18 posts categorized "health"

July 24, 2009

Check In

Haven't posted in a while. Was thrown off course by having to track down a NEW health problem (because I didn't have enough already.) But have probably cornered the sucker (doing the test tomorrow.)

Then there will be a week of diminishing fear, a week of understanding the treatment, a few weeks of getting used to it, all coupled with getting back on track with my exercise program.

So maybe in a month's time I'll be myself again. Or I'll be something, anyway.

May 07, 2009

International No Diet Day

Damn! YESTERDAY was International No Diet Day, but I didn't hear about it until today. TODAY is Claire No Diet Day.

Just kidding. I'm just saying that because I went to the dentist this morning and, to reward myself, had a second breakfast at a favorite diner nearby. WITH a cheesy YA vampire book. Lotsa naughty.

I just wanna say a couple of things about dieting. First of all, there's nothing wrong with being on a diet. Any healthy eating regime is a diet, whether you're trying to lose weight, keep weight off, or just feel good. In fact, if you're overweight or obese and not trying to eat healthy, you're also on a diet ... just a really bad diet.

If you're alive, you have a diet ... you're ON a diet. It's the kind of diet you're on, the way you approach eating, and most importantly, your attitude towards eating, exercising, and feeling healthy that's at issue, not your diet.

I tell a tale of two friends. One had a mother with an eating disorder who put her on a diet for the first time when she was eleven years old. Years later I had to be careful not to ever initiate a conversation with her about food, exercise, or health. She would get a gleam in her eye, and start spouting the latest diet advice -- in great detail -- as if it were not only gospel truth, but also salvation. If she got a good head of steam on her, she could talk for hours about this stuff. But the details would change at least once a year, with each fad diet. And she never lost weight, because her problem wasn't really what she ate. Yet she continued, year in and year out, to pursue whatever diet fad was happening, and to talk like she believed in it. It was an item of faith. Also, she never really did exercise.

The other friend was dealing with some mental health issues and decided at one point to get healthy. Given her status as a member of American society, she had a lot of false notions about dieting and losing weight floating around in her head. At one point she told me (somewhat hesitantly) that she was trying to diet and lose weight. And she told me how. I gave her a few pointers (you know: make sure you're eating ENOUGH; eat more, smaller meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism up; trade out simple carbs for complex) in an effort to be genuinely helpful. She listened, tried them out. She also found a personal trainer and started going to the gym. Naturally, she lost about 40 pounds over the course of a year and kept it off for another year. She's still struggling with mental health and has had setbacks, but her attitude towards addressing diet and exercise was that it was all part of her overall health.

I'm sure all of you have a friend or acquaintance like the first one. This is someone you either avoid bringing up a particular subject with, or avoid completely. Their attitude to eating and weight is unhealthy, and uncomfortable. And they don't realize it. These are the people that No Diet Day is aimed at, the ones who think diets will solve their weight problem/problems.

Many of you may have a friend or acquaintance like the second one as well, although you might not know it. Usually when people get serious about getting healthy or losing weight, they don't run around telling everyone. They, like Nike, just do it. They'll talk about it a little with close friends, if they think those friends can help with advice or support. Otherwise, they keep it to themselves ... much in the way that most people keep the details of their family lives to themselves: it's nobody's business.

The latter type is the type of person who SHOULD be dieting: because they only diet when they've gotten unhealthy and overweight, and they only diet to get healthy again.

April 26, 2009

Oh Hillary, My Hillary

Hear motherfuckin' hear.

And you wonder why I love her.

April 17, 2009

On Bullying

While I appreciate efforts like this one to bring attention to bullying, particularly bullying that happens around homophobia and other prejudices, I think the organizers are still missing some essential points about bullying, how/why it happens, and how to stop it. (Not surprising: many very smart commentators are missing the point.)

"-Isms" like racism and homophobia are one issue, and bullying is an entirely separate issue. You can address an "-ism" effectively and still have terrible, soul-shattering bullying. (Likewise, you can stop bullying and still drive people to suicide with your prejudice.) The "day of silence" and similar efforts are doomed to only partial success, or outright failure, because they conflate homophobia (or prejudice) with bullying behavior, and assume that addressing prejudice among school-age kids will stop the bullying behavior.

It will not.

I was always an unpopular kid in school--precocious (put in school a year early), nerdy, outspoken, uncontrolled ... and multiracial. I was occasionally bullied in grade school, but I went to a small parochial school where everyone knew everyone. I was a nerd, but I was their nerd, and god help anyone from outside the school if they wanted to talk down to me.

So it wasn't until we moved to Ohio when I was ten that I encountered really bad bullying. The school was public, and bigger--30 kids per homeroom and two homerooms--and the neighborhood was all white except for us, one other Chinese family, and one other multiracial white/Japanese family. All the Asian kids were considered nerds. The boys started calling me names and harrassing me physically, and no one stopped them. So they kept doing it. Every day. All day long. For a whole year.

Now, when I say "no one stopped them," I don't mean that my parents didn't try anything. From what I understand now, they were on the phone to the principal almost weekly. At one point the school arranged to have one of those theater groups sent to our class to do a role-playing workshop around bullying. It was embarrassingly bad and actually helped me out only because for a week afterward we all spent our bullying time making fun of the theater group. No one (including me) connected the theater group to what was happening to me because their program was so divorced from reality that it didn't get any hooks into our actual behavior (the roleplay centered around taking someone's lunch money.)

At another point, the homeroom teachers suddenly introduced a new item into our curriculum: a family biography, in which we were to get our parents' help in writing a paper on where our families came from. Then a handful of us were asked to do a presentation in front of the class. Guess who was picked to do a presentation? And my family history is really very interesting, so everyone was interested and had a lot of questions for me afterwards. But it didn't stop the bullying because, guess what? The bullying had nothing to do with why I was different and everything to do with how my difference made me less socially powerful. Explaining why I was different was interesting for everyone, but didn't change the fact that I was less socially powerful.

In desperation, the school had me sent out of class while the assistant principal went up there and told the class point blank to stop harrassing me. That lasted about a week. Guess what happened then? When they started, tentatively, poking me again, and no consequences were forthcoming, we were soon back to a full-blown bullying schedule.

Early on in the year, the boys started calling me a "chink." That lasted for maybe two weeks and then stopped. I wasn't there when it was stopped, but in retrospect, I think some adult heard the boys calling me that, was horrified, and put an immediate stop to it. After all, racism was not tolerated at my school. At all. You really never heard any racial epithets at my school, very few racial jokes. Everyone revered them some MLK and Rosa Parks, which was made easier by the utter lack of any black people in a 10 mile radius of our neighborhood. So the "racist bullying" lasted for only two weeks and was effectively stopped. But the non-racist bullying lasted a year (until my parents pulled me out of the school) and intensified throughout.

No, they didn't need to call me a "chink" to make my life hell. They called me "dogie" when we sang cowboy songs in music class. They called me "Nebuchadnezzar" when we studied the ancient world. They'd just say my name in a really nasty voice. They didn't need to know why I was socially weak, they just needed to know that they could get away with tripping me, calling me names, spitting on me, pointing at me whenever somebody said the insult of the week. They just needed to know that the teachers and administrators didn't value my daily presence enough to punish, or even notice, the daily harrassment. They didn't need racism. They didn't need homophobia (early on, someone tried to call me a lesbo, but for some reason it didn't stick. I'm not sure if they were heard by a teacher, or if I was just so not bothered by that that it wasn't worth it. In either case, they didn't need it.) All they needed was to not be stopped. And they weren't.

