Friday, December 1, 2017

Pet Peeves 1

Pet Peeve: People who who mock anti-depressants, who have never needed them, and have never educated themselves about the medications. I don't need them, but I know the chemistry and science behind them. I know that there are people who LACK the chemistry these medications provide. I know that that are a variety of medications, each for a variety of mental health issues. I know that 'mental health' is a blanket term that covers a BROAD range of cognitive, emotional, perceptual, and in some cases neurological issues (and more). I know there are some medications intended for short-term treatments (for example, to help someone become comfortable enough to open up about their issues and navigate positively through talk therapy), and some that are long-term or lifelong. I know they are over-prescribed, and the onus is on the patient to be aware of what their doctor is recommending for them, and to actually engage with their provider (something I've dealt with firsthand, as I do not feel like my fibro yet requires an SNRI like Cymbalta, despite repeated recommendations). I know that depression is among the most classically misunderstood conditions, and that it isn't a state of being perpetually sad as much as it's a state devoid of emotional and/or normative emotional responses. However, finding a state of Zen or somesuch isn't going to help someone who is chemically incapable of being calm. Finding true happiness isn't a matter of 'hard' or 'easy' to someone who lacks the chemical ability to discern between any emotions. Mocking the medications mocks those with mental health issues. As an idea of how misunderstood it may be: America has blatant acts of domestic terrorism branded as 'mental health issues.' This is evidence of how isolated, stigmatized, and misrepresented the issue is in our country alone: our media is reinforcing that everyone with a mental health problem is a NATIONAL SECURITY RISK. The populous at large is letting this happen, and in most cases, going along with the stigma. It's easy to say something is terrible - it's a real easy ego boost. But, it's a passing emotional high at the expense of isolating and stigmatizing a broader, obfuscated issue. The solution's simple, but it's harder: Don't do the easy thing. Don't be a dick and contribute to the stigma. Do something that challenges the cultural norm, and tell someone something nice today. Do a nice thing. Buy a coffee for a stranger. Maybe even just don't mock something or someone you don't understand. Whatever. Just, don't be a dick.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Death of Good Health

Let's talk highlights on the new healthcare 'proposal.'

-Guaranteed higher premiums due to a lack of program mandate.  This mandate, or requirement of all uninsured Americans to either have coverage, or pay a penalty, is what keeps the costs down for every American when they need access to coverage - REGARDLESS of whether your coverage comes from an employer, or privately.  All insurance companies pull their funding from a joint 'pool' of these payments.  Premiums are what you pay monthly to be a part of the program, the deductibles are combined with this, into the pool, to fund your healthcare.

Without this mandate, the healthiest will no longer have to put into the program, and in their health, they keep insurance companies afloat by contributing without drawing from the pool.  Meanwhile, those of average or less health create the largest draw.  To offset this large pull from the pool with a smaller number of insured Americans, premiums will rise, as will deductibles.

-This 'proposal' builds in tax revocations and sheltering programs allowing individuals that can afford to stow $10,000 or MORE at a time into a special medical savings program.  Subsequently, the money in this fund will be non-taxable.  Imagine making $30,000-$40,000 a year, and being able to withhold taxes on it, so long as it goes into a specific account.  Even only used for healthcare, the average American pays copays and deductibles out-of-pocket, post-tax, because the requirements of this program are so costly and limiting, that they're restricted to only the upper echelon of income-earners.

Along with this and removing the taxation on luxury non-medical procedures, on medical equipment, and quality-of-life diminishing products (such as squashing or entirely removing taxes on sodas, cigarettes, and tanning bed use), the only person that stands to lose is the American public.  With higher premiums, but cheaper access to publicly acknowledged health risks, this 'proposal' is further limiting access to reasonable healthcare services. 

