Germany, healthcare, mental health

“It sure does suck getting old…”

Years ago, the electronic card service, JibJab, made funny flash animation videos. They made some pretty awesome politically themed ones starring George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, featuring their shenanigans… wow– that seems so quaint today, as Donald Trump continues to become more unhinged! But they also made a really funny video called “It Sure Does Suck Getting Old”, or something along those lines. Unfortunately, I can’t find any trace of that video anywhere on the Internet. Edited to add… I think I found it! Geezers: The Musical for the win!

This is the video and song I’m writing of, but it’s not a very good upload.
I relate to these old farts.

I hate it when this happens, because it makes me wonder if I imagined what I clearly remember. Like– I can remember some pretty weird stuff I saw on TV back in the day– commercials and PSAs and stuff like that. I can often find stuff I remember, but sometimes I can’t even find it mentioned anywhere. Then I wonder if maybe I imagined the whole thing.

In any case, I don’t really need to share the video I remember, although it would be nice to see it again. The point is, it was a funny song involving two old guys lamenting getting old and all the unpleasant shit that goes with it. And it’s on my mind today because I’m having abdominal issues again. What makes my problem especially annoying is that I’m having classic gallbladder symptoms, but they’re on my left side instead of the right. Most people have gallbladder pain on the right, but mine is on the left (which can sometimes happen in gallbladder issues).

I don’t have a fever, nor am I in significant pain. It just feels like there’s inflammation in that area and it’s going around to my back. So basically, it feels like a dull, pinching, burning, slightly pressured sensation that occasionally cramps. I’ve had gallbladder attacks since about 2004 or so… or, at least I’m pretty sure that was what they were. They hurt, but never last for long– maybe a few minutes or so. Lately, the issue is more constant. This isn’t like the sharp pain of a gallbladder attack. It feels more like heat and inflammation, coupled with some itching and slight jaundice. I do think the gallbladder is the actual culprit, though.

I haven’t been to a doctor since 2010, and it was because Bill wanted me to get my gallbladder checked. I was having pain then, too. But after the ultrasound, I was blown off, and I’ve never been back since. I hate dealing with doctors with a fiery passion. I’ve written about why quite a few times in this blog, so I won’t go into the specific reason with this post. Suffice to say, I have to be pretty sick before I’ll willingly volunteer to see a medical person, and I have a tendency to put it off for as long as possible.

I can remember when I lived in Armenia, I had strep throat over the weekend. I had a fever of 102 degrees and a really sore throat with pus on my tonsils. I didn’t seek medical attention until Monday morning, because I didn’t want to bother the Peace Corps doctor (who was also once my former landlady). She took one look at my throat and said, “Why didn’t you call me?” I told her I didn’t want to bother her over the weekend. I wasn’t that sick. But also, even if I’d wanted to call her, I don’t think I would have been able to do it. In 1996, it was very difficult to call people on Armenian landline telephones. I could call the United States easier than I could call my school, which was in the same city. I’d try to dial– and I do mean dial, as we had rotary phones– and it would just click without connecting to anything. Nowadays, that’s no longer a problem. Everyone has a cellphone.

I just want to state this, because it’s why I’m suffering instead of dealing with the problem like a normal person would. I know it’s irrational to suffer instead of simply dealing with the problem. I have a bit of a phobia when it comes to doctors, though. It’s not as bad as my mushroom phobia is, but it’s pretty bad. I get very anxious around medical people, if I’m around them for my own healthcare. I don’t mind them in other situations, like when Bill has a colonoscopy, or when I’m working with them in a professional capacity, which, believe it or not, I used to do.

I think another reason why I don’t seek medical care when I need it is because I don’t feel like I deserve it. I dread negative interactions with people, and I so often have them… not just with medical people, but with rank and file people. I have a personality that people tend to love or hate, and I’ve gotten to a point in my life that I don’t want to trouble people with my odd personality. I feel like I’m not very well liked by most people, so I’d rather hide from them. I realize this is probably also an irrational thought on my part, too… In fact, last week, Bill told me that the co-worker we ran into in Czechia said she thought I was a very warm person who laughs easily. Some people do get that impression, because I do laugh a lot, and I can be very warm and friendly. I’ve been told I am a very genuine person. But I’m also pretty weird… blunt, moody, and some people clearly would rather I didn’t exist. Or, at least, that’s my impression. So I try to avoid them, which probably comes off as strange and standoffish, and that perpetuates the problem.

