Sunday, November 29, 2015

swept away by the winds of gorm

there's a storm raging outside. they've named it gorm. anytime there's the slightest chance of drama, they name the storm. and these winds definitely sound like they're hurricane force. i'm trying not to have my inner view seem as stormy, but it's hard. the week brought that nasty email and i'll admit i let it suck a whole lot of my precious energy away. then, on friday, my beloved frieda cat was coughing and so i took her to the vet to see what was wrong. it was much more serious than we thought - she had torn her diaphragm and the rest of her organs were pressing in on her lungs and restricting her breathing. to fix it would have required a complicated surgery where she had to be on a respirator. and it just seemed like too much - a cat on a respirator? and what would her quality of life be? so, with great sorrow, i chose to have her put to sleep. bitter tears were shed. she was a special one - molly's baby and my favorite (despite all of those kittens) - i miss her sorely.

friday morning found me at the back specialist, meeting with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist in preparation for my upcoming back surgery. when i left, i didn't know yet when it would be, but i woke up to a letter on saturday morning with a time next friday. a bright spot in the darkness of losing frieda. this continuing nerve pain has worn me thin and i find it harder to cope. so much energy goes to the pain, it's difficult to have any left for everything else.  and it hasn't helped that i had to stop with the high grade ibuprofen in preparation for the surgery. the oxycodone i was given to replace it makes me feel strange and doesn't take the pain to the same degree. ibuprofen is definitely the best pain reliever for me.

i've been trying to just ignore the pain and go about my life as if i were a normal person - walking around, going to dinner and a movie with my family, but admit it's not really working. we went to see spectre on friday evening and i had to fidget through the whole movie to try to find a comfortable way to sit that gave me relief from the pain. usually, sitting isn't the problem, standing is, especially standing still - as the pain is mostly in my left leg, thanks to the nerves that are affected. but friday evening, probably due to the change in meds, sitting comfortably was a problem. i even wondered if i should have gone to the movies at all. but luckily, no one was sitting beside me (on the one side) or in front of me, so i did get through it in the end. i think husband was a little annoyed by all my fidgeting, but he also knew i couldn't help it.

i will go back to work this week, taking it easy like last week. it was great to be there and i can't wait to be back to normal so that i can be fully present. there are so many fun tasks to do and great people to work with. with the sound of that wind out there, i think i could fly there right now if i put on a billowy coat.

there were other bright spots in the weekend - a beautiful thanksgiving feast prepared for us, here at our house, by good friends, who knew i wasn't up to standing in the kitchen for hours, but that i missed thanksgiving very much. it was beautiful food and great company and a silky pumpkin pie and precisely what i needed. we had originally planned it for actual thanksgiving, but work schedules got in the way (those silly danes have embraced black friday, but alas, not yet thanksgiving) and we had to move it to saturday. that worked out just fine. what's important isn't the day of the week, it's the company and the food and the candles and the wine and the laughter. and those go a long way towards soothing the wounds of the nasty email and the loss of my precious frieda.

it was good to pause and be thankful for the time i did have with frieda and being happy that i told her every single day that i loved her. good to be consciously grateful for how understanding my new job is about my back problem - they even put a couch in our nearest meeting room so that i could lie down when i need to and have ordered me a special office chair that's good for my back. good to take a moment to be grateful for husband and the days he's taken off to drive me to the doctor and for all of the cups of tea he's brought to me when i've been miserable and in pain and no fun to be around. and thankful for what a cool young woman sabin is turning into. and thankful for friends willing to prepare my favorite feast. in that light, that nasty email seems unimportant and just gets swept away by the winds of the storm named gorm.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

museums :: the new selfie central

the wonderful louisiana museum of modern art is open 'til 10 p.m. on week nights. so, after work today, i decided to pop up there and see the kusama exhibition that's on at the moment. polka dot explosion and precisely what i needed after starting my day with a rather nasty email from that infamous deficit person i've mentioned before (more fodder for that novel that i need to get to writing). kusama and a solitary, but not lonely, dinner at the museum was precisely what i needed to shake it off.

