Off My Meds

During our recent vacation/decade-late honeymoon to Puerto Rico, something I’ve always worried and wondered about happened: I forgot to bring my meds. To be fair, by “I forgot,” I mean they were packed but got lost in the shuffle of a repack.

I hate to be in the position of being able to apply the term “off my meds” to myself, but here I am. On top of the thyroid meds which I will be taking every day for the rest of my life, I take an anti-depressant and assorted “mood stabilizers,” which pretty much do what the name suggests, and all of which I will probably also be taking for the rest of my life. There’s a whole big back story to all of these, and if you don’t know them, well, count yourself fortunate.

The point is, these are all daily medications that work in congress to keep me on the beam with regards to everything from mood to sleep to appetite to overriding my constant urge to twerk while informing onlookers that I am all about that bass, but am fairly indifferent to – if not filled with abhorrence for – treble.

In the chaos of leaving for our trip, my week’s supply of medicine was overlooked, and I didn’t notice it until too late because I forgot to take them the night we left Herndon, the next morning when we left Maryland, and the first night in Puerto Rico.

No biggie. Missing a dose or two happens, and isn’t the end of the world. Our first morning in PR we discovered that we’d left my personal pharmacy at home, where I can only assume it spent its days fending off burglars with improvised booby-traps in a series of wacky shenanigans and catch phrases.

map

“Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”

Okay, so this has to happen, right? People forget to take their meds, they lose them, they spill them on the ground. There has to be an emergency system to hook someone up with the pills they require daily to lead a normal life, right? Right?

Yes! Yes there is! Thank the patron saint of meds!

dealer

St. Francis de Skeevy be praised!

We contacted our insurance provider, Kaiser Permanente – the Lloyd Christmas of health care systems – to see what could be done. To our relief, there are protocols for exactly this scenario. Granted, it took us a good chunk of the morning and several transfers and new phone calls before we got someone who knew this (including one person who thought PR was another country), but still, protocols are a good thing.

There was a Walgreen’s right down the road from where we were staying, and after wading through the quagmire of shit that is an insurance company’s patient service system, a nurse told us a few days of each prescription would be available for pickup there that very day. I would receive a phone call from Kaiser if there was any problem.

I got a phone call a short while later, but it was from the local Walgreen’s, and rather than letting me know that I could swing in whenever I wanted for my scripts, they informed me that they couldn’t honor the prescriptions because of reasons.

Another phone call to Kaiser (including another few transfers) got me to a nurse who said she would call Walgreen’s directly and get things squared. Awesome.

She called me back to tell me that I was completely and painfully screwed. The healthcare system in Puerto Rico requires prescriptions to be transferred through a specific database, and Kaiser wasn’t able to use it. The only way I could get my medications would be for me to find a doctor, schedule an appointment, go in, get a new script, take it to a pharmacy, pay up front for the appointment and meds, and file a claim to get compensated for the out-of-pocket expenditures.

A few things you should know: Due to the financial ruin that Puerto Rico is in, doctors are leaving at the rate of one a day. Getting an appointment with someone would be challenging. Have you ever tried to schedule a doctor’s appointment in the actual United States? Do they ever cheerfully invite you in the next day at a time when you’re available? Probably not.

We talked about getting the stuff express-shipped to us, but since I have trust issues with parcel delivery companies, I wasn’t willing to gamble on the things getting to us on time, not to mention how expensive it would be to try and overnight a package from Virginia to Puerto Rico.

On top of the logistical issues of getting an appointment, we had one day completely spoken for during which I wouldn’t be able to go to a doctor. Finally, would it be worth taking that much time out of our trip (assuming I could get an appointment anyway) to get one or two day’s worth of meds? Would it be worth dealing with the paperwork to get compensated for our out-of-pocket expenses? Should we trust two medical systems who couldn’t manage to get me a handful of some extremely benign pills to work out payments in a way that didn’t screw us? According to one Kaiser rep, Puerto Rico is a foreign nation, so who knows if their king would allow their minister of medical skullduggery to approve the tariffs on trans-national currency transfers? (Citation of all preceding terms needed.)

