hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘pain’

A Review of A New Earth

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 1, 2016

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's PurposeA New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth is an interesting New Age spiritual enlightenment book marrying eastern and western religious traditions and beliefs and focusing on a couple of core areas: the ego and pain. Tolle spends the first half of the book discussing the ego as it relates to humanity, to identity, to its many different “faces,” and then ends this discussion with a section titled “Incontrovertible Proof of Immortality,” which I hope is in jest, because it’s anything but that to me. The book then transitions into discussing pain, as in emotions and the ego up front, followed by pain and the body and later, breaking free of the “pain-body.” Later chapters discuss finding out who you really are, falling below and rising above thought, inner body awareness, and the book culminates in an awakening of an inner purpose.

All in all, not too bad. But also, not much new here either. We’ve seen some of this stuff before. And really, not my usual cup of tea, I’m the first to admit. I’ve read western theology, philosophy from most eras (the existentialists remain my favorite), and some eastern spirituality, and I’ve gotten the least out of the latter thus far in my life. I’ve had the most trouble with the first, but I understand it the most because I was raised in that tradition. That doesn’t mean I easily accept it; I don’t. It just means I understand it. I also understand many philosophers throughout history, or should I say western philosophers, to be candid. I haven’t always understood the eastern mystics. Now, Tolle is not a mystic, nor would he claim to be. Indeed, as far as I’m concerned, he’s Michael Singer-lite. Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, which was published in 2007 and which has profoundly influenced many people around the world, seems to me to be a similar work, with a similar message, but a deeper one, a little more thoughtful. In my review of that work of about a year ago, I wrote that

“Singer has some interesting concepts. He wants people to stop suffering, to be free, to find their consciousness, to become self aware, to attain true enlightenment. In that regard, it’s largely an Eastern religious book, although Singer tries to “Westernize” it by mentioning Jesus (and other spiritual leaders) throughout the book. He begins with the voice in your head that is always talking to you, your own, always second-guessing you, offering you advice, often wrong, etc. He writes that if the person behind this voice were on the sofa beside you, you would kick him out in a heartbeat, thinking him crazy. Not a bad point.”

So how is that similar? Simple. Tolle is constantly name-dropping spiritual leaders from different faiths, most especially Jesus. Tolle wants us to be free of our pain, to overcome our ego’s boundaries, meet the pain-body, and break free. Regarding the voice on the sofa, that’s merely the ego. Simple. Tolle is Singer-lite. But while Tolle’s book is an easy read, see what I wrote about Singer’s:

“The book, while small and apparently easy to understand for many, seems fairly heavy to me. Perhaps that’s because I’m stupid, although I’ve read an awful lot of philosophy over the years, but there’s an awful lot of advice here, some of it quite good when you can follow it. And if I were to follow it, I’d have to read this book some five or six times to just be able to even try to follow all of the advice he gives. I can’t do it with one reading. I tried out some of the things in the early chapters and it’s quite difficult.”

In fairness to Tolle, his book was published first, in 2005. So perhaps it’s fair to speculate that it was Singer who read Tolle and took his work, adapted it, and made it deeper, stronger, more informed. Who knows? But in any event, the two books are suspiciously alike, Singer’s deeper and more difficult to digest and understand. It seems to me that if you read one of them, you certainly don’t need to read both. There’s a great deal of redundancy. I would choose Singer. Is this a bad book? No. Is it groundbreaking? No. Is it the best of its type? Absolutely not. Is it worth reading? Perhaps. Maybe. If you enjoy such books, then I guess I would recommend it. It couldn’t hurt to read it and you might learn some interesting things that would benefit you. And by all means, I’m obviously no expert on the subject. If this is your field or your area of interest, research the book and read other reviews. You might find that you’ll really like the book, even though it didn’t do much for me. Three stars. Cautiously recommended.

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Letter to People Who Think Chronic Pain Isn’t That Bad | The Mighty

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 20, 2016

A letter to people who don’t understand chronic pain and think it’s “not that bad.”

