Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In which Park Nicollet flips me the bird.

I started a post on the importance of validation, and maybe I'll get back to that more general post, but first I'd like to address a very UN-validating experience I had this weekend.

For a little background, a few months ago I had a hockey injury and went to the ER where I received the most traumatizing "care" I have ever had from medical professionals. A week or two after the fact, I posted about it to this blog in the post A little injury, a lot of trauma.... I tweeted the post to Park Nicollet, the medical group the hospital belongs to and as a result I got a call saying they'd look into it. The process of sharing was cathartic and as my hand healed, my mind was able to heal too, at least enough to stop replaying the incident over and over in my head.

Until this weekend.

This weekend I got a letter from the hospital telling me that they'd looked into my care and found it to be "appropriate". In fact they took two whole pages to spell out just how wrong I was in my assertion that I was mistreated. I will attach the full letter but here are some highlights of why I'm crazy and the trauma was all my fault, if it existed at all:

  • "While we can understand your frustration with your visit, it appears the care you received was reasonable and appropriate." This made my stomach drop. I had a panic attack and was treated like a psychopath criminal. If the "care" I received was "appropriate"?? Then why does it still haunt me? And in what way do you "understand" if this is your conclusion?
  • "The longest you were by yourself was approximately 14 minutes." So apparently leaving somebody with a diagnosed mental health condition alone with no idea when you're coming back, when they are in the midst of a panic episode, is ok if it's *only* 14 minutes. My students aren't allowed to be more than 7 minutes late for work, but leaving a scared woman alone for 14 is FINE. 
  • "...your social worker had minimal contact with you due to your lack of collaboration... your social worker states you were crying and hard to understand." OMG, so sorry to have inconvenienced a social worker with my crying. Couldn't have been because I was scared and she was making me feel like I was over-reacting, oh but wait!
  • "Your social worker ... recalls offering several statements of support, but recalls the helpful information was not accepted by you." The social worker claims she said "supportive" things, where I felt she said accusatory things, so just believe her over me, then it's all hunky-dory. I just can't even with this one.
  • If these truly are your standard practices for dealing with somebody who you determined was "a danger to yourself and others", then you've messed up from the get go. Also, that is not listed on my discharge papers. Why not?
  • Speaking of my discharge papers, the letter failed completely to address the lack of information I was given at discharge, including never having been told the dosage of the medication I was forced to take. 
  • The note does mention the security staff did the right thing, I agree. I have no beef with the two security dudes. The letter does not mention the nurse lady who got all up in my face.

Basically I got an ass-covering, victim-blaming, totally BS letter. And it wrecked my otherwise fantastic weekend. Thanks Park Nicollet Methodist! I will never, ever, ever visit you again. And I will warn all the people I can about this experience. I may have a mental health problem, but I'm human and I will take my business to a place that treats me with dignity.

PS: fuck you, Park Nicollet.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Writing, Men in Kilts, and an open letter to Diana Gabaldon.

I'd like to start off this post with a short (it got longer than I intended) open letter to Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander book series (now also a tv series!)

Sexy men in kilts can make me sweat, no
matter how cold it is out, and I live in MN
Dear Ms. Gabaldon,

First let me say, I really enjoy your books. I am currently on book 8 of the Outlander Series, Written in My Own Heart's Blood. I really appreciate all the diligence you put into researching both the historical and medical aspects of your books. It's a rare treat to get to read a book that teaches me so many interesting facts, while also getting the pleasure of imaging Jamie's hot nakedness. So it's with great respect that I offer the following criticism:

Please, for the love of all things holy, stop with the "she shivered despite the heat" or "he began to sweat despite the cold" schtick. If there were a drinking game for an over used cliché in your writing, this would be it, one hundred times over. Please believe that people can understand from context that when you mention the somebody gets goose prickles due to a scary/creepy/eery/etc event that we understand that they are not simply cold. I am at the point where every time these phrases crop up I end up yelling out loud at the book. This can be quite embarrassing when I'm reading in a public space, and has even scared the dog on occasion.

So please, for all our sakes, enough with the temperature to physical reaction disclaimers. And do keep writing your vastly entertaining books. They are quite fabulous after all.