in the kusama exhibition, there are several places where there are mirrors and which invite one to partake in today's selfie culture.

ok, it was kind of a lot of places. lots of mirrors and many, many polka dots. kusama is an amazing woman. i sat for a long time and watched a film with her. she's got quite the ego, actually, but i suppose at this point in her life, she's earned it. and she does, after all, live in an insane asylum and has for many years, of her own choice. you may think it's all just polka dots, but it's much more than that...a kind of search for but obliteration of the self in endless repetition. much deeper than it may appear on the surface. and she has enviably lived her art as a way of life.

and it got me thinking about these endless selfies we take these days. are we also searching for who we are? or are we obliterating ourselves in the repetition?

and what does it mean that we see our own reflection (quite literally) in the art we obsessively photograph as we go around the museum - like me in this rothko?

or the ghost of me against william burroughs in this mappelthorpe? maybe it doesn't mean anything other than that i really should put away my phone and just be there with the art. but those polka dots do make an excellent screen background on my phone(s).

Monday, November 23, 2015

melting away

we had our first snow sunday morning. our part of the country didn't get that much, but it came down quite heavily for an hour or so on sunday morning. in other parts of the country (e.g. copenhagen), there was much more! so much that trains were delayed by hours and the police advised no travel. my car, parked over there at a friend's place, had 40cm of snow on it and the branches of the trees above were completely bowing down over it, heavy with snow.

we're going over there this afternoon. husband will have to shovel it out for me so i can go to work tomorrow. because i'm actually going to go back to work! my back isn't better, but it's better enough (or my meds are good enough), that i can go in for a few hours a day. and as long as i take the elevator instead of the stairs and don't stand too much, it should be ok.  some part of me just wants to ignore the pain and act like it's not there and just get on with my life. i'm going to try to indulge that part over the next few days.

friday, i'll meet with the surgeon and learn more about the surgery that it looks like is on the horizon. i hope it's on the immediate horizon, as i really want this over with, but we have the appointment first and then it's scheduled. i wouldn't wish back pain like this on my worst enemy (actually, maybe i would, when i think about it). it just never ends. i had a few moments of feeling normal in recent days - i went to a café with a friend on friday and to an evening gathering with friends on saturday (luckily, there was an easy chair i could sit in for most of the evening). yesterday, i mostly laid in bed and read to gather strength.

i'll admit to moments of despair, where i have feared that this pain will never go away. and some part of me still feels that way. i can't stand or walk for too long before the pain becomes too much in my left leg. thanks to the nerves that are affected, the pain isn't actually in my back, it's mostly in my left thigh and knee. if i stand still for too long, it feels like someone has lit a sparkler inside my left knee. it goes away nearly immediately if i sit down or lie down. the surgery will take away the prolapse that's touching that nerve and it's my fervent hope that after that, the pain will just melt away. sort of like how the sun comes out and melts the snow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

wandering in oslo

when we went last month, i hadn't been in oslo in 5 years and it seemed to be much cooler and more happening than i remembered. a lot had changed, a lot had been built (some of it by apparently blind architects, as it's a real mish-mash (more about that in another post)), a lot was under renovation. it seems that norway, with its gazillion dollar sovereign oil fund, didn't suffer from the same economic crisis as the rest of the world. oslo is a pretty and very walkable little city. they had this art thing going on along aker brygge and i took a few shots of some of the thoughts. i'm not sure what i make of them, but i kind of like that they also ended up as selfies. i was happy to be wearing my new felt hat. we need to wear hats more often, don't you think? what do you make of these quotes?

* * *

i need me a bibliotherapist.

* * *

wacky theories about the pyramids are nothing new.

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the danish brand of socialism is actually pretty good.

