Angst Girl

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Feeling Lucky

I’ve been feeling lucky lately. I watched the Rick Steves show on PBS the other day and he visited London and Paris. As I watched the program, I really enjoyed seeing the scenery and it was especially neat to see things that I had visited on my European vacation last fall. I felt all smug because I could say, “I’ve been there!”

IMG_1819Yes, it sucked that I had a heart attack in Germany, but the rest of the trip was wonderful. At the time I was just adjusting to my environment but in retrospect I feel very lucky that I got a chance to go to Europe. I’ve always wanted to travel there but was pretty convinced I’d never get to go. But there I was! The scenery was amazing and I still look at the pictures often and marvel at the opportunity I had.

Before I left for the trip I figured that Paris would be the best place I would visit but London was what really captured me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Paris and seeing the architecture and the Eiffel Tower, but London had a vibe that felt really good. I got to see Abby Road and in the process met a really cool cabby and rode in the most spacious cab.

We also traveled around London in a tour bus. You could get off and on at famous locations but my friend and I stayed on the bus and got some great pictures. It started raining toward the end of the day and we got chilled through, but it was worth it. We also visited Selfridges, the department store that is featured in a PBS series from England. Too rich for my blood, but beautiful to see.

Oxford was really cool, too. It is a college town and definitely had that vibe and we saw college students everywhere. The buildings are gorgeous and the hotel we stayed in was quaint. I will say, though, that the hotel rooms in Europe are much smaller than the ones in the United States. But they’re charming and comfortable and I loved it.

IMG_1671It can be really hard to live in the moment and really be present and this trip was no exception; plus I got caught up in the logistics of getting from place to place. But I’m really enjoying looking back and reminiscing about everything and just feeling lucky.

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The European Broken-Hearted Tour

I’ve decided that I’m a rock star. I’m a rock star and I’ve just finished my European tour named “The Broken-Hearted Tour.” We went on The Big Trip. We started by flying into London Heathrow Airport and driving to Oxford where we checked into a quaint hotel with soft beds and accommodating staff. We saw lots of beautiful old buildings and lots of college students starting back to school for the year. It’s a lovely town.

One day, instead of going on the planned tour, we took a bus into London. I love London. It’s busy and energetic and has a great feel to it. We saw all the great sites and took lots of pictures. I even got to  see Abbey Road and got a picture of myself walking across the famous crosswalk.

The following day we took a bus from Oxford, through London (to see more of the sites), and then to a train station where we boarded the train for a ride through the Chunnel. We arrived in Paris later that day and checked into an expensive but not really nice hotel. I mean, it was ok, but hardly worth what the tour company must have paid for it.

The next morning we took a bus tour around Paris and saw some amazing things. The rest of the day we spent being quiet; we had travelled around a lot and just wanted to enjoy being in one place for a while. The next morning we boarded buses to drive through Luxembourg to Germany to board the ship that was going to sail us through Germany for the next week.

We had to walk a little distance to get to where the ship was docked and by the time we got to our room on the second floor I felt awful. I was out of breath (no big surprise considering my size) and starting to feel nauseated. I vomited a few times but was mostly concerned about the pain in my chest, left arm, and left jaw. I knew I was having a heart attack but I didn’t want to face it. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell my friend about the pain. We went down to dinner during which I just tried to stay conscious. Finally dinner was over and I made my way back to the room where I vomited some more and generally felt lousy. I still had pain and was worried. I knew I should get help but just didn’t want it to be true and didn’t want to ruin the trip. I spent a completely sleepless night thoroughly miserable and, finally, in the morning I told my friend that I needed a doctor.

The doctor and ambulance workers arrived a short time later and they performed an EKG after which the doctor told me they were taking me to the hospital. Luckily all the other passengers had already left for the day’s excursion so I didn’t make too much of a scene as the settled me on the stretcher and pushed me into the ambulance. Shortly afterward, thanks to the emergency lights and sirens that got us through a traffic jam, I arrived at a hospital in Trier, Germany. They examined me and asked me questions and tried to convert pounds and inches into kilograms and centimeters. They told me I had indeed had a heart attack and would need to undergo a catheterization procedure.

