Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I prefer to think of it as "vampire resistant"

I should be finishing (well, okay, starting) my reading assignments for tomorrow night's class, but Snowmageddon Part Infinity is supposed to hit tomorrow evening, so I'm kind of banking on class being cancelled. Anyway, I have important interesting honestly kinda gross things to talk about.

Yesterday was a momentous day for me, because it was the first weekday that my new health insurance was active. I have gone without insurance for almost a year and a half, and this meant that I was not able to get treatment I needed for my psoriatic arthritis. Luckily, in that time, I have not had a flare up other than some mild patches of psoriasis, but since this was in areas that were not visible when I'm clothed (arms and legs, people, get your minds out of the gutter), it was more annoying than anything. Today, I was able to get my doctor to call in my meds to tide me over until she had an appointment available. She also told me that I would need to go to her office or one of the affiliated hospitals to get bloodwork done this week. Since I was out anyway, and one of the hospital campuses is just a few blocks from my house, I decided to go today.

When I arrived at the registration desk, I considered the possibility that I'd made a mistake. It was close to 3 p.m., and I hadn't had anything to drink since I'd left my house at about 10:30 that morning, and I know even mild dehydration can make it more difficult to get blood drawn. There was a time in my life when that would not have been an issue, because getting blood from my veins used to be an easy task. I have had so many health issues over the years that I got used to being used as a pincushion, and needles are not a big deal for me. It's still not a big deal, but sometime in the last six or seven years, my body decided to rebel against any attempts to have its blood removed. It seems to be a misguided attempt on the part of my circulatory system to protect me from the loss of a couple teaspoons of blood, and I have to wonder if it's related to my immune system's misguided attempts to protect me from the dangers of my own connective tissue.

Still, unlike my immune system, which is pretty much just an asshole, I would like to think that this particular bodily idiosyncrasy would serve me well in case of a vampire attack.

I know that it's nearly impossible for any phlebotomist to find a vein in me, so I have taken to warning them when I sit down in the blood-drawing chair. This yields one of two reactions: either a curt nod followed by a determined jab with a regular needle, or a hesitant contemplation of the regular needle before pulling out a butterfly needle.

In either case, it is extremely rare that the phlebotomist will hit a vein on the first try.

Yesterday, it was the butterfly needle. It took two phlebotomists to determine that they had, in fact, found a vein in my left arm before they stuck me, but despite all their tapping on the vein, no blood came out. This was inevitably followed by jiggling the needle around in my arm while tapping on the vein. Both phlebotomists were puzzled by the fact that they weren't getting any blood from a vein that they were sure was there. I alternated between watching the jiggling (because, though I have no fear of needles per se, I do have a slight irrational fear that a needle will break off in my vein and travel through my circulatory system to my heart and kill me) and looking away (because, frankly, watching a needle jiggling under your skin is gross). It only took a couple minutes for them to give up on that vein, and then the first phlebotomist decided to try for a vein in my hand. She told me she hated to do that, and usually only did as a last resort, but I didn't mind if it meant that she would get the blood she needed and I would be done. The needle still required a little jiggling, but this time she did hit a vein and filled up the first vial with no problems. More jiggling was required for the second vial, and she only managed to fill it halfway before the vein collapsed. (This happens to me so frequently that you would think I'm an IV drug user. I'm totally not.) After some more jiggling, she decided she had enough blood in the second vial and pulled the needle out and said I was done.

I always feel bad for the phlebotomists when this happens, because it's happened enough that I'm well aware that it's not them, it's me. Still, many of them seem to think that I'm judging them and that I don't think they know how to do their jobs. The poor girl who drew my blood yesterday must have apologized at least 10 times, and reassured me repeatedly that she did know what she was doing. Honestly, I was impressed that it only took her two attempts to hit a vein, because I've had to have as many as five attempts before. I reassured her in turn that I believed she knew what she was doing, and this happened with anyone who tried to draw my blood. And I told her that I hoped that I had given her her challenge for the day and it would be easy sailing from there on out. She thanked me and sent me on my way.

I walked back out into the waiting area thinking that the experience I'd just had was going to be the most eventful portion of my day.

I was wrong.

I have written about the joys of my neighborhood before. I don't think, however, that I have written much (if anything) about my current next door neighbor.