Source: Letter to People Who Think Chronic Pain Isn’t That Bad | The Mighty

 

This is a really good article. Not the best I’ve ever read, but really good. It does a good job at trying to explain the problem people with severe chronic pain have in trying to live with. My wife found it and shared it with me and I then shared it with a number of Trigeminal Neuralgia support boards I’m a member of online and the response was overwhelming. Many dozens of people “liked” this article, many dozens of people shared this article, and there were a number of comments too. Some of those commenting said they thought this article might help their friends or family understand where they were coming from. Maybe. Maybe not. Still, if you read this and understand anything from it, take anything away at all, it will be much appreciated. I have several major chronic pain-producing illnesses, disorders, and problems in general, surrounding my face, head, and back. The worst is Trigeminal Neuralgia. I have TN Type 2. Only about 5,000 people in America have it, so it’s very rare and as a result, is not well understood or easily treatable. That makes it difficult for me to adequately describe my situation to anyone, let alone my doctors. Sometimes the doctors I meet have never even heard of TN Type 2. That’s when it becomes discouraging. But whatever the case, I thought this article was at least a 7-8 out of 10 and worthy of sharing and posting myself. I hope you’ll read it and if so, I hope you’ll get something out of it. Cheers!

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CT Myleogram and Emergency Procedure

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 13, 2016

I’ve had a rough time of it lately, especially the past few days. A couple of weeks ago, I somehow injured my back. It locked up and I had incredible back pain to go along with my very severe head pain. I went to my orthopedist, had a lot of x-rays taken, was told I hadn’t fractured my back (good), but that my degenerative disk disease had gotten a lot worse. That my bottom disk had effectively disintegrated and it was largely just bone on bone now and that was why I was hearing all of the clicking and grating sounds when I moved, and why I felt my spine shifting when I moved. The disk above it wasn’t much better and together, they couldn’t have been “much worse.” My doctor decided to send me to have a procedure at a surgery center called a “CT Myleogram,” which I had never heard of before and which didn’t sound like a big deal. After all, I had had a number of CT scans, so no biggie, right?

Well, when I got home and did some research, I found out what these procedures were, to a certain degree, and they were a little more involved than that. They were basically like reverse spinal taps, where instead of inserting a needle into your spine and removing spinal fluid, they’re inserting a needle into your spine and injecting contrasting fluid into it so that they can take moving x-rays and CT scans so they can detect nerve damage and other types of damage regular x-rays can’t see. No anesthesia, of course. And I had just had a spinal tap last month. So, yay. This was last Monday. They called me Tuesday and scheduled me for Wednesday, a few days ago.

My wife took me in and dropped me off. She’s had to take me to so many procedures lately and has had to wait that it’s just gotten old and she’s worried about losing her job, so she just wants to drop me off and pick me up when she’s allowed and I was supposed to wait in Recovery for 2-4 hours after the procedure before she could pick me up. I had the procedure and it wasn’t that bad. It didn’t last as long as a normal spinal tap, although with the x-rays and CT scan, the entire process made it last much longer, of course. And I only had to wait after for a couple of hours or so. They warned me several times about something called a “spinal headache” and said it could be very severe. I basically laughed it off because with my Trigeminal Neuralgia, tension headaches, severe migraines, and cluster headaches, how could it possibly be that severe? Even if I got it, which I didn’t think I would. Because you basically got it from leaking spinal fluid from a puncture that wasn’t healing and it wouldn’t be healing because you stood too much and didn’t lie down enough and I planned to lie down. But I didn’t. I thought I did, but I didn’t. I sat at the dining room table to eat a late lunch when I got home. I sat at my computer to check email, etc, after that. I laid down for a bit, but then I stood for awhile to do dishes. I laid down some more. Oh, I felt pretty good, by the way. I felt fine. I sat again to have dinner. But by then, I was starting to get, yes, a headache. I assumed, however, it was my usual TN acting up and didn’t really think anything of it. I took my usual medications, but by late afternoon, I had an increasingly severe headache that was starting to get very, very bad. I went to bed with a bad headache and got virtually no sleep. By Thursday morning, it was brutal. I got no sleep, like I said. My right eye socket felt dead. The right side of my head was on fire. The back of my head felt like it had been hit by a machine gun. My forehead hurt, so did my cheek and jaw. My ear lobe felt numb, so did my teeth and tongue. My temple was killing me! I wanted to die. And my back was hurting from my procedure. This was probably the worst pain of my life. On a 1-10 scale, this was easily a 15. Throughout the day, I took 6 Tx, 8 Ex, 2 Nx, 14 Ax, a Px, and 2 Mx. I started feeling better during mid-afternoon but started getting worse again before dinner. My pain level got down to maybe a 10/10, but that didn’t last long. And this got worse! I didn’t know what to do! My pain level reached a 17 out 10, if that’s even possible! Ungodly! Worst ever. Finally around 9 pm Thursday, I called the surgery center and got patched through to a live doctor. She said I had two options. One, I could go to the ER, but Gretchen had taken a sleeping pill and was going to bed and I couldn’t drive. Two, I could stay up and take lots of anti-inflammatories and drink lots of caffeine and go back to the surgery center in the morning to get an emergency “blood patch” procedure, where they drain a lot of blood from your arm and then inject it through one of two needles inserted into your spine, like a reverse spinal tap, similar to what I had two days previously. That’s two reverse spinal taps in three days. That’s harsh. And that’s what I did. I stayed up all night drinking coffee and Coke Zero and taking what pain pills I could and when Gretchen got up, this doctor called me and told me they were expecting me at the surgery center, so Gretchen took me there. When I went into the operating room, they had five people in there: the doctor to handle the two needles, the technician to operate the x-ray machine, which I got to watch live, the person to handle my blood and its needle/IV, and two people to massage me, one my arms above my head, one my legs, I guess in an effort to comfort me because of my pain and discomfort level. It was almost funny, as I’ve never had that happen to me before, but it was oddly comforting. This procedure lasted about an hour and hurt like a fucking bitch! Holy shit, it hurt! The doctor dug those needles into my spine hard over and over again repeatedly, gouging the shit out of my spine. Finally it was over. I was proud of the fact that I didn’t even wince once. They asked me how I felt immediately after but I didn’t know. I said I needed some time to evaluate. After awhile I realized my head pain had largely disappeared, including my eye socket pain, and I told them that and they were pleased. I was a little shocked. I guess I did have a spinal headache but I never knew they could be so damn bad. It was just about the worst head pain I’ve ever felt. Now I’ve got a 0 out of 10 head pain since 11:30 am yesterday and that’s awesome. I wonder how long this will last? Unfortunately my back hurts pretty badly from all the trauma it’s had to endure over the past few days. Hurts a lot. Hopefully that will improve fairly quickly. I’m glad they insisted I come in Friday morning rather than going through the weekend. That would have been a disaster. Getting the disgusting, painful blood patch was one of the best things I ever did.

