hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘depression’

A Shocking Discovery

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 16, 2016

I had an appointment with my neurologist yesterday and in discussing some problems I had last Thursday, among several topics, I was shocked by what he told me. He said that I had had a minor stroke! I was stunned. I didn’t believe him. He said he was 100% certain I had had a stroke. I won’t bore you with what symptoms I had exhibited that led him to believe that, but as I wouldn’t believe him at all, he then conducted a battery of neurological tests on me, right side versus left side. This had impacted my right side. To my complete shock, the entire right side of my body is noticeably weaker, slower, less responsive, etc., than my left side. That was pretty convincing. I had had no idea before then. He told me I’m the ideal candidate due to my age, gender, and the fact that I’ve been experiencing some things that my doctor asserts would be typical of one experiencing that kind of trauma in that region, including years of severe pain in my eye sockets for numerous hours per day, every day. He sent me for an immediate MRI to make sure it’s not worse than what he thinks it is and he sent a request to my cardiologist for her to run some tests too. I called Gretchen in the taxi ride home and told her and she was shocked. I think she was a little distressed as well. She needed some time to process and I had to get to the imaging center, so we said goodbye and I spent my afternoon getting blasted in a loud machine. My third MRI of the year. So, after reading about this, I’ve discovered that 1 out of 20 people who have one of these have a major stroke within a few days and that 1 in 10 within three months. I kind of feel like I’m living on borrowed time. This is a bit of a shock. Gretchen seemed really surprised by my revelations about my weaker right side, so she asked me to do the basic first test of using both hands to shake her hand, something I did with my doctor. It appeared that my left hand’s grip nearly broke her hand. She winced and asked me to let go quickly. It was a tight grip, as my grips always have been. Then, I used my right hand. She was shocked! She asked me to squeeze harder and I told her this was the best I could do. I was basically making contact, I think, and I don’t think I was able to apply much pressure. It was embarrassing to me, but I think it showed her how weak my right side is. She didn’t conduct anymore physical tests. She was either convinced or too depressed to do so.  Anyway, I also had a tempestuous phone conversation with my mother last night, which make my day even better. All I can say is thank God for Gretchen, who while upset, is still a kind, loving, supportive person, there for me, and we can both lean on each other. Thanks for letting me share this, friends.

 

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Pain Issues Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2015

As I’ve written about before, I have to deal with extreme pain and have had to since about 2010. However, it’s gotten worse since around April 2014 and, if possible, even worse than that since about six months ago. I have Trigeminial Neuralgia, which is one of the most painful disorders known to mankind. Wikipedia calls it the Suicide Disease. It affects the trigeminal nerve in the brain, which impacts your entire head and face, providing blasts of indescribable pain which are completely debilitating. And I happen to have Type 2, which is a slower acting, long lasting type of TN, with a less sharp, but still extremely violent type of pain that impacts my entire head and face, usually on my left side. It makes it impossible to do very much at all. For several years, I was completely bedridden with it. I have had to have a number of minor surgical procedures for it, some of which have worked short term, many of which have not. I’ve taken a zillion meds for it, but the only one that’s ever helped has been Percocet, which I’m not fond of taking. Unfortunately, I have to.

At the same time, I’ve had back problems. I was diagnosed a year or two ago with coccydynia, which is extreme tailbone pain. I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in my lower back and some other lumbar problems. I also have arthritis in my hips and it hurts to walk any distance at all, and it certainly has hurt to sit for any duration many, many times. I have one of those “donut” pillows to sit on, which helps somewhat.

Because of these problems, I am on disability.

The problem is that in the spring of 2014, I started getting a different type of head pain and couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. It actually seemed to be an extreme type of “normal” bilateral headache and it’s stumped my doctors. In addition to my primary care physician, I have a pain management specialist, a neurologist, and a neurosurgeon. None of them seem to hear what I’m saying when I describe this new head pain to them. I guess cause it doesn’t make sense to them. It can’t be bilateral and cause that much pain, so they ignore me. My neurologist, at least, has been trying out a ton of different meds on me. The problem is most don’t work and most are so new and expensive that Medicare won’t pay for them. Great. Five weeks ago, he gave me Botox injections for the first time. I’ve always heard they can help with head pain. He told me it takes one to three weeks to kick in, but should work for two to four months. It took about two or three weeks before I noticed a difference, and my head pain did improve from about an 8 or 9 out of 10 to about a 5 or 6, which was big, but this past Saturday, the pain returned with a damn vengeance, and until yesterday, I’ve been at a 10 out of 10 every day since. It’s been brutal. And the new meds he’s given me to take haven’t done anything.

