Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoughts on Change, Politics, and Other Controversial Topics

Based on a Facebook conversation regarding this article, I want to share some of my thoughts on change and this country, and people's impressions on change and our country's future.

If you want a quick synopsis of the article, it is written by a former West Point graduate complaining about the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and what a shame it is that cadets are now allowed to be openly gay, and how West Point represents society, and basically America is falling apart because West Pointers are allowed to be openly gay.  When I first started reading the article it was so ridiculous that I thought it was satire until I got further into the article and realized this guy was serious.  Maybe I wouldn't have taken so much offense to it, except he also made a statement along the lines of "first women, and now this!"  I'm sorry, I didn't know that having women and gays at West Point was an indication of the eventual downfall of America. I didn't know that the only people who are good enough to represent American values were straight, white males.

This also sparked some other thoughts.  I am tired of hearing political parties complain about how the other party is going to destroy our great country (okay, I guess that is more the conservatives against the liberals).  Our country is still fairly new in the grand scheme of things.  Things have been changing since our country was established.  Actually, our country wouldn't even EXIST as we know it if the country's original founders didn't WANT change, so in short, our country was founded on change.  How can people expect that things won't change if that is what our country was founded on?  If nothing ever changed then several of these people complaining about it would probably still be peasants working on a farm somewhere under some land lord.  If nothing ever changed, everything would still be based on the class system, and if you weren't born rich, well then sorry... You were going to be eternally stuck in your position with some oppressive monarchy stopping you from moving ahead in life.  Hm... but I guess in THAT case, change was good.  Right?  Or, there's the whole issue of slavery.  Yeah, there were definitely some people who were against getting rid of THAT too.  Or how about when domestic violence was okay and legal because it was up to the family to deal with it because the man was the head of the house?  I realize I'm making some rather sweeping generalizations, but with every change, there have ALWAYS been people who have rejected the change.  I wish people would keep that in mind when they make generalizations about how our great country is falling apart with every new change that comes about.  Our country is new, was founded on change, and will probably continue to change, and that doesn't necessarily mean that it's coming to its demise.

I can see some merit in some of the arguments... I am a Christian - not a perfect one, but I am religious - and there are some things I see that do bother me, but that doesn't mean that I want everything to be the way it was back in the 1800s just because people were more religious back then.  I suppose I'm sort of a rare breed because I'm a Christian in the military, but I'm also fairly liberal in some areas, perhaps because of my own background.  I do not think that everyone who uses welfare is a drug addict or lazy.  I also don't think that having universal health care is a bad idea.  I know, I know, I'm against everything that most people in the military think is the right way.

I know from first hand experience that sometimes welfare is necessary for short periods of time.  Sometimes things happen that are out of someone's control.  It could be anything from leaving an abusive husband to serious health problems that have temporarily left you unable to work, and until you know someone, you can't really judge their situation.  Sure there are people who abuse the system, but the majority would rather feel that they are actually doing something productive for society.

Many, many people I know are very against universal health care.  To be honest, I don't know all of the details of it just yet - though if it all sticks around, I'm sure I'll learn all about it in my master's program.  But I do know that I don't think it's such a bad idea - despite the many opinions that President Obama is trying to turn our country into a socialist state.  Here is a news flash: part of how we came out of the Great Depression was with public assistance programs.  Just become something has always been a certain way doesn't mean that it can't be made better.  Maybe I am slightly biased on this because of my own family health issues, but I don't think someone should be denied health care because of situations that are likely out of their own control.  Without getting into too much detail, I have seen how not having health insurance can be a downward spiral, and oftentimes the lack of health insurance is not a willful choice by the patient (ever tried getting health insurance when you're too sick to work enough hours to get employee benefits?)  Just some food for thought.

I can see myself veering toward a little more than I intended this blog post to be, so I'll stop while I'm ahead. This is just some food for thought.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Facebook. And then medication side effects.

Rather than posting this on Facebook (where I know not everyone wants to know!)  I'll post here.  That way I know anyone who is deliberately looking at my page is actually interested in my random thoughts, rather than my thoughts posting on someone's news feed.