Bullying is no more or less than a person or group of people with social power, expressing their social power over a person or smaller group of people with less social power. Bullying requires two conditions only:

  1. A social hierarchy in which varying degrees of social power are delineated;
  2. An immediate community in which bullying is considered acceptable.

If you have a situation in which both of these conditions exist, you WILL have bullying, regardless of the prejudices or social enlightenment of the group. A group of all white, straight boys, for example, who have been raised to tolerate racial and sexual difference will still bully within their group if the two conditions exist. Bullies do not need an "-ism" as an excuse.

The first condition is impossible to combat. Human beings of all ages will find ways to create social hierarchies. If you make kids wear uniforms to prevent them from using wealth as a measure, then they will structure the hierarchy not around what clothes you wear, but how you wear your clothes or how you behave. The socially powerful will set trends in how to color on your shoes with magic marker, or how high to roll up your pants cuffs, or which lunch dishes to eat and which to treat with disdain.

It is utterly pointless to try to dismantle hierarchies of social power. But you can change the way the hierarchies work, to make them livable. There are two things you can do: one is to create smaller social units (smaller homerooms, or mandatory club membership) so that every individual belongs to a unit small enough that their participation is necessary, and therefore valued. The other is to make sure that every member of each social unit has a role in the social unit that both suits them and is recognized as valuable by the whole unit. (For me, it was art. When my class discovered that I could draw well, suddenly I had my place and a small amount of respect. A couple of classmates actually commissioned me to paint portraits of their pets.) The powerless will still be low on the hierarchy, but they will not be considered expendable, and they will have a small measure of social power that they can leverage to negotiate better treatment.

The second condition is what really needs to be addressed, though. It is both mutable and extremely difficult to change. When a community decides that a certain type of behavior is unacceptable, and imposes consequences for that behavior, the behavior stops immediately. Look at how quickly the racist bullying was stopped in my case. My community had a huge stake in not seeing itself as racist, and would go to great lengths to stop the appearance of racism.

They didn't have any stake in stopping bullying, though. In fact, I think they relied on bullying, as most American communities do. Because societies rely on their members buying into conventional behavior to maintain stability. There aren't enough police in ANY society to patrol all unconventional behavior. Stability is achieved by getting people to police themselves. This can be difficult if you have to convince individuals to adhere to convention with good arguments and rewards. Punishing unconventional behavior is much easier. Bullying is the quick 'n' dirty version of policing the borders of conventions. The bullying punishes the worst offenders, and serves as an example for those who might consider straying. It's easy to do: just step back and let the bullies do their work.

And they will, because the socially powerful have many ways to express their power, and will use them all if left to their own devices, exercising power by:

  • using their social connections to connect disparate groups to each other (networking) or make resources available unilaterally (thereby making themselves indispensible to everyone);
  • selecting an elect group and rewarding that group with privileges;
  • offering their friendship as a favor to those of lesser status, and
  • withdrawing that friendship at their own whim to show that they can;
  • occasionally offering privileges to the whole community as an exercise of noblesse oblige;
  • setting activities and agendas for the whole community, particularly if they're fun or rewarding;
  • selecting an ostracized group and forcing the whole community to ostracize them;
  • squashing challenges to their authority on an individual basis, or empowering proxies to do so;
  • etc.

Only some of these exercises of power lead to bullying. There's no way to stop the socially powerful from being powerful or from exercising their power. But a community CAN get together and stop the bullying that results; i.e. certain exercises of power can be made unacceptable. This requires that the entire community be able to see the advantage to them of stopping bullying, and that the entire community participate in imposing consequences on bullies.

I don't recommend addressing bullying as a whole phenomenon, because it is so misunderstood. The simple fact that people still call bullying "teasing" is a testament to how misunderstood bullying is.

"Teasing" is to "bullying" as "sex" is to "rape."

Teasing is a general term for a method of communication -- a type of mockery that people use in social situations. Sex is a type of intercourse between people ... essentially a way of communicating or being together, or an activity that people share socially. Bullying is abuse that often leverages a kind of mockery that is similar in form to teasing. Rape is a violent crime that leverages sex as a method of coercion and humiliation. Just as rape uses sex to commit violence, bullying uses mockery to commit abuse. The point of both is an expression of power by the bully or rapist over the victim.

I think if you'd asked my bullies why they bullied me they couldn't have given you a terribly articulate answer. It wouldn't have had anything to do with race in their minds, although, of course, race is always a factor, especially in a neighborhood where the only people of color just happen to be the outcast nerds. No, they would have told you that I was a nerd, or a geek, or stupid, or didn't know how to behave. They would have a thousand ways to say it: I was was beyond the pale. What pale, they probably still don't know. But they could zero in on my, and everyone else's, relative power in our shared community. And I had the least power.

And if you ask kids at one of these homophobic schools where kids are bullied for their sexual orientation--or their perceived sexual orientation--you'll get a hundred variations on "he's a fag!" as a reason. But listen to the tone, watch the body language. The problem is not that "he's a fag!" What they're really saying is: "Because he's weak! Because I can!" And because no one has stopped them. Put a really effective gay-straight alliance in place and people will stop calling people "fags" and "lesbos." But the bullying won't stop.

I think, rather, that bullying has to be addressed piecemeal: by breaking up bullying into component parts and addressing each individually. Break it up into a set of rules that don't mention bullying, for example:

  • No name calling: of any kind. This includes making fun of people's names. Online or off.
  • No mockery of your peers. Online or off.
  • No ganging up on people. Online or off.
  • No practical jokes. Online or off.
  • No poking, pinching, hitting, kicking, punching, tripping or any kind of physical violence.
  • No spitting, squirting, or otherwise throwing anything on anyone.

If this sounds overly restrictive: it is, in a way. But it's very clear: these are the things you don't get to do. Find another way to be social with your peers. And it's very clear for the adults who monitor kids, too: you see one of these behaviors, you cut the kid from the herd immediately and put them in timeout. In two weeks, all those behaviors will stop. Most people can't imagine kids socializing without these behaviors because they've never seen kids (or sometimes, adults) socializing without these behaviors. But I have.

When my parents took me out of the bullying school and put me into an (expensive, private, all-girls) school, I found myself for the first time in a community where bullying was utterly unacceptable. No one called me names. No one mocked me. No one ganged up on me. No one played nasty practical jokes on me. No one poked, pinched, hit, kicked, tripped, spit on, or threw things at me. And I was still unpopular, I was still an outcast. People still had plenty to do and plenty to say to each other, and were still very clear on the fact that I was beyond the pale; weird; ridiculous, nerdy. No one said anything about it. They didn't have to. When I said something nerdy, people nearest me would roll their eyes and then move quickly on to the next topic, excluding me. If I tried to join a more popular group by standing or sitting near them, they'd ignore me. If I got too close, someone would glare at me or ask me directly what I wanted until I went away. My position hadn't changed. The only thing that had changed was that I wasn't being abused.

It took me two years to recover from that awful year of bullying; two years to not wince when someone asked me what my name was, two years to stop cowering away when someone approached me; two years to start trusting my teachers enough to do the work they asked me to do; two years to feel like life was worth living again. And during those two years, I had no friends. But what I had was peace. I had quiet. I had a chance to recover. And two years later I started making friends and collecting social power, and a few years after that I had put myself beyond the power of bullies forever.

I hadn't put the racism behind me, though, or the sexism. I still had to deal with that ... in fact, the more social power I had, the more people wanted to be around me because I was cool now, the more I had to deal with their prejudices and misconceptions and fears. But I was able to manage the -isms myself -- find a group of people like me, study and understand the phenomenon, advocate for my racial group (or for women) -- because I had social power and personal confidence as a result of being taken out from under bullying behavior.


