My Country Western Song/Fucked Up Children’s Book

A few weeks ago I got a migraine and wrote the following:

You know those stereotypical country western songs in which some poor sap is down on his luck? Maybe his dog just died and his woman just left him, and his boss is getting him down – that kind of thing? I’m having one of those evenings, only substitute the dog and woman and boss with illness and other absurdities.

Let’s see, what are the elements to tonight’s country song?

Well, to set the stage, I was lazily researching school-related info for my kid online when I realized with dismay that I was getting a migraine. I haven’t had a migraine since around April, so I was pretty bummed out about it.

I’m not sure what brought this migraine on. My theory is either stress, the extra coffee I drank today, the apple I ate at lunch, dehydration, or the perfume my new coworker sprayed in the bathroom today. This may sound odd, but trust me – these are all potential migraine triggers for me.

I should note that I had/sort of still have MCS, that pesky condition (understatement of the year) in which a person reacts to various foods and low levels of chemicals in the environment. I used to be extremely ill because of MCS. I suffered acutely almost every single day for 3 years, with migraine being one of my main, most troublesome issues. One day I will write more about that whole ordeal, but not tonight. Tonight I’m writing about my fucked up country western song.

Here goes:

So, once I realized I had a migraine, I got depressed. Anytime my MCS status is relegated from “former problem” to “shit, this might still be a problem”, it fucks with me. I tried not to think about it, but I got depressed, then moved quickly into uncontrollable crying – a PTSD reaction to the horrid memories of those 3 years suffering with this unacknowledged medical condition. My fear and despair from those years just flooded back to me as the familiar vice grip of the migraine tightened its hold on my skull.

I composed myself and started doing these breathing exercises that help with MCS (long story). While doing the exercises I decided I needed to eat dinner, so I dried my face and began cooking a frozen fish fillet and zucchini. Then I discovered that the heating element to my oven was broken, so I had to use the broiler. Only, you’re not supposed to broil this fish, so I decided to use it just to heat the oven to an acceptable temperature. This meant I needed to cover the fish, but I realized I was out of foil. So I covered it with a cookie sheet, which ended up emitting a smoky, stale grease odor as it heated.

While this ridiculousness was going on, I decided to wash dishes. Because of my broken thumb, I wear a brace and glove while doing the dishes. I must have pressed too hard while scrubbing, because I felt a snap when the end of my thumbnail pressed against the brace. I then realized that my thumbnail was beginning the process of falling off. Super. The doctors told me it would happen, but the warnings didn’t render the event any less cringe-worthy.

So anyway, in the span of 30 minutes the following occurred: migraine, PTSD, broken oven, out of tinfoil, baking with broiler, smoky kitchen, thumbnail falling off. I actually laughed and wondered what on earth could possibly go wrong next, then begged the universe to leave that question unanswered.

So, that’s tonight’s country western song. It’s not really a song, though. Perhaps I should’ve used a different analogy, like from the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Have you heard of that book? It’s about a series of events that occurs after a person gives a mouse a cookie – a seemingly minor act which leads to more and more minor acts, eventually culminating in mayhem and total exhaustion for the frazzled giver of the cookie. That was my evening.

Here’s the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” version of my evening:

If you eat an entire honeycrisp apple at lunchtime, you’re probably going to get a migraine later. When the migraine begins, it’ll trigger your PTSD and you’ll begin to cry. While you’re crying, you’ll remember you need to eat dinner, so you’ll decide to bake yourself some fish. After turning on the oven, you’ll notice that it’s broken and decide to use the broiler instead. You’ll discover you’re out of tinfoil, so you’ll find an old cookie sheet to cover the fish. Then you’ll do the dishes while waiting for the fish to cook. While you’re doing the dishes, you’ll feel a snap on your thumb. When you realize the thumbnail is falling off your previously-injured thumb, you’ll notice the kitchen is beginning to smell. You’ll open the oven and a cloud of noxious fumes will rise from the cookie sheet and assault your senses. You’ll close the oven and leave the kitchen, pondering how to care for your dangling thumbnail, when the food timer will go off. Then you’ll eat dinner while composing a blog post. Writing will cause you to stay up too late, making your migraine worse. As your migraine worsens, it’ll trigger your PTSD again and you’ll begin to cry…again. You’ll give up and collapse in bed, vowing to finish the blog post some other time. When you finally resume writing, you’ll realize several weeks have passed with very little time to write. This will depress you, so you’ll shake your fist at the sky cursing the gods for giving you a passion you have so little time and energy for. But you still won’t write much, because it’s Saturday, and time to take your son to his annual birthday sushi buffet lunch. Hopefully your lunch won’t give you another migraine.

There. I think I’ll call it “If You Give a Floxie an Apple”. If I could illustrate, I’d make a cartoon out of it, or a small graphic novel or something. Do illustrations of migraines and thumbnails falling off and PTSD sound as awesome to you as they do to me?

My life is so ridiculous sometimes.

Thoughts are Bad, M’kay?

So, that last entry about my faulty thumbs? There’s a little more to that story.

