My Friend Xanax

Third day in a row. Taking Xanax for light vertigo and playing World of Warcraft slightly stoned. This is what the bad days are like. It beats worshipping at the porcelain altar for six hours at a stretch. I’ll take it.

January 26th – Finally it passes again. So close to the dizziness that persisted through most of December and early January that I almost thought it was the same bout of dizziness. Who knows? I don’t think so, but then I don’t know what caused that long stretch of dizziness either (still taking the iron) What I do know is that you can have my Xanax over my cold, dead body. You can have it over my cold, dead body, because taking it from me will kill me as surely as a drunken rock star chokes on his own vomit when he is so out of it that he (or she) doesn’t know which way is up. The difference is, I didn’t do this to myself. Nature did.

…But then nature made them musicians, artists, with all the baggage those labels entail. Maybe nature did it to them too.

Asthma

“Go run and play.” She said. She always said that. She never understood how impossible that was, running and playing. Even short sprints would leave me breathless. when I was in elementary school, participating in my first field day, I tried running in all the races. I couldn’t finish most of them. When I came back in tears dejected and frustrated, the teachers tried to console me with a participation award. I still have it around here somewhere.

No one, especially not my mother, the “go run and play” voice in my head, ever thought to ask if I was having trouble breathing. Never in my life did anyone ask. I just assumed this was the way everyone felt while running. The feeling of slow asphyxiation, the inability to ever get enough oxygen into the blood.

I remember the time when running became a thing that everyone thought they should do. I listened incredulously to the descriptions of the runner’s high, wondering how anyone could ever get to that state of euphoria while slowly strangling to death. But I was intrigued by the idea, so I bought a pair of running shoes and some sweats, and tried running a few times just to check it out. Could I run long distances, at all? In all the times I’ve tried, I have never made it much further than a hundred yards, no matter what mindset that I started the run with. It simply was not possible for me to run long distances. I was never going to experience the runner’s high.

Bicycling was different. If you do the exercise correctly, bicycling puts you in the prone position. In a prone position you breath easier, and I could ride all day on reasonably flat ground if I needed to. Trying to ride uphill was a near-impossibility though, as I soon found out when I moved away from the flatlands of Kansas as a teenager.

Breathing is key. If you can’t breath well enough, you can’t do any of these things. I never understood this fact when I was younger. I just assumed that everyone faced the pain of their lungs being on fire all the time that they were exercising or competing. I simply wasn’t driven enough. Wasn’t motivated enough. Wasn’t good enough to compete.

That is where interest in competition stopped for me. I knew I couldn’t win, so I decided not to try. No sport that required physical stamina would ever be something I would excel at. That was me as a teenager and a young adult.

When I met the Wife, she infected me with a need for competition that I had never cultivated in myself. We tried playing softball on the team one of my architecture firms maintained. Between dysgraphia causing me to catch balls with my face almost as much as I caught them with my glove, and my restricted lung capacity keeping me from being able to sprint around the bases without needing to stop and catch my breath, I didn’t lead the roster of most valuable players on the team. To say the least.

I had to change allergists a few years back. The allergist that I had been going to retired, and the random choice that I was required to make put me into the hands of an allergy and asthma specialist. He immediately suspected that I had borderline asthma, and confirmed it with testing. Once again my mother’s indoctrination into the cult of Mary Baker Eddy had taken its toll. Had she been curious enough to go talk to doctors about her son’s weird breathing problems, I might have gotten treatment early enough that my lungs would have developed better.

We treated the Son’s borderline asthma when he was a baby. It was breathing the albuterol with him while giving him his treatment that made me wonder if perhaps I had similar problems. I few years later I no longer had to wonder about it. I’d like to officially thank the Church of Christ, Scientist for fucking up my life and the lives of my mother and her siblings and her children. Without their influence, I wouldn’t have had to watch my mother die from a treatable disease, with virtually the last words out of her mouth being “doctor’s don’t know anything.” As it turns out, they seem to know quite a bit.