Now, none if this is by way of saying that prejudice shouldn't be addressed early and often. You can stop bullying without addressing prejudice, but then you'll still have an active prejudice that will come out in other ways. Even if a gay teen isn't being actively bullied, that teen can still be ostracized, ignored, earnestly told that he is immoral, wrong, or bad, told that his very being disappoints his parents and embarrasses his family, and generally put into such extremes of cognitive dissonance that can cause depression, suicidal tendencies, and the like. Bullying isn't the only social behavior that kills.

I'm just saying: recognize the difference. Prejudice is one thing, bullying is another. Address them separately if you want to get rid of both.

April 13, 2009

Weekly Roundup: April 5 - 11

Okay, I'm calling it: Life has jumped the shark. Suddenly, everything's been about Charlie? The whole thing has been about getting Charlie into whatever their organization is? Please. Oh, and also, now he and Danny are oogly over each other? Because she was in danger? There's nothing like a damsel in distress, right? Am I right? And he's the perfect ... cop, gangster, guy, whatever? You can't hold him cuz he can kill you with a karate chop to the throat? Too bad none of the rest of those fools who do time have learned that jailhouse trick. Argh. Stupid show.

Food poisoning this week. That was fun. Sad thing was, I was so doped up from illness that I actually got two good nights' sleep.

Then I went in for a sleep study. Very weird sleeping in a hotel room with about fifty wires glued to my skull and chest and four down my pant legs, plus elastics around my chest and waist. Very creepy. But maybe I'll get to sleep right now. Here's hoping.

Got through another season of The Wire. Now I'm just waiting for season five to show up in my mailbox. Omar is definitely still my favorite character.

Posted about Koreatowns on atlas(t). So I live in Oakland Koreatown now. Whatever.

Two birthday parties this weekend. Fun.

I'm reading Proust Was a Neuroscientist, a birthday gift from Pireeni. I'm not throwing it across the room so much as writing "dumbass!" in it frequently. The dude is a good popular science writer but he doesn't seem to understand how novels work at all. Will have more to say about it when I finish the book.

Went for a walk in the Oakland hills this weekend with Jaime. Very beautiful in springtime. Didn't know there were so many colors of green. But part of one path was along a very steep cliff and had a near panic attack. Funny moment during the worst part when we had turned back and I was talking myself through it: "It's okay, you can do it. It's not a problem. It's okay. You can do it ..." and then a dude came barreling towards us on a mountain bike and I almost lost it. Weird that it was bad when the cliff was on my left side, but when we turned around to come back and the cliff was on my right side it was much, much worse.

I'm putting together a carnival of 300-word Asian American immigrant stories for API Heritage Month on Hyphen blog. This is also to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the publication of The Joy Luck Club. The idea is to get non-Joy-Lucky immigrant stories. Here's the link.

Also, the Carl Brandon Society's API Heritage Month book list will be the same as last year's. Here's that link.

And posted a review-ish piece on the current 21 Grand show on KQED. Here's the link.

April 05, 2009

Weekly Roundup: March 29 - April 4

My folks were in town for a while but left this week. And I've been having trouble getting to sleep, which is making me tired and bad-memoried.

I had to scramble to finish my Asian American women profiles for Hyphen blog this week, before Women's History Month was over. It was a good project, but a lot of work. I asked the readers for suggestions, and most of the suggestions were for artists and writers, which tells you what kind of readers we have, but wasn't terribly helpful. So I had to curate the profiles for age, ethnicity, and field of endeavor. That also meant I had to do some research to actually find a range of women to profile. But I'm glad of the result. You can see all the posts here.

By the way, I'm going to be asking Asian Americans to send in 200-word family histories for me to post on Hyphen Blog for May, which is API Heritage Month. Spread the word!

Also, currently working for Kaya Press and putting together book tours for Australian novelist Brian Castro and Japanese documentary filmmaker Kazuo Hara. We've been watching Hara's films lately, and I have to say, although I would never have sat through one otherwise, I'm glad I was forced to: this guy's a genius. For writers out there, you HAVE to see A Dedicated Life (which you can get on Netflix). It's a documentary about a Japanese novelist, famous for one particular book, who used to be a member of the Japanese communist party and was excommunicated for kicking off his novel writing career by writing a book criticizing it. But that's not what the film is about. The film, an amazing 2.5 hours long, is about narrative and how people build their lives. That's all I can tell you, because it's the kind of film that does what only film can do ... so you can describe it. Watch the film and if your jaw isn't on the ground after the first half hour, and STILL on the ground two hours later, I'll buy you dinner.

I didn't really like his Goodbye CP, which I think was his first film, and which is basically about forcing the audience to watch endless footage of people with cerebral palsy moving through public space and being ignored by others. But definitely see The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On, which is about a super-crazy protester in the 80's who tries to kill his former WWII commander for reasons best understood by watching the film.

Katherine Mieszkowski, probably my favorite writer at Salon, has an article about a couple in Berkeley who acquire most of their stuff by scavenging. It's really interesting and has some tips for down 'n' out East Bay Areans. The irony here is that this couple has written a book about scavenging, which you have to buy new, because presumably most people who buy it aren't going to toss it out.

My friend Jaime said last weekend, after the funeral of the four Oakland policemen, that he thinks a city can reach a point where its reputation is just broken, and there's no coming back. I've been watching The Wire on netflix these past few weeks, and Oakland feels like that right now: broken beyond repair. The anger that Oscar Grant's killing unleashed was one side of the violence coin -- and the police DO have a lot to answer for, over the years and right now. But these killings are the other side, an indication that when violence gets this out of control, no one is safe. The one thing everyone can agree on is that Mayor Dellums is an asshole. The feeling in Oakland right now is sadness just on the edge of despair; there's no real anger, just shock. And the violence continues.

I saw the William Kentridge show at SFMOMA last weekend and highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend it. Don't wanna talk about it right now, though. Also saw the Nick Cave show at YBCA. Candylicious!

And I've started revisions on Draft 3 of da nobble. And started writing dates with other writers. If this works out, I might have a way of sticking to it. I have to get this sleep issue resolved, though, because I don't have much brain power this week.

Saw Amber Benson, who played Tara on Buffy, on BART last weekend. At first I thought she was someone I knew down the way, so familiar did she seem. I stared a little, but tried not to bother. She was with a group of geek girls, which is cool.

Been watching the first season of 21 Jump Street on Y*O*U*T*U*B*E. Yeah, it's cheesy (the music is truly horrible), but the storytelling is actually pretty decent. I remember LOVING this show back in the day: it started the year I went off to college. I was still seventeen when I first went: still a teenager in a lot of ways. So I watched it off and on until Johnny Depp left. The gender and racial dynamics are so clear in this show, it makes me understand the 80's much better. Holly Robinson's character is the only woman on the force (there are no female extras in uniform). She's depicted as being just as capable as the men ... but she never has to fight anyone. Whenever there's a shooting or an accident that she's involved in, all the men get this look of concern on their faces and touch her shoulder and ask if she's alright. God, I remember that.

As far as the racial dynamic goes, the only black characters on the show so far are bad guys, except for Robinson and the captain. There's even one episode where a rich white kid gets hooked on smack and is forced by his black dealer, also a teenager, to rob stores to pay for his dope. The black dealer gets put away and the white junkie gets off scot free with no explanation. Everyone feels sorry for him. And yet, there's some sophistication in the way the individual characters interact racially. In the pilot, Johnny Depp's character is surprised that Holly Robinson's character owns an MG. She laughs at him and asks him if she should have a pimpmobile instead. No pretty-boy cop-show hero nowadays would ever be allowed to make racist assumptions like that.

