Phobias and Tiny Potties

I'm trying not to think about the sticky tray...I think it’s still “Mental Health Awareness Month.” Or whatever it’s called. This post is the 38,000ft edition of, “Crazy Things About Shawn.”

I’m currently somewhere over Iowa, and just had my traditional ginger ale and Delta cookie treat. (Truly, they taste amazing together, but only when you’re 7 miles up in the air)

As I finished my delicious cookie treat, I grasped the tray to help scooch up in my seat, and discovered that the back edge of my tray was sticky. Thus, my hand was sticky. We might not know each other very well, but you should know that apart from bees, nothing freaks me out more than being sticky. And since the plane has been going through turbulence, the seat belt light has been on for most of the flight.

I had to sit in my seat with a sticky hand.

Just to put a little clarity in the conversation, I’d much rather jump OUT of the plane (with a parachute, I’m not suicidal) than to sit in the plane with a sticky hand. Finally, after about 63 hours of waiting (it’s a 4 hour flight, my chronological senses might be skewed) the seat belt light finally shut off. So, for what I think is the first time in my life, I used the bathroom on a plane. I did try to actually “go” while I was there, because I just had all that ginger ale, and I was already in the bathroom. But I didn’t attempt to use the tiny facilities until AFTER I washed my hands with the most inconvenient (but so blessedly wonderful) sink. And yes, I washed my hands again afterward too, because my mother trained me right. :)

So, I said all that to say: Airplane bathrooms are TINY! And I must confess, I’m concerned for the ladies, because as a guy, peeing into a tiny metal bowl while the plane jostles around the sky (the seat belt light went back on whilst I was in the bathroom) is challenging. While I personally peed like an olympic diver (no splash), I suspect that entire little poop closet is FULL of tinkle spray. It’s actually kind of gross. I’d really hate to have to sit on that tiny toilet.

Also, as an aside to my already derailed post (proof of mental illness?), I have no idea how folks do the hanky panky in those things. Maybe that’s just in the movies, or maybe the first class bathrooms have couches or something.

But the sink. The sink works. THANK GOD!

Mental Illness Month

I think May is mental illness month. It might be October though, because Google tells me both things. It doesn’t really matter though, because honestly it’s not something that only happens once a year. I mean “Christmas Month” makes sense, or “Pre Spring Break Tanning Bed Month” — but Mental Illness isn’t seasonal. Well, unless it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is seasonal by definition. Even that isn’t just one month long though, so leave me alone about it!

In case you haven’t already realized it, I suffer from mental illness. Some of it might be a result of my accident, but for the most part it’s just the way my brain was built. I rarely talk about my mental illness, because it’s horribly embarrassing. Plus, I generally try not to think about it, especially since overthinking is sorta one of the symptoms. Nonetheless, I’m feeling OK today, and thought it would be a good idea to use the whole “Month” thing as an excuse.

I always try to do my best, and in the case of mental illnesses, I’m a bit of an overachiever. I have the “Trifecta of Crazy”, or more specifically, I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression. Before you line up to get my autograph, it’s important to realize that the three disorders are very closely related, and are sorta like symptoms of the same issue. (I know, the issue is called “crazy”, har har har) I’ll explain them in order of their crippling effect…

OCD – This is the one that is hardest to believe is real. For me, I mean. Because really, it feels insane WHILE I’m doing it. My particular manifestation of OCD is that I have to do things evenly. If I turn the volume up on the remote, I need to also turn it down. If I step on a sidewalk crack with my right foot, I have to step on one with my left. If that weren’t enough, I then have to step on one with my left again, followed by stepping on one with my right. Because it has to be “even” (I stepped on one with my right foot first last time, now I have to step on one with my left foot first). I know it’s crazy. Boy do I know it’s crazy. That doesn’t stop me from slapping my own butt cheek, however, if my wife nonchalantly slapped one cheek without slapping the other. When it gets out of control, this particular mental illness is very frustrating, as you can imagine. Not just for me, but for people trying to watch television when I have to pass the channel I was switching to so I can press the “down” channel button since I’ve been pressing the “up” button. Thankfully, this one is managed fairly well with medication. It’s absurd, I know. Still, it’s very, very real. If you have symptoms of OCD, and you’re embarrassed to get help — SEE A DOCTOR. Yes, it embarrassed the crap out of me to tell a sane, rational doctor that I had to slap my own unbalanced butt cheek — but he prescribed medicine (a small dose even), and it works. It was worth it.