-Further, with less going into taxes for these products and offerings, its estimated that a combination of households pulling down $200,000 or more stand to profit by as much as $346 BILLION over the next 10 years through health and luxury tax reductions.  That's to say, those that can invest into the medical system, its new tax-shelters, and the subsidies I'll discuss further, the top 3% of Americans will scrape away another 3-5% from their fiscal responsibility to the Federal government.

-Women's Reproductive care will become optional.  This is not a joke or hyperbole.  It will no longer be part of the minimum required offering for a woman to see her OB-GYN.  Maternity care will no longer be guaranteed.  Wellness care for things like ovarian cysts, endometriosis, fibroids, and pre- and post-menopausal treatments will ALL. BE. OPTIONAL.  Keeping in mind, as this coverage becomes optional, the pool to draw from funding for this will become smaller. This, in turn, makes the individual cost for the plan, deductibles, and any copays, increase.

-Meanwhile, no changes to the coverage of men's reproductive health.  Want your nards cut so you never have kids again, but can boink to your hearts content? - Covered.

Want your uterus removed because cancer? - that coverage is now optional by provider.

-Back to point.  Planned Parenthood - political bogeyman of the Republicans, who provide medical free or reduced-cost assistance to BOTH sexes, 98% of which has nothing to do with abortions - will be utterly defunded.  Period.  The last bastion of reasonable, recognizable, and accessible healthcare for my wife and nieces, sister and sister-in-laws: GONE.  There are no numbers here: they will be defunded, deflated, and inelegantly scraped off the bottom of a politicians shoe like canine feces, simply because this is an organization that morally offended them, despite the practical reality of its necessity.

In addition, private health insurance companies will be prevented from covering abortion costs.  Regardless of your position, this INCLUDES medically-necessary procedures, due to some fast-and-loose wording.

-The ACA's provision for essential health services and coverage will be provisioned out within the next three years (by 12/31/2019).  I - like so many Americans - appreciate that since Mental Health was determined an essential benefit, talking about mental issues is no longer performed in hushed tones behind closed doors.

Too damn bad, as it's on the top of the list to be phased out.  Additionally, pre-existing conditions that qualify for denial of coverage will be shuffled back in.  Chronic pain?  Autoimmune disorder?  Cancer?  Parkinsons?  Alzheimers?  Chrones?  Brain damage? - all grounds for rejection of coverage again.

-Subsidies will now be age-based, not income based. 

Look, I pay for my own healthcare, which means I have to use the marketplace. While I don't qualify for subsidies, I know that the use of subsidies keeps costs in the pool lower.  Shifting this access to a smaller portion of the public - a portion that, in most cases, already qualifies for the subsidy - increases the cost of entry AND use for EVERYONE.  Lower-income households (reporting $60,000 or less in taxable income)  will have fewer opportunities to ensure their children are healthy and insured.  Period.

Meanwhile, people like #45 and his cronies will be getting a 10-50% subsidy (maybe more). From the government. For their Healthcare.  While they are no longer working FOR the government.  Keeping in mind, they would currently already qualify for Medicaid.

-Speaking of, Medicaid is dead by 12/31/2019. Period.  Know any of your parents using Medicaid? Know how much they've used it?  Know how much they've needed it?

Well, it'll be gone. That's it. Nothing pretty or flowery to it: it's just done and gone.

And that's it.  This isn't a repeal-and-replace: this is outright annihilation.  This is a return to the the inadequate insurance practices of the 70s and 80s. 

This is not how you make a healthy, progressive, profitable nation of productive blue and white collar employees. 

This is how you legitimize a cull, clouded in the equally subversive name of profiteering.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Time and wounds

Time alone does not heal a wound. Time is needed simply to reconnect the damaged coverings and structures. The wound will still hurt. It will always hurt.
This can be said of breaking a leg, to losing a loved one, to the situation described here. Don’t assume because something’s not being discussed that everyone’s okay with it. There will come a day when someone says to you or your loved one that since they no longer talk about their deceased spouse that they’ve moved on right?
All that means is that no one is talking about it. And sometimes, not talking about it is easier for everyone ELSE, so the person suffering just stops engaging on the issue. It’s emotionally exhausting to keep saying the same things over and over, and moreso when people either don’t listen, or just disregard what you have to say. Loss, such as losing the trust of - or in - a loved one, or outright death, are very personal experiences, which make them incredibly difficult to discuss in a meaningful manner with other people. 