Meanwhile, about six months ago, my back started hurting really badly, every day. Like 9 or 10 out of 10 every day. Excruciating pain. Combined with my head pain, it made life virtually unlivable. I scheduled a massage or two, thinking it might be muscular, and that worked for a day or two, but I was also concerned it might be skeletal, so finally, after waiting way too long, several weeks ago, I went to see my orthopedist. They took a ton of x-rays and then had some surprising news for me. First of all, my coccydynia is worse than I realized. My tailbone is broken. Completely. My doctor recommended I have surgery to have it removed. I had already talked about that with her a year ago and since have talked about it with several other doctors of mine, all of whom advised me against it as they’ve had patients who have done that only  to wind up with permanent, horrible pain as a result of the surgery. They said it would be stupid, just live with it. I told her that and she said their surgeon is an expert and has written books on the subject and that people come from as far away as Minnesota to get him to do their surgery. *sigh* I don’t know what to do. For the moment, I don’t think I’ll have it done. Secondly, I still have arthritis in my hips, which of course I knew. Third, my degenerative disc disease in my lower back has worsened, if that’s possible. Fourth, I have arthritis in my middle back’s spine. Fifth, I have degenerative disc disease in my middle back, where my main pain is located. Sixth, and most important, she used a medical term for this that I don’t remember, but in my own words, I have the worst curvature of the spine I’ve ever seen just by looking at the x-rays. Unreal x-rays. And I’m only in my late 40s. Damn! How did that happen??? I’ve never seen an x-ray that looked that bad before, with the possible exception of my broken tailbone. She said my middle back muscles are straining to compensate for that spinal problem and are too weak to cope, so she sent me to physical therapy for eight weeks and will see me again when I’m done. Hopefully I can avoid surgery. I know sometimes I’ve slouched over the years, but I actually do try to sit straight and stand straight most of the time, so I have no clue how this happened. And all of this has been contributing to my 10 out of 10 daily pain I’ve been experiencing for months. Unreal.

Back to my head pain. I’ve come to the conclusion that no doctor in Chattanooga can help me. I need to go to a big time place. So I contacted Vanderbilt University’s Neurology Headache Clinic and talked to them for awhile. They require a referral, so a month ago, I asked my doctor to fax one to them and he did. They told me it would take two to three weeks for them to contact me. Well, it’s been a month, so yesterday I called them and they claimed not to have received the referral. Great. I’ve been suffering like crazy while waiting for nothing. I called my doctor’s office again and explained the problem and the person I talked to had an attitude. Said they’d faxed it. I said maybe they sent it to the wrong fax number, would they please re-fax it to THIS fax number. They grudgingly said they would. I waited a few hours and called Vandy back to see if they got the referral. The woman I spoke to asked which fax machine did they send it to. Man, how many fax machines do they have? They must be a huge place for a “clinic,” because they have 80 neurologists on staff. Anyway, she said she’d have to send a message to their “faxist” to research the matter and someone would get back to me. That was at 1 PM. No one ever called me back. Why are healthcare professionals such dumbshits? Why are they so damn rude? Man, it’s like pulling teeth with them and they treat you like they’re doing you the greatest favor in the world when in point of fact they’re actually just DOING THEIR DAMN JOB! Anyway, the woman I talked to also said something about all of my files being faxed to them, which surprised me because no one had ever mentioned that to me before. All I’d been told was the referral. If they want medical files, I’d have to contact a number of doctors and it would take awhile and probably tick some people off. Of course, I could do it, but why do it unless I knew they’d agree to see me? Maybe they wouldn’t agree to see me without seeing my medical files…. What a damn hassle. Just the fact that I’m willing to drive three hours away one way to get help should indicate how desperate I am. I would really like to think that they could help me. When I talked in depth with one of their nurses last month, she told me I seemed like a hard case and would need to be seen by one of their department heads. I’d really like this to work out, cause I need help. I am, however, nervous about my current neurologist finding out. He started the first headache clinic in Chattanooga, has been very successful, is a huge narcissist, and I think would be very offended if he knew I were taking this step. He might even drop me as a patient. I don’t really know. And he is trying to help me. It just hasn’t been that helpful so far. However, I see him next week, so I’ll tell him about the results of the Botox injections and see what he does next. Who knows? Maybe he’ll come up with something. I doubt it, but maybe….

