Pain Management

I’m reading a book about a drug dealer who only deals in legal painkillers and only sells to people in pain who can’t get the drugs from doctors and pharmacists. I do know people who have had to resort to buying their legal drugs on the street because doctors won’t prescribe the amounts they need, and even if the doctor did prescribe the drugs, pharmacists wouldn’t supply them. There are a whole lot of people falling into the cracks created by those who are trying to curb the so-called opioid epidemic.

According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10% of those who are prescribed opioids get addicted, and another 30% misuse the drugs. Although they give no explanation for the misuse, I do know that often the dose the doctors prescribe is too low to manage the pain, and either the doctors can’t or won’t up the dosage for fear of addiction, so people either suffer or take more than is prescribed. Even after doctors have established that a person is dying, they still withhold needed painkillers lest their patient become addicted. As if a person dying of cancer really cares if they become addicted — they want whatever life they have left to be as comfortable as possible. (That’s one thing that hospice does right — makes sure that people get the drugs they need for comfort. Unfortunately for me, if I ever end up in that situation, their drug of choice is morphine, which does absolutely nothing for me.)

For those who get addicted, it is a terrible thing, but so is withholding pain medications from those who desperately need them because of that 10%. Still, the vast majority of people who take opioids don’t get addicted.

The only time I took heavy painkillers was after I destroyed my wrist and arm. The doctor was more than willing to prescribe the pills and even prescribed a high enough dosage to manage the pain. The problem was the pharmacists. What ogres they were! The first pills I was prescribed didn’t work, so the doctor gave me a prescription for Percocet. The pharmacy closest to me didn’t carry Percocet, and the next pharmacy was going to throw away the prescription because they figured I was scamming them. Yep, me, with a device like a mini sewing-machine attached to my arm, bloody bandages still visible (because doctors are rethinking the idea of constantly changing bandages; apparently blood is clean but air isn’t). Those people stared at me with cold eyes and watched until I left the store. I finally found a pharmacy that had the drugs and would fill the prescription, but they fought me on it because the records showed I still had some of the first pills left. A couple of weeks later, when I went to get more pills, they refused to sell them to me because their records showed I should still have half of them left — even though the prescription was for six a day, the pharmacist thought I should only be taking three a day. Many tears and a long confrontation later, I left with painkillers. Truly a horror!

I’m lucky in that my pain was relatively short-lived — six months vs. the lifetime of pain some people suffer. I also hated the pharmacists way more than I hated the pain, so I weaned myself off the pills long before the six months were up even though I still had pain because cripes, who wants to be treated like a criminal when all they want is to get their legally prescribed painkillers?

I don’t know what the answer is. I do know people shouldn’t have to suffer when the means to minimize the pain is available especially since 90% of them won’t get addicted. I do know that people shouldn’t have to be reduced to illegal activities to get the medication they need. And yet there is that 10% who do get addicted. There must be some way to catch the addiction early so that no one becomes addicted and no one has to deal with pain, but apparently that is beyond today’s pharmaceutical industry.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Secrets

The fiction world is fueled by secrets. If no character had a secret, there would be no story to tell — at least, not many — because most often stories revolve around uncovering secrets, what people will do to keep those secrets from being uncovered, what the consequences are for letting the secret out both for the one holding the secret and the one discovering it, and how those secrets determine the lives of those affected by the secrets.

Some secrets the characters keep from themselves. Romance is a good example of this, especially in the pointless type of romance where the characters fight all the time to keep from letting themselves know the truth — that they’ve fallen in love.

Some secrets are silly. Again, romance is a good example, especially in the Hallmark Christmas movie kind of romance where the ultra-successful heroine goes back home to find that her first love has also returned. The secret they are protecting turns out not to be a secret at all but a misunderstanding stemming from their inability to communicate. An Affair to Remember is one such example and although it’s not a Hallmark movie, it’s just as silly — to me, anyway.

Other secrets are more serious — murders, hit-and-run accidents, hidden pregnancies, babies given up for adoption, false or forgotten identities, abuse that’s hidden by both the abused and the abuser, teen peer pressure that gets out of hand resulting in a tragedy that ripples for decades.

