Posted by: stephilepsy | April 30, 2011

The Drum Circle Game

Drum circles are odious. There. I said it.

You’ve all been thinking it. I know you have.

Haven’t you?

I have vivid Hippie College memories of being woken at 2 a.m. Monday morning by what can best be described as a rhythmic war-like thunder, pounding its way beneath my window.

I, having been awoken from much-needed beauty sleep, thus began an early, frightfully early, start to my day.

“What the hell is that?” I asked myself. “Are the Aborigines finally invading?”

Sadly, they were not.

After this had occurred a couple of times, I began to recognize it for what it was: a cruel form of torture perpetrated by nocturnals who took tremendous glee in the fact that this would have me sleepwalking through my nine o’clock class.

Those bastards.

I know this to be true because I participated in a drum circle once. It was awful. You have to try to follow everyone’s rhythm whilst clutching a terribly heavy drum. Oddly, even though it’s impossible to stay awake when there is a drum circle outside of one’s window in the early morning hours, when I was actually inside one, I felt as if I pass out at any moment.

No, I was not high.

No, I do not feel the need to repeat this experience and give drum circles one more try. As out esteemed (I’m told he is esteem by people other than myself) former president Ronald Reagan once said, “Seen one drum circle, seen ‘em all.”

Instead, I take comfort in the certainty that whomever invented the bongos died friendless and alone.

Posted by: stephilepsy | March 26, 2011

Dead Letters to Living Celebrities: George Clooney

So, when I created this here blog, my intent was to give myself an outlet in which to vent my frustration (“cuz if we don’t we’re gonna blow a fifty amp. . . “) about my silly little medical crises and observations from the front lines of the war against illness and mortality. Interspersed with these postings would be lighter fare, such as the post about summer reading or my recurring column, “Dead Letters to Living Celebrities”, wherein I fulfill my deep-seeded need to call out a random famous person on his or her bullshit, so as to give myself a break every now and then and, through the use of humor, keep myself from giving up on the blog, or life, humanity, and/or the universe.

But there were going to be rules. I was not going to do what I am in the processes of doing right (write?) now: no two “Dead Letters” back to back.

I’m really sorry guys. I now know what James Patterson must feel like. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I stand firm on everything I wrote in my letter to him. But I do feel like kind of a hack at the moment.

In my, admittedly sorry, defense, health-wise things have been both rough and confusing, resulting in two hospital stays in the past couple of weeks. I have yet to process any of it. I’m not sure of what my symptoms signify, which symptoms deserve precedence, what sort of physician should treat them, or where on this god-forsaken planet I should go to pursue said treatment.

So, in classic stephilepsy form, instead of dealing with her own internal injuries, she will call attention to someone else’s instead.

No, I do not think this is a defense mechanism.

Psychiatry is a load of utter nonsense, if you ask me.

Now that we have gotten ourselves all caught up, ladies and gents, it’s time to dig in to stephilepsy’s unsent mail bag. Oh! Oh my! Why this week’s victim is none other than the millennial answer to Cary Grant: George Clooney. Hmm. Interesting.

Dear George Clooney,

I should state from the outset that even though we’ve never met, I feel as if I know you quite well. I realize that is a terrible presumptuous comment, but it is one I’m confident you hear quite often. Oh, and don’t even try to blame this one tabloid media and the paparazzi and whatnot. My impression of you is drawn solely from your agent sanctioned media appearances. Besides, who are you kidding? You are clearly in love (note I said “in love” as opposed to “love”) with the idea of the entire world knowing who you are, and hanging on to your every aside with rapt fascination. [As an aside, however, I feel that on the behalf of the Videogum crew, you and your A-List pals ought to cease and desist with the whole practical joke schtick immediately. It wasn't cute 15 years ago, nor is it cute now. It is puerile and irritating.]

Anyway, like many of the unwashed huddled masses who purchase a movie ticket a couple times a year, I used to have a fairly serious crush on you. Ah, you noticed the past tense, did you? I thought you might.

It has nothing to do with age. Aging has only served to make you more attractive, which is somewhat annoying in and of itself. Nor does this have to do with your self-affirmed bachelorhood (more on that later). No, this is about Darfur.

Yes, Darfur. That Darfur. Yes, the one in the Sudan. The patch of desert teeming with oppressed people whom you have made it your mission to protect.

Have you ever asked yourself why Darfur, out of all the myriad humanitarian crises on earth, spoken so loudly to you? Why was it do important to save these Christian (the group you have worked particularly hard to save are Christian, are they not?) souls from their Islamic oppressors? Why is it it so very important that they get complete freedom and autonomy? The proceeds from the oil that bubbles beneath the ground on which they tread will go towards immediately improving their way of life, and not into some western shell company (pun intended) and a handful of warlords, right? I mean, once they get their much vaunted independence everything will be great. Just look how well these sorts of national birthing and re birthing processes have gone throughout the world in the past seventy years or so, especially in Africa. What could possibly go wrong here? It’s got win-win stamped all over it!

