Friday, February 28, 2020

Community Matters: It's cold and flu (and coronavirus) season


State Library of Queensland, Australia 
Cold and flu season is in full swing. I've been watching the news about the progression of the coronavirus while I've been fighting a cold for the past week. I am grateful that despite being a person with a lung condition, I do not seem to have been as heavily impacted with this particular ick as others. I am grateful that during this time I was "well enough" to be able to care for myself. I am grateful that I work from home so I could refrain from spreading this to others and still be able to work.

But what if I didn't have these things? What if I was too sick to care for myself? What if the sniffles worked their way to my lungs and caused bronchitis (which is likely to send me into an asthma attack that would require hospitalization)? What would you do if this were you? Who would you call?

In good times and bad times community is only as strong as we make it. In the good times we need to build it, strengthen it, reinforce it, so that in the bad times we can support each other with it.

This is a time to check in with your friends, particularly those with health issues that could be heavily impacted by a cold, or influenza, or this new virus. Check in with friends who don’t have health insurance. Check in on those who tend to isolate and not ask for help.

Ask what do you need? Offer to bring food, walk the dog, feed the cat, get the kids out of the house so the parent with the sniffles can rest. Help with household chores when they are up and about but still dealing with the exhaustion that follows illness.

Afraid you may get sick? Bring a care package to the door or find a friend who’s already had the ick to deliver it.
 
Everyone healthy? Have soup making parties where everyone takes some home for the freezer. Bake bread together, connect, share resources.

Make a list of the people in your life who need to be contacted if you are ill or hospitalized. Share it with at least two other people. I keep mine in a Google sheet that I update each year on my birthday. It is shared with several friends.

And please, please, please wash your hands. Get the flu shot regularly to protect those around you who can't get it.

Community is only as strong as we make it. And, at least in my lifetime, we've never needed it more.

Monday, February 24, 2020

I don't feel well, now what?

Today I do not feel well.  I've had a cold for most of a week now, one that seemed to fade after the first two days only to reemerge over the weekend.  My sinuses are stuffed up, I'm starting to develop a cough, and I am so darn tired.  It takes so much energy for the body to heal itself and the exhaustion this causes is what truly threatens to take me down.

This is a time when I'd tell anyone else that they need to stop and let their body rest.  I'd say, "You need to honor your body's need to rest." 

And then we'd commiserate about how we live in a culture that does not allow room for rest, or healing, or honoring our bodies' needs. 

Like most of us I have deadlines to meet.  I have clients who need work done.  And, like most of us, I have limited sick time available.  So what will I do today?  A day when my body is screaming for rest but I have things that need to get done?

The best I can.

I am lucky that I not only work from home, but I can set my own schedule.  This is a luxury that most of the population doesn't have.  I can work for an hour, and rest for an hour.  I can reschedule any meetings or appointments outside the house (and I have).  I have a well stocked cupboard (another thing that is a luxury, but shouldn't have to be) filled with medicinal teas and nutritious food.  I, thankfully, have enough money in the bank that I was able to go to the drug store this morning to pick up the few things I didn't have. 

I will do the best I can. 

But the fact is that none of us should have to do "the best we can."  We all should be able to stay home on days we are sick, to allow our bodies to get the rest they need, to heal, and of course to keep from spreading the germs to others. 

I do hope that one day "the best we can," means the best care, and rest, for all of us.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Perimenopause Update: I started counting

A daily planner page with the note "period day 1" at the top
It started with a missed period about two years ago.  I wasn't having sex with anyone at the time, so pregnancy wasn't a possibility.  I'd had a pretty horrible year dealing with a deep round of depression, anxiety, and was under a lot of financial stress. I chalked it up to that and moved on.

Then it happened again. And I knew.

Still, I googled it:  What are the signs of perimenopause?

Missed periods...mood swings...weight gain...bloating...pimples...hot flashes...

And you can expect this all to start happening roughly around the same time as it did for your mother or other uterus bearing biologically close relatives.

I texted my mother.

"When did you start experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause?"

"In my late 40s I think."

Confirmed.

The process of perimenopause really is a lot like puberty in reverse.  For me this has meant hormone fluctuation induced mood swings. Bloating.  More bloating.  Along with an embarrassing amount of gas. I have wondered if my GHG impact has increased due to the increase in gaseous emissions that regularly burst forth from my body.

I had to face and process my own internalized ageism. I remembered all those thoughts I had growing up about how I would be the one who didn't bemoan middle age. That I would LOVE my body and handle aging with the utmost grace. A thought that, when I found myself crying in the shower for the third time in a week, just made me think I was not only failing myself but any young person who might be going through this experience in the future.

It has meant periods that appear out of the blue two weeks after my prior one ended.  And let me tell you about flooding, where the number of hours that it is predicted a pad will last becomes utterly meaningless. As I'm changing the utterly laughable "10 hour" blood-soaked pad for the third time that day, I ask myself if I should be concerned that my body can push out this much blood and I'm not fainting.

Just as suddenly it stops.  I stock the bathroom shelves with super-maxi-12-hour blood diapers only to have my next three periods be barely a whisper. 

I have had cramps like I've not felt since I was 15 and would lay in bed with a heating pad hugged to my belly.  And the pimples - ugh.  Honestly having breakouts at 48 is not something I want to be dealing with.

So, is it any wonder that last week when I noted that, according to my calendar, I'd not had a period since December, I felt a little bit hopeful?

Menopause occurs when you have not had a period for 12 months.  I was nearly at three.  That's a quarter of the way there!  I'd heard from others about the hopeful counts...

"I went 11 months and then...BOOM! Bloody underwear when I woke up this morning."

"363 days and it came back."

I knew from my research that statistically menopause would likely occur at about the same time as when my mother experienced it.  For her this was 50, which is still two years away for me. But maybe, just maybe I'd be different?

I should not have been surprised when this morning I got up to pee and discovered that the countdown clock needed to be reset.  I sighed, grabbed a pad from the shelf, and went about my morning routine.

I made a note in my planner.  Period - Day 1.