They hurried me into the radiology department and performed the procedure during which they inserted a stint into one of my arteries that lead to the heart. Afterward they told me that the other two arteries were blocked and that I’d have to have a heart bypass surgery within six to eight weeks and that I’d have to stay in the hospital for five to seven days before they would allow me to travel home. They really wanted me to have the surgery there, but there was no way that was going to happen if I could help it. I wanted to be at home for something that major.

I spent the next two days in intensive care and then six days in a regular cardiac hospital ward. During my first day in the cardiac ward I received a visit from Mr. Billen, the lovely man from billing. A mere two days after a heart attack he informs me that I most likely won’t be allowed to leave the hospital until I’ve paid my bill. Ok, that scared me. Was I going to be stuck indefinitely in a German hospital? Luckily we had purchased trip insurance and after a few days of numerous phone calls we started the process for getting the hospital bill paid. My mother ended up having to wire 5,000 Euros to the hospital (this would later be reimbursed by the insurance company) thus ensuring they would indeed release me.

I spent eight days in a German hospital where most of the people did not speak English (although there were a few nurses who were pretty fluent). There was no TV to watch and I read in one day the only book I brought. It was decided that my friend would travel on with the tour rather than stay with me in Trier because the tour was already paid for and the hotel for her to stay in Trier would be an added expense. I was feeling physically ok and was bored out of my mind. I had plenty of time to worry about things and that’s just what I did. But I knew that stress would only make my situation worse so I tried to redirect my thoughts to more positive things. During this time I lived for the phone calls from home that would bring me updates on my friend who was travelling with me and how things were progressing through the insurance process.

One of the phone calls from home, however, brought quite a shock: my friend had had a seizure and was in the hospital. Oy. She spent the night in the hospital then continued on with the tour, although she felt terrible. By the time she got to Prague, she felt bad enough that she went back to the hospital where she spent another night and then was cleared to travel by the doctors.

During this time the insurance company was waiting to hear my release date to make the arrangements to travel home. Finally, on a Friday, they told me that I could leave the hospital on the following Tuesday and was free to travel on Wednesday. Now it was just the matter of getting plane tickets. Luckily the insurance company has some great employees and Terry was able to get us flights on Wednesday to return home. I would fly from Luxembourg to Amsterdam where I would meet up with my friend and we would travel to Minneapolis together then fly into Cedar Rapids. My first flight was delayed, however, and I missed my flight. But it worked out because they were pulling my friend off the plane because they questioned whether she was fit to fly. After a trip to the airport hospital (who even knew they had such a thing?) we had new tickets arranged for us and were back on track to get home that night.

Finally we arrived in Cedar Rapids after a very long day of travel. The next morning I called and made an appointment with a cardiologist for the following day. That day was today and I left the doctor’s office with the possibility of either having more stints put in or having bypass surgery. I REALLY didn’t want the surgery but I just got off the phone with the nurse and, after looking at the images from my catheterization, told me it would be surgery for me. Not what I wanted to hear. So now I’m facing a very scary surgery, a scar on my chest, and possibly the disfigurement of one of my tattoos.

I feel like I should have a t-shirt made up that says, “I went to Germany and I’ll I got was this stinking stint!”

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I was at the DMV the other day getting my middle name corrected on my driver’s license so it matches my passport. The office opened at 8:30 AM and I thought I was being smart by getting there a little after 8:00. Ha! There was already a line of about 40 people waiting outside the door. I almost left but decided I may as well get it over with and I dutifully joined the line at the end.

Shortly after I got there another woman wearing professional clothing got in line behind me; let’s call her Fancy. A short while later another woman, let’s call her Mouthy, got in line behind Fancy. Mouthy immediately began talking to Fancy, a woman she obviously didn’t know. Throughout the course of this conversation I learned that Mouthy used to work three jobs, one of which was home health care, and she was making $50,000 to $60,000 a year. She now works with autistic “kids” (this annoyed me because she followed that up with the detail that they were anywhere from 18 to 55 years old – NOT kids). Mouthy has a live-in boyfriend who owns his own business. She could have gotten a four-year degree but stopped after two years because she was too antsy.

