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Protected: New Year’s Resolutions For 2014

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Protected: 2013 Resolutions: Health

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Collected Thoughts: Medicinal Marijuana and Decriminalization

Were I availed of more free time and energy, I might craft a coherent thought piece on this subject, one that I feel rather strongly about.  However, given lack of the above, here are excerpts from a discussion on Facebook on the issue, which encapsulate the bulk of my beliefs.

Note:  There is an America-centric slant to these comments, despite my being Canadian; the discussion centred on American laws and thus, I responded accordingly.  Don’t even get me started on Harper’s “ZOMG! Growing pot plants deserves more mandatory jail time than child rape!” omnibus crap…

Part One:

Who are you to judge what these so-called “regular people” are doing with a substance on par with alcohol? By your logic, alcohol should be abolished, because people consume it to enjoy a concert or movie or night out, or celebrate events. Further, psychological self-care includes leisure time – which may, horror!, include smoking pot on days off for fun. Whether intentionally taken for a medicinal cause or not, it does reduce anxiety, does enhance appreciation of stimulus and so on – unintentional medicinal effects.

Further, pleasurable enjoyment of marijuana and its pervasiveness – and the support of those individuals – is why the medicinal marijuana movement has had enough clout to make ANY leeway, why anyone realized its uses at all. Do you really think, if a so-called pothead hadn’t suggested pot to cancer patient family or friends, or those with anxiety, etc etc. that we would have seen studies that benefited the medicinal cause?

Last, how do YOU know the exact psychological reasons why a “pothead enjoying a movie” appreciates marijuana? I often smoke for, from outside appearances, recreational purposes. You can hear mention of this and throw shame at me for “ruining” a movement that came long after – one I support. I support it because I have gastro issues, anxiety, mood disorder and chronic pain. I choose marijuana for my recreation because it slows the racing of my bipolar brain, reduces anxiety, eases my constant pain in my joints and thus, allows me to mentally be happy and recharge. It is both recreation and medicine at once, but all you see is my atypical cheery mood and sense of ease while watching Pink Floyd DVDs.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds power into a movement you purportedly support, and don’t make assumptions about people whose lives you don’t live. I could write an essay on West Indian and Jamaican racial oppression and systemic issues that likely feed the connection between Marley and weed, but I shouldn’t have to connect the dots.

Part Two:

Marijuana is not often the drug of choice for a substance abuser, but people do indeed abuse it. People also abuse Oxycontin, or Percocet, drugs that someone needs to be able to get out of bed, drugs I have needed for injuries before to function. You can’t shun or slander everyone who uses a substance for non-medical reasons because of an experience that is personal and not objective.

Why do you care if I want to have three drinks at a concert? How is my choice affecting you? How is my choice to smoke a joint before a concert your business, or affecting your life? As a caveat, I hate people who are obnoxious substance users who DO impact others’ experiences; I’ve told off belligerent drunks at concerts before because they are screaming in my ear or falling over on me. I’ve also told off sober people infringing on me in the same way. That’s moot and a whole other area. But if I am sitting in my seat at a concert, enjoying the music, and happen to be high, why do you care? How is it affecting you?

While you may see the medicinal marijuana issue as “more important” than general decriminalization, you are failing to acknowledge that it came second to those who cannot fathom how a substance less dangerous than/no worse than alcohol or tobacco is a criminal offense, an evil substance, fighting to have it legalized. The reason pot smokers are so eager to support the medicinal movement is because it is one more reason in their argument for decriminalization. Tobacco helps no one. Alcohol helps no one. Marijuana does help people, and also happens to be recreational. The fact of the matter is, celebrities or not, the moral majority do not give a shit about suffering people. They do not give a shit about medical and scientific data that shows there’s no good reason to prohibit marijuana. The more people in the public who fuss, kick and fight to their government, the likelier it is they’ll throw their hands up and quietly give in. Medical marijuana is a stepping stone in a movement that already was, and members of that older movement were already espousing the medical benefits.

Governments are lobbied by churches and big business, especially pharmaceuticals. They have big, financial reasons not to decriminalize, not to approve medicinal marijuana. Who will buy all the pretty painkillers? How will doctors make money off narcotics and treating addiction to them? How will the government justify taxes and thousands of prison jobs if they’re not locking up African Americans and lower class Caucasians and Latinos for dealing a few dime bags? Think of all the social programs they can’t excuse themselves from funding if they stop spending money charging, prosecuting and imprisoning people for pot. Think of all the cop corruption cases they can’t throw out anymore for waiting too long for trial to start when the dockets are cut in half after pot is decriminalized. Think of the nasty business of the DEA having to focus on more international drug issues and treading on toes when they can’t keep busy chasing twenty-somethings from impoverished neighbourhoods for growing a few hundred plants.

Systemic oppression and corruption are the big picture, and that’s something everyone – from to the casual potheads – can get on side with.

THAT is why shitting all over users is really offensive. As for those in your life who used it as a crutch? Ask yourself what was going on in their lives that they felt they needed to self-medicate. Ask what was lying beneath the abuse. It’s an illness. Just like gastroparesis.

Think larger. Stop being so narrow-minded, please. That sort of division is exactly what the government wants, and it sets back the cause you care about.

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The Elusive Unicorn

As I stumble through the blustery winter winds, it occurs to me tonight, while nursing yet another sickness (throat infection) that my immune system is anything but immune.  It’s never reliable, never resilient, and part of me wonder why I even bother attributing one to my body.

