The Rock and the Hard Place Blog


The night before last, with a glucose level of 475, I started taking insulin.  This morning I reacted to it.

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up too tired to get out of bed, short of breath, and with labile emotions.  I screamed at the nurse and she ran from the room in tears.

According to an immunologist, the first indicator of immune dysfunction is fatigue.  That’s why all your drug information says the side effects may include tiredness, fatigue, malaise, lethargy—just different ways of saying your immune system is pitching a fit and wants this drug crap out of your body.

My shortness of breath stems from pulmonary fibrosis, which is an autoimmune disease.  Every time my immune system reacts to something, I get short of breath.

Have I mentioned PNIE?  Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology?  Your emotions are connected to your nervous system which is connected to your immune system which is connected to your hormones.  Punch the immune system and get crazy.  And let me tell you, brothers and sisters, being crazy hurts more than everything else.

So the insulin is out.  I can’t tolerate it.  I tried.  A really good nurse came in and held my hand while I sobbed.  Later the doctor came and asked what made me think the insulin was the problem.

Ten years’ experience, I said.  For the past ten years, every time I try to take drugs, this is what happens.

The doctor says she’s never known insulin to cause this kind of reaction.

I say, “And you’ve never known anyone who took antidepressants for twenty-six years and then stopped.  And you’ve never known anyone who’s been poisoned by lithium.  You have no idea what the damage may be.”

She said, “Well, maybe it was something else, like something you ate, or some feelings . . .”

I ate what came out of the hospital kitchen.  While I am perfectly able to believe that the Dietary Department does strange things (today I asked for two bottles of cold water for lunch and got one cup of hot tea and one carton of milk) if it was something I ate then everybody else in the hospital would be nuts, too.  And as for “some feelings”—you don’t wanna go there, doc.  Emotionally, I’d be willing to challenge anybody on this floor—staff or patient—and expect to come up the healthiest one.  Doctors use psychiatry as the dumping ground for everything they don’t understand.  When they come to the outside edge of their knowledge where the “Here Be Dragons” sign is posted, then they say it’s your feelings without having a single fact to substantiate the idea.

I asked her to call in an immunologist.  She said they don’t have any.

I told her I couldn’t take insulin ever again.  She told me to call her when I’m ready to take it.

So now there’s this rock over here beside my left foot, and this hard place next to my right arm.  My choices include (a) dying of diabetes as my glucose level goes higher and higher; (b) dying of dehydration if I stop drinking to compensate for the kidney disease; (c) dying from an untreatable infection caused by the permanent catheter.

There is a slim possibility that with adequate sleep enabled by the catheter, things might turn around and I might do some healing.  I would put that possibility at one chance in ten.

It started with twenty-six years of psychiatric drugs and being poisoned with lithium, and it ends here at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the bed by the window.  I’m sixty-four years old and looking at dying.

I am too sick to go home alone and Onondaga County Long Term Care will not increase my aide hours.  There are no beds available in rehab.  Only the worst nursing home in the county will take me.  The doctors will not sign off on Hospice care because they don’t see me dying in six months.  Just exactly what they do see is unknown to me.

My fiancé died.  My sisters live in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  I always drove the three hundred miles to see them.  When I got too sick to travel, they never came to see me.

What do you see?  Do you see the decision points where I made the wrong choice?  Are you looking at your own life and seeing any parallels that put you at risk?

The good life consists of a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, mature spirituality, challenging exercise, being grounded in nature, expressing yourself creatively, and working to benefit others.

That’s the program.  Are you working it?  Or would you like to come sit by my bedside?

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to The Rock and the Hard Place Blog

  1. William Davies says:

    Wow!
    I don’t even know where to begin with this rambling idiocy. I have been reading this blog for three years and have not until now felt the need to reply to anything you have said. I enjoy watching lunatics in the same way that many of my peers enjoy birdwatching. Did you know the one common denominator that all insane people share is the idea that they are somehow special or have a very high IQ. Let me guess the antidepressants are to blame for everything? From your disability to your frivilous law suites? I recieved EXCELLENT care at St. Joes when I was there with my coronary, of course a please and thank you does go a very long way…just some food for thought. So your glucose is 475? Take your fucking insulin! I understand that part of your disease process is believing that you know more than the medical professionals whose care you are under. Doctors do not use psychiatry as a dumping ground they use it to manage people who have come off the hinge. I am guessing that happened for you somewhere between the start of the Vietnam war and Woodstock. Let me guess you would like us the tax payers to foot the bill for that bed in rehab. Aside from that if you are “dying” (to which I say poppycock!) as you say does it matter if you do it at St. Joes or at some nursing home the end result is the same? I ask what is the point?

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