I figured, what’s the worst that could come from skipping meds for a couple more days, or about a week total? So, I decided the only logical thing was to roll the dice and go without any meds for a couple more days.

quaid

Also known as “Quaiding.”

We did survive our vacation, free of medical or psychological issues. That said, it would all catch up to me when we got back. I went through a few days of misery while my body and brain readjusted to not being completely neglected.

I know I said it already, but I really can’t over emphasize the point that I hate – HATE – being in a position to say that I’m “off my meds” when I miss some doses. It carries a connotation that doesn’t sit well with society, regardless of how ignorant those stigmas might be.

I know this post ended abruptly, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say for a change, so here’s a picture of C from a year+ ago looking unimpressed.

2015-04-12 23.30.57

Advertisements

NIAW

It’s that time again: National Infertility Awareness Week is here. NIAW is a time when focus is brought to the issue of infertility, an all-to-often overlooked medical concern that afflicts roughly one in eight couples. It’s often considered so personal that it doesn’t get brought up as often as it should, with the exception of multi-millionaires rubbing their success in your face.

b610bf78ce03d7f6975f54e8311bfdbd

Congratulations, ass-hat.

Honestly though, I can’t connect with this issue on the same level as my wife, so I’ll let her do the talking:

“This year, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to let people know that infertility doesn’t just end if/when you add a child to your family. There can be a misconception that once someone is successful in pregnancy or adoption, all the stress and negative feelings that you experienced while going through infertility should just fade away. While I am eternally grateful that we were successful and have our twin boys, I am still and always will be infertile. It still stings to know that I will never have three children in my family (the number I always envisioned being the right size for us). Seeing a pregnant woman still makes me feel a twinge of jealousy. And it is stressful that I’m still paying back a loan to afford IVF, two years after my children were born. Infertility will always be a part of me; it doesn’t just end when children are welcomed into your family. Visit Resolve.org to learn more about infertility.”

Different couples have different means, goals, and timelines, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you to try everything, or hang in there, or you’ll get there, or God forbid “you just need to relax.” But like she said above, Resolve is a great resource, and can even connect you with support groups if you want to have a more personal, shared experience. I will say that you aren’t alone, and keeping this problem on the radar is the only way it will start to get the mainstream attention it needs.

 

 

Three Pictures and Some Pants

A few months after the boys were born, I wrote a piece about fatherhood from my perspective that the awesome site for awesome dads, dads.co, was kind enough to share. At the time, I was still coming to terms with the changes that were happening in my own life and hashing out how I felt with regards to the two new lives that I was responsible for.

Now, looking back from their first birthday, it’s amazing how much I’ve changed since not just since the boys were born, but even since I wrote that post.

Yes, I’ve decided to make their first birthday all about me.

I don’t want to talk about the past several months by yammering on about growth and the triumph of the human spirit or whatever. To that end, I am going to sum up my feelings with three pictures and two pairs of pants.

Babies are babies. Our babies are like your babies are like their babies. For a large part of their first few months they are basically dazed-looking, crying balls of human excretion, resembling a Play-Doh playset filled with swamp mud. Babies are, by and large, loud, gross and dumb. Get mad if you want to; you know it’s true.

Our babies certainly fell into this generalization, and the farther we get from their birth, the louder, wrinklier, spewier, sleeplessier, and generally ickier we remember them having  been. I’m not trying to insult the lights of our lives, but I guess I have to call a poopy spade a poopy spade; they were mostly cranky and squirty, regardless of how much love and adoration we had for them.

This notion of the boys was mercifully retired one day when the boys were a hair over a month old and I took a few pictures as they lay next to each other in a Twin Z pillow. There was nothing extraordinary about it; just some more baby pictures among the thousands I’m sure I’d taken by then, but this picture really impacted me.