And some secrets are multigenerational — something one’s grandparents did, for example, that influences the current generation. Janeane Garofalo’s movie The Matchmaker is a good example of this, where a politician looks for his Irish roots in the wrong place.

(I am amused by my mention of movies since books are what I’m thinking of, but the sad truth is that I remember titles from movies I saw years ago and not the title of the book I just finished reading. It’s not a memory issue; it’s that I don’t really pay attention to book titles.)

All of these secrets make me wonder if everyone is hiding a secret, or if that’s just a fictional conceit. I can’t really think of any secrets in my life that would be enough to motivate a story of any genre. There are things I don’t talk about, of course — there’s no reason to bare my total past, especially the things I did as a child that I am ashamed of — but what small secrets I have are not enough to drive a story. I suppose there are things in my heritage that could be considered a secret since no one really knows the truth. For example, the story goes that my great-grandfather, an inventor and peer of Edison and Tesla, had two wives. One he locked in an insane asylum, the other he threw down the stairs, but no one knows which of those women is our great-grandmother. Not that it matters — we obviously get whatever instability we have from the paternal side.

It does give me a different perspective of the world, though, this idea of everyone hiding a secret. Because those secrets generally don’t devolve into murder and mayhem, I can continue to take people at face value.

But still, I wonder what all of you are hiding.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

“To Be Continued.”

I like checking the new book section at the library because I don’t have to try to remember if I’ve read the book before. I know I haven’t. What makes it even easier is if the book is by an author I’m familiar with. But that doesn’t mean the book is worth reading.

The last time I was at the library, I picked up the latest book by a writing duo who sometimes have some clever ideas or convoluted plots. This book wasn’t one of them. Well, it was convoluted — so convoluted it made absolutely no sense. It turned out to be a sort of series within a series. Generally, in mystery series, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what order you read the books. Sure, sometimes the character has a five-year old kid, sometimes they are pregnant with that child. Sometimes they are married or divorced or engaged to the same person. But once you get beyond the out-of-sync life of the protagonist, the stories themselves are stand-alone.

I figured this book would be the same, but no. As I got into it, I realized it was a sequel to a previous book — in essence, I was starting in the middle of the story. Even worse, there were four separate plot lines — none of which seemed to have anything to do with any of the others. I slogged through almost half the book, hoping that at least one of the sub-stories would catch my interest, but none of them did. In fact, I couldn’t even figure out which was the main story and which were the substories.

In frustration, I skipped to the back of the book, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was going on, and though I read a chapter or two toward the end, it didn’t seem as if there was a conclusion. And there wasn’t. At the end of the last chapter I found the dreaded words, “To be continued.”

What??? You mean I struggled through 416 pages (well, okay, 200 of those 416 pages, but still . . .) only to be met with: “The authors apologize for what is, at least in part, an inconclusive ending.” In part? No, was completely inconclusive, nothing was resolved in any of the plots. Then the authors added that everything will be resolved in “a concluding novel which we are writing as fast as possible.”

Talk about a total cheat! I don’t mind series (or even series within series) where there is an unresolved mystery that ties all the books together, such as in Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan series where Eve is always trying to find out what happened to her kidnapped daughter, but at least the main story in each of those books is resolved. To have not a single one of those four plots in the book in question resolved is . . . well, it’s a cheat.

There is a chance when the conclusion to the story comes out that I might read it. Or not. It depends on how much I feel like trying to figure out what clues I might have missed by not reading the previous books. Besides, the whole premise of the time-traveling portion of the book seems rather silly and too forced.

Luckily, there are other books in the library, both in the new book section and in the stacks so I don’t have to torment myself with books of this ilk.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

It’s Groundhog Day!

Is it still Groundhog Day when you live in an area where there are no groundhogs? When there is no creature to determine how much of winter is left?

The superstition is that if the groundhog sees its shadow, there will be at least six more weeks of winter, which is a sure bet since this year there are six and a half weeks between February 2 and March 20, the official first day of spring. If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, there will still be six and a half weeks until spring, though supposedly, the temperatures will be a bit milder.

But what if there is no groundhog? Will there be six more weeks of winter? It’s still a sure bet!

