Time for a detox

I figure I need a holiday pretty badly. I’m feeling it physically, but more than anything I think I need a mental detox.

I had to leave early yesterday to get a CT scan at Sandringham hospital. Visiting the doc last week about another matter I made mention of an annoying lingering cold I’d had for six months. It hardly bothered me except come bedtime when sometimes my sinus would feel blocked and I might labour to breathe smoothly. He examined me and said actually I had something else. I might need to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, and surgery might be required worst case scenario, but in the meantime let’s get a CT scan to see how bad it is.

I was taken aback. Good grief, I thought. All that for a little cold – except, of course, it’s not just a little cold.

The ‘other matter’ I was there for is a small patch of red on my calf recently appeared. It might be a melanoma, but suspect it isn’t – but we need to find out. He gave me a referral to a dermatologist, whose fees start at around $300 he told me. Think again, Doc, I thought. I can’t afford $300, or even half of that. I’m seeking a second opinion, but will need to pay something.

He also gave me a bunch of prescriptions I can’t afford to fill. Situation normal.

Before leaving he checked my blood pressure, and found it was high. My blood pressure has been historically stable and right in the sweet spot. It surprises me when it’s not. He asked a bunch of questions. How’s your diet? How much do you drink? Are you getting exercise? Are you stressed?

I’m on two meat free days a week, and my diet radically transformed from twenty years ago, and clearly better from even 4-5 years ago. I drink socially, but rarely to excess. I’m not about to run a marathon, but I keep reasonably active, and average about 9,000 paces a day – well above the average. That leaves stress.

I had to think about this. I’m not a stress carrier. I’ve endured some tough times and sometimes it can get to me, but mostly I manage to shrug it off. I’m very lucky to be of pretty phlegmatic disposition.

Fact is though I have a pretty stressful life. I remember a few years ago sitting down with a doctor and him asking me the same question and I shrugged my shoulders. He then gave me a stress test and found that when factoring in the life events I had to deal with then I was pretty much off the scale.

Some of those things have moderated since, but there’s still a bunch of tough stuff. Money is always tight, but exacerbated when I need to spend money I don’t have on medication, doctors etc. It worries me that I have to forgo these things because I can’t afford them, but what do you do? On top of that Christmas is coming, and ideally I’d like to buy presents for the kids. I’ll manage that, but it means making a sacrifice elsewhere.

Then there’s work, which is professionally frustrating, on top of everything else. I seem to be always fighting. There was the bitter struggle to get my salary properly reviewed, a struggle I lost. I get frustrated with the outmoded and professional practices. Then there’s the sense that I’m being excluded from some things, and not being told others. I had another example yesterday of how my plans have been subverted and re-branded by others.

Then I’m looking at Christmas alone, which is my choice, but a result of basically being without family – and without the love, affection and support you take for granted.

There’s probably another dozen things on top of that. So, am I stressed? Yeah, probably I am.

I’m trying to do things to make it easier, but without success so far. Ultimately I think I need a break.

I suspect many of my physical ailments are the result of mental exhaustion and stress. I haven’t had a decent break – as in time off – since I was unemployed; and I haven’t been on a holiday for years. I haven’t even been away anywhere. Thinking on it I’ve been driving myself hard even on my weekends. For the last two years I’ve been so intent on getting my book written that whenever I have the time I spend it on that.

Not sure how feasible it is – probably very little – but reckon I need time away to truly relax and unwind. A detox, like I said. Have some fun, sleep in, laugh a little, be frivolous, and so on.

I’m considering what I can do. I have leave up my sleeve, and a shitload of frequent flyer points – but then I was saving my leave to cash in because I need the dollars, and anyway though I can fly around the world I don’t have the cash to stop anywhere. To be honest, a shack by the beach would probably do me.

It may not be scientific, but if I got my mind right I reckon many of my present ailments would go away. If I think it, then probably there’s something in it.

Ultimately the solution is a change in circumstances – a different job perhaps, certainly a better salary, some financial security, and perhaps someone to share it with it, as well as to lean on. Working on it.



This will be a short post, and just for the record.

I’ve spent the last couple of days home at my manager’s instruction. I struggled on Monday, mostly because of frustrations to do with my job. It impacted upon me physically. I couldn’t concentrate, was unmotivated, and had that fuzzy feeling. For the first time in my life I said something about.