First, I was thinking about how weird Facebook really is, though it is something with which we are all accustomed.  I started thinking about it because I was thinking how I have had my "relationship status" blank for... well, awhile.  I remember back a few years ago when if I was in a relationship and I didn't have a status there, it would bother me.  Now I don't really care, even though I've been with my current boyfriend for over a year, and even that is hard to define because there was no "asking out", it just sort of happened.  Everyone who is close to me knows, and that really is what counts.

  That got me thinking about other Facebook/social networking things.  For one, how strange it would be to grown up as a child with Facebook being so dominant.  Yes, it has taken a lot of my time, and I'm still in the age group that uses Facebook regularly at the age of 26, and I just finished my undergraduate degree a little over a year ago, so I guess that also plays into my Facebook usage, as college students were the original intended audience.  But, regardless of that, I didn't have Facebook when I was in high school.  I didn't have a cell phone until I was eighteen.  I was reading a piece about how high school students now have grown up with their "profiles" presenting to the world, and every little mistake/flaw/anything is broadcast to their peers.  I can't help but think how awful that would be at that age.  It's bad enough that if something is wrong with you everyone can SEE it, but now there's evidence posted to the internet that you can't really take away.  When I was in high school the internet was starting to get popular, but we still had dial-up, and AOL and Yahoo were the places to be.  I had a Yahoo profile and a little webpage on Angelfire with some recordings of me singing/playing my flute, along with a link to some of my poetry.  Oh, I also had a blog (!) where I wrote more about everything personal and intimate than anyone should really know.  I've learned to tame that down a bit as people I actually know read my blogs nowadays :)

Anyways, to get back to my original point, I am not a Facebook-hater.  I like Facebook.  I like being able to keep in touch and share pictures with the people that matter.  The ones I'm not as close to can of course choose to not look at my page and unsubscribe to my updates, so it's a win-win for everyone.  It probably keeps me in touch with some people that aren't as important to me, and I will say that I probably wouldn't call quite a few of my Facebook friends with big news, but the ones who really are important to me would still hear from me if they didn't have a Facebook account (though everyone I'm close to has one, so that makes life easier!)  I also don't mind if some of my friends post constant updates... I know some people complain and complain about how people post everything on their page.  It's their page.  Get over it.  Anyway!

Next on the plate is these crazy medicines I'm on right now!  (If you don't really care, you can stop reading now, haha).  I still sometimes feel as if I'd be better off without them... I feel as if sometimes the side effects are worse than the condition.  Granted, if I wasn't taking them, there's a good chance the seizures would be getting worse, as they were beginning to do before I was on medication.  Actually they still aren't completely under control, but I can't help but wonder if they would be worse without the medicine... Would I be having more actual convulsions???  I've only had that happen a couple of times, but the partial seizures were getting a lot worse, and since my seizures "generalize" (meaning they spread to other parts of the brain), it's very possible I could be having worse seizures, so maybe the medications are better.  I'm on a new medication now, Lamictal.  This is in addition to the Keppra.  I'm finally up to the dosage the neurologist wanted me to stop at, though I'm not sure if he's going to increase it at my next appointment.  So far the side effects have been better than the Keppra side effects, but I still feel weird.

I have been having crazy dreams lately, which is actually listed as a side effect of the medication.  They aren't as bad as they were, but a lot of them were rather depressing/violent.  Not really the way I want to spend my sleeping hours.... I've also had a terrible time waking up every morning.  Most nights I've been sleeping early (before ten), and yesterday I slept twelve hours.  This morning I woke up around nine and had to push myself to get out of bed.  I wanted to run this morning (I'm drinking coffee/water and trying to feel more normal right now, actually), so I got myself up.  I feel hungover.  I've been dizzy every single morning/half the day.  Like, when I laid down on the ground to do a stretch the other day, the ceiling was spinning.  I'm hoping my body adjusts to this dosage soon, but I'm afraid I'll be put on an even higher dose at my next appointment, so then my body will have to adjust to THAT.

