Daily Archives: April 7, 2014

Negative Thinkers and Positive Thinkers

The revered Dr. Norman Vincent Peale wrote these words for his immensely popular 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking: The way to happiness: keep your heart free from hate,

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Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder): Always Embarrassed

Are you afraid of being judged by others or of being embarrassed all the time? Do you feel extremely fearful and unsure around other people most of the time? Do these worries make it hard for you to do everyday tasks like run errands, or talk to people at work or school?

If so, you may have a type of anxiety disorder called social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder.

What is social phobia?

Social phobia is a strong fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed. This fear can be so strong that it gets in the way of going to work or school or doing other everyday things.
Everyone has felt anxious or embarrassed at one time or another. For example, meeting new people or giving a public speech can make anyone nervous. But people with social phobia worry about these and other things for weeks before they happen.
People with social phobia are afraid of doing common things in front of other people. For example, they might be afraid to sign a check in front of a cashier at the grocery store, or they might be afraid to eat or drink in front of other people, or use a public restroom. Most people who have social phobia know that they shouldn’t be as afraid as they are, but they can’t control their fear. Sometimes, they end up staying away from places or events where they think they might have to do something that will embarrass them. For some people, social phobia is a problem only in certain situations, while others have symptoms in almost any social situation.
Social phobia usually starts during youth. A doctor can tell that a person has social phobia if the person has had symptoms for at least 6 months. Without treatment, social phobia can last for many years or a lifetime.

What are the signs and symptoms of social phobia?

People with social phobia tend to:
  • -Be very anxious about being with other people and have a hard time talking to them, even though they wish they could
  • -Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed
  • -Be very afraid that other people will judge them
  • -Worry for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
  • -Stay away from places where there are other people
  • -Have a hard time making friends and keeping friends
  • -Blush, sweat, or tremble around other people
  • -Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach when with other people.

What causes social phobia?

Social phobia sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some people have it, while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that misreading of others’ behavior may play a role in causing social phobia. For example, you may think that people are staring or frowning at you when they truly are not. Weak social skills are another possible cause of social phobia. For example, if you have weak social skills, you may feel discouraged after talking with people and may worry about doing it in the future. By learning more about fear and anxiety in the brain, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.

How is social phobia treated?

First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam to make sure that an unrelated physical problem isn’t causing the symptoms. The doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist.
Social phobia is generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.
Psychotherapy. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful for treating social phobia. It teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help him or her feel less anxious and fearful. It can also help people learn and practice social skills.
Medication. Doctors also may prescribe medication to help treat social phobia. The most commonly prescribed medications for social phobia are anti- anxiety medications and antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications are powerful and there are different types. Many types begin working right away, but they generally should not be taken for long periods.
Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but they are also helpful for social phobia. They are probably more commonly prescribed for social phobia than anti-anxiety medications. Antidepressants may take several weeks to start working. Some may cause side effects such as headache, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. These side effects are usually not a problem for most people, especially if the dose starts off low and is increased slowly over time. Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may have.
A type of antidepressant called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are especially effective in treating social phobia. However, they are rarely used as a first line of treatment because when MAOIs are combined with certain foods or other medicines, dangerous side effects can occur.
It’s important to know that although antidepressants can be safe and effective for many people, they may be risky for some, especially children, teens, and young adults. A “black box”—the most serious type of warning that a prescription drug can have—has been added to the labels of antidepressant medications. These labels warn people that antidepressants may cause some people to have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts.
Anyone taking antidepressants should be monitored closely, especially when they first start treatment.
Another type of medication called beta-blockers can help control some of the physical symptoms of social phobia such as excessive sweating, shaking, or a racing heart. They are most commonly prescribed when the symptoms of social phobia occur in specific situations, such as “stage fright.”
Some people do better with CBT, while others do better with medication. Still others do best with a combination of the two. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you.

What is it like having social phobia?