Pireeni gave me Proust Was A Neuroscientist for my birthday (very belatedly) and I've started reading it.

Will do a sleep study next week.

That is all.

January 08, 2009

Update On 2008's Goals 'n' Objectives

Before I really get into this, I should mention that I spent most of 2008 in a mild depression. I won't get into why, but I'm not ashamed of it and think that people should be clear when they're in a depression that they are (or were, in my case, I'm out of it again, thank oG) depressed. It helps for other people to know. I was depressed from about Sept 2007 to March 2008 and then again from June 2008 until November. I snapped out of it at the end of November and am going strong now.

So I was actually unable to fulfill many of my goals for this very specific reason: writing was mostly out because of it, and exercise was iffy. But here goes:

  • Get writing again. This is the big, important one. The goals are more immediate:
    • full draft of a new short story every month
    • completed first draft of the YA fantasy
    • completed second draft of da Nobble 

Okay this is a tricky one. I DID get started writing again in March and made some serious headway on da nobble, but got stuck again around June-ish. But by rearranging my work plan, I finished the second draft. Also in the spring, I wrote the initial pages and notes for a new novel. But then, of course, got stalled. Only drafted one complete new story -- in fact, I only came up with the one new short story idea. Did ZERO work on the YA fantasy, which may be dead.

  • Read more challenging and inspiring material. In 2007 I read a shitload of YA. Deliberately. And I'm glad I did ... but I kinda feel my muscles atrophying, and I have a pile of grown-up books waiting for me. Also, nonfiction, hello?

Spent a large part of the middle of 2008 doing re-reads and reading fantasy and YA series for escapist purposes, so no, not "challenging."  But I did read a bit more nonfiction and a few more books specifically for analysis purposes, so I did head in the general direction of this goal.

  • Get on the insulin pump, which will definitely happen. I've taken the first steps already and the thing will appear in January most likely. 

I got stalled by a hoop my insurance wanted me to jump through and then the depression got me. Made some strides, but they're void now and I'll have to go back and make them again this year.

  • Work the blogs. This blog you are reading is easy, because when I don't feel like doing a big, long post about something challenging, I can do my equivalent of catblogging. But that's boring for me and you. Plus, I've figured out the difference between atlas(t) and atlas(t): Galleon Trade Edition, and I want to work both. 

I did get started again on atlas(t) and decided definitively to kill Galleon Trade. I also started a new, paid blog and did a good job with it, I think. But then, I got stalled on my personal blogs, and then got started again. Did a LOT of political writing on this blog, which I'm proud of, but I also think I alienated a lot of people with it. Unintended consequence. So, again, sort of.

  • Get fit. I.e. exercise five days a week, minimum twenty minutes. No other goals there, because apparently, this is challenging enough. 

I tried. I managed to do some exercise most weeks, although certainly never five days a week.

  • Lose that 15 pounds. It really just slides off when I eat right, so the key to all of this is wanting to eat right, which means handling stress better. Which relates directly to the above objective and the three directly below. 

Lost it, got depressed, gained it back.

  • Get regular massages. 

Yes! I actually met one of my goals!

  • Go dancing regularly. 

No, not at all.

  • Regular dinner parties, game nights, and other relaxing, small social events at my house. Yes.

No, in some ways I did less of this, and in some ways, I did a bit. But my couch broke in June and I didn't get it fixed (part of depression) and it was a convenient, but also unavoidable, reason for me not to entertain. It's getting picked up by the upholsterer on Monday (no shit) so that excuse/reason will be gone after next week. Yee haw!

So I have to say, I'm not as badly off as I thought I was. I did make some headway on most of my goals last year during the times that I was able. When I was disabled by a (mild) depression, I still struggled, and I took steps to address the depression (mostly by getting the massages, still trying to exercise, and finding a shrink finally.) So I'm actually ... proud of what I was able to do last year, although bummed that I took such a hit, moodwise.

So next post, I'm setting goals for 2009, since -- on this reflection -- it DOES seem like goals-setting is worth my while.

November 01, 2008

NaNoFiMo & Diabetes

Hey chicks 'n' chickens! It's November!

It's National Novel Writing Month, National Diabetes Awareness Month, and National American Indian Heritage Month. All three.

For National American Indian Heritage Month I have a book list fer ya, which will follow in the next post.

For National Diabetes Awareness Month, I pledge to find out three new and important thing about diabetes (Type One) and post about them.

And (drumroll please) I will be half-assedly participating in NaNoWriMo, but, as usual, in my own imitable way. Namely, I will be using this month to knock off my To-do list for draft two (or draft three?) of da nobble. Call it National Novel Finishing Month or NaNoFiMo. To wit:

  1. I have 15 "short fixes," things that should only take a few minutes to an hour or so.
  2. I have 17 "medium fixes," things that'll take a whole day.
  3. I have 9 "long fixes," things that require me to rewrite whole sections, or change the style of a narrator's entire text.

So my pledge is to do one short fix and one medium fix every day until they're done. That'll leave 13 days for the nine long fixes. I'll try to knock off one long fix every day, but we'll see how that works out.

That's the plan, Stan.

October 13, 2008

Fat Talk Free Week!

The video above is an ad for "Fat Talk Free Week," which begins TODAY! Yay!

Fat Talk Free Week (click link for info) is a week during which you don't "fat talk," that is, you don't say how fat you or other women are, you don't focus on your appearance, or talk about eating or exercising in terms of how they affect your appearance.

Sound easy? It's harder than you think. One of the sentences the ad identifies as "fat talk" is "You look great!" And I did have to stop and think about that one. But really, think about the last time you said that. Did you mean, "wow, you look like you've lost weight!"? Did you mean, "wow, that dress makes you look ten pounds thinner!"? The last time I said it, I meant, "Wow, you look happy! I didn't realize how depressed you've been looking until I saw you looking happy just now!" but almost always before that I meant, "wow, you look like you've lost weight!"

I'm actually pretty good about not fat talking, but I'm very bad about fat thinking, so here are some things I'm not going to do this week:

  • pinch up my belly fat and shake it disgustedly
  • hang on to those pants I've never worn that are too small for me
  • buy that fall jacket I wanted that's too small for me because I'm going to lose the weight ... one of these years.
  • stand on my scale.

Here's what I'm going to do instead:

  • exercise every day this week, because it makes me feel good.
  • make sure those superfoods are in my shopping cart, because they make me feel like I'm taking care of my health.
  •  fast tonight, so I can go in tomorrow and get those tests done that I've been avoiding. I'm getting blood drawn tomorrow, people! Wild horses and procrastination shall not stop me!

How about you? What are you going to do this week?

Via. Crosspost.

May 28, 2008

Rachel Moss and the Legions of Hiding Assholes

Those of you who haven't yet heard ...

there's an internet brouhaha going on over a girl -- word used advisedly -- named Rachel Moss, who went to WisCon and posted a con report on Something Awful with pictures of mostly fat and transgendered participants, taken without permission, making fun of these people for their non-normativity. She apologized, then took her apology back. She took her post down, but someone else put it back up without her permission and a dogpile of cretins jumped in to finish the work. By the time they were done, they pulled WisCon photos off of Flickr to add to the mess, making fatphobic, transphobic, ablist, racist, and generally misogynist comments about a wide variety of individuals, many of whom are my friends, and all of whom are at least nominally my allies, by virtue of being WisCon attendees who treat others with the modicum of respect required for this Con. There's a link to a mirror of the original post at Angry Black Woman, who is also calling for people to post about this and make sure Rachel Moss' name is well connected to this on the internet.