Anyway, since this pain has been ongoing since 2010 and since it’s gotten worse a year and a half ago and since it’s gotten much worse a good six months or more ago, I’ve become increasingly depressed. It’s difficult to make plans to do anything when you’re always in major pain. It’s difficult to actually do anything period. It gets old lying around the house feeling sorry for myself. I do get out in the mornings, usually, to run errands, since my pain seems to be less severe in the mornings, but it worsens throughout the day and there’s nothing I can do about it. Lately, it has come to feel like I’m in a hopeless situation, like I’m trapped in a prison with no way out. It feels like no one can help me, like I’m totally screwed. If this is what I have to look forward to for either the indefinite future or the rest of my life, well, where’s the quality of life in that? It just gets increasingly hard to remain upbeat or positive and I feel like I’m dumping on my wife all the time and that makes me feel badly, because she deserves a more positive husband as she has her own issues to deal with. Well, I guess that’s it for now. I have an appointment with my neurologist next week, as I wrote, and another with my pain management specialist in a few weeks. I’m going to try and follow up with Vandy. Maybe something will come of it, although I frankly don’t have high hopes. Feel free to send good vibes, if so inclined. This is a deep pit I’m trying to climb out of.

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Health Frustrations

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 23, 2015

I’ve written about my health here before at times. I have health problems. In fact, I’m on disability for Trigeminal Neuralgia and several lumbar issues. The pain can be debilitating. Most pain medications don’t help. I’ve had to have a number of surgical procedures to help, but they’re limited in scope. I also have severe insomnia, which doesn’t help. I average about three hours of sleep a night. I used to try to take naps after lunch every day, for about an hour, so that helped, but I can’t do that anymore for some reason, so that’s gone. Well, this week I’ve gotten up between midnight and 1:30 AM six of the last seven nights, including midnight tonight. I’m so tired and so frustrated and I don’t know what to do. And I’m not asking for advice. I’ve already tried every sleep aid known. I have a sleep doctor. I currently take three sleeping pills to help. They get me to sleep. They just don’t keep me asleep.

Additionally, for well over a year now, I’ve been having nonstop head pain, different from the TN-type head pain I’ve experienced since 2010. It’s been more like extreme regular headaches. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. And they don’t respond to anything except Percocet. I’ve been to a number of doctors about it. My pain management specialist is at a loss. She put me on two new medications in January, which I believe has helped with my TN-type pain, but not with this new pain. I went to a neurosurgeon, who didn’t really do anything. He’s ready to perform major surgery if and when I need it, but he doesn’t think I do at the moment and he’s probably right. And then last month, after pondering this for months, I went to a new neurologist. He seemed pretty good and pretty thorough and he diagnosed me with a cluster headache, which he said is also quite painful. I hadn’t known that. Apparently I have the symptoms. He put me on a couple of new medications, but I had reactions to one of them, so he took me off of it and put me on something else. I’m not, however, sure that he fully understands my situation because he seems to be treating this like a standard TN-type head pain, or in this case, cluster head pain, when in point of fact, they’re standard bilateral headaches that are extremely severe. I don’t know what to do.

To make matters worse, I’ve been experiencing ungodly back pain for about three months now. It starts about lunchtime and worsens throughout the afternoon into the evening. I usually take over the counter pain medications, which don’t do anything. Then I take a Meloxicam, which doesn’t do anything. Like my head pain, the only pain medication my back pain responds to is Percocet, and even then, not always and not fully. It’s very frustrating. And I don’t know what to do about it. I have no idea what’s causing it and I can’t tell if it’s skeletal or muscular. I went and had a massage a couple of weeks ago. It helped for a couple of days. I have an orthopedist, and I’ve thought about making an appointment, but I honestly don’t know what they could tell me. I don’t know that I’ve done anything new to my back and if they take x-rays or do another MRI and it shows nothing conclusive, I’m going to feel like a moron. All I know is it hurts to sit, walk, and stand. And it’s freaking horrible. Most days, it’s about an 8 or 9 out of 10. I haven’t even mentioned it to my primary care physician because I’m sure he can’t do anything about it. He would just tell me to make an appointment with my orthopedist. *sigh* So most days, I can’t do shit. I can’t go for walks. I can’t even go for rides with my wife half the time. It’s tough just to go to church and sit in the pews. I read a lot and it hurts to sit and read. I feel like a lump and it bugs the heck out of me, but I don’t know what to do.