“In school I was always afraid of being called on, even when I knew the answers. When I got a job, I hated to meet with my boss. I couldn’t eat lunch with my co-workers. I worried about being stared at or judged, and worried that I would make a fool of myself. My heart would pound and I would start to sweat when I thought about meetings. The feelings got worse as the time of the event got closer. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep or eat for days before a staff meeting.”
“I’m taking medicine and working with a counselor to cope better with my fears. I had to work hard, but I feel better. I’m glad I made that first call to my doctor.”

This NIMH publication is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission. NIMH encourages you to reproduce it and use it in your efforts to improve public health. Citation of the National Institute of Mental Health as a source is appreciated.

Anniversaries

On March 16, 2014 I was notified by WordPress: “Happy Anniversary!  You registered on WordPress.com 2 years ago!” I think about a lot of anniversaries during the first four months of each year: Twenty-one years ago during this month of April is when these mental/emotional health issues I didn’t realize I had emerged full-force after […]

Friendship/Dedicated to Bill Bream

Friendship
                Dedicated to Bill Bream
 A dear friend passed away a few days ago.  Interestingly, I had never met this gentleman in person.  He was a client of our business and in the course of communicating we developed a close relationship.   No, I’m not talking about an online romance by any stretch of the imagination.  Just a close friendship.  I told him about my depression and my husband’s ongoing battle with nearly crippling neuropathy.  He was a photographer and sent me gorgeous shots of Yosemite, flowers in his garden, birds…I believe many of his photos were featured in various publications. 

He was a gentleman but with a bawdy sense of humor.  He apologized for the first off-color joke he sent to me, saying he was out of line and hoped I wasn’t.  I responded with a huge “LOL” and a note that explained I have five sons, no daughters.  My sense of humor has been warped by them.  The joke was incredibly funny and not so off color as to offend.  And so back and forth it went.  Not every day, but a few times a week I would find something in my e-mail’s inbox from him.  A joke, information to pass along to John about the situation with various crops in the central valley of California (we provide ag-specific weather reports to farmers and agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley, a place where much of the food you eat is grown and produced), rainfall amounts at his location during the few times it rains, wind speed when it’s actually a bit windy…lots of information that we deemed invaluable…and political information.  Congress is in the process of appropriating water that was granted to farmers decades ago.  Congress has already done this to farmers on the west side of the valley, a region that is now not much more than a dust bowl.  Millions-perhaps billions- of dollars in farmland now lies fallow. 

Anyway, this client became an invaluable source of information while becoming a beloved friend.  He shared his pride in his wife.  On Facebook, he would post pictures of projects his wife had completed.  She’s an amazingly creative woman.  You name it, she can do it.  Quilting, stamping, gardening, sewing…I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do.  Pictures were posted of a tea party setting she created in their garden.  I wish I could have attended.  It was a true garden party, a shabby chic setting requiring the finest in dresses and beautiful sun hats or parasols.  I’m sure the food was amazing.  This couple grows oranges and I would bet oranges played a role in the delicacies whipped up by this amazing woman.  Our friend’s pride in her made him even more special to me.  He wasn’t afraid to share his love of this incredible woman. 

On the other end of the scale, his wife wasn’t afraid…and likely still is not afraid… to share her love of this man.  She would post pictures of projects he took on for her.  Building a garden house in just her style, gardening with her, and many other types of creations designed to please her.  She quite obviously cherishes his work as they are physical testimonies of his love for her.  I can understand this clearly as my husband also cherishes me and loves me deeply.  I recognized in my friend’s words, pictures, and communication his love for his wife.  Oh, I’m sure they had their problems from time to time, but love won out over disagreements. 

So, no, our friendship was not an online romance, just a close friendship based on common interests.  And jokes.  I looked forward to opening my email in the morning to see what he had sent.  It always generated a laugh from both me and from hubby, something that was occasionally hard to do because of our illnesses.  This man knew that and I truly believe he deliberately set out to gain at least a chuckle from us, or a groan from a bad pun.  And he had a million of them.  I’m sure his family benefited from his sense of humor.  I knew we did.