Ah, it feels good to get that off my chest finally. I love reading, and I really love settling into the rhythm and feel of an author's writing style. This is one reason I love reading many things by a single author, and also why I almost never read collaborative works (for example, I love, love, love Larry Niven's earlier books, but now all he does is collaborations so I don't even bother). But it also means starting to notice little things that can pull me out of the story (like mentioned above). It also can have an impact on my own writing style, which can be good or bad, depending on how... unique the style is.

And now that summer break is coming up and more people will have time to start reading, let me close by recommending the Outlander series for some fun summer reading. And if you like audio books, the narration by Davina Porter is fantastic. (She is second only to Song of Ice and Fire narrator Roy Dotrice in the portion of my heart reserved for great narrators.) Also, if you're hot for men in kilts, then Outlander is certainly for you. Mmmm.... I suddenly feel a chill, yet it's so warm in here. ;)

Friday, May 1, 2015

There's no such thing as the magic pill...

It seems that many people have the misconception about mental health medication that once you find "the right one" then you're set and you just stay on that forever. In reality, it's more like a never ending cycle of finding "good enough for now" meds, living with them until they stop working well enough or the side-effects become more than it's worth, then trying something new. Trying something new may mean changing a dosage, adding another med to the mix, or stopping something all together. I got my first mental health medication prescription in late 2003/early 2004 and I've gone through this cycle many times.

Right now I'm in the process of slowing decreasing and going off my meds. For a while I was on 3 every day meds and had prescriptions for 3 other "as needed" ones. The side effects were annoying (being asked "why are you shaking?" all the time gets old fast), but what really put it over the edge is that, when I got sick with a bad cold and forgot some of them I then had to deal with medicine withdrawal on top of the headache, sore throat, and fever from the cold. Talk about kicking you when you're down.

At my next psychiatrist appointment I asked about trying to get off all the daily meds over time. My doctor agreed and as as first step we cut all my daily meds' doses in half. That was a... transition. It was hard, made harder by my traumatic hospital experience right in the middle of the change. But I got though it. So a month later we took one of the 3 away completely. Whoo boy! I didn't even know some of those could be symptoms. If you ever forget your brain is run by chemicals, try changing the ones you feed it.

Bus, Traz, and Al - they just want to stay friends.

In case you've never personally gone through long term medicine changes, let me give you the highlights of some of the fun symptoms, generally temporary, of starting or stopping meds. And I'm not picking these off a website or pill label. These are all symptoms which I have experienced recently and/or expect to experience soon.
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Forgetting to actually interact with the real world, like TV zone out, but IRL
  • Depressive episodes
  • Manic energy (aka the "I will now dump out and reorganize every drawer in the kitchen" effect)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • The sudden need to lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for an hour
  • Dry-mouth (yeah, I know it sounds dumb until you find yourself incapable of spitting)
  • Insomnia (or in my case, just increased insomnia)
  • Intense dreams
  • Stuttering
  • Feeling like somebody lodged a fuzzy sock in between your brain and your mouth
I have my next psychiatrist appointment next week. Maybe I'll get to add another couple "fun" ones to the list after the next round. Right now I'm going to focus on taking care of myself as best as I can. Getting lots of sunshine, hugs from my family, and strength from all of you out there in the interwebs who have gone through the same shit and lived to tell about it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring has finally come to MN, time to get plantin'

My garden from last year as of May 10th, 2014
In Minnesota, spring is a jerk who likes to tease us with warm weather one day and snow the next, so it takes a while to really believe in spring. But looking at the forecast this week I'm feeling hopeful at last. And that means it's time to garden! I had my first (somewhat) successful vegetable garden last summer. When it comes to flowers and houseplants I have a black thumb. I can kill just about anything. I'm nervous for the cactus in my office. But last summer I succumbed to pressure from my children and planted a veggie patch, and lo and behold, I actually ended up with edible veggies! I also learned a lot of good lessons that I hope will improve my garden this coming year. Here are some of the valuable lessons I will bring to my garden this spring...

