February, and My Hero

Sometimes I just get tired.  The entire month of February, for example.  I have good ideas, know I should share them, but it’s just too much work.  Especially in February.  On Tuesday I discovered that my tulips and daffodils are up about an inch.  The neighbor’s daffodils are three inches tall.  Ain’t that grand?  Spring is acumen in.

Life gets tiresome and boring along about February.  Every day—the same routine, the same choices.  Wake up, check the computer for what’s new, get cleaned up, tidy the kitchen, have breakfast, maybe or maybe not do my spiritual work.  The basic choices are unchanging:  read, write or watch television.  I wish some strange looking animal would come along.

I’ve never figured out why February is the bottom of the barrel for me. Is it because of the lack of sunlight?  But I use a lightbox every morning.  But is that enough?  Is there more to sunlight than light?  Maybe it’s the cold.  But I have all the indoor heat I need.  Maybe it’s that the cold leads to social isolation.  But I have Call-a-Bus and can go, well, not anywhere I want to go, but I can get out.  Maybe it’s the snow—oh, we’ve hardly had any this year.

So I don’t know why February is the bottom of the barrel for me, but it is.  Last February I spent most of the month in bed—only got outside twice and they were both trips to the grocery store.  This year is so-o-o much better!  I get out for at least a couple hours most days.  The cause of the improvement is the indwelling catheter.

My kidney disease—a rare thing called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus caused by an incompetent psychiatrist—caused me to have to get up to go to the bathroom pretty much every two hours.  What I’m talking about here is every two hours every night for ten years.  Believe me, I was tired.  Then, this summer when I was in the hospital, Dr. James Tucker overrode several of his hospitalists who were refusing to order an indwelling catheter on the basis that it wasn’t “medically necessary.”  What kind of idiot doctor thinks sleep isn’t medically necessary?

Dr. Tucker prescribed the catheter.  Dr. Tucker is my hero.  I went home and started to sleep, and you know what happened?  I got better.  My blood pressure went down.  My glucose went down.  And my GFR went up—and up, and up.

GFR is glomerular filtration rate; it is an indicator of how well the kidneys are working.  It should be above 60.  Stage one kidney disease is from 59 to 50; stage two is 49 to 40; stage three is 39 to 30.  Stage four kidney disease, also called end-stage kidney failure, starts with a GFR of 30.  Mine was 32.  I was in serious trouble.

With the indwelling catheter, I started sleeping all night.  Specialists will tell you that what matters is not how much sleep you get, but how much uninterrupted sleep you get.  Mothers of newborn babies will tell you the same thing.  My sleep was no longer interrupted by trips to the bathroom every two hours and, the next time we did blood tests, my GFR was up to 50.

I had moved from almost-end-stage kidney disease (also known as death) to almost-normal kidney function based on one single thing:  sleep.  Sleep heals.  Sleep is awesome.  And can you guess just what I’d like to do to all the hospital doctors and physician assistants who wouldn’t give me an indwelling catheter so I could sleep?  I so totally hate those sons and daughters of bitches.

So now I’m sleeping and ain’t that grand?  Don’t need no pills or potions, just need some major sleep.  My most recent blood test shows that my GFR is now 56.  Almost normal!  Awesome.  But it’s still February and February is the pits.  I was reading the Holy Koran and came to a passage about facing trials and tribulations and I thought, “Here it comes—some admonition of how I’m supposed to be high-minded, rise above it, focus on caring for others—I just can’t do it.”

What the Koran actually said was be patient and persevere.  How about that?  Unable to cope, I was not called to do what I can’t do.  I was just told to hang in there.  Or, in the words of my late fiancé, who was a Marine, “Chin into the wind and keep marching.”

So it’s February, the bottom of the year’s barrel, and there’s nothing you can do about it except hang in there.  The daffodils are three inches high and spring will come.  Wait for it.

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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