So, that’s where I’ve been the past few days. Sorry I’ve been out of touch. I’ve truly not been feeling well. I have four books stacked up to write reviews for, but I really haven’t felt like it. I don’t know when I’ll get to those. I hope everyone has a nice Valentine’s Day. Ours will be low key, unfortunately. Frankly, I’m just glad to be okay.

 

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Lumbar Puncture

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 15, 2016

Hi! I had my lumbar puncture/spinal tap yesterday. Sorry I didn’t post, but I was bedfast for the entire day, per the hospital’s instructions. It went ok, actually much better than the one I had done in 2011. They’ve improved the procedure, made it much faster, less painful. In fact, even though two surgery nurses had told me the day before that I’d be having anesthesia, to my shock, I received none and no pain medications either! I thought, what the hell? It’s a damn spinal tap!!! However, once they went in, after the initial needle went into my spine, which did hurt quite a bit, things settled down and I could hardly tell anything was happening, which was quite different from last time, so I guess I didn’t need it. It took about a third of the time as the previous one, which was great. After it was done, I was supposed to lie flat in bed at the hospital for 2-4 hours, but they let me go before 2 hours had gone by. But I had to go straight home and lie down flat on my back all day and night, except for bathroom and eating breaks. Since I didn’t get to eat much for such a long period (I had had to fast from midnight and my procedure wasn’t until 10, even though I had to be there at 7:30 AM), I just weighed myself and found I lost three more pounds and I’m at my lightest weight since my major surgery weight of December 2011 and just 23 pounds from my ultimate goal. That’s cool. (That’s now a little over 80 pounds lost overall!) However, when it’s all said and done, it was a disappointment, because we did not get the result we were hoping for. We were looking for a specific spinal fluid pressure and this time it was even lower than last time and we were sure it would be higher — and it would have had to be higher to be what we expected it to be to explain all this damn pain. So we may be back at square one. Except … there’s one last hope. If you have this disorder, the spinal tap is supposed to relieve your pain. If you have no head pain for awhile, that’s a good sign. So, my head pain basically disappeared yesterday and so far this morning, although it’s only 3:00 AM and a lot can change, no headache. So, I’m holding out hope that even though the spinal fluid pressure didn’t indicate it, it still exists and the pain will have dissipated and that will explain everything. Oh God, please…. I meet with my neurologist on Wednesday, the day after I meet with my orthopedist and my pain management specialist, all of whom will be interested in the results. Here’s hoping. Thanks for thinking of me, those of you who did. Cheers!

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End of the Year Post 2015

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2015

I wrote this blog post quite early this morning and didn’t post it. I wasn’t sure about it. Since then, I’ve reread it twice and have had second thoughts about posting it. I usually post an End of Year post on the last day of the year, but this one is too depressing, too negative. I don’t think I want to be a downer for my readers. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to post it after all, although I’m not sure it’s a great idea. It does, however, describe my year, which is my intent. If you’re not interested in reading a depressing or negative post, feel free to skip this one. No hard feelings. If you’re interested at all, feel free to read it though. Hopefully 2016 will be better for me/us and hopefully all of you will have a good 2016. Happy New Year!