In some ways, he is an improvement over the tenants in that house who came before him. For starters, no one has attempted to break into my house since he's lived there (knock on wood), and he's never been fighting out in the street at 2 a.m. On the other hand, I have vague suspicions that he might be operating a meth lab.

He's also just kind of mildly weird and creepy in ways that I can't quite describe, and he drives the one of the biggest, ugliest, tackiest trucks that I've ever seen, which he is incapable of parking properly (have I mentioned that my "street" is essentially a glorified shared driveway for the six houses on it, and it is extremely narrow and difficult to get into and out of, especially if someone has parked like an asshole?), and he frequently parks it in front of my house, which bugs the hell out of me. He is greasy and unkempt in a way that makes me want to take a shower if I have been within ten feet of him. He is probably mostly harmless, but I would still prefer to interact with him as little as possible.

The worst thing about him, though, is that no matter what he is wearing, his butt crack is always showing. And he spends so much time working on his junk heap of a truck that I have grown wary of ever looking out my windows. However, if I want to go places outside of my house, this means that I am unfortunately unable to avoid seeing his butt crack on a relatively frequent basis.

And yesterday, as I was walking back into the waiting room at the hospital lab, thinking about how well my body's refusal to part with blood would protect me from vampires, I glanced in the direction of the person standing at the sign in desk, and thought, "That butt crack looks familiar."

And then I looked up and saw that it was, in fact, my neighbor standing at the desk.

You read that right, people.


Now, you'll have to excuse me so I can research whether my new insurance will cover electroconvulsive therapy, because it's clear to me now that I have to get those images out of my head somehow.


  1. Hi Natalie! This is May, from the comments on Sheila's blog. I've been reading over your blog posts and I figured your latest post was the one to leave my comment.

    I'm sorry to hear about your asshole immune system. Mine can be a bit of a bitch, though I haven't experienced the severity that you have. I also have PCOS, and (very mild *knock on wood*) psoriasis. A few years ago I began looking into artificial insemination (as I'm single and, like you, would chose a child over a husband), but I was interrupted by LIFE EVENTS and haven't pursued it since. The link you shared in an earlier post, about women with PCOS still having a chance at pregnancy after 35, was very helpful! I'll be 34 this year and had begun to worry I'd already run out of time. So thank you for that!

    1. Hi May! Sorry for the delay in approving your comment and responding. I was off in exam world - but I'm done now and have 5 whole weeks of freedom!

      Okay, I'm calling it right now - we HAVE to be related somehow ;-)

      Seriously, I have met SO MANY women with PCOS since I was diagnosed (back when it was practically unheard of - it wasn't until my mom found a magazine article about it and I went to the doctor demanding tests that I was diagnosed). I hate that there are so many of us struggling with it, but it is nice to have people who understand!

      I'm glad the link was helpful! A good friend of mine also has PCOS and is currently 10 weeks away from her due date with her first baby. She'll be 36 next month. She actually announced her pregnancy on my birthday, and it was the greatest gift she could have given me, because it gave me hope. It's not too late for us yet!

    2. No worries about the delay! Life outside the internet always takes priority! Glad to hear you are finished your exams. 5 weeks of freedom? What will you do with all that time!?

      "Okay, I'm calling it right now - we HAVE to be related somehow"

      LOL! We must be internet sisters. ;-)

      It really is nice to meet people who understand! I've met a few women with PCOS as well. One of my aunts has it (she is related to me by marriage). She had three children, but it was in her 20s and she underwent extensive fertility treatments. This was around 20 years ago, however.

      I had never heard of it before my diagnosis (didn't yet know about my aunt's diagnosis, just that she had problems conceiving). I was 18 and had never had a regular cycle. My family doctor just kept blaming it on puberty—that my cycles hadn't settled yet. It wasn't until I went over 6-7 months without a period that I was finally sent to a gynecologist. She diagnosed me, put me on the pill, and sent me on my way. It wasn't terribly helpful. I ended up researching it on my own.

      I'm so happy to hear about your friend!

      The psoriasis I've had since I was around 3 or 4. Mostly it was just on the back of my head, but I'd get the odd spot on my body or in my nails. In my case, I've started to notice that my diet may be affecting my flare ups. I had cut dairy out of my diet almost entirely for a few years, but it slowly crept back in. Over this time my psoriasis practically disappeared, then came back a bit worse (though still very mild)—on my elbows and face, where I never had it before. At first I chalked it up to age, but when I started to examine my diet again I realized I was eating a lot more dairy then I had been. I've cut it back out and my psoriasis has started to heal up. At this point it is too early to tell if it is just a coincidence, but I'm hopeful.