  1. Don't over-crowd the garden - Last year my eyes were bigger than my patch of dirt and I ended up with more plants than I could squeeze in (although I did try and squeeze!) so I ended up with some plants killing others. I'll be more selective this year, which reminds me...
  2. Don't plant 4 varieties of the same thing - Last year I picked not just too many plants, but too many that looked so similar that I couldn't tell what was what, which lead me to not pick some things when they were full grown, thinking they were something else and would grow bigger. And it made me pretty nervous to cook things like peppers, when I wasn't sure which type and therefore how spicy they'd be. This year I'm going to pick one type of each family of veggie to avoid this issue.
  3. Deer suck and I hate them - Last year deer ate all my beans, peas, and tomatoes, and maybe some other stuff. This year I will be more diligent with the fake coyote urine (ew, I know, but it works) and I will plant all my tomatoes in the puts by the house, since the deer don't come up that far. I will also put up a better fence. Take that, assholes.
  4. Repeat successes, ditch utter failures- If I'm going to plant things again, I might as well plant things that worked out last year. The biggest wins were the patty pan squash, cucumbers (only one variety this time though!), and habanero peppers. Bok choi and broccoli did well enough to try again, and beans or peas I'd do again if I get a better fence and put them on the other side of the plot. Onions, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and pumpkins are right out.
Well, now I'm all excited about plants and veggies and being outside. I'll try to keep you up to date on my progress. If you have any easy gardening tips for me share them in the comments (but keep in mind, I'm not actually very good at this, nor do I have a ton of time to devote to it beyond planting, occasional weeding and watering and hoping for the best). Happy Spring!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dad's exist, and they change diapers too

One of my biggest pet peeves in the parenting culture of today's society is the erasure of dads as caregivers for their children. If you take the time to look, you'll see that there are subtle and not-so-subtle messages that women are caregivers and men a bumbling idiots that should never be left alone with children. The most glaringly obvious are the things that the advertising and entertainment industries pump out, like commercials featuring fathers barely able to take care of their own kids (this article does a great job discussing the "dumb dad meme" in commercials). There are also all those "funny" little pictures people share on facebook putting down dad's and raising moms to goddess or martyr status. Well I'm sick if it all, but the way that this inequity manifests itself that really gets under my skin is the issue of bathroom changing stations.

Sweet Pea's in St. Paul, MN. No there wasn't live music in
the men's room, but there wasn't a changing table either.
My kids have been out of diapers for years, but every time I walk to the bathroom in a restaurant, store, or other public place and see a sign indicating that the women's room has a changing table and indication that then mens' room does not, I burst in to flames of rage. I flash back to all the times my husband had to return a poopy baby to me because there was no place for him to change her. I think about dads, brothers, uncles who don't have a woman to hand their child off to, who end up changing the baby on a pee-spattered floor or on the tiny edge of a sink, and I have to ask: what is wrong with our society??

Surly in this insanely cisgender heteronormative world we live in, we must at least realize that many, if not most babies come with FATHERS. And that these fathers are also PARENTS. And that a parent may need to change a baby's diaper in public regardless of genitalia or gender identity! I'm not even talking about the complete ridiculousness that is gender specific single-user bathrooms (wtf is even the point of that?). I'm talking about businesses spending the measly $170 (Amazon, bitches) to put an extra changing pad in the MEN'S BATHROOM. And if you're a man without a baby you might thing, hey, I've often seen changing pads in men's rooms, consider what my husband says: "You can often find one, but just imagine if I said that the men's bathrooms often had a toilet. To someone who didn't need one, you would notice that men's bathrooms have toilets. When you need one, the fact that many other bathrooms have toilets isn't much help."

Kudos to Grand Central Restaurant in St. Paul, MN for
having changing tables in both bathrooms! I'll be back here!
Men deserve to be recognized as parents. Women deserve to sip their drinks while Dad takes care of business now and then. Babies deserve clean butts. So here's my throwdown: call them out. Call out all the places you visit that blatantly make diaper changing a woman's job. Call out places that ignore a father's right to be a full parent to his baby. Tweet #DadsChangeDiapers when you are out there and see this BS in action. And tweet props to the good guys too! We need to reward forward thinking (father thinking?) businesses too!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reaction to the Start Wars Trailer - A Sonnet

So I've been trying to think of a way to comment on the new Star Wars trailer. Many people have already done wonderful job talking about all the awesome in this trailer, so I don't want to rehash the same points. So instead I am channeling my 13 year old self, the girl who loved Star Wars and corny poetry so much it hurt, to bring you a sonnet about the parts of the trailer that really struck home for me....