 

On the last day of each year, I write a year in review post. Here are the links to the 2014 Year in Review blog post and the 2012 End of the Year blog post. I had a lot going on in both years. If you read them, you’ll note I had some health problems, particularly last year. Well, I’m about to write an abbreviated post for 2015. It’s abbreviated because this year was largely a personal disaster due to hideous, nightmarish health and pain problems and I/we didn’t really get to do very much at all.

In January, my mother celebrated her 85th birthday. Although she’s had a couple of bad falls this year with broken bones, she still is relatively good health and living alone in a condo in Knoxville, TN.

In February, I developed severe back pain to accompany my head and facial pain, out of the blue. It took time, but over the course of the year, I sought treatment from my orthopedist and a rheumatologist, as well as physical therapists. It seems I have spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, massive osteo-arthritis throughout my entire body, and a broken tailbone. They’re recommending surgery to remove my tailbone, probable spinal fusion surgery, and down the road, two hip replacement surgeries. My pain has been at about a 9.6 out of 10 level every day this year and virtually no pain medication helps.

About the same time, my head pain increased and got worse. My Trigeminal Neuralgia was joined by at least one, perhaps two, other types of head pain, which I have been trying to have diagnosed and treated all year, with little help. My two types of head and facial pain have been at a 9.6 out of 10 level every day, virtually all day all year long with virtually no relief from any pain medication. Any pain medication that used to be helpful is no longer useful. I now have three new diagnoses for additional types of head pain disorders, all three of which can be extremely painful, one of which is supposed to be the most painful condition known to mankind. I don’t know. My wife and I are convinced there’s another undiagnosed condition that has yet to be treated, since I’m responding to no treatment.

Since this spring, my longtime insomnia has worsened. I am averaging about three hours of sleep a night and am now, in fact, waking up and getting up between 11 PM and 12:30 AM. It sounds insane, but it’s true. That means I go to bed early, but I still get only two to three hours of sleep. I also can no longer successfully nap. I started falling asleep at red lights while out driving, and in chairs sitting up, and at doctor’s offices, and at church dinners, and my wife and I suspect I may have narcolepsy so I have an appointment with my sleep doctor in a few weeks to discuss this.

During the spring, somehow I was able to get to some of the concerts I was able to buy tickets for 2014 Christmas for my wife. Because of my health problems, we unfortunately had to blow some off and waste that money, but we did get to see Lewis Black, Weird Al Yankovic, The Who (which was awesome), and Barry Manilow, which was pretty much the highlight of my wife’s life. We blew tickets to Chicago and a Pittsburgh Penguins game. Oh well. We had good times.

In April, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary. It was pretty low key. It feels like we’ve been together for so much longer than that. We have a wonderful relationship and I’m very lucky to have Gretchen for a wife and best friend. April is also Gretchen’s birthday and so that was pleasant, although she’s not thrilled about getting older. I keep telling her she looks and acts infinitely younger than she is, looks at least 10 years younger than other women her age. I think she knows that intellectually, but still is annoyed with aging. I think she’s still sexy as hell. She always will be.

In July, I started going to a new neurologist who I didn’t like personally very much, but who, to his credit, did try some new things. He’s an egomaniac, but then many doctors are, I suppose. He’s given me a couple of Botox injection treatments so far and has tried a number of new medications on me, none of which have helped, but at least he’s trying.

Also, in July my head pain got even worse, if possible. Since I’m up 21 hours a day on average, it became 21 hours of pain a day, every day, without break. At a near 10 out of 10 scale, which combined with my back pain made life nearly unendurable. I applied to get into Vanderbilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic, which has a good reputation, thinking that after nearly six years of treatment in Chattanooga and only getting worse, I need to go elsewhere if I’m going to get better. July was also the second anniversary of my father’s death. It was a sad occasion.