All during this conversation, Fancy responded in a friendly way to all the information being spewed at her by Mouthy. The whole time this conversation was taking place I was feeling grateful that Fancy had arrived before Mouthy and saved me from the deluge of information. I know for a fact I would not have been as friendly as Fancy. I HATE it when strangers come up to me and try to strike up a conversation. I’m not interested in conversations with people I don’t know. I’m just not wired that way.

When I was employed at The Evil Empire, I took a few self-assessment classes. You know, the kind in which you’re assigned a color or label or animal that places you into usually one of four different categories that is supposed to tell you about how you interact with others. I was always labelled as a strong leader with little interest in small talk. Yep, that describes me to a T. I just feel like small talk is a waste of time and I have no patience for it. I do, however, understand that there are people who expect and like small talk and I try to comply, to a point. I will try to meet people halfway but I want them to meet me in the middle, too. But I’ve found that small talkers are relentless in their pursuit of small talk. Even though they are met with a lukewarm response from me, they keep forging ahead trying to draw me out.

I find it utterly ridiculous that Mouthy shared so much of her personal information with a complete stranger. She obviously has a compulsion for small talk that goes beyond the usual boundaries.

Thank you, Fancy, wherever you are for saving me from the clutches of Mouthy.

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As you know, I’m leaving on my Big Trip to Europe in October and I’m super excited. However, I’m also super anxious. I’m a large person and that brings about all kinds of difficult situations. At home I’m able to mitigate those but on a trip where I’m encountering all kinds of new situations it will be more difficult. I’m worried about walking, standing, sitting on the plane, getting on and off buses, fitting in restaurant chairs, etc. The anxiousness rounds off the edges of the excitement and that kind of pisses me off because anticipation is part of the fun of a trip.

Intellectually I know that worrying about things isn’t going to do anything but make myself crazy. I’m not going to fit in the plane seat any better because I sat here and worried about it for months. Walking around isn’t going to be any easier because I stayed awake at night with anxiety. But knowing it and actually stopping the worrying are two completely different things. I’m a master of worry and I can’t seem to stop. It’s very aggravating.

I have taken steps to help ensure it’s smooth sailing (get it? I’m cruising through Germany on a boat). I’m taking a portable chair so I can sit if I need to, even if there aren’t any seats around. I’m taking a cane to help me walk and just in case I hurt my knee (AGAIN!). I’m getting cortisone shots in my knees before the trip to help with my knee pain. And I’m prepared to possibly be pushed around the airport in a wheelchair. But I still feel anxious because I’m going into such a huge unknown. Usually, at home, I avoid situations unless I know what it’s going to be like. So this is a HUGE step for me.

Every day, when I find myself worrying about things, I try to take a deep breath and tell myself it’s futile to worry about it. It helps. I’m finding the closer I get to the trip, the more excited I get and the easier it is to stop worrying about it. Writing this is helping me, too. Just the act of writing down that worrying doesn’t help anything has helped me believe it. So thanks for listening.

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Ongoing Knee Saga

Sigh. Here goes …

I hurt my knee AGAIN last Sunday, two days after I saw Dr. Hill. What funky thing did I do this time, you ask? I stretched out my leg to put on a pair of pants. Yeppers, that’s it. But I hurt it worse than I had hurt it before. I can’t straighten my leg all the way and can only put weight on it if I’m in a crouching position. Yes, I look ridiculous when I walk.

I called my regular doctor on Monday and explained that I couldn’t really make it in to the office. My doctor was on vacation but the nurse conferred with the on-call doctor and told me to ice it, wrap it, take Tylenol, and if it wasn’t better in three to five days to call back. I did those things and it wasn’t getting any better so I called the doctor this morning to get an appointment. Luckily he could see me this afternoon so I had a great friend help me get to the office.

