The Health Disrupter Journal from The Allergista!

The Allergista is one of my favorite bloggers, and I’ve talked about her many times on here. She was kind enough to reach out to me to give me a chance to try out her health disrupter journal and share it with you guys!

Now, I have a confession to make: she asked me to do this a looooong time ago. Like, months ago. And I have not adjusted well to keeping up with blogging and parenting a 1 year old. Add journaling on top of that and I majorly failed. But I wanted to complete the journal before writing this post, so… here we are, months too late but honest!

So this isn’t my first health-journaling rodeo. I’ve kept a diary of what I eat and my digestive reactions before, and I’ve also tried out a few apps to track symptoms along with diet, sleep, and other things. I have a love-hate relationship with journaling this way. It’s great because it’s shown me patterns in my health, and helped me to discern what foods/habits cause my pain to flare up, or cause my IBS to get bad. But it’s really hard, at least for me. The first few days go well. I’m excited and write down everything in detail. But after that… life happens. I try to jot down some notes at the end of the day, usually while half-asleep, and soon I miss entire days.

And of course, when I do get sick, journaling is hardest of all, and also most crucial. So this is a huge challenge for me. The great thing about journaling is that even small bursts can be helpful in solving health mysteries. So with the Allergista’s health disruptor journal, that’s exactly what I did. I journaled for a week or two at a time, then took a hiatus. Not by design, but because that’s kinda just how it happened. But I still solved some of my own health mysteries.

The journal has four basic parts: a daily log, a weekly notes section, a weekly summary of symptoms, and a monthly calendar. To be honest, I didn’t use the monthly calendar much, but only because I have another one that I keep all my appointments and life notes on. I know in this day and age, most people don’t have a monthly paper calendar posted up anymore, so this would probably be more useful to someone who didn’t have another system in place.

The daily log is set up for allergies, but is easily adapted to chronicle chronic pain or gastrointestinal problems. The only section I didn’t use much was logging skin problems, since that’s pretty exclusive to tracking allergies. But I liked the tally system of giving each symptom a number and totaling it. The higher the number, the “worse” a day is symptom-wise. This is great because when you’re in a flare, you can feel like “oh I’ve felt horrible all week” but looking at the numbers you can see that there are days where even though you have symptoms, you’re feeling a little better. That can be really encouraging, especially in a long flare.

I like the body location symptom tracker. I’m a very visual person, and I like to doodle, so it was fun and also informative. I could see pain “make its rounds” so to speak. I like that a lot.

Finally, the notes section. At first, this was the biggest chore, mostly because I was unsure what to put there. But I ended up using it as my place to pose questions and come up with hypothesis. I could look back at previous weeks and see if I’d proven my ideas or answered any questions.

The biggest health mystery this journal helped me solve actually had to do with anxiety. When I have a panic attack, it almost exclusively happens at night. My anxiety keeps me awake, and eventually builds until I’m sweating, pacing, and generally loosing my mind. I found out through journaling that there are two things that I thought were helping me that were actually contributing to my panic attacks.

One was drinking. I had gotten into a bad habit of always having a glass of wine at dinner or bedtime most nights, thinking it helped me relax. It kind of did, but on nights when I didn’t drink I was much more likely to sleep well. Stopping this habit didn’t completely eliminate my anxiety attacks, but it helped a LOT.

Second was reading. Yeah, the thing EVERYONE tells you to do when you can’t sleep! I adore reading, and I read paper books with no irritating backlights to disrupt my sleep cycle. But I think I must love it a little too much. I noticed I tended to have trouble sleeping after reading, and noticed that I get a little too into books to relax. I stay awake thinking about the book (especially suspenseful ones) and end up in the anxiety zone. Now, I’m careful to only read either books I’ve read before or calm, non-suspense/mystery/adventure books before bed if I read at all.

So what’s my final verdict? Health journals are great, and the Allergista’s is one of the best I’ve tried! If you’re like me and can only journal in spurts, remember that it’s better than nothing and you can still benefit from what you learn from it. I highly recommend this one for it’s organization, it’s tracking tools like tallying and body diagramming, and it’s coverage of all areas you need to track in an easy format. You can download it by clicking

HERE!

I hope you all check it out and give journaling a try if you haven’t already. You’ll be surprised what you can learn! Plus, if you have an attentive doctor, they may like to look over it and help you find patterns and give you advice.