      (p.s. Please don't take this as me saying you have to cut out dairy or something! I don't think that just because something works for me, it will work for anyone else. My body is just weird and sensitive to stupid random crap, so I've become more aware of what I'm eating or wearing or washing with.)

    3. I'm hoping to get my house clean (which may take the entire 5 weeks - I've been slacking)! Other than that, I'm hoping to actually maybe read some books for fun instead of class, and have time to relax and hang out with friends. I'll probably end up re-watching the entirety of our favorite show, as well ;-)

      Have you gone to a reproductive endocrinologist? I was diagnosed in college, and the gyn at the university clinic argued with me when I brought in the magazine article and said I had every single one of the symptoms listed, because she said my hormone levels were within normal ranges. She only referred me to an RE because I basically threw a tantrum, and the RE diagnosed me on sight - no labwork - based solely on my hairline and body shape. (The RE I ended up going to after I moved back home was the one to explain to me that they said my hormone levels were normal because they were not at levels that would indicate, say, a tumor, but they were actually elevated and outside the normal range.) Gynecologists and GP's have gotten better with PCOS as it has become more recognized, I think, but my RE has been a valuable resource!

      I am pretty sure I had psoriasis for years without realizing it. My scalp was itchy and flaky for years, and I assumed it was just dandruff, but dandruff shampoos never seemed to make any difference. It did tend to improve when I was taking aldactone to block testosterone, though, so I really think there has to be some kind of interaction there with the psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis and the PCOS. Especially when you consider that psoriatic arthritis is the only form of autoimmune arthritis that is equally common in men and women - testosterone levels must play a part somehow.

      God, if I had to give up dairy, I might as well just give up eating! Lol. Pretty much everything I like has cheese in it. I have noticed that I need to use higher quality soap and lotion. I'm taking plaquenil for my arthritis at the moment because the med I was on before interacted with the med I take for colitis, and there is a risk of plaquenil making psoriasis worse, but so far, so good!

    4. Reading for fun is always a nice change. I remember when I finished University, I spent the 6 weeks just reading books for fun…even though I just finished a BA in English and had spent the past 4 years reading for boredom!

      I haven't done a SPN rewatch in ages. Recently I discovered a bunch of anime series online and have lost hours of my life them.

      I haven't "formally" seen an RE. When I was investigating the possibility of solo pregnancy I saw a fertility specialist, once. My city is lacking in medical specialists (it tends to be perceived as smaller and further north than in actually is, and doctors don't want to come here) and I had to travel out of town. It was a 4 hour drive (one way) to the closest clinics—close enough to do it in a day, far enough to be a pain in the butt. And it was the middle of winter…it was just bad timing for me and I never went back.

      When I think of how my psoriasis is, I can totally see someone having it for years and never knowing. I only know because the first flare ups were bad enough that my mom was worried (apparently she pulled out a very, very small chunk of my hair). I also can believe that there is an interaction with the PCOS. If nothing else, I'd bet the PCOS can put stress on the body which will worsen the psoriasis. Stupid hormones! *shakes fist*

      Giving up dairy hasn't been easy. Most of my favourite foods involve cheese or ice cream! I've found dairy substitutes for a lot of food items, but the cheese ones just aren't the same. Blech. I've also made things more difficult for myself by making an attempt at following a paleo diet. I've gained a bunch of weight in the past year and haven't found exercise made much of an impact. The only time I've lost weight in the past is when following a lower carb diet (plus exercise), but that hasn't been as effective lately (probably because I have a desk job now), so I figured I'd go full paleo. So far my delicate digestive system isn't enjoying the increased vegetable intake!

      I'm actually completely medication free at the moment. My first treatment was the pill. But I didn't like the way it made me feel. I lost a bunch of weight, went off all my meds, and was doing great for around a year. Then my periods stopped again, so I tried metformin. It worked great for a few years, but recently started making me feel sick. So I'm off everything again. So far I'm OK like this, but I need to get my weight back down to keep my blood pressure under control. (I complain about my weight all the time and I'm not even that overweight…my body just can't handle an extra 30 pounds. My body: 10, fine. 20, we're doing OK. 30? I quit.)