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are flatlanders and live in the eastern portion of the United States. Here in Colorado, we have yellow-bellied marmots, also known as rock chucks or whistle pigs, and they prefer higher elevations. Although groundhogs and marmots are not the same thing, they are both rodents of the squirrel family. The scientific name of the groundhog is Marmota monax. The name of the yellow-bellied marmot is Marmota flaviventris. So technically, the name of this day should be Marmot Day.

But either way, no matter what sort of creature you use to foretell the demise of winter and the coming of spring, a wood chuck, a rock chuck, or a chuckleheaded weather person, it still comes down to the same thing — six and a half more weeks of winter.

To be honest, here in Colorado, that’s a good thing. Too often we get early spring weather and then — so much fun! — we get a late-season Indian Winter. (Oops. Can’t say that. Indian Summer is now called Second Summer, so Indian Winter would be called Second Winter.) The problem with that upsurge of winter once spring has started to make itself felt is that new buds are “nipped” by the late freeze, damaging crops, preventing fruit trees from producing, and decimating or delaying spring flowers.

Luckily, despite what all those seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators say, spring will be here in a matter of 46 days.

Happy Marmot Day!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Day of Perfect

On some days things seem to be in sync while on other days it seems that no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to mesh. Luckily, yesterday was one of the first kind.

My refrigerator is old and despite being frost-free, sheets of ice manage to build up in the freezer. It doesn’t seem to affect the temperature adversely, but still, occasionally I have to take the time to de-ice the freezer. I’ll need to get a new refrigerator one of these days because all that ice can’t be a good thing, but for now, I’m sticking with what I know.

Anyway, I was going to do errands (on foot, despite the single digit temperatures) once the freezer was de-iced, but I got tired of waiting and on the spur of the moment, headed out. I met a friend at the library, the same friend I saw the last time I was there. We marveled at our meeting, not just because of the coincidence of seeing each other in the same place so soon, but because she also had not planned to be there at that time. Originally, she was going to pick up her book on her way to an appointment, but at the last moment, she decided to do her errand earlier.

And so there we were.

She still had another errand to do, as did I. We split up to do those errands then met again at the library to do yet another errand together before she drove me home. Because this was a day of synchronicity, we’d ended up back at the library at the exact same time.

When I got home I checked on the freezer just in time to see the last chunk of ice being dislodged.

I texted my friend, “Perfect timing! Freezer de-iced!”

She texted back with the perfect response, “This is the day of perfect.”

The rest of the day I spent alone, but it still seemed to be a day of perfect in-sync-ness — being in sync with myself, if nothing else. Things just seemed to work out. Of course, being by myself, there was nothing really to prevent things from working out, but I tend to think the pleasantness was just a continuation of the day of perfect.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Gardening Catalogs

I received a flower catalog in the mail today, and it struck me what a great marketing ploy that is. When people are sick of winter, the snow, the dreary landscape, the gray skies, the unending cold, seeing the bright colors of a potential spring garden would bring out the checkbooks and charge cards of even the most casual gardeners.

If it weren’t for my tight budget (because of the horrendous increase in my homeowner’s insurance), I’d probably be ordering from the catalog right now. I might still have sneaked in an order for a handful of bulbs — who needs to eat, right? — but I want to wait and see what, if anything, comes up on its own this year. Some of the wildflowers I planted last year were perennials, which might bloom again. Some of the wildflowers reseeded themselves, so they, too might bloom. There are also the flowers that I transplanted, like the New England asters, and the fall plants I got last year to add color to my fading garden. And I have a bunch of seeds to fill in areas where nothing blooms, such as the four ounces of zinnia seeds I bought last fall, the seed packets a relative sent me, the wildflower seeds leftover from the previous fall, the larkspur seeds I harvested.

I listed all those possible blooms so that I don’t feel bad about not ordering any of the luscious flowers in the catalog. I also remind myself of all the bulbs I bought that never bloomed — in fact, I’ve never seen such a resplendent display of flowers except in the catalogs. They either cheat and force plants in a greenhouse so that despite different growing schedules, the plants all grow at the same time, or else they . . .

Well, I don’t know what else they do. All I know is that I don’t get the glorious growth that is pictured in the catalogs.

