Wednesday, May 14, 2003

For everyone whom I’ve somehow failed to keep updated with for the last few…weeks? Months? Maybe it seems like years?!
Well, anyway, here’s the blow-by-blow account of what’s been going on, keeping me from contacting you! (For anyone considering grad school, let this be a shot over your bow.)

Before this semester, I was doing at least some of my schoolwork in advance, that is—longer than 24 hours before it was due. Sometimes weeks before it was due! This is mainly because the kinds of final projects we do now take me so unbelievably long, like 20-30 hours or something, that there is no way to even fool myself that I can do them all during the last week of the semester, especially since other parts of my workload are still going full blast. (Oh, how lovely it was in undergrad, when there was only full-time classes, and part-time work, not full-time classes+practicum+research+clients.)

So anyway. This past semester began with a workload trauma at my practicum, which made January and February a nightmare. I mean, I was literally having nightmares, it was so heinous. And of course, there was no “wiggle room” as far as the other elements of school—I still had to do all that other stuff, too. Since UM had a different week of spring break than we did, I also worked over my “spring break.” Luckily for me, my grad advisor was merciful and let up on me a lot. Pretty much all I did for her was grade undergraduate papers, so at least my GA component was tolerable.

March might have been okay, except I had a boatload of paperwork to catch up on from the “nightmare” period. Classes, and my practicum, ended on the 27th of April. That meant that I had three weeks in April to do all the final work for everything: 5 papers and reports and also a couple presentations, the HSRC application for my thesis, and closing out all the files and paperwork on about 25 clients, as well as grading undergraduate papers. If you know long it takes me to do reports and papers, you may begin to get an idea of how long this was all going to take. (I even had to skip my “one-afternoon-a-week” that I usually see Dave, once or twice!) I remember going into my “office” at school (i.e. tiny windowless concrete cinder-block hole inside a hallway maze on the 5th floor) just to sit there and cry from stress for a few minutes, because there was just no other relief!

So here’s how April went:

Week 1: I make a giant strip of paper that stretches across my livingroom floor as a calendar of April, because I have so much to get done I have to actually look at the tasks laid out in a row of squares or I will forget to do them from sheer quantity. Work on the projects I begin takes, of course, about three times as long as I generously estimate. Like, 30 hours instead of 10, for example. Let me tell you, thirty hours on one subject in front of the computer over two days—trying to figure out really complicated crap and not just typing or surfing the internet—is @&%@#& tiring. And there are no days of rest in between! I am really desperately looking forward to the 1-week break between spring and summer classes, particularly since I didn’t actually get a spring break this year. I feel like I haven’t had a break since last summer, since over the winter break I was so exhausted all I did was sleep that week, plus I was at someone else’s house.

Week 2: More stuff is coming due, and I’m feeling frantic, because everything is taking me so damn long! MMPI paper, grading, Rorschach report. I’m still following the practicum schedule of: leave home at 8 am, get home at 9 pm. And Wednesday is still filled with classes basically from 9 am to 9 pm. So that leaves Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and maybe a couple hours of Monday to do the 30 or 40 or…50 hours of work I’m talking about. My dishes go undone, and there’s no time to even buy groceries any more. My lower back is starting to hurt from all this constant, intense sitting, but I hardly have time to shower or eat, let alone go for a walk or whatever. I learn that my practicum supervisors wanted me to stop seeing clients before my last week there, to finish up paperwork, so the upshot is that now I will still be going there during my “break” between spring and summer, dammit!! The one thing that is moving me forward is the thought of our Europe trip this summer, and I have gotten the tickets and begun to look for places to stay.

Week 3: Okay, all the final stuff is due this week, and I also have to terminate therapy with several long-term clients. This is not some sudden thing, it’s gone the way it was supposed to and they have all done well, but the stress and exhaustion makes me even more emotional about ending relationships with people I’ve grown attached to. There’s a party for the interns who are also finishing their turn at the same practicum, and ostensibly for me too. I feel it mainly points out how isolated I’ve felt there: partly because I was the only practicum student, and also because right when I was beginning to feel comfortable in my role there and wanted to reach out to people and make friends, was exactly when I had the nightmarish client overload and became a de facto recluse, seeing others only in the halls. I mainly feel lonely and exhausted, and my back pain has become so bad that even a client could tell that’s what it was, during his final session. I turn in the class projects I have finished, without even the solace of feeling I did them well, even after taking 30 or 50 hours or whatever, because there’s simply too much going on to do a good job on stuff. I have a couple meetings with my advisor and some of her other assistants about beginning new work on her research. I go out on one night with some of my cohorts, which is fun, but somehow makes my back worse instead of better. Vanessa visits on Saturday, and we spend the day mostly walking around Ann Arbor and shopping, which hurts my back even more. I am still assuming my back thing is some kind of muscle spasm and fixable with a martini, or maybe a massage and some yoga.