Maybe it’s difficult to understand why I grieve so at the passing of this man.  We had never shaken hands, had a friendly hug of greeting, shared a meal, or just kicked back in that gorgeous garden and chatted.  Never looked eye to eye while telling a story.  Yet, I grieve at his passing.  The morning of the day he died he sent an email with the rain total at his location.  I remember clearly that it was .36 (that’s a gullywasher by Tulare County standards) and that it was in red print.  Just that morning he was alive and, to my knowledge, well.  Then he was gone. 

Friendships don’t require seeing one another face to face.  This gentleman is not the only friend I have who I’ve never actually met.  I have a bunch of Facebook friends and blog friends I’ve never met, yet I treasure their friendship, too.  I know some of them would be there in a heartbeat if I needed something.  I believe they know I’ve got their back, too.  Then there are the friends made over the years with whom I’ve been able to reconnect courtesy of Facebook.  They’re scattered far and wide, and we don’t communicate every day, but I know they think about me just as I think about them.  I pray for them and know they do for me.  They cheer me on, cheer me up, and cheer for me when something goes well.  They have words of support and love when something has gone wrong in my life.  I cherish their friendships, as well.


But I will say this one gentleman holds a special place in my heart.  I can’t explain it.  Something about his spirit touched mine.  He’s been on my mind a great deal since his passing.  A few days ago I said yet another little prayer for him, and for myself.  I heard something at the window and looked up.  A finch of a type I’ve never seen before sat on the window ledge looking directly at me.  We stared at one another for quite a bit…a good two or three minutes…and I smiled.  This little bird flew off.  I don’t believe in coincidence.  And I do know of Bill’s love of the natural world.  Was this a message to me, to not worry or grieve, that he truly has wings with which to fly?  I’m certain of it.  Friendships can flourish across miles.  And death doesn’t mean the end, just a change as we communicate spirit to spirit.  My dad still sends me baseballs.  Oh, I don’t expect my friend to show up at my window all the time, or even any more at all.  It’s enough for me that I believe he did once, once to show that he treasured our friendship, too.  

Friendship/Dedicated to Bill Bream

Friendship
                Dedicated to Bill Bream
 A dear friend passed away a few days ago.  Interestingly, I had never met this gentleman in person.  He was a client of our business and in the course of communicating we developed a close relationship.   No, I’m not talking about an online romance by any stretch of the imagination.  Just a close friendship.  I told him about my depression and my husband’s ongoing battle with nearly crippling neuropathy.  He was a photographer and sent me gorgeous shots of Yosemite, flowers in his garden, birds…I believe many of his photos were featured in various publications. 

He was a gentleman but with a bawdy sense of humor.  He apologized for the first off-color joke he sent to me, saying he was out of line and hoped I wasn’t.  I responded with a huge “LOL” and a note that explained I have five sons, no daughters.  My sense of humor has been warped by them.  The joke was incredibly funny and not so off color as to offend.  And so back and forth it went.  Not every day, but a few times a week I would find something in my e-mail’s inbox from him.  A joke, information to pass along to John about the situation with various crops in the central valley of California (we provide ag-specific weather reports to farmers and agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley, a place where much of the food you eat is grown and produced), rainfall amounts at his location during the few times it rains, wind speed when it’s actually a bit windy…lots of information that we deemed invaluable…and political information.  Congress is in the process of appropriating water that was granted to farmers decades ago.  Congress has already done this to farmers on the west side of the valley, a region that is now not much more than a dust bowl.  Millions-perhaps billions- of dollars in farmland now lies fallow. 

Anyway, this client became an invaluable source of information while becoming a beloved friend.  He shared his pride in his wife.  On Facebook, he would post pictures of projects his wife had completed.  She’s an amazingly creative woman.  You name it, she can do it.  Quilting, stamping, gardening, sewing…I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do.  Pictures were posted of a tea party setting she created in their garden.  I wish I could have attended.  It was a true garden party, a shabby chic setting requiring the finest in dresses and beautiful sun hats or parasols.  I’m sure the food was amazing.  This couple grows oranges and I would bet oranges played a role in the delicacies whipped up by this amazing woman.  Our friend’s pride in her made him even more special to me.  He wasn’t afraid to share his love of this incredible woman. 