      Well, this is getting long! Now I know if I ever want to write a novel, I could get 3 volumes by complaining about my health!

    5. "Well, this is getting long! Now I know if I ever want to write a novel, I could get 3 volumes by complaining about my health!"

      Hahaha, that's pretty much what I've used this space for, so go for it! All bitching is welcome here!

      I guess I'm a little spoiled when it comes to doctor availability. There are, like, 5 different hospitals within 10 miles of my house (and that's not even counting the ones that have multiple campuses), one is even within walking distance. I see 3 different specialists and they're all about a 10-20 minute drive for me. I can't imagine having to go 4 hours for one doctor appointment!

      I am not currently taking anything to treat the PCOS, but I may have to go back on the pill briefly. A week-long course of steroids back in February just completely screwed up the pill-free cycle I had going. I can't tolerate metformin - my blood sugar drops too low and I get really bad headaches (which seems to be my body's go-to side effect to basically any medication I take besides steroids, which just make me hungry and sweaty and generally gross). It is next to impossible for me to lose weight (the one time I successfully lost a significant amount, I was eating about 700 calories a day and exercising daily on top of that - it probably would have been classified as anorexia if my weight hadn't plateaued at about 200 lbs and refused to go any lower), and I've gained a lot over the last couple years thanks to the months-long courses of steroids. Amazingly, my blood pressure still tends to run low and my blood sugar has remained normal - hopefully that won't change anytime in the near future. But I do need to figure out a sustainable way to take better care of myself :-/

      I have never watched any anime. Perhaps I will check some out when I manage to break my SPN habit. I don't see that happening anytime soon, though ;-)

    6. “All bitching is welcome here!”

      Hahaha! You may have just opened up a can of worms with that one! I’ve tried blogging in the past as a means of venting, but I’m prone to fits of self-loathing and I always end up deleting everything.

      I’m envious of your doctor availability! Though somehow with my luck, I imagine that even with that many doctors available to me, all I’d get is a lot of dismissive head pats (I’m short and am often told I look young…so I often feel like I’m being treated like an overly sensitive little girl).

      Metformin seemed to be causing my blood sugar to drop, as well. I was fine with it for a few years, then it just changed. It happened at the same time I gained all my weight back. I have real difficulty losing weight, too. When I managed to lose weight the first time, I was in my 20s (which probably helped) and I had to completely change my diet. I’m a big carb lover—rice, pasta—and I lost weight quickly just going low carb. But that is difficult to maintain. Loosening my diet restrictions (only a little) and starting a desk job caused me to put a bit back on, but some sort of hormone shift caused a rapid gain in the past year. I’ve now regained all the weight I previously lost. Something in my body just changed.

      I’m sure the only reason I haven’t gained any more weight is because I’ve never been a big eater. If I ate like a normal person, I’d be huge.

      My blood pressure is my main concern with my weight. I was actually diagnosed with high BP before I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was 17 and my doctor was baffled. I was overweight, but not severely, so he didn’t think it was a factor. My blood pressure returned to normal when my weight entered a “normal” range. And I noticed as my weight crept back up, so did my BP. I’d like to avoid going on BP medication again if I can, but so far my weight has been pretty stubborn.

      I believe that a person can be overweight and completely healthy. I just don’t think I’m one of those people :-(

      “But I do need to figure out a sustainable way to take better care of myself :-/”

      I’m not one of those dippy people who think a healthy diet and yoga cure all ills, but I do know through first hand experience that I feel better, physically and emotionally, when I’m active and eating well. But even with that experience, it is incredibly difficult to stay motivated. It isn’t fair that we have to work so hard, just to be “normal,” you know? I’ve been trying to work on not feeling guilty about not eating right or exercising every day. I’m sure the added stress I was under the past year contributed to my current problems, so I try not to make myself feel even worse. It’s hard though.

      “I have never watched any anime.”

      It is my “guilty” pleasure. I say guilty only because I often read/watch silly manga/anime. There is a lot of really good anime out there, like the works of Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, etc), but I secretly enjoy shojo fantasy-romance stuff (like Sailor Moon). It’s why I really shouldn’t criticize Twilight fans so hard, LOL.

      If you were to watch an anime show, I’d recommend Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It isn’t a romance! It’s about two brothers, who practice alchemy, trying to save each other and the world. I think it’s on both Hulu and Netflix.

