Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sick-o: MD vs. Insurance

I remember seeing a copy of the doctor's bill, circa 1957, when my friend was born. For a regular birth, no complications, her mother and sweet new baby daughter stayed in the hospital for 10 days. My mother had a c-section with me, and we were in the hospital for 14 days. Now I'm not going to go over how we could ever afford that in 2007, even WITH insurance (which is what, I believe Michael Moore's movie deals with), but what I find interesting is how the shift of medical power has gone from the physician to the insurance company.

I've worked in health care a long time. And I've seen important medical decisions being made by a person at ABC Health Insurance HMO,PPO,POS whose only acquaintance with biochemistry is knowing that green fuzz on bread means it's got to go.

When a doctor wants you to have a test, the first words out of your mouth are, in effect, I better check with my insurance company to see if I REALLY can have that test and WHERE I can have it. Some tests, whether Mr. M.D. deems them necessary or not, are stamped NOT MEDICALLY INDICATED. And some kid who's on summer break from college where he's an art history major has probably made that decision based on the playbook he's handed to make those judgments.

Don't get me wrong. The insurance companies have an appeal process. The doctor has to send in all kinds of documents and test results and the sequence of his thought processes that made him come to the decision that his patient needs an MRI or whatever. But that process can take a long frickin' time. It can sometimes be too long for some people -- who have passed the hope of possibly being cured, end up dying, with the family suing the doctor stating he "didn't act in a timely manner or in the best interests of his patient". Then personal injury attorneys and malpractice insurance attorneys have a go and tie up the doctor in depositions and trial for months. Because he's unavailable, and his partners are taking his patients along with their own, everyone is overworked, overstressed and THAT's a recipe for real life and death disaster.

I have worked with many, many doctors. 99% of them were honest, hardworking and truly trying to do what's best for their patients to the best of their ability. It's a real shame to see them spending so much of their time negotiating with insurance companies to provide the medicine or tests or care that their patients need. Without question, the patient should come first. Not the insurance company's bottom line.

Now, if you'll excuse me, me and my terrible cold are going to the doctor and hoping it will be covered by insurance.

Friday, July 27, 2007


My little punky-mood should actually be "Paranoid", but I'm sick with the flu and that looms larger in my universe at the moment for several reasons, but first:

#1 -- I'm paranoid because I called in sick today at work. I mean I'm really home sick, even though it's Friday. Yes, I'm sitting here composing a post, but it's only because the drugs have kicked in and the Sudafed on top of Nyquil, on top of Advil has produced a nice rapid heartrate, and at the moment I feel like polishing each individual blade of grass in my front yard with Pledge to get that nice glossy carpet look (to match my nice, glossy eyes). Then I may wax the driveway, re-paper my kitchen drawers and purge the garage. Hopefully by noon. I know my co-workers are sitting around saying "sure...sure she's sick" even though they are all very nice, compassionate people who know I don't lie about stuff like that. I may begin to entertain the thought that Sudafed on top of Nyquil on top of Advil may produce other side effects besides psycho-energy.

Now, I must not be sick because:

#1 -- Everyone at work thinks I'm lying. Even though I'm not. Even though I really know they know I really am. (Someone decode that sentence and get back to me. Thank you.)
#2 -- It is my daughter's birthday party tonight. I have 14 people coming over for a BBQ. I do not wish to be sneezing all over their food, nor blabbering incoherent sentences before everyone else has had at least a couple of drinks under their belts. I may lay off the cold meds and just start drinking later. You know, just slip unnoticed into the jolly atmosphere, so to speak.
#3 -- my very nice significant other, Sam, has seen my post entitled "Surrounded by Assassins" and thought he had better take matters into his own hands before my brains start spilling out onto the floor. As it's my ex's weekend with the kids, Sam has booked us a hotel room for Saturday evening. No kids, no phones. I must not be sick. It really isn't attractive to have red, swollen eyes, a red, swollen nose and a cough that sounds like a Saint Bernard calling for lost skiers.

