Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Medical Thing

While all that was going on, I had a medical thing happen. One that called for actual doctors and tests and stuff.  It was like this; I was on my way to an appointment when I started seeing flashing yellow and purple lights off to the right.  They sort of morphed over to the middle, and once they did that I couldn't see.  Well, I could see flashing yellow and purple lights, but not whatever I was trying to actually look at (the road, in this case).  One of the good things about being me is that when I see something that's not there, I know it's not there.  And I knew these flashing lights were not there, but darned if I couldn't see them anyway.
Yeah, like that, except only on one side.

The other thing that happened was that I couldn't talk.  Now, if you know me, you know that's pretty darn weird.  I can talk the ears off a rubber monkey.  When I started talking when I was a baby, they had to tell me to shut up within the first 24 hours.  Actually I could talk, but what I was saying didn't make any sense.  It was like a word salad.  I'd try to say something like, "Thanks, I'll see you later" and it would come out "Stop sign boxcar plant water bottle tornado."  So you can see why this could be the subject of some concern.  Whatever it was, though, it went away after about half an hour.

I happened to see an eye doctor not long after this happened, like I do every year to get a prescription for ever-thicker glasses. This time he asked me all kinds of questions about my blood pressure and my heart rate and suchlike and so forth.  I asked him why all the questions and he said the vision changes in my right eye looked like the sort of pattern he often saw after a transient ischemic attack, which is a small stroke (!).  So I mentioned the flashing lights, and he told me I needed to go see my Regular Doc, pronto.

So off I went to the Regular Doc.  I got as far as "flashing lights" and he dispatched me immediately to the hospital to get a CT scan.  I mean I was in the CT scan machine about a half hour later, which is lightning speed for things medical.  I gathered whatever they saw on the CT scan wasn't too bad, though, because they let me leave the hospital.  And a few days later I called my Regular Doc and was told they saw "no intercranial abnormalities." Oh, and that I do have a brain.

Which is great, of course, but it doesn't solve the mystery of the flashing lights.  I've actually seen them several times, though the aphasia was a new thing.  Last August, approximately, the same thing happened at work, and lasted about half an hour.  Before that, a couple of years earlier, again while driving (there is nothing scarier than suddenly not being able to see while driving).  But it's not like it happens every day, or anything.  Just once in a while.

Anyway, the theory we're working on now is a thing called an "ocular migraine." To quote,"Ocular migraines are painless, temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes. Though they can be frightening, ocular migraines typically are harmless and self-resolve without medication within 20 to 30 minutes." Which sounds about right. Naturally, the cause is unknown but is probably genetic. There's no treatment or cure, but they're supposed to be harmless, unless you get into a car accident. And unlike normal migraines, they don't hurt. (A plus.) The only thing you can do if one hits is go someplace quiet and lie down. I mean, you can't do anything else because you can't see. 

So I guess enforced rest every once in a while isn't so bad.  It beats having a transient ischemic attack all to hell. They're not sure why I would not be able to talk, but regular migraines sometimes come with aphasia, so maybe it's related.  Oh, and the loss of vision in my right eye?  Possibly caused by a cataract.  Yes, I'm 47 years old and I already have a cataract.  Joy.  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Swimming Anxiety

This morning I swam 3200 meters by mistake. That is, I only set out to swim 3000 but I lost track somewhere in the middle there and by the time I figured it out I'd gone 200 extra meters.  Like that's a bad thing.  So we have a new record of farthest distance swum by Jen.  That's twice I've done 3000 and this time I felt like I could have kept going, maybe made it to 3500.  So my quest for 5000 meters is evidently heading in the right direction.  Whoever invented Gatorade (yes, the low sugar version -- it's at least a little better than the Really Bad Stuff) gets my thunderous applause. Whoever invented pureed fruit to be sold as baby food, however--he and I need to have a talk.  Somebody told me I could stay away from the Snickers bars by eating some of this pureed fruit, which conveniently comes in little squeezable bottles.  Well, that pureed fruit is some of the worst stuff I've ever put in my mouth.  Ick!  It's supposed to be plain fruit, but it's so ridiculously sweet that a diabetic might lose consciousness. And they feed this stuff to babies?  No wonder they scream.  Next time, when I shoot for 3200 again (this time on purpose), I'll try just plain ol' blueberries and sliced bananas in a baggie.  And chew them really, really fast. And try not to pay too much attention to the "No Food Or Drink Allowed" sign that dominates one whole side of the pool room.

