Eighth Night

The ultimate night of Hanukkah, in the year 5777 from Creation.

And the ultimate night of the civil year 2016.

And the beginning of Yom Rishon, or First Day, that always begins after the sun sets on the Holy Shabbat.

Time to be doing.  Time to be getting up and going! 

I think about my life in the past.  I was always getting up and going, doing, and doing even more!  I was never satisfied with “good enough.”  It had to be perfect.  Everything had to be perfect.  No such thing as “good enough.”

Being sick is pure torment.  I forget all the time why it is that I’m not at work.  I jump up and head for the phone, gonna get some work happening around here, can’t be that hard…OUCH!  Who broke my fucking arm?  WHOA, what happened to my neck???  And somebody’s stabbing me in the heart….what the fuck is going on here?  Why can’t I just go the fuck to work like a normal human being?

Take away my ability to do meaningful work, and you take away my self-worth.  I have a hard time feeling like I’m worth a rat’s ass even on a good day, when I’ve gone in and saved lives…but when I’m stuck on the sidelines, I may as well be dead.  

It would be a lot easier if I could tell from one day to the next, how I am going to feel.  If I knew, for instance, that every Tuesday would be an OK day, that I would go to the bathroom like a mensch, and my shoulders wouldn’t cause me to squeak every time I reached for something, and my brain would not be either fogged over from depression or reeling with the electrical overload from mania…if I could count on every Tuesday being a good day, then it would be possible to get a volunteer gig for Tuesdays.  A volunteer thing would do wonders for my heart and mind.

Too bad I don’t have any good Tuesdays!  Or Wednesdays, Thursdays, etc.

I hate to whine.  I know some people are going to actually read this, and probably will go, oh, fer krissake will you stop whining and get on with it!

I feel the same way. 

It’s been 16 1/2 years since I fell off the balance beam.  I have held on to the notion that there must be some greater purpose in it.  That, you know, it must be part of the Grand Design, that certainly I would be one of those who Triumph Over Adversity.

That has not been the case, at least not so far.  I haven’t given up.  Where there’s life there’s, etc.  It’s just that things are gradually becoming more unpleasant.  I wonder when, and how, this thing will end?

Alice B. Toklas Rides Again…and again…and again…and….

Chocolate.  More chocolate!  Gluten free.  And….medicated!

Yes, I tried a piece hot out of the oven.  I need the medicine, and the chocolate doesn’t hurt. It’s medicinal, too, after all.

The wind is kicking up a ruckus outside with the kinds of cactus that blow around so they can stick in your dog’s feet the next day.  It contributes in a bad way to my current state of ultra-ultra-ultra rapid cycling, punctuated by a few episodes of the dreaded mixed state.

I used to take Seroquel for this.  I’m not sure it broke the cycle, but at least it knocked me out so I could get a break from it.  But I started getting very bad neurologic side effects from the Seroquel, and had to stop it.  Some of the nervous system damage has turned out to be permanent, so there’s no way I’m going to try any other drugs in that class (atypical antipsychotics).  So in a word, I’m fucked.

But there’s a Lone Ranger on the horizon…I hope.

I have been so remiss in writing here that I can’t remember what I’ve told you.  Here, I’ll recap:

Spine pain got bad, had lots of consults, results: spinal arthritis, many collapsed discs, moderate spinal stenosis, and…drumroll…five vertebrae are filled with a benign tumor.  It’s benign, because it doesn’t metastasize, but it’s locally destructive.  And I have it in my liver, and god knows where else.

There are other joints in this pity party.  None of them are smokeable.

Which brings us to The Point:

I began using medical cannabis over a year ago.  It takes my spine and joint pain from “all-encompassing, intrusive, consuming” all the way down to, “OK, I can definitely feel this, and I think I’ll do the laundry and walk the dog now.”

That’s the difference.  Of course, I use a special strain of cannabis (PennyWise) that is engineered to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory properties while not being overly psychoactive.  I can get things done, and I’m not constantly going, “Ouch!  Shit!  Fuck!  Damn!” and so on.  Like, right now my thorax is aching and so is my neck and shoulders, but I’m not paralyzed by it.  Nevertheless, I am going to stop writing all hunched up, and go light my Hanukkah menorah.  Sixth night.

The Mental Health Registry Is Coming

They say it will be like the Cancer Registry: a tool for data gathering, to assist in developing and evaluating and improving treatment strategies and outcomes.

All well and good, but mental health/mental illness information is a little bit different than cancer information.  A little bit more sensitive.

Let’s take one example that’s close to my heart.

Every year when I renew my physician’s license to practice, I must answer a question regarding my mental fitness to practice.

Now we all know that I am disabled, so of course I don’t formally practice medicine.  I keep my license in case I am called upon in an emergency, like Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s esteemed companion.  

I have never had a single complaint, lawsuit, or bad outcome.  I am very careful to keep up my continuing education.

And yet, the one time I openly disclosed my psychiatric diagnoses when applying for a license in a new state, I was immediately bundled off to the “Physicians Health Program,” where I was forced to be drug tested weekly and attend a three month sham “behavioral health” program, aka “drug rehab,” even though I have never had any substance abuse issues and was not at the time using any drugs at all.  Then I was put on “probation” for a year, even though I hold unrestricted licenses in good standing in four other states.

After putting up with this garbage for several months I withdrew, chalking this one up to a very expensive experiment.  I paid the Honesty Tax.  How degrading!

I will be very much heartened if I find that this registry is exactly what it purports to be: an instrument to better coordinate the search for better treatments.

But I doubt it.  How could a centralized registry of psychiatric patients go untapped?

Let’s say I want to take a break from retirement and teach high school biology.  They do a background check (I hope), and as of now, they don’t find anything, because I have no criminal record.

But if there is such a thing as this “Mental Health Registry,” who’s to say that in five years Homeland Security doesn’t find itself good reason to insist on the identities of the patients listed–oh, it says the data is anonymous, doesn’t it?  But it also says that the registry will be a good source of patients for clinical trials.

Yes indeed, the Cancer Registry is a good place to find patients with specific cell types of specific cancers, to recruit for clinical trials of regimens for that specific cancer type.

Well and good!  But mental illness is a bit more tricky.

Once we have names and diagnoses, we have information that can be subpoenaed.  Patient information does require a subpoena.

But under the Patriot Act, will that rule of law stand?  Or will the Registry database be…leaked, perhaps?  Or simply mined by Big Brother?

Call me paranoid, but I am not at all comfortable with any computer mainframe having my psychiatric details.  Even the Pentagon gets regularly hacked by high schoolers.