Category Archives: In n sickness and in health

Weighty matters

This may sound like body shamming, it isn’t.  Or at least I hope it isn’t.  It is a bit on the obsessive side, but I am sure anyone who has been through this would be able to relate.

When I was in grad school, the roommate in my second year was a thirty year old woman (I was around 24 – funny how six years seemed to matter so much then).  She was a small built woman, prone to putting on weight and so she was obsessed about fitness.  She went to the gym everyday and worked out for an hour, and blizzard or not, ran for an hour through the university township. She drank coffee with skim milk and shrank away from food with the comment “if I as much as see that goddamn pizza, I would put on a pound”. On the other end of the rainbow, I was addressed (uncharitably) as 2D-gobblefunkist by the brat Indian grads (largely boys) because I was stick thin.  I thought I was curvy, but was made to believe that the curves were in my imagination.  So in order to pad myself, I drank full-fat milk, had egg nog for breakfast every day and, although I hated cheese at that time, had subway sandwiches every alternate day with extra cheese, and macadamia nut cookies on the side.  The only allowance I gave myself was that I went to the gym every afternoon, to swim, because I was a fish in another birth and nothing makes me happier than water around me.

None of my padding efforts had any effect. At that time.  As I near 45, I can see the eggnog, vitamin D milk and cheezy sub in various parts of my body.  And they are very sociable foodgroups because they welcome other current foodgroups and give them space to live forever.  It is a wonder the body has energy to function at all, considering that all the calories I ingest choose to stay rather than burn.

This is fine. I don’t have problems with the natural fall of metabolism that comes with age, and resultant padding – I don’t want to body sham.  But where I worry is that the padding is not all on the outside and there are protective stuffed envelopes around my essential organs, making the latter groan.  I am particularly worried because the metabolic syndrome spectrum of diseases runs in my family (in addition to psychiatric disorders, osteoporosis and name-it-you-got-it).  When I visited my gyn recently for ovarian pains, she claimed that the only ways to deal with it, short of ripping my innards and throwing the non-essential-anymore organs away, are to pop in industrial strength acetaminophens when they act up, and make sure I get enough exercise to prevent visceral fat that can add to the strain on my reproductive organs.

I resumed the gym nearly three weeks ago, in addition to reduction of portion sizes.  I don’t overworkout because I am a fusspot of sorts.  20 minutes of interval training and 10 minutes of strength.  I stayed off the scale until last week, and as I had expected, the numbers on the scale were displeasing.  Today, a week later, I checked again.  What do you know.  A full one kilo (~2 lbs) UP.  Yes, UP.  I know a lovely person told me that it’s better to go by the tape than by the scale, and I remembered it as I stood on the scale, but I did feel like screaming.

Perhaps it is muscle weight gain.  Perhaps not.  From now on, no more scales for me, for sure.  I am doing this for my internal organs, and if 20 mins of interval training doesn’t do anything to them, so be it.  At least I would be using my gym membership.

Monday Medley

You know how they say eating home-made stuff is better than store bought stuff?  Balderdash.  A couple of days back, in an attempt to make “healthy” icecream, I blended watermelon and orange, added home-made sugar syrup to it, froze it and had home-made “sorbet” for desert.  Within hours, I started the mother of all flu.  I could have just bought icecream from the neighbourhood shop than try out stunts like these.  Between wanting to throw up, wanting to blow my nose constantly and wanting to curl up in bed, I have been largely dysfunctional through the weekend.  A visit to the family doctor has put the spring back to my step now, although the stomach does threaten to empty its content at short notice.

I had a minor epiphany – actually I have always known it, but it just got reiterated.  As I lay moaning and groaning on my bed last night, I yearned for my grandmother’s kashayam (herbal tea).  At that moment, I realised (again) what cowcrap nostalgia is.  When I was young, I avoided telling my grandmother that I was sick, if I could help it, for fear of her kashayam.  Just thinking about the making-hole-in-the-stomach-spicy, hot liquid makes me want to scream.  But the mind is such a fraud – it masks the unpleasantness with romantic imagination and convinces you that everything was better in the good old times – even kashayam.

Talking of grandmas –  I think she passed some of her culinary skills to me when she died.  For the past year or so, any food I make seems to come out good.  Now for most people that’s not a big deal. I have consistently, for twenty years of my life, turned food to ashes by my mere presence, so it is funny how ever since paati died, I have been able to cook better. Macabre, I think.