You can see my dilemma is multi-faceted, complicated and frustrating. I'm not sure what exactly will get me through today. And tomorrow and Sunday. Of course I could rest, drink lots of fluids, double up on Vitamin C, consume organic green tea with echinecea, perhaps try a mineral supplement with zinc, an extra multi, and Ricola all natural throat lozenges. I could. My paranoia and psycho-energy would probably stop if I went homeopathic. Hmmm.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #3!

We all know the Dynamic Duo: Batman and Robin. However, here are my 13 other Duo’s I couldn’t live without (not in any particular order):

1. Lucy and Ethel. The ultimate dynamic duo.
2. George and Gracie. As in Burns and Allen. A true classic.
3. Laurel and Hardy. "Another fine mess you've gotten us into."
4. Bartles and James. Who mixed another great duo and gave us wine coolers.
5. Road Runner and Wylie Coyote. A case where one always wins and one always loses.
6. Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo. The Men from U.N.C.L.E. "Open Channel D."
7. Barnes and Noble. A marriage made in literary heaven.
8. Thelma and Louise. A union probably going to hell...but they had fun getting there.
9. Butch and Sundance. Or Newman and Redford. Sigh.
10. Mulder and Scully. Masters of both smart ass responses and sexual tension.
11. Starsky and Hutch. And that CAR.
12. Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. "Get Smart" vs. KAOS. Remember that shoe phone?
13. Maddy Hayes and David Addison. Love and Hate at Blue Moon Investigations.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Surrounded by Assassins

Have you ever had one of those days where from the time you got up in the morning until the time you put your head on the pillow at night, everyone you ran into was out to get you?

I’m not talking paranoia either. I’m talking solid irrefutable proof that people were out to just kill you. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I just had one of those days. A day that just felt like I had been chewed up, swallowed, puked back up, stepped and then rained on.

There is a bright side to those kinds of days. You realize you cannot be any farther down without being dead. It’s a comforting thought to mulder (combination of ponder and muse) as you down a couple of Jose Cuervo Blacks over ice, and suck desperately on a cigarette when you haven’t smoked in 10 years.

(Sidebar: Jose Cuervo Black. A woman in my office recommended it to me. There are literally NO WORDS to express the look on her face as she described how beautifully f’ed up it got her. As she was glorifying her drunken state, one of the dietary aides came in and heard what we were saying. His eyes got huge. He pointed to his head and shook it violently. “Jose,” he cried terrified in broken English. “Jose Black – bad. Terrible head. Makes head terrible. NO! NO!” He exited quickly as though the sheer memory was too much for him to bear.)

Anyway, I was thinking about terrible days and how we, as functioning adults, handle them. I’m sure some meditate. Some pray. Some take a moment of reflection and try to get a handle on their own emotions. Others, like me, stop for a pack of cigs and Snickers on the way home and yank out the booze as soon as their foot hits the damn doorway.

Yes, I know I’ll regret it. Yes, I know I shouldn’t. Yes, I know it’s BAD for me. But here’s a scenario inspired by Dr. Dean Ornish’s book, “Love and Survival”:

Doctor, Doctor, Mr. M.D.: Lara, you have heart disease, panic attacks. Smoking is verboten. Drinking in excess is NOT good for you. WHY, why are you doing this to yourself? Do you know that smoking and drinking can cut YEARS off your life? That eating high fat treats can literally kill you?

Lara: Doc, what the hell do I care about living an extra couple of years if I can’t get my shit through TODAY?

Doctor, Doctor, Mr. M.D.: ahh, um, well, eh…uh………….

No comeback. I retorted him right back into his Mensa corner. Years of medical school and training---right down the hopper. Oh sure, he could give me prescriptions for Xanax and Zoloft and Cymbalta and Wellbutrin and Paxil and Prozac and Ativan – but he won’t. They are dangerous when abused and addictive and….oh, just like alcohol and cigarettes. Oops.

I firmly believe that emerging alive after a good alcohol/cigarette hangover gives us incredible incentives to live again. That life is good. You show me anyone who isn’t grateful to be alive 24 hours after a head banging, porcelain grabbing, gasping for life hangover….Right?

So embrace your need for crutches now and again. It’s ok. Nobody’s perfect.

Least of all me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #2!

