Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Quiet Night

I love the night, when the house is settled.  It's not particularly quiet, with the sound of the dishwasher running in the kitchen, the heater coming on now that we're moving into Autumn. But all the other beings here are sleeping or near enough to....and it's just me with my thoughts.

Some nights that's not good.  When thoughts take me down a restless path, ruminating on situations and circumstances that I can't reclaim and can't lay to rest. 

Other nights, like tonight, it's just peace-making.  Where I can enshroud myself in the comforting focus that is usually so hard to attain during the day, and where I can regain a little sense of myself.  

At this time of year, I'm taken back to so many distinct memories, and all of them bear the weight of emotional discourse.  They flow over me like water over well-worn stones, pulling me gently along to their conclusion.  

It would be easy to say that I could stay there forever, but I know myself too well.   But for now - for tonight - it's enough to visit.

Nights like tonight, I can believe anything of myself.  My goals, my dreams, all there for the taking.  I just need to reach out.

Friday, September 16, 2011


A friend of mine recently reminded me to Breathe.

I know that this is rather unusual...after all the mechanics of human breathing are pretty much managed at the brain stem level (function without serious consideration) and since I've made it to the realm of the "over 40 crowd", it's apparent my brain stem has been working just fine for awhile.

The cool thing about breathing though, is that we humanoids can also actively manage to regulate our breathing for a variety of reasons.  What initially comes to mind is breathing through pain or as part of an exercise regimen such as yoga or tai chi.  The deliberate style of breathing that means you're conscious of how the air actually feels in your body and letting the action of breathing become the focus.  For the rest of this post, I'll call this out with a capital "B", for Breathe.

I can recall twenty or so years ago (no, really, I can!), my Psychology 2-oh-something class had me recording and managing my stressors and subsequent reactions.  As part of the study, I was introduced to a variety of techniques to manage my stress-response.  This proved to be very handy, because one of the foremost ways to manage stress is to breathe through it, and you rarely need anything more than the equipment you already have with you to do it.  

Having an anxiety disorder, I do have a tendency to 'ramp up' quickly and end up in a place where I simply cannot manage my level of investment into whatever the situation is.  This can cause no end of volatility in an otherwise neutrally chaotic existence (LOL).  The solution?  Breathe.

And reminders to Breathe.  I had a large note above my computer monitor in my last office, on a bright neon green 4"x6" post-it note.  "Breathe" was one of the items listed (another was stretch) and it really did work to help me remember to stop and take a moment to ground myself.  

I've had a variety of stressors battering at me over the last couple of weeks, and I haven't resurrected the sign in this new office.  I think it might be time to find a place for it.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Putting the "Gee" in Gynecological Exams

As the title suggests, this topic will be about lady parts.  If you are at all squeamish or sensitive to this subject STOP READING NOW.

*Plays a soothing violin concerto for those leaving, and sends you off to your happy places.**

Okay we're back.  So I'm guessing that the rest of you have either seen it, want to see it, or are okay with talking about it.   ;) 

About a year ago my doctor's office declined to renew my prescription for the happy pills that keep me sane, mainly because I hadn't been in to see my doctor for over a year.  Relatively understandable, but it would have been a little nicer to have some sort of heads up rather than the immediacy of "Hey, you're out of pills and we're holding your already tenuous sanity hostage until you come in and have a full physical."   Especially since the clinic had specifically made a point of assigning Mr. Eggshells and I doctors so we'd have these kind of reminders. (Actually, to be precise, the clinic had a hissy fit and *made* us pick doctors.  So that we'd have primary physicians who would be up to date on all our stuff.  Then set it up so we'd have different doctors.  I'm still not sure, years later, how this was of any benefit to us.)

Nevertheless, I agreed to come in if they agreed to give me an interim prescription to keep me going (because withdrawal is a bigger bitch than I could ever hope to be!).  Turns out that my doctor had left the practice almost a year before (ah, now I see how it benefits me to have a single doctor...not) and that I would need to see someone new.  It was also time for my annual exam, so it was decided that we'd do the meet 'n greet at the same time, a kind of "get to know you" from the uterus on up.