Partly this pic had such an affect on me because of the look C is giving his brother, and to the fact that they’re holding hands. I know, I know, at their age in this picture, it takes a bit of anthropomorphizing to read much into this. The hand-holding was coincidental, and C was glancing all around him with that same look; he could have been staring at a teddy bear or potted cactus for all it mattered. No thoughts in those heads but the entrance and egress of food.

Bros.

“You look like a very young Winston Churchill. Oh, and I just pooped.”

Yes, the boys are adorable here, but what really struck me was the juxtaposition of these two kids. M is mellow, sleeping, peaceful. C is wide-eyed, alert, awake, and anxious-looking. Before they were born and continuing to today, that has been more or less their respective “personalities”; M is the more calm, relaxed, thoughtful of the two, while C is more the go-go-go, alert, excitable, and “look before he leaps” type.

That said, it was in this picture that I first saw our sons as people; real, honest-to-God, fleshed out people. It’s hard to explain, but there was something in me that switched from viewing these babies as just babies, or as screaming crap dispensers, or as the reasons sleep was becoming a distant memory. Suddenly I saw them as “people”, as my boys, as individuals who didn’t just need to be taken care of, but that needed to be nurtured and raised to be good men.

If the boys’ personalities hit me in that photo, they clobbered me in this one:

4 months

“Your naiveté is silly, Daddy!”

There was no epiphany this time, it’s just…look at those smiles! I had never in my life seen (or at least noticed) any person look as overflowing with pure, unadulterated joy. I fell in love with these guys all over again. There’s a difference between seeing a person as a human and seeing a person as a person. Smiling and laughing because their old man was acting the fool behind their mommy while she took so many pictures the camera’s memory card was praying for Judgement Day, I saw these guys as full-blown little boys, and reveled in what was (and is as of this writing) the only example of anyone ever laughing at me when I was trying to be funny.

Because chronological order can go screw, this last picture is from the very early days after we brought the babies home.

Kat and I have known each other since 1997. We’ve moved in together, gotten married, been on adventures, overcome struggles, and gotten pregnant, but this, THIS, is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She’s not grinning ear-to-ear or holding her sides from guffawing, but trust me, she is at the maximum threshold of human happiness. After our ordeals with infertility, miscarriage, and the deterioration of my emotional and physical health during her pregnancy, here she stands, holding her new babies and old husband. Her smile in this picture is beautiful and sweet and.it totally says “Screw every single other thing in the world. Screw all the struggles and problems, screw worries about the future, this is all I’ve ever wanted.”

Or she might just have fallen asleep...

Or maybe she just fell asleep…

Winding back the clock even further, while Kat was pregnant I was having some health issues, and they made it hard to know exactly how to feel about – or at least how to deal with – the pregnancy and impending role as a dad. When I found myself in an REI one day, I looked at children’s stuff and came across little convertible (zip-off lower legs) hiking pants. They were tagged as being for six-month-olds, they were more money than I should have spent at the time, and hiking pants are basically useless for babies. But we love hiking and I wear convertible pants when we do, so against all logic I bought two pairs:

Look at 'em. Yep, takes an awesome looking guy to make convertible pants look good.

Pacific Northwest slacks

The boys are a year old now, yet those pants still fit in what is apparently a sort of “five-small-barley-loaves-and-two-fishes” deal. On paper, I shouldn’t have bought them, but they stand as one of the only “wrong” decisions I made during that time that ended up being OK. The boys have been wearing them double the stated age, and, like their old man, they look awesome in hiking pants. I bought these pants in a sincere if ill-advised moment of impulse shopping, but they wound up being a great purchase from a practical standpoint and one of the few “silver linings” that came out of an otherwise pretty terrible time.

It’s such an oversimplification to try and sum up this past year with a few photos; we’ve had so many ups and downs, we’ve watched the milestones come and go, we’ve been humbled, we’ve been empowered, and we’ve both been given purpose in some different ways. Our boys won’t remember this year, but we’ll never forget*.

Bonus picture:

Pictured: personalities at 1

Pictured: personalities at 1

*Except actually we’ve forgotten big swaths of the first few months.