Recently my friend told me that she had given her niece a Visa gift card for her graduation from 8th grade. Her niece shared where she went and what she spent the $100.00 on…well, to be precise: spent the $98.44.

So I began to think about my 8th grade graduation and where that money would have gone:

1. Kroch and Breantano’s Book Store...for tons and tons of books. Heaven. Just heaven. I wanted to be buried in there.
2. Marshall Field’s….for Frango mints. That beautiful green logo is now replaced with a red MACY’S and Chicago is still in mourning.
3. E. J. Corvette's….for crap. Morphed into K-Mart. I remember them covering John Lennon’s “Two Virgins” album with a white cover (I peeked), only to eventually bow to public demand and ship them all back to Apple Corps.
4. Lemon Tree…for records. I bought Meet the Beatles (mono) there for $2.99 in 1964. I still have it, but no record player to play it on.
5. Cock Robin…for a hamburger and shake…for probably $1.00. (Please, no comments about the name – they were referring to a MALE CHICKEN named Robin. They are still in business, but a buck won’t get you anything but laughed out the door)
6. Kerry’s Custard…..major delicious. The first soft serve ice cream in the entire area.
7. Guy’s…..penny candy for the kids; liquor and cigarettes for the adults. Your parents would drop $2.00 in your pocket and send you on your bicycle to Guy's for a bag of candy (for you), a pack of cigs and a 5th of whiskey (for them). If you were really lucky (and quick) you got to keep the change.
8. Chas A. Stevens clothing store for a cute little something for the swingin' junior miss. Was sort of a fancier JC Penney. Also had its own hair salon.
9. National Bank of _____________ (please insert your hometown name). No longer available anywhere thanks to the likes of JPMorgan Chase megaultrabankingconglomerates, however, I would have deposited a quarter or two in the old savings account.
10. Ben Franklin – for little packages of angora yarn to wrap around the backs of any ring that didn’t fit – to make it fit. Color was a decision akin to a final chess move. And they had rows and rows of great junk. You could come home with a grocery bag full of stuff for .75 cents that would keep you occupied for months. I purchased Barbie doll clothes there too. In my day you got ONE Barbie, ONE Ken, ONE Skipper and then bought clothes. Now if you want a certain outfit, you have to buy ANOTHER doll. What marketing genius came up with that?
11. A&W Drive Up. Great root beer in a frosted mug….and you didn’t have to get out of your car to get it. They plopped the silver tray on your window that you had to roll down to the perfect height to support it. Their hotdogs were mighty fine too.
12. Stan’s Meat Market. Where they MADE ground beef for you right there, from a hunk of meat you chose from their store window. Then they put a nice big slab of butter on top of the freshly ground beef, so when you unwrapped the plastic wrap, you slapped it butter side down in the fry pan. Hmmm hmmmm good.
13. Kanak’s Pharmacy for Tiger Beat and Fave magazines, with a quick trip through the cosmetics aisle, wondering if you had enough money to buy some Bonnie Bell.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dear John,

In keeping with the previously posted Beatle theme and upcoming journey to that which we affectionately refer to as DECIBFA ("Don't Ever Call It Beatle Fest Again"), I thought I'd take a self indulgent moment (as are all my moments) and write about John Lennon.

I was a George girl, Anne was a Paul girl and Ringo....well, he was Ringo. What you saw was pretty much what you got, which was sweet, witty and just seemingly pretty happy to be where he was.

But the beauty of John Lennon eluded me when I was younger. I think in a way, his sexual, dark, brooding nature frightened me. He said shit I didn't get. Fortunately, like my parents, John Lennon has become extremely intuitive and intelligent since I've gotten older.

John was the ultimate work in progress. He went from writing "Run For Your Life" to "Woman". His transition from an angry young teenager who rebelled against all forms of authority to a Beatle in a suit to a stay-at-home dad who fought tirelessly for peace (with a few human detours along the way) is fascinating. It's probably because I can see my own transition from an independent, relatively bright young woman to a scared, silent wife to an independent, relatively bright woman. It's just a damn shame that we won't see the full circle of John Winston Ono Lennon.