In other news, I've just realized something.  It is this: I basically have no faith in people who say they are going to do something.  This comes from work, of course.  I spend much of every day asking people to bring me things, send me things, tell me things.  They always say they're going to do whatever it is, but for some reason I just don't believe them.  So I put a little note on my calendar and I call them a week later to see if they've done it yet.  Sometimes they have.  More often they say something like, "Oh hey, I forgot all about that.  Thanks for reminding me!" Or something along those lines that's a little less polite. Or, as occasionally happens, "Did you pay my invoice yet?" to which the answer is generally, "Let me check with the accountant."  Which means no, in case you don't understand business doublespeak.

In case you haven't guessed this, I'm also a regular whiz at nagging people. I have a particular system where I call people every week, then twice a week, then three times a week, and then every day until they cough up whatever it is I need.  It never fails (well, except for this one hospital, and I can't call that a failure just yet because I've only been calling every day for about a week now).  Never call more than once a day; that's harassment. (Yes, I used to work for that arm of a bank that calls you when you're late with your credit card bill.)  But call at different times of day.  Try nine o'clock, then three, then ten-thirty, then four in the afternoon.  If they get wise to your work number and send you directly to voice mail, call from your cell phone.  If that doesn't work, either, start faxing letters.  My goal in these situations is to make it easier for you to send me whatever I need than continue to dodge me.

The thing is, I don't know how to turn this off when I'm not at work.  If somebody says she's going to call me about something or other and then doesn't do it for whatever reason, I'm equal parts surprised, hurt and anxious.  I seem to be incapable of grasping the simple concept that just because something is important to me doesn't mean it's life or death to anybody else and that sometimes, shit just happens.  Your kid gets the flu or your husband loses his job or the heater goes out in the middle of December and you're too busy handling the crisis, whatever it is, to get back to me.  No wonder I feel kind of equal parts silly and whiny when I call people to see if they've done what they said they were going to do.  That doesn't stop me from doing it, though.

When I told her about this, Joan pointed out that any time things don't happen on my timetable, which is evidently the most important timetable on the entire planet, my anxiety gets triggered.  In case I didn't mention this to you guys, I don't have a problem with anxiety.  Anxiety IS my problem.  If I could get a grip on the anxiety, I could probably get a grip on everything else just fine, but short of chemical solutions, anxiety is just not that easy to get a grip on, people.  And those chemical solutions are great, but they come with side effects of not being able to drive and occasionally falling asleep sitting up.

The most recent example of this involved my health insurance company, my doctor and some phone calls.  My doctor, not me, had to make these phone calls; they would not do any good coming from me.  Now, most people would just call the doctor (or, as is my wont, send him a fax) and let him/her handle it.  And I did do that, after a fashion, as in, I didn't call back every day to say, "Have you handled it yet?" I wanted to, but I didn't.  And after about four days, which would be pretty reasonable to anybody's timetable that isn't mine, my doctor called and told me that it was handled.  All fine and dandy, except I won't get back the four days I spent obsessing about it and wondering if it was too soon to call and check up.

This is about as un-Buddhist-y as you can possibly get, except maybe killing somebody.  Buddhists are supposed to be patient and calm and not worry about things.  Maybe you get that way after you attain enlightenment, but I ain't there yet.  Thich Nhat Hanh talks about giving others "the gift of non-fear," especially in scary situations; he uses the situation of a boat full of refugees being blown about by a storm.  Everybody's starting to panic except one guy, who starts saying, "Everything's going to be okay.  Don't be afraid," and since he seems to be very calm, everyone believes him and settles down.  Thich Nhat Hanh doesn't end this story with what actually happens to the boat because the point isn't the fate of the boat; the point is to not be afraid, and to help other people not be afraid.