I don't care about Rachel Moss -- the culprit here -- and I'm happy to see her banned from WisCon, but I'd be just as happy to see her show up again and get snubbed and hissed as she deserves. I doubt very much she'll even try to come back. Apparently she's on the public (blogging) record as having an eating disorder of her own--bulimia--which makes this attack both more understandable and more disgusting. I'd ask that no one who comes through this post attack Rachel Moss for her eating disorder--that's her problem--but rather for her unacceptable behavior regarding WisCon.

I have the advantage of having been an extremely close friend for 18 years of a woman who suffers from Cushing's Disease, a disease that affects women disproportionately, and that actually makes women fat. I got to see her develop from a physically healthy and average-sized petite 20-year-old into an obese woman in her late twenties, without any "normal" reasons for the change. I got to watch her fight misogynist doctors and careless HMOs for over a decade before she could get someone to diagnose her with the often fatal disease she already knew she had. I got to see total strangers casually call her "lardass" and suchlike on the street, dropping bombs on her when they weren't even in a bad mood (I get the bombs usually when the bombers are in a bad mood), simply because that's what you do with a fat woman.


And we're talking about a woman whose obesity was very definitely not "her fault."

But then I've also gotten to see in close friends the effects of early abuse and early eating disorders pushed upon them by family members (I tend to think pushing eating disorders on a child is abuse, but the abuse I'm talking about was often from someone else, and far more serious and devastating than even eating disorders). If these people "made themselves" obese by overeating, what person who knew the kind of childhood they had, the kind of families they have, could possibly blame them or say that their eating was their own fault?

And who the fuck are these people to take it upon themselves to decide that someone deserves to be openly hated -- and to hate themselves -- for a body that they did not choose? Thinking about it makes me want to cry in a way that thinking about all the bullshit that actually touches my own life --- the racism, the stupidity about multiraciality, the neverending aggression I get from men for being tall, and all the put-downs I've had from misogynists --- does not make me want to cry.

My feminism, my antiracism, my refusal to allow total strangers to get me to agree that my tall woman's body is abnormal, all of these empower me. But watching fat people get smacked down makes me want to cry because while most of me is an ally, a small part of me still tugs me towards the smack-down crew, and how can we fight this when I'm also the enemy?

There's still a little voice in my head that agrees with such awful people as Rachel Moss when they say awful things about fat people. I've come close many times to stomping that little voice out, but it's a tough one. It's the same voice that tells me I'm fat, but it's okay as long as other people are fatter. I know a lot of you out there know that voice, even if you won't admit it.

Rachel Moss knows that voice, only she has completely failed--if she ever tried--to stomp it out. She's let that voice take over, and it's a monster's voice. That's what she's turned into for the time being: a monster, who's projected her hatred of her own body onto the bodies of others, to get some relief. Who can really doubt that that's what's happening with women who hate on fat women?

And who can doubt that that's what's happening with women who hate on disabled people? I read the blog of a friend every day who posts about how much pain she's experienced that day and whether or not--and for how long--she was able to stand before having to resort to her wheelchair. Her blog strikes me dumb because nothing I experience puts me in such physical pain and I can't even properly imagine it. And some ... god I don't have bad words enough to express it, let me resort to other languages ... some turtle's egg, some drecksau posted a picture of her in her wheelchair and called her a "cripple" and someone else hoped she'd get cancer and undergo chemo so she could cosplay Charles Xavier.

I'm actually crying with rage as I write this. I don't think I can dig deeper into the comments on that post to find the extraneous shit. So far they've turned a picture of a (black) friend of mine into an icon with the tag "100% N*gger" on it, hoped that a Muslim woman's head gets chopped off, and ... I'm not continuing with this filth. Who are these people? And will someone who knows how to do this please let the rest of us know how to get them kicked off the social networking services they're using so we don't have to hear about their shit anymore?

But all you need to know about shame and cowardice is that every one of those losers posting in comments is hiding behind a username and icon, and every single one of the women they are making fun of is out in the open on the internet.

I'm closing comments on this post because I'm just passing the word on.

May 13, 2008

Register Your Bone Marrow!

Hey all, somebody else needs a bone marrow transplant.

Actually, a LOT of people need bone marrow transplants. Bone marrow is much harder to match than blood, and it's much likelier that someone will find a match with a donor from their own racial or ethnic group.

But people of color don't register as bone marrow donors in the same proportions as whites. So people of color with leukemia tend to get screwed. Mixed race people especially tend to get screwed.

I'd do it, but my diabetes prevents me from donating just about anything. So instead, I'm passing on the word, hoping that some of you will step up and do it for me.

If you're a person of color, you can get a free testing kit. Click here to register, no matter what color you are!

February 21, 2008

A Letter to the World About My Body

Dear Everyone Who Isn't Me, and Especially the Wonderful Women of BlogHer,

I want to participate in your Letter To My Body project. I really do. I think it's wonderful.

But in trying to compose a letter to my body I realized something: I don't see my body as separate from my self. Presumably here, "self" is mind, while body is some sort of symbiotic adjunct. I don't pretend to understand mind/body split. All I know is that when I say "I," and when I say "me," I mean, in both cases, my body + my mind + my soul, if there is such a thing. My "self" is something composed of all the things I put "my" in front of, and my mind is no more--or less--connected to my self than my body.

This is not because I am Special And Better Than You. I live in this fucked up western youth and beauty obsessed culture, too, and I'm not all that strong-minded. Just ask my container of cornnuts.

I think it's, very simply, because I am a type 1 diabetic. Diabetes shares with other chronic, incurable illnesses a number of traits, and a great many effects on the psychology of the sufferer. But one thing I think is unique to diabetes (I say this in all ignorance; there could easily be other diseases with similar traits) is that the disease enables many diabetics to track the effects of eating and exercise--the twin bugaboos of skinny-bitch culture--on their bodies and minds in real time, and gives them the tools to control these.

I won't go into the details of why (I might at another time); let it suffice that diabetics under a regime of insulin therapy can feel amplified effects of eating various foods, or not eating enough food, or exercising too much or too little. These effects are felt immediately, in a matter of minutes or hours. And, most importantly, these effects work immediately on the brain functions, so that a diabetic's mood, rationality, even intelligence, memory, and problem-solving abilities, can change literally minute to minute depending on food intake and exercise.

When my blood sugar goes down, it's not "my body" failing "me," it's me fucking myself up. My mind disappears with the failure of my body. I literally lose the part of me that people seem to most consider the "self" when my body crashes. I don't see mind and body as dependent upon one another or arising out of one another. They are the same. They are two ways of talking about me.

You may not see this in diabetics who got the disease during or after adolescence, and you may not see it in teen girls whose parents underscore society's body-image lesson. But I got sick when I was eleven. I was a late bloomer in any case, and eleven for me was hardly even "tween." My first experience of body-consciousness was the disease and its management, not fat and boobs and periods and sex.

Sure, I thought I was fat all through my teens and into my mid-twenties, when I smoked so much that I got really, really skinny. But I never got into the habit of doing anything about it, because the consequences of crash dieting and excessive exercise (insulin shock) or of not taking my insulin (which helps you put on weight) were so severe and unpleasant that I would simply rather be "fat" than have to live like that, day in and day out.

Don't get me wrong. Just because I consider my body's "flaws" in the same way I consider my personality flaws, doesn't mean that I haven't hated myself, and don't still hate myself often and often. I do hate that my thighs are fat. I don't like my legs, period. I really, really wish that that roll around my waist would go away. In fact, the moment a fad diet appeared that spoke the language of diabetes, I jumped on that wagon train and am still riding it.

I smoked heavily for well over a decade, and still smoke a little now and then. I used to drink like a fish, and still tie one on when I feel I can get away with it (I usually can't). I pig out. I do recreational drugs, when I can get them. I avoid exercise. I do all sorts of self-destructive things, still.