So Dear John, who would have been 67 this year, I salute you in the only way I feel I can: in your own words.

"When I feel my head starting to swell, I just look at Ringo and know perfectly well we aren't supermen."

"Women should be obscene and not heard." (note: that was from 1964).

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted."

"I wouldn't say I was a born writer. I was a born thinker."

"The more I see, the less I know for sure."

"Reality leaves alot to the imagination."

"As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot."

"I always knew there was something wrong with me because I saw things that other people didn't."

"Love and peace are eternal."

"When you are drowning, you don't say 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to come and rescue me'. You just scream."

"My role in society, or any artist's or poet's, is to express how we all feel, not to tell you how to is a reflection of us all."

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."

"It doesn't matter how long my hair is, or what color my skin is or if I'm a man or a woman."

"You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are."

And finally, I must end with a few abbreviated instructions from Mr. Lennon, from his book "In His Own Write", about the importance of proper diction:

"All Abord Speeching:
1. Speak you Clear and Nasal, for distance;
2. Sing you with long voice, for discharge;
3. Practice davy but not if your Mutt and Jeff."

Thank you, Dear John.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

You've Responded...And I've Listened

Yes, I can listen. Really. I remember when I was 3 and my mother told me NOT to put my finger in the electrical outlet. Like that. I realize I am told things that I should absolutely listen to for my own best interests. And aren't our best interests what we're interested in?? So thank you to Anne and J --

In summary, I am referring to my previous post about trying to fit into a dress I probably couldn't fit into even 15 years ago. I see that I am attempting to be that which I am not: i.e. skinny, sophisticated, worldly, alluring. Right. Good luck with that. I have a better chance meeting George Harrison.

THAT being said, there are numerous ways to make up for my not being Jennifer Aniston. Here's what I'm thinking, taking into account the advice I've received:

1. Women, no matter the size, no matter the age (or bank account status) are most attractive when they are comfortable in their own skin. For example: Barbra Streisand in "Meet the Fockers". There is no one on the planet who was more comfy and sexy than Gay Focker's mother. It was a brilliant performance and a brilliant message.

2. To be comfortable in your own skin, you must have an innate sense of your own worth. I have issues with that -- left over baggage from an abusive marriage -- but ok. I'll work on that. My furry psychologist is totally on board (especially after the can of Fancy Feast I gave her this morning).

3. Confidence is a feeling, not a dress size (my new mantra). And some nice new silky comfy undergarments might help there...

4. I shall assess my other assets. My ass might be the size of Montana, but I can accentuate the positive. A nice, expensive push up bra might help with that and if the estrogen keeps working, I may be zit-free, which is a more reasonable goal than trying to figure out a way to turn Shamu into Flipper.


Bottom line? I want to enjoy the show and not worry if I have VPL or if a roll of fat has escaped it's spandex cage.

Afterall, how can I be my witty and charming self (with my perky countenance) if I'm continually looking in the mirror wondering if my ass looks too big?

thanks, girls!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm So Screwed

See this dress? Pretty isn't it? I want to get my pear shaped body into that Cindy Crawford shaped dress by 8/11/2007. Less than one month away.

I have several problems.

#1 -- I don't like exercise.
#2 -- I enjoy eating.
#3 -- I have no willpower.
#4 -- I always have more than 3 problems happening at the same time, so just figure I've got at least a couple more that I won't bother you with.

August 11, 2007 I will be in Vegas, seeing the Man, The Showman of Our Generation, Ladies and Gentlemen:

(thank you for that picture).

I've been a Mr. Could-It-Be-Magic fan since I was in high school...which is a number of years ago. My love-struck skinnier ass was at Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois in August, 1976 to see Mr. M for the first time. He filmed his first Emmy-winning special there and then on a, to borrow a phrase, Hot (and humid) August Night. I had a great time. Like him or not, he'll give you your money's worth when it comes to a show.