On the other end of the scale, his wife wasn’t afraid…and likely still is not afraid… to share her love of this man.  She would post pictures of projects he took on for her.  Building a garden house in just her style, gardening with her, and many other types of creations designed to please her.  She quite obviously cherishes his work as they are physical testimonies of his love for her.  I can understand this clearly as my husband also cherishes me and loves me deeply.  I recognized in my friend’s words, pictures, and communication his love for his wife.  Oh, I’m sure they had their problems from time to time, but love won out over disagreements. 

So, no, our friendship was not an online romance, just a close friendship based on common interests.  And jokes.  I looked forward to opening my email in the morning to see what he had sent.  It always generated a laugh from both me and from hubby, something that was occasionally hard to do because of our illnesses.  This man knew that and I truly believe he deliberately set out to gain at least a chuckle from us, or a groan from a bad pun.  And he had a million of them.  I’m sure his family benefited from his sense of humor.  I knew we did.

Maybe it’s difficult to understand why I grieve so at the passing of this man.  We had never shaken hands, had a friendly hug of greeting, shared a meal, or just kicked back in that gorgeous garden and chatted.  Never looked eye to eye while telling a story.  Yet, I grieve at his passing.  The morning of the day he died he sent an email with the rain total at his location.  I remember clearly that it was .36 (that’s a gullywasher by Tulare County standards) and that it was in red print.  Just that morning he was alive and, to my knowledge, well.  Then he was gone. 

Friendships don’t require seeing one another face to face.  This gentleman is not the only friend I have who I’ve never actually met.  I have a bunch of Facebook friends and blog friends I’ve never met, yet I treasure their friendship, too.  I know some of them would be there in a heartbeat if I needed something.  I believe they know I’ve got their back, too.  Then there are the friends made over the years with whom I’ve been able to reconnect courtesy of Facebook.  They’re scattered far and wide, and we don’t communicate every day, but I know they think about me just as I think about them.  I pray for them and know they do for me.  They cheer me on, cheer me up, and cheer for me when something goes well.  They have words of support and love when something has gone wrong in my life.  I cherish their friendships, as well.


But I will say this one gentleman holds a special place in my heart.  I can’t explain it.  Something about his spirit touched mine.  He’s been on my mind a great deal since his passing.  A few days ago I said yet another little prayer for him, and for myself.  I heard something at the window and looked up.  A finch of a type I’ve never seen before sat on the window ledge looking directly at me.  We stared at one another for quite a bit…a good two or three minutes…and I smiled.  This little bird flew off.  I don’t believe in coincidence.  And I do know of Bill’s love of the natural world.  Was this a message to me, to not worry or grieve, that he truly has wings with which to fly?  I’m certain of it.  Friendships can flourish across miles.  And death doesn’t mean the end, just a change as we communicate spirit to spirit.  My dad still sends me baseballs.  Oh, I don’t expect my friend to show up at my window all the time, or even any more at all.  It’s enough for me that I believe he did once, once to show that he treasured our friendship, too.  

Friendship/Dedicated to Bill Bream

Friendship
                Dedicated to Bill Bream
 A dear friend passed away a few days ago.  Interestingly, I had never met this gentleman in person.  He was a client of our business and in the course of communicating we developed a close relationship.   No, I’m not talking about an online romance by any stretch of the imagination.  Just a close friendship.  I told him about my depression and my husband’s ongoing battle with nearly crippling neuropathy.  He was a photographer and sent me gorgeous shots of Yosemite, flowers in his garden, birds…I believe many of his photos were featured in various publications. 

He was a gentleman but with a bawdy sense of humor.  He apologized for the first off-color joke he sent to me, saying he was out of line and hoped I wasn’t.  I responded with a huge “LOL” and a note that explained I have five sons, no daughters.  My sense of humor has been warped by them.  The joke was incredibly funny and not so off color as to offend.  And so back and forth it went.  Not every day, but a few times a week I would find something in my e-mail’s inbox from him.  A joke, information to pass along to John about the situation with various crops in the central valley of California (we provide ag-specific weather reports to farmers and agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley, a place where much of the food you eat is grown and produced), rainfall amounts at his location during the few times it rains, wind speed when it’s actually a bit windy…lots of information that we deemed invaluable…and political information.  Congress is in the process of appropriating water that was granted to farmers decades ago.  Congress has already done this to farmers on the west side of the valley, a region that is now not much more than a dust bowl.  Millions-perhaps billions- of dollars in farmland now lies fallow. 