Anxiety – This is the one I still attribute to the car accident. After my accident, I had such horrible anxiety (and Agoraphobia, a common bedfellow of anxiety) I almost couldn’t function. I wasn’t afraid of anything in particular, except for maybe that I was going crazy. I really only have issues with anxiety when I’m in a crowded room for too long, or if I’m particularly mentally exhausted. If you see me at a party looking particularly nutso, it’s safe to assume my brain is overwhelmed, and I’m currently certain the world is about to end. Or explode. Or I’m going to explode. Or everyone is out to get me. Or that I’m part of an intricate television show where everyone watches me and knows all my secrets. (I don’t even have good secrets, so I suspect the show will get canceled after the first season, especially if it’s on FOX) The good news is that medicine helps here too. I’m told that counseling really helps too, but thanks to insurance issues after my accident, I never spoke to a counselor. I should probably do that now, but it’s not like I have this mental illness thing all figured out. It’s still embarrassing, and what if the counselor uncovers some secret past of mine, and finds out I’m really a serial killer. Or spy. Or Libertarian. But really. If you have anxiety, see someone. At least your doctor. Drugs aren’t always the answer, but they’re almost always *part* of the answer.

Depression – I don’t very often suffer from depression. Part of that is because my OCD/Anxiety medication also treats depression. (Remember I said they’re all related?) I’m actually very thankful that this is the one I struggle with the least, because it’s the most scary. When I get depressed, I get really, really depressed. And when you’re really, really depressed, you don’t want to get help. You don’t want to do anything. You don’t want to BE. I’m going to be very transparent here, even though it scares the crap out of me. When I’m in a valley of depression, I’m pretty sure I only hang on because of the people I care about. The depression would have me believe that everyone would be better off without me. Because dealing with a depressed person is HARD. It’s painful for me to see how much it hurts my family when I’m depressed. And it feels like it’s all my fault, because, well, it’s ME! I keep going because of the truth that I’ve told myself over and over when I’m *not* depressed; depression lies.

Depression lies.

It gets its own paragraph because it’s so simple, but so, so important. Dealing with a clinically depressed person *is* really difficult for those around them. Heck, dealing with a grumpy person is difficult. But that’s NOTHING compared to dealing with the loss of someone you love. I don’t know this first hand, thankfully, but I know others who do. I know that when my wife struggles with her own form of mental illness (it’s not my story to tell, so don’t ask), it’s very difficult to be the loved one. But never, ever ever ever is dealing with someone’s struggles worse than dealing with the loss of them.

There is medicine that helps with depression. It’s not magic, and it’s can even lose its effectiveness after a while. If you have issues with depression, please talk to your doctor. You should probably seek counseling too, but at the very least, talk to your doctor about it. There is help available, and it’s NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help. Holy crap it’s the opposite. It’s SO HARD to ask for help, that doing so is a victory in and of itself.

So that’s my schtick on mental illness. I have it, in spades. It affects my life on a day to day basis too, in more ways than just the TV remote thing. I’ll try to post some more this month about it, because I’d rather embarrass myself a bit than to have someone think it’s shameful to have issues. If you get nothing else from this post, just remember, depression lies. It really, really does.

On Vacations and Social Media

Vacation CountdownMy family is blessed, and starting next Friday, we’ll be taking a trip to Florida. This is our second family vacation, which makes it less unique than last year (our first ever family vacation), but no less exciting. It’s forced me to think quite a bit about vacation and social media, however.

I imagine that we’ll be taking lots of photos, and sharing them via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other social media outlet is currently the rage. What bothers me a bit is that “vacation” isn’t something everyone gets to do. My eldest daughter will be 18 next month, and for the first 17 years of her life, she never got to take a family vacation. Most of that lifetime existed outside of social media. How would she have felt to see others enjoying Disney, Universal, palm trees and beaches year after year while her Spring Breaks meant merely sleeping in a little bit and then doing spring cleaning around the house?

Yes, I know it’s a first world problem. But I’m curious what everyone thinks about sharing vacation excitement on social media, understanding how it might make friends and family who can’t afford (or don’t have time) to go. I realized today that my Facebook avatar (is it even called an avatar anymore? Profile pic maybe?) is me under a palm tree last year during vacation. Has that been a year-long brag?