Anemic Dizziness

I’ve been dizzy for several weeks now, in an unbroken chain of dizziness. During this period of dizziness I had blood drawn for my semi-annual blood tests, tests that came back showing that I was anemic. I wasn’t anemic by much according to the normal ranges for iron in the blood; but still it was low enough that my doctor was concerned about it and thought to mention it to me.

I basically blew the concerns off at the time. I mean, anemia? Right? What is anemia? It means low levels of red blood cells in your blood. It wasn’t critical. It wasn’t like I was four pints low on blood and I really needed a transfusion (I’ve heard that reported by others who have had anemia over the years) I was a few points low on the percentages of iron in my blood in one test. I figured, no big deal, I’ll just start ingesting a bit more iron in my diet. I shifted to taking the Wife’s daily vitamin for a week or so (her’s has iron in it. Men generally don’t need iron supplementation, women do) but after that I went back to my same old Men’s One-A-Day that doesn’t have iron in it, and I forgot all about it.

Until today. Today, as I’m standing there with the world in a fog of dizziness around me, not actually spinning but always worried that the general dizziness might turn into vertigo, it suddenly occurred to me. Brain function. Oxygen carried by red blood cells. Red blood cells distinguished by their ability to carry oxygen because of the ability to bond with the iron that is in them (that is what makes them red after all) is it possible that this prolonged bout of dizziness is caused by the anemia and not the Meniere’s?

To answer this question I turned to Dr. Google, like most of us do these days. As usual, Dr. Google was not a useful source of information on the subject of anemia and related dizziness. This image is the summary that Dr. Google offered me for the search phrase dizziness low iron. See what is second on the list? It took a minute for the reality of the situation to sink home.

Dr. Google on dizziness low iron

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is second on the list of recommended treatments for dizziness. I was almost apoplectic with outrage while reading this summary. Acupuncture has no proven use for dizziness, and yet it is second on the list of what to do about dizziness from anemia. Why? Why is this on the list at all? Why does Dr. Google think that medicalnewstoday.com is a reliable medical news source? Why is this unknown resource cited in a summary that purports to offer solutions to a particular problem? Cited at the top of a list of other possible answers to the question.

I’d like to thank Dr. Google for putting the word anemia back in my vocabulary today (words keep disappearing on me when I’m dizzy like this) put the word back in my vocabulary list so that I can hone the question I want to ask, but seriously? Why is is this website quoted as a source? In Dr. Google’s defense, Healthline is the first resource offered on the page, but the clarification block appears directly under that resource. Healthline’s value as a resource is also questionable. I wouldn’t take their advice as being rock solid without checking facts in other places first. When you read symptoms off a list of symptoms and you start saying “yeah that sounds right” even though you haven’t been complaining about that particular symptom, it’s time to find a second resource.

Using the search phrase dizziness anemia proved to be even less revealing than the previous search phrase. The top resource on that results page was yet another poorly written questionable source that I wouldn’t trust to give me advice about which direction was North, much less give me advice on how to treat chronic health issues.

After a few hours of fruitless searching I decided to quit looking and simply treat the problem that I know exists and see if that helps. I already know I’m anemic because my general practitioner told me I was. I was anemic when this dizziness started. I’m going to approach the problem as if I was suffering from anemia, and simply start by taking some iron supplements to see if the dizziness recedes or not. I have also been listless and tired a lot lately. Maybe it is anemia after all? Stay tuned.


Several days later, after a few days of adding iron to my diet (The Wife’s supplement didn’t have iron in it contrary to my prior statement) I’m already starting to notice less dizziness. Which is good. I didn’t want to have to go back to the ear, nose and throat doctor and get steroids injected into my inner ear again.

I will only be adding iron to my diet for a few weeks at most. I don’t want to overdo it and cause other types of damage that can be caused by having too much iron. I’ve never suffered from anemia before. At least, no anemia that I know of. The doctor who told me I was anemic also told me that blood donation could not have caused the anemia, but I’m at a loss to explain why I would suddenly be anemic outside of the blood donation that I had just given the day previous to getting the blood tests done. I guess I will go back to him and get an order for another blood test and see if the anemia is still present, after I’ve finished my few weeks of iron inclusion.

