Thursday, March 17, 2011

How To Change Your Entire Outlook In Ten Minutes

Note: This post had been overwritten by a later post (learning curve using ScribeFire), but has been restored in it's original form. My apologies for any confusion, as the original comments were still attached to the later and unrelated post.

(original post follows)

I've been struggling with a chest cold that morphs into a sinus infection, then back to a chest cold, then back to a sinus infection. For over six weeks, part of which was during a remodel of our master bathroom. Really hard to sleep in and rest during that period. 

After getting really tired of not getting better, I decided to go to the local Urgent Care clinic in Wilsonville and throw some antibiotics at it. I generally would prefer that my immune system take care of this, but I'm doing some travel in April (Mexican Riviera cruise to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversaries of myself and a couple that have been very good friends all this time). 

While I was there they took my blood pressure. I've known my blood pressure is not great, but I take Metoprolol for it, a beta blocker, and it seems to have been managing it well enough. Except that this time my BP read 212/105. 

Apparently, I am a walking time bomb. And if I get a bad headache ("the worst headache of your life" according to the PA at the clinic) or my vision gets funny or I start to run a fever I'm supposed to go to the ER now. As you can imagine, every time I get even a little headache, and I'm getting a lot of them, I start to get worried. Which raises my BP. Being a worrier, as most of my family is, it's kind of like being told that you are going to die Any Second Now, or worse (and I consider this to be a lot worse) have a stroke that makes you a lot less functional. I've watched my own mother become a lot less functional over the past nine months, undoubtedly a part of the stress that is part of why that number was so high, and I'm really not interested in needing help to eat or get to the toilet. Really really really not interested. 

We're still in the process of just getting my BP to a point where it won't kill me on a bad day. I'm banned from strenuous exercise, such as jumping up and down like an idiot in my rock cover band Raindriver (which I am scheduled to do in about nine days), but I can still perform. 

Today, I had a very minor migraine, which of course included an aura which of course means your vision is funny, one of the things they mentioned. And taking a vasosuppressor like caffeine (which I normally avoid in day to day life) raises your blood pressure, but I was getting very sensitive to light and needed to perform with a men's glee club I direct this evening. I ended up taking half of an Excedrine Migraine, which includes aspirin, acetomenaphin, and caffeine. It did the trick, but it was scary.

And I guess that's the point. Every time my head starts to hurt I start to worry that this will be the Big One, which makes me tense up which makes my head hurt more. I have to constantly concentrate to relax, something I'm not very good at. I spent a good part of the day with pressure on my eyes in a dark room listening to Steve Roach ambient music, which worked pretty well. 

The good news is that the medication is lowering my BP to tolerable levels. The bad news is that we have no idea why my BP is up so high, although I have a pretty good guess that my mother's health crisis (and the attendant education about a wide range of incontinence products), taking on the task of directing a choir on the verge of the holiday season, my continuing estrangement from my daughter, the impending deaths of both my mother and a very good friend and mentor, and watching not only the leadership of my country determined to take the direct road to hell but also apparently the rest of the world as well. I'm staying away from news, twitchy video games, fast food, and anything resembling a discussion online. It's a big set of changes for me. 

Did I mention within a couple of hours of hearing my BP was in terrible shape that we found we have a mouse infestation? At least you can throw an exterminator at that problem. And they are field mice, so I'm just thinking that Stuart Little is hanging out in the furnace "room" during the wee hours because it's nice and warm. 

What I am thinking a lot about is what if right now is my last minute on earth. I've thought about what if this is the last minute on earth for *other* people, but not myself. I am not a religious man, as I've discussed before, and I'm not worried about facing my maker, assuming there is one. I've lived an ethical life for the most part, far more than many people I know (not personally, the friends I have who are religious have the right attitude as far as I can tell) who claim to be Christian. I figure if I'm going to be held in judgement that if the main criteria is whether I made the right choice in deities then I'm in big trouble no matter *what* I believe. 

No, I'm thinking about whether there are things left for me to do. Not going to Antarctica or publishing a novel. Teaching my granddaughter to play the piano. Actually, seeing my granddaughter do a lot of things, including growing up. Making music. Spending time with friends. Doing the things that bring me joy. Have I done enough of those things?