I don't have my usual optimistic 'feel good' twist for this post, save this: this is universal, you are not the only one to feel this way, and there is nothing wrong with feeling this way. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Great Grates

I have a short horizontal scar on the back of my right hand.  About a centimeter back from where it ends, I have another vertical scar.  Around the middle of my wrist, there's another vertical scar.  My right ring finger has a long gash, just above the second knuckle.  My thumb has a straight pucker of flesh above the largest, first knuckle.

The first scar was from a wire fence I slashed my hand on.  Can't remember when exactly.  My father was living in a park on the outskirts of some small village in the parts of New York that aren't referred to as "The City" or "North of The City."  I was taking the trash out one afternoon.  Caught my hand between the door and the latch as it snapped shut.  Couple of paper towels and super glue, and twelve-year-old me figured that was that.

The second scar I mentioned - along with my thumb - was from the kitchen.  I have too many scars like these to recall exactly at this point.  The first was a run in with the wrong side of a mandoline slicer.  The second, a brand-new knife took first blood.  I was unfamiliar with its weight and sharpness.  Stitched the gash it caused with some sewing twine and neosporin.  This - among other scars - is one of the primary reasons I prefer working with my own knives when cooking in someone else's kitchen.  From what I've learned in the past some-odd years, I am not alone in this.

My right ring finger was stitched back together after ice skating over it.  Couple of girls were flirting during a church social event at an ice skating rink, and I was largely oblivious.  They snuck up and startled me on the ice, I lost my balance, and in the flailing that ensued - somewhere prior to landing on my ass and after my pride was bruised for the wear - I didn't even realize part of the finger stopped... well... fing-ing.  Still attached by meat and skin, though.  Managed to hack it with my own ice skate.  Put it and my hand on ice, docs put it back where it mostly fits, and here we are.

The scar around my wrist eludes me, though.  It could be from when I wrapped my body around a broad tree with coarse bark while delivering newspapers in my youth.  The roads were icy, there was a car coming on, it was caught in a slide on the ice, and I was going downhill on a bicycle roughly pointed at it.  I swerved to miss the vehicle, and folded like a limp noodle around that woody bastard.  I know of the scars on my shoulder and elbow, where the impact tore through my snowsuit and flesh.  Spent a week hammering the rim in place in a sub-zero garage, after an afternoon of walking the route.  A journey that was normally 30 minutes now took an hour and a half, returning with a numb lisp and frozen tear ducts.

It could be from a giant attack rabbit at the shelter.  Trudy liked flesh, I have flesh: you see where this is going.  I'm sure someday I'll remember exactly. 

I don't believe that we remember things like the back of our hands, so much as memories are a lot like the back of a hand.  They're evenly laid out, easily observable, and on a moment-to-moment basis, they form who you are as a person.  Sure, there's depth to them, too.  There's the bone, muscle, and sinew that goes into forming you as a person.  That's a lot of stuff to have accessible in a split second, so, for the most part, "You" in most moments are just the skin on top.  And maybe some of the hairs.  And that weird mole you should probably talk to a doctor about.

Then there's hangnails.  Sometimes you remember a fragment of something, and it just sits there, at the edge of all memories, begging to be picked at and opened.  And you can't just sit there staring at it.  When you least suspect, it'll get snagged on another memory, itch and irritate its way to the forefront with annoyance over unfamiliarity, or swell up with an urgent inflammation that *this* is the only thing you should be thinking about.

