Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Friday, June 17, 2016

Seeing Things

First, some running news I am so excited to share. Yesterday I got 15 miles on my feet, I walked 5 miles after my 10 mile run. Then today I went out in the heat again and did 20 miles, and ran most of it, at least 16 of the miles. I was out for 4 hours and ran over 3 hours of it. I felt good, much better than I ever thought I would. Not a struggle at all.

That is encouraging because I want to be able to go for 12 hours in the September Fatass and it sure would be nice to at least do what I did last time, which was 50 miles. It would be a real boost for me if I felt like I could get some ultra miles in.

Yesterday I left off in a partial rant about healthcare, and I wanted to say more things.

The other night I was in the class I teach twice a month for cancer survivors. I bring in guest speakers frequently who discuss different topics of interest. Mostly about therapeutic exercise and movement, but occasionally I'll find someone who has a different area of expertise, such as biofeedback practitioners, psychotherapists, and so on. This week we had a guest speaker on healthy communication. She did talk about that, but her talk went far beyond and touched a very deep chord with me.

She was talking about mental health, she lost her son to suicide more than 10 years ago. He'd struggled with his mental health most of his life, and was a creative, sensitive person, and it sounded like he struggled with fitting in. He finally got to the point where it was too painful for him to cope with life, and probably wasn't getting the level of treatment he needed.

Whatever the events that led to his death, she was talking about the note he left and the poems he wrote prior to his death. She said even when he was a young child, he drew pictures, and he always drew them from the inside out. She knew he saw the world differently than most people.

The whole time she was talking about him, I was having a hard time turning off the faucet. Tears were streaming down my face and I could not stop them. The next day when I wrote to her to thank her, I had to tell her how much her story affected me, and why.

Square Pegs
This world does not make it easy on people who are the square pegs, who see things differently, who exist outside the box. There are only certain molds that are acceptable to fit into, and if you don't fit into one of them, it's a difficult existence. Add to that a tendency toward depression, anxiety, or other mental health struggles, and our lack of mental health care, and you have a recipe for a lot of bad things to happen.

The problem with the square pegs is that since they don't fit in, they are not accepted, and therefore, not "seen". People only see what they are looking for, and what they want to see. Similar to hearing...

At times it can feel like you're screaming at the top of your lungs, and no one can hear you. Like you're trapped, maybe with locked-in syndrome.

The reason it affected me so much to listen to the story of her son was because I have struggled myself. Some of the things her son said in his poems were things I have thought, for myself, almost in the exact same words. Like when he said he looked forward to the relief that death would bring. I've been there. I've thought that. Yes, I have. More than once, more than a few times.

No, it's not something I obsess about or ruminate on, but I know that place. I am fortunate, I've managed to find plenty of ways to head off depression from overtaking me and pulling me down. But I've had enough difficulty in fitting in, being the square peg, in so many ways and situations in my life, that I can relate.

I have questioned why I am on this planet more times than I can tell you. Somehow, between Dennis, running, my dogs, and the beautiful outdoors of Colorado where I live, a little pharmaceutical help and occasional therapy over the years like cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR, I've been able to find the will to keep going, to keep from jumping off a bridge or drowning in a bathtub.

Talking About Mental Health is Healthy
I know I'm not alone. I know there are more people who have had these sorts of thoughts cross their minds than will ever admit it, out of fear of the stigma of being labeled as mentally ill, or somehow not up to par. I think what we mislabel as mental illness is really a combination of a normal human reaction to the insanity of our environment and the way we are expected to live our lives, with the incredible burden of stress, coupled with each individual's genetic and functional makeup of their brain.

We need to quit making this world so hard to live in. That's a tall order- economically, politically, educationally, being humane and supportive and accepting each others' human-ness, instead of forcing everyone to be wireless production robots who are constantly connected, with no OFF switch.

Be Real
When people see that other people struggle, it validates them. It makes them stronger. They know they are not alone and they don't feel the need to hide those feelings, or at least, they can admit it to themselves more easily. I might have a tendency toward depression, but I am not mentally ill because of it, I am not abnormal because of it, I am not insane or incompetent because of it.

I really truly believe that the way I see the world is okay. It's not easy to live in it as a result, but I think I'm pretty damn sane! I know what I value, I know what's important to me, and I won't compromise on those things because someone insists I fit into their round hole and stay there.

