Saturday, April 21, 2018

Journaling My Jaunt


The first definition I came across when I Googled the word was :

A daily record of news and events of a personal nature; a diary.
diary, daily record, daybookloglogbookchronicle

I started as a young girl with a diary I received as a gift from an elderly relative.  Diary, such an old fashioned term but really quite nostalgic.  I can’t help but sing that song by Bread in my head when I hear it. After reading the definition though I want to call it keeping a chronicle.  How pretentious would that be? I'm going to do it anyway.

Rarely did I remember to write in the little book but when I did, it was all the usual nonsense of a young age – who was my latest crush (Parker Stevenson, David Cassidy), where I’d gone (the mall if I was lucky), who said what to whom and was now not talking.  All the angst of youth.  My earliest journals were burned in an effort to wipe away all the foolishness of the time but we never really forget our silliness.

Later I used my journals for a host of reasons – creatively as art inspiration (realizing I am not a good artist but love it anyway), a bullet journal of things I needed to do (not doing half of them), morning pages (this is just an outlet to write every horrible thought you have of yourself, so depressing), a review of each book I’ve read (I prefer to keep most of my reviews to myself), sometimes answering prompts (from self help books or online lists) and a documenter of life (photos along with musings). 

What I found from writing all these books was an outlet – often for all the things I needed to think about.  Just the act of writing things out helped me to organize my thoughts.  Jumbled ideas would form into a clearer picture.  Not only did my thoughts get clearer but I was able to look at myself more dispassionately.  If someone hurt my feelings and I wrote it out, sometimes I could see it with more perspective.  Sometimes, I will go back later and look at what I've written and I get embarrassed at my sensitivity but it does let me let go of slights and hurt feelings.

As a hobby, I have found a way to really enjoy every part of journaling.  I love finding new journals, buying fun colored pens and opening up a new book with anticipation.  There is something so satisfying about finishing a journal too.  You flip through to see all the happy events of the past months that often remain only on your phone.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget all the fun you have had in the day to day of life. When I have ended a book, I place it on a shelf to save for another day when I want to relive a memory of the past.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Can it B12 That Easy?

I know what you're thinking - this is another blog about health.  You would be correct but this one has information that pertains to everyone.  

Finding a new author doesn't usually lead you to the answer of a medical dilemma, especially a little collection of ghost stories.  But I'm going to allow myself the melodrama to state that it was true in my case.

It was October, and I was on the search for a new book. This wasn't an unusual occurrence as I am always reading something.  I'm drawn to paper books as opposed to a cold reader screen--there is something comforting about turning the pages.  I found myself meandering through Barnes and Noble looking at all the books on display.  I was searching for something new.  I was bored with my usual choices.  Not only did I want a new author but I also wanted the story to be fresh, not the same genres I often chose - no mysteries, biographies, fantasy or chick lit.  

Rounding a stack of books, I came face to face with an end-cap of seasonal choices.  Scary choices the assistants would recommend.  Although I write ghost stories, I usually don't read scary tales, unless the stories are in the cozy genre of mysteries. I was unaccountably drawn to a black and white cover.  It was a collection of ghost stories by Edith Wharton.  I remembered her name from her book Ethan Frome.  It had been on the extra credit list in high school English but I hadn't ever gotten around to reading it. I purchased it and went home to devour it.  These stories were exceptionally well written and creepily wonderful.  As is the case, one well written book lead me another, The Age of Innocence, Edith's Pulitzer.  Unlike a lot of books of this period it was easy to read and the characters were still relevant.  She wrote from a place of understanding people - their choices good and bad and their heartbreak.  I wanted to know more about the author Edith Wharton, and how she had come to write these tales.

This brings me to the point of my blog and how I was led to my discovery.  At first it seemed as if I wouldn't find much to relate to in the biography of the author.  Edith Wharton was born to a wealthy family.  So wealthy that it's thought they inspired the phrase, "Keeping up with the Jones'".  But reading on, although her life was vastly different than mine, she was a writer who had a lot of self doubt and also struggled with chronic illness. The autobiography went into great detail (sometimes too much) but I learned of the happiness and heartbreak of her life and time period.  At the end in 1933 her personal maid and lifelong friend was diagnosed with Pernicious Anemia after a nervous breakdown. As I had never heard of this disease I was drawn to look it up and it led me down a rabbit hole of information.