I think what bothers me most is your own personal motivations behind this whole fucking mess. You chose for your pet charity one where there was no sense of ambiguity as to who was “right” or “wrong” (though, of course, in order to do this, Georgie, you had to wait until the worst of the atrocities were over because it’s only then when clarity truly sets in); where the your fans, having lived through 9/11, would immediately latch onto any story with a religious Muslim as the arch villain; and your business partners would probably salivate at the chance to get in at the ground level and invest in oil refineries of South Sudan.

Oh brave new world that has such people in it!

Is any of this ringing a bell? If so:

You suck, George Clooney. Seriously.

Now, on the off chance I’m being harsh or, you know, totally paranoid, I’ll back up a few steps. There’s this great book I read a few years ago, Clooney, called “Emma’s War” by Deborah Scroggins. It’s an interesting look at one British dilettante’s contribution’s to the mess that is the Sudan, but it also gives a pretty good history of British involvement in the region as well. But the point Scroggins raises that has lingered with me years later is that, in a way, these sort of over the top campaigns and relief work are a sort of modern day imperialism. We’re still acting out of an obligation, “the white man’s burden” and all that, and not allowing these countries the autonomy they require the come into their own. In a way, we’re making everything worse. I’m not sure whether I agree completely with her or not, but I think it’s fascinating nonetheless. And, for what it’s worth, I know I hate it when I feel as if I’m at the mercy of larger forces in the universe trying to care for me. I may be a pathetic little invalid but am quite capable of making decisions for myself, thank you.

I don’t think Darfur needs you, George.

As for the ladies, well, I was going to give you a hard time about your serial monogamy, and your penchant for picking out women who are young and pretty but undereducated in a desperate attempt to ensure you’ll never be tempted into marriage again, but I don’t think I’m saying anything you don’t already know. If it helps, I’m with you. Romance is terrifying. Love is terrifying.

Take care,

stephilepsy

Posted by: stephilepsy | March 2, 2011

Dead Letters to Living Celebrities: James Patterson

Dear James Patterson,

From what I am lead to understand you are a very popular author. I do not doubt that your books sell well. Certainly they were a fixture at the library where I used to volunteer. Frankly, it was a bit of a problem. You see, because even your old books continued to circulate, and your new books came out at an alarming clip (as it seemed, did those of your contemporaries and competitors Robert Parker, T. Jefferson Parker, and Richard North Patterson, although none of them quite matched you for sheer volume of output), it became difficult for us pages (i.e. me) to keep everything neat and orderly in the FICTION Par — Pat section.

It also did not help matters that your readers seem to be entirely unfamiliar with the English alphabet and, despite what seemed to be endless amounts of effort of my part to keep your products displayed as Dewey intended, inevitably minutes later all would revert back to chaos.

Perhaps now would be an appropriate time for me to admit that although I’ve yet to read any of your novels, I have already decided that I despise them. This, I realize is unfair. I’m not known for my fairness. In fact, it’s fair to say that those who know me well would consider me intensely judgmental. Or, you know, HARSH (hi Dad!). If it helps, I once attempted to watch a movie version of one your books starring Ashley Judd. “Kiss the Blind Mouse with Four Girls”, or something? I don’t remember; I couldn’t make it through the whole thing. I dislike that Ashley Judd. She’s far too perky.

Frankly, James Patterson, I have my doubts about you. I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t believe you’re a real person. Once upon a time, when your “literary” career began, I suspect you were two, perhaps three people. One person (who may or may not be the semi-photogenic fellow on the book jacket who does the press tours and stars in those terrible trailers) who came up with the bare bones of the silly plots (“It should be a book about a lawyer, maybe he’s a little down on his luck, and, um, yeah there should definitely be a mysterious woman he’ll want to rescue but. . . .”) and another person (who presumably got paid far less than book-jacket man) who actually had to write the damn thing.

But now? Now there must either be a James Patterson Corporation, headquartered in the Cayman Islands, naturally, or else you, Mr. Patterson have been cloning yourself. Bad bad bad. Why do I say this? Because, even allowing for the quality of your work (which, I imagine, is nowhere near something like Ford Madox Ford’s “The Good Soldier”, say) there is no way even a team two people would be able to churn out three or four hardcovers a year. And yes, it did not escape me that upon a not-especially-thorough examination of your book covers, one would note a variety of different co-authors’ names appear beneath your own, in much smaller typeface, of course. However, you seem to be taking sole credit for your “Alex Cross” oeuvre, which seems to be the bulk of what you’re producing these days, James.

And that brings me, at long last, to the point of this letter. I’ll bet you thought I’d forgotten, hadn’t you?

“Ha ha!” James Patterson has said to himself at some point. “Since stephilepsy has had two strokes, surely she won’t ever publicly call me out on promises I have made to her and then wickedly, thoughtlessly, and cruelly have broken.”

Sorry, buddy. I underwent post-stroke rehab at Helen Hays Hospital and although speech therapy may in fact be the most mind-numbingly boring thing I have ever experienced, my memory and attention to detail is probably better than it has been in fifteen years.