I had practical doubts about my ability to do my job properly. I went to my manager and admitted to that I was struggling. She understood why, and was sympathetic. She suggested to me that I take the rest of the week off to get myself right. In the meantime she would chase up some of my frustrations.

I spent the last two days working around the house, and writing. It was pleasant, but for the most part I wasn’t quite right. I nearly came to work yesterday, but wasn’t ready. Much as I like to be home these are not the circumstances I welcome. I felt better last night and this morning I got back into the groove.

For the most part I have been fine. As predicted, the worst of it has passed and I am hard at it again.

Some things haven’t changed. There was supposed to be an answer yesterday regarding my salary queries. There isn’t because the person meant to provide an answer is ill. That sounds fair enough, except there’s always a reason, just as there has been for the last 6 months.

When I enquired about a role I had been nominated for even my manager showed frustration. Everything has been approved, except that the new manager of the area must rubber stamp things. She has been given recommendations – namely that I and another person – are put forward. From what my manager said it seems like she might go maverick and nominate whoever she pleases (after being in the job 5 minutes and being only a temporary appointment).

I almost laughed. “I give up,” I said, and my manager replied, “I give up to.”

It’s now the afternoon. It’s been a busy day and I’ve been productive, but since lunch I’ve been feeling fuzzy again.

That’s all.

Managing meat-free

For the last couple of years I’ve been on a weekly diet that includes two days being completely meat free. In theory it’s Mondays and Thursdays, and most weeks it works out that way, but occasionally it gets shifted around by circumstance. I’m happy to go meat-free, but the challenge always is to find sufficient vegetarian food to keep it interesting. I’d go meat free 7 days a week if I could, but when it comes to food I’m not into austerity. Food is too important an element of life, and given I’ve got a certain span of years I don’t see the value in denying myself the pleasure of it.

I think that’s a sensible attitude, but like everything it’s wise to maintain a balance. I love my meat, though increasingly it troubles me. I am getting older also and good health becomes more of a focus than when I blithely took it for granted. And so I’ve decided to extend my meat free days to three a week.

I’m a systematic character. There are certainly maverick aspects to my personality, but at heart I believe in process and system. It’s the basis of my profession, and though I run an untidy household it applies domestically as well. And so when I set about a venture like this I look to plan it.

There are 7 days a week, and basically 7 dinners I have to consider. Two of them I’ve already set aside for meat free meals – I made an eggplant curry the other day for example, and am planning to cook a Moroccan pumpkin and couscous tagine this weekend. Now I’m adding another meat free day and rather than going the same way will make it different, for variety’s sake. That third day will either be eggs or pasta with a meat free sauce. I know pasta is bad to excess, but I love it, and there are plenty of non-meat options which remain pretty tasty.

Of the remaining four evenings three will be the standard homed cooked, meat based meal, give or take – I could eat out, or visit friends. The other day is my naughty day, generally Friday or Saturday, when I’ll eat and drink what generally I’ll refrain from – pizza, chocolate, beer, and so on. This Friday I’m out for a few drinks locally before going to a new hamburger bar in Hampton with a friend. (At the moment I’ve set other healthy constraints – no bread on weekdays, no sweets on weekdays, no drinking unless socially.)

All of this means I’ll literally be planning my meals in advance. I do that anyway, more or less. I’m not one of those people who have a general grocery shop, even when I could afford it. I know what I’m cooking and I buy towards that. When it comes to meat free food that becomes more essential as while I have hundreds of meat dishes at my fingertips, I have to search out vegetarian dishes. I can’t just make it up or do it from memory.

I enjoy that though. One of the joys of a good meal is the anticipation of it. That’s why I – and millions of others – have bought cooking magazines and recipe books.

In the winter that means I’ll spend some time figuring out my menu over the next fortnight and put together the shopping list to facilitate. It means – in the winter – that over the weekend I’ll cook up the two main dishes that will serve me over the next fortnight (every week – there is overlap for variety’s sake) – one a meat dish, a casserole or curry or something, and likewise the vegie dish. In between I’ll fix up meals on a daily basis as needs be – tonight I’m making pasta with leftover eggplant, capsicum and bocconcini (last night was a chicken curry frozen from a few weeks back). In the summer it’s different only that I have lighter meals prepared fresh – as a rule I eat Asian in the warm months, and European in the cold months.