Monday, November 16, 2015

fog rolls in

i have the weirdest sense that i do not know how i feel. after two and a half weeks of acute nerve pain, is it getting better? somehow, this morning, i just don't know. it's like i lost my ability to sense myself. it still hurts in my leg, but is it hurting less? can i walk around for a little longer? stand for a little longer in the shower? maybe, but i'm not sure. am i just used to the pain? are my meds helping? do i feel like myself? what does myself feel like? i don't know if it's a medicine-induced fog or if i've simply lost any ability i had to be in touch with myself and my own body. i feel apart. like i'm looking at myself from a distance and i'm not wearing my glasses...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

lacking words

i don't seem to be able to find many words about the events in paris on friday evening. the horror seems at once too great and too commonplace to articulate. we grow numb from the frequency of these things, from them happening in the places where we work or play or go to school or go to relax and have fun. we could easily end up afraid to leave our homes. doors locked, minds closed, alone only with those we love and that which we know, afraid to let anything and anyone new in, lest they harm us. i don't think such a world would be that much fun. and i hope it doesn't come to that. so, we do what we can - symbolic gestures, like changing our profile picture in solidarity with those who lost their lives - to say that we stand with paris, feel for them, our hearts bleeding for them. i'm not sure if it means that much and i only left mine for a little while. it suddenly felt disingenuous. i've only ever been at the airport in paris and frankly, it's not my favorite place - so what business do i have standing in solidarity? i can't even really imagine how those people felt - how frightened they were, how panicked, how horrible it must have been. on some level, i just can't relate. i feel a bit numb about it. but, i hope that people will defiantly return to the cafés and concert halls and streets and football stadiums - that they will go about their lives, that they will not live in fear, because living in fear means those terrorists have won. hmm, maybe it's time to finally go see paris.

* * *

and on a happier and better-smelling note - a story of the last perfumer in belgrade.
makes me want to go to belgrade.
with thanks to bill for sending me the link.

Friday, November 13, 2015

little treats

a new one of cathy cullis' beautiful brooches - these faces speak to me of all the voices in our heads. they do it in a good way, sort of embracing the madness and making it beautiful and wrapping it all into a coherent whole. i'm in a navy blue period clothing-wise (i think everything has to match my glasses), so a little splash of red is welcome.

chanel nail polish is always an affordable luxury. especially if you get it onboard a ship in the duty free. i got the two dark, rich colors of autumn, a beautiful deep green and a luscious dark brown.

salted chocolate caramels from my friend shelly of #stuckinplastic fame - a welcome surprise in the mail.

and another beautiful cathy cullis brooch - if one is good, two is better, right? and finally, the scarf i ordered ages ago from skinny la minx showed up. i think i said this before, but i do wonder where it was hiding all these months. where does lost mail go?

and my most recent addition? a fine little ceramic cat brooch. you can never have too many brooches. or cats.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

waiting (and pain) win

this is my view, these long, painful days, spent mostly in bed. i feel like i'm once again being taught a lesson in patience. back pain takes the time it takes to heal, there's no hurrying it along and there's no escape from it. and there's no denying it and just pretending it's not there. it wins, every time. i've spent so much time waiting over the past year and all of it has been agony in some sense. maybe i'm supposed to be learning a lesson here...about patience and taking things one step at a time. but i remain resistant and defiant to that lesson. i want my back to be better now, so i can go back to work at my wonderful new job. i want to be without the intense pain of the past two weeks. yes, i've been in steady pain for two whole weeks. what is it i'm supposed to learn from that? to get in better shape? to take better care of my body? probably, but the doctor also says it wasn't necessarily something i did, it could just be bad luck. but as i lie here, grateful for the company of cats, i do ponder yoga and meditation and maybe even taking up running. i'm ready for the pain to pass. it feels like i've waited long enough. but i suppose it will take the time it takes. and there's no getting around that. i do wish someone would clean the muddy pawprints off that window tho'...

* * *

can't afford to live in london? try copenhagen.

* * *

what if hipsters need help too?
you may think i'm posting this facetiously, but it's definitely a good read.

Monday, November 09, 2015

i need to be where facebook is not

being in severe pain changes you. it makes you feel outside of yourself, not normal, crabby. it feels like you'll never be yourself again and through the fog of the pain, you can only dimly remember the outline of that self anyway. it makes you hard to be around, petulant, demanding and even more impatient than usual. in short, you are a bear cat. and you can hardly even stand yourself. i suspect it's even worse when it's nerve pain, as it's relentless and unforgiving and just. doesn't. let. up.

it makes me even more disgusted by the endless array of crap on facebook than i usually am...