So this is why I say the side effects seem worse than the actual condition... I'll describe the symptoms I USUALLY have.  I get mostly partial seizures, which means I don't drop to the floor and have convulsions most of the time.  They take place in one part of the brain, which usually causes some weird sensations.  Mine are in the left temporal lobe, so they affect my memory/speech quite a bit.  When I'm having a partial seizure I may have different symptoms.  Usually I'll have a sense of deja vu, and then my stomach feels like it is rising (like maybe if you're nervous).  Sometimes I'll feel like I'm remembering a dream, or I'm not HERE, and I'm watching myself in another spot, and it feels real.  Sometimes it's hard to distinguish whether something really happened and I'm remembering it, or I'm having a seizure.  Usually I'll get nauseous when this happens, which tells me it's a seizure.  Usually these only last a really short time, like 1-2 minutes, and then I won't even be able to remember exactly how I felt, and it seems like the seizure never happened.  I have started writing these experiences down while they're happening, which is how I'm able to recall them so well.    Sometimes they will be longer, in which case my speech will be kinda messed up, like I'll have issues finishing sentences/finding the right words (my mom can attest to this as I've been on the phone with her when it's happened).  During these longer ones I'll get dizzy/light headed.  Sometimes I'll smell something "weird" that isn't actually there.  I guess that's the "generalization," as these are the feelings I had before my bigger seizures (when I had convulsions and lost consciousness).  Most of the time it stops at the 1-2 minute mark, sometimes it spread, but it has only spread all the way a few times.

So, in reality, it's not that bad, except now I freak out when I feel these sensations because I know it's possible I could have a Tonic-Clonic seizure (tonic means you stiffen up, the clonic phase is the convulsion phase - these used to be known as grand mal seizures), and I DON'T want to have those.  I was able to ignore the partial seizures for a long time.  Well, maybe not IGNORE them, but I thought they were never going to lead to another Tonic-Clonic seizure again (the first time this happened was a couple of years ago). Hence this is why I feel that sometimes the side effects of the medications are worse than the actual condition.  Of course, this may not be entirely true.  The longer untreated epilepsy continues, the worse it gets.   Your brain gets used to misfiring.  Kind of like if several people walk across a specific spot in grass all the time, the grass gets worn away and it turns into a kind of path that gets easier and easier to cross.  It's the same thing with the neurons in the brain.  The more often they misfire, the easier it is for them to continue misfire because the "pathways" are more open.  And where my seizures take place, that affects things like memory and speech.  My memory has turned to crap.  I also have a hard time focusing/listening.  These are relatively new issues for me.  If someone gives me directions, I'll probably forget them as soon as I actually try to go that way.  And somehow I managed to make it through West Point, despite the fact that my memory was getting worse!    Part of the memory stuff is medication side effects and part of that is the fact that this has gone on for awhile.  At LEAST two years, though who knows if I was dealing with it before.  Like I said earlier, I'll usually forget how I felt shortly after, and it's only been since I've started paying attention that I could remember.

Anyway, that was a long explanation, I know.  For most of my readers, it probably isn't all that interesting.  I actually find it really interesting, but then again, that's because I'm dealing with it.  Oh, and I was a psychology major, so I find the brain really interesting, and always have :)  Honestly, I would love to study neuropsychology.   When they sent me to the neuropsychologist for my memory issues (they also suspected mild traumatic brain injury - TBI - since I hit my head pretty hard during my last convulsive seizure) I was asking all sorts of questions.  I told him that I actually wanted to pursue that later in life, so he was educating me.  It was pretty cool :)  I guess I'm lucky that I still have some of my intelligence.  He told me IQ doesn't change, but processing speed can change and slow down.  I guess that's why I learn better with reading than listening.  I also like to write things down as I'm reading.

Blah, I'm rambling.  I'm still a little dizzy, but I'm feeling semi-normal now, so I guess I'll go try to do that run that I was talking about before it gets too hot :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Running Update and Advice Needed!