Pernicious Anemia is one of the forms of B12 deficiency.  Why is the lack of B12 a big deal?  Vitamins by definition are organic compound that are essential nutrients.  Essential is the key.  Your body must have them to survive.  The body doesn't make vitamins on its own so you must eat nutrient -rich food.  Where does B12 come from?  Some people assume B12 comes from wheat products but you find B12 in eggs, meat, fish, milk and cheese. 

So why do you get deficient in B12?  There are many reasons.  Sometimes your body doesn't absorb vitamins from your food. This often happens with an auto-immune disease such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Auto-Immune Gastritis, diabetes, Celiac Disease and other diseases. As you age you also often get B12 deficient when your body no longer processes food well.  Vegans also, often have a problem because they don't eat enough B12 producing foods. The last two items can be easily supplied with oral B12 which is surprisingly easier to absorb than even food. With auto-immune diseases it can be more challenging.  Sometimes your own immune system works against you to kill off parietal cells in the lining of your stomach which keeps your body from absorbing nutrients like B12.

There is a long list of symptoms such as breathlessness, dizziness, tingling in hands and feet, pain in joints, insomnia, difficulty walking, anxiety, depression, confused thinking and paleness. It can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell, and more.

After reading many articles I noticed that these symptoms uncannily matched my own.  At my next appointment I brought it up to my doctor.  He found the symptom list was so vague that they also matched the symptoms of an auto-immune disease.  He was correct, these diseases all do somewhat mimic one another.  He continued to tell me to exercise more and go on an auto-immune diet.  Unfortunately, no matter how much I worked out, no matter how well I ate, my symptoms weren't alleviated.  I felt discouraged.  I was so very exhausted.

I let it go for awhile but B12 kept popping up in the oddest places.  Stories of PA, references from other people, it brought me back again and again to the condition.  The more I researched and read articles, the more convinced I was it could be one of my problems.  I went down the list - Auto-immune disease.  Check.  Connected to Celiac and Gastritis.  Check.  The fact I couldn't sleep even when I was exhausted was another symptom listed on the UK site for pernicious anemia.  

With my next doctor's visit I brought it up again.  What could it hurt to run the test?  He ran my B12 levels.  Normal range was 200 to 900 for an average person.  (In some countries the low is 500)  When mine came back at 212 he sent me a note.  "Looks good.  Continue as normal."  I was so despondent.  Shouldn't we do something at the low level of supposed normal?  But no.  Every time I went in I talked about it.  Every time I was reassured it was fine.

Finally, after urging of my family I decided to bring my symptoms to Mayo.  There had to be something they weren't finding.  Unable to take medications for the auto-immune disease due to some liver issues stemming from my last surgery, I still felt someone should be able to make me feel somewhat better.  On my intake interview I told the doctor, "and by the way my B12 seems low."  He didn't seem convinced it was necessary but he humored me.  After exhaustive tests and doctors visits, I went for my last interview where they tell you all the results.  My vitamin B12 was 150. Indeed!  My original doctor hadn't been running the test while I was fasting, hence the supposed 'normal' measurement from before.  It had been low a very long time.

I was given my first shot.  I was amazed!  Shocked.  I felt so good.  I had energy.  I could breathe better.  Of course, somehow, things are never as easy as you want them to be.  It will take a while to heal.  In the short term, it hasn't been easy.  I can't seem to take the oral medications due to stomach issues and the doctors will only give me one shot a month which wears off very quickly.  Some symptoms like neurological issues aren't reversible.  I'm working with a naturopath who is giving me support and helping me to find what could be causing the B12 deficiency.  There are many components that come into play when we talk about the human body.

Do I have a simple B12 deficiency or Pernicious Anemia?  I don't have all the information yet but it doesn't matter.  As I can't take the oral pills I have to have shots regardless.

For more detailed information about B12 deficiencies and Pernicious Anemia go to Pernicious Anaemia Society   (It seems the UK adds an extra a) I am not a health professional so please consult medical sites for more information.  Don't start any supplements or vitamins without first speaking with your doctor.

Can feeling better be this easy?  Maybe not, but now I'm hopeful.  Now, I know another place to look.   I'm determined to find what answers I can and I'm doing more research.  Here's to a brighter tomorrow and healthy living!!

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