Food – just writing about it like this pleases me.


Grinding it out

So I had a day off sick yesterday and went to the doctor mid-morning to find out if it was just my chest again or something else besides. He wasn’t able to tell me a lot besides suggesting I get an x-ray, a blood test, and perhaps get onto a management plan to handle my chest. I came away feeling depressed, convinced that the problem is my chest and that it’s not going to go away in a hurry.

Today is the first day of winter and already I’ve had 2 months of my chest playing up. Any sensible person would realise that it’s unlikely to get any better as the weather gets cooler and more winter bugs emerge. I returned home thinking I just have to accept it. If it was an occasional thing then fine, I could lie low when it played up and continue on as normally the rest of the time. It’s different if it becomes ongoing. I’m never quite well, and sometimes, regularly, somewhat less than quite well. Practically speaking it becomes an impossibility in my circumstances to ‘lay low’ then. I don’t have that sort of sick leave to start with, and I don’t want to live like that besides. It means that I just have to endure that.

If it was mere discomfort then okay, I could probably grin and bear it. The problem is that when I’m crook I’m much less functional. You know how it is, when you’re unwell you can’t concentrate as hard or for as long as you can normally. On Tuesday I actually had to take myself off and lie down for 40 minutes I was feeling so off. I found a quiet corner of the lounge and lay on the couch and closed my eyes. It was good for me, and returned to work feeling a lot better. But I can’t do that every day, and the fact is that doing things makes it worse, but it’s doing things I get paid for.

Now that sounds pretty gloomy, and sums up how I felt for a bit yesterday. I felt I had no control over things. The whole outlook seemed depressing. But then maybe it won’t be as bad. Maybe I’ve just had a bad bout and in the next week or two the antibiotics will properly kick in and I’ll be free and clear again, as fit as a fiddle. Maybe – and that’s what has to happen. I certainly don’t want to go on a management plan, I’d feel like a fuckin invalid.

I wasn’t happy being at home. I’d have preferred to be a work and productive. From a metaphysical perspective I absolutely hate calling in sick. It always feels like an admission of weakness, if not defeat. The crux of it is that I am being forced into the decision by my body. I hate being forced into anything. I’m the sort who’ll say white when you say black. I’m the captain of this particular conveyance, or so I like to believe – until proven otherwise, when it goes down bad.

So there’s all of this in me and the night comes and the darkness and it’s cold out and I’m colder still because my temperature is down and I look about and see things. My health weighs on my mind. I know that the particular condition I have is not going away and, if I’m not careful, becomes degenerative. I’m sitting there and I can feel my breath coming in and going out and it’s not smooth, but it’s easier than it has been and a lot easier than it will be if things go bad. And that’s what’s in my mind – not this year, but the years still to come. How am I supposed to manage if it goes south? What sort of life is that? And suddenly I’m angry.

Give me a fuckin break, I think. Fairs fair, enough is fuckin enough. I’ve been unemployed, homeless, and near bankrupt. I’ve lost pretty well everything I had, which is a bloody lot. I’m in an underpaid job which at least is much better than what I had before. I live in a cramped box, with just enough money to put food on the table, but no more. I’ve got debt coming out of my ears, a car I can’t afford to register, let alone insure, and need medication I can’t pay for. I suffered the death of my mum followed by the legal wrangles after her death – and the subsequent estrangement from the other side of the family; and now, without my sister and father, have only my nephews and niece for family. Now this – a chronic fuckin condition which threatens to jeopardise that small amount I have left.

It was pretty grim. I felt it for hours and there was a fair dose of self-pity in it. Fair call though really, what have I done so wrong to cop all this? Finally I settle. I always do. I’m weary of it, but there is no choice. I have to survive. To survive it means I have to deal with it. Grind it out, that’s what I do.

It’s not enough to simply endure. I need to do. Doing gives purpose and meaning to life. Everyone needs it. That’s one reason I write, because it’s mine. Because it elevates me from the muck I’m mired in. Fucked if that’s enough though. I don’t want to live off that scant hope. I can’t simply look to survive from one day to the next in the hope it will get better, because it won’t. I have to make it so – and I’m so tired of that. (Enduring all I have has made me stronger perhaps, but I couldn’t survive it a second time). But then I can’t stand the thought of bowing out defeated. What will my epitaph be?