I had my birthday in September. I suppose it was low key, as I remember nothing about it. This fall has been largely a blur, due to my pain status. I’ve been super focused, while also at the same time, largely oblivious. If that makes any sense. I particularly enjoy September and October because of sports. You have college football, the NFL, baseball, hockey just starting, college basketball just around the corner. It’s pretty awesome. I enjoyed watching my Pirates make the playoffs for the third straight year, watching my Tennessee Vols have a frustrating but ultimately successful 8-4 bowl year and my UCLA team have a winning bowl year, my Steelers have a injury-plagued year in which they still have a minor chance of making the playoffs and the hockey season, in which we paid for a year of NHL Gamecenter Live, in which you can watch any game you want – not on national TV – live for a one time set price. So I get to watch my Penguins quite often. If only they were playing up to their expectations and potential. It’s been disappointing so far. Of course, the UT Lady Vols are doing well so far, but they’ve had so many injuries, they’ve only been able to dress seven players lately, so it’s only a matter of time until they start losing many games and the men’s Vols basketball team has a great new coach, but not much talent while my Long Beach State team is having a rough year getting beat up by major teams like Duke.

In October, I finally got to go to Vandy. I was instructed to bring my medical records, so I spent two weeks and hundreds of my own dollars getting them, Gretchen took a vacation day, we drove six hours two ways, went to Nashville and met with a doctor who didn’t even want to look at my records, said they weren’t important, didn’t want to discuss my background with me, spent perhaps 15-20 minutes with me, prescribed a useless migraine medication for me, said I needed Botox immediately (so they scheduled me for three and a half months away) and, when Gretchen asked if we couldn’t just get this done in Chattanooga, reacted angrily and said it had to be done there. We left pretty ticked off at what waste of time and effort that was. I haven’t canceled my next appointment there yet, but I will. There’s no point in going. Meanwhile, my mom has stepped up to the plate and said she’ll pay for me to go anywhere to help get me fixed, cured, whatever. So, I’ve been researching Mayo, Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic, UCLA, etc. So far, Johns Hopkins would be convenient because that’s where Gretchen’s family lives, but Mayo seems most impressive by far. I’m not going to pursue it just yet though. Want to exhaust things here in town first.

In November, we traveled to Maryland to visit Gretchen’s parents, sons, and friends. It was a difficult trip for me health wise, but she had been wanting to go for months and we hadn’t been up there for a year and a half, so it was time. And we had a good time over Thanksgiving. It was good to see everyone. We also celebrated our one year anniversary of getting our kitten, Ace, who has become Gretchen’s baby. He’s now about 16 months old, and Henry just turned 10 years old, which is unreal because I can remember when he was just a month old, but they get along much better now and Ace is calming down a little bit finally. But just a little bit. Ace is also the most social, codependent cat I’ve ever seen in my whole life! He needs to be with people like nothing I’ve ever seen. He needs to be held. When we went to Maryland, we hired petsitters to come to the house twice a day to help mostly Ace. Henry is pretty independent and I’ve left him by himself for a good three days or so, but Ace couldn’t take even one day, I’m sure. It’s kind of sad. Cute, but sad. Nonetheless, we love them both and they add to our lives tremendously.

This month, we celebrated our five year anniversary of when we started dating. That’s always an exciting occasion for us and fun to remember. We also had a very subdued Christmas, which was somewhat anticlimactic. My pain was so severe and I was on so much pain medication, it was virtually impossible for me to function at all. My mother drove down from Knoxville to be with us on Christmas day and we exchanged a few gifts, nothing like last year. We couldn’t put up our tree this year like we’ve done in the past because of Ace. He goes wild. We put up a mini-tree we bought, with some lights and ornaments. That was destroyed the first night. We put up an old ceramic tree with plastic lights I’ve had for decades, but Gretchen thought better of it, so she got a little wooden tree with a string of lights and that was our tree. We didn’t even put presents out until the night before because Ace would destroy them. We try to control him, but we really can’t.

One year-long note. Early this year I was forced to drop my Obamacare and start using my Medicare I got last year when I went on disability. I had no idea how that would change my life. It’s been a nightmare. Medicare Part D is a freaking nightmare from hell! With Obamacare and BCBS, my monthly medical bills came to roughly $400 a month. With Medicare, I was quickly paying up to as much as $2,800 a month in medical bills, almost all of it prescriptions. One of my prescriptions alone had a co-pay of $800! That’s fucking insane! That total is more than double my disability check. How the hell am I supposed to pay for that? And I have no choice. As long as I’m on disability – and there’s no way I can work – I have to be on Medicare and as long as I’m on Medicare, I’m stuck paying thousands a month for medical/prescription bills. It’s unfair and cruel and I resent it like hell. It’s practically ruined my life even more. Thanks for the added stress, government. Thanks for practically bankrupting me. Appreciate it.