I threw a tantrum today at a shop.  The kid’s football coach wanted me to get her shin guards, now that she was playing serious matches and I took a detour to the sports shop to get one, on my way to school to pick her up.  As soon as I asked for shinguards, the sales man asked “how old is the boy”.  The fellow didn’t know what hit him when I started with “why do you assume that it is for a boy” and went on for the next three minutes about the evils of stereotypes.  Fellow might have resigned his job after I left.

Have a good weekend folks.

 

Navel gazing

This would probably turn out to be a self-absorbed, nay, self-obsessed post, but it is being written to clarify the muddled head.  It could also be a bare-all kind of post, so consider this fair warning.

My gynaecologist, who is also a very good friend, once told me there is a superstition in the medical community that all emergencies come in three’s – the day she told me, she had to tackle two cases of rather rare ectopic pregnancy and was afraid of a third within the next few days.  Since then, I start looking for threes of bad news too, especially within healthcare, it has become a bit of an obsession with me.

Two weeks back, my uncle-through-marriage (79 years old) was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, needing surgery, radiation and the works.  A couple of days later, my neighbour cried to me about her mother’s newly diagnosed stomach cancer, followed by a strenuous surgery and the works.  I am tight-wound since then for a third announcement of the stupid monster that can’t seem to be killed no matter how advanced medicine has grown.

Last week, a distant cousin and childhood playmate of mine, called to say that her father is in deep dementia/Alzheimer, can’t remember anything, even peeing, and is on catheter.  It gave my stomach quite a turn because this distant uncle of mine was a terror when I was growing up – dynamic, authoritative and what not.  I can’t even imagine him as being a baby, as she says he is.

A couple of days later, my father’s brother (80) had a dementia-induced nervous breakdown. I would rather not go into the details of the breakdown more because it is exhausting to even recollect it, but he still continues to be like a cat on a  sanity-insanity wall, ready to jump to either side at will.  We take him to the psychiatrist today, who will prescribe medicines, I am sure.  But knowing his tempramentallity, and my aunt not taking anything seriously, I wonder if the medicines would even be consumed – we can only lead the horse to the water.

I wonder if there will be a third case of dementia.

But that is not the fear I have – at least not the main fear.  A nagging doubt that has been doing its rounds in my head is this – have I inherited the insanity gene, that seems to fly around in my paternal family?  In each generation, I know at least of someone who has gone completely off the rocker – at some stage of their life or another.  My great grand mother was supposedly prone to hysteria that she had to be locked up.  My grand aunt was also hysteric, it seems.  My uncle seems to be on the way to going raving mad.  My father refuses medical help for his depression. Another uncle lived and died with Parkinson’s. I have a cousin, in whom, I can see shades of insanity – he already has the beginnings of persecution complex and it scares me to talk to him.

Considering that my PMS mood swings (they no longer swing, they seem permanently in the high of anxiety) last longer (they start with ovulation and last until aunt flo visits), could I be the next manifestation of the madness? The most disturbing thing for me is that as I see/hear of all the mad things my uncle has been doing this past week , I can actually understand what was going on in his head.  I can often feel that restlessness and confusion in my head too , I merely don’t translate them into action, like he did on that day.  How long before the walls that separate thoughts from intention and action break down?

I have a very good control over my actions now – even when I am seeing red, I can smile like there are daisies inside my head.  Now and then I yell (especially nearing aunt flo) at the kid for something trivial.  But I do feel a lot of anger, worry, anxiety, and fear inside, even if I don’t show them out.  Is that the start of the madness, which will finally come out when the veneer of civility breaks down?  Would I also breakdown and cry and laugh hysterically the next minute, and pace up and down the house like a caged panther, the way my uncle did?

Or as usual, am I overthinking this?  That everyone has thoughts and emotions cruising through their head, and what they make of them is what separates the sane from the insane?  I read somewhere that pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice.  My meditation mentor tells me the same thing – the stomach’s function is to digest, the lung’s function is respiration, the brain’s function is to think and feel – you cannot live without them.  It is detachment from them, or being aware of them that makes the difference.

So, perhaps I am not on my way to la-la land, despite the hormones wrecking havoc inside as I type this out and there is hope for me yet. But my uncle’s breakdown is an eye opener for me.  Whether or not I have the gene, it is my choice to keep my brain healthy.  More reading, more writing, more meditation and more exercise are the only paths to take henceforth.

The buck stops with me.

