To Shuffle Sideways or Not


This morning I feel stronger. There is no more medically-approved word for it: I just feel stronger. Let me tell you how the week has gone.

Last Saturday I went to church and knew after I got there that it was a mistake. I was too tired. So I went home to bed.

On Sunday, expecting to be better, I went to the mall, which turned out to be as crowded as it is before Christmas. I don’t know why. Anyway, I hadn’t been there in about a year and I didn’t get any shopping done. I just wheeled around feeling the intensity of the energy of more than a thousand people, which was exhausting.

Monday morning, my catheter bag leaked. I had to go to urgent care to get the catheter changed, then on to the physical therapist. I was in tears by the time I got there because ALL the sidewalks, curb-cuts and streets were blocked by ice and snow. There was no safe place for me to wheel. I had to cut in here and out there, ever mindful that the bottom of my wheelchair is not sealed and parts would rust out without any notice. It all was just way stressful.

Monday afternoon I went to the acupuncturist. One of the needles he stuck in the top of my head hurt terribly for a few seconds, which is not uncommon. What is uncommon is that it also hurt terribly an hour later when it was removed. And I felt terrible. I’ve been getting acupuncture for ten or fifteen years and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve felt WORSE after acupuncture. It makes me feel better, not worse. Ten years ago they used to push me into the treatment room in a manual wheelchair and afterwards I’d walk out pushing the chair.

Tuesday morning I woke up in what I considered to be a CFIDS crash. It is common to us folks with myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome). An unknown, unforeseen and immeasurable quantity of physical and emotional stress leads to a major shutdown. I was too tired to get out of bed. When I did have to get up, I would get light-headed. I had headaches most of the time. I was depressed. I couldn’t perform the minimal activities of daily living.

A month and a half after being approved for home health aides for 12 hours a week, the county still had produced nothing but excuses. I was too sick to move, and home alone. A couple of my friends helped me out, including one who called the homeopathic provider. On Wednesday evening he told me to take another dose of Elephant 30C.

Around the time that the county approved me for the aides that I still haven’t gotten, the homeopath had given me 30C’s of either Tiger or Elephant remedy. Okay, you guys in the back row, STOP LAUGHING. I know this sounds bizarre as all hell, but it’s the way experts talk about homeopathic “medications,” which are called “remedies.” And they were given to me in units of 30C or 50C. I don’t know what the Cs stand for but it’s not pharmaceutical cc’s. It’s something that has to do with how many times the active ingredient has been diluted and reduced.

Homeopathic remedies are based on like-treats-like, and the first “like” is diluted so many times that what you get in the end is the essence of like, not the substance. Approximately, this is like adding one drop of the original stuff to a swimming pool full of water. If you took a homeopathic remedy to a laboratory and had it analyzed then the lab tech would not be able to find any active ingredient. Let us simply say that how homeopathic remedies work is basically a mystery but the infamous “studies show” that it does work. The results are there, even if the explanation is not.

Oh, as long as we’re on the subject of believing in mysteries, please be advised that in the Physicians Desk Reference of drugs, virtually every antidepressant carries some variation of the statement “The exact mechanism whereby this works is unknown.” Yes, friends, your doctor doesn’t know any more about how your antidepressant works than I do about how homeopathy works, yet your physician is prescribing antidepressants with all the blind carelessness of passing out M&Ms on Halloween. I wonder why that is?

Anyway, on Wednesday night I took 30C of Elephant remedy and woke up the next morning so tired that I couldn’t move. I felt like I was paralyzed, and it was scary. I have no knowledge as to whether the 30C of Elephant caused the worsening or not. I’d already been feeling very, very bad all week. With ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) it happens.

My friend and chiropractor came to my home and did two treatments with LED lights, and adjusted my back and painful head. He also brought his cleaning lady who stayed three hours and got me all back in good shape with clean laundry, dishes and et ceteras. I felt some better, whether from having clean bed sheets or from chiropractic adjustment is open to question.

The next morning, Friday, I was still some better so I went to the appointment with the physician who is board-certified in psychiatry and has a doctorate in pharmacology. We have been meeting monthly to try to understand the damage done to me by antidepressants. He continues to not provide any helpful information. I did not schedule another appointment, again giving up on traditional medicine.

Back at home, the homeopath drops in unexpectedly. He has a bottle of pills—homeopathic pills are extraordinarily small. Six homeopathic pills are about equal to the size of one aspirin. He tells me that it is Elephant 50M and he wants me to take three of them. One hundred fifty M is about a billion times stronger than 30C. Oh shit. What to do?

The chiropractor tells me that his beagle had a long history of anxiety and depression. A homeopath gave the dog a remedy. The dog shuffled sideways for two days, then straightened out and went on to be a happy dog with no relapses. Go figure. (To be continued)

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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