Also, don’t forget to enter the #SPOONIERAGECOMICCONTEST! There are free prizes to win and I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s not much competition right now. So enter today! Google “rage comic maker,” choose your favorite, then create a comic that has something to do with health, chronic illness, allergies, doctors, medicine, or anything in between! Then upload it to twitter or instagram with the hashtag #spoonieragecomiccontest.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

SPOONIE OR SENIOR CITIZEN?

Let’s play an exciting new game called:

SPOONIE. OR. SENIOR CITIZEN.

First up: the kitchen pantry!

supplement-cabinet-multivitamin

Whoa nelly, that’s a lot of vitamins! So? Spoonie? Or Senior Citizen?

Next: the bathroom cabinet!

miralax-samples-box

Miralax! So much miralax! What do you think? Spoonie? Or Senior Citizen?

Third: the shower!

moen-grab-dn7025-tub-lg

Interesting, a stool! That seems to suggest Senior, but it could still be a Spoonie. What do you think?

Next: do they own a SMTWTFS pill box?

canstock21971812

Oh man, this one is still up in the air folks!

Finally: the jewlery box.

il_fullxfull-463545268_cfjx

Oh man, this is a real doozy. A medical alert bracelet is very senior citizen BUT it’s kind of trendy and cute– a spoonie, perhaps?

Spoonie or Senior Citizen? The world may never know.

There are no winners in this game. Only losers.

Taking A Sick Day

It’s not quite fall yet and here in Texas temperatures are still in the 90-100 degree range, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to talk about cold and flu season! Know how I know that?

BECAUSE I FREAKING ALREADY HAVE A COLD/FLU.

So I wanted to blog today but I really need to take a “sick day.” My husband needs one too, but he’s at work anyway because that’s how it is around here. So I thought I’d share this awesome infographic from Masters in Healthcare about the benefits of paid sick leave.

Sick Days Infographic

This is predominantly about sick days for acute illness, like a cold or flu, but a lot of it applies to chronic illness as well. I’m lucky because my illness still allows me to work, and all things considered, I don’t need sick days very often. But they still occur more often than most, and it’s not unusual for me to end up at work on pain medication. I have felt that calling in sick could cost me my job, and that’s not great. Texas is a “fire at will” state, so if I did get fired for being sick (hey, come to think of it, I have!) that’s technically illegal I guess, but since there’s no requirement to give a reason for termination, I can’t prove it or take any kind of action.

But some states have better situations, and with our recent observance of Labor Day, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come. Unions and workers rights have come this far, and they can come even further. 🙂

Have you ever gone to work sick? Well, of course you have. But why? What could improve this situation? Leave your thoughts in the comments and I’ll catch you when I’m feeling a bit better.

Men’s Health: Advice from One Man At the End of His Life

A few years ago, my husband’s grandfather passed away. I’m blessed to have all my grandparents with me today, and for me, it was my first experience with Parkinsons, cancer, and nursing homes. I didn’t know Grandpa Melvin all that well or all that long because he lived out of state, but he made my wedding ring, and I got to spend a good amount of time with him towards the end of his days. 

It’s fascinating to speak with someone at the end of a long, full life. He asked all about his grandsons’ daily lives, school, and jobs, offering occasional encouragement or advice. He didn’t speak about himself as much. He and his grandsons aren’t terribly touchy-feely types. My husband is definitely the “sappiest” of the bunch. But Grandpa Melvin did offer a few moments of earnest heart to heart, with perhaps even a tear or two sneaking in there.

IMG_1140

Grandpa Melvin was very sick, not only with Parkinsons but also cancer. We asked how he was doing health wise each day and he always told us in the regular way folks talk to each other – how he felt, if eating and sleeping were going well or poorly, how well he was getting around, etc. That is to say, not in medical terms. So I can’t really tell you specifics on his medical condition. But I will tell you what he told us.

One of his final wishes to my husband was “get checked out.”  I’ll paraphrase, but here’s the gist of what he said. “Go to the doctor. Get checkups. Do the embarrassing stuff. It’s one of those things people know they should do but they don’t always. Staying healthy is important. I’m not worried about myself, but when you’re old, you’re sad for your kids and your grandkids. You should do it for them.”

That was one of the last pieces of advice this man left for his grandson, but I wanted to share it because it’s good advice for all men. I have endometriosis and PCOS – this blog talks a lot about women’s health. But statistically, women are 24% more likely to see a doctor regularly. We go to the “lady doctor,” there’s tons of press on screening for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and women are constantly proven more likely to seek medical care for illness than men.

70357a1b903185009762cb08c17dddf3

Well, today I’m going to do my part and use my health blog to not only broadcast one man’s advice, but give you guys some idea of what kind of routine care you need.

1.) The “Embarrassing Stuff.”