How’s your memory, Jimmy? Do you even have any idea what I’m talking about?

Sigh.

It was about a year ago, maybe a little more. So that’s, like, three “Alex Crosses” ago? I think? Anyway, you (the awkward, semi-photogenic James Patterson who appears at book signings and whatnot) were on the TeeVee, promoting either “I, Alex Cross” or “Cross Country” (resorting to puns now are we? Quelle suprise, Jimbo), and you specifically told me that if I did not purchase this new book, you would kill off Alex Cross. There was no hint of sarcasm in your voice, no trace of a smirk. The music even thundered dramatically behind you. And I, seeing as not only had I zero intention of purchasing said novel but the death of this insipid character would go a long way to making my hours at the library a little easier, breathed a huge sigh of relief.

You, James Patterson, James Patterson & Co., or whomever it is responsible for churning out this inane garbage, are a liar!

I don’t ask you for much you know. All I wanted was for you to keep your word to me and the millions of other people who saw that commercial/book-trailer thingie and did not buy that Alex Cross novel. But you couldn’t do that, could you? Either because you are a greedy no-good bastard who can’t keep his promises to the reading public or because James Patterson is some giant, faceless, book-churning corporate enterprise and everybody knows they never keep their promises to anyone.

Either way, James Patterson, I’m very disappointed in you.

Sincerely,

stephilepsy

P.S. Oh, by the way, I had started laying bets on which puns you would use for upcoming “Alex Cross” book titles. Since you have totally already STOLEN “In the Cross Hairs” (I have not yet received a thank you card — typical), I figured I’d just post some for you here so they’d be even easier for you to access, you lazy sonofa–:

“Cross My Heart”
“Never a Cross Word” (could be “Never a Crossword”, if you prefer)
“Cross Walks”
“Cross’s Stitch”
“Cross Eyed”
“Fingers Crossed” (that you’ll put an end to this, James Patterson)
“Cross Beams”

Posted by: stephilepsy | February 5, 2011

Doctors vs. Aliens vs. stephilepsy

It was my own fault. It was my own stupid desire to appeal cheerful and humorous at all times, lest I bely the agony that exists beneath the skin, that did it. Also, I should have gone to my neurologist, Marky Mark, right away, bypassing the suspicious eyes of Dr. So What? entirely. But, I didn’t.

In any event, “So, have you ever seen the movie ‘Alien’?” definitely should not have been my opening line.

Oh, and those jokey follow-up questions about whether or not a dissociative state can be confined to a single limb? Those were not helpful either. Especially given that they were coming from a patient linked to not one, hold your applause folks, but two “fake” diseases, fibromyalgia and “chronic” Lyme Disease, respectively.

Still, how the hell was I to know I was having seizures? On ER, when someone has a seizure their eyes roll up in the back of their heads and they flop around like some sort of dying sea creature on the deck of our real estate agent’s boat. Also, they are unconscious. Which sounds awesome.

At the time, however, I was experiencing a sort of intensely horrible (rated number three on the list of most painful things stephilepsy has ever experienced — the stroke falling at number eight or so) burning, tingling, spasming, sensation, that felt as if a creature was trying to claw its way out of the right side of my abdomen. And, being a member of the ever-exalted Generation X, I tied it into a pop culture reference because: a.) that is how we communicate with each other and the world at large; b.) I thought it was funny; and c.) it was an accurate description of what was happening that I hoped would provoke a visceral reaction. Pun intended.

Dr. So What?, upon hearing my descriptions, just stared back at me blankly. I searched her eyes, looking for some sort of some spark, some sort of thread of empathy or emotion or thought, even if it were unrelated to me and had only to do with the dying supermarket nearby, but all I saw was emptiness. Which is fine, I suppose. Professional detachment and all that. Dr. So What? was never mean, she always took my pain seriously, and, when pressed with an issue (I, admittedly, felt too foolish to press her on this), was never dismissive. She just was never very helpful either.

So, being a determined sort of lass, I hit the internet. Web MD said I either had menstrual cramps or had been recently exposed to some sort of toxic chemical. Thanks Web MD! Between the fact that you are basically one giant big pharma ad and your completely useless “symptom checker”, you have ensured that I will I never, ever visit your site again. Good job! Way to go!

After that, I was forced in to the giant swirling vortex of despair that comprises the various web medical messaging boards. Since the sensation was, at this point, confined to my abdomen (it had not yet occurred to me that the numbness in my right arm that always preceded my attacks could be in any way related to what was happening because I am an idiot), I searched for spasms on the right side, or something similar, and was treated to many hysterical posts from people wondering if they had M.S.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “Woody Allen has an awful lot of free time on his hands.”

The consensus of cooler heads was that these were merely muscle spasms, and, if one were having them regularly, fibromyalgia was a likely explanation. I attempted to accept this, as I had been diagnosed with fibro over 15 years earlier, but it just didn’t sit right. My muscle spasms usually feel as is someone has shoved a knife into my back and left it there; they’re not some weird burning sensation working down my torso, lasting for a couple of minutes, that have me screaming as if I’m in the fiery pits of hell. But, okay. Muscle spasms. Has anyone else got a better explanation? No.