I saw him again in 1979 and was going to see him last year until the show Anne and I were going to was cancelled. There was some speculation that Barry realized I was going be in Vegas and consequently left the entire state of Nevada -- only to appear in Rosemont, Illinois, a stone's throw from my own backyard. In other words, I was in his backyard, and he was in mine. But nevermind. Being my oldest friend, Anne was pissed off on my behalf, so Barry and I could maintain the warm and loving relationship he knows nothing about. Of course Anne and I had a great time in Vegas sans Mr. M -- how can you not? -- and the highlight was visiting the M Store at the Hilton.

The saleswomen were delightful. Ready to give you a Barry story or sighting on the spot. They were friendly and chatty and very helpful. They asked me about my Barry history. Then they turned to Anne, who was buying Manilow truffles only because the package said "Watch out! They squirt!"

"Do you like Barry?" they chirp.

"No," replies Anne, pointing an index finger at me. "I'm only here because of HER."

The looks on their faces assured me that Anne had delivered an answer they never heard before.

Now while Anne, out of friendship, would surely have accompanied me to Vegas this year, I've decided to spare her. This time around, I am going with my friend Colleen (whom I've met on-line) and meeting several other Manilow fans. Saturday night, 8/11, we will be at the show en masse. Third row center.

Poor guy. 30+ years in the frickin' business and he's soooo not prepared for us. Trust me. I'm on a pretty impressive regressive swing thanks to bio-identical estrogen.

In the meantime, what am I going to do about my pear?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Happy 13! My First!

Thirteen Things about Lara Angelina

Here's my #1 with the basics:

1. I'm a single working mom with 2 great kids -- who, on occasion, drive me to drink.
2. I work in health care administration and love it -- especially when I get paid.
3. I've wanted to write my whole life -- but think I suck at it, and believe in going with my first gut reaction on all matters.
4. I started blogging in June, 2007 -- I won't tell you why because you will think I'm nuts before you even know me.
5. I'm a survivor of a heart attack at 41. Nothing funny about it, just glad to be able to write that down as a live person, and not as someone speaking from the afterlife.
6. I'm a survivor of an abusive marriage. Survivor being the operative word.
7. There really isn't anything on the planet that I don't enjoy reading or hearing about! There are, conversely, TONS of things I don't like DOING.
8. I do have, what some people may call, a smart-ass sense of humor. Really.
9. I am the pop culture queen of my workplace -- and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
10. I still feel like an idiot when it comes to computers -- and most other things mechanical. What's that line from "Titanic"? "Women and machinery DO NOT mix." Thank you.
11. I am a total animal lover -- and have saved everything from pigeons to dogs. This is why I spend more money per month on pet food than people food.
12. I am an only child and my parents are deceased. The only family I have besides a cousin who lives far away are my children. I do, however, have the greatest friends on the planet because they put up with my shit all the time.
13. I believe in the power of prayer and a positive outlook -- and better living through chemistry.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Here's Some Good News


Yes, menopause.

There CAN be good news about menopause and I'm going to share it with you.

#1 -- You can personally give first hand reviews on all the personal lubricants available in any pharmacy, on line store or sexy lingerie outlet. This includes, but is not limited to: warming, not warming, scented, not scented, massage-able and not massage-able, gel vs. cream, gel vs. oil, cream vs. oil. I'm offering a Readers' Digest version of the instructions for all products for only a small copying fee. Why experiment when I've done the work for you? I mean, unless you want to.

#2 -- You FINALLY realize why you have children. You can send your teenager into the drugstore to purchase 2 bottles each of: Clearasil, Stridex, blackhead removal strips and acne scrub. One for them and one for you.

#3 -- You can sympathize with your man. For the first time in your life, you realize it's your hair clogging up the drain and not your significant other's. My hair is falling out of my head like the leaves off the autumn trees. You begin to acknowledge that losing your hair does suck -- and you offer to go to the store to purchase Rogaine for your man, and lookey there, there's stuff for women too. Will wonders never cease.....? Who knew?

#4 -- You will meet a very important person in your life. Your opthamologist. Not optometrist -- but opthamologist, who is an eye MD. You notice that when you wake up, your brain is functioning, but your eyes are superglued shut. Any attempt to open them feels like you are in the Sahara with 80 MPH winds directed at your face. The explanation is that like everything else on your entire body (except your facial oil glands) your eyes are drying up as well. You will be introduced to the concept of eye drops 2x a day, and a great eye gel you use at night when once inserted, gives you ZERO visibility for 6 hours.