You know what happens when they put you in the round hole? They expect you to stay there. And there you are, in the confines of the walls of the hole and you can't grow or breathe or do anything different. Stuck. Stagnant. Until they let you out. But you know what? They're not going to let you out, because it serves their purpose well. They want you to stay right there so they can control everything, without tripping over you.

That's the problem with us square pegs- we get in the way. Instead of everything being smooth and easy, people trip over us, because they don't see us.

Someone Else's Gift Does Not Diminish You
I have a lot of talents, "gifted" is a label I've been slapped with. I can write, I can paint, I'm a decent athlete, I'm smart about most things, I think creatively and deeply about things. The one thing I've never been talented at is making money or sticking to a "job" for very long, because I start to feel like I'm trapped. I get claustrophobic when I get roped into a big organization that demands Stepford-ness. I cannot make myself stay in a situation where I feel like my thoughts, ideas, freedom, and existence are being usurped and oppressed.

For many people, they are able to forget the bullshit they are wading in, and not worry about it, move forward, go through the motions, put up and shut up, and collect a paycheck, on and on, year after year. I cannot do that. I have tried, but only could deal with it for a brief time. Eventually it's like I need to crawl out of my skin. It makes me sick, physically, and mentally. I've suffered my worst depression at those times.

My mom, with whom I don't have a relationship, told me I used to drive her crazy, that's why she put me in preschool at 2 1/2 and kindergarten at age 4. According to her, she made the school give me an IQ test to prove to them that I really was some kind of gifted kid so they would let me in. I must have passed. The problem is when you stick those square pegs in with the round ones. They stick out, and are noticed as different, and not in a good way.

Why not nurture a gift and appreciate it? Kids know when someone is different. It's only when they learn from adults that it's okay to treat them differently. In adults, it's even worse. Adults backstab, gossip, undermine, and act out on envy of the gifted person's talents. Bullying, hostility, mean girls, ice queens, you know the rest...especially if you're a nurse, I might add...

When I wrote to thank the woman who was the guest speaker talking about her son, I told her why her story affected me so much. And she said in her reply to me, keep being not normal. Many normal people are driving the rest of us crazy. We need you for balance.

I know that. I've had to hang on to that, knowing that I might just be one of the few sane ones in an insane world. Sometimes that's all I have to hang onto, if I'm going to believe in myself and keep going forward.

So what does this all have to do with healthcare?
Well...for one thing, the medical model that trains physicians and that the rest of the healthcare providers and staff have to live with, does not train physicians to see outside of their very narrow focus and scope. And the way healthcare works, the big healthcare organizations limit the amount of time physicians have to explore ideas outside the box.

The insurance companies have a lot of clout in determining what can be done, because they only cover things based on agreements between healthcare systems and their mutual bean counters. And what does this mean for the patient? They are limited in what services they can use and/or afford.

We can't just allow everyone to use every possible service and have it covered by insurance- that would be crazier than what we have now. And people without medical training don't know why certain things are necessary or not necessary.

But the problem is that there are a lot of services that would be beneficial for patients but physicians don't know about them, or don't acknowledge them. They don't SEE them, because they don't fit within the narrow model in which they were trained.

Physicians Are Human, Mortal,and No Different From Anyone Else
So when physicians (and not all physicians, mind you...some are much more worldly, humane, and empathetic than others) see their patients, in a cancer setting, for example, the physician tends to look at success as having saved a life, not whether that life is of good quality. Being alive becomes more important than living life well. So when the patient complains of lasting effects from cancer treatment, the physician might say, "Well, at least you're alive."

Which is a shitty thing to say to someone when they come to you complaining about something that obviously is affecting their quality of life, or they wouldn't have said anything about it in the first place. "Validate my pain" is the first request the patient is making. At least, acknowledge that this is real, doc, it's not in my head. Just because you don't know the answer doesn't mean answers don't exist. They might just be someplace you haven't looked. "Help me find the answers", is what the patient is saying.

The struggle I am having as I introduce my business idea, is when physicians don't know what to do with it. They see that it's exactly what they want their patients to have after treatment, but it's not being done by a physician. A nurse?

It makes total sense, but it's just hard for them to wrap their heads around the fact that someone other than a physician could actually provide a service that promotes health and quality of life, because quality of life isn't even in their field of vision- that's not what they learn in medical school- and nurses?

Well, aren't they the ones who take vitals and call us when the patient is deteriorating, or when they need an order for medication? The fact that nurses could provide a valuable service that might help a person in their everyday life, between doctor appointments...not even on the radar.