People tell me I stay calm when I handle things.  I'm the one in the office who's most likely to say, "Okay, calm down, give it to me, I'll fix it."  I never feel calm, though.  Maybe it's possible to act yourself into being calm.  Or, at least, not adding to the general anxiety.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Swimming With Diana Nyad

Those of you who hang around these parts already know that I'm on a swim team.  I haul myself to practices four times a week, sometimes five, and swim like crazy for an hour in the morning.  And I do all right.  Most days I swim somewhere between 1800 and 2000 meters, sometimes a little less.  Yes, some of the guys on the team are ex-Olympians and triathletes, and no, I don't try to keep up with them. I am not built like a swimmer.  (Michael Phelps is built like a swimmer.  It's like God said, "Somebody create me the perfect swimmer," and a couple of gnomes built Michael Phelps, and God said, "That's pretty good but let's make the arms longer.")  Sure, I'd love to be built like a swimmer, but I'm not.  I got these li'l T-rex arms and I'm short and fat and I have giant floater buoys attached to my chest.  But I am what I am and I swim anyway.

The word "team" implies "going to meets and entering races." I don't really do that. Much. I am not fast, though I'm not slow either.  I'm more of a distance swimmer.  Once a year during "Swim for Distance Month" we have a meet that has a 2k race (a little over a mile), a 5k race (three and a quarter miles) and for the truly hardcore, the 10k relay.  Every year for the past four I've entered the 2k race, and in 2014 I did it in under an hour (59 minutes and 17 seconds, precisely). Which was pretty cool.  But again, it's a 2k race and you do it in about an hour.

So imagine, if you will, swimming from Cuba to Florida. 111 miles.  Fifty-three hours in the water.  Storms.  Rough seas. Sharks. Jellyfish.  Jellysharks.  Diana Nyad did it, and she was sixty-four years old at the time.  So when I heard she was going to be in town, I raced down there.  I figured she had to be six feet tall, with arms like a gorilla's and muscles like Arnold Schwartzenbarfer's.

Uh, no.  Check out the picture.  She's actually just a little bit taller than me.  And she does have muscles, but they're nothing like some of those pictures you see of female bodybuilders (and I'm sorry, but those ladies have to be taking steroids.  Because there's no way.  No way.)  She's a shockingly ordinary person.  Who happens to have swum from Cuba to Florida. And across Lake Ontario, and around Manhattan Island, and--anyway, she's done a lot of marathon swimming.  And I happen to think that marathon swimming is one of the coolest things on the planet.

Now, for me, that 2k swim is a marathon.  At the end of it I'm worn out and shivering and can barely climb up the ladder to get out of the pool.  That's because adrenaline kicks in and I go out way too fast and have to rein myself back in and that's hard to do.  It's easier to just start out at a given speed.  Yes, I know that but try telling me to do it when I'm out there in the water.  Well, maybe I'll have better luck this year when I try swimming the 5k.

5000 meters.  A little over three miles.  Probably between 2 1/2 and 3 hours in the water.  No sharks and no jellyfish (or jellysharks) but that is a daunting spectacle indeed.  Still, right now I'm clocking 1800 to 2000 at most practices, so it's not out of reach.  It's just not going to be easy.  For one thing, I'll have to stop and take breaks.  2000 meters is about the limit of how far I can go without stopping.  (We're not counting my three-second water breaks as stopping.  It's July when this race happens, and it takes place outdoors.  You've positively got to stop for water every 4-500 meters or you'll end up in in the hospital.)  I've been told by veterans of this swim that you've got to eat something, too, because you'll just burn through any sugar that might be in your system and after that you'll start crashing.  They recommend Snickers bars.  Anything that calls for Snickers bars can't be a bad thing.

The other challenge will be finding somebody to count laps for me.  5000 meters = 50 100-meter laps which each take around three minutes if you're me.  And let's face it, swimming is boring, especially when there aren't any sharks. Or jellyfish.  Or jellysharks.  Well, it's boring to watch. It's great to do.  Luckily, my good friend and massage therapist Kellum has said he's in.  I just have to pin down a date for him so he can keep his schedule free.  And in case I get bored, I can listen to my underwater iPod, awesome Christmas gift from my sister Kristen which really does make the time go a lot faster.  Something about wanting to rock and roll all night and part of every day, I expect.