Week 4: Classes are over, for the next week. However, instead of having a week to lie in bed like a lump, as I really need to, I must go in to my practicum for about 25 hours. Of sheer sitting and furious typing. My back is really bad, and I have decided it’s time to finally fork out the $200 and go to Dave’s chiropractor. I have an appointment for Friday. All I really do this week is be at my practicum and be in pain—oh yeah, and I did the dishes finally, and some laundry. My stepmother calls and wants to arrange a time to come and visit me and have Christmas, since no one really did that this year, so I suggest the following weekend, before my classes start up again.


Week 1: Appointment day arrives. I can barely drive the car or walk into the chiropractor’s office, let alone turn over on the squishy table. I get X-rays and everything, the whole deal. It takes 2 hours, mostly examination. Turns out I have an inflamed disk from sitting so damn much! Imagine that. My lowest vertebra is tilted forward a bit, from some childhood instance of falling on my behind most likely, so sitting a whole lot is apparently even worse for me than for most people in general. The adjustment comes last, and the crunching part is kind of fun and doesn’t really hurt any more than it already did. And I liked seeing the X-ray of my spine. The only part of it that hurts is trying to turn over. And then—trying to get up. The doctor has to bodily pick me up into a sitting position. Since the vertebrae right around that already inflamed disk have now been moved around, this is amazingly agonizing! My hair stands on end, and I am shaking so much from pain that my teeth are chattering. I can’t relax my arms, since they are holding my body away from the table. Standing up is absolutely out of the question! It takes me a while to even get out of the office. Driving hurts like crazy, as does…everything, really. It ends up taking hours, after I finally get home, of lying down and taking Advil and icing my back for the pain to subside somewhat. It hurts every time I move any part of my body. The doctor wants me to return for a follow-up the next day, but I have a 12-hour Saturday seminar on group psychotherapy that will require—you guessed it—constant sitting >sigh<.

If I hadn’t been anticipating this seminar for months (and even gotten a scholarship to attend it) I absolutely wouldn’t have gone. But I do go, with an ice pack, and a lot of Advil. I lie down on the couches in the lobby during the (few!) breaks. It really makes the whole experience extra weird and surreal, to do all this extremely personal intellectual and emotional work, in front of a room full of complete strangers, all while my back is in terrible pain. The next day (Sunday), my family visitors arrive. Luckily, they don’t get here until about 2 or 3, so I have time to do the dishes and straightening that I have been forced to neglect. (I take a lot of half-hour ice-pack breaks.)

The back thing hurts like crazy for a long time. Basically anything that’s not lying down: such weird activities as “sitting,” “standing,” and “walking” allow the weight of the top half of my body to crush down on that poor little disk. And you can just forget such exotic activities as “carrying stuff, like textbooks,” “washing the dishes,” or “taking out the trash.” Which makes the next week very annoying:

Week 2: Classes begin again. (Oh, yay, sitting!)

So, there you have it. Every wretched detail I forgot to tell you or just didn’t have time to email because there was so much going on! (Kinda glad you didn’t get to hear about it as it happened, aren’t you?) Yes, my back is incrementally better every day—as long as I don’t spend too much time putting weight on it—and I have another appointment on the 17th. I look forward to this getting better so I can get back to what puny amount of weightlifting and yoga I was doing before all this!

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

UTI (AKA bladder/urinary tract infection; cystitis; "honeymoon" cystitis)

*This advice is not meant to substitute for the care of a physician* ...should you be among the lucky few who still have health insurance in the first place....>sigh<
Of all remedies I have compiled, this is by far the most often requested and used by others, apparently with success.

If you've had one before, the symptoms are unmistakable. The medical description of "burning upon urination" doesn't do justice to how it actually feels, and also doesn't mention that a) instead of peeing (and burning) a few times a day, you are suddenly hitting the restrooms several times an hour, and b) that agonizing "burning" doesn't stop in between, either! (It's one of those things that pretty much takes up all your attention.)

You may also experience lower abdominal pressure or pain, changes in odor or color of urine, and various other symptoms. (If you really don't know, go look up the symptoms on Google and then come back here for the remedy.) The first time I had this kind of infection, I didn't know what it was and ended up at the ER only a couple days later, passing a lot of blood and passing out.

Why did you get this? Main reason: you are run down or your body is chronically stressed for some reason, maybe pregnancy. Secondary reason (if you are a woman, which is more common), there is a much shorter distance from the outside world of bacteria to our tender little bladders than there is for men, if you think about our different anatomies. Tight pants, synthetic-fiber panties, thongs, all that stuff contributes, too.

The important thing with a UTI is to immediately treat it. That means if you have symptoms in the afternoon, none of this "I'll see if it's better in the morning" business whereby you fool yourself into imagining it may remit on its own. You go that night and get the stuff. If you have symptoms in the morning and you are at work, do not wait until the end of the day to take care of it. You have to go out on your lunch break and get the stuff and start treating it right there at work that afternoon. Do not wait to treat this!!