Anyway, this client became an invaluable source of information while becoming a beloved friend.  He shared his pride in his wife.  On Facebook, he would post pictures of projects his wife had completed.  She’s an amazingly creative woman.  You name it, she can do it.  Quilting, stamping, gardening, sewing…I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do.  Pictures were posted of a tea party setting she created in their garden.  I wish I could have attended.  It was a true garden party, a shabby chic setting requiring the finest in dresses and beautiful sun hats or parasols.  I’m sure the food was amazing.  This couple grows oranges and I would bet oranges played a role in the delicacies whipped up by this amazing woman.  Our friend’s pride in her made him even more special to me.  He wasn’t afraid to share his love of this incredible woman. 

On the other end of the scale, his wife wasn’t afraid…and likely still is not afraid… to share her love of this man.  She would post pictures of projects he took on for her.  Building a garden house in just her style, gardening with her, and many other types of creations designed to please her.  She quite obviously cherishes his work as they are physical testimonies of his love for her.  I can understand this clearly as my husband also cherishes me and loves me deeply.  I recognized in my friend’s words, pictures, and communication his love for his wife.  Oh, I’m sure they had their problems from time to time, but love won out over disagreements. 

So, no, our friendship was not an online romance, just a close friendship based on common interests.  And jokes.  I looked forward to opening my email in the morning to see what he had sent.  It always generated a laugh from both me and from hubby, something that was occasionally hard to do because of our illnesses.  This man knew that and I truly believe he deliberately set out to gain at least a chuckle from us, or a groan from a bad pun.  And he had a million of them.  I’m sure his family benefited from his sense of humor.  I knew we did.

Maybe it’s difficult to understand why I grieve so at the passing of this man.  We had never shaken hands, had a friendly hug of greeting, shared a meal, or just kicked back in that gorgeous garden and chatted.  Never looked eye to eye while telling a story.  Yet, I grieve at his passing.  The morning of the day he died he sent an email with the rain total at his location.  I remember clearly that it was .36 (that’s a gullywasher by Tulare County standards) and that it was in red print.  Just that morning he was alive and, to my knowledge, well.  Then he was gone. 

Friendships don’t require seeing one another face to face.  This gentleman is not the only friend I have who I’ve never actually met.  I have a bunch of Facebook friends and blog friends I’ve never met, yet I treasure their friendship, too.  I know some of them would be there in a heartbeat if I needed something.  I believe they know I’ve got their back, too.  Then there are the friends made over the years with whom I’ve been able to reconnect courtesy of Facebook.  They’re scattered far and wide, and we don’t communicate every day, but I know they think about me just as I think about them.  I pray for them and know they do for me.  They cheer me on, cheer me up, and cheer for me when something goes well.  They have words of support and love when something has gone wrong in my life.  I cherish their friendships, as well.


But I will say this one gentleman holds a special place in my heart.  I can’t explain it.  Something about his spirit touched mine.  He’s been on my mind a great deal since his passing.  A few days ago I said yet another little prayer for him, and for myself.  I heard something at the window and looked up.  A finch of a type I’ve never seen before sat on the window ledge looking directly at me.  We stared at one another for quite a bit…a good two or three minutes…and I smiled.  This little bird flew off.  I don’t believe in coincidence.  And I do know of Bill’s love of the natural world.  Was this a message to me, to not worry or grieve, that he truly has wings with which to fly?  I’m certain of it.  Friendships can flourish across miles.  And death doesn’t mean the end, just a change as we communicate spirit to spirit.  My dad still sends me baseballs.  Oh, I don’t expect my friend to show up at my window all the time, or even any more at all.  It’s enough for me that I believe he did once, once to show that he treasured our friendship, too.  