Anyway, it’s something I’m battling. Should we try to keep the vacation posts to a minimum? Does that make it seem like we’re ashamed of our vacation? (we’re not) Do palm tree and Mickey Mouse photos upset those folks stuck home on Spring Break cleaning frozen dog poop out of their lawns? I don’t have an answer. Just thinking out loud.

Running: A Little Perspective (And Thank You @Oatmeal!)

I did this on purposeI got frustrated with myself tonight. I was planning on running a full 5K. I figured I’d already run 2 miles straight, and rather than move to 3, I’d just go to 3.1 and get an official 5K. But I failed, and didn’t run a full 5K.

Then I realized: I just ran 2.1 miles. Two days ago I ran 2 miles, and that was the farthest I’d ever run in my entire life. EVER. So this evening I can either focus on failing to run 5K, or going BAT CRAP CRAZY over beating my lifetime record TWO DAYS after setting it! Heck, after walking for 5 minutes, I ran ANOTHER QUARTER MILE before my cool down. I know, that’s a lot of caps, but dog-gonnit I should be proud of myself, not frustrated for the lack-of-5K-ness.

Someday I’ll run a 5K straight. And then a 10K. I even plan to delve into the half and full marathon distance someday. Based on everything I’ve read, however, it will never be as hard as it is RIGHT NOW. Seriously. So self? YOU ARE AMAZING. You just ran 2.1 miles nonstop. You pushed through that spot at a mile and a half when you thought you were going to pass out. You managed to find the “zone” at about 1.75 miles. And it was only one short week ago you managed to run a single mile. That’s incredible progress. And not being able to run a 5K means you haven’t even gotten to the point when running is fun!

Oh, and the “Oatmeal” thing in the subject line? Go buy his book. It’s funny, awesome, inspirational, and more encouraging that he can possibly imagine.

Dropping Chocolate

This evening, Donna and I were driving home from dinner out with friends. It was snowing pretty hard, and we were at the intersection of a wide, busy road. Donna warned me of car coming from her side, and then after it passed I gunned the gas pedal to get out on the road quickly. (My new truck is the first 4 wheel drive vehicle I’ve ever owned, so I was admittedly playing a bit)

As I’m turning left across the 4 lanes very quickly, Donna says in a frustrated tone, “Oh man, you made me drop chocolate!”

There was an awkward silence.

I responded, “You mean, like, you pooped?”

I assumed my rapid turn scared her, and she was creatively claiming I scared the crap out of her. I didn’t really think she pooped herself, but I’d never heard someone say they “dropped chocolate” before. It turns out I was very wrong.

“What?!?! No. I was eating a piece of delicious dark chocolate, and you took off so fast I dropped it!”

If you listen close, you can probably still hear me laughing. :)

Health Update: 5 Months Later

I’ve posted on Twitter & Facebook as I’ve progressed over the past few months, but I haven’t really put all the information together in a “greater than 140 character” post. So here’s the update for all those folks who are curious.

My Kidneys Are No Better
This is depressing. I ate as healthy as a human being can eat, never cheated, and lost 40+ pounds. I also drank enough water to support several small lakes. Unfortunately, when my blood was rechecked after 4 months, it hadn’t improved even slightly. BUT. My kidneys also didn’t get any worse, which made the doctor quite happy. It made me happy too, but I was hoping for some drastic, never before seen improvement.

I Still Have 20 Pounds To Lose
I’m to the point where everyone says, “Oh, you look amazing, you don’t need to lose any more weight!” That’s really kind, but I’m still a tad into the “overweight” section of the BMI scale, and I’d like to be in the middle of the “healthy” area. So 20 more pounds.

My Cholesterol Is Oddly High
Mind you, I ate broccoli, beans, and fruit for 4 months. My cholesterol should be comically low. But it’s actually high. I’m guessing that before I lost the weight, my cholesterol was freakishly high and I just didn’t know it. So along with the 20 pounds to lose, I need to exercise daily in order to get my cholesterol numbers down. Due to my diligence concerning my health, the doctor didn’t put me on cholesterol medicine — just assigned me daily exercise. I plan to “take my medicine” so to speak. (I actually need to raise HDL or something like that, cholesterol confuses me)