Bill is very sensitive to my anxiety issues. He knows it’s distressing for me so see doctors, and he knows I can be very stubborn about things. He mostly doesn’t insist that I go to doctors, the exception being that one time in 2010. He’s also a very busy guy, and arranging medical care can be complicated when you are an American in Germany with no Hausarzt (family doctor). While I could try to go to Landstuhl (the military hospital), most of my issues with doctors stem from having to go to military doctors when I was growing up, culminating with a horrifying visit with an Air Force OB-GYN who traumatized me. Also, it’s space available for retirees and their family members.

Logically, I know that if I am dealing with gallbladder issues, the problem could be solved with a pretty straightforward outpatient surgery. Even if what I’m dealing with now isn’t a gallbladder issue, I know I do have gallstones, because I’ve had a bunch of attacks over the years; I fit the profile; and my dad had his gallbladder removed. Of course, it could be something else… something much worse, which would also be horrifying for me, because it would probably mean being encouraged to see more medical people. That idea freaks me out, too. The one thing that comforts me is the fact that I can refuse… at least until I keel over somewhere in public. And, even then, if I’m conscious, I can refuse.

If we were in the States, I could deal with this more easily on my own. There would be no language barrier, and I have a lot more familiarity with what to do, especially since I went to graduate school to learn how to deal with people seeking medical care. At home in Virginia, especially when I had Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance, I’d just go see a doc in the box and get a referral somewhere for whatever else is needed. I didn’t enjoy going to doctors then, either, but at least then, the military healthcare service was completely left out of the equation. In the US system, you’re more of a customer.

I don’t go to doctors regularly, so I don’t even really know how to call Tricare for a referral somewhere in Germany. I don’t have any medical records to speak of, really. And I’m here all alone… which really sucks. It sucks to be isolated as much as I am, with no friends or family nearby, and a husband who is constantly on work trips. I do love living in Germany, but at times like this, it would be good to be a civilian in the US… because at least there, I’m not a foreigner. On the plus side, healthcare is much less expensive in Germany.

The good news is, as I’m writing this post, the burning feeling in my chest has subsided a bit. I do feel markedly better now just since starting this post. But I have kind of a foreboding thought that pretty soon, I’m going to have to deal with this problem, one way or another. I really dread it on many levels. It sure does suck getting old, doesn’t it?

Oh well. At least that annoying burning sensation has mostly passed. Now to get on with my guitar practice and dog walking. Maybe today will be a music day, not that anyone cares one way or another.


When things mysteriously disappear…

I must be losing my mind. This morning, I stripped the bed so I could wash the sheets. I removed the pillows, the top and bottom sheets, the duvets, and their covers. I will admit that I was a little preoccupied this morning, thanks to the pain and numbness in my right hip and thigh. I remember pulling five of the six pillows on the bed to my side, leaving one on Bill’s side. I went to the other side to remove the sheets and the pillow… and sometime between taking the sheets off and removing the five other pillow cases, I misplaced the sixth pillow.

I’ve looked under the duvets, under the bed (where it couldn’t have fallen because the gap is too small), in the hallways, and along the route to the laundry room. The pillow is nowhere to be found. I’m sure it will turn up eventually, but it’s pretty creepy that I misplaced something that large and that random. I have no idea where it is or where it could have gone, even as I know it could not have walked off by itself.

This happens as a Facebook friend I met offline back in the early 00s shared a picture of me from 2004. I had red hair then, and I was short and stout, as I am now. However, I was a bit thinner at that time than I am now. Unfortunately, the person who took the picture elected to get a shot of my barrel sized butt, and the Facebook friend elected to tag me when she shared it. It’s not a good picture of me at all, although clearly I’m not the intended target of the photo. Why someone thought I’d want to see it and be tagged in it, I don’t know… although I realize we are our own worst critics. I mentioned my barrel butt and noticed later, this person shared a meme. It’s one I shared myself recently.