I'm starting to think it is impossible for me to run without injuries.  But, I love running too much to give it up... It's my drug of choice.  Besides, it's really the only way I can get out - with being unable to drive and whatnot.  I guess if I'm going to do something that may or may not have negative consequences, I'll take running.  Besides, it's not that bad... I usually give it a rest before it gets REALLY bad (unlike back in my marathon team days when I didn't even know what a chronic injury was because I never had one, so I just COMPLETELY ignored it and kept running six days a week).  Anyway, I did a long run on Saturday (did I all ready post about that?) and a recovery run/walk on Sunday that was like 3.1 miles, then I took Monday off.  I decided I was going to run fast'ish on Tuesday.  BAM.  Extra knee pain, despite the fact that I've been good about my physical therapy exercises/stretches and have awesome prescription strength anti inflammatory creams and whatnot (that ARE helping, by the way).  I think I've figured out that running fast is the worst for my knee, and I can't really figure out why... Maybe because I lift my legs higher when I run faster?  I don't know.  But I've noticed my knee always hurts the worst not after long runs, but after races or workouts where I'm running fast (last time it sparked was after a 5K run where I actually set a personal best, ah!)  So maybe I should cut out all speed work?  But it's so hard!  I LIKE running fast sometimes, just like I LIKE racing!  But maybe I should just work on distance ONLY while I train for my marathon.  I may see more improvements in my marathon speed if I can just CONSISTENTLY train and build mileage rather than running speedy sometimes then having to stop again for days at a time.  It's not even muscle soreness stopping me (I rarely get muscle soreness anymore, just IT band pain).  Though I do still need to run a two-mile for the Army Physical Fitness Test, and that DOES require some speed.  Also I'll be running a leg for a "triathlon" we're doing here (it will only be 1.5 miles).

 It's not my shoes, because it doesn't matter what shoes I wear... When I first got this injury, I was wearing bulky shoes.  Now I wear minimal shoes, and I still got this injury.  I have like six pairs of running shoes, actually, and it really makes zero difference in my IT band pain.  I'm fairly light too - under 110 pounds - so my weight has nothing to do with anything either.  Not running at all is just a band aid.  I can stop, and it feels better, but then it springs back up.

 Anyway, what do all of you runners think I should do about this nagging, irritating injury?  Anything I did not yet mention?  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Good and Bad News Updates

Just an update for my followers.  I have some good and bad (well, depending on how you look at it) news.  

I guess I'll cover the good news first.  I got to spend a fantastic weekend with the boyfriend up north in Montreal.  What an awesome city!  It reminded me a lot of Portland with all the coffee shops and whatnot.  And there were people protesting naked outside our hotel.  That reminded me of Portland because Portland hosts an annual Naked Bikeride.  Ah Portland, how I miss thee in all your weird randomness.  

Second good piece of news is I've been back to running again.  I took a week off which helped with some of my issues, though the knee still has tightness.  I got some weird patches (iontophoresis) with a corticosteroid for my knee to act as an anti inflammatory.  The patches basically push the medication into my skin in a way similar to an injection, except there's no needle, so no tissue damage.  Plus I can do it on my own at home a few times a week.  They seem to be helping along with the break I took, which is also helping with my performance (I feel a lot better than I did).  Went for a nice seven mile trail run in Montreal on Mont Royale, which ALSO reminded me a lot of Portland.  It was a lot like Forest Park for those of you familiar with the area.  I just realized recently that the half marathon I signed up for prior to my full is in less than three weeks.  I didn't realize it was so soon!  That means I need to try to get a longer run in prior to the race!  I have decided, however, that if my knee is giving me trouble then I will forego the half marathon... Right now the goal is the marathon, and I need to keep myself as injury-free as possible for that.  And races are always what do me in injury-wise.  I'd rather get more hurt running the marathon that I'm raising money for rather than get hurt in an intermediate race, ya know :)  Actually I'd rather not get hurt at all, but beggars can't be choosers (I don't know if that really applies here, but who knows).  