Unfortunately, they got worse. As the months passed, my attacks became more frequent, and, instead of being confined to my stomach, they worked their way up my right arm, sometimes across my face, down my chest, then my torso, and finally down through my right leg. Afterward, I’d feel totally out of it and unsteady (to the point where I once accidentally took a shower with my underwear still on) and I always had weird thoughts about my right (near-useless since the stroke) arm.

“Is this really my arm? Maybe I’m just dreaming it. Maybe someone else is dreaming it. Why is it here? What am I supposed to do with it?”

Eventually it finally dawned on me that all this was occurring on the side of my body most profoundly affected by the stroke. I did some research on seizure disorders, wondering if what I was experiencing could be some sort of epileptic fit, but no description I found matched what I felt. Unable to take it any more, I made an appointment with Marky Mark, the neurologist who had performed the surgery that had saved my life. It took him less than three minutes to diagnose me. He explained that I was having simple parietal lobe seizures (a rare type of epilepsy, which explained my inability to scan Wikipedia’s Seizures entry, and find symptoms that matched my own), likely caused by a scar or lesion left on my brain by the stroke, and that I shouldn’t worry too much about them as the fact that I had not had any grand mal seizures meant my brain was working fine and the damage was localized. He gave me a prescription and sent me on my way.

But, being a glutton for punishment, I had one last round regarding the seizures with Dr. So What? a few days before that fateful appointment with Marky Mark. If you are wealthy and have the free time, I highly recommend looking up the symptoms to parietal lobe somatosensory seizures and presenting them to your local, average, suburban, internist as it is both entertaining and offers and intriguing glimpse into the state of the Greatest Health Care in the World.

I, again, never being one to learn from my mistakes, opened with the bit about “Alien”. Naturally, I got the same blank stare.

I pressed onward. I went into detail about how it was confined to the right side of my body, and that it seemed to start in my hand, move up to my face, an the work down the right side of my body. I boldly theorized that it was related to my stroke, as the sensations were confined to my right side and, in addition to feeling burny and spasmy, had an electrical quality to them.

Her eyes darkened and narrowed.

“You have WiFi-itis,” they seemed to say. “I can alleviate your symptoms by calling your cable company.”

I then went on to discuss my feelings about my arm afterwards. For those of you playing at home, don’t forget to ask your new doctor friend whether or not fugue states can be confined to a single body part, ideally a limb. It is important to keep in mind, however, that you regard this phenomenon with puzzlement, not hostility. You don’t want to get yourself locked up in the local county psych ward. That would not be good.

At this point she just looked hopelessly lost.

“I have an appointment with my neurologist this week,” I said.

“Oh, good,” she said, clearly relieved. She took a deep breath. “Maybe you have a pinched nerve,” she added, helpfully. “He should check you for that.”

The idea that these symptoms were due to a pinched nerve was even sorrier than my theory that I had somehow started having muscle spasms sent by Satan. I am actually the proud owner of not one but two pinched nerves, as it happens. One is located at my elbow, the other at my neck. The reason I know this is an earlier, crueler neurologist put my through a nerve conduction study in 2004. This is a fun test. My advice: unless you think you are genuinely going to die or become paralyzed unless you have it done, I’d skip it. I sincerely hope that whomever invented it tested it on himself. A lot.

Anyway. Poor Dr. So What?. I was difficult, wasn’t I? You tried your best; I gave you a hard time anyway. I’m sorry.

I wish I could say that it all ended there, that I took my pills, the seizures magically went away, and I skipped off into the sunset whistling a jaunty tune. That’s not what happened. That’s just not the way things tend to pan out for me, health-wise. I suspect, for all of our fancy machines, expensive medications, and extortionately high health care costs, that’s not the way things pan out for a lot of people.

The pills have not worked. Other pills I’ve tried have not worked. Instead of having one bad seizure once or twice week, it’s once or twice a day. Plus, I have little ones that seem to flicker between my hand, face, and stomach on a near constant basis. I’ve had an intractable headache that feels just like my stroke headache for about six months now. Everything is terrible.

I went to see the Count, my new neurologist for the second time this week. The first time he actually took the time to listen to what was going on, but, this time he was sort of impatient and dismissive.

I had had and EEG since our last visit. It did not show any seizure spikes. This was not a surprise to me as: a.) my previous EEG had also been negative, and b.) the reading I’ve done seems to suggest that the kind of seizures I have don’t always show up on the test. He then informed me that I wasn’t having full seizures, but simple partial, seizures, likely caused by the the stroke and —

Oh, Really?

Congratulations, Doctor! You have just earned a stephilepsy nickname upgrade (TM)! You are now Count Von Obvious. Seriously, dude. This is our second appointment. I told you this already, last time, during our first appointment. Come on now.