So anyway, that's the plan.  I could get intimidated at some point and scale it all back and do the 2k again, but now that I've told y'all what the plan is, it'll be harder not to do.  Besides, I have a training swim planned for this weekend (2500 meters to start, with stops at 1500 and 2000 for Snickers bar munching.)  I'll ramp it up from there.  I have to convince myself it's okay to stay in the water and keep swimming after an hour, since I'm used to stopping there and getting out.  And I also have to solve the problem of getting too cold.  The farthest I ever swam was 2800 meters, and I was positively shaking when I climbed up the ladder.  I'm thinking a silicone cap (I hate silicone caps) might solve this problem.  A silicone cap in July.  Oh joy.

But again, I don't have to contend with jellysharks.  So there's not much to complain about, really.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mini-Post: Car! Part II

I've only had this new car for about three weeks.  I haven't even made the first payment on it yet. So you can imagine how surprised and not happy I was when Joan came in last night and said, "There's a great big dent on the back of your car."  I said, "No there isn't."  She said, "Um, yeah, there is."  So I went outside to look at it and lo and behold, she was right:

Somebody frick'n hit and ran me.  Fuck you very much, whoever you were.  Like I'd even care who you were, so long as nobody got hurt and you had insurance.  I thought the whole thing had taken place in front of the house, because I did remember hearing a loud bang about 15 minutes before Joan got home (though, as I do with most loud bangs in my neighborhood, I mostly ignored it because it's usually my idiot neighbor, slamming the door of his house on his way out to yell at somebody on his cell phone in Spanish, and let's just not tell him I understand Spanish, okay? Okay).  Well, this morning I found out that some people at my office actually saw the damage yesterday.  So I'm not sure which is more annoying, that I made an inaccurate police report (though based on the information I had at the time) or that people noticed my car was damaged and didn't bother to tell me.

On the plus side, though, since it happened at work, we might be able to find out who did it now. We do have a record of who comes and goes from here, though unfortunately no cameras.  And if we do figure it out, my insurance company will waive my deductible, thereby saving me $500 bucks.

It's also pretty annoying that sometime last night I walked out, got in my car and drove home without noticing the great big dent.  Honestly, I would make the worst trial witness ever.  I wouldn't notice Godzilla.  "And is the giant lizard you saw that day in court today, Ms. Jonsson?"  "What giant lizard?"

Anyway. I've been trying to get ahold of the police officer who took the report to let him know it happened in an entirely different location than the one I reported.  No luck so far. Apparently you need the officer's name and badge number, which I don't have (see above re: Godzilla), and giving them a report number doesn't help. So they want me to go down to the main police station and get a copy of the report so I can get the officer's name and badge number, and then call him and ask to have the report amended.  Joan is trying to figure out a work-around for this because going downtown to get the police report is simply going to take time I don't have.  She's good at that, so  I'll leave her to it. And that's the news.

Friday, January 1, 2016

You Are Not Free To Move About The Country.

First of all, Happy New Year!  My campaign to have the holidays canceled was unsuccessful once again, yet we somehow managed to survive them anyway.  We even put up a tree, even if all we managed to put on it were lights.  (No, there's no such thing as a Buddhist Christmas tree.)  

Secondly, we flew out to Phoenix on Christmas morning to spend the holidays with my parents and my sister.  We almost didn't get home again.  Somehow, you don't expect flights to be canceled on a clear brisk day when the wind is blowing but there's nary a cloud in the sky.  But it does happen, and when it does happen it can be incredibly hard to get where you were going.

We were flying Southwest Airlines, like usual.  Besides not charging for checked bags, Southwest Airlines is about the only airline that has A Policy about what to do if you're a person of size, and you don't fit comfortably into one of their seats (Southwest also has the smallest seats in the industry, which is probably not a coincidence).  If an airline doesn't have A Policy, you might get grabbed out of line, embarrassed in front of 300 of your closest friends and forced to buy another ticket if you want to get on the airplane.  Or you might not.  It's like Russian roulette.  But Southwest has A Policy, we know what it is, and so we always buy three seats together when the two of us travel.  That way we have a whole row to ourselves, nobody's smushed up against us, we don't bother anyone and nobody bothers us.  They usually preboard us, the flight attendants are pretty nice, and if you're incredibly stressed out by air travel the way I am, nice flight attendants become a necessity.  So what I'm saying is, we fly Southwest Airlines all the time.  It's pretty unusual for us to fly any other airline, as a matter of fact.