Guilt and Depression

A few days ago, somebody sent me this article by Jenny Chen for The Atlantic. You should really read it, but I’ll sum it up by saying that more and more they are linking adult depression with childhood guilt.

Every once in a while – especially since I started dealing with and learning about emotional disorders – I find out that something I thought was unique to me is actually more common than I thought. When I read this piece, I had one of those “holy crap, it’s not just me” moments that are always a bit of a relief while being another thread to follow.

Throughout my entire life, there have been those actions – either taken or not – that for whatever reason left an indelible splotch of guilt on my conscience. I’m pretty sure everyone has those: that mean thing you did that you never got to apologize for or that time you were told to do a math problem in front of the class and couldn’t. The difference is, most people don’t think much about those things. I think about them. All. The. Time.

Worse, most of the things that I feel guilt or shame over are nothing more than minor mistakes or things that I was too young to have known not to do them. Granted, there are plenty of things from my adult life for which I feel this persistent guilt over, but even then, some things are so petty I shouldn’t even remember them.

What kills me is that there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about this. Therapists like to make with the “get over it, not your fault, no one else cared so neither should you” advice, but I already know all that and still have these feelings. On top of that, I have actually gone to people and apologized for things I’ve done or attempted to make amends in other ways, but it doesn’t erase that guilt, and has sometimes added to it because I’ve dredged things up for other people or because I now feel bad that I still feel bad. It doesn’t make much sense, I know, but cyclical b.s. is the name of the game with my mental health.

Maybe the craziest oddest thing about this is that I have had people tell me that they don’t even remember whatever it is I feel bad about, or they’ve told me that I’m forgiven. Other times, when I should otherwise feel like the burden should be gone, it’s not. I should note, too, that with very, very few exceptions, none of these guilty memories were the result of someone else doing or saying something; I go all Libertarian when it comes to shame and take care of it myself.

I think about these things at some point pretty much every day, and if one pops into my head, it usually begins a montage of real and imagined douchebaggery. These fun little trips down memory lane have done everything from ruin a decent afternoon to triggering panic attacks. I see why this seems to lead to or worsen depression; it’s a heavy burden to feel awful about so many things, especially when so many are minor, imagined, or irrelevant.

As I continue to face, learn about, and struggle with depression and other emotional issues, pieces like this are threads that are coming together to make a tapestry of my psyche. This tapestry will probably end up looking like a collaboration between H.R. Giger Jackson Pollock.

Again, please check out this article by Ms. Chen: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/childhood-guilt-adult-depression/384176/

If I Knew Then…

Surprisingly, after all we went through with IVF, I was not the stereotypical “Hollywood” dad in the delivery room. I was emotional and everything, but – like I detail here – I didn’t feel like I had that instant papa-bear epiphany of new-fatherhood. I didn’t instantly become Ward Cleaver* blended with RoboCop…

Dispensing sage advice...and street justice!

Dispensing sage advice…and street justice!

…immediately fusing wisdom with a fiercely protective nature.

And cranking out little RoboBeavers.

And cranking out little RoboBeavers.

Between the stress, exhaustion, and other variables, it took me some time to bond with the twins. That may sound heartless, and in a way it sometimes feels that way to me. I feel a lot of guilt over not receiving the babies, cutting the cords, sobbing, handing out cigars, and arriving home to a begin a series of wacky, new-father shenanigans.

One of the great things I’ve found since becoming a dad is the existence online of an educational, helpful, and supportive community of fathers (and mothers) of every stripe. Linking in with other parents around the world – reading their stories and sharing mine – has been indescribably helpful to me.

One of the sites I discovered was dads.co, a relatively new site that saw fit to publish my thoughts/concerns/stress/relief during my early days of fatherhood; I’m looking forward to some follow-up content between us.

Spoiler alert: Being with and doing things for my boys is all I want now.

And a crossbow. I also want a crossbow.

*I was originally going to use Heathcliff Huxtable. I hate this new world.