New ideas are hard for people to accept because they don't see them. They haven't even thought about it.

Being patient is not one of my virtues. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am dealing with people who are slow to process things. Yes, physicians are people. They are no smarter than the rest of us, I can assure you. They just had the stomach to put up with a lot of abuse through medical school. And then they continue to suffer those abuses in their professional lives.

And that my thoughts and ideas might come from a different universe with which they have never been familiar, they've never traveled there. It can take a while, if at all.

They might never have been challenged to open their eyes, and see. They've been taking multiple choice exams for so long, sometimes I wonder if all they know how to do is fill in the little circles, like the round holes that square pegs don't fit into. All you do when you try to shove square pegs into round holes is strip the corners. But they'll never fit right, no matter what you do. It's like the algorithms they are expected to follow with certain situations in the hospital. Often, one size fits none.

Physicians, I am not trying to disparage you. But it sure is frustrating when you can't sit down human to human and have a conversation with anyone who doesn't have the same set of letters behind their name as you do. But you are, at least in part, responsible for it being this way. I feel for you, I know the abuse you suffer. You have a high suicide rate in your profession. You can change it, too. Step out of the box, if you dare. Collaborate with others. Find ways to make it work. Start seeing the square pegs, maybe they can lead you in a different, and better direction.

So whatever I am able to accomplish in my lifetime, I hope it is just making people see things that they might otherwise have missed. And the rest of my time, I'm gonna enjoy my dogs: the next generation of puppies coming soon, the mountains, running, writing, painting when I can finally get around to that again, and drinking margaritas or great Colorado beer with Dennis and my other friends.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Back Up...Unloading!

Yeah, that's me. I have a lot to say. I've been hiding out, buried under piles of work. I needed to breathe, so I'm indulging myself in a little creative writing and unloading today.

It's been nearly a month since I've posted here! I don't like that, I try to be consistent, but I thank my readers and followers for sticking with me.
First, feast your eyes on South Park and the Arkansas River Valley near Buena Vista. Last weekend we went up to the shed, on our property overlooking Pikes Peak and South Park.

The reason for the long break is, as usual, work. I've been extra busy because I picked up a small project on the side in order to bring in a little income and that helped. Starting a business requires constant investment and re-investment, and when there isn't anything coming in at the beginning, it depletes your reserves quickly.

But that's okay because I am doing what is important to me.

So first, a few minor orders of business. I finally, after 8 1/2 years, bought the domain so now you can find me without having to type in the extra blogspot stuff. Takes you right back here. No change.

I haven't been running much. This morning I did run for an hour and a half. It finally got hot, in the 90s, and might hit 100 by the end of the week. I guess that's what it takes to motivate me to run?

I am planning on running/walking an event over Labor Day. My friend Marissa is putting on her 12 hour fatass "There Goes the Sun" on September 3, and I'm "training". That means I am getting out and walking with a little running mixed in. Shooting for being able to stay upright and moving forward for the entire 12 hours.

The weekend before last I went running/hiking Round Mountain with my friend Emma and we encountered two unhappy snakes, one bull snake, one rattlesnake. Got a good closeup of the rattler.

You know where this is going...Orlando, of course. And I am so disgusted, but something feels like this was a turning point. It's disgusting to see the party of homophobia suddenly saying all these platitudes (because you know they are only posturing in an election year)about the LGBTQ community. Just last month they wanted birth certificates to go to the bathroom, and so on.

The gun thing is finally shifting too. #NRASTFU is what I say. The refusal of the gun lobby to have a mature, intelligent conversation about reality, and their endless excuses as if the second amendment is some sort of divine ruling from the heavens. They freaking worship guns, and the second amendment is their god.There is no reason why any group should have so much power, that they can even prevent research into gun (safety) violence as a public health issue. That is insane. And we continue to have all these shootings and gun deaths day after day. Like little boys throwing a temper tantrum. There are some girls in there, too, but the leadership is mostly men. That's part of the problem with everything in this country, and it looks like it's about to change in a big way.

And I'm sure those misogynistic pasty old white dudes explaining righteously(M-POWDERs) will be just as obstructionistic toward Hillary Clinton as they were toward Barack Obama. Except they might lose their majority after all the nonsense and putting their clown lineup on display, to show the pathetic lack of substance and outright denial of the real issues facing the people of this country. A breath of fresh air, that would be, if the whole damn Republican party imploded. And let's clearcut and burn the Democratic party too. Start over. With real people, who look like the ones in the general population, not a bunch of POWDERS! We could finally make some forward progress.