We were supposed to fly back to Dallas on Monday night, the 28th. Our flight was delayed, but that's not at all unusual coming out of Phoenix.  So we checked in and we got snacks and we sat at the gate, reading books and so on, for quite a while before we began to realize that people from our flight were all starting to line up behind the check-in desk. It happened that we overheard one woman say that when your flight is canceled, you should call the customer service line because they could sometimes help you faster than the people at the actual airport.  Which was the first we heard anything about our flight being canceled, as there was no official announcement of any kind and nobody bothered to put up a sign or anything else. Honestly, if it hadn't been for that lady, we'd probably still be sitting in Phoenix wondering what in hell happened.  

What happened was, we got "timed out."  There was a big snowstorm back east someplace, and a number of canceled and delayed flights started a domino effect that started to affect flights that weren't even in the area.  Late flights pushed later flights to even later than that, until the crews that were supposed to work those flights literally ran out of time.  Pilots and flight attendants can't work more than a certain number of hours for safety reasons, and our flight ran out of hours.  So did another one right across the jetway, and about 300 more across the country.  

This is where I got my great lesson in how not to talk to airline personnel, courtesy of the lady behind me.  Look, getting kicked off an airplane is nobody's greatest moment, but this lady--I am not kidding, if she was going to be kicked off an airplane, then by God, everyone for miles was going to know about it and about how personally wronged she had been by the entire situation.  She wasn't even technically talking to me--she was talking to anybody and everybody in the immediate vicinity, as far as I could tell--and I still almost turned around and told her to shut up.  Well, I didn't.  Instead I was as nice as I could possibly be to the airline lady when I finally got up to the check-in desk.  If I had to deal with more than one Lady Behind Me in a shift, I'd have walked off the job, waved off my severance pay and activated the emergency slide on the way out--unless that's already been done, that is.  Call me crazy, but I just sort of figured we probably had a better chance of getting on a quicker flight home if we didn't piss off the person who was supposed to be helping us.

Anyway, when we finally did get to the check-in desk, we discovered that it's not exactly easy to rebook 250 people onto new flights with as full as airplanes get these days.  And just because you have a photo ID, can get through TSA and have money to pay for a ticket doesn't necessarily mean you are going anywhere.  There were no flights to Dallas with any available seats that night or the following day.  The flight they finally did get us on went from Phoenix to San Diego and then turned around and went to Dallas.  There wasn't even anything direct.  The airline lady checked Austin and Oklahoma City and even Tulsa, for heaven's sake.  She couldn't get us to any of them.  The best they could do was Dallas two days later.  

So that was two more nights in a hotel room that we hadn't planned on, to say nothing of two more days' worth of meals and incidentals and Star Wars tickets (okay, that last thing wasn't technically a necessity, but hotel rooms do get boring after a while.)  Two days I didn't get paid for, either.  And two days of our cats wondering where in hell we'd disappeared to (luckily, our pet sitter was still available and could still come by and check on them).  Southwest hasn't offered us anything by way of compensation, but I'm going to send them a nice letter with the hotel bill attached and explain that really, it would be nice of them to offer us something.

One thing's for sure--no more night flights.  I'm only ever booking morning flights in the future, to make sure there's time to recover if something goes wrong.

Last thing: Huge thanks to the parents, who drove us back and forth to the airport multiple times, let us use their washing machine and went to the movie with us. And kudos to Edith, the Baggage Supervisor at Sky Harbor Airport.  She was in charge of getting our bags back to us, which evidently meant searching some 500 bags by hand and only bringing up the right ones, variously described as, "It's blue." "It's medium sized."  "It has wheels."  Thank you, Edith.  And thanks to the lady at the check-in desk, whose name I never got but who had to deal with The Lady Behind Me after she dealt with me.  Sorry about that, check-in desk lady.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Those of you who hang around here a lot probably know I drive a 1998 Toyota Corolla that I've had for, oh, about fifteen years.  Hey, it isn't that I get overly attached to a vehicle.  It's just that no matter what time it is, it's never the right time to get another car.  There's a medical emergency or I have to go on an unexpected trip or Christmas is coming or (in this case) all three at once. Which is why the way things fell together over the last few days just goes to show that sometimes the universe just wants something to happen. 