But when I diet, I'm not punishing my body, I'm punishing myself. When I struggle to control my diabetes, I'm not fighting my body, I'm fighting the diabetes.

I am my body, so the struggle is not against my body but against myself. It can be a subtle distinction sometimes. But at other times it's a huge, honking distinction.

It can be a bad thing. Because I don't objectify my body, I dress and groom to express my mood to a much greater extreme than most of the people I know. So I'll often mismatch the occasion, or go for two days without showering, or fail to wear makeup in formal situations and then go all out with the eyeshadow to go out for a beer. Other people seem so much more able to look better than they feel. I'm getting better at this, but it's hard to look like something I don't feel.

But it, of course, can also be a good thing. Because when I feel good about something smart I said, I feel good about my body. When I feel good about some beautiful prose I wrote, I look beautiful. When I manage to be kind to someone I don't have to be kind to, my shoulders relax. I don't live split in half.

Like right now, just now, when I was thinking about writing a letter to my body, and I peeled my mind away from my body for a moment and I did not at all like what I saw.  My body, apart from "me" is just a collection of failures. I hate seeing photos of myself for this very reason. I don't know how to pose for pictures. What I look like is in motion, because my mind and body are always in motion. You can't freeze a frame of that and get a true picture of me.

I don't think I've ever put this into words before. I've just never been good at participating in girltalk about bodies. My answer to "if there was one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?" is, of course, "take the diabetes away." But if you changed that, I wouldn't be me. Even that is me.

I've always been discomfited by this line of talk, and always thought my uneasiness was just political. But it's not. It's personal. I just don't think this way, and the project of trying to heal your mind/body split by underscoring your mind/body split seems like the wrong tack to me.

Talking to your body as "you" rather than "me", making two of one, won't make you love the putty that is your flesh any more than you already do. Hell, I have terrible trouble loving myself, and my every grain of flesh is animate.

Just wanted to try to articulate that.



January 01, 2008

2008 New Year's Goals 'N' Objectives

I'm not doing resolutions for 2008 because the word has too much of a "giving up for Lent" connotation. I'm going to do goals and objectives instead. That's less foreboding. (Plus, does the world really need another "why I don't do resolutions" post? If you don't do resolutions, then not-do them in silence!)

2008 Goals and Objectives, with subclauses:

  1. Get writing again. This is the big, important one. I really didn't write at all in 2007, beyond some blog posts and revision on already drafted stories. Some notes and story ideas. That's all. No substantial work on da nobbles and no complete new stories generated. That's the objective. The goals are more immediate:

    1. full draft of a new short story every month

    2. completed first draft of the YA fantasy

    3. completed second draft of da Nobble

  2. Read more challenging and inspiring material. In 2007 I read a shitload of YA. Deliberately. And I'm glad I did ... but I kinda feel my muscles atrophying, and I have a pile of grown-up books waiting for me. Also, nonfiction, hello?

  3. Get on the insulin pump, which will definitely happen. I've taken the first steps already and the thing will appear in January most likely.

  4. Work the blogs. This blog you are reading is easy, because when I don't feel like doing a big, long post about something challenging, I can do my equivalent of catblogging. But that's boring for me and you. Plus, I've figured out the difference between atlas(t) and atlas(t): Galleon Trade Edition, and I want to work both.

  5. Get fit. I.e. exercise five days a week, minimum twenty minutes. No other goals there, because apparently, this is challenging enough.

  6. Lose that 15 pounds. It really just slides off when I eat right, so the key to all of this is wanting to eat right, which means handling stress better. Which relates directly to the above objective and the three directly below.

  7. Get regular massages.

  8. Go dancing regularly.

  9. Regular dinner parties, game nights, and other relaxing, small social events at my house. Yes.

This is more modest than last year's set, but very similar, because, basically, I'm the same person with the same desires and ambitions, which I made no progress on fulfilling last year. Argh.

Happy New Year, all! Please post links to your own resolutions so I can compare and contrast. And then feel badly about my lack of ambition or lack of realism.

November 30, 2007

Diabetes Videos: Good, Bad, Ugly

Okay, to finish up National Diabetes Awareness Month, here are two videos from YouTube:

This first one, which you don't need to watch more than a few seconds of to get the idea, reveals that only white kids get diabetes, and tries to make you feel sorry for the precious souls. The beeyotch who made it doesn't seem to get that "no one deserves this" isn't really an argument, and that diabetes research should be funded not just because cute, fluffy, white kids get it.

This second one is from a cool series called Cooking Up A Story:

Stories about real people and their special connections to food and sustainable living.

No on-air talent, no scripted programming, and no studio environments, just authentic stories filmed in native surroundings.

And, it features a hapa kid with diabetes! Yay hapa diabetics! He's cute, too, although no particularly fine point is put on that. Rather than trying to make you feel sorry for the poor cutie, the video just shows you the rollercoaster of blood sugar values that is a typical diabetic kid's day.

Note here: this is a not-so-good example of what life is like on the pump. The kid's BGs (blood glucose values) are really terrible and he can't seem to stay on top of them. This might just be a bad day for him. Or it might just be that he's a kid; kid's don't always handle diabetes that well. It's complicated and relentless.

Come to think of it, that right there is a much better argument for donation funds to diabetes research. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is the typical place to do it, although their slogan about "saving childhoods" makes me gag. My childhood was technically more complicated than everyone else's, but it was still a childhood.

November 29, 2007

Why I Am Going on the Insulin Pump

Bakc when I first got diagnosed with diabetes---and this is twenty-five years ago now---I took two injections with a syringe a day, at the same time every day, got up at the same time every day, peed into a plastic tub and tested it at the same time every day, wrote that down, ate the same amount of food at the same times every day, went to bed ... yeah, you get the picture.

Back then, there were no home blood testing kits, so we had to check urine, which could tell you what your blood sugar levels were an hour or two ago, but not right that second. So I wrote down my urine test results (about five a day) and took them to the doctor every three months, who looked at the overall picture of when my blood sugar was high and when low, and adjusted my 24-hour-7-days-a-week schedule to try to even it out more. Sometimes I'd have to take more, or less, insulin for a few months, or take it at a slightly different time.

If my blood sugar went up back then, I just had to wait for it to come back down. If it didn't, eventually I'd have to call the doctor.

Nowadays, this type of treatment is mostly not used anymore, because it's so inflexible, and wears on the body. The goal is to get your treatment to mirror a healthy body's self-regulation as much as possible. So you test your blood sugar throughout the day to see where you are, and you "correct" your blood sugar values by taking insulin if it's too high, or taking sugar if it's too low. There's a science to it: a certain number of units of insulin will manage a certain value of milligrams per deciliter (I think) of sugar in your bloodstream; and a certain amount of sugar will bring your low bloodsugar level (mg/Dl) back up a certain number of points.

There's an art to it, too. If you've exercised, your insulin will be more effective so you'll want to take less. If you're sick, or PMSing, or just tired, or even just stressed out, your insulin might be less effective so you'll have to take more. The kinds of foods you eat affect how much insulin you'll need to take and whether you want to take it all right away; with some complex carbs it's better (for me) to take some insulin before the meal and some after, because it takes the body so long to digest the food.

Point is, you control the whole thing yourself now, not your doctor.

This is now possible because: a) we can test our blood sugar and know where it is right this second, and b) we now have artificial insulins that can work much faster than the more naturally produced insulins I used to have to take. When I was first diagnosed, I took cow insulin. Those allergic to cow took pig insulin. You can probably imagine how much this did NOT mirror a healthy body's self-regulation. It wasn't until my college years that human insulin could be reproduced. A few years later they came out with Humalog, a human analog product that starts working much faster.