He then hands me a sample for a new drug to take, one called Lamictal. Seeing as that I’m already mistrustful of medications (even more so of ones that docs “just happen” to have lying around), I look it up when I get home. Amongst the many hellish side effects (more common in women then men — misogynistic medication would make a great band name) are awful menstrual cramps. Mine already make me wish I had wish I had never been born. Or I hadn’t woken up from the coma. I’m not too particular about it. Oh, it can also change your eye color. To brown, I’m guessing, but I’m not really sure. This is, of course, assuming you’re not one of the rare few has a weird but potentially fatal reaction in the first few weeks taking the drug where your SKIN FALLS OFF!

I am not making this up.

No. Nope. Not happening. I’m not taking it. I will continue to take the completely ineffective Topamax until our next meeting. I know this means war. I really don’t care. I’ve had it. I reached my Network moment.

I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more.

Posted by: stephilepsy | January 31, 2011

The Least Wonderful Time of the Year?

Well, it was touch and go for a few minutes there, but I made it. My period is finally over. Look, I realize this a sensitive (i.e. wholly unwanted) topic for whatever fellas out there who chanced upon this post, and for you I have but two words: ovum up. It’ll be over soon, I promise.

My “lady time” has always been fraught with ungodly pain, and, owing to the NSAIDs the docs loaded me up when I first got sick, I had an ulcer that never quite healed properly so anytime I took an Advil for said ungodly pain, I’d end up vomiting for days. So, at the not-so-tender age of 25 I finally went to a gynocologist who put me on Seasonale.

It was bloody fantastic! Or, not-so-bloody fantastic, as it were. My period came only once every three months, and stayed for only three or four days, with hardly any pain to to speak of. Best drug ever!

Until March 2009 when it may or may not have caused, or otherwise contributed to, my stroke(s).

In any event, I certainly can’t take Seasonale anymore, or any other form of hormonal birth control for that matter. Between the warfarin and the previously mentioned stomach issues, Advil is out of the question when “Aunt Flo” comes to town. Oh, and if I thought menstruating was painful before, well, menstruating on a blood thinner is an entirely new level of agony.

My period is the grossest story O. Henry never wrote.

Speaking of O. Henry, and other classic American authors my life would be none the poorer for having never encountered, I would like to take a moment to discuss another rite of passage. One that does not involve massive blood loss from one’s nether regions.

That’s right boys, you can exhale now.

I’m talking about summer reading. Yay! We all have fond memories of summer reading, don’t we? Two or three days before school ended, we’d be handed those crisp white sheets of paper filled with tiny black print (oh, remember how tiny that print was!). We were told that these pages contained the options for our summer reading, that we must read two books from the list come September, but all we could imagine were long, hot July days stretched out before us, all we could hear was the painful bleating adults make in those Charlie Brown movies, and so we shoved those papers deep into our backpacks, hoping that whatever mysterious forces that were causing the strange changes we noted in our bodies on a daily basis would magically whisk away those damn lists so we’d never have to deal with them again.

Ring any bells?

Well, not for me, it doesn’t. I had a hell of a time finding books on those stupid lists I hadn’t read before. Plus, when I did, I’d get so excited that I read it during the first week school let out, only to forget what I had read by the end of the summer.

Yes, big time nerd. I know.

Fortunately, I eventually figured out that all you have to do is bring a book, and pretty much any book without watercolor illustrations will do, show it to a teacher and say, “I read this over the summer. I can use it for my summer reading project, right?” and she will nod dumbly, relieved at at not having to look at one more freaking illegible dissertation on “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Ah, yes. “The Old Man and the Sea.” Turning American men against reading and Literature since 1952.

I mean, the people making these lists try (man, do they try) to pick things that will capture kids’ imaginations, but then either the children foul things up themselves by choosing a book based on length (cough, Hemingway, cough) or, and this, in my opinion is a far, far worse fate than coming to hate reading based on your own imbecilic choices, they let their uneducated, barely literate parents pick out books out for them.

I was in a bookstore once (ZING! That one’s for you Dad.) and watched in horror as a woman raced down the aisles, her appropriately sullen daughter trailing listlessly behind her, in search of a clerk. “Bronteee,” she honked. “We need Bronteee.” To this day I hope they walked away with “Jane Eyre” and not “Wuthering Heights” or “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”, although I suspect even Charlotte’s most famous work was going slightly above pay grade for the poor girl.

Contrast this with an exchange I had with my mom when I was about 11 or 12.

Mom: What are you reading? Is that “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”?

Me: Yes. I got it from the school library. It’s supposed to be a classic coming of age story.

Mom: Honey, it was dated when I was your age. It may in fact be the most boring book ever written. Don’t waste your time.

Me: It says on the cover that it is an enduring classic. I’m trying to educate myself here. Go read your Stephen King.

Two Hours Later

Mom: I see you’re rereading “Gone With the Wind” again. Given up on Brooklyn already?

Me: I don’t want to talk about it.

So, given my mother’s (the primary reader in the stephilespsy household) hands-off approach to my reading selection, I get a little bit touchy when parents won’t step back and let their kids pick books out for themselves.