I will be interested in seeing what happens in the spring after all the snow cover we’ve had this winter, so unusual for this dry part of the state. Perhaps this will be the year my own garden is catalog worthy. If not, well, I’ll do what I always do — celebrate the flowers that do come up, and console myself over those that don’t with thoughts of next season’s gardening catalogs.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Heartbreak of Spring

Yesterday I intimated that I was looking forward to spring, but that really isn’t the case. Spring is a capricious time, literally blowing hot and cold. Emphasis on “blowing.” Although I appreciate the warming weather, and although I enjoy the signs of the earth’s reawakening, I can do without all the wind. Since this is naturally a windy area, there is a lot of wind, sometimes bringing hot days, sometimes bringing frigid days. And those volatile winds are not something I am looking forward to.

Although spring can be a heartwarming time with buds popping out on trees and inching up from the ground, it’s also a heartbreaking time. In Colorado, and especially here, too often the tender buds on fruit trees and flowering bushes are “nipped in the bud” by late spring frosts. Jeff and I had apricot trees when we lived on the western slope of Colorado, a much more clement area than here, and despite a plethora of blossoms on the trees, there were only a couple of years where those blossoms managed to survive the spring frosts and grow into apricots. Heartwarming, then heartbreaking, for sure. It makes me wonder if I will ever get fruit on my greengage plum trees, but at least — so far — the trees themselves are surviving, so there’s hope.

Gardening, too, is a capricious activity. Take my grass for example — when it was doing well, it was stunningly beautiful, like a jewel spread out at my feet. But nothing remains the same when it comes to gardening — there are constant changes, both good and bad. In the case of the grass, it became heat-stressed, and turned brown. (The photo accompanying this post is before the grass got fed up with the heat and died.) It could come back this spring. Yay! It might not. Boo.

Flowers are the same — some grow, some don’t. Some continue doing well, some shrivel. And the weeds are ever present, growing faster than the flowering plants, growing faster than I can manage to control.

Which brings me to another good/bad spring issue. In previous years, I’ve spent a lot of time outside, trying to keep my yard as beautiful as the mini park I’d hoped it would be, but I’ve gotten lazy this winter. Perhaps when I see things blooming, I’ll bloom along with them and manage to do the necessary work. But in previous years, even when I’ve had the inclination and the energy to work in the yard every day, I’ve fallen short. It was only when fall came around and most things started dying off for the season that I was able to catch up on the work. Sort of. There are still some desiccated plants to clear out, still some grassy areas to replant, still some . . .

I better stop there. If I continue to enumerate all the chores waiting for me come spring, I’ll hunker down and hope that winter never ends.

Well, not really. No matter how volatile and capricious, how much work it takes to keep up a yard, spring really is a heartwarming — and earth-warming — time. When it isn’t breaking your heart, that is.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

White Landscape

I’d fallen back into the habit of blogging every day, so yesterday, when WordPress didn’t give me a prompt or suggestion of what to write about, I decided it was a sign to take a day off.

Habits are interesting — even good habits tend to take over your life. My life, anyway. I start out blogging every day, and soon the habit becomes a thing in itself that needs to be fed, and finally, the habit becomes a mandate. I begin to feel I must post something, and so a pleasant habit becomes a lot less pleasant. I don’t like feeling pushed, and so yesterday I pushed back.

Or it could be that yesterday I was just lazy. There’s a lot of that in my life right now. It’s hard to want to do anything when it’s so cold, and when every time I look out the window, I see the same thing — leftover snow. I can’t remember a year where the snow lingered so long. Colorado is known for its sunny winter days and quick melting snow, but this year? Not so much. It’s not even that we got a lot of snow. For the most part, the snow came from a mere two storms. Right after the first heavy snow had slowly melted, a second storm came and dumped six or more inches. And that snow is still out there.

I’m hoping that the constant moisture will help with spring flowers, but I fear it will also help bring out the weeds. But no — I don’t want to think that way. I simply want to dream of the pretty flowers that will brighten my life in a month or two.

Tulips, maybe.

Perhaps even crocuses.

Or wildflowers.