So the treatment I'm on now, and have been on for far too long, involves taking a basal insulin, a long-acting type of insulin that releases in my body over the course of 24 hours so that I always have insulin working, and then taking bolus insulin, a short acting type of insulin that responds immediately, so that I can take it right before I eat, or when I've discovered that my blood sugar is too high. The bolus I take with a pen, which is an injection device that looks and works a lot like a pen, only with a syringe cap instead of a nib, and an insulin instead of an ink cartridge. You can carry this around easily and shoot up in front of other people without them noticing half the time.

But the treatment is still vulnerable to human error ... or in my case, human laziness. If you don't FEEL like getting up to go take a blood test or take your shot, then sometimes you don't. Or sometimes you just get it wrong.

The pump takes a lot of that error away. Like the body, the pump's basal insulin output is done with the same sort of short-acting insulin that the bolus output is made with. But the pump gives you a little basal insulin every hour or half hour. You program it to give you the right amounts. Then, when you eat, you type in a bolus and it gives it to you right away.

It's a little hard to understand why this is better without knowing all the ins and outs of diabetic treatments, and I'm not gonna bore you further. Suffice it to say: it's a LOT better because it gives you more control.

The rub? You have to wear a hypodermic tube at all times so that the insulin gets delivered into your body. I could have gotten a pump ten or twelve years ago, but it's taken me this long to get over the psychological block against wearing a disease machine sticking out of my body. I'm over it now, but it's still pretty trippy.

Anyway, I'm set to get a pump before the year is out. We'll see how it works out.

November 18, 2007

Chronic Disease and Doctor Phobia

Despite the grand title for this post, I've done no research and have not even anecdotal evidence to support my assertion that chronic disease will give you doctor phobia.

No, not everybody. But seriously, think about it. The reason that most people aren't afraid of doctors or don't hate them might be that most people, most of the time, for most of their lives, are fairly healthy. Or, if they're not, their poor health is a result of lifestyle, and manifests in frequent bouts with colds and flus and things of that sort, i.e. not doctor-ready disease. So most people just plain don't see doctors very often, very long, or very intensively.

People with chronic disease associate doctors with bad things: the time you got so sick you almost died and went to the doc/hospital and they told you you had a disease which would constantly threaten, and in the long run shorten, and on a daily basis completely alter your life. And thereafter, going to an office to get frequent updates of bad news.

And this is the best case scenario. I mean, this is what happens when you have good doctors. When you have bad doctors, you can add to the above:

  1. The time/s something really bad happened that didn't seem to have anything to do with your disease and your doctor blew it off and you ended up in the hospital, and it was a fellow chronic disease patient who explained to you what was wrong.

  2. The time something really bad happened that DID have to do with your disease, and you ran around the doc's office/laboratory/hospital, freaking out and telling everyone what was happening to you and what you needed and nobody would listen to you or give it to you until you'd had a meltdown/seizure/fainting fit.

  3. The time you were in shock, a condition which is a common side effect of your treatment, and your doctor let you walk out of his office into traffic because he didn't like how you were behaving.

  4. The time/s your doctor didn't know something that you did know, but wouldn't admit it and made you feel like an idiot, even though you KNEW you were right and an article came out years later that proved you right.

  5. The times you went to your disease doctor for common problems and s/he told you s/he wasn't a primary care physician, so you asked for a referral and they wouldn't give you one, then you picked one out of the phone book and they were so clueless about how your chronic disease behaved with common problems that you (see a theme developing here?) ended up in the hospital.

  6. The time/s you started with a new doc and during the intake interview the doc came up against the fact that your symptoms are atypical, so s/he just plain wrote down what s/he expected your symptoms to be, rather than what you had just told them they were, and you only found out later when you got the ten-page DMV form back from them that they had to fill out for you to get your drivers license, that they had sold you out to the DMV for the typical, and more dangerous, symptoms that you didn't have.

Yes, all of these have happened to me.

And, on top of all of this, I had the ultimate bad experience: during a common, out-patient surgery in 1999, my anesthesia began to wear off halfway through the surgery, and during the last fifteen minutes I felt what was going on. (It was eye surgery.) It hurt, but the anesthesia hadn't worn off entirely, so it was really more about fear and loss of control than anything else.

After that I didn't go back to that opthamologist for three years. Sure, I made appointments, but then, when the day for the appointment came, I'd just ... forget. Then I'd remember when it was too late and make another appointment and then ... forget. Again and again. For three years. Finally, it occurred to me that I didn't actually have to go back to that doctor and I found a new one. Two years later, I finally got my butt into a seat in his office.

From there things went to worse. I was absolutely awful to the staff in his office. Of course, they put me through an obstacle course which was worse than usual: a clipboard for my info, a nurse to take more info, a tech to do the tests, an underling doc to do an initial examination ... all of this before I got to see the real doc. The underling doc asked me some questions which made it clear that he wasn't too familiar with diabetes ... and I told him so. By the time the real doc came, I was persona non grata. Even after I burst into tears and commenced to sob in his office for half an hour, it didn't seem to occur to anyone to ask if I was alright. All that mattered was how I was treating them, how they felt about me.

I finally explained what had happened to the doc and he got a lot nicer ... but not before he had defended the bad doc to me. What an asshole. Yeah, both of them.

Now understand: I realized that I was avoiding the eye doc, but I didn't actually feel any fear per se. I didn't feel anything, not even the desire to avoid the doc. It was all happening under the surface, and manifesting in a very simple inability to remember my doctor's appointments. After my crying jag at the eye doc's, I realized that I had been hiding a leetle bit of trauma, but I still didn't realize that I might be doctor phobic until this past week.

See, I'm trying to get in to see a new doc, who works together with a primary care doc (my current doc doesn't do that, but it's important for chronic patients whose common flus and infections are complicated by the chronic disease). I made an appointment, forgot it, made another one, and forgot that, too.

It was weird. The second appointment, I put it into three different calendars and reminded myself mentally of the appointment three or four times a day for a week. Then, the day of the appointment, I forgot about it from nine in the morning until 5 in the evening--exactly as long as needed to prevent me from doing anything about it.

It was bizarre being able to observe my own neurosis in operation. So obvious! So unsubtle! So effective! I decided to nip it in the full-blown bloom and went straight into the doc's office the next day, without an appointment, and asked to be allowed to introduce myself to the doc, just for a sec. He seems like a nice young man, the first doc I've had who was very obviously younger than I. Let's hope that does the trick.

People who know me consider me independent in the extreme, and it's true, I insist on my independence. But what no one realizes is that my life is lived in a state of the most abject dependence: on doctors. The pharmaceutical products that literally keep me alive--insulin and thyroid--aren't available over the counter, why exactly, I don't know. I can't get a lifelong prescription for them. I can get, at most, a year's prescription for the stuff I've been using for twenty-six years. I need a doctor to get them for me.

I can't even order tests for myself. I'm supposed to get a certain set of tests done quarterly, my entire life, but I can't order them myself, or read them myself. A doctor has to order them for me and gets them sent directly to her/him. I can't even go and look at my medical files at will. I have to request them and go through red tape.

My health, my quality of life, even my mobility (like my ability to get a driver's license) hang by a doctor's whim, mood, ability to understand, or free time to keep up with their medical journals. No healthy adult has a life so affected by another adult's quality of mind--not even an employee of a bad boss. It's impossible to understand what this is like if you are not a chronic patient yourself.