~ um, i think that art does not mean what you think it means.

~ yes, we get it, you're not getting any. maybe you shouldn't have left your husband?

~ trouble in paradise? that's the fourth or fifth male chauvinistic anti-woman joke you've posted in the past week or so. are you also not getting any?

~ enough with the humble are just. so. #blessed.

~ i seriously doubt that you will ever win that "dream" holiday to malaga, but share away for the tenth time.

~ and i hope, for your sake, that you also don't win the rabbit fur trimmed boots with matching studded skinny jeans that that clothing store is giving away.

~ this year's simplified red starbucks cups represent a design trend towards minimalism, not the work of the devil.

~ are you a little obsessed with cats or what? (see, i even annoy myself.)

~ shouldn't you have had to actually ATTEND that university to get that excited about their football team?

~ that ben carson guy is batshit crazy with his pyramids as giant grain elevators theory (among others...)

~ aphorisms rule the day, there are no deep thoughts.

~ all of those local "news" items are marketing for local businesses - don't pretend to be journalists when you're marketeers.

~ i don't know what's worse? poodles or labradoodles? ugh.

it's clear to me that i need to be where facebook is not until this pain subsides...

Friday, November 06, 2015

a magical color show of the mind

this photo of kusama's gleaming lights of the souls that's at louisiana museum of modern art is the closest i could get to an experience i had last evening. i had an MRI scan of my back. that meant lying very still for half an hour, listening to dire straits. then, the tech came in and said he'd like to do a second scan higher up, after seeing the nerve issues in my knee, which took another 20 minutes or so. it seems that i very likely have a herniated disc and maybe even two, tho' i won't know for sure until i see the doctor on monday. but, enough about that.

the MRI called forth my weak synesthesia - and during the whole thing, where the magnets did their rotational thing, i saw before my closed eyes, the most amazing color show. it was a wide range of color, from deep, dark purple to rich teal to bright orange with sunflower yellow edges and an amazing salmony peachy color, like a summer sunset. the whole range of color notes, from deep bass to clear, tinkling, dancing high notes. i did wonder if the dire straits was actually what was triggering the color show before my eyes, but when the cd ran out for the last five minutes and the colors continued, i knew it was the machine. it made what might have been a nerve wracking experience, full of strange noises and being uncomfortable and having to be still while being in pain, into a pleasant, relaxing and almost magical one.

i found myself wishing i could take a photo of what i saw there on the inside of my eyelids, but alas, i could not. i may get out watercolors and try to duplicate it, but somehow, it seems like something that i should just preserve in memory - just a little conversation between my brain, my central nervous system and me.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

once again, something is rotten in the state of the danish medical system

it has, once again, become necessary to write a biting letter of complaint to my local doctor's office. i have only stripped the full names from this version, but otherwise, it's as i delivered it to the doctor's office today, capital letters and all. i'm putting it here so i remember what happened and when. sadly, it probably won't be the last such letter i have write. if you want a bit of insight into the danish socialized medical system, read on...

Dear Lægehuset,

It’s been awhile since my last letter to you (that was back in March 2012). I hoped I wouldn't have to write another one, but it seems that I do.

I have had contact with your office on a number of occasions over the past week, due to severe and debilitating pain in my back. Because I knew from past experience that it likely wouldn’t end well, I actually visited the physiotherapist/chiropractor during the efterårsferie, when the issues began, instead of calling your office. However, when the problem took a turn for the worse last week, I had to call. I was, unfortunately, not at home when the problem started, so the first calls were on the phone - one with the assistance of a chiropractor in Copenhagen and the second one (which actually took more than 5 separate telephone calls and a nauseating amount of “ik' aws” from the secretaries to accomplish) myself on Friday, October 30. The first two calls resulted in prescriptions for Diclofenac and Tradolan, neither of which seem to be even remotely effective against severe back pain. (You’d think that you, being the doctors, should know that.)