I Have To Monitor My Blood Pressure Like A Crazy Man
Keeping my blood pressure low is one of the biggest keys to staying alive for a long time. I’ve had my medicine adjusted a couple times already, and as I continue to lose weight and exercise, it will probably have to be adjusted more in the future. My part in the equation is to monitor my blood pressure VERY closely. Because I know myself, and know that I’d be bad at recording such things — I just ordered a Withings blood pressure cuff. It automatically uploads the readings and keeps a record of times/pressure/pulse that I can send off to the doctor in an email. Pretty slick actually. It’s also a cool technology toy, so I look forward to the monitoring more than I did before. :)

My Diet Isn’t Crazy. Just Reasonable.
I’m no longer on a super strict, low sodium, low protein, low grain, low carb, vegan diet. Due to kidney problems, I have to try for low protein and low sodium, but I can once again eat human food. This is a nice change, but will likely slow down the weight loss. :)

I. Can. Have. Caffeine. Again.
I asked the doctor on a whim, because winter is coming, and I can’t imagine the winter season without tea. Decaf coffee is bad enough, in that it doesn’t really taste bad, it’s just that the best decaf pales in comparison with really good coffee. If you think I’m wrong, you’ve never had really good coffee. Just sayin. Decaf tea, on the other hand, is vile. The only tolerable decaf tea I’ve ever had is PG Tips Decaf. But it gets old quick, and is just plain grocery store tea — not something to depend on for the long, cold winter. I’m allowed a moderate amount of caffeine (2-3 cups), and I immediately asked about drinking more than that. My only stipulation for consuming more is that I drink lots of water too. I’m TOTALLY OK with that arrangement. So, the caffeine fast is over!!!

All in all, I’m doing pretty well. I think this health crisis has been good in that it has forced me to be more aware of my general health. I’ll be thinner, healthier, and most likely happier thanks to the forced lifestyle that is keeping me alive. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Breville One Touch Tea Maker just beeped…

In Which I Make a Fool of Myself for a Good Cause

Tomorrow is it. With all my crazy health problems of late, I haven’t done anywhere close to the fundraising I hoped to do, but regardless — tomorrow I’ll be golfing 50 holes. Again due to the health stuff, I haven’t been to a driving range, so my first golf swing attempt will be on the course tomorrow. Yikes. :)

What am I golfing for exactly? I’m glad you asked, even if you really didn’t. Hehehhe.

  • Harbor Light Christian Schools is an independent, non-denominational school. It shares a name and building with a church, but is not actually a church ministry. It’s completely separate.
  • I’ve seen HLCS transform my kids. In a good way. Yes, it provides a Christian education as one would expect, but it does so much more that I honestly never expected:
    • It’s given my kids a safe place to learn who they are. No bullying. No ostracizing for being “weird”. No judgement based on background.
    • Even with a district size of under 100 students (K-12!), my girls have all played multiple sports, competing successfully with schools 10 times their size. Heck, Lizzie (a 7th grader) made a double play the other day on the varsity softball team against a school at LEAST 10 times their size.
    • The student/teacher ratio is such that teachers form a personal, sincere, and direct relationship with the kids. This means students can’t get away with fluffing off, because the teacher will follow through with contacting parents and arranging extra help if needed.
    • It’s also shocking for me to see families of drastically different Christian denominations not only exist together, but excel in making each other better Christians, and better people. In fact, the differences at Harbor Light are one of the biggest strengths. When we learn to get along and agree on commonalities, it helps everyone relate to the rest of the world better. Getting rid of the “us/them” mindset is so healthy, and it happens every day.

 

But tuition is so, so expensive for a private school. Even in our economically depressed area of northern Michigan, it’s not uncommon for tuition prices for Christian schools to hover around the $10,000 per year range. While in other parts of the country that is a paltry amount to pay for tuition at a private school, up here, it makes it unreachable for the majority of families.

And so, golf.

Harbor Light does an incredible amount of fundraising. So much so, that for a top notch, parochial education, the base tuition is reduced to around $5,600 per student. PLUS, there are incentives (half off for the first year, things like that), scholarships, and tuition forgiveness that takes place every year. No one gets rich educating students at Harbor Light Christian School, but student’s lives are enriched beyond measure.

I could go on and on about the specific things HLCS does to benefit the community and world, but I’ll save that for another day. Giving families the ability to provide their children with a top notch academic education, while at the same time teaching them to exist peacefully and productively around others of differing world views is priceless. So, I agreed to participate in this golf marathon. My goal is/was to raise $1,500 to offset tuition prices next year. Again, due to my recent health concerns, I haven’t been able to beat the bushes for support, which is very unfortunate. If you’d like to contribute, even a small amount, I would be grateful. If you’re unable to contribute financially, please either pray for HLCS, or at the very least ponder how amazing it is to raise a generation of young Christians who understand how to get along with people of varying faith systems.