The "good" diabetics I know (of), the ones with good control, manage a sort of doublethink that I can't maintain: while they educate themselves thoroughly and relentlessly, they also maintain a plausibly deniable subservient relationship to their doctors. If you read their blogs or listen in on their boards, they never make a move without checking with their docs first. They'll even use language that fits more with a parent/child relationship or a military hierarchy: getting "the go-ahead" and such like. Permission granting.

I'm not sure this isn't the healthiest way to deal with doctors who are trained to unconsciously despise patients, and to consider themselves--and not the patients--the hero of the story. Until our medical system evolves further and doctors get less adulation from patients kept ignorant by the appalling state of our pubic science and health education, and more understanding from well-informed, empowered clients (which is what we are), to stay healthy you probably do have to behave like a good child.

Which means I'm fucked.

By the way, this is all by way of saying that I won't be getting the pump in November. My next attempt at an appointment with the doc isn't until early December.

November 10, 2007


I was horrified to read this article in Salon about Diabulimia, a new eating disorder that affects only Type 1 diabetics like myself.

As I wrote in the previous post, when you have full blown diabetes, you'll eat carbs but not be able to use them, so you'll be essentially starving to death. And yes, you'll lose a lot of weight. The four big symptoms of diabetes are: excessive thirst, excessive urination, extreme weight loss, and blurred vision.

This article talks about young girls and women who are Type 1 diabetics who use diabetes to lose weight. Yep, that's right, they starve themselves while eating tons of food. As long as they don' t eat fat or protein, they'll lose weight quickly.

The thing the article doesn't mention in much detail, presumably because the writer isn't diabetic, is how awful hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) feels. When you don't take your insulin but still eat, you have tons of unused sugar running around your system. It doesn't just run innocently around, though. It collects where it shouldn't.

Like in your eyes, for example. The blurred vision? That's you going blind. It takes a few years, but unchecked hyperglycemia deposits destructive sugar in the blood vessels in your eyes, which then burst from the pressure, damaging your retina.

Or in your kidneys, putting pressure on them. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. Why? Because your body tries to flush out this destructive loose sugar and you have to pee, literally, every fifteen minutes, and are thirsty all the time. Processing all that sugar destroys your kidneys.

Your eyes feel swollen and you can't see properly, even with glasses. You're thirsty and can't quench your thirst no matter how much you drink. It's like a Greek version of Hell. You can't move far away from a bathroom or you'll pee your pants. Your joints feel like they're swollen, your head feels like it's swollen, and gravity is stronger. You're so tired you can't walk very far without having to sit down and rest. Your heart races all the time and you're breathless with any exertion. You just feel sick. Constantly, so that, although you're tired all the time, you can't sleep.

It's horrible.

And that's just the direct effects. Secondarily, yeast and fungi loooove sugar, remember? So you get yeast infections. Yes, even the guys. Guys, did you know you could get yeast infections in any warm, moist body crease? Ladies, imagine a yeast infection that just. won't. go. away. Also, itchy skin infections.

Cuts don't heal and get infected easily. Tattoos are clearly out. And you're more susceptible to other diseases, especially bacterial ones.

It's gross, it feels terrible, and your quality of life is shit.

This is why it horrifies me that girls can hate their bodies so much that they'd put themselves through this hell just to look thin.

What is this world coming to?

November 09, 2007

National Diabetes Awareness Month

220pxinsulincrystalsNovember is National Diabetes Awareness Month and I'm going to observe it this year.

I'm going to post a little bit about diabetes, and I'm also going to--this month--finally get on the insulin pump. I have an appointment with a new doctor on Monday and I'm going to get the ball rolling. Yay!

But first, what IS diabetes? I find that most people don't know, and don't realize that they don't know because it never occurs to them to think about it. It has something to do with not eating sugar, they think. You can't eat sugar.

Frankly, I've heard some really stupid things about diabetes, and seen even stupider things on TV and in the movies (there was a scene from Night Court where someone went into insulin shock, so they cured her by giving her more insulin. Nice logic there.)

Okay, here goes: you know how when you eat, your food is broken down in your mouth, stomach, and intestines? The protein is broken down into amino acids and you get vitamings and mingerals, and all that good stuff? Plus fat?

Well the most biggest part of your food is carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, corn and beans, taters and roots. Fruits. All of these things deliver carbs. And sugars are also carbs, of course. Sugar is a kind of carb. Everybody knows this, after Atkins and South Beach.

What a lot of people don't seem to know is that ALL carbs either get broken down into sugar (glucose) or get passed through your system and out the other end (fiber). The glucose that was your sandwich or your mac 'n' cheese is absorbed from your intestine into your bloodstream, and circulates around your body as ... blood sugar! (or blood glucose, "BG".)

The BG is taken up by the body's cells out of the bloodstream and burned for fuel (or stored in the liver and muscles for fuel later.) That's the simple version, anyway. But this doesn't happen automatically. For the cells to receive and use the blood glucose, the hormone insulin has to be present. Insulin binds to the cells and activates their receptors so that they can use sugar. Without insulin, the BG just circulates and circulates without being used, until it is eventually excreted out the usual channels (urine, sweat, tears). Without insulin, no matter how much you eat, you starve to death.

Diabetes is, quite simply, a disease that keeps insulin from triggering your cells to receive sugar.

There are three ways this can happen, and therefore, three kinds of diabetes:

  1. Type 1: the body's immune system identifies the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin as foreign, and release antibodies to attack them. Over time, they destroy all or part of the body's ability to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the lack or insufficiency of insulin.

    Type 1 requires insulin injections for treatment and is therefore often called "insulin-dependent diabetes."

    Also, Type 1 tends to occur in children or younger adults who are otherwise healthy, is genetic, and is probably triggered by a standard viral disease like a flu. Type 1 is not preventable with lifestyle changes. (There are some experimental treatments that can be given to people at great risk for Type 1 diabetes, but this involves compromising your immune system and/or taking preventive insulin shots.)

    About 10% or less of chronic diabetics are Type 1.

  2. Type 2: for a variety of reasons, the body becomes desensitized to insulin, and can't use it effectively. This is often accompanied, later, by some impairment of ability to produce insulin. Type 2 is caused by the inability to use insulin.

    Type 2 can be treated with, in order of severity: diet and exercise, drugs to stimulate insulin production, insulin injections to supplement insulin production.

    Type 2 is also genetically influenced. Type 2 is the kind of diabetes that we are seeing a surge in as a result of the obesity epidemic, and can be influenced or even caused by lifestyle. "Can be," I said, though. Some people have such a strong predisposition to Type 2 that they can be doing everything right and still get it. And some people can be obese, and do everything wrong, and NOT get it. So there are no guarantees.

    90% or more of chronic diabetics are Type 2.

  3. Gestational: experienced by pregnant women with a genetic tendency to Type 2 diabetes. Hormones present during pregnancy cause them to become desensitized to insulin, as in Type 2. Usually resolves after birth.

There's a huge confusion between Type 1 and Type 2, and people are starting to shame diabetics because of misperceptions. So let me repeat: TYPE 1 DIABETES HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LIFESTYLE AND IS NOT PREVENTABLE.


The other big misconception is that insulin is a cure for diabetes. If you've read the above, you'll have noticed that taking an insulin shot doesn't seem like something that'll cure anything. The cures would have to involve: for Type 1 some way to keep the immune system from destroying the beta cells, and for Type 2 and Gestational some way to make the body sensitive to insulin again.

All injected insulin does is mimic the natural action of the body ... mimic it badly, I might add. It's much easier for your body to regulate itself automatically than for you to do it by hand, consciously.

Okay, I'm bored with this topic now. Will write more later.

By the way, I'm a Type 1. Have been since I was 11.

Oh, and the image at the top is of insulin crystals. Pretty, no?

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