On Monday, when I returned home, I called for an appointment and saw dr. MM. He took my pain rather lightly and sent me on my merry way to the physiotherapist with very little advice or insight into what might have caused my problem. Happily, the local physiotherapist is much more thorough and professional and dare I say, interested in his work (you all could maybe take a lesson from him on that front). He put me through a battery of tests and explained that he was pretty sure I had a slipped disc at #4 (up higher than the usual slipped disc), and said that I needed an MR scan to confirm it. Luckily, he made the next phone call to dr. MM and I was put into the system for a scan immediately. The physiotherapist also recommended that I have a steroid blocker put into the secondary issue of bursitis in my hip and sent me back over to the doctor’s office to get that, so that I could at least have a little relief from the pain.

Naturally, your office gave me absolutely no information on what the next steps regarding the scan would be. So, I called again on Tuesday during telephone hours and was huffily told that your office had nothing to do with scheduling, but I could call the x-ray clinic at the local hospital and ask (looking up the number myself, as no number was offered). It might have been an idea to give me this information when I stopped by on Monday afternoon to make the appointment for the bursitis block. I sincerely can’t imagine that I’m the only patient who would like information about what’s next and when it will take place. It doesn’t seem too much to ask, and yet, inexplicably, it is.

But, where things got really bad was yesterday when I came to my appointment for the bursitis block injection. I saw dr. TVM, tho’ funnily enough I don’t know his name from him presenting himself to me, I had to look it up on your website. I knew it didn’t bode well when he called my name from across the room and then didn’t even wait for me or greet me with a handshake until I had managed to find which room he’d gone into, far ahead of me. He could surely see that I was in severe pain and not able to walk quickly, but that didn’t matter. He was also very dismissive of whether I needed the shot and at first indicated that he wouldn’t give it to me. But, after checking my hip, he realised there was an acute need and agreed to give the shot. However, he just went and got a needle and the steroid, asked me to point out with my finger where it hurt most and then stuck the needle in and blindly shoved it around in a haphazard manner - not even using ultrasound equipment to find the correct spot as would be NORMAL and INDICATED and STANDARD PROCEDURE in such an instance. Then, without giving me a bandaid to cover the site of the injection, which was disturbingly leaking quite a bit of clear liquid, or letting me know that I could get dressed, he just went back to his desk AND OPENED THE DOOR TO THE HALLWAY. I wasn’t even dressed and furthermore, I was feeling very unwell from the pain and needed to lie down for a few minutes, but he was in a hurry to just get me the hell out of there. I was shocked, but in too much pain and feeling to unwell to protest.

I tried to ask about how I should remain still on my back for the MRI the next day, when I couldn’t lay flat on my back due to the pain. He just dismissed it and said I could try taking two of my Tradolan tablets ahead of the scan. This, despite me telling him that the Tradolan wasn’t effective in taking away my pain, except perhaps the top 10% of it. He just could not wait for me to leave that room and he was unafraid to show it.

When I got out to the counter, where I had to inexplicably pay 50kr for something or other that was inadequately explained (a clean needle? perhaps otherwise we’d have reused an old one on the foreigner?), I became very unwell while I was standing there waiting. I said, in Danish, to the secretary that I needed to sit down. She apparently didn’t hear me and came storming out the door into the waiting room after me, asking what was going on. I must have been white as a sheet and looking very unwell, but she insistently and loudly asked what was wrong, as if I were a small, dull child. There was no discretion and no kindness in it. I realise the office staff are not medical personnel, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of bedside manner when you’re dealing with people who are already feeling ill or who might be in severe pain. Instead, I felt embarrassed and singled out by her loud, gruff treatment in front of the whole waiting room of patients.

Is this really the way you wish to treat your patients, or is it just the non-Danes? I admit I can’t help but think that my accent has something to do with the way I am treated like a second-class citizen. I would note that although I feel the need to write these all-too-frequent letters to you in English, I speak Danish when I’m at the office and have been in Denmark for 18 years, so I have a certain level of fluency. It also means that I have not misunderstood the way I’ve been treated. And I find it completely unacceptable.

You can feel free to call me if you wish to discuss in more detail. But, in any case, I’ll be eagerly awaiting word of what steps you will take to improve your interactions with your patients.