Last summer, while I was volunteering at the library where my mom used to work, a mother-daughter combo came in to do the summer reading dance. This was even worse than the bookstore, as the kid clearly had a mind of her own in regards to what she wanted to read, but Mom was not on the same page, as it were. Among the books forced on her were “The Tortilla Curtain” by T.C. Boyle [Boyle is for kids now, is he? Apparently the PTA has not read/gotten wind of "The Inner Circle" or, like, any short story he's written, ever. Also, "Riven Rock" is a much better book and a way easier read. Won't someone think of the children?] and “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” by Betty Smith.

Sorry, kid. I guess your mother doesn’t love you the way mine loved me.

Happy Birthday, Mom! Hope that there’s lots of good reading for you, wherever you are. I miss you!

Posted by: stephilepsy | January 24, 2011

Dead Letters to Living Celebrities: Dr. Drew

For this, the first installment of what I hope will become a regular feature on this blog, Dead Letters to Living Celebrities, I have picked a very special, and I hope, you all (we’re now up to me and my dad, folks! Building a following is ever so exciting) will agree, appropriate first victim: Dr. Drew.

Ah, Dr. Drew. Alternately admired, worshiped, lusted after (no, I don’t understand it either), loathed, and, on occasions such as this, called out for being the unprofessional, attention-craving deformed lump of flesh he is.

I suppose I ought to take this moment to pause and reflect, concede to you all that he is doing God’s work after all, admit that celebrities with severe addictions deserve airtime on reality television programs just as much regular celebrities do, like the Kardashians, say (oh lord), but, look, I’m not going to do it. No. Nope. I won’t. I don’t care that my seventh grade English teacher claimed this was how to build a persuasive argument, it’s not happening. None of the folks on the show sign up because they take any of this with an iota of seriousness, so neither do I. And let’s look at some of his recent great success stories, shall we? Jeff Conaway? Heidi Fleiss? That large fire at her home over Thanksgiving was completely unrelated to meth use; I know I’m convinced of it, how about you? Mindy McCready overdosed. You know you’re in trouble when two of the prior season’s shining stars of success are Sizemore and Mike Snow. They seemed to be doing great, don’t get me wrong, but I doubt these were the guys the inimitable Dr. Drew wanted to bring in to show the current cast and say, “See! See, my children! If you listen closely to my words of wisdom and work very, very hard, you too can partake in these rewards which I have promised you!”

Okay then. Here we go.

Dear Dr. Drew,

Hello, there. I suppose I should get the disappointment out of the way quickly, rip the band aid off fast and all (medical metaphor just for you!) and let you know that I am not looking to join your fan club or receive an autographed picture. Oh, and I’m not suffering from alcoholism or any other form of addiction (except cat huffing and nachos, although not in combination) nor was I abused as a child, but I do live with my father currently and sometimes I imagine his smart assed comments would hurt me if: a.) he were as witty as I am, and/or b.) I were still capable of basic human emotions such as fury or sadness. But! No matter. This is not about me. Much.

I was recently catching up on an episode of your critically acclaimed miniseries, “Clean this Fameball! hosted by DJ Jazzy Drew”, and, as a recovering stroke patient, I was somewhat offended by your use of a stroke’s aftermath to frighten your money-and-fame-hungry patients into complying with your aftercare plans. Now, as I am a very busy shut-in these days, I have not yet watched the finale, so I don’t actually know who goes on to a “sober” house (sorry about the quotes, Drewsey, but given that heroin was being smoked there on, like, day one, season one, let’s not kid ourselves, shall we?) but I’m guessing that not very many took you up on the offer of a pathetic amount of money to further humiliate themselves on national television while lining your pockets (and, more importantly from what I gather, raising your profile) as there’s a reunion scheduled this week, and not week one of “Not-Even-Remotely-Sober House.”

Is that why you did it, Drew? Is that why you brought those overgrown, perpetually adolescent brats to see that mute, paralyzed boy in his power wheelchair, along with his grieving parents? Was it to get them to commit to aftercare or to “Sober House”, the next piece in your entertainment — and it is piss poor entertainment and nothing else, Doctor– empire? Frankly, I don’t know that it matters. Propaganda is your stock and trade, but, man, that entire spectacle was ugly.

First of all, as much as I realize how irritating this will sound, while it is not at all presumptuous for you to say that his parents lives are now unendingly miserable, since you can, you know, ask them, it is uncalled for to make those same claims on his behalf. I myself, despite the fact that my health problems have worsened exponentially because of my stroke, am actually considerably happier and more relaxed than I can ever remember being. Reading I’ve done leads me to suspect that, because of the damage done to my left hemisphere, the right hemisphere is being utilized more. I should probably stop there, shouldn’t I? I mean, given your statements such as “There is no such thing as a recovered addict in nature” you either don’t follow or believe in current thinking in neuroscience regarding neuroplasticity and whatnot. And I wouldn’t want to start a fight.

No. Not me.

Never.