From my birth, when I emerged so ill that I nearly died and needed an incubator, I have been a sickly child.  Nothing in my body has ever quite worked properly, so much so that, to spare any dire errors if incapacitated, I have a full page of typed medical conditions and allergies wrapped around my health card.  For me, an immune system that works has been as elusive and mythical as a unicorn – although I sometimes believe the unicorn more likely to turn up in my apartment than good health.

I often wish I wasn’t utterly hopeless at advanced Physics and Chemistry, because I have quite a knack for diagnosing myself and others around me.  Having read a multi-volume medical health encyclopedia for fun at the age of 10, I’ve always been fascinated by the human body’s many potential failings.  I’ve self-diagnosed a few key ailments, correctly diagnosed a few close friends as well.  I’m usually everyone’s go-to girl for medical questions now, and I’m always happy to offer my knowledge and intuition up.

Maybe if I were a doctor, I wouldn’t be in the situation I find myself in now.

This isn’t the first time in my life where I have knocked on door after door, confident of something being wrong with my body and having my personal observations dismissed or disregarded, to my own detriment.  In 2006, I suddenly became extremely ill, having frightening episodes of shortness of breath and dizzy spells.  I could no longer handle short flights of stairs.  My heart would pound and I would feel as if I were dying.  I also had episodes of my face going numb, but that is a whole other matter.  At the same time, my long-existing stomach disorder (IBS) went nuts and stopped responding entirely to my daily medications, drugs that had worked for four years admirably well.  Over and over, I pointed out the stomach angle, only to have it chalked up to stress and get told to double my dose (for the record, it didn’t help).  They checked my lungs, my heart, and found nothing.  I wore a tedious heart monitor strapped to my waist even, and it made me homicidal.  A few months after giving up on the ‘anxiety attack’ touting doctors, I was stricken with the worst heartburn any human has suffered, for 7 straight days.  After initial exams and tests, I was diagnosed with GERD – chronic acid reflux.

I had a two year period of reflux at the age of 16.  My symptoms were consistent, and the excess acid fully explained my stomach’s poor reaction.  In fact, the doctor that finally solved my issues with another handy pill agreed that someone should have clued in from the start.  Thanks, medicine.  I was told I had ‘marked scarring’ of my esophagus, but ‘luckily, no sign of cancer’.  It was that dire.

Almost four years ago, I injured my right ankle severely and, like every other joint injury I sustain, it refused to fully heal.  Again, numerous specialists and physiotherapists prodded and poked at me, with wonderful theories and no real answers.  I have a family riddled with arthrtis, so they tested me for a marker known as antinuclear antibody.  It’s basically a generic red flag for autoimmune disorders, ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to lupus.  I came up as a weak positive, and was sent to a rheumatologist, completely unsurprised by this prospect.  A retest and more in-depth blood work came up negative, and in spite of my symptoms, family history and the rate of false results, I was shooed out the door for taking up said specialist’s precious time and continued to live in pain.

For the last year, I have insisted that my body just isn’t right.  Being unlucky and clumsy as hell, I have injured and now suffer chronic pain in my left knee, right ankle, right hip, lower back, left shoulder and arm and my neck.  Each ailment flares up and down at random, no rhyme or reason.  Physiotherapy doesn’t do shit beyond a certain ‘almost okay’ level.  I can’t take daily anti-inflammatories because of my stomach, leaving me with a developed tolerance for aching.

Puts a serious damper on my love for general admission concerts, lemme tell ya.

I found a new family doctor this summer, a rarity in my city due to its population and the lack of available physicians.  In my first interview, she takes a look at my plethora of symptoms and promptly asks if anyone has ever mentioned ‘Crest’.  Confused about the relevance of toothpaste, I ask her to explain.  Seems there’s an autoimmune disorder out there called Limited Scleroderma, or CREST syndrome (the acronym doles out the five core symptoms).  We review them and I go home, shaking and realizing I have four of five.  My respiratory health has taken a sharp decline without explanation; CREST can create blockages in the lungsm reducing capacity.  Reflux?  CREST causes that too, due to abnormalities in the body tissues.  Spider veins?  Check.  Raynaud’s Phenomenon, an affliction of the hands and fingers where cold sends all circulation running away and leaves them white and icy, is a problem I’ve had since my teens. But it’s the joint issues, where CREST creates pressure due to abnormal collagen, that should have screamed out to someone I saw:  multiple GPs, two rheumatologists, three physiotherapists, and a gastroentologist.  New doctor retests me for that pesky antinuclear antibody:  it comes up positive.

I shake my head and sigh.  Three years ago, someone could have kept asking questions, could have tried to help me as I insisted something was wrong.  Instead, I was shoved out and ignored.  And now, if further tests prove it is indeed CREST that causes my issues, I have lung damage that might have been prevented, if my symptoms are an indication.

Fitting, it seems, that for a woman who’s never been able to develop a strong immune system against anything, even the flu, that an autoimmune disorder would crop up.

The moral of this blog, dear friends, is while armchair diagnosis often veers for the worst possible scenario (and the unlikeliest), knowing all of the possibilities and demanding answers for your questions can often keep doctors working for you, as opposed to working to get rid of you.  Never be passive about your health.  My grandparents were aggressive and still ignored, until the cancer they instinctively knew my grandfather had was terminal.

As for me, I’ll be fine, no matter what the next round of pokes and stabs and scans brings.  After spending so many years dealing with one problem after another, I can only do my best to stay comfortable and healthy.  This isn’t to say that an incurable and, at times, fatal disorder (or one that leads to emergency amputations of digits) isn’t a horrifying prospect; it is, and once in a while, I cry it out for a minute or two.  But until I know what is and isn’t wrong, all I can do is push for more information, now, immediately, yesterday.

And look for that damn unicorn.  Because I know it’s out there.

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