So you pick at it.  And it hurts - good fucking christ does it hurt as you start peeling back that memory.  There's a bit of depth to it, it connects to other memories, you realize how deep it is - or at least, how deep it's going as you open it up.   There's blood - of course, why wouldn't there be? - and the next thing you know, you have a loose bit of flesh which started as barely a millimeter in length, now riding close to a centimeter or more away from the nail, bearing down on the knuckle.

And it hits you: this is why you didn't remember.  It hurts.  It's open, and it's bleeding, and it's sore, and it's just this small thing but all your body feels it.  The very foundation of how your hand works - how your memories work, how your personality is put together - is opened, and you see a sliver of the way your body maps out to be the person you are.  You know, which is great and all WHEN YOU AREN'T IN FUCKING HANGNAIL HELL.

But that's how it is.  We build a map of memories over the things that cause us to hurt and bleed.  We build a mask of flesh over it so we don't break down looking at the bloody stump we'd otherwise be, and we move on.  Until every now and then, something gets in our ear and it's that small sliver - that thing we put down deep - but we just want it to stop getting in the way of who we immediately are.  So, we rip, and it's everywhere, fresh as an apple from the tree.  Marring up the roadmap of who we are - albeit temporarily.

Now that’s established, part two.

I had this moment recently.  During a conversation where it was jokingly brought up about choosing to not be a domestic abuser, it just didn't sit right with me.  I joked about it during the moment, didn't get all weird, and it didn't get to me until later in the evening.  I was trying to figure out *why* it was still getting to me.  On a rolling basis, I can recall bits of the time my stepfather lived with us - the big things, mostly.  Being grounded to my room for entire summers, being a prisoner in our own house other times, loose recollections of the physical and emotional abuse, the domino effect this had throughout the home, and so on.  It's a thing I don't put focus on often.  Everyone has their own shit, and it's all - give or take - terribly relative, and relatively terrible.

So here I was a half hour shy of midnight focusing on a thing I hadn't done spelunking through since I was - I don't know, 17? - 18?  And just like then, I just fuzzed out.  My mind just got wrapped up in the vivid memories of screaming in the middle of most nights.  It would come as waves, once around 10 or so, and again four or five hours later.  There was an air return in the floor of my bedroom.  I would gingerly take off the grate and stuff it with plush animals, pillows, blankets, clothes - whatever would muffle the noise.  I'd repeat this with the register in the wall. I'd rather not have heat on a winter's night, or air condition on a balmy summer's eve than listen.  And there'd be thumping, and more screaming.  And a slam, and more.

The thing is, committing abuse isn't a choice.  It's not something a sane person would evaluate with a conscious, "should I"/"shouldn't I" decision.  This is not something to be evaluated, so much as something to simply never occur.  It's not like wondering if you should have the whole wheat or rye.  It's not a morality question regarding people and children on train tracks: there should never be a question or choice about physically, emotionally, sexually, or otherwise abusing children and spouses.

Abuse is about regimented, systemic control of another person or people.  In my time, the only conscious choice the abuser makes is in matters of "rational" limits.  Here, zero is not a value, unless it exerts control, such as providing zero meals to a person until they're amenable.  Or until they've apologized for something they never did in the first place.  Either/or. 

Citing from experience, the evaluation is more, "Did they wash the dishes the EXACT way I wanted them to, three times, over the course of two hours?"  If yes, the answer would be to rapidly slip a belt off and whip it across the back and buttocks region four times.  If not done as described, six.  If not, but fingers and knuckles were bleach-cracked, bleeding, no longer reasonably able to withstand the scalding hot water, three times. (As a reference, the answer was three).

Abuse of any kind is not rational.  By that means, when I ripped that small hangnail open - that small, insignificant sliver - that yeah, sure, I could have just left well enough alone - there's some question about that rationale.  But you know what? - that's part of the blood and bones beneath the memories that make me the person I am on a day to day basis.  I lived through abuse, physical and emotional.  There's many things I learned from it, but of most use was how it taught me how to recognize toxic people.  It took me three years just to be content with myself, all the while smiling like a mad bastard because that's what I thought was normal.  It took me another five to stand up for my own beliefs, and another seven after that to just be done with other people forcing theirs on me.