I wasn’t happy, but, as I do, I began to make plans. I set myself targets. Prime among them is my health. I can’t do much without that and so I must look to enhance it. I’m not a doctor and medical science is not something I can control, but I can strive to live healthily, and with more prudence than currently I do. Surely if I achieve some measure of that then I can mitigate the worst of my condition. Step 1. Then there’s the rest of it. I need more, more money, but more purpose too. I’m lucky that put me in the right job and I can achieve both. That’s step 2.

Experience tells me that when you set goals they need to be quantifiable. Airy fairy, vague aspirations don’t cut the mustard. Put a number to it. Put a date. Set yourself and measure your progress against the target. Make it a contest.

This I’ve done for the first two of my targets, but the third, I’m afraid, is very airy fairy. I don’t even know what it is, or how to find it. It remains an underlying truth though. Step 3 – get more joy in my life.

Able again

About 18 months ago I pulled a muscle/did something in my lower abdomen/groin on my right hand side. After that I was heavily restricted in my movements, to the extent that I could no longer do any meaningful exercise. Any lateral movement brought sudden and sharp pain. I couldn’t do anything that relied on my stomach muscles, and I couldn’t run any quicker than an ungainly shuffle. It was extremely frustrating.

I’m generally a quick healer, but this has taken a long time to mend itself. I’m not right yet, but it has improved to the point that I can now do crunches again for the first time since then. I’ve taken stairs two at a time most of my adult life. Throughout this I didn’t have the range of movement to do so. I wondered if I ever would again, and it weighed upon me as another sign of increasing age. Now again I’m taking the stairs at the double. I have to be careful not to aggravate the condition (whatever it is – at one stage a suspected hernia, but no), but t feels good to feel physically able again.

I’ve come to accept that with age there comes a physical decline. It’s not just the things that fail, it’s the general aches and pains. At first it seems to unfamiliar that you think there must be something wrong. Eventually you realise it’s just the wear and tear of life catching up with you, and so perfectly normal. All the same, it’s important for me to keep up a healthy level of fitness. I dislike the concept of decline.

The other physical thing I have to deal with is my leg, which looks like it will never get right. I see a specialist every 6 months to check on it. I’m meant to be on daily medication, but as I can’t afford the price I’m on it maybe 2 months out of 12. The other week I saw the doctor for my regular check-up. Reviewing the results of a blood test she expressed satisfaction. “Looks like we can rule out cancer,” she said. Great, I thought wryly, except that till that point I didn’t even know that cancer was a possibility.

This is typical medical profession in my experience. I like my doctor and we get on well, and she’s pretty cute besides. We banter and carry on conversation like two equals – something rare and refreshing given my current status. Still, I like to know things before the fact, not after. But I guess I should be happy – I don’t have cancer. But I do have a bloody ugly leg.

Such is life

I have a thing about taking sick leave. It feels cheap. I can justify it when I’m so sick that I’m dysfunctional. In theory I can even accept it when I’m not sick at all – the so-called mental health days people take. There’s a brazen honesty in that I can accept a lot easier than those in-between days (though I don’t recall ever taking a mental health day, though I’m sure I have). It’s the days when you feel unwell, a bit off, but seemingly well enough to work still that trouble me.

That’s always my criteria. I stand there and ask myself can I work like this? If the answer is yes then I go to work. It’s not always a wise decision, and much too simplistic. There are always other – very sensible – considerations that should be accounted for. Like, will I last the day out? Am I better off resting now to get well than prolonging it by working? And, is there a chance of infecting others?

I know these things, and once or twice I’ve been smart enough to make a decision based on them, but rarely. I’ve been working this week feeling crook. Like I said, on Tuesday I could barely talk. I was in a stupor for much of the day. Yesterday I was okay until in the afternoon I developed a fever which had me breaking into an uncomfortable sweat every 30 minutes. I’ve been told pretty well to stay away until I’m right, and so I’m home today.