Lighting down my spinal column
Ok, this pic isn't from the second trailer, but I did say I was
channeling my 13 year old self, who is now swooning
Once again we're brought to Tatooine*
but in this time the view is solum
as long crashed ships litter the scene

The force is strong in my family, Luke said
in the voice I've heard in my dreams for years
a twisted reminder that his father's dead,
their hands, a link, which can summon tears

Dark memories fade with the sight of a child
Taking the future in her hands?
to say my heart leapt would be putting it mild
Already this trailer is perfect as it stands

Then Han and Chewie appear to say that last line
Did your eyes tear up? So did mine.

(*ok, apparently it's not Tatooine? That's kind of good, I'm hoping to see some new planets, I really am hoping to see Corillia. Yeah I read the books, shut up. But I'm trying to stay away from spoilers which is why I didn't know the Tatooine thing when I wrote the sonnet.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

A little injury, a lot of trauma...

Hold on to your butts, because this is going to get long and it's not a happy story, but since I can't get the hospital to listen to my story, at least I can tell it here.

About a month ago I was injured playing in a hockey game, I took a hard shot puck to the side of my right hand, where the glove padding ends. I immediately got off the ice and called for a medic, the medic said he thought it could be broken and he gave me ice and he splinted it. If you know me, it's not surprising that I had an anxiety reaction, but luckily this was immediately recognized by the medic. I told him I had a diagnosed anxiety disorder and would be able to take my meds once I got back to the locker room, but I wanted to stay and watch the rest of the game. The medic was awesome and he helped calm me down by distracting me with other topics, like puppies. I finished watching the game and got to be there when my teammate proposed to her girlfriend. My hand hurt but it was magical to be able to stay for the special event.

Once I did get back to the locker room, I took some meds and I called my husband and my parents to let them know what had happened, then I was driven by a teammate to Methodist Hospital ER in St. Louis Park (yes, I am calling them out by name).

I checked in and was fairly quickly seen by the admitting nurse or nursing assistant, who was somewhat preoccupied discussing her upcoming vacation with other staff as she was taking my information. I had to update her on my medications because the ones in the system we're not up-to-date but she was not paying close attention to the changes I was telling her and they did not all get recorded. I told her that I had a diagnosed anxiety disorder, among other things, and that I'd already taken some an anti-anxiety pill. It barely seemed to register with her, she didn't even ask what dosage I had taken! This should have been a red flag, in retrospect, and I should have gotten somebody to come meet me there asap at that point. But I didn't. Instead I let them shepherd me off to one of those little alcove "rooms" where I waited until it was time to get x-rays.

When I got back from x-ray, I was feeling increased pain from the necessary positions my hand was put in to get the x-rays. The nurse from before came back and asked if I would like a warm blanket I said yes (I was shivering because my sweat from hockey had soaked my clothes and was now cold). I also asked if I could have some pain medication because my hand was starting to throb, between a 7 and 8 on the pain scale. The nurse replied “oh now you're going to be demanding!” I thought she was joking, but I never did get any pain meds. Instead I was left alone for what felt like an eternity.

As time passed, the pain kept going up and so did my anxiety. When the nurse finally returned, I reminded her that I had an anxiety disorder and I was starting to feel the effects of my disorder. She only responded to tell me the doctor would be in shortly. When the doctor came in he was very abrupt. He got right up into my face, closer then I felt comfortable with, and told me it wasn't broken and when I tried to ask for more information he gave me some small printouts of my x-ray and with some exasperation pointed to the lack of visible breaks.

Normally finding out your wrist isn't broken would reduce a person's anxiety. You'd think so, right? Not in this case. His demeanor was so aggressively dismissive, more like scolding me for overreacting to the injury than reassuring me it would be ok. When I asked questions he got very defensive as if I were trying to argue that he was wrong (I was not, I just didn’t understand what he was saying). Just writing about it is making me shake. At this point I tried to tell the doctor that I was feeling anxiety over situation and it tried to tell him about my mental health issues.
Without acknowledging my concerns, the doctor then turned things over to a tech, a young man, who was there to make a plaster splint (I still didn't understand why I was even getting a plaster splint!)

This is where things get a bit fuzzy in my memory because of my anxiety level, I was in bad shape emotionally. Again I tried to explain my anxiety, this time to the tech, but although he seemed sympathetic all he could do was explain how he was splinting my arm. By the time the splint was complete, I was really upset, my mind was swimming, I felt like I was going to burst out of my skin. I was having thoughts of minor self harm (all noraml precusors to a full panic attack) I told the tech I would like him to stay with me until the nurse arrived but he didn't and once again I found myself alone. 