The doctor looked at it, poked it, and moved my leg in a couple directions, asking me if it hurt when he moved it. He said he didn’t think anything was broken but it was possible it was a tendon issue or one of my bone spurs had broken off and was irritating it. He said I should get an x-ray and see the infamous Dr. Hill again. Joy. The nurse came in and said that Dr. Hill didn’t have any available appointments in the near future so they were going to confer over the phone. She then took me to get an x-ray. It was painful to have the x-rays taken but hopefully they will help some doctor to be able to tell me what’s wrong.

It’s all just so bizarre. When I try to straighten my leg, it hurts on the underside of my knee and on the left side of my knee. To cut down on walking I shipped my dog off to grandma’s house where, according to reports, she is being overly spoiled. I would expect nothing less.

My mother picked up my knee brace for me today (yes, the one that my doctor said didn’t exist) and I’ve been wearing that. Can’t say it helps me walk at all but at least I have it. I have to hurry up and get this knee healed so I can go on The Big Trip. What terrible timing. We have trip insurance so if something catastrophic has happened to my knee we can reschedule the trip but we’ve already bought tickets for various attractions and we would lose all that money. Plus, my friend I’m traveling with would probably never forgive me if we had to reschedule. But it is what it is and there’s not much I can do about it. I’ll follow the doctor’s instructions and take it easy but the rest of it is out of my control.


Pissed Off

If you recall, I injured my left knee about two weeks ago and tweaked it again about a week ago. I made an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon and saw him today. What a colossal waste of time. I was there for about two hours and actually saw the doctor for about a total of four minutes. Yep, four minutes.

After waiting quite a while in the waiting room I got ushered to the examination room where I waited even longer. The doctor came in, didn’t sit down, and started asking me a couple questions (when did I hurt it, where does it hurt). I’m the one who asked about the possibility of a knee brace so he said he’d talk to “the girls” to see if they had a knee brace that would fit me (I’m fat, if you recall).

I waited again and in came someone who didn’t introduce herself to me who proceeded to measure my thigh. She then went to get a brace and, no surprise, it didn’t fit. She left and a little while later the doctor came back. He told me she thought that there was no place in town that would have a brace that would fit me. Splendid.

The doctor then told me that there might be a problem with me getting the cortisone shots in the office (I have bone spurs and acute arthritis in both knees and I’m going to get shots before The Big Trip). He was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get the shots in the right place and I might need to have it done at a hospital in the radiology department so they can do it with x-ray guidance. So off he goes again to discuss it with a nurse. Again, I waited.

The nurse finally came in and told me that the doctor decided I should go ahead and have the shots done at the hospital. Wonderful. I am NOT looking forward to that. I wasn’t too enthused with the prospect of shots in the knees to begin with, but now it’s this whole big deal.

I came away from the appointment feeling frustrated and pissed off. First of all, you see all those beefy football players with knee braces and yet they can’t find one to fit me. Second of all, why did I only get four minutes of my doctor’s time? I’m sure he’s going to bill it as at least a 15 minute consultation but he can’t sit down and talk to me about my concerns? And finally, I’m pissed off at myself for being fat. Regardless of how heavy a person is, however, I think they deserve good healthcare. I really feel like doctors have dismissed me and my concerns because of my size. They simply blame everything on my weight and don’t investigate any further. It’s easier and faster for them to tell me to lose weight rather than really take the time to listen and consider my concerns.

So here’s my plan of attack: I’m going to be pissed off the rest of the day then I’m going to get up in the morning and call around to home health companies to see if they can help me get a knee brace. And if they can’t help me, if larger knee braces really don’t exist, then I’ll just have to muddle through on my own. Companies really need to start making equipment that fit the population they’re serving. Large people are probably more susceptible to knee problems so why not make braces in larger sizes?

*     *     *

Okay, I just searched for some large sized knee braces and guess what? I found some! Those people at the doctor’s office obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. The ones I found are at a regular mail order company so insurance wouldn’t cover it, but if a regular store has them I would hope that a home healthcare company would have them available. Either way, I’ll be able to get a knee brace. So stick it, Dr. Hill!