This reluctance to take sick leave is not because I have a particular sense of duty, but because it feels in a way like weakness to succumb to it. It’s one of my many old school notions. There is something personal about it – feeling sick can feel a direct challenge that I can’t help but resist. There’s a deeper reason than that though.

In general terms I’d rather be at home than at work. Most people are like that. There have been jobs I’ve had that I’ve really enjoyed, but even so an odd day off is not unpleasant. In recent years there have been no such jobs, and a day off is a blessing. That’s why I’m so reluctant to take a day off sick when I might.

I’m old school to the extent that I believe you have to be true to yourself – even if it might be to a warped version of that self. Waking up and feeling a bit crook naturally leads to speculation as to whether you should attend work or not. You know in your heart that you’d rather not, and here ready for you is an excuse. It puts temptation in your way, and temptation becomes weakness when you give way to it. I can’t abide that. I’d be ashamed if I gave in to such base temptation. I’d feel as if I cheated myself and rorted the system. There’d be no pleasure in spending the day home then because I’d feel as if I was there on false pretences. And so I’m hard on myself and ask the simple question: am I capable of working like this? Unless the answer is an emphatic no I go to work.

That’s what happened yesterday. I’d slept poorly, along with most of Melbourne, and felt weary – but there was reason for that. I tried my voice and found it was stronger than the day before, and there went any excuse to call in sick. Turns out I was still a bit weak and woozy, but sometimes you don’t recognise that until you begin exerting yourself.

Today I’m home because I’ve realised that I need the rest. I’ve been wearing myself out, and a day doing little will likely be of great recuperative benefit.

In actual fact I feel pretty run-down, and there are signs of it. My cough has caught up with me, which is a large reason I’m home today. I feel generally weary and old at the moment. I’ve developed splotchy rashes on my chest, and one beneath my left eye. No amount of sleep is enough.

It’s hard not to believe that this bout was not precipitated by a debauched weekend. I drank for 12 hours straight on Saturday, and had a whale of a time doing it. I’m not as old as I used to be though, and I think it weakened my defences enough for the bug to get hold of me.

My health is frustrating me. There have been small things for a while that I’ve accepted, but which concern me in a broader context. I saw my specialist the other week about my leg. Nothing to report there really, except that she wants me on this daily medication for the next two years. Problem is that I couldn’t afford it. I delayed it for three weeks before I found sufficient penny to fill the script.

My stomach muscle – or whatever it is – still troubles me. It’s not nearly as debilitating as it was, but I still can’t do any strenuous exercise, and I wonder when I might be able. It’s been nearly a year. We know what it isn’t, what we don’t know what it is. My doctor directed me to a sports physio for treatment, but I can’t even begin to afford that – and so I go untreated. When I think about it it’s greatly frustrating.

It’s times like this you wonder how you can live like this, and for how long? The answer is, because you must, and as long as it takes. It’s not healthy though. I eat poorly, and not always regularly, because I can’t afford to eat better. I sacrifice and cut things out of my life, but some of them are necessary. You do it because there is no other option, with the idea that one day it will get better. It probably will – but when?

And so this too buys into my decision-making about staying home or going to work. It’s better for me to be crook and earning a day’s pay than being home and earning nothing.

The Big Sleep

Scientists Pat and Peter Shaw died recently in a suicide pact. Their daughters tell the story of their plan – and their remarkable lives.

Source: The Big Sleep

Not sure if this is a sad story. It’s a fascinating story for sure, and I’m entirely sympathetic to it, as I’m sure many other Australians would be too.

For me euthanasia is a no-brainer. If you’re in pain and suffering from a terminal illness then it should be your right to end your life on your terms, and at a time of your choosing. It’s something my mother wanted to do, but was unable to.

This story is not about euthanasia though. It’s about a couple well accomplished Australians who, recognising their physical and mental decline, have chosen to leave life rather than persist in an existence less than it was, and knowing it was only going to decline further.

I support this. It’s dignified to leave life like this. You’ve lived a full and happy life. You have no complaints. Your desire is to part with it on your terms, and at a time when it feels right. You make your peace with the decision, you say your goodbye’s to family and friends, and then with dignity you take your leave.

There shouldn’t be a stigma. It should be accepted as a part of the cycle of life.

Worthwhile read. Worth having your thoughts provoked by it.