It all started when Kellum the Great, our massage therapist, was over doing his thing in our living room. (That sounds dirtier than it is, unfortunately.)  I mentioned I was looking for a car (and had been for months, in point of fact) and he said I should really check out Grapevine Motors.  He'd bought two cars from them, and Suzy had bought one, and each time it turned out to be a pretty good deal.  I told him I was a tough customer.  I wanted another Toyota Corolla, for one thing, and I wanted it to be somewhere between 2011 and 2014 with less than 80,000 miles on it.  Also, I didn't want to pay more than $10,000.  But I went ahead and logged onto their Web site, and darned if they didn't have a 2013 Corolla with 50,000 miles on it for sale for $10,990. 

Since I have USAA, though, I also logged on to USAA's car buying service.  This is about as painless as car shopping gets, folks, and if you even think you might be eligible for USAA's panoply of services, you really owe it to yourself to check them out.  All you need is a parent who served in the armed forces at one time or another, and they don't even have to have been an officer anymore.  The car buying service will literally find you the car you're looking for, negotiate a price for you, arrange your financing and tell you where to go pick it up.  That's all you have to do; go pick it up.  I mean, that is pretty hard to argue with.  So I got on to the car buying service and searched for Toyota Corollas of a certain age, and the same darn car from Grapevine Motors popped up.  The Web site even helpfully told me that Grapevine Motors was about 30 miles from my house, in case I was planning a trip out there.

So in no time flat I was planning a trip out there.  From my work I'm about halfway there, anyway.  I drove out there in horrible traffic, missed the turn twice, and eventually stumbled onto the place just a block or two from downtown Grapevine.  And there was the Corolla, sitting near the front and under the lights.  I looked at it for about thirty seconds before deciding to buy it. The main hurdle was getting Joan out there, to make sure she could get in and out of the car without too much trouble (she's having a lot of trouble with her knee and surgery is probably on the horizon at some point). 

So the next night I made another trip out there, with Joan.  She could get in and out of it just fine.  I drove the '98 Corolla for the last time, having gassed it up and washed it earlier in the day.  The proprietor of Grapevine Motors gave me $900 auction value, which I thought was exceedingly generous.  Then he told me how much the Corolla was going to cost, I agreed, we shook on it and that was that. 

Oh. Except for the title.

Yeah, I'd kind of forgotten that in transactions involving expensive things like cars, there are generally pieces of legal paper involved.  The proprietor of Grapevine Motors needed the title for the '98 Corolla and I haven't found it yet.  Half the time I'm lucky to know where my mortgage documents are, in case we ever have to evacuate before a flood or a tornado or some other oncoming disaster.  I think I'm going to have to go to the county tax office and have a duplicate created, which requires both Joan and I to be somewhere, dressed and scrubbed and with picture IDs, at seven in the morning.  But they can't sell my old Corolla at auction without it, so we gotta do it.  I'll let you know what happens.  I'm mildly concerned that if I take Joan out of the house before seven in the morning, she'll say, "Oh, great" and turn into a pile of dust. 

Anyway, title aside, I do have a very nice new car.  My odds of ending up on the side of the road in a pile of parts have dropped dramatically.  You can even tell what station the radio's tuned to.  And there's a (gasp!) CD player.  Best thing, though, is that it's another Corolla.  That means everything's right where it was in the old car.  I reach for the air conditioning and my hand goes right to it.  I need to turn on the defroster and there it is.  And get this:  I can turn the radio up and down using buttons on the steering wheel.  I mean, what kind of newfangled gadgets are the kids in Japan going to come up with next? 

Many many thanks to angel Kristen for helping to make it all happen.  As I believe I mentioned, it wasn't a good time to buy a car at all. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Complicated

This has been one hell of a month.  I lost a brother-in-law, a cat, my patience and my last tenuous contact with Christianity.  And this month, I have all the joys of choosing (drum roll, please) a new health insurance plan. (rimshot)

Evidently Blue Cross and Blue Shield is canceling all of its PPO plans in Texas.  Those of us who are on one, and I liked my plan very much thank you, are all being shunted to a new HMO, which would be fine if either of my doctors took it, but neither of them do.  Given the choice between finding new health insurance and trying to find a new doctor, I will cheerfully take finding new health insurance.