True, but that doesn’t mean I want to see a picture of it.

I suppose I could try to do something to make my barrel butt more like a keg, but if it looked like that fifteen years ago, the odds are it will look like that until I finally croak. I’ve been relatively good this week. Bill’s been out of town, so I’ve been on the wagon, despite the yucky weather. I think watching Intervention helps keep me drinking water instead of beer. Also, because it’s just me and I don’t feel like cooking a lot for just me, I’ve been eating somewhat less. But Bill comes home tomorrow, and the homecoming should be epic… if we don’t end up attending a mandatory fun Christmas party.

Maybe I should take heart. At least jerks like Tommy Callaway won’t be tempted to slap my ass on live TV. On the other hand, he’d have no excuse, since it would be impossible to miss it.

And finally, last night, I was trying to fall asleep because I made the mistake of napping yesterday morning (cold, dark, snowy weather does that to me). As I was lying there, wide awake, I posted a Facebook status update. “I need a girlfriend”. Now, when I posted that, I meant I need someone to hang out with locally… someone to go places with, drink wine with, gossip with, or whatever. But a guy I knew during my Peace Corps days posted an article from The Guardian entitled “Why it’s never too late to be a lesbian.” I was kind of amused by that, so I posted a gif from the 1989 film, Coming to America

A man’s got to put in overtime to get me off… Shit, it may be time to watch this again.

Ah well, these are minor problems in the grand scheme of things. I found out yesterday that yet another Epinions friend passed away. His name was Jeff, and I really didn’t know him apart from our writing pursuits. He was very well liked, as I’m now discovering by the many tributes left on his timeline. Jeff liked karaoke and doing stand up comedy. He was always nice, and very friendly, although I never got to know him very well. He’s the third Epinions friend who has died this year. All three succumbed to cancer, and at much younger ages than they should have. In Jeff’s case, it was brain tumors. He successfully had surgery to remove one tumor and an MRI picked up another tumor deeper in his brain that could not be removed. Because he was very weak, it was not possible to try radiation or chemotherapy. So, just a couple of days after his surgery, he journeyed to the great beyond.

I’m heartened to see what a positive impact Jeff has had on his vast array of friends. So many people are posting their condolences. I only hope he knew how much he meant to them before he passed. I think too many people withhold that positive regard until it’s too late. The well wishes are nice to read now, but they probably would have been even nicer a month ago. As far as I can tell, Jeff was still somewhat okay at that point. I see that he was posting on Facebook and doing stand up, anyway. It sounds like his death was a complete shock and totally unexpected.

On his journey to the Pearly Gates, Jeff joins Philip McKeon, who was Tommy Hyatt on the sitcom, Alice, Carroll Spinney, who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Marie Frederikksson of Roxette, and a hapless raccoon who got drunk on Gluhwein at one of Germany’s many Christmas markets and wound up being shot. Actually, I could rant about the raccoon, but I need to see to my runaway bed linens. Maybe later, I’ll get to it.

Sure wish my fat ass would mysteriously disappear like that pillow did.

Edited to add: I just remembered where that pillow went. Bill took one with him on his business trip because German hotels usually have terrible pillows.


My back is totally farked…

Yesterday, I became aware of a site called Why? Because someone on that site linked to a blog post I wrote a couple of days ago. After reading up a little on what is about, I decided to password protect the post. It’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor and appreciation for snark, but that particular post was kind of personal and I wasn’t wanting to field a bunch of shitty comments from people who are just wanting to make fun of me.

I’m surprised I’d never heard of Fark before. It’s been around since 1997. Invented by Drew Curtis, it’s a site where users post links to weird or funny news. I’m sure a number of my blog posts qualify as weird or funny, but the one they were linking to included my rant about my sister sending me a picture of my dad on his death bed. There is really NOTHING funny or snarkworthy about that, so I decided it was time to make that post password protected. Of course, they might have wanted to poke fun at the beginning of that post, which was about one of my pet peeves– people who include themselves in a another person’s singular experience (ie; men saying “We got pregnant.”). Who knows?