Abuse of any kind is not rational.  Joking about it is not rational, either.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thiel-ing around

You can now make PayPal payments through Facebook Messenger. So if you're wondering why Peter Thiel hasn't been shuttered from Facebook's board of directors, there's one answer for you.

The other is far more level headed, and provided by Zuckerberg himself. "We can't create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate," Zuckerberg continued. "There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault."

While he may not be wrong, Thiel is far more repugnant for his virulent efforts to purge nearly anything that paints him in a negative light, and bending public interests to his private agendas purely using his wealth. Of his political interests, I still believe they may be birds of a feather...

At what point does 'diversity' stop being to suffer the precious assholes, and start to include racists, sexists, xenophobes, sexual assaults?

Mark Zuckerberg breaks his silence on Peter Thiel - CNN Money 

Monday, October 3, 2016

FyBRO and Yes On 2

Heya Florida voters: this November, please vote Yes on #2. With a little over a month to go, help spread the word.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia three years ago. I'd been working to diagnose irregular pains - often as sharp as a broken finger, debilitating as a migraine (only one major one so far, thank christ), and at one point resulting in a misdiagnosis of cardiac arrhythmia - throughout my body for over a decade.

Honestly, the diagnosis was a godsend. All it meant was that my pain was real, but I wasn't damaged. I could - and continue to - work with that.

My brain's fine, save where I process pain. I wake up feeling like the average person who's going to bed after running a marathon; I go to bed feeling like I've run two marathons (three, this past Saturday, as I completed the Bubble Run 5k in 40:21). You build a tolerance to it, but it's still always a present and persistent pain, a deep soreness that radiates from the bones, through the muscles, and at worst, like the edge of a serrated knife dragged along the flesh. There's a loss of sleep, and with that, focus, fogginess, and discombobulation. Because there's less sleep, the body never heals, causing it to hurt. Because you hurt, you can't sleep.

You see the loop, here.

This is not without flare-ups - when the body reaches a point where all tactile input is dialed up to eleven. During these flares, something as simple as a brush with rabbit fur feels like being dragged along a sandy beach at forty miles an hour wherever you make contact. The soft touch of a lover feels like a sharp stab with a flathead screwdriver. As I learn to manage myself, these flares only occur 1-2 times a month. They don't keep me down for long, and they - as yet - have no impact my professional life. Still, from what I've researched and read, I can only imagine how much worse it can be for so, so very many.

'Yes On #2' would present an awesome treatment option for people living with fibromyalgia. The current treatments often involve combo drugs, taken at regular intervals, for pain and mobility management, with an enhancement if these conditions seem to be causing any emotional, mood, or mental disorders. These drugs become a lifelong solution, whether through addiction, or SSRI/SNRI reliance. To this point I've worked with my doctors to develop a sleep routine, identify diet restrictions, and create a physical activity and wellness regimen to manage my discomfort, all without the need for pharmaceuticals which may present or manifest psychological issues that do not exist.

Yes, I've tried cannabis as a treatment with the guidance of my rheumatologist, and yes: it alleviated symptoms during the heaviest parts of a flare. But the bureaucratic channels are thick and deep in Florida, restricting access to both physician and patient.

There are ways that marijuana is not the be-all, end-all treatment that the pop press makes it out to be. It should still be controlled and regulated, with access restricted to developing teenagers. But, the medical options it presents for further research and utilization is worth exploring.

That's why I'm voting yes on #2.

2016 throwaway header

I've been wanting to write about fibromyalgia for a long time now, but I want it to be a very deep and comprehensive piece; I keep NOT writing about it BECAUSE I want it be a very deep and comprehensive piece. So, let me start simply.

Hi. My name's Cletus, and I have mild brain damage.