Screening for prostate cancer and colon cancer – aka letting a doctor check out your butt. Look, it doesn’t sound fun I admit, but again, ladies’ regular visits to the “lady doctor” are way more invasive and way less stigmatized. What is up with that? I think a lot of it is due to those pink ribbons and awareness months dedicated to breast and cervical cancer. But guys are dying of cancer too! Lucky for them, they have just as much screening available. Go get checked. Survival rates are high when cancers like this are caught early. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the US today. And to anyone who says to skip it because of false positives – I say risking a false positive doesn’t outweigh missing the cancer.

-Men Everywhere

-Men Everywhere

Starting at age 40, prostate exams are recommended regularly (once a year, calm down). Colon cancer screenings are usually done starting at age 50. If you’re under 40, keeping up with yearly physical checkups and seeing a doctor for any illness or abnormality is the best thing you can do. Your primary care doctor will be able to recommend a cancer screening on a case by case basis if you need one.

2.) The “Boring Stuff.”

Blood pressure and cholesterol levels – aka a chore. Most men report that the reason they don’t get a yearly checkup is that “they don’t have time.” I can’t fault you there – going to the doctor, having them squeeze your arm, and hearing “your blood pressure’s good” is basically white noise. It is to me too. Even when I’m in the ER I pretty much never care what their puffy air sleeve has to say. And having blood drawn and receiving a postcard in the mail a few weeks later that says “normal” is less than thrilling. It doesn’t feel like you’re really doing anything for your health. There’s been once or twice that my cholesterol levels have been high. I got a postcard with a stamp on it that said “eat healthy” with a smiley face.

ls005_2_5_100x120

Oh boy, glad I took the time to get that gem of advice!

But in all seriousness, monitoring these things long term is invaluable data if anything ever goes wrong, and a great general measure of overall health. A general physical exam complete with hitting your knee with a tiny hammer may seem awfully quick and like there’s no way any useful info could come from it, but look at it with optimism. It’s quick and easy and  non-invasive- staying healthy is SO EASY GUYS! So a yearly checkup is kind of a chore? So what? It’s a ONCE A YEAR chore. It’s easier than cleaning the gutters. And you do it for your family. So just go.

Yearly checkups are reccomended for ages 2 – 200. So yeah, JUST GO.

3.) Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

This one is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest of all. The easy part is keeping an eye on yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror each day. Was that freckle always there? Did that mole get bigger? Here’s the hard part – GO TO THE DOCTOR WHEN SOMETHING’S UP. You know yourself better than anyone. Are you more tired than you should be? Are you moodier than usual? Yeah, if you’re having trouble keeping your temper or getting up in the morning, you might mention it to someone. If there’s a “weird thing” on your skin, go show a doctor. Don’t be the guy who gets asked “hey, what’s that spot on your arm?” and answers “yeah I dunno, I saw it last month and since then it’s gotten twice as big but I dunno.”

Sometimes, you may not be the best judge of yourself. If you’re not sure you should see a doctor, ask friends and family. Do I seem overtired lately? Have I been myself lately? If there’s a spot on your skin that you’re honestly not sure is new, ask your significant other. Don’t have one? Ask your parents. No, get out of here with your “gross that’s embarrassing,” your parents wiped your butt. I have a son now. He’s reached into his diaper and rubbed poop all over himself and me. I have gotten in the shower with him while we were both fully clothed and peeled poopy clothes off layer by layer until we were two slippery poopy naked people crying in the shower together. I’m not going to make fun of him if he has a weird spot on his lower back when he’s 27. Your parents have seen your lower back, they’ll know if something’s new.

Parents: They Already Know You're Gross

Parents: They Already Know You’re Gross

And here’s some good advice for all genders. Do you live with someone? I don’t care what their relationship is to you. Every now and then look at them while they’re reading or cooking or catching pokemon. Look at their shoulders and back – places they don’t see well. Glance over them every few days. If you see a new freckle pop up, let them know. Why not? If it’s kind of weird but saves their life, good on you!