Now for the bad news.  I may be getting medically boarded for my epilepsy, since I have an actual diagnosis rather than random seizures... Now, they may decide that I can stay in, but it's a matter of a few things.  First they need to look at how well my seizures are controlled, would I be in danger if I was stuck somewhere in combat and didn't have access to medication, and if the Army really needs me or not.  My job isn't particularly dangerous, but I guess I could still get caught in a dangerous situation.  Fortunately I may get to transfer closer to home in the Northwest while they go through this whole process, which would be awesome because the process is nine months to a year.   I am pretty alone up here, and frankly it kind of sucks.  The few people I do know who I can hangout with actually have work and whatnot, and I don't like having to ask for rides constantly, as I still cannot drive.  At least where I might be going I would be close to family, and there is public transportation.  I wouldn't be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no support system.  I have the internet, but it isn't quite the same as having people nearby.  If I do move, I'll probably need to fly here for the marathon, which is a bit of a bummer, but I wouldn't be the first person to fly for a marathon :)  

Speaking of the marathon  - I'm sure everyone is getting tired of hearing about it, but I really need some more sponsors!  I'm up to 35% of my goal (350 dollars), and I need $1,000.  If you can get the word out to others or sponsor with just a little bit, I'd really appreciate it!  I still have a few months to go, so I'm not TOO worried just yet, but I'd like to get some more sponsors :)  If you can/are willing to help sponsor me, the link is here:

Alas, today is my off-day and I'm not sure what to do with myself, so I think I may read a book.  Everyone have a wonderful day!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Insomniac Thoughts: First marathon, Sleep, and Other Random Ramblings.

I have no real purpose behind this entry.... Other than it's 5:30 in the morning and I've been up for two hours and I can't think of anything else to do right now!  Might as well post an update.   Don't mind my rambling as I only got about three hours of sleep last night (this morning? I don't think I fell asleep til after midnight anyway...) :)

First thing to mention is my running, as it is what is most upsetting to me at the moment.

First, before I go into injury detail, if all else fails, this next marathon will not be my first, and I started training early, so I have no doubts I can finish it.  And it's for charity, so dang it, I'm going to finish it!   Plus, what circumstances can be worse than my last marathon?  I mean, I was deployed in Afghanistan, was injured to the point of no running for two weeks prior to the race (I was hurting worse at the start of that race than I am now and the marathon isn't until November), it started at three a.m. and I had woken up at nine p.m. after trying to sleep at five p.m., so I was going on just four hours of sleep... My pre-race meal was SPICY RAMEN NOODLES for breakfast at like midnight (mmm, Shin cups that I ordered on!)  And then I had to stretch every half a mile for the last six miles because my IT Band was hurting.  Oh, and let's not forget that I was carrying my ballistic eye protection with me just in case we had any type of indirect fire during the race (it started in the dark, so I didn't want to wear my sunglasses until the sun came up).  There was also a plan to in place where the clock would stop until we got the all clear if we did get indirect fire... Some people think doing a marathon while deployed is pretty stupid. Yeah, maybe it was, but I think it was actually pretty hardcore - especially for a first marathon!

Now to get into the fun details (you can skip this if you don't feel like reading about my ever-present injuries).  I am currently taking a short hiatus.  By short I mean around a week... Maybe less, depending on how things are feeling. Maybe more if things aren't improving much. My last run was Thursday, and my last bike ride was on Friday.  I can deal with one injury, even two, but when three areas are feeling weird, I think it's time to give myself a recovery period.  I have my left knee, my right foot and now my left hip (though I think the hip/knee are related as the knee pain is all IT band related, and the hip pain seems to be in a similar area).  I figure I should be okay and not lose much fitness that I can't regain quickly if I give myself a break now instead of waiting until it gets REALLY bad.  Last year and the beginning of this year I had a couple of forced breaks and they didn't hurt my fitness at all.  Wisdom teeth removed last year, and then after two weeks off I was able to go do 14 miles the first weekend back and then a very hilly half marathon a week later without any issues.  I also had a crown lengthening surgery earlier this year (or was it late last year - dang my time is all messed up!) and I was up and running again quickly.  Actually, I felt better after both breaks, so I am trying very hard to be optimistic.  I also realized that I was able to maintain a relatively uninjured state during these periods where I had forced breaks... Maybe it's not such a bad idea to take a week or so just completely OFF in the midst of training?  You really don't lose fitness in a week.  The problem is when you have to decrease miles for a long period of time due to injury and THEN end up taking a bunch of time off because you get fed up (this seemed to be where I was heading after last week of very little running and very little improvement, hence why I'm resting now).  Of course it's tricky because sometimes too much rest tends to make things worse... *sigh*  Maybe this is why I am not sleeping well.  Not enough exercise!  Actually, this isn't true, as I wasn't sleeping well before either.