Now for those of you enlightened and fearless males in the audience who hung in there despite the subject matter, there are just a few things to know about the average gynecological exam.  The exam itself generally includes an external visual exam, a bimanual exam (checking the uterus and ovaries), and a speculum exam (using a speculum tool to open the vaginal walls and finally, a Pap smear of cells from the cervix is taken with a swab to be tested for cervical cancer.  There may also be a breast examination.

By the by, Mr. Eggshells says that the word speculum "makes guys go kinda squicky".  I don't doubt it...that thing looks like a gigantic duck bill.  
Surprisingly, the annual isn't the highlight of most women's day either.  While it's not particularly painful, it's awkward and uncomfortable.  And unless a woman is used to hopping up on a table and getting into the stirrups to expose her nethers to all, it's also a little on the vulnerable-making.  (Plus, unlike similar scenarios, there are no dollar bills being tucked into your panties while you're on display...)

But that's okay because these are doctors and nurses, medical professionals who have seen it all.  They're there to perform a very necessary service in preventative health care.  At least that's what we tell ourselves when convincing ourselves to keep that yearly appointment.  

Now this was not my first exam by any means, but far back in my history lurks the spectre of that initial exam so many thousands of years ago.  That doctor, who for all intents and purposes looked like a female, I'm fairly certain was really a hybrid shifter of Lovecraftian ilk.  Details not required, but the upshot of the whole thing was that it did not go well.  At all.  For either of us.

Needless to say, between that experience, a subsequent one where a doctor actually told me to relax because it was just like sex (um, WHAT?!), and my generalized anxiety,  that these exams are a bit of a minefield for me.  Staying centered, breathing through the stress, and communicating with the medical staff are key things for me to do to make it a relatively tolerable experience for all of us.  

Because two things will happen if it's pelvic muscles will shut down and that is the end of the exam, and my kick reflex will work quickly.  Not necessarily in that order.  (Oddly enough, doctors are very interested in not getting kicked in the face during an exam...who would have thought?)

Back to last year...with my new doctor.  Who is, coincidentally a NEW doctor.  Fortunately he's a new doctor with a sense of humor.  Unfortunately he's a new doctor with a sense of humor like my husband's.  For those of you privileged to know Mr. Eggshells, you will know that one of the kinder ways to describe it is "odd".  What's awesomely horrific in a husband is not necessarily so in a doctor.  A doctor with a speculum.  

The clinic building dates back to the 1940's or 1950's.  I'm not sure who designed the interior offices, but I do know that they have not thought out the entire position of the examination table or the potential ramifications of certain types of examinations on said table.  I can only surmise that at one point either tables were smaller, or people were all midgets.  I cannot think of any other reason why they would set a room up so that the doctor basically has put his head in a sink to do an exam. 

So here we all are, the sink, the badly-positioned bed, the new doctor, the nurse, and me in the stirrups.  And I forgot the most crucial part of the process - letting my new doctor know that he needed to use the smaller speculum.  (Yes, likely TMI, but there is a point to telling you this and not just cuz I can!  :P) 

After a couple of misses with the larger speculum, I remembered...funny how blunt force trauma and searing vaginal pain can bring you back to what's really important.  We then commenced the gymnastics of the "speculum swap" to be able to actually finish the exam.

Now new doctor, while feeling completely HORRIBLE for the misses, has also flipped into what I can only assume is his safe place when stressed...humor.  Which is also, fortunately, my safe place.  He starts cracking one-liners at me.  I tell him about the urban legend about the older woman at her annual exam.  We're now completely busting a gut and the nurse...well the nurse was not impressed with either of us.  Seems she left her sense of humor at the door.

Then it was time for the breast it was time for round two of awkward, since the exam table was a mere inches from the wall.  To be able to examine my left side, he had to wedge himself into the few inches of space against the wall.  Still cracking jokes, by the time he told me he'd just have to climb on top of me to do the breast exam, I was hysterical with laughter. 

Exam finally over, they left me to get dressed and when the doctor returned, he introduced himself as if we'd never met and we started over.

Two weeks later I was at my follow up and Mr. Eggshells was with me for his initial.  The doctor introduced himself, and with a completely straight face, Mr. Eggshells told him that for his examination he'd be needing the small speculum as well.   ;)   

He's our favorite doctor EVER!