I do have some good health news though. I’ve been overweight for far too long now. It’s largely the result of being on certain meds for years that have contributed to heavy weight gain. Well, back in 2011, my doctor put me on what I thought at the time was a low carb diet. I was wrong. I lost weight until January 2012. Then I started gaining weight and I couldn’t figure out why. By January of this year, I was a hippo. In February, my wife put me on a seriously low carb diet, which she had been on for a few months herself. It actually wasn’t that hard and it’s been good for me. So I’ve been averaging about 6 carbs per meal every day since then, whereas before I averaged about 36 carbs per meal. And I have now lost about 45 pounds, perhaps closer to 50. That’s not as impressive as some people I read about, but it still feels good. I’ve had to put five holes in my belt and buy some new pants that are three sizes smaller than my former size. I still have a long way to go, to be honest. I have a couple of target weights. I’m three pounds away from my first one. But I’m a very long ways away from my ultimate goal and I don’t know if I’ll ever reach it. But I can try, right? So this has been good and I’m grateful to Gretchen for encouraging and inspiring me to do this. She’s lost a lot of weight herself and has reached her first goal herself. Yay!

I guess that’s it for today. Cheers!

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Insomnia Sucks!

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 24, 2014

I’ve had pretty bad insomnia since at least 2002. I’ve had several sleep doctors during this time and have tried just about every sleep aid available. Nothing helps. Two nights ago, I got no sleep at all. I was up the whole night. Tonight I got two hours. My doctor says I average about three and a half per night. In all candor, I do try and get a nap in around lunchtime, usually for 30-60 minutes, but it doesn’t help all that much. And while I used to be able to nap easily, I now have a hard time falling asleep for that too.

I’m very frustrated. And exhausted. All the time. I have no energy. Little motivation. I just want sleep. My therapist talks to me about my “sleep debt,” but I think she may be on to something. I think it exists and I have it.

Right now, I take a lot of meds to help me fall asleep and they’re usually effective. They just don’t keep me asleep, and that’s the problem. It’s maddening. I take a $1,600 retail med just to get me asleep and it works for a couple of hours. Damn!

I don’t really have much more to say about it. Our late cat, Toby, would get up and keep me company in the office during the early morning hours and that was nice, but he’s been dead for nine months now and our remaining cat, Henry, rarely joins me. I really miss Toby.

I usually drink coffee and listen to music in the den for awhile. Then I go into the office, check things out online and ultimately play Civilization 5 for hours. I’m glad I don’t get bored with it or I’d go nuts. Right now, I’m trying to get my Safari browser working again. It’s on the fritz and I’m using Firefox. But I’ve got so many open tabs on Safari, I really need it to open up and work again. Don’t know what’s wrong with it.

I’m rambling now. I’ve been having bad headaches again lately and that’s frustrating. There can be connections between headaches and insomnia, so my pain management doctor instructed me to make an appointment with my sleep doctor to discuss this. Guess how long it is until I can get in to see my sleep doctor? Two months! And I’m an established patient!!! What if it were an emergency? Crap.

Well, I guess that’s it for now. I’m glad so many of you liked my vacation post with all of the pictures. I wish I could write more posts like that. I guess it’ll have to wait until we have another vacation, eh? Cheers!