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I watched a documentary on PBS on Monday named “Flying” and it left me feeling inadequate. In fact I almost stop watching it, even though it was interesting, because I was feeling bad about myself. It chronicled the life of a forty-something woman who is a filmmaker and travels the world. She has a ton of friends from different countries and backgrounds. She was living an exciting life and I found myself to be jealous of her. I have a very small circle of friends and am currently unemployed but have always had desk jobs. I don’t travel that much (although I’m on the final countdown to my European trip!) and would like to travel more. She was able to be very introspective and looked to her friends for context and feedback and is able to take negative feedback and make it an opportunity for personal growth.

I found myself taking stock of my life and not really liking what I saw. I’m still fat, I have few friends, I’m on disability so I have no job, I’m not spontaneous, and I’m just not comfortable in my own skin much of the time. I finished the documentary in tears. I know I shouldn’t covet someone else’s life but I just couldn’t seem to help it.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I just couldn’t live that life even though I wanted to. I’m an introvert (see THIS LINK. It completely describes me) and I need to get comfortable with that. It’s who I am. I’m working on losing weight, I’ll eventually have a job again, and I have little need for a large circle of friends. I need to find a way to be okay with where I’m at in life but it SO wasn’t what I imagined it would be. I mourn for that loss. But I need to stop getting stuck in the mourning period and move on with life as it is or make the necessary adjustments to change it.

I also need to cut myself a break. I’ve had difficult things in life to deal with (as we all have to some extent) and I’ve been able to come out the other side still intact. Depression consumed many years of my life and being overweight has inhibited me from reaching my full potential. As a residual effect of the depression, I tend to get stuck in the past because for so many years I didn’t see a future for myself.

The facts are that I’m a very compassionate person, I’m smart, have good common sense, love deeply, I embrace the differences in people, am a good problem-solver, and I am creative. I need to embrace the good in me and live from a place of gratitude and self-love rather than jealousy or grief. I couldn’t live her life because I am me and have different strengths and struggles.

I can intellectually realize all these things but have never been able to absorb them and believe them. It’s something I’m working on and will continue to work on the rest of my life I’m sure. With what do you struggle?


A Pain in the Knee

The continuing saga of my knees. The latest chapter involves an injury that occurred Sunday. I stepped into my house and felt a searing pain in my left knee. That’s right, I was STEPPING INTO MY HOUSE. For fuck’s sake. It hurts really bad (worse than other knee injuries I’ve had) and I’m now walking with a cane. Or I should say hobbling with a cane. That just pisses me off. Is there no end to the negative ramifications of being fat?

Due to the injury and limited mobility, it’s easy for me to get depressed. I have a history of clinical depression but I’m on some good medications now so I’ve been feeling pretty good. But I’m feeling depressed and worried about the trip to Europe I’m supposed to take in October. My usual knee pain was going to be enough of a hindrance but if I’ve seriously injured my knee I don’t know what I’ll do.

So I’m sitting here with my leg up and iced and I pick up the phone to make a call and there’s no dial tone. Nada. Zip. Zero. I unplug the phone and plug it back in. Nothing. I check all the other phones in the house and they’re all on the hook and none of them has a dial tone. I get on my phone company’s website and that’s about useless. I’m trying to figure out what to do when I suddenly remember I have a cell phone. Duh. I know that sounds stupid but I rarely use it; I really only have it for emergencies. I call the lovely phone company and inform them of my trouble (after a maze of automated bullshit). They first inform me that the minimum charge, if the problem is on my end, is $85.00. Crap on a cracker that’s expensive. But he checked my line and said there was a short in the line so it’s a problem on their end. He said they would have it fixed by 7:30 PM the following day.