Well, I guess that’s about it for 2015. It was truly a horrible year. Probably worse than 2011, perhaps. I don’t know that 2016 will be any better, but I’m hoping it will be because we intend to aggressively pursue medical treatments for my back and head and solutions and ways to diminish and end my pain. I don’t know if that’s possible or reasonable, but dammit, we’ve got to try. My wife, meanwhile, has her good job, although without insurance, and Obamacare just doubled her premium, so we can no longer afford it, so that’s just great. So she’s actually thinking about looking for a new job next year, which would mean leaving her nice, cushy job that’s so great otherwise. Pity. I hope anyone reading this has a pleasant New Year and a wonderful 2016. Cheers!

 

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Minor Surgery on Monday

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 18, 2015

I’m having a minor neurological surgical procedure Monday morning to hopefully relieve some Trigeminal Neuralgia-related head and facial pain I’ve been having. This will be at least my eighth such procedure since summer 2011. Some have worked and some haven’t. I had three last year and none of them worked at all, but one I had in 2012 worked for nearly a year. However, no matter how successful this is, I don’t think it will help my overall pain level that much and that is frustrating. Let me explain.

For the past year, I have been in a great deal of pain. I have had Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2 since September 2010, but it had improved with surgical procedures and medication. However, about a year or more ago, I started getting another type of head pain, a bizarre almost normal, but incredibly severe, headache that responded to virtually no pain medication whatsoever and attacked me at all hours of the day. Since I have severe insomnia and average about three hours of sleep a night, this meant I have been having 9-10 out of 10 pain levels 20-21 hours a day every day for a year or more. Combine that with the occasional and increasingly frequent TN facial attacks, which are 10/10 minimum, and it’s agonizing. To make matters worse, about 10 months ago, out of the blue, I developed agonizing back pain. It was also 9-10 out of 10 pain, daily, for nearly the whole day. I’ve had some back problems for the past three years, but they haven’t bothered me a great deal, at least not without some movement, and this was just from sitting or standing or doing nothing at all. It was bizarre. Nothing helped. So between the two to three types of pain — head, facial, and back, all 9-10 out of 10 — it’s been a damned brutal year. I went to my orthopaedist some time back and she took x-rays and looked again at my old MRI and sent me to physical therapy. I also went to a rheumatologist I had to wait seven months for an appointment for. She did extensive testing and took more x-rays and between the two of them, they informed me that I have spinal stenosis, which I knew, degenerative disk disease, which I also knew, massive amounts of osteo-arthritis throughout my entire body, and a broken tailbone, which explained the coccyx problems I had been having awhile ago. I was told I would need to have my tailbone removed via surgery, although three of my other doctors have strongly recommended I not do this, that I’ll probably have to have two hip replacement surgeries in the not too distant future and there’s also a decent chance I may have to have spinal fusion surgery. Great. After four months of physical therapy with virtually no progress and pain still at 9/10 out of 10, my doctor sent me back for four more months, which is where I’m at now. If PT doesn’t end up significantly reducing my pain, it’ll probably be surgery and I really am not looking forward to that.

Meanwhile, back to my head pain. I have been to several doctors, including my main doctor, my pain management specialist, a neurosurgeon, and a few neurologists in different cities and I have four head pain diagnoses. In addition to TN, these include tension headaches, severe migraine headaches, and cluster headaches. For those of you who don’t know, Trigeminal Neuralgia is extremely rare and extremely painful. I believe only about 40,000 Americans have it and only about 10,000 have Type 2, which I have. It’s hard to diagnose and harder to treat. It’s also considered by many to be the most painful disorder known to mankind. Look it up. The last time I looked at Wikipedia, it referred to it as “the suicide disease.” Likewise, the cluster headache is ALSO considered by many to be the most painful disorder known to mankind. I guess it depends on what your resource is. But look it up. So I’m essentially doubly cursed and basically screwed. And the thing is, I don’t think that’s all of it. I think there’s more that they’re missing. I know there are a number of rare neurological head pain disorders, many TN-related, which go undiagnosed, that could more realistically explain my head pain. Cause I’m possibly willing to believe cluster headaches and I know I have tension headaches, but I’m not willing to believe severe migraines are causing the kind of 21 hour a day daily head pain I’ve been having for a year, as the head pain isn’t consistent with typical migraine characteristics and responds to absolutely no migraine medications I’ve been given. None. So I think it’s something else. But my doctors are reluctant to go that route. One former neurologist thought I might have something called Pseudotumor Ceribri and I had to have a spinal tap to test it. I was very, very close but he decided I did not. My present, local neurologist is giving me Botox injection treatments, which is common and expensive, and next month may give me facial steroid injection treatments, but after that and one more Botox treatment, if I don’t respond, he too may send me for a lumbar puncture to see if it’s that. I don’t want that but am willing to undergo that again just to see.