I was really agitated at this point and just hoping somebody would come back. I was getting more and more concerned that I was abandoned because people thought my problems were all made up in my head (intrusive negative thoughts being a mainstay of my anxiety disorder). I pressed the nurses button several times I said “hello? hello? somebody come back” but I did not get up out of the bed, my anxiety had me nearly paralyzed. The more time that passed, the more anxious I became, the more my mind was telling me I had been abandoned and that they all thought I was crazy, and that they were never going to give me help.

I was in full-blown panic mode at this point. Hyperventilating, I got down onto the floor. I also kicked over a chair and banged my head on the wall several times. Logic was gone from my mind, at this point the only thing I was concerned about was making the panic attack stop and in that state the idea that if I just smash my own skull in the bad thoughts would have to stop.
That's when two security guards came into the room along with the nurse. The nurse bent down on the floor got right in my face and started asking over and over “what's wrong? what's wrong? Calm down! calm down!” I asked her once to please back away I needed her to get out of my personal space as she was making my panic worse. She didn't listen. I asked again and again for her to back off. My thoughts of self-harm were morphing into more violent urges, thoughts I did not want to act on. I was biting my hand to keep them in but eventually told her if she didn't leave I might kick her.

That got her attention and she jumped back saying "well forget this! I'm out of here!”. I felt so horrible I just burst out crying. After she left one of the security guards sat down in a chair a few feet away and talk calmly to me. This got me somewhat calmed down and the violent and self-harm feelings started to abate. I was still very scared but the guard seemed more calm and he was not in my face and that helped. The panic attack stopped and the tears were slowing... until the nurse came back.

I was told that I would need to be moved to another room. I was told I could not walk to this room and that I had to ride on the bed. I was still crying as I was wheeled off. Nobody told me where we were going and a whole new set of fears began to set in. I hurriedly texted my husband: “come now. I had a panis attack and they’re taknng me placed[sic]

The room I was taken to. Cozy and comforting, isn't it?
I arrive in a small room with a door with a locking keypad. They locked away all the cabinets in the room then told me I had to change my clothes into the hospital paper clothes that they gave me. I complied but I was sobbing and terrified. I was watched by the tech who had made my splint as I undressed. I asked him if I could at least keep my underwear and he said “okay” although clearly this was not something he was used to supervising. I was not allowed to keep my socks or necklace, but surprisingly I did get to keep my cell phone. None of this made sense nor was the purpose ever explained me. I sent my husband one more text message “I’m so scared”.

After I changed, a social worker came into the room. At first it seemed like I was finally getting the care I had asked for, however it became quickly apparent that she was more concerned about defending the actions of the hospital rather than hearing and validating my concerns although I stopped crying when she first arrived, her argumentative tone her accusatory manner had me in tears again quickly. She just kept asking what was wrong with me, and then contradicting me when I tried to explain what I felt had happened. Because she was making matters worse, I asked her to leave several times. I told her that she upsetting me and making me feel panicked. I asked again and again for her to leave. At some point during this interaction another woman came in who I had not met. She handed me a pill which she said was Ativan. I told her I already taken some but she firmly told me I had to take more, and handed it to me with a cup of water. I took it. To this day I have no idea what the dose I was given was. It is not mentioned in my discharge papers at all. It made me super loopy. I've been on Ativan for over a year and have never felt that loopy before.

After the social worker left I was left in the room alone, but with the door open with the second security guard sitting outside. I struck up a casual conversation with him, talking about his shoes and getting him to laugh made me feel a bit more human. Then husband then arrived, they returned my things to him and then I was able to go home where I immediately went to bed and cried myself to sleep.
My hand the next day at urgent care.

The next day I went to urgent care and was taken very good care of. I got a new brace for my wrist, pain medication, and proper care instructions. (it turned out to be a bone bruise with a small bone chip and has since almost totally healed) I talked to my psychiatrist later about the ordeal and she was both dismayed but also sadly not surprised. Apparently ERs are notorious for this type of reaction to any sort of emotional distress. I will never ever go to an ER again if I can avoid it. And I will always bring an advocate. I recommend the same to anybody else with anxiety.