Weather and allergies frequently mess with my vestibular system. These are a known triggers for Meniere’s in some people. I thought the dizziness was coming from weather and allergies, but then it lasted through several changes in both. I tried the vestibular therapy exercises, as I mentioned previously on the blog, and they helped for a few hours but the next day the dizziness would be back. This is a last-ditch effort. I did not want to take iron supplements because I know that iron can be quite toxic at high doses.

I don’t know what caused the dizziness and I won’t know, possibly ever. This is the problem with chronic illness and common complaints like dizziness. If the dizziness that I’ve had for a solid month goes away, and I get a blood test that shows the anemia is gone, I will have demonstrated correlation. An interesting set of facts that might be related. If I get extended dizziness several more times and each time taking iron makes it go away, I’ve demonstrated a possible causal link. At least for me.

Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms/complaints that doctors hear. Almost anything can cause it. Dizziness is not just one thing, either. It can be a mental fog. It can be a feeling of imbalance. It can be active rotation and when it is active rotation it should be referred to by its real name, vertigo or rotational vertigo. Every time I get a symptom these days I’m always wondering if it is Meniere’s or if my thinking it is Meniere’s means something more serious is going on and I’m missing it.

What I do know now is that next time I donate blood I will be sure to include more iron in my diet before and afterwards. I don’t want to do this again and blood donation is still my only explanation for the anemia. If I become anemic again even with these precautions, then I’ll get concerned.

Vestibular Physical Therapy

I had been seeing a Physical Therapist for years before the time of COVID. I have a recurring issue with the lower back, a common complaint among older people, come to find out. I’ve also messed up my neck and shoulders in car accidents over the years, so I have plenty of things to work out with my physical therapist. Or did have before the time of COVID. I haven’t been back to Symmetry Physical Therapy since before March of 2020, because as painful as my joint and muscle problems are, they pale in comparison to the kinds of problems catching COVID would mean to someone like me.

Back in 2019, when the lack of plague allowed me to leave my house for things other than the essentials, I just happened to be at my Physical Therapy appointment when I mentioned that I was having recurring problems with minor vertigo and dizziness that lasted for weeks or months at a time. He got a quizzical look at that point asked me if I had ever tried any vestibular training exercises.

I had never even heard of vestibular training before, much less tried any of the exercises. He then demonstrated a few of them for me and had me work through them. I don’t know that they had any positive effect, but the knowledge that there was PT for my vestibular problems started me on a mission to find out more about the subject.

After mentioning the subject to my Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT) on my next visit (she was mortified that we had never discussed the subject before) She gave me a referral for and I went to see the specialists over at 360 Balance, which just happened to be the people that my PT had been to a seminar with and had put the bug in his ear about retraining the vestibular system after injuries like the ones that Meniere’s inflicts on sufferers.

Over the course of the next six months or so we set up a set of exercises that addressed the issues that arise from the inner ear damage that Meniere’s causes. The exercises did, in fact, stop the nagging dizziness problems that I had been experiencing all that summer of 2019, and I have not had a recurrence of those symptoms since then. Did not have them again until a few days ago.

I’ve been slacking off my exercise regimen lately. The allergens outside the house have kept me sequestered indoors more often, and even the little bit of pollen and dust that get into the house are enough to make me feel like I’ve got a permanent head and chest infection. A feeling that can persist for weeks on end. Starting sometime last week I started to feel like I was heading into another bout of vertigo, so I started taking my meds in response. I’ve managed to avoid worshipping at the porcelain altar so far (knock on wood) but I have had that nagging bit of dizziness and nausea that comes along with it that has persisted for almost the whole week since I first noticed the warning of oncoming vertigo.

So today I decided it was time to break out the PT routines and see if I was going to finally worship the god of the toilet bowl or if I was going to stop feeling this stupid constant dizziness. The results are mixed. I do feel slightly less dizzy just sitting here typing. Any kind of movement does make the dizziness worse though. There is something different about the way my inner ears are working at the moment. I can determine that much. I don’t think I’m quite through the woods with this re-arrangement that my vestibular system is going through.