The short answer is "no". I don't know that I will *ever* have done enough of those things. I lead, for lack of a better term, a blessed life. I want for nothing, I have many options and choices I can make that many people don't, I have musical talent that touches people in ways I don't fully understand but value, I have family and friends that, at the end of the day, I know will be there when I need them. These things are priceless, and I appreciated them before I learned that my brain could go poof at any time. 

What I did not have was a sense that time was ticking quite as quickly as it is. I figure I'm good to about 70, maybe 75 given my family's history with heart disease (fortunately, not much cancer or stroke or dementia prior to anyone's 80's). But 48? That's too young. That makes everything just that much more precious. 

Now I'm on the verge of taking a very close look at my life and what I have control over and what I don't. I will almost certainly need to rethink my diet, I will most certainly be checking my BP on a daily basis because I'm a huge convert to awareness for some reason. I suspect that, based on my inability to relax much of the time, that I'll be on some sort of psychoactive medication, and I'm concerned that it will affect parts of my life I really don't want affected. I suspect I'll be evaluating what is important in my life and what isn't on a level I'm not used to doing. 

I think perhaps that it's overdue. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Dug,

I've read your blog for a long time and really enjoyed your thoughtful posts on gaming and life. Just wanted to express my deep sympathy for your situation and try to give you a glimmer of hope.

Around two years ago, my father went through a situation very similar to yours. He's a workaholic and always stressed out about something and suddenly started getting these brutal recurring headaches.

He went in, found out his blood pressure was through the roof, had some other heart problems, and just like you, was "a walking time bomb." Since then, he's worked really hard to change his attitude towards work, stress, exercise, and diet.

I'll spare you the nitty-gritty details (unless you want to hear them), but now when he sees the doctor, his blood pressure is great for a man of his age and he's doing really well.

So, try not to look at this as a death sentence, but a very serious problem. It will take a lot of very hard work and big changes that will probably affect those around you as well(tough to have a completely different diet, exercise takes time, etc) but it is a problem you have a lot of control over.

Best of luck and thanks again for all your blogging.

Mark DAgosta said...


I first became aware of your blog when you were doing the "Labyrinth" posts, which I enjoyed very much. You have a great writing style.

I have to agree with the last commenter and say that your #1 challenge will be to get your head straight (that "excessive worrying" gene is a nasty one) so that you can deal with the very treatable physical problems.

I have my own web site dedicated to board games, so I appreciate the time, effort and commitment it takes to put out articles that are not just rambles or rants. But you make it look easy.

Just know that what you do is appreciated and there are those of us out here that are pulling for you.

Mark D.

Dug said...

Thanks for the encouraging words and personal experiences.

I am *not* looking at this as a death sentence, although we are all given a death sentence the day we are conceived, just as we are given a life sentence. What i really wanted to get across was that this is a time in my life when I need to start thinking a little differently, thinking about what I would left unsatisfied, for lack of a better term. I've always felt the unexamined faith is not worth belief, and now I'm just applying the same thing to my life and relationships. I've done that all along, this is just a little different focus. Choosing my battles more carefully, if you will.

Thanks also for the nice words about my writing. To be honest, I just start typing. Writing a document to support an advanced degree does wonders for that sort of thing. I generally have a sense of where I want to start and where I want to go, but it just comes out. I don't create an independent website because I'm too lazy, so kudos to those of you who do!

Nina Rochette said...

Thanks for the eye-cleansing, Dug. I haven't quite cried enough this week. Grrr. I am so glad you have a super-duper SO to be by your side. Now, how about coming over next week for some nice vegan food and some mocktails? (You know, that wasn't intended to sound depressing, but it does, doesn't it?) Meanwhile, I was in the library a few days ago and they have some really funny-looking books in the "literature" section of the non-fiction department. You need a good laugh. Big hugs to you both.

Matthew said...

Take good care, Doug. Thinking about you.

VInce said...

"I figure if I'm going to be held in judgement that if the main criteria is whether I made the right choice in deities then I'm in big trouble no matter *what* I believe."

Hi Dug, The only criteria is understanding that you can't enter Heaven without accepting the blood of Jesus as payment for your sins. It's so's not about how many times you attend Church, or how many doors that you knock on, or how much money you's about understanding that the one true God of all creation gave his only Son as payment for your sins so that you can have an awesome eternal life!

Anonymous said...

Steve Roach is one of the very great artists of ambient atmospheric music. Also, take a listen to Max Corbacho, similar to Steve Roach, but with his distinctive personal touch.