Tongue In Cheek

Guess what I did yesterday?  I had a life-threatening attack of Angioedema.  My tongue swelled to the point where I couldn’t talk.  The left side of my tongue was severely effected, the right side less so.  I could still breathe through my nose, thankfully.

It came on rather suddenly, as I was sitting on my deck watching a comely young man hauling fish after fish out of the river, taking the hook out, and holding it up in the direction of the East.  He then put the fish back into the river.  Imagine the experience of the fish!

And as I was watching this curious fish ritual, I became aware that my tongue hurt.  I looked at it in the mirror and it just looked a little swollen, and thickly coated.  I use oral inhaled steroids for asthma, and thrush is always a concern.

But I know how to handle thrush, so I went for my baggie of medical grade myrrh resin that I bought at Manny’s homeopathic pharmacy on Yaffo Street in Jerusalem.  I picked a nice clear chunk and lodged it between teeth and gum, and went about my business.

But it quickly became apparent that this was not thrush.  The left side of my tongue was jammed against the roof of my mouth.  The right side was starting to swell too.

I pondered what to do.

Would you believe, one of the things I was pondering was that this was the death ordained for me on Rosh Ha’Shanah, the Jewish New Year where everyone’s fate is decided, who shall live and who shall die, and if you are condemned to die then there are different ways to die, and one of them is by strangling.  Maybe this was it, and I should just sit down in my recliner and let the decree take me away.

Then I thought, who will take care of Noga if I die somewhat suddenly?

I went to the medicine cupboard and got out the Benedryl, and took the proper 50 milligrams.  Then I got Noga’s Predisone (she has allergies) and took a couple of the 5 mg tablets.  I silently (since I could no longer produce understandable speech sounds) cursed that I did not have any epinephrine.  I used to keep a whole emergency formulary at home, but now I don’t even have a prescription pad, even though I still hold my license.

Should I call 911?  Well, if I definitely wanted to die, then yes.  First of all, I wouldn’t be able to talk to the dispatcher except in grunts, and she would probably think I was a prank caller and hang up on me.

Even if I managed to give her my address, the Keystone Cops that they call the EMS here would never find it.  It’s not on any map, being a mile and a half down an “unimproved” road and up a dirt driveway that looks like it goes to nowhere in particular.   Giving directions in my present state was definitely not a possibility.

Not only that, but the last several times that Dad has fallen and needed emergency medical services to put him on a backboard and take him the the skunkworks they call a hospital here, the EMS has not showed up any sooner than 30 minutes after being called, even when he was unconscious. Calling the EMS was a quick ticket to the next life.

So I hopped in my car and drove the 15 minutes to the hospital.  I remembered to say Shma Yisrael, the prayer we Jews are supposed to say before we die, and asked the Creator if s/he would please spare other people when I passed out from lack of oxygen and ran off the road.  I was pretty sure that I got a positive answer.  That made me feel better, because if I was destined to die along the road I really didn’t want to take anyone with me, although it also occurred to me that they, too, might be destined to die right now and I would simply be the agent of their death by sudden impact, which is the equivalent of the punishment of stoning.

Miraculously, I made it to the hospital, parked in the wrong lot, amazed myself by navigating the path to the Emergency Room, and walked to the Registration cubicle.  The young clerk was sitting there chatting with her friends.  I approached and put out my tongue, hoping that she would see that I was walking wounded and get me inside quick.  She gestured for me to take a seat.  I did no such thing, but made urgent guttural sounds, like some sort of primate.  This time she said, “OK, I’ve called the nurse.  She’ll be here soon.”  I felt sort of better.  At least when I passed out, someone qualified would find me.

The nurse appeared right quick, and I put out my tongue for her.  She exclaimed and whisked me away to a monitored room.  The air conditioning ate through my fleece jacket, fleece vest, and two layers of silk turtlenecks.  This thing had made me really cold.  So she holds up this thin hospital gown and says cheerfully, “Everything off, now, and put this on.”

I pantomimed freezing, hugging myself and jumping up and down a bit, to make it clear I was not about to abandon my layers of warm clothing for a barely-there schmatta.  She turned the thermostat up,  the air went off, and she brought me some warm blankets.  Monitors of all kinds were applied, and a wave of panic washed over me.  Trapped.  Tied down.  Wanna run, but probably would die, and I had decided not to die this time.