At least I can sit here and type words without feeling like the room is going to take off spinning like a top. That is a good thing. I think I will go walk the dog once I’m finished writing (I did) but in the meantime I’ll outline the exercises the therapist has me doing to help ease the dizziness.

  • Dynamic Standing Balance – I have a pillow that is so damn firm that it doesn’t give under the head when you lay on it. The Wife and I both hate the thing, but now I have a use for it. I place it on the treadmill near the grips in case I fall over and stand on it. Then I close my eyes trying to maintain balance for 30 seconds.
  • Kick the pillow out of the way and stand with your ankles touching. Close your eyes and try to maintain balance. If you can do that for 30 seconds, move your head from side to side at a moderate pace and try to maintain balance for 10 back and forth movements.
  • Vestibular Ocular Reflex (VOR) Exercise/ Gaze Stabilisation Exercise – I do both back and forth and up and down with these exercises. I set a metronome to 150 beats a minute and try to keep the mark on the wall steady for at least 15 seconds of head movement. I had to slow the metronome down today for the first set. I could not keep the mark still at that pace.
  • I can’t find a name for this one. I hold my thumbs out at eye level and maintain my gaze on them. This should be done against some kind of busy background. Bookshelves or blinds are both good choices. Rotate your torso to the left and to the right, back and forth, repeatedly, maintaining eye focus on your thumbs while the background moves behind them. I find this to be one of the best exercises for quieting the periodic dizziness that I get between vertigo spells. Making the world spin on purpose while focusing on a still object counters the feeling of spinning when it hasn’t yet turned into active vertigo.
  • Walking with head movement is the last exercise that they had me doing. Not just side to side, as the video demonstrates, but also up and down and diagonally (high left, low right/high right, low left) if you can pull that off without tripping all over yourself, try giving yourself mental tasks to do like naming groups of things or counting backwards from different starting points.

The hard part is making yourself do these things every other day or so. You feel fine and you think I have better things to do, so you don’t do the exercises that day. Before you know it a month has passed and you wake up dizzy for no apparent reason. Then you have to get back on the bandwagon and deal with the dizziness and the nausea until the exercises have the intended effect and you start to feel better. Now I’ve done my exercises and walked the dog. Time to reward myself with some more video gaming!

Bad Prelude to the Fall Season

For the last month, it’s been really bad. I’ve missed two raid nights in a row due to illness, the first two in a really long time. I’ve been fighting with near constant constipation for weeks. Yesterday I spent all day on the toilet with diarrhea. I haven’t talked about my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (with Constipation, making it IBS-C) diagnosis yet largely because it is too embarrassing to talk about bodily functions like that. Still, it is getting so bad that I’m going to have to do research on the subject so I will probably write something to codify what I find out about it in the coming months.

In the meantime I combat the symtoms of IBS-C at the same time as I combat the symptoms of my other chronic illnesses. I’ve had brief bouts of vertigo over the last three weeks, the worst of which started after the last struggle with constipation.

Sunday I woke up dizzy. My head was ringing so loud from tinnitus that I felt like I was under attack. I kept holding my head down trying to escape the noise and the pressure, looking over the tops of my glasses at everything and wondering why it all looked so blurry. I had nausea accompanying the nearly unexperienced session of diarrhea, so yesterday was a fun day. I did get nearly finished playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, at least.

I’ve joked for years with the Wife about wanting to have diarrhea because constipation is so uncomfortable and mine seems to never end, especially in these last few years. At least then my experiences in the bathroom would be different. After my marathon running to and from the bathroom yesterday, I can honestly say that I don’t look forward to a repeat of that experience any time soon.

At 1:39 AM this morning the pressure changed in my head. I no longer felt like my brain was being squeezed between my ears on both sides. For the first time in at least 24 hours, the pressure was off. The tinnitus changed pitch as well. Now I just feel like I’m going to faint.

This chronic illness crap is for the birds. Listen, existence. Pick one condition and stick to that one condition each day, please. I can’t take all the changing of things you are going to punish me with each day. One at a time. Take a number.

Charley Horse

I’m getting these weird muscle spasms in my feet. The muscles in the tops and sides of my feet will lock up and pull my toes into strange-looking contortions.