Anything but the white landscape I’ve been seeing for so many months.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Leisure Time

Today’s blog prompt is: what do you enjoy doing most in your leisure time? At first glance this looks like yesterday’s prompt about what you do for fun, but as I got to thinking about it, there are differences — although “enjoyment” is an aspect of fun, “fun” isn’t necessarily an aspect of enjoyment.

For example, yesterday was an enjoyable day. I walked to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things that I needed, and I saw a friend there. She offered me a ride, so we visited as we meandered the store and then continued chatting as she drove me home. Such surprise meetings with friends are always enjoyable. Later, friends brought dinner over here and we just sat and visited. It was too low key to be “fun,” but it was certainly enjoyable. (Though after a while, we had to make a concerted effort not to talk about homeowner’s insurance. Theirs went up as much as mine, and we were all still reeling from the shock of it. It got to be too depressing — and not at all enjoyable — to discuss the idiocies and unfairness of the insurance racket.)

Though perhaps that doesn’t answer the question. One definition of leisure time (I Googled it, of course!) is free time spent away from such activities as work, chores, errands, eating, and sleeping. If that’s the case, then yesterday’s enjoyable activities weren’t done in leisure time, since in the first instance, the enjoyment revolved around errands and in the second instance the enjoyment revolved around eating. Come to think of it, all of my visits with friends involve those activities. If I’m not hitching a ride with friends to go shopping, then we’re sitting around and eating. Still, by my simple definition (awake time not spent working), that’s still leisure time since all my awake time is free time except for the few hours a week I spend working. After all, I don’t have to do chores or errands at any given time; I can wait until they are not a burden but are rather enjoyable.

On days like yesterday, what I most enjoyed doing in my leisure time was visiting with friends, on other days, such as today, what I most enjoy doing is being by myself, not having to deal with problems, and not talking to anyone, not even cherished friends.

The way I figure it, my days are enjoyable either way.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Just For Fun

Today’s blog prompt: List five things you do for fun.

Knowing me as well as you do, I’m sure you’ve figured out what the first thing I did was. Yep, I Googled, “What is fun?”

I had to research the word because the truth is, I don’t really know what “fun” is. To me it’s about doing something with pleasure or joy or playfulness or laughter or silliness, and very little of what I do includes those feelings. That kind of fun connotes fellowship of some sort, going outside of oneself. I mean, it’s hard to be silly and laugh when one is alone, especially someone like me who spends so much time inside herself. Admittedly, I do a lot of things to “spend” time, such as reading or blogging or playing a game on the computer, but there’s no real element of what I’d consider “fun” to any of those things. I just do them. Especially reading. Reading is as necessary to me as breathing, and I don’t consider breathing to be “fun.” It’s just something I do, something I need to do.

I enjoy the company of others (though preferably just one or two at a time). We talk and we often laugh, but despite the lightheartedness of many of our conversations, I don’t consider them “fun.” Being with people is about connecting, about creating a space for friendship, about feeding the soul, an experience that goes so much deeper than the easy entertainment and party atmosphere that “fun” connotes. If reading is akin to breathing, then friendship is akin to food, and while food can be considered “fun” at times, it’s too necessary to ever fall strictly into the category of “fun.”

Things like hiking and traveling weren’t strictly for fun, either. There was a deeper intent there — sort of a vision quest, or maybe even just a quest (though I was never sure for what I was “questing”).

Writing certainly isn’t fun for me — despite a playfulness that sometimes shows up in my books, writing is way too hard for me to classify it as fun. (And it goes back to the idea mentioned above of spending time within myself.) Gardening is the same — too hard to be fun, as well as serving to pull me deeper into myself.

As it turns out, my idea of fun (the word “fun,” that is) is pretty close to the mark. Various online definitions of fun include: “pleasure without purpose;” “lively, joyous play or playfulness;” “light-hearted pleasure, enjoyment, or amusement;” “boisterous joviality or merrymaking;” “hedonic engagement and a sense of liberation;” “diversion, amusement, mirthful sport;” “a cheat, trick, or hoax;” “foolishness, silliness.” Also “any activity on the positive side of valence” (whatever that means).

So what do I do for fun? I’ll have to get back to you on that — when and if I ever manage to think of something to do just for the fun of it.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.