#5 -- You will be able to witness and be a part of "The Great Debate". To HRT or to not HRT? To Bio-identical or to not Bio-identical? Do I believe Suzanne Somers or my OB/GYN? Who looks better? And do I get my cardiologist involved in this?? Do I try soy or yams or creams or nasal sprays or what? How do I get relief for hot flashes? The answer: you most likely won't. But look at it this way, you are sweating up a storm without having to exercise one bit.

#6 -- You have an excuse for every action for approximately 1-2 years. 5 pairs of identical shoes in different colors? Oh, shit. Hormones. (Never mind that you've been doing this for years -- you just won't have to hide it anymore). White Castle sliders with a Pepperidge Farm 7-layer chocolate cake chaser? Damn hormones. Downed a gallon of pre-mixed margaritas including Jose tequila? ooopppps....hormones again. Just out of control. Out of CONTROL!! But the increase in liquor tax income just might have your town name a newly built park in your honor.

#7 -- The inability to sleep has it's good points and bad. Late night cable has some interesting offerings, but you need to step away from info-mercials. Especially if you've just bought those 5 pairs of shoes and you have enough exercise equipment in your garage to start your own gym. But I've found that I can get lots of things done between 2-4 am when I'm not sleeping. The only problem is that I will catch up on those 2 hours during a meeting at work or during an evening PTA gathering. It's not good when you wake up with 20 sets of eyes looking at you and a spot of drool on your left shoulder. However, if you have no qualms with spitting out your personal problems, just shrug and say, "Hormones." No one will argue. The flip side is that I've seen every B film noir movie that was ever made in the history of film making.

#8 -- You may have what some refer to as "the crabbies", i.e. you are out of sorts, oversensitive, critical and your once long fuse is now about .5cm. However, how long have you been telling people to listen to you? How long have you been ignored, your requests for help disregarded, huffed at or had eyes rolled at you? Probably years, right? Well, look at it this way: you've warned them....and now you REALLY mean it.

#9 -- And here is the best benefit of all: You will no longer give a shit. Honestly. You won't. Science has proven it. Apparently, with the shift of hormones comes a shift in attitude. A vast number of menopausal women care less about what people think, are less bound to "the nesting instinct" and are more directed to find their own outlets outside of their homes and families.

So, enjoy these years. It's a lovely time to sit back and watch how you will turn out. After all, life is just beginning!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fantasy....The New Reality

Buddhists tell us that we must stay in the moment, in the present, to understand "mindfulness" and the peace that comes with the practice. Meditation is based in learning "mindfulness" in the simplicity of things, being aware of every minute, every breath, every sweep of the broom. Buddhists say that all our Western Angst comes from dreaming about things we cannot have, cannot do or cannot be. With mindfulness, we are present in all things and savoring each moment. The result is a peaceful and settled heart.

And I'll share with you the most incredible thing I've ever heard on the planet Earth: When the Dalai Lama was asked if he ever experienced "low self esteem", he had no clue what that was. NO CLUE. There is no term or expression or explanation for low self esteem in Tibet (which may be why there are no psychologists either). As all living things are equal, no one feels less than any other creature.

This is amazing. Truly.

And it's fine in theory. But coming from the West, giving up my angst would result in an enormous black hole in my psyche. My deepest, darkest pain and guilt give rise to my smart ass sense of humor. What would I do without that??? I mean, what would I be doing right now? And if I wasn't doing this right now, what would you be reading? And even more importantly, how could my psychologist afford her catnip?

Yes, I'd probably be doing something more valuable than reading this, but....why? I think I've figured it out....fantasy is my reality. Now I'm not talking "The Three Faces of Eve" or "Sybil" or thinking I am the Queen of England in my one room studio apartment illuminated by a single 40 watt light bulb, but fantasy is what keeps me sane. Fantasy is fun. Fantasy is my savior when I'm matching up the damn socks from the laundry. Fantasy is my savior when I'm cleaning the litter pans....or mowing the lawn or waiting for the oil to be changed in my car or 1/4 the time I'm at work. These are the times my mind wanders and the result is usually something.....well, like this.