I have no idea what is causing this. It could just be exercise. I used to get charley horses in the calves of my legs after riding my bike all day. I would also periodically get them after long walks. When I was in cardiac rehab the nurses insisted we stretch after each exercise session. That did seem to cut down on the muscle pain afterwards, and so I’ve kept doing the stretches since then. They seem to help. Maybe I should stretch the muscles in my feet as well? That does seem to help relax them afterwards.

It’s all just so damned weird, this getting old crap. Pains in places I didn’t know existed until I was over fifty.


I’ve modified the quadriceps stretch that I’m doing and grabbing the area just above my toes instead of the ankle when stretching. Maybe that will help.

This was the first post written completely in the WordPress mobile interface. Spelling errors are the interfaces fault (damned autocorrect!) I have now fixed those while re-editing on the desktop.

Summer Doldrums

I haven’t felt like writing, or even up to the attempt at writing, for more than a week now. I don’t know why. It could be my allergies. It could be the tinnitus that is making even listening to podcasts extremely hard. I did manage to finish reading my first physical book in several years. I will write about that experience soon, I hope. I hope I’ll feel up to reading another book soon, too.

I’ve been playing a lot of Horizon: Zero Dawn lately.

That is all I’ve been doing, aside from reading. I haven’t even managed to get online to run with my guild in World of Warcraft. Sinuses feel like they are going to pop out of my head. Sick to my stomach with something, probably just the Irritable Bowel Syndrome acting up.

It is even possible that it is the summer doldrums affecting me in ways that I’m unaccustomed to. I haven’t felt this lethargic at this time of year since 2015. The sum total of all these complaints means I’m on hiatus for the foreseeable future. I’ll see you all when I see you.

How Are You?

I never say “I’m fine” When asked this question. Well okay, almost never. Even when I was reasonably healthy I hated the “How are you?” and “I’m fine” responses. It is all so meaningless. Just say hello.

Just say hello, because you don’t really care how I’m doing. I can prove this general assertion. If someone launches into a list of their illnesses when asked “how are you?” it is demonstrably seen as a breach of manners. They don’t really care and the mannerly response to this feigned interest in the other person’s health is the discardable reply “I’m fine.” This allows the real conversation to commence.

So why ask? When I’m asked this question as part of a greeting I try to give “fair to middling” as my response. Why? Because it evades the question and makes a mutual joke out of the feigned interest in my health. Unless that person is my doctor or a fellow chronic illness sufferer, I assume the question is just an assumption of familiarity that does not exist. If we were familiar, they would know not to ask me that question unless they wanted to talk for an hour.


The Wife took me to task for this beef of mine.

…one thing I find highly annoying is your beef presumption that the person who asks how you are doing is just babbling meaninglessly. That is the utmost arrogance. Yes it is part of polite conversation but it is intended as a conversation starter and can be as short or as long as you chose. How often have you seen me ask that question without wanting the real answer? That’s probably why so many people talk to me and though yes they do sometimes give me more that I wanted, it starts connections. Just something more to chew on.

She is allowed to give me beef in return because I have been forced to wait on her for half an hour to an hour while she talks to clerks and cashiers, fully engaged in a total stranger’s complaints and whims, and I’ve done this more times that I can count. I’ve gone out to the car on more than one occasion. Gone out to the car, gotten in the driver’s seat and pulled out of the parking space. Started to drive off. This is the only way to get her to come out to the car so we can leave on some errand that can’t wait for a spontaneous conversation to end.

When I go into a convenience store, it is inconvenient to talk to the cashier for a half-hour when all I needed was a doughnut and something to drink. A five minute excursion, tops, when it is just me. When she’s along, pack a lunch to eat in the parking lot waiting on her to finish her conversation. She is on the other end of the spectrum from the average person when it comes to conversation. An anomaly. An outlier. The exception that proves the rule.

Chronic illness sufferers know this to be true. No one wants to hear about your pain. A good portion of the time even the people you pay to care don’t care about your pain. This fact is demonstrated to us repeatedly until we learn to shut up about what is bothering us. Just say hello. It’s not too much to ask.