In the meantime, on Monday I have to go back into the operating room. It won’t take long, maybe 45 minutes. A few hours in recovery. Outpatient, home by mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, my wife has to take a lot of time off from work since I obviously can’t drive myself due to the anesthesia. And it always takes a long time for it to wear off for me. Like a week. I will drag all week. That sucks. But hopefully it will help some, because lately I’ve had quite a few vicious TN attacks and that’s got to stop. Cause I’ve got to focus on getting rid of all of this other shit. Please wish me luck. I definitely need it.

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Thanksgiving Maryland Trip

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 1, 2015

This is my 600th blog post on WordPress. Yay!

My wife is from Maryland and her parents, grown sons, and many friends still live there and she rarely gets up there to visit, so we went up last week for Thanksgiving. She had been looking forward to it for a long time. It was an 11 hour drive and we had to stop many times. It was grueling and tiring. As you know, I’ve long been suffering from severe head and back pain, so that made this trip difficult for me. Nonetheless, we got up there before 4 PM on Tuesday and met her parents for dinner. It was nice to see them and they were shocked to see how different we look from when we last saw them. Gretchen has lost about 35 pounds and I’ve lost over 70 pounds. After dinner, we went back to our hotel room and basically passed out. It had been a long day.

Wednesday we got up and had our own low carb breakfasts we brought with us. We then went to MarylandLive! Casino. Gretchen had never been to a casino before, had never gambled, which was bizarre to me, so she was excited. When I lived out west, I went to Vegas some two, three, or four times a year for many years. I usually stayed at the old Frontier, but stayed at other hotel/casinos too and gambled at most of them. I loved it! I had a good time and was a good enough blackjack player to usually be able to play for a long time and maybe make a little money. I’ve gambled in a few other casinos too, but Vegas is my favorite place. But I had not been in a long time. So I was rusty. The place was fairly big. Not very many tables, but a million slot machines. We decided to start off with that and break her in gently. And she did well! Won some money. Slots have never been kind to me; I’m a blackjack player. After awhile we walked around looking at the tables. Not many cheap tables. They had two $10 tables. That was it. Everything else was $15, $25, and $50 minimum tables. That ticked me off. I don’t have that kind of money to lose! At the Frontier in Vegas, where I used to stay, they had $1 and $3 tables. They were very popular. The other casinos had $5 tables. Caesar’s Palace had $10 tables. I realize that was a long time ago, but it gets worse. We went to eat lunch. We paid with the money Gretchen had made from slots. When we came back out, the $10 tables were gone and there were now only two crowded $15 tables. Everything else had been turned into a $25 table! Assholes! While Gretchen played quarter slots and won $40, I wandered around all the tables looking for an empty chair anywhere for a half hour. Finally, as I was about to give up, a seat at one of the $25 tables opened up and I jumped in! Then I found out why it opened up. The dealer was killing everybody. I got a 12 on my first hand and the dealer got a blackjack. Should have walked away then. I’m a fairly decent blackjack player. I’ve won some decent money at it and have been able to stay in games for many hours. The dealer demolished me on four straight hands. And everyone else. I hated her. She owned us. I finally won a hand. Someone else left and I quickly urged Gretchen to jump in cause she’s never played and I didn’t want her to leave a casino without having tried blackjack. So we both lost the next round. Then we each won a round. Then they changed dealers and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. But the new one was just about as bad. Won some, lost some. Finally we decided to leave while we still had something to leave with. When we cashed out our chips and slots credits, we ended up actually walking out of there with a little more money than we entered with, thanks to Gretchen’s great slots winnings. Seriously, that was the worst blackjack I’ve ever played! And aside from one time playing at a $100 table in Vegas, I’ve never played at such an expensive minimum table. Oh, and there were hardly any roulette and craps tables. That was really weird. Nonetheless, we left in the black and had a good time.

Later in the day, we met her friend Cindy and Cindy’s daughter Rachel and went to Captain Dan’s restaurant for some authentic Maryland crabs. Now, I don’t eat crabs. But Gretchen does. And like most Marylanders, she’s a crab snob. No crab outside of Maryland is worth a damn. So when we’ve gone elsewhere, the crabs have sucked. So she was really looking forward to this. The restaurant was pretty small and not very attractive, but you’re there to eat, so who cares, right? Rachel got a salad while I got a BBQ sandwich. Since I live in Tennessee, I know my BBQ, and this wasn’t very good. Nor was it very much. And it came with fries, but since I’m on a diet, I only ate three or four and was left hungry. Meanwhile, Cindy and Gretchen got crab pretzels and then got 12 crabs and went for it with gusto. God, it was messy! And when they brought the bill, I was stunned. Stunned. I never knew crabs cost so much. Especially since two of four of us just got $10 orders. That dinner cost a HELL of a lot! And the service was absolutely terrible. But Gretchen was very happy with her meal, so that’s what counted and she left happy.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We started the day by going to her parents’ house to hang out for awhile. We had fun with them and then went driving around. She took me to the town she used to work in, which was a beautiful waterfront town, and we went to other places as well. Maryland is a really nice state. Finally, we went over to the townhouse her sons share. Her oldest son cooked and we four sat around enjoying a good, healthy meal (he had lost 60 pounds on a similar diet) while talking about all sorts of things. Then it was late and we had to get back to the hotel, so that was sad.