Plus, as someone who has had to suffer through being on a respirator, being sponge-bathed in a hospital bed while virtually immobile, having someone else wipe my ass, being stuck in a wheelchair, wondering if I would ever walk again, I can say with complete authority that, yes, these are terrible, awful things to experience, especially when one is in one’s twenties, as I was and as that boy was. But it is not quite the horror show you made it appear to be, and even if it were, it was disgusting to watch you use someone who, unlike other recovering addicts on your charming program, clearly could not consent to offer up his cautionary tale (despite what his mother may believe) and all for the purposes of scaring a bunch of lowlifes into complying with your treatment plan, which, let’s face it, doesn’t appear to work very well. In my opinion, you denigrated all of the work he, his parents, his nurses, doctors, physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists put into HIS recovery.

But that doesn’t matter, right? He’s never slept with Tiger Woods.

Sincerely,

stephilepsy

Posted by: stephilepsy | January 21, 2011

A Cold-Hearted Man

It had been my intention to begin this blog properly. I would open with a post simultaneously hilarious and heart-wrenching about my various early entanglements with the so-called medical “profession”. But as it is, I’m in too much pain and, frankly, too pissed off to do that, so instead I will begin with a recap of this week’s medical madcaps.

And, as so far this blog consists of a readership of one (i.e. me), I shall now demonstrate completely uncharacteristic generosity and ask them if this is accepable.

Readership, do you find this plan to be acceptable?

Readership: Why, yes, stephilepsy! We do!

Excellent!

We begin then in medias res, with the continuing drama surrounding my worsening somatosensory seizures, extreme pain, lack of sleep, and the beginnings of what were obviously unavoidable personality clashes between me and my new doctor, Dr. San-Froid. For some reason, the part of the country I have recently moved to is patently terrified of prescribing narcotics for pain (even in cases such as mine: I am a chronic pain patient who takes warfarin due to a stroke, also has epilepsy due to said stroke, and is therefore greatly limited in the medications I am permitted to take). Dr. San-Froid, in his infinite, unerring wisdom, decided I should take Neurontin for pain and to help with my insomina (for insomnia? really?). Now, having taken this drug on numerous occasions before, prior to the stroke, I was less than optimistic regarding this plan. Indeed, I have had the (mis)fortune of meeting many other patients who have tried it for various reasons, and not even the most cheerful amongst them referred to Neurontin with any degree of enthusiasm. In fact, I once read a blog that called it “Twenty First Century snake oil.” In my opinion, this is a wholly accurate description.

Needless to say the doctor’s brilliant plan did not work. Not only did this not
work, but it had this unfortunate side effect of worsening my seizures. With some grumbling about how this did not make sense as Neurontin is an anticonvulsant (I, ever-naively, said is was probably due to lack of sleep — but given the intensity if the seizures, and how quickly they developed Dr. Google and grumpy Dr. San-Froid are actually in complete accord on the matter), San-Froid put me on Klonopin for sleep (narcotics are bad but benzos are fine and dandy?) and had me make an appointment with a local neurologist, The Count.

Several weeks later, after, amongst other things, my grandmother’s funeral and a EEG that required me to stay awake all night (an excellent plan for patients with profoundly disturbed sleeping patterns), San-Froid and I met again on the field of battle. I informed him that while the Klonopin had only helped me sleep for a night or two, it did make my seizures go away, which although I considered that to be a profoundly magical, wonderful thing, The Count did not. Given this, I wanted to discontinue the drug immediately, and return to taking Rozerem, which I found was more effective and unquestionably less dangerous. He muttered something about how the Klonopin was only tempory, but I was not really interested in the insipid fairy tales he whispers to himself to improve his self esteem. Then I dropped the bomb: as I a not a drug addict as far as my health insurance company is concerned (one more month ’til Medicare!), they won’t pay for it. He responded that this was an economical consideration on their part.

Oh! What a lucky girl am I to have a man such as Dr. San-Froid explain such things to me!

I told him they would cover Lunesta and/or Ambien, but, as I was inclined to take neither Lunesta nor Ambien, I helpfully gave him several reasons he could give then insurance company as to why I cannot possibly take either drug. He coolly responded that these sounded like something I had found on an untrustworthy blog or website, an assertation which had the misfortune of being entirely accurate. I shot back that he need not hold himself to my suggestions and was free to invent somthing more to his liking on his own. A look of horror briefly flashed across his face before he regained his composure. He turned to his under-powered, and almost certainly over-priced, touch screen netbook and let me know that he personally did not hold with such shenanigans as he considered them to be unethical.

Unethical?

Clearly the meaning of the word is a mystery to Dr. San-Froid, as are a great deal of other things, one would imagine. He would be surprised, I’d reckon, to find to words “morality”, “right”, and “wrong” within your average dictionary’s definition, and yet nary a mention of “staying on the good side of completely evil multi-billion dollar corporations by ensuring a patient is given a less costly, to be sure, but, indeed, less effective and far more dangerous drug than the one she requires,” “following an obscure set of rules for no particular purpose,” or “coloring within the lines”.

Oh, Dr. San-Froid! How you live up to your name! You are a most cold hearted man.