Okay, back to earth. What's real. Good news first.

A Twinkle in the Eye...

After searching for several months, we found an Australian Shepherd breeder we like in Nebraska, just 5 hours from here, and we decided to splurge and put a deposit down on two puppies, to arrive either late this year or early next. They are not even a twinkle in the eye of some Aussie dude yet, but we are expecting.

We plan to get two girls again, at least one black tri, maybe one black and one red. We are looking forward to puppy-proofing the house and some of the work we will do this summer involves checking out garage sales for things like baby gates, agility equipment and toys for the girls. We'll have to puppy-proof parts of the house and the garden.

We miss Iris and Isabelle so much, every single day. We were going to take their ashes to the place we planned, but we weren't ready. We're not ready for pups yet, but we are moving closer. I miss having my buddies around!

Life & Death

Three of my running friends have been diagnosed with cancer in the past few months. It's been tough seeing them go through their separate situations. One of them, an ultra buddy of mine, is fortunate to have had an early diagnosis, and I hope the outcome will be as good as it can be. The other two have quite advanced cancer. One is young, the other is older but not old. Also, one of my neighbors, in his 80s, also received bad news about his own advanced cancer. He's been active, walked everyday and we had many occasions to walk together and talk. He always was a friend to Iris and Isabelle. He's a fascinating person, and he is the most spiritually healthy person I know.

I'm going to miss him and my other, older friend who is being treated to manage symptoms. She has prepared herself too, and I am proud of her for taking the steps to do what no one wants to do.

Death runs in the family. It does in mine, anyway, I don't know if your relatives are immortal. I certainly wouldn't have wanted some of mine to stick around forever. I definitely don't want to. We're all going to die. Let's confront it, accept it, and plan for it, before we find out the end is closer than we expected, so we can have a good death as the end to a good life.

I wish that more people would examine their own mortality and face it, because it makes things so much less chaotic, it's better for everyone around them to know that they've thought through it, decided what they want, and are okay with it. But we have a long way to go in this country. Our collective immaturity has deemed us the world's teenager. Impulsive, without a fully developed frontal lobe. Thinking only of ourselves and not of the person next to us, or how our own actions, or lack thereof, affect them.

Clinical Trials and Boob Smashing

Speaking of life and family and cancer, I just enrolled in a clinical trial, because of my extensive family history of cancer, especially leukemias. The trial was looking for people over 50, never diagnosed with cancer, with a strong family history of it. It involves genetic testing and looking for early cancer markers. I'll find out the results, too. I realize that I might find out something I'd rather not know about or have to deal with, but knowledge is power.

I'll be getting my blood drawn next week for that. I'm excited to be a lab rat. It's so hard to get subjects for clinical trials, and they are absolutely necessary for us to advance our state of knowledge about cancer and how to treat it. So if you have the opportunity, please participate in one. You never know who, down the road, might benefit or even have their life saved by your participation.

Since we're on the subject, I decided to also splurge on a 3D mammogram when I go in next month. Breast Tomosynthesis is the name of the screening. It gives a 3D picture, actually about 11 different images from different angles. Also I heard they don't smash your boob as hard, which is good news for me, because that hurts! It's a good way to get a better image especially in people with dense breast tissue, like me. I'm dense. I'll have a report on it here, of course.

I have some other topics to touch on. Mental health is another one. And I have more, much more to say about healthcare, as you know it's one of my favorite rant topics. But I'll get to that later. I'll be back, I've missed blogging and I am starting to miss running. I wish I had more than a few days a week where I felt motivated to take running steps rather than walking. But I still feel fine when I run most of the way in a 10 mile outing, like I did today.

Scroll down and enjoy the rest of the photos from last weekend. Most are from our property but many are from the Colorado Trail and areas nearby. So great to live here, and to hang out in the shadow of the Buffalo Peaks and looking out across lower South Park at Pikes Peak.

When I have those difficult days, I just need to remember I am surrounded by so much good. Working alone, feeling like it's a forever uphill climb, and feeling like the world wants to duct tape your mouth so your voice is muffled, and they pretend they don't understand you, but really, they do, but it's just too hard for them to gather the courage to climb out of the box.

I'll keep being myself, even if I'm a lone voice (which I know I'm not) and at a distinct disadvantage because of power and resources (which I will not allow to stop me) and I'm just going to keep getting louder.

Thanks for reading!