Friday we spent with her parents. They took us to the Eastern Shore across the terrifying five mile long Bay Bridge which I’ve heard about so many years. It actually didn’t bother me too much. At all. We met some friends at a Maritime Museum and saw what we could in the time we could and then we all went to lunch in this delightful small town. We had a really nice time, although parking was at a premium. Afterwards, we drove around some more and hit some more pretty towns. In one town, we went into an antique shop and I found the copy of Mao’s book on guerrilla warfare I just reviewed a few hours ago. It was pricey, but it was a valuable find and I was excited. As it was now nighttime, we went back over the Bay Bridge, which again wasn’t too bad, and went back to a restaurant near the hotel where we shared our last meal together and said goodbye. It was a little sad.

Saturday, we both got calls at 5:10 AM from our home alarm company telling us our living room motion detector alarm had gone off. We tried not to freak out, but they called the police and we waited. And heard nothing. We called the company back and they said they were waiting to hear from the police. Finally, after about 35 minutes, I called the police and talked to them. They said they found no signs of forced entry anywhere and no broken glass, no signs of disturbance anywhere and they had left and were now writing up their report. So that was good. But what set it off? And why? Frankly, we moved to that house last year in part because our old house was broken into and robbed two years ago and we didn’t feel safe, among other things. Our two cats could have been active, but the alarm company had assured me it would take something far heavier and bigger than cats to set that alarm off, so what was it? Were the police wrong? I texted three pet sitters we had working for us, far too early. I explained the situation and asked if someone could go over there early to check things out and make sure the cats were okay. Two of them did and reported things seemed fine. But by that time, we were underway, rushing to get home. And rush we did. We got home in about nine and a half hours, which was a record, and were damn glad to see the cats and house were okay. I still have no idea what set that alarm off, but I’m going to call the company today and talk to them about it.

So that was our Thanksgiving. It was tiring, but pretty good. I didn’t get too much head pain, thank God, not as much as usual, but I had a decent amount of pain and had to take pain medication, which tired me out. But that’s the norm. It’s good to be home and back to normal, but it was also good to get away and I know it was good for Gretchen to see everyone. Hopefully it won’t be so long before we can get back next time.

 

 

 


  
  
  

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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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Been Sick

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 30, 2015

Man, I’ve been sick for several days now. Not violently ill or anything. Just sick. As in a bad cold. Or bad allergies. Or something. For awhile now, I’ve been getting sore throats and earaches. I made an appointment to see my doctor, but they couldn’t fit me in for two freakin’ weeks, so I’ve been waiting to see them. Meanwhile, on Friday I got much worse. My throat started feeling incredibly sore, very, very sore. My ears hurt. My head started pounding. I started sneezing. And I was both congested and blowing my nose, violently, if you can believe that. Over and over again. I was wearing the Kleenex out. I talked to a different doctor who thought it might be allergies, although I don’t think that’s what it is. I’ve never had allergic reactions like this to anything. Anyway, she suggested I start taking Allegra and Mucinex, so I did. Gretchen also put me on some natural stuff. I also took Advil and vitamins. And Ricola for the throat. I couldn’t sleep. I had to blow my nose every 10 minutes, so I literally couldn’t sleep. Friday night, I got about an hour and Saturday night, again about an hour. I was up by 1 each morning. I was miserable. I tried taking naps during the day, but had the same problem. Last night, I was able to sleep a little, until 2. I’m feeling some better. My earache is gone. My throat has improved. My head still hurts and my nose is sore as hell and is still bothering me like crazy, but even it’s improved some, so I think I’m through the worst of it. However, I may have given it to my wife and that’s a disturbing thought. She started feeling poorly yesterday. I truly hope she doesn’t come down with this. Meanwhile, our two year marital anniversary is coming up in a week, so that’s exciting! We both better be healthy for that, darn it! I guess that’s it for now.

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