Anyway… today’s post might be somewhat weirder and funnier than that one was, especially for those who enjoy laughing at other people’s agony and humiliation. I woke up this morning in excruciating pain. Our mattress is about ten years old and it needs to be replaced. Consequently, for the past few months, I’ve been waking up with increasingly severe lower back pain. Sometimes, I don’t have pain, or it’s not so bad. It hurts for maybe a half an hour and then fades away without any need for Advil. This morning, it’s been pretty horrible. I’ve been up for over two hours and it’s just now starting to subside, and only after I took ibuprofen, a hot shower, and almost passed out from pain at the kitchen table. I sometimes also have problems with my thighs going numb when I’m lying on my back.

Bear with me, now… I’m about to deliver some of my trademark TMI. I’m sure any woman who has been pregnant can relate to this, but this morning I actually found myself on looking for an implement I can use for butt wiping when my back is acting up. Seriously. This isn’t a problem I suffer every day, but it’s happened enough times that I’ve actually considered getting a tool I can load up with toilet paper that will make reaching my ass easier first thing in the morning. Whatever back issues I have make it almost impossible to reach back there until my back loosens up.

My Amazon search reveals that I’m not alone in having this issue. Besides butt wiping tools, there are lots of “portable bidets” available. I can’t decide which would be better for me. If I get a portable bidet, maybe I can save on toilet paper use. Our ex landlady claims that Americans use too much toilet paper, and that’s why the “water saver” toilet in her house backed up three times when we first moved in. Curiously enough, the other, newer one on the ground floor never backed up, nor did we have to flush it three times to get everything to go down. If we’d had a portable bidet when we lived in that house, maybe we wouldn’t have had issues with that toilet. What eventually stopped the blockages was changing our toilet paper brand (and we switched to another American brand, not a German one), and using a hell of a lot more water in the “water saver” toilet and flushing it at least twice with every dump. She never bothered to ask us what we did to remedy the problem so she could warn her future American tenants, but then, she seems to think she knows all about us.

It’s now 9:30am, and the roaring pain in my back that almost made me vomit this morning is now finally quieting down to a dull mew. I probably better give Arran a proper walk today. That will likely make my back pain less severe tomorrow. As hard as it is, the best thing to do is move… but I swear, this morning, the pain was so raw and I was in such agony that I was seriously afraid I was going to faint. I got all hot and clammy and lost color in my face. It’s been awhile since I last passed out, but I know the signs. A lot of times, it’s happened when I’ve been in acute pain. I don’t have the best pain threshold, and since Bill isn’t here, it would not be good to faint.

As for finding a new mattress… unfortunately, it’s not so easy to do that in Germany, since German beds aren’t sized the way American beds are. We could probably order a mattress from AAFES, but that would mean having to figure out how to get it to the house and set up. We may have to do that, though, because I’m only 47 and I don’t want to go through life feeling like this every morning. It’s humiliating to be so stiff and full of pain that I can’t even wipe myself properly after my morning dumps. I know pregnant women deal with this problem, and so do elderly folks. I don’t fit in either category.

I probably also should take better care of myself… eat less crap, drink less booze, and start doing yoga along with other weight bearing exercises. If I want to bring a puppy into our house after the holidays, I’m going to have to be able to keep up. This may also mean that Bill will be dragging me to the doctor by my hair again. Or maybe not…

Hey… it’s almost 10:00am and I just have the slightest pain now. That’s one good thing about having back pain in the morning. When it does finally fade away, you feel so much better, even if it’s not completely gone. I mean, I still have slightly throbbing pain in my hips, but it’s so much less than what it was that I feel comparatively great. Endorphins help, too.

I think I like the word, “farked”. Maybe I will incorporate it into my daily vocabulary. But I don’t think I will be frequenting that Web site, fun as it probably is.