Posted by: stephilepsy | April 23, 2011

Band of the Moment

So, if you guys have yet to hear the band Mumford and Sons, I highly recommend them. Their song “The Cave” is getting a lot of play these days and, weirdly, it’s been giving me some hope to hold onto just when I’ve needed it most — I’m going through some unbelievably tough times.

Maybe it can do the same for you.

Anyway, I can’t get the video for “The Cave” to play here (damn those Gods of Copyright!) but do yourself a favor and mosey on over to youtube to check it out if you’re unfamiliar with the tune.

Posted by: stephilepsy | April 20, 2011

Here’s Your Fee, Where’s Your Service?

We live in a capitalist society. We’re reminded of this, in my opinion, rather unfortunate fact on a continual basis. Everything is a commodity. Even tap water from various parts of the country is bottled and shipped elsewhere for mass consumption. So surely it is no surprise to you, dear readers, that healthcare, The Best Healthcare in the World, is very much for sale.

One loyal and endearingly naive reader of this blog (“I’m just a simple country boy” is my father’s favorite indignant refrain) claims that doctors are the same as any other small business owner, for the most part doing honest work and acting in good faith, just doing what they have to do to get by.

I disagree.

While there may indeed be many good and honest M.D.s out there, and awful lot of them are keenly aware that there’s more money tobe made from a chronically ill patient than a healthy one. Especially if you have Medicare or a good health insurance plan. And so they’ll send you for test after expensive test, prescribe drug after expensive (and probably dangerous) drug, while you get sicker and sicker.

I stopped taking all my pain meds. Even Tylenol. I’m still in pain, but not at nearly the levels I had been before. Crazy, huh? Lots of people have been calling me crazy these days.

Meanwhile doctors are increasing their fees everywhere. I saw one doctor who wouldn’t even call in prescriptions, so that patients had to come in for an office visit (cha-ching!) which in my case involved an hour drive for Warfarin, a blood thinner without which my life is literally at risk. This same doctor, for his part, neglected to do things like take a history or run any blood work, not even a CBC, even though he had just taken me on as a patient. He wasn’t real interested in the doctorly stuff, just the cash.

Meanwhile, drug companies are not using their vast resources to cure diseases, but instead to make minor chemical changes to their blockbuster drugs. They’re willing to do anything to work around patent laws, and have plenty of lobbyists and elected officials to help them.

I also find it odd that since the early 1980s, when the heart transplant was finally perfected, we’ve come up with a so many radical treatments for formerly fatal diseases such as cancer, A.I.D.S., strokes, etc, and yet not only is the U.S. life expectancy rate not climbing, it doesn’t even appear to be holding steady.

I’m fairly certain it’s dropping.

This is not the Best Healthcare In The World. We can do better. We must do better.

Posted by: stephilepsy | April 19, 2011

I Love Doctors! Love ‘Em!

Thought you might appreciate this,

So, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this recent medical controversy. Basically, questions have been raised as to whether sports players, especially those in contact sports playing in “the big leagues” as it were, go on to suffer some sort of degenerative neurological disease as a result of the multiple head injuries sustained on the field or in the boxing ring. At one point, the question was raised as to whether Lou Gehrig might have had this (CTE) and not ALS.

A couple of months ago, Dave Duerson, a former player (don’t ask me what position — how the hell would I know?) shoots himself in the heart and requests that his brain go to whichever fancy-pants brain pathology lab in Boston that is officially looking into this (they can only officially dx you with this shit fer sure once you’re dead, see). Anyway, Duerson had been of some panel for the NFL, trying to figure out which living people who claimed to be experiencing neurological symptoms were entitled to money and who weren’t, and, more familiar with the suspected syndrome than most, must have thought he may have had it as well. Whether he did or didn’t, very sad nonethless.

So I’m reading the readers’ comments on the NY Times websites, and there’s one from a guy called “Asshole Neurologist”. He says he just completed a study of patients with CTE (despite the fact it is commonly accepted that it cannot be diagnosed until after death) and that CTE is not degenerative (he cites no basis for this claim) and that depression killed Duerson.

I decide not to let this pass and post (like twenty comments later) that: 1.) it’s totally unprofessional of him to diagnose a patient he’s never spoken to and whose records he’s never accessed; 2.) neurological damage needn’t be progessive in order to be serious — frontal lobe damage could have made Duerson emotionally unstable AND more impulsive (perhaps even leading to suicide); and 3.) patients are more than pretty pictures on lightboxes. I also left a link to my blog, as I am wont to do.

I gather he/she/it read it and didn’t like either my comment or my blog. When I checked on my site stats this morning, someone had found my site using the search terms “glutton for attention monologues”. Ha ha. Sometimes people say/type/search things and it just cuts you, cuts you deep, you know? Like when I was 11 and my sister called me a foofy. Don’t ask me what that means; I still haven’t a fucking clue.

Anyway, so in addition to being a lousy doctor, he/she/it is super passive aggressive with anger management issues. I hope it’s a man so we can get married and then not have any children so that I will have done my bit for humanity! Yay!

Seriously, dude. Go pick on your own invalids. I have my period and will kill for sport.

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