Virus Targets Senators

The name comes from the ancient Roman Senate (Latin: Senatus), so-called as an assembly of the senior (Latin: senex meaning “the elder” or “old man”) and therefore allegedly wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class. Thus, the literal meaning of the word “senate” is Assembly of Elders.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

They are the people who should not be exposed to the coronavirus. The senex/Senate/older people. It’s too bad that half of them are too dumb to know that COVID-19 is virtually designed to kill them, specifically. Or maybe that is a good thing. We do need fresh young blood in the Senate. In any case, the Republicans who attended CPAC were all exposed to COVID-19 because a big-dollar donor was diagnosed with the disease shortly after attending the conference.

Science denial comes at a cost. I’m pretty sure I’ve made this observation before, and Donald Trump continues to meet and shake hands with people even though he too was exposed to the virus, just like his HHS employees who spread the virus after bringing it back home with them. Congratulations Mr. Trump. You are the new typhoid Mary.

Hat/tip to Chris Hayes All-In for March 9th, 2020

Victim of Weather, Again

I’m suffering brain fog and vertigo for the third fourth day running today (February 12th) The symptoms became noticeable sometime before sunrise Saturday morning (February 8th) and now it is Wednesday morning. I’m going back to my World of Warcraft marathon that I interrupted in order to type this short paragraph. Hopefully I’ll have more to say than this. Eventually.

I tried doing a few of the vestibular exercises that I mentioned in the above post, and I nearly fell over twice (February 12th) I’m done. I’ve had two drafts sitting open on the desktop (they are still open on February the 22nd) They’ve been sitting open on the desktop since the day I wrote the piece that published on the anniversary of mom’s death. One of the drafts is about a Meniere’s trigger that I never took seriously until this week, the other one is about the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) that I’ve been wanting to work on for months. They’re just sitting there waiting for me to write something. I have 365 drafts already sitting in the edit interface, and there are two more just waiting there like I haven’t got more things in the works than I can manage already with this lack of clarity.

February 19, 2020. I’m moving this article forward in time because, frankly, I haven’t felt what I would call normal (interested in writing, interested in doing anything other than watching TV and playing World of Warcraft) since I wrote this piece on it’s original publication date. That was February the 11th, eight days ago.

Today I’m once again in active vertigo land and I’m once again enjoying my Xanax. A new cold front has moved into the Austin area and I’m definitely not myself. Weird dreams have dominated my nights when I can sleep, and sleep hasn’t been at night since I can’t seem to make myself go to bed until sometime between 3:00 and 7:00 am. That is going to sleep in the morning in my book, not at night. That side effect of Meniere’s symptoms is something that I have been trying to overcome for the last few nights, but even on those nights bedtime is still in the 3:00 am range.

I slept more than eleven hours last night after going to bed right before 3:00 am, and I woke up at 2:30 in the afternoon. So the Meniere’s symptoms that started sometime in the first week of February continue to plague me day and night more than ten days later. At least I was using my time productively for the first six days of February. I had no idea that what I wrote on or before the sixth would be the only substantial writing I would get to do for the entire month of February.

Editor’s note. This was written on 2/6/2020 because I added the featured image to Atheism is Not a Belief System on the same day that I wrote this piece. I recorded that date in the edit history at the time. I never figured I’d be using edit histories to tell me what the hell I was doing nearly a month after the fact when I started including them in the articles that I re-edit.

That first lapse of debilitating symptoms didn’t even last an entire day. Neither did the next one. Or the next one. Stay tuned. I’m still here somewhere. Hopefully there will be more on the blog soon. I may sit here and write a dozen news-related pieces while I sit and listen to podcasts. (I wrote four short commentaries for news articles that day)

Saturday the 22nd of February. I’d like to say the spell is past, but I’d be whistling past the graveyard if I did that. I feel better for the first time since I can’t remember when. Since before reading that Atlantic article that inspired the last post I linked. I wrote it and then I scheduled it, and the next thing I know it’s the 22nd and I’ve missed almost all of February. I’m going to walk while I feel up to walking.

Why 4:04?