So this brings me to my next topic of sleep.  Ah, sleep.  Ever so elusive, unless it's the middle of the day.  This is quite frustrating for me because prior to everything that has happened in the past few months, I was a morning person (pending coffee, of course).  I PREFER to spend my waking hours in the day light, where I am being productive, and running, and riding my bike, and of course drinking coffee (though I've cut way back on that).  Unfortunately, my body has said "no!"  I can't figure it out.  I am only thinking it may be my medications... What I really want to do is just flush all of them down the toilet and feel normal again.  One causes bad moods/depression, so I get pills for that, and another causes insomnia, so I get another for sleep, which causes dry mouth and headaches, so I get another for headaches... It's like an endless cycle.  I'll admit, I'm not taking all of them all the time... It's too much.  I'm taking the ones I NEED (the ones that will stop my seizures), but not so much the ones I don't need.  I haven't much wanted to take the one I got for sleep as it doesn't seem to be working that great anyways until after midnight, and then I just want to sleep all day the next day.  And the vicious cycle continues!  I know this is very normal for some people, but anyone who knows me well knows that I am not the type to sleep all day!  I am usually in bed by ten, haha.  I'm the type who will be awake by seven on weekends... Yeah, no longer.  Last night I decided to forego the sleep meds because I didn't want to sleep all day today, and I felt sleepy... could not fall asleep and woke up several times.  I finally looked at my phone at four a.m. (I had been awake awhile at this point), said I would give myself til five to try to fall back asleep for another hour or so, and that failed.  So here I am!

 I really need to get on a regular schedule again and have a job position.  I think that will help.  I can't wait to start my Master's program... I need a sense of purpose.  I've actually been reading the Feminine Mystique (yay for feminist books!)  I'll save my deep insights on that for another post because I could go on forever, but to say the least I've gotten from it that without a real sense of purpose, life just kind of sucks (in laymen's terminology).  I also have an interview with the DCA (I don't know what that stands for, but I'm guessing something like Director of Clinical Administration???) today to start interning at the clinic on post, seeing as my Masters will be in Health Administration.  This is assuming I get A's in my first two courses.  Yeah, I discovered that despite my acceptance into the program, it was conditional, I have to get A's on my first two classes.  I guess it makes sense as the minimum GPA was a 3.0 and I didn't have a 3.0... I was closer to a 2.9.  And I really have no health care experience (another thing they were looking at) besides some time as the assistant S-1 as cadre for cadet basic training, and some administrative experience in the military... I am a little nervous.    Though I don't really doubt I can get A's.  Before West Point, A's were pretty easy for me in the other college classes I was taking.  Heck, even AT West Point when I wasn't taking 20 something credit hours, I did decent (Dean's list last two semesters, woohoo!)  I am only concerned with my ever-worsening memory.  Fortunately the program is more centered on projects and papers.  I am good at those.  Mostly because they don't require me to memorize terms.  And at the moment, what else do I have to focus on?  It will give me something to do besides research everything on the internet and write long blog posts that were supposed to be short...

Alas, it's now 6:25 a.m., and I am sitting here in my ACU pants and boots (Army Combat Uniform, for those of you unfamiliar with Army terminology), my shirt, and a Mickey Mouse bathrobe with coffee.  It's cold in here... I guess it's time for breakfast.  Hope everyone has a wonderful day.