I mentioned that I had begun writing about my thumb woes months ago but couldn’t manage to finish the post. But it was constantly on my mind. Every day I thought, “My thumbs hurt. I need to finish that blog post.” Every single day. Then, about a month ago on my way home from work, I added this thought: “I need to get my mind off this recurring sinus issue I’m having, because it’s stressing me out.”

Approximately 10 minutes later I exited my car and slammed my right thumb in my car door. Just slammed it right the fuck in the door. Then it stayed there as I scrambled to find my keys and unlock the door in order to free it. Then I almost passed out. Then I unloaded my groceries and drove myself to urgent care.

Long story short? My thumb is broken now. Hairline fracture, but still. A month later and I still can’t use it much, and need to keep it dry because of the disgusting wound right under my nail, which is bruised and will probably fall off eventually.

Now I REALLY can’t do collages now. Or write or draw. Isn’t that some shit?

You know what else? I’ll take you through some of the thoughts such an injury creates in a person with my fucked up health history:

“Will the doctor try to give me Cipro?”
“Will I be forced to educate a disbelieving and dismissive doctor about FQ adverse reactions?”
“I can’t mention MCS. I’ll have to downplay that one.”
“I’m sick as fuck of downplaying my health issues because modern medicine has not caught up to the reality of environmental illness.”
“OMG, I might have to downplay it for the rest of my life…which could potentially mean decades.”
“This is bullshit.”
“I feel depressed and alone.”

I did downplay my health issues at urgent care, refusing a tetanus shot because of my MCS, without outright saying I had MCS. Instead, I told the doctor that I have peripheral neuropathy from my adverse reaction to Cipro, which worsened the last time I received a shot (lidocaine). Therefore, I did not want a tetanus shot. In reality, the preservatives and/or immune system activation involved in such a shot has the potential to cause a huge backslide in my health, not just with increased peripheral neuropathy, but with increased chemical sensitivities. I cannot deal with that level of illness again. I haven’t even been able to write much about it, because of my residual PTSD.

True to form, the doctor scoffed, looked at me incredulously, and said, “You don’t want to get lockjaw, do you?” I said no, but I don’t want my peripheral neuropathy to flare, either. I’m sure he thought I was insane. From his perspective, I’m sure I looked insane. No hard feelings, doctor, in spite of you subsequently rushing me out of the office for “refusing treatment”, and in spite of your lack of awareness that FQs can cause permanent peripheral neuropathy. You know what else? I was refusing a tetanus shot, but I actually did want his other treatment recommendations. But because I felt rushed and mildly shamed, I didn’t communicate any of this. I just cradled my thumb and let a nurse show me the door.

I spent the next few days paranoid about getting tetanus. I began using homeopathic remedies, but since that did not assuage my fears, I decided to visit my natural-leaning MD to see if they had preservative-free tetanus shots. Sure enough, they did. Well, “as preservative-free as possible”, as he put it. Good enough for me. I got the shot and went back to work.

Then I spent the following week paranoid I was reacting to the shot because I was fatigued and my arm developed a large, red, warm, itchy spot. (That’s the hard part of surviving MCS – not knowing whether a side effect is normal, or indicative of an adverse reaction which will result in worsening health.) Symptoms gradually resolved, though. No worsening of chemical sensitivities have been noted so far. Now I’m paranoid about my thumb developing an infection, but trying to refrain from running to the doctor again.

The moral of this story, people, is a few things: A little bit “be careful what you wish for”, yes. Because I wished for a distraction from my sinuses and ended up with a broken thumb. But also? Watch your thoughts. Every day with the “My thumbs hurt.” Every damn day. And look: I attracted even more thumb pain into my life!  (I’m kind of kidding, though a tiny part of me wonders if there is any law of attraction truth at work here. Yes, I am one of those people. Feel free to internally mock me, or stop reading this blog.)

I could use this opportunity to advocate positive thinking, but I’m feeling too cynical right now. Instead, I wish I could stop thinking altogether. Forget any kind of thinking, both positive and negative, because thoughts are bad. Thoughts are are terrible foes that make things happen. They break your thumbs, make you feel things, and keep you awake in the night.

One final realization: People with MCS (and FQ Toxicity) naturally develop a degree of paranoia because the illness often involves intense physical reactions to relatively benign substances. As such, any given chemical, or food, or prescription drug has the potential to cause misery and a worsening of overall health, requiring extreme diligence on the part of the sufferer in order to protect his or her health. However, mainstream medicine views this diligence as paranoia, and therefore a cause rather than an effect of the illness. They do not recognize the illness’s physiological roots, or that the resulting paranoia is a necessary aspect of survival – especially in a world where disbelief in the illness runs rampant. Mainstream medicine’s misconception of MCS actually forces sufferers to exercise greater caution in their healthcare options due to lack of external support and acknowledgement, making them appear all the more paranoid.

What a vicious circle, the irony of which has been duly noted.

Now, I would like to stop thinking about this vicious circle and carry on with my day. But please, universe, don’t break any more of my fingers or thumbs. I’ll find my own distractions from these unpleasant thoughts, thank you very much. Also? I enjoy my ability to think, so please don’t take my thoughts away just because I complained about them. Okay? Okay.