at times. I’ve finally stopped beating myself up for doing this.
  11. Be open about your food concerns: There are times when I know that I need to eat very lightly or carefully, whether it’s due to pain or due to nausea that turns me off of my favorite foods. It’s such a relief to feel comfortable enough to explain to close friends and family why I can’t eat particular foods at particular times. Plus, it can actually be helpful to have a real response to “I don’t care, what do you want to eat?” Wellll, let me tell you…
  12. It’s okay to sleep at unconventional times: Louder for the people in the back! Needing a nap does not make me a child. It does not make me lazy. It means that my body is working a little harder than usual and needs a break before a breakdown. Sleep in general is super important, of course, but making peace with having different needs from others has been huge for me.
  13. The internet isn’t (always) bad: I’m grateful for my academic background because I know how to go about research in an informed manner. I know the signs of a factual, science-driven publication versus…well, the other stuff. I, like many others, have let WebMD diagnose me with a long list of fatal illnesses in the past. However, I’ve also found a lot of great information in public forums. If you know how to assess a source and take everything with a grain of salt, the internet can be hugely helpful.
  14. Always get the DVD copy of your MRI/CT/what have you: I mentioned this in my last post. You never know when you’ll need it.
  15. Never assume that the doctor “would’ve” or “should’ve”: I asked at my last appointment if my surgeon from the original kidney surgery would have seen evidence of Nutcracker syndrome when he was operating in that same area. My vascular doctor said no. I have also assumed that I’ve had certain tests done already because my kidney has been under investigation for so long – also, no.
  16. Ask for clarification again…and again: Sometimes I zone out and start in with the nods and “yeps” while a doctor dumps information on me. An example: that time my primary care physician told me that my heart doesn’t draw blood back as quickly as it should and then carried on with his checkup…what does that mean? Is that called something? Now I make sure that I don’t leave an appointment without enough of an understanding that I could potentially explain the situation to someone else.
  17. You can say it’s time to stop when things are getting a bit out of hand: I’ve let a nurse spend an hour trying to insert an IV line in about seven different spots along my arms and hands. I let another nurse struggle to place two catheters (TWO?) for much too long before telling her that I’d rather just do the scan without one. Don’t let your desire to be a nice, easy patient keep you from remembering that you are ultimately in control.
  18. Know your safe places: Living in a city, it’s helpful to know where I can go to sit down if I’m starting to feel a bit off while I’m out and about. There are parks everywhere, but in the colder months I’ve utilized public libraries, specific coffee shops that tend to have seats available, Sean’s workplace, and certain train stations where there are plenty of benches. Keeping a few of places in mind gives me a safety net – peace of mind for my anxiety brain.
  19. Have a “kit”: Speaking of anxiety, I have a “kit” on my phone made up of things I found while in a good headspace that I’ve saved for times when I am not. It’s mostly art – photos, videos, poems and posts that never fail to pull the curtain back a bit when I’m stuck in the dark. There are also apps I use to distract myself, such as Sudoku and Tumblr, which help me focus away from unwanted thoughts at night so that I can get to sleep.
  20. A little exercise is better than none at all: I love going to the gym, and I feel my best when I’m in a routine that involves going to the gym nearly every day. Whenever I’m feeling sick for an extended period of time or have an injury, I fall out of that routine. I used to lose my motivation completely during these times. Currently, my cardio is limited to walking, so I’ve been making sure that I keep up with my floor workouts at home. This isn’t the level where I’d like to remain, but that’s okay. Getting back in the gym will be amazing, but I can make my smaller efforts in the meantime.
  21. You can say no to medication: You. Can. Say. No. To. Medication.
  22. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Just because a diagnosis seems probable does not mean that it will definitely be confirmed. Heck, I’ve been officially diagnosed before and had the diagnosis revoked. Multiple times. Be open to change, always always always.
  23. You might need a third opinion: I’ve seen a lot of specialists. A lot. I’ve been dismissed, and I’ve been told that there was “no way” certain conditions could even be considered. It happens. Guess what? You can “thank you, next” a medical professional. I’m definitely not saying that you should cycle through doctors until you find the one who tells you what you want to hear, but if you’re truly not convinced by one person’s opinion, go forth and keep pushing.
  24. Gloves: My hands are never going to be a normal human temperature. I accept this. I’ve stopped questioning whether or not I should take gloves with me when I go anywhere. The answer is always yes.
  25. Live like your world could be turned upside down tomorrow: I try to imagine the changes I would make in my life if I was ever given life-altering news. What would I do differently if faced with a situation where I could lose my current abilities and opportunities? We hate to think about this, but none of us have any particular amount of time guaranteed to us, and I am not saying this to be grim. I’m saying this because I’m now realizing that the most important thing I’ve learned from my experiences is that if you’re waiting for someone to tell you that time is running out – don’t. Do everything with that source of motivation, and watch how your life changes.
Looking at 25 like “seriously, try me.”