Going to the store may seem like a hardship because chances are, you are exhausted and overworked and have way too much to do. Well, that's how you got the thing in the first place. So now you have to earnestly help your body out of the trouble you got it into by neglecting it. Leaving a UTI untreated is dangerous business: a bladder infection is bad enough of itself, but it can crawl up into your kidneys just like that, and then into your liver. Nobody likes nephritis or hepatitis. So to use an adversarial metaphor, you hit it right away, and you hit it hard! You hear me?! Alright, then. Here's the deal.

This is a three-day treatment (three full 24-hour days), beginning (of course) the day you first notice symptoms. If you do not show marked improvement by the middle of the next day, then you make an appointment to see your physician (or campus clinic, Planned Parenthood, Redi-care, whatever) ASAP. (Otherwise you may end up in the ER anyway, which costs a heck of a lot more than those things.)

I prefer to use a combination of allopathic (western medical) components and naturopathic (traditional) components. So far, I have never had this not work (i.e. ended up at the doctor) since I started using it, even if I omit the allopathic components. Typically my symptoms remit by the first morning.

The naturopathic elements may be in the form of teas, juices, capsules, or (if you're lucky) fresh leaves. If they are not to be used in teas, then make sure you are also drinking three or four glasses/cups of fluid at each administration (preferably water or juice).

Allopathic over-the-counter components:

• Cystex (methenamine & sodium salicylate) antibacterial
• Azo brand UTI test strips
• Vagisil (for external symptoms)

Naturopathic components:

• Emergen-C fizzing vitamin C drink packets (approx 1000mg each)
• Dandelion root
• Burdock root
• Nettle leaves
• Echinacea
• Cranberry (unsweetened juice if at all possible)
• Tea tree oil soap (for external use)

• (optional: live-culture plain yogurt, chickweed )

Typically, I go by the following schedule:

• 4X daily: Cystex, dandelion, burdock, nettle, echinacea, cranberry. Since many of these come in tea or juice form, I drink the teas/juices and use them to wash down whatever's in capsule form. At least three glasses or cups of fluid should be included each "dose." Keep flushing your system out!

• Morning and evening: wash externally with tea tree oil soap, use Vagisil if desired to relieve any external itching. (You can also apply plain yogurt or buttermilk externally to help your bacteria balance. Eating yogurt or buttermilk is not a bad idea, either.) Then put on clean, loose-fitting cotton panties.

• Morning of the day after you first notice symptoms: start using the UTI test strips. I prefer Azo, which seems to detect the infection despite all the vitamin C (which can mask results in UTI test strips). Test for several mornings thereafter.

• Increase sleep! This is important for fighting off any infection. Don't tell yourself you can do without. This is not the time to push it.

• Sorry, but no sex of any kind for a couple of days. (This is often one of the main vectors for the bacteria in the first place.) Less tissue irritation is the goal here.

If you don’t get any results on the test strips the first morning, that’s great—now keep up the treatment for the full three days. If you had symptoms, something is going on with your bladder, and it’s better to nip it in the bud then let it get out of hand. It is also possible you flushed out the main infection in the first day, but if you stop treating it, it could grow back quickly. It is further possible that you are getting a false negative due to the vitamin C (also in fruit juices), so don’t get too overoptimistic and bail. Stick with it!

Chevallier, A. (1996). The encyclopedia of medicinal plants. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.

Duke, J. A. (1997). The green pharmacy. New York: St. Martin.

Weed, S. S. (1986). Wise woman herbal for the childbearing year. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree.

Weed, S. S. (1989). Wise woman herbal healing wise. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree.

Weil, A. (1995). Spontaneous healing. New York: Fawcett Columbine.

White, L. and Foster, S. (2002). The herbal drugstore. New York: Penguin

Saturday, May 03, 2003

These bugs have been appearing on my household mint plants since I moved in. They suck out the juice and kill the plants. They're about 1/4 inch long, and don't ever appear to move. From the side they look a lot like little scrubbing bubbles. WEIRD.

A side view:

Friday, May 02, 2003

One lovely summer a couple of years ago, I desperately wished to go to a summer fair. I kept missing the ones I tried to go to, for some reason. My roommate Janette and I decided to drive around and find one, since I had a vague idea that one was going on south of town. Unfortunately, when we got there, the field was mostly bare except for a few closed-up snack stands that were being hitched up to be towed away.

By way of consolation, Janette drew me an eloquent picture of the kind of men I could expect to be accosted by at a fair. I saved it a long time, and finally had the chance to scan it and post it!

Here, for your entertainment, is the picture:

I got the photos of my spine and pelvis from my chiropractor today. He has a very cool in-office file systems in which the x-rays are made into jpgs.

You can see that my spine is actually crookedy because my right leg is shorter than the other. The lines drawn on the pelvis x-ray are the level lines where my hips should actually be going. Apparently, this is the case for most people! Who knew? (Probably other chiropractors.)

There is also a problem with my lowest vertebra. It's tilted backwards or forwards or something, but you can't really see it in these pictures. That is actually the thing that has been giving me all the trouble, however.

[host gone]