This section’s getting long but it’s gonna get longer because I know two men who almost died and didn’t because they had a doctor look at the weird thing on their skin. One of my friends is a tennis player and photographer – he spends a lot of time outside. He got a new freckle on his back. He got it tested. It was skin cancer. Now there’s a chunk missing from his back and he’s cancer free – but if he saw it and thought “eh, people get freckles from the sun right?” and went on with life, he might not be here today. This boy is younger than me. I don’t like burying people younger than me.

kurtmelonoma

Exhibit B: my dad. He got a weird blood blister on his palm. We joked that he had a stigmata. He got a weird cold and fever that wouldn’t go away. He could have gone “oh, it’s a cold, who cares. I’d rather rest at home than spend a day at a clinic.” He could have thought “huh this blood blister’s weird” like I think most people would. But he went to the clinic. They weren’t helpful at all. He could have gone “I’m not wasting my time with doctors anymore, it’s just a cold. And a weird blister.” But he went to his primary care doctor. They never did figure out what was up. I guess it was just a bad cold. And a weird blood blister. But while they were running tests, they discovered his aorta was enlarged and ripping. The doctor preformed what he described as “a rare surgery” on him – because this is a condition that is usually discovered in a dead person. A few more days of thinking he’d “wait it out and see if this cold goes away” and he literally would have died.

Even if you don’t get answers or it turns out to be nothing, a trip to the doctor is not a waste of time.

So this is me saying to ALL of you, but men in particular because you seem to need to hear it: go to the doctor. Let it be a boring chore and be thankful each time you go home feeling like it was a boring chore. Families like saying “well thank god he went to a doctor!” a lot more than getting diagnoses from an autopsy.

Yup, it just got dramatic all up in here. But the title did promise deathbed wishes. Sometimes you’ve got to get serious about serious business. So send this to someone you love and who needs a loving smack upside the head.

To my sweet dear husband who as of yesterday I’ve been married to for six years: let’s call and schedule you a checkup.

xoxo

548845_4691237651653_1811432896_n

Works Cited and Further Reading:

Six Routine Screenings for Men’s Health – Everyday Health

Health Care Access and Utilization in Young Adults – The CDC

Check Ups and Screening Guidelines for Men – Men’s Health Network

Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Anxiety? OCD? Or is Everyone This Weird?

It’s time I told you I’m crazy.

When my gastroenterologist diagnosed me with IBS, he said it was anxiety-based and I was put on zoloft. That’s the closest I’ve come to a diagnosis on my mental health. A long time ago I was screened by a psychologist and diagnosed with some temporary teenage form of depression. We stopped going and I never heard much about it in the first place. And here I am, on zoloft (because one does not simply ‘quit’ zoloft) with no real diagnosis or idea if I have a mental illness or if I’m just a little uptight.

15svd8

Sometimes I read things online about depression, anxiety, OCD, or even autism, and think “hey that sounds like me, weird.”  There are some bizarre things I do all day every day. Why write about them? Well for one thing, I like doing them and people seem to find it interesting. Some people even seem interested in implementing my “systems” or rituals into their life in a much less obsessive/extreme way. Plus I’d like to know– do you do this too?

There are two major “systems” in my life. I’ll start with the smaller one: my clothes system. I started doing this as a child and refined it over time. It began as me organizing my clothes in a particular way. It’s hard to explain, but it has to do with randomization and color. I’d choose something like a book or poster with colors on it and order my clothes according to it… let’s say I was using an image of a rainbow (which I never did because randomization is a big part of this, but for the sake of example):

rainbow-with-clouds-clipart-jTxE6jrec

I’d hang up (or stack folded clothes) like this: A red shirt, then one with orange on it, then yellow, green, blue, dark blue, purple, and then white for the clouds. Then I’d choose another image and keep going (I do this to organize other things too, like movies or our toy displays…). But I had trouble keeping them in order because my mom would put away laundry for me sometimes or I’d forget where I was in the “line” or I’d need to wear something specific one day. Over time I refined my system. I’d put a penny inside the folded shirt I wanted to wear next, stacking newly washed clothes on top to await integration into the “system” until I reached the end of the stack. I also alternated between stacks in the drawers and the hanging clothes. I marked my spot in the closet by simply keeping my extra hangers between the new clothes and the “ordered” clothes. My pants are a separate, more flexible system not organized by anything really, just hung up in whatever order they’re washed and separated by not yet worn and worn once or twice before it’s time to wash them. I even have a very rudimentary organizational system for my underwear?

WHY? I’m sure you’re asking. I don’t actually know. It’s not like there was a day I decided to do this, it happened over time. My mom was bewildered to find pennies sprinkled throughout my drawers and she can’t believe I still do it as an adult in my own house. I remember that my mom encouraged me to lay out my clothes for the next day before I went to bed, and I remember that I hated doing that. It really stressed me out. I guess this is my elaborate response to that stress – now I just get up and put on whatever is next. If it’s inappropriate for the occasion or I need to wear something specific, I don’t mind breaking the system. For just one day I mean.