    7. Sorry it took me so long to get back on here again - I've been off enjoying my break, lol!

      "I often feel like I’m being treated like an overly sensitive little girl."

      Dude. Condescending doctors are THE WORST. I'm also always paranoid that doctors are going to think I'm drug-seeking. (Although, ironically, when I went to the ER once when my arthritis pain was out of control and my doctor couldn't get me in for 2 days, the nurse practitioner who saw me gave me a script for vicodin, despite the fact that I'd just told her that narcotics had not helped the pain so far.) I'm also always afraid that they're going to try to diagnose me with a somatic symptom disorder. Before my arthritis was diagnosed, when I was just having excrutiating, unexplained pain, I was actually really relieved when my bloodwork showed high levels of inflammation, because they couldn't tell me it was all in my head! I was like, "See! Medical proof! I really am sick!" Lol.

      I definitely cannot do low-carb. Not so much because I miss the carbs too much, but because when I've tried it in the past, there was no living with me. For me, no carbs = full-on bitch mode. I'm probably easier to deal with on steroids!

      I think there is definitely something that changes in your body/metabolism in your 30s, which sucks. Even though losing weight was never easy for me, it's definitely harder now, and I gain weight even more easily (which I would not have even believed was possible in my 20s!)

      "It isn’t fair that we have to work so hard, just to be “normal,” you know?"

      OMG, yes. A thousand times yes. A few years ago, I went to an out-of-town training with one of my coworkers, and the two of us really bonded during that week of being holed up in a hotel together, and at one point when we were out for dinner, she said something about how little I was eating compared to how much she was eating, and said something like, "How is it possible that you're not skinnier than me?" And I gave her a brief explanation of PCOS and what it does to your metabolism, and she got really quiet and then said, "I'm glad you told me that, because I used to really judge people for being overweight, and I didn't realize how lucky I was to have a good metabolism." It was a nice contrast to all the internet "concern trolls" whenever there's anything out there about body acceptance and not body-shaming.

      I hope things are getting better for you and your stress levels are decreasing.

      I put Fullmetal Alchemist on my netflix queue. Not sure when I'll have a chance to watch - my "break" has been surprisingly busy - but I'll definitely check it out!

    8. “Sorry it took me so long to get back on here again - I've been off enjoying my break, lol!”

      No worries! I spend more time online when I’m working and a lot less when I’m not. I’m glad you are enjoying your break :)

      "See! Medical proof! I really am sick!"

      YES. My worry is doctors dismissing my concerns as “depression.” I’ve always had a delicate stomach, but a few years ago it became really bad. I was put through a slew of tests, with all results normal, and I could tell the doctor was starting to think it was mental. Long story short, it turned out I had a mild B12 deficiency (possibly linked to the metformin) that was causing it. Took some vitamins and the problem cleared up.

      Not that I don’t suffer from depression—I’m fairly certain I do—but I’ve resisted a diagnosis because I think my bouts of depression are a symptom of my health problems, not the cause of them. For a long time, I did think I suffered depression as a separate illness…until it went away when I finally found a good (at the time) treatment for my PCOS. As my health took a down turn these past few years, the depression crept back (well after the decline, not before or at the same time). I admit I could be wrong, and I’m not ashamed of my feelings and hiding them, I just don’t want my doctors to miss a genuine medical problem because they think it’s mental. I’m a wee bit cynical.

      “It was a nice contrast to all the internet "concern trolls" whenever there's anything out there about body acceptance and not body-shaming.”

      Yeah. They’re just masking their dislike of fat people by calling it a health concern. Complete and utter bullshit.

      “I hope things are getting better for you and your stress levels are decreasing.”

      They are. Thank you!

      “I put Fullmetal Alchemist on my netflix queue. Not sure when I'll have a chance to watch - my "break" has been surprisingly busy - but I'll definitely check it out!”

      LOL. Make sure it is the Brotherhood version! There are two versions of the anime: they start the same, but the plot diverges and they end quite differently. The second version, Brotherhood, follows the comic books, has better animation quality, and has a satisfactory conclusion to the story, so I always recommend that one! Fair warning about FMA, though—it can get a little heavy-handed with its moralizing. That sort of thing seems to be fairly common in the anime I’ve seen. I’ve begun to wonder if it is a cultural thing.

      Anyhoo...Hope you don’t get too busy to enjoy the rest of your break! Have fun :D