hospital aside, A+ day!

me, January 1st: new year, new me #health

me, 2am, January 3rd: wakes up in the emergency room

Just to start out on a positive note, January 2nd was an awesome day. It was a total bro day, if anyone remembers How I Met Your Mother back when it was lighthearted and full of laser-tag. I was taken out for a great breakfast, brought to a go-kart track where I did NOT come in last place, wandered around my favorite library, had a lovely & cozy dinner, and then saw my NHL team win 7-2. All with somewhat enjoyable company, to boot. You’d think I was someone’s beloved elderly pet about to be put down, the way this day was arranged.

The evening took a minor turn when I fell sick and had to be carried (I think? or dragged?) to the hospital. Two hospitals, actually, because apparently the first one was closed.

I don’t remember what happened, which is hard to admit and a little bit scary. I remember leaving the game, but not running into a bar restroom and getting sick, and definitely not anyone climbing into the stall to get me. I don’t know how I got to the hospital…and to me, the strangest part is that I don’t remember any progression, of neither pain nor drunkenness. I also don’t remember any point where I thought I was anything other than completely fine.

Full disclosure: I was drinking during dinner and the hockey game, which paints this whole situation in a different light. When I show up to a hospital hobbling around like a drunk, wounded animal and I’m sober, that’s major cause for concern. When I’m brought to a hospital in that same state and I’ve been drinking, there’s not much interest in investigating what’s going on. And I get it! I get how it must have looked. I’ve had those college experiences, guys. I’ve absolutely drank beyond my limits before. I’ve even thrown up after drinking. However, I have never had any drinking experience that felt like this, or transpired the way that this went down. The closest incident would be my first ever ER visit for this same pain, when I had two beers and then we discovered my misshapen, hydronephrosis-ing kidney. And I was told that I had massive kidney stones but then the doctor took it back.

I’m grateful that I wasn’t alone and that Sean took action by getting me to the hospital, which was clearly no easy feat. Still, I can’t help feeling disappointed in the outcome of the night because I try to be strategic about my hospital visits. I feel like I’ll only make progress on getting some answers if the doctors catch my kidney (or whatever godforsaken organ it is now) behaving badly, but I’ve had those experiences where I’ve gone to an emergency room and they don’t have the right equipment for imaging, or it was so busy there that by the time I was seen, my body had calmed down on its own. I had this dream that if I went back to the emergency room, it would be the last time – they’d finally find it. I truly believe that if they had done an ultrasound on my kidney this past visit, they would’ve seen some interesting and potentially informative things. Anyway. Maybe next time!

The pain was still very present throughout the course of the next two days, although Sean went hardcore nurse mode on me and definitely helped bring me back to life. For whatever reason, as the kidney pain chilled out, I quickly came down with a bad cold in its place. The really nice thing about colds, though, is that I know what they are when they happen AND they go away.

I still believe I might know what’s going on with this sudden spike in painful episodes. I’m away from the city now on operation clean the old house, as well as to get some doctors appointments taken care of. In a shocking twist, I actually pulled myself together enough to go out for my engaged friend’s bachelorette party last night, which I’m so grateful I was able to do while I’m here. I slugged straight seltzer all night but I dance so poorly naturally that I don’t think anyone questioned what was in my champagne glass. I woke up to the ol’ pain around 4am but was able to fall back asleep (thanks to my badass aromatherapy sloth) and the rest of today went pretty smoothly.

Time for my uplifting moral of the story, friends:

There’s a lot of shame in this game.

No matter if it’s alcohol, caffeine, gluten, whatever – there will always be people who think I should just do less of this or more of that, and that I’m still suffering because I’m not disciplined or invested enough to make those changes permanent. Listen, if cutting out any of those things had ever proven to help, I’d be more than happy to make that a permanent lifestyle change. They just…haven’t. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that I need to stand up for the way that I take care of my own body. As anyone should, y’know? And because everything seems so fragile right now, I’m not going to drink at all until I get some answers. As we know, I’ve had plenty of weird occurrences without any alcohol in my system. This most certainly is not a sure-fire way to keep my pain at bay. It just seems like the intelligent thing to do right now.

Well. Fingers crossed we’ve solved this problem by the playoffs.