An aide came in and sat down at the computer and asked me a question.  “Uuuh!”  I answered.  This reiterated several times before she got the clue that I could not talk.

A pair of nurses appeared, carrying the tools of the Intravenous Line trade.  Panic attack.  I have a disease that has destroyed my veins, making them very fragile.  They often bleed for no reason at all.  Last time I was hospitalized I went through seven IVs in one day.

But they got it on the first try, even though one of them had to hold the vein down to keep it from rolling.  I’ve done that.  Works pretty well.

The doctor brisked through the door, asking questions as she came.  Must be busy, I thought.  She’s in hyperdrive.

I tried to talk and that told her what she wanted to know.  She asked me a series of intelligent questions to which one could nod or shake one’s head.  She rose in my esteem.

Medicines went into the IV.  A respiratory therapist came and gave me a breathing treatment to prevent spasms of the bronchial tubes.

The doctor popped in from time to time, and when the medicines started working and I could speak after a fashion, we of course started exchanging war stories.  Doctors are incorrigible when it comes to war stories.  I am certain that if there were two physicians and one of them was on their death bed, the two of them would be talking about this or that horrendous case, and trying to one-up each other, just for the fun of it.

Little by little my tongue went down, but the left side was being a bit stubborn.

The doctor came in and announced that they were going to admit me for overnight observation.

I secretly thought that was a good idea, but there were several factors that argued against it.  One was that my little Noga was home all by herself and would not have enough water or food to keep her in good shape.  Another is that I take exotic medicines that hospitals usually don’t have, and I must have them.  Third, although I am something of a heretic and no good at all at certain things, I am still an observant Jew and I cannot eat anything from that hospital.  The joy of being hospitalized in Israel is that the hospital food is kosher and served in accordance with Jewish law.

But this hospital is Baptist, and Baptists love their pork.  Three times a day, pork.  It’s amazing.  But I wouldn’t even be able to eat green beans here, because they are seasoned with pork fat, and the mashed potatoes are served with utensils that have also served pork.  In summary, the place is non-Kosher and I would not be able to eat anything there.

So we negotiated that I would stay 6 hours in the ER for observation.  That was all right with me.

It was a very boring 6 hours, since I had no reading material, and the medicines they gave me made me too wired to sleep.  So I amused myself by trying to count the slats in a Venetian blind that covered a window in the room.

Seven o’clock arrived and so did “change of shift.”  I was impressed how smoothly the nurses navigated the change.  Usually change of shift means you don’t have a nurse while they are in “Report,” and you could lie there and die in the meantime.  I soon discovered that the reason the change happened so swiftly is that they had pretty much dispensed with Report, because my new nurse didn’t know anything about me.  That was too bad because she had no idea how desperate my case was when I came in, and said I “didn’t look so bad.”  I thanked her.

Likewise the doctor, whom I happen to know both from my old doctoring days, and because she has taken care of my dad during his last two hospitalizations.  She was very hassled, and rightly so, since she had to run from room to room taking histories and doing physicals.  And I came to understand that there were many cases more serious than mine.  I should say so; it is an Emergency Room.

She of course had not seen my tongue in its supersized phase, but the first doctor had briefed her on my case, and suddenly the 6 hour observation turned into an 8 hour observation, and she said she would not let me go even then if my tongue had not returned entirely to normal dimensions.

She roared out of the room, and I really hoped she was using the waterless hand cleanser units that lined the walls in the ER, because she sure did not stop to wash her hands before exiting my room.  I am a stickler about washing hands, especially in places where sick people come on purpose.

At that moment I realized I have a Tikun Klalli booklet in my wallet.  I always have a Tikun Klalli on me.  The Tikun Klalli is a set of 10 Psalms selected by Rebbi Nachman of Breslev, and is said to be the Universal Cure.  So I got it out and settled down to read the introduction, which I had never read before.  I didn’t actually read the Tikun itself, because once you start it you shouldn’t stop, and there was a big risk of interruption, of course, where I was.

