Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Child of the Sixties
I was born in 1964, the tail end of the baby boom generation. I'm the last of them, as we straggle off into the sunset of our golden years.
I'm really a child of the American pharmaceutical industry. I'm dependent on them, on four counts now. How does an otherwise healthy, fifty-something adult-lifelong runner end up on four different prescriptions before age 54? Mostly it's bad genes.
As a result of genes, I have defective organs, namely, thyroid, brain, and liver. Hashimoto's thyroiditis and other thyroid disorders run in my family. We all have wacked-out thyroids. So I take two meds daily for that.
Next is my brain. I have wacked-out neurotransmitters, serotonin and my serotonin receptors like each other too much. They are in love with each other and cling tightly to one another, it's very dysfunctional and they really need to get over themselves and get a life, at least give each other a break once in a while. In me, it causes depression. And probably, mild anxiety, which I never really thought I had, until I hit menopause. Those also run in my family, though people never talk about it.
Finally, and I hope this is the last one, but the night is young...and so am I, for a baby boomer...I have a defective liver. It makes cholesterol like rabbits make bunnies. That's in my family too. I've been able to manage my cholesterol in the past with diet, but it doesn't seem to work so well anymore. Recently I got my cholesterol checked again. I've always had very high HDL (aka "the good cholesterol"), this time it was 92. But I've never had high LDL (aka "the bad cholesterol") before, and while my total cholesterol has always run a bit high, the LDL wasn't an issue until now.
Besides genes, maybe it's menopause, diet, a 20 pound weight gain, relative inactivity compared to what I used to do, hormones, age, or who knows. Anyway, on my recent labs, my cholesterol took a giant leap into the high 200s along with my LDL being in the high 100s. Therefore, I chose to start taking a statin. Today.
That's for a couple of reasons- one is I have stopped avoiding wheat, just out of sheer hedonism, and that over the past year I've been pretty stressed out (it's the Trump effect). I've been indulging in far too many calories, both from things like bread and from alcohol. I really do blame it on the Trump effect, because I've gained about half of it over the past year. I just feel the need to calm my nerves in the evening with a couple of beers, or margaritas.
Many years ago I thought I was one of those tough people who didn't need antidepressants, could just tough it out myself, ya know. pull myself up by my bootstraps and snap out of it... well, it doesn't work that way for a lot of people. These drugs save my life. After several bouts of persistent depression starting in my late twenties that I got through on my own without drugs, finally I got wise in my late thirties and tried them. They truly are a miracle drug for those who need them. Made a world of difference. It's funny, even after the first time I tried them, I tried going without, and I managed to do without them for years, until I became a nurse. That changed everything.
Now I know better, and I still hear the old stigma come out of so many patients and clients mouths, and people in general. They think it's a weakness to depend on drugs to help with depression. And they won;'t go for therapy either, that's also a weakness. Well, not everyone's depression is the same. If you need it, you'll know it, because when you try it, you'll see the difference, sometimes in just a few days.
I had a lot of reservations about the statin, you hear things like liver damage, diabetes, muscle aches, and so on. I'm going to try it, and I'm on a tiny dose, but if I feel like I'm doing okay with it, and my lipids don't drop as expected, I will increase the dose. We're going to recheck in eight weeks. I don't need a stroke or MI. As an athlete, statins can cause muscle problems for some people who can't tolerate them- aches, tendon problems. I am on the lookout for that, but I know I need to do something at this point. If I can't tolerate the statin I'll try something else. But I hope I can.
I can remember when I was first diagnosed with thyroid disease and found out I would be taking a pill for the rest of my life- that was before the second thyroid medication got added- and I felt like somehow I;d failed as a healthy person because I was no longer able to say I don't take any drugs. The false pride of youth. Yes some people- rarely these days- do get through adulthood and into old age without taking ANY medications. That's wonderful and it's also very lucky from the standpoint of the gene pool. It doesn't mean you take perfect care of yourself, but then, there are people who take lots of pills and take immaculate care of themselves- and they just have bad genes.
Me, I have never been too extreme on either end. But this latest addition to my little collection has been a bit of a wake up call, I have definitely let everything slide over the past year, maybe even two or three when it comes to running. I do need to lose weight, I do need to run more, I do need to watch what I eat, I do need to drink less, and I do need to accept that I am not in my 20s or 30s with a resilient, high energy body and metabolism anymore.
However, I do still enjoy running, and I have the wisdom, hopefully, of having seen a brief glimpse of the other side, the less healthy side, the one that so many people live to an extreme degree- overweight, sedentary, self-neglectful...and I don't want to go there.
So, this morning, I looked at my growing pill pile- four pills now, one broken in half- (that's the levothyroxine broken in half once a week to reduce my dose slightly- so I don't go flying off hyperthyroid- been there, you wouldn't like me much)- and I decided I'm going back, the other way, to the healthier side. I will find ways to calm myself other than by cracking a beer or mixing a marg. I will pay attention while eating, so I don't eat too much. I will get my ass out the door and run more days than not. And I will keep boxing.
But as I gazed at the pills in my hand, I was thankful- really thankful- that these drugs exist, because I probably wouldn't have made it to this point without them, and I have a chance to continue living a life I really do enjoy. Thanks, in part, to these drugs. And I'm also very thankful for the insurance I have to make them affordable and accessible to me. Everyone should have that opportunity when they need it. Gulp! Bottoms up*!
*Always drink plenty of water with your medication...