It has a lot of pros. For one thing, it has a similar effect to this cleaning tip:

76b07fc4d061b1bc3cc4dfda7286c442

When a shirt/dress comes up in the system that I don’t want to wear, I question why that is and usually decide it’s time to let that item go.

Cons? Well…mostly just that it’s a crazy thing that no one does.

But that was the tamer of my two systems.

Get ready folks.

alice-falling-down-rabbit-hole-2

We’re going down the rabbit hole.

Everything I ever do is governed by a system. I have a list that takes up about one page of a word document. On it are items like this:

  • Work on Writing Script A
  • Work on Writing Script B
  • Blog Post
  • Clean House
  • Laundry
  • Manage Billing/Freelance Work

and items like this:

  • Watch a Movie
  • Netflix
  • Read
  • Video Games

readImage

ect. ect. basically everything I ever want to do, work or hobby or laziness or practicality. Things like “eating” and “sleeping” are not on the list.

This is my time management tool. There are “fun” things and “lazy” things and “project” type things and “chore” things all mixed up. Using a random number method (I used to draw from a deck of playing cards – now I use a 12-sided dice) I count down from the last thing I spent time doing and do whatever is next, giving each day a (hopefully) fair mix of “fun” and “work.” I roll the dice for things like eating and sleeping too – whatever comes up on the list at bedtime I trade for “sleep,” same for mealtimes. I roll the dice and count down the list to what’s next – say, reading – and instead of reading I eat dinner. Yes, this does mean sometimes I miss meals in favor of doing something on the list, and sometimes I stay up late to do something on the list. Those are cons.

But the pros far outweigh them. For one thing, I’m always steadily making progress on my goals – writing stories, working on my blog, watching through TV shows on Netflix, and reading good books. I don’t feel bad when I take “me time” because it’s all structured. And I never feel “bored” or like I have nothing to do.

The biggest downside really is when I have to break the system for something like the holidays. Around Christmas, for instance, there’s too much to do to stay on the list system. So I have to go commando for a few days before I re-randomize the order of the list and start again. It’s usually fine. But having this ritual of looking at the list and counting throughout the day helps keep me calm and focused. Sometimes to my detriment – it can really annoy my husband when I get bent on doing something because “it’s on the list” when he wants me doing something else. I try to be flexible and “trade” tasks for whatever he wants to do or if I need to go in to work or something like that. But it can be annoying. I understand. BECAUSE IT’S FREAKING BIZARRE. But this is my life.

This one also started when I was a kid. Initially, I had four different colored balls. Yellow for “chore,” pink for “projects,” blue for “relaxing,” and green for “fun.” I mixed them up in different orders and made sure to do one thing for each category each day. But this spiraled into listmaking: I made a list of all the movies we owned so I could watch all of them before repeating viewings. Stuff like that. Then when I was a teenager I inexplicably became a morning person: I woke up at around 4 each day and I had a little box of tiny ripped up pieces of paper with my “morning routine” on them: this included writing my daily xanga blog post, enjoying a cup of tea, and even taking naps in between getting dressed, eating breakfast, and packing my things for school.

I DON’T KNOW WHY.

wakeupearlytoothpastefordinner

I definitely didn’t STAY a morning person.

Then, around the time I got a computer, I was taking an interest in filmmaking and screenwriting. I wanted to film stuff and write stuff, but when I wasn’t at school or at marching band practice, I felt overwhelmed. I needed to do homework and practice colorguard, but I wanted to study film and write scripts too. And having so much to do usually made me freeze up and not do anything.

overwhelmed-by-anemone-lost-ok-lets-break-omg-i-have-2765539

And so, The List in it’s current form was born.

So I guess now that I’ve written it all out, it does seem like there was some level of problem-solving going on here. But why am I such a spaz that I solve problems in the most random, round-about way possible? I don’t think I’ve properly explained either of my “systems” but even if I could, it’d probably still sound like mad ravings of a seriously anxious person.

Which I guess they are.

anxiety-humor2

I don’t need to flip the lights on and off to keep my family from dying or anything, but at least that sounds crazy enough that you’d feel sympathetic – clearly that person can’t help but be that way. But me? I can get off my systems, bend them, and change them. I seem perfectly capable of living like a normal human, but for some reason I chose this.

My sister is terrible at making choices. She’ll ask us all what she should do or wear or say, take votes, then ask if we’re really really sure. I think I have the same issue, but instead of finding someone to make my choices for me, I chose… randomizing.

Like a crazy person.

Anyway, I don’t feel bad staying on zoloft without a “real” diagnosis. I’m pretty sure I need it.

c47a4c60e6bf63e8a7458a54762830e2