And that’s how I came to where I am now: sitting in my recliner with a sore knee, depressed, and without communication with the outside world. NOT a good combo for me. I’ll live through it and there are certainly worse atrocities in the world. But I’m just feeling a little helpless and lost right now. I go to the doctor tomorrow morning (showering should be a joy) so maybe I’ll have a course of action after that. I’m not actually going to the doctor for my knee; I need to talk to him about some lab results, but while I’m there I’ll discuss my knee with him. He’s the king of referrals so I will not be surprised if he just dumps me off on another doctor.

Ok, let’s say something good about the day. I found a portable, folding stool to take with me on the trip and ordered it thanks to my mom. That way I’ll have a place to sit down if I need it no matter where I am. There, that’s something positive. Good girl, Jules!


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I have been fat most of my life which means my body has been very challenged. I have had knee pain in both knees for a few years and I know it’s because I’ve carried so much extra weight throughout my life. But what’s done is done and I just need to find a way to improve the situation to the best of my ability. To that end, I visited with an orthopedic surgeon last week.

When I got to the doctor’s office I was almost immediately shuttled into the imaging department for x-rays of my knees. I very wisely wore a dress so I didn’t have to get into a medical gown. It went ok although it was a little bit of a challenge to stand for them, but we got it done and I went into a little room to wait for the doctor.

I didn’t have to wait too long for the doctor to show up (miracle of miracles) and let me just say, he’s a pretty good looking guy. He looks young but he can’t be as young as he looks. Anyway, he pulled up my x-rays on the computer and it took him a few seconds to tell me the verdict: several bone spurs and acute arthritis. Yay. He said I would need knee replacements but they won’t do them until I’m at least 50 (I’m almost 45) and lose more weight. I wasn’t terribly surprised by the diagnosis but it’s still disheartening to hear.

I told him I would be traveling in Europe in October and asked if there was anything I could do to improve the knee pain. I can’t take an anti-inflammatory because of the gastric bypass surgery so that was not an option. He advised that I come back to see him a week to ten days before the trip so he can give me cortisone shots in both knees. I’m certainly no expert, but that sounds painful. He said they would be more painful for a day or two following the shots, but then I should get some relief from the pain. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little freaked out by the prospect of a long needle being inserted into my knee. I don’t mind needles but it just seems wrong to mess around inside the knee; especially when it’s already sore. But I’ll do what I can to make the trip more comfortable so back to the doctor I go on September 30th.

If anyone out there has had cortisone shots in the knee please let me know what it’s like and how much it hurts.

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Let’s be clear about this: I HATE to exercise. Hate. It. I sweat a lot, I get out of breath easily, and it’s just not fun. That being said, I have a big European trip coming up in October and I’ve got to be able to fit my fat ass in the airline seats.

Before I had gastric bypass surgery, I was too heavy to move around very much so I lived a pretty sedentary life. That combined with a long recovery from surgery and it meant that my leg muscles atrophied and it is now difficult to walk or stand for very long. Even though I’ve lost about 160 pounds in the last year, I still struggle with leg weakness. I was in physical therapy for a while but insurance only covers that for a limited amount of time. So now I’m on my own to get motivated to get out there and walk to build my stamina and strengthen my leg muscles. Unfortunately, motivation is not my strong suit. And getting motivated to exercise? Forgetaboutit.

Once I build up some more stamina, I’m planning on joining Curves gym. I like the idea of working out with only women and I also like circuit training so it seems like a good fit for me. Then all I’ll have to do is get motivated to go to the gym! I would like to lose another 150 pounds before the trip but I know that’s a lofty goal. I’m going to shoot for it but won’t beat myself up if I don’t quite make it. One thing that’s working against me is hypothyroidism (my thyroid doesn’t secrete enough thyroid hormone). Even though I’m on replacement therapy (a daily pill), it’s still an uphill battle to lose weight because the thyroid plays a key role in metabolism.

I’ve pretty much plateaued at 360 pounds and I know that it’s going to take a lot of movement to get back on the losing train. The weather has finally kind of squared away here and we’ve had some nice days so I have no excuse to not get out and walk. And my darling fur baby, Daisy, needs some exercise, too. It’s currently 1:47 AM so I’m not going to go out and walk right now, but I have my shoes by the door ready for tomorrow!