Why not just find a new doctor, you ask?  Well, I will if I have to, but I'd really rather not have to.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a doctor who doesn't say, "Oh, it says here you're not on (blank). All my patients are on (blank) so I'm going to switch you to (blank)", when he first meets you?  Or worse, "Your problem is that you're fat. Lose fifty pounds and your wrist pain/bladder infection/sore throat/skin rash/brain tumor will clear right up."  I have heard these actual statements from the mouths of the actual doctors. But I can understand it, sort of.  I mean what fun is a patient who comes in and says, "Hi, nothing's actually wrong, I just need prescriptions for the meds I'm already taking, which I've been stable on for years"?  Not much of a challenge there, hey?  And what intrepid medical professional can resist the urge to say something like, "Well, I can see you're doing fine on (blank), but I'll bet you'll do JUST GREAT on (blank) XR!  And besides, I'll get a major speaking engagement from the drug company if I meet my prescription quota at the end of the month." No, they don't really say that last part out loud.  I just hear it.

So I'm looking for new health insurance.  There are something like 56 plans available.  After chopping off the "bronze" plans, which are basically worthless, it's more like 40 plans.  That is an awful lot of plans.  Yes, there's a company called Molina Insurance which can basically be dismissed outright because no one's heard of it, and a new one called Oscar that doesn't cover either of my doctors, but that still leaves some 24 or so plans.  And despite the fact that everybody from the health care representatives I've talked to on the phone to the President of the United States is telling me I need to compare prices and buy myself the cheapest plan, unfortunately, one glance at the monthly premium and the deductible is not enough to figure out if a particular plan will do the job for me.

You see, It's Complicated.  I have a chronic condition and I take certain prescription drugs. Some of them are Pricey.  The pricier a drug is, the more likely a drug company is to have limitations on it, such as you have to have your doc call and explain why you need it (preauthorization) or worse, you can't take it at all until you've tried all the cheaper ones and failed (step-up therapy).  The former is only a minor annoyance, but the latter is a serious problem if you're me.  Even if insurance companies sometimes waive that requirement at your doctor's request, they sometimes don't.

In case you did not know this, psychopharmacology is basically a hit or miss proposition.  The goal, as I understand it, is to treat the worst of your symptoms with medication that causes minimal side effects, or at least side effects you can live with.  And by the way, when I say "you can live with" I really mean, "you can live with." One of the drugs my doc and I tried had me feeling like it'd be a great idea to carve my arms up with a kitchen knife.  Not because I was depressed or mopey or more anxiety-ridden than usual, just because it seemed like such a good idea.  I stopped taking the stuff and the impulse disappeared within hours.  But yikes.  So when I say, "side effects you can live with," I mean stuff like stomach upset, weight gain, weight loss, and losing control of your right arm so that it flops around on your desk like a fish kicking out its last few moments of life at the bottom of a boat, and yes, that happened too.  I am the queen of strange and entertaining side effects.

For me, every change of meds introduces a really fun six-week period during which I throw up frequently, have a more or less constant upset stomach, eat too much, refuse to eat at all, sleep too much, don't sleep at all, feel like driving my car about 180 on the 635 and have nightmares in which I'm directing a musical about Hitler that features a singing, dancing polar bear and six penguins.  Pick three or four and stir.  Usually they go away after the six weeks, but if whatever we're trying out doesn't work, or works badly, or the side effects are intolerable, we have to either change the dose or try something else--starting the fun all over again.  So this "step-up" therapy, while I understand the logic behind it, is out of the question, really.  I have to find a plan that doesn't require it, and that's getting harder and harder to do.

The good news is, I may have found one.  The bad news is, I haven't yet talked to the insurance company reps yet but the way I read this thing, it sounds like they cover NOTHING until you reach the $3,500 deductible, not even prescriptions. Which means I'm going to need $3,500 for January and February and possibly part of March, and apart from selling my car, I'm not sure where to get it.

And just for the record, I'm navigating all this nonsense with a major brain disorder.  Somebody please explain how that makes any sense at all.

Universal single payer, anybody? Cuz that'd be awesome.