Here’s a link to my contribution page if you’re interested in donating. Thanks for reading. :)

A Fairly Scary Health Update

I’m not famous, but my jobs past and present have given the opportunity to have a large number of online friends who genuinely care about my wellbeing. I pour my heart into the things I do (which sounds odd for someone in a technical field), and countless people support me, defend me, and protect me from the big bad wolves of the Internet.

So when something significant happens in my life, people often want to know. It’s not a creepy invasion of privacy, or a juicy tidbit for gossip around the watercooler, but rather real people genuinely concerned about my wellbeing. That’s incredibly humbling, just so you all know. And so I want to give an update, because I think it’s better than leaving people wondering. Plus, I truly appreciate the wellwishes, prayers, and encouragement. ANYWAY:

This week I went to the doctor because I have a pain in my abdomen in about the spot my gallbladder lives. I’m about the right age, the right (over)weight, and the right skin-tone to be a likely candidate for a faulty gallbladder. So I had a blood test, a urine test, and an ultrasound. When the tests came back, my gallbladder looks OK. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t appear to be full of stones or anything.

My liver and kidneys, on the other hand, appear to have issues. That’s fairly shocking, as I haven’t had any symptoms related to kidney or liver, but the tests came back with issues. My liver is fatty, and is stressed, but is still functioning well. So for that, I need to lose weight, and things should improve. My kidneys, however, appear to be in really bad shape. I don’t have the specific numbers, but the numbers that are supposed to be low are very high, and the number that is supposed to be high is very low. In fact, the test were so unsettling, that the doctor referral slip had “Acute Renal Failure” written on it. I didn’t realize the severity of things until I saw that. Scary sounding, no?

So far I’ve consulted with 3 doctors, and the next step is to get an ultrasound of my kidneys to check blood flow. Then I need to hydrate REALLY well for a few days, and get my blood/urine retested. My close friends have been urging me to go immediately to a specialist, and I understand that mentality — but this short-term plan makes sense to me. The initial tests may have been skewed, partially because:

  • I have no symptoms of renal failure.
  • I have been hitting the Couch-2-5K program HARD, doing a new run every day, instead of 3/week.
  • It’s possible I was dehydrated and didn’t realize it.
  • Only my blood test showed issues, my urine test (on the next day) was fine.

 

One of the doctors consulted specializes in sports medicine, and he’s seen an intense workout regimen combined with insufficient hydration cause test results similar to mine. (so, a false positive) If my next tests still show problems with kidney function, I will do what it takes to get the best treatment I can. I know kidneys are nothing to mess with, and I’m not ignoring the issue. I promise. :)

I’ll update everyone as I learn more.

Sucking Sucks, A Runners Tale

Be thankful it's not smell-o-vision...

Today is the 7th run on my path to running a 5K. It’s my 4th day straight, which is pretty cool. I hope to continue with my daily runs, even if they’re small runs. Building up that habit is something I’ll be really proud of. But…

I really suck at running.

No really, that’s not a false humility sorta thing. I’m not fishing for compliments. But today was the first time I had to jog 3 minutes straight. Oh. My. Word. It’s unbelievable how difficult it was to stay trudging along at 5MPH for 3 consecutive minutes.

I have friends who are “runners”, and I often see them talk about the “short 5 mile run” they took that morning. Or, “it was rough between miles 6-8, but the last 7 were smooth.” I’m really happy for them, and it’s cool they can run like that. The problem is, if I look at the math, at my current rate of improvement, it will take approximately 6 millennia for me to get to that level of ability.

I know, I’m just whining now, but I’m not even running! I almost died from jogging for 3 minutes. It’s difficult to imagine jogging an entire 5K, much less running that far. And taking a “short 5 mile run” any time in the foreseeable future? Ugh.

Anyone else have a difficult time imagining themselves as real “runners”? I sure do…

Where I’m From…

While the neighborhood is pretty rough, and half the houses in the area are burned and gone, the house I grew up in is still standing. Google Maps is a pretty cool thing. :)

Just click to browse around my old neighborhood

Just click to browse around my old neighborhood