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Depression

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 28, 2014

I think I’ve been in a deep depression since Toby’s death last month. And I think his death magnifies my father’s death last year. I should be feeling good, living in a nice, new house in a nice, quiet, safe neighborhood, but all I can think about is how Toby isn’t here and doesn’t get to see it and live in it and how Dad can’t experience it — he was a great handyman — and how he can’t help out around the house. It’s really disappointing and I’ve been struggling. My wife has commented on it. I don’t know how to snap out of it. Of course it’s not been helped by the poor, grey weather. That’s really been getting to me too. Years ago I was diagnosed with SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — but I’ve never been treated for it. Basically it’s getting deeply depressed due to extended poor weather, most common during the winter. I finally caved in and bought one of those lights for it. You’re supposed to be exposed to it for about an hour each morning, but I haven’t found or made that kind of time for it, so I don’t know that it’s doing any good. I’m spending about 20 minutes a day in front of it. I need to make a better effort. Meanwhile, I’ve been listless and I don’t care about a lot of the things I normally care about. Gretchen misses Toby and my dad too, but she only got to experience being with Toby for two and a half years. He spent his entire six years with me. I watched him grow from a demon imp kitten who I wanted to kill to a loveable, dependable companion cat whose company I really enjoyed. I/we really miss him. He had become Gretchen’s cat, so to speak, over the past few years. When she came home from work, he would jump up and go to greet her, just like a dog. I’m also having to deal with my mother, who I think has unresolved issues regarding Dad’s death and who is lonely and doesn’t know how to deal with many things, such as financial things. I’m having to help her a lot, but she calls me a lot and comes over and sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. She just bought a condo up in Knoxville and will be moving back up there in a little over a month, so that’s going to change the dynamics, but it will also be weird and I’m going to worry about her living alone at her age up there without me able to come over to help her with short notice. Additionally, my job situation hasn’t changed and our cash is starting to run low due to all we’ve paid out to contractors for new home repair issues — electricians, plumbers, appliance repairmen, handymen, etc. I’ve also had car issues and have had to pay some big bills for that, and I need a new oil pan gasket which, the dealer says, costs $1,700 alone just for the stupid part, never mind the labor costs. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve got a lot going on. Things are starting to ease up now, which is good, but all I can feel is blah. I’ve had moments of happiness — time spent with my wife, time spent reading or going to the gun range for some target practice — but generally I just feel bad. And I don’t know how to fix it.

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Toby is Gone

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2014

Yesterday, we had to have out beloved cat, Toby, put to sleep. We’re devastated. He was only six! It was kidney failure. He had been showing symptoms for a few months and we’d taken him to the vet before and changed his diet as a result, but a couple of weeks ago, he became really lethargic, and basically stopped eating and drinking. He enjoyed taking showers with us and drinking water out of sink faucets and he didn’t do that anymore either. He just slept and acted listless. Gretchen wanted us to take him to the vet last week, but because of the snow, we didn’t. This weekend, he appeared to be pretty bad and vomited five times in two spurts, so Gretchen took him to the emergency animal hospital (which costs a fortune!). They put him on an IV and said the blood work showed his numbers to be very bad. When I went to pick him up Monday morning, they explained that his numbers had come down a little, but not very much and recommended taking him to our vet for continued care. Well, I didn’t want to do that. He was acting better, so I took him home. And he ate and drank and let me pet him. He even rolled over on his side so I could pet his tummy, which he never does, and he got on my lap. However, as the day progressed, he started slipping back into his former state, so yesterday morning I took him to our vet. They put him on fluids and gave him blood tests to measure the results. I got a call from the vet around 1:15 PM. The news wasn’t good. His BUN had increased from 125 to 159. Normal is 30. His Creatin (sp?) has increased from 9.3 to 11.9. Normal is 1. She said the numbers indicated total kidney failure and recommended terminating his life. So I called Gretchen and we talked about it. We didn’t want to because he didn’t appear to be in any pain and he could still live, although not much of an existence obviously. So we decided to go with the vet’s recommendation. I called her back, gave her permission, and she did it immediately. We’re having him cremated and will get his ashes in an urn on Friday. And we’re just sick to our stomachs. Looking back over the past year and a half or two, we can see the signs now — the insatiable thirst was key. We just thought that’s the way he was. We didn’t know. I feel like a murderer. Gretchen said that when I took Toby away yesterday morning, she had a bad feeling she wouldn’t see him again and I worried about the same thing while I talked to him on the drive to the vet’s and again while waiting for the vet to come in the examination room. He looked beautiful. Angelic. Peaceful. I hope it went quickly and painlessly and I hope he’s in Heaven now, drinking out of golden faucets. We talked last night about his routines and how we’re really going to miss them. He was my morning buddy. I usually get up hours before Gretchen and he and I would hang out. I folded my clothes this afternoon and got sniffy because he loved to jump in a pile of warm clothes and pass out. Never again. Henry seems confused, and that’s understandable. He waited for Toby to eat last night before he ate. Toby always ate first. We’re really going to miss you, Toby. We love you Toby. RIP.

Toby and me on the sofa.

Toby and me on the sofa.

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