Fantasy gives rise to creativity, at least in my otherwise sane world. Frankly, due to my fairly healthy fantasy life, I am thusly still alive. Without fantasy carrying me to different worlds and different situations, I would have been dead in the water during an abusive marriage. And yes, I know I'm lucky that fantasy hasn't carried me to a long term inpatient psychiatric hospital. But I think fantasy is linked to hope in my brain circuitry and not to running away or escaping.

So when I'm trying to meditate and I start thinking about whether they are going to do a Pirates of the Caribbean IV with Johnny Depp and Keith Richards, or whether Barry Manilow needs my advice about possibly doing a Greatest Hits of the 80's CD, or if I should really start a novel with the Classic Star Trek characters so I can have a secret affair with Captain Kirk, I'm going to embrace it. I'm going to thank the Lord for my wild imagination, for my rich and full fantasy life.

And then I'll go back to counting my breaths.

A Little Advice on Panic Attacks

Don’t have them. And while the mechanics of panic attacks aren’t well understood, as are most brain chemical imbalance disorders or how various medications work on them, let me tell you first hand, they suck.

I suffered from clinical depression for most of my married life. I knew it wasn’t normal for a social, generally upbeat, positive person like me to have immense difficulty just managing to get out of bed in the morning. There were days when I would take the kids to school and sit on the sofa the rest of the day until I had to go back and get them at 2:30. Sometimes I would sleep. Sometimes I would just sit there. No TV, no radio, no noise. I’d turn off the phone. I didn’t even think. My mind was just sort of shut off, like it had overloaded or something.

My panic attacks originally started when I was about 25, but they escalated after I got married. I was a bag of jumbled nerves on the verge of panic every day. Every day. Every day I was in fight or flight (or the new "chew" or "stew") response mode. And the stress would have killed me if my son hadn’t dialed 911 that day I had a heart attack. So take heed, those of you in abusive relationships. Your life may be in danger in more ways than you can imagine.

Grand mal panic attacks are the flip side of depression. While depression “turns you mentally off”, panic puts your system in revved up overdrive. I was in the grocery store one time and actually had to leave the cart of food and go home because I thought I was dying. The place was closing in around me, I was getting tunnel vision, my heart was racing, I was sweaty, cold, jittery. I was sure I was going to die. Panic attacks woke me in the middle of the night, kept me from sleeping, sometimes kept me from going out of the house. I had them in the car, in restaurants, at work. Unless you’ve had them, there’s no describing how debilitating they are. You think you are going insane.

Eventually, I started opening up to my doctor, my counselor, my friends. The years of counseling and medication, along with my freedom, did the trick for me. I still suffer from panic attacks, which we know from previously discussing Dr. Donald and all my friends in the local ER, but they are better controlled and milder. Also, understanding what is happening to you is imperative in handling them.

Panic attacks are extremely difficult to explain to those who never experienced them and like all “mental disorders” are looked upon with some mistrust. My favorite is calling into work after a night in the ER, zoned out on anti-anxiety medications.

“I won’t be in today. I was in the ER all last night.”


“Uh, well, I really didn’t feel well and I thought I had better get checked out.”

“What was wrong?"

"Uh, I had a panic attack.”


Doesn’t have the same huumph as say, “I cut my arm off in a tree-sawing accident” or “I ended up with double pneumonia and blood squirting out of my nose”. Basically, when you say “I had a panic attack” people think you’re just nuts.

But I think things are changing. At least I can hope so.

Now I’m not suggesting that any one thing…divorce, meds, counseling…is better than another to make your life livable again. I’m saying you need to find what is going to help you save your own life and begin enjoying who you are, who you have, and where you are going. When you are depressed, life has no meaning. Especially your own. You need to hold onto something and fight for yourself. You are important to so many.

My only advice? Hang onto friends, hang onto your family, hang onto your career, hang onto Barry Manilow, hang onto Star Trek, hang onto whatever you need to, get medical advice….and don’t give up. Remember, you are worth it.

If you forget…come back. I’ll remind you.