The time flew past as I crawled through the easy yet esoteric Hebrew of the Introduction.  Often the Introduction of Kabbalistic books is the key to understanding the book itself.  So it was gratifying to be using my time in a productive way.  And my tongue went entirely back to normal, except for a huge blood blister on the bottom of my tongue where it had been stuck on my teeth.

The doctor flew in, looked at my tongue, asked me how I felt, and announced that she would indeed let me go, and only had to do the requisite paperwork.  I would have jumped up and down if I wasn’t attached to so many monitoring gadgets.  It was now after one o’clock in the morning.  I was sorely feeling the absence of my evening meds.

So what had provoked this gruesome tongue-swelling?  The consensus was that my blood pressure med was the culprit.  Seems that any blood pressure med ending in -pril, such as Captopril, Ramapril (which is what I was taking) and others, have a small but present chance of causing angioedema.

At last I was released and drove home.  Noga turned herself inside out with joy.  I was pretty happy myself.

But.  I was filled with apprehension: what if it came back?  I made a plan.  If it came back, that meant that I was destined to die.  I would somehow get plenty of my sleep meds down, so I might be able to pass out pretty quick and not feel the minute or two of choking before lack of oxygen shut down the brainwaves.  I took a large syringe full of insulin (my dad’s) and prepared it to inject, just in case I couldn’t get the sleepers down.  I found a manilla folder and wrote a note explaining what had happened, saying goodbye to all, how to find my will, what to do with Noga.  And between every line I wrote DO NOT RESUSCITATE.  I took a black marker and wrote it on my chest.  It’s still there: DNR.  That’s what I want.

I filled three large bowls with water for Noga in case it took a long time to find me.  I put her bag of food on the floor where she could get it.

Then I went to bed, choking down all my usual pills plus an extra clonazepam to ensure sleep.

And as you can see, I also woke up.


Black Box

Get this: I just found out last night that there’s going to be a new TV drama series called Black Box, about a famed neuroscientist who has a magic touch with out-of-control patients and a big, bad secret: she suffers from bipolar disorder.

Naturally, I’m looking forward to the premier because I want to see how the producers handle bipolar as part of the story line. I know a little about the show Homeland with Claire Danes, but not being a subscriber to Showtime, I’ve never seen it. Black Box will run on Thursday night at 10 PM.

I hope this series will portray the character of Dr. Catherine Black as realistically as possible. I’ve seen a few previews, and from what I can tell, her manic episodes are pretty extreme. She has a very maternal psychiatrist (Vanessa Redgrave) who warns her in one clip that if her disease were to become known, she could lose her job; while I hope that scene doesn’t reinforce the stigma that’s already out there, it’s certainly not an unusual occurrence in the working world.

Basically, I hope the show won’t be a rewarming of old stereotypes of bipolar individuals as fragile people who are apt to spin out of control at any time. I remember when Sally Field played Maura Tierney’s mom in a recurrent guest role on ER a number of years back; her character was also bipolar and she was always weeping, threatening suicide, running away, or slobbering all over her daughter and begging her to forgive the latest bad behavior. I think Ms. Field did a great job with the material she was given to work with, but the overall picture left a lot to be desired.

Then there was a character on the spin-off of Gray’s Anatomy, called Private Practice, who was violent and completely unpredictable whenever she was manic. Again, this did nothing to help ease the judgmentalism attached to mental health diagnoses, and I was relieved when they finally carted the poor woman off to the hospital for the last time. (And that was before I knew I was bipolar myself.)

Now, I know it’s got to be difficult to portray a serious mental illness sensitively while making it authentic and even gritty, like it is out here in the real world. Bipolar disorder is hard to fathom even for those of us who live with it; for those who don’t, it’s impossible, so producing a TV show whose lead character has it must be extremely challenging. I do hope the people in charge of this one have done their homework, for it could literally help lead the way to social acceptance of mental illness as a legitimate medical problem and give hope to millions of sufferers.

That’s a tall order, even for a drama series dealing with some pretty serious issues aside from the lead character’s mental health challenges. The show starts April 24th on ABC. I’ll be there. :-)