Dreams, inspiration and other matters

My hormones, after kinda-sorta behaving themselves for the past couple of months, are acting up (to put it mildly) again and I am having a tough (to put it mildly) PMS season as I type this out.  I know that my anxiety is hormonal and not merely a response to some life issues that I am currently facing, because the dreams are back.  A couple of nights back, I dreamt that I was injecting a drug into a gaping, open, bloody wound in the arms of my kid. A faceless doctor insists that I must be the one to inject, and thrusts a large syringe (the kind used on cows in a farm) into my hand to be used on a gnash from which blood is gushing. As I inject the drug, the the medicine and the blood are reabsorbed into the body in what looks like a reverse video sequence, leaving an open, dry wound.  Needless to add, writing about it is making my stomach lurch.

Last night, I was in labor.  I reach the hospital to see it abandoned.  I run from room to room as contraction after contraction engulf me, and finally find a room in which my neighbour (who in the dream is a medical doctor) is sleeping on a bare wooden bench.  I wake him and he panics seeing a very pregnant woman apparently covered in blood and runs away.  And then another lady (I can’t remember who it was) comes in, calls herself a doctor, and pricks my belly with a pin.  Air hisses out of the tummy as it inflates like a punctured tire, and she sends me back home saying there is no baby, only air.

If that ain’t hormones, I’ll eat my hat.  If I have one, that is.

I have also been unable to meditate.  Instead of forcing it I am just going to give it a break until the mental violence settles a bit.

I’d do anything to be a man during these times.  At least no progesterone/estrogen see saw to mess with the head.

These are also times I am extremely grateful to a couple of my girl friends and my cousin, who hear me out without judging and offer me a vent so that I don’t explode all around and cause damage.

And my blog readers for not judging me.  Wait, you are not judging me, are you?

**

Two women have inspired me in the recent past.  One was the house guest I had around Christmas time.  She works in an IT company and is single parenting a son (husband works in a different city and visits every weekend) and described how she optimises her chores so that she is out of the house by 7.30 AM.

Another hyper-energetic friend I know from the kid’s school, is a stay at home mom, running a joint family that includes her parents-in-law, stock marketing husband, and two daughters.  Being passionate about religious literature, she finishes her home chores by the time her husband and children are out of the house (~8 AM) and spends the rest of the day working on her hobby.

Both efficient women are a stark antithesis to me.  I’d love to be like them.  But there is a large gap between intention and action.  Today, I tried completing my chores by the time the kid was out to school and managed about 90% which is 90% more than what I normally accomplish.  So, there could be hope yet.

The plus side is that my kid has taken it upon herself to wake early (6 AM, midnight to her) in order to study for her exams and finish reading the Hithhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to which she is hooked (I am hooked to Lord of the Rings, if you must know).  This makes getting ready to school less stressful and rushed for both of us. I hope this trend continues in our household.  Although, if she is anything like me (and she is), it is just a passing phase. We both value our morning sleep too much to let mundane things like life intrude into it.

**

Did anyone watch Season 4 of the new Sherlock Holmes? Did you live to tell the tale?  Apparently I have, but barely.  Seriously, what the frack?

Perspective

The kid has an exam tomorrow. In a subject that she needs help with – Hindi.  Having been caught up in studying for other exams like Math and Tamil, she had been ignoring Hindi. This evening at 6.30, she approached me for help.  As I sat with her, I freaked at the lack of time, her lag and everything in between.  Just as I was about to lose it and get hysteric, we got a phone call.

A young couple we know, lost their 8-day old baby.  The baby had not cried when he was born, and was on ventilator support before he passed on.

Someone landed a blow on my head.

I have a child who cried with fiery gusto the moment she was plucked off me, and has since been living life to its fullest.  So what if she missed a few deadlines in school or lagged behind a little in one subject for one exam?

The kid is sitting right next to me and I know she is stressed because she is drawing in the iPad. I couldn’t be more grateful for a child who is healthy enough to feel the stress of something as stupid as exams.  As soon as I publish this post, I am going to pluck the iPad off her hands, and give her a bone crushing hug.

Going viral

Do you know how big 20 nanometers is?  Fairly tiny, take my word on it, because I am constantly writing research proposals to make materials on that scale.  It is like a hairline crack on a single strand of hair, if the hair were your size.  Pretty inconsequential, you’d think.   Until you have had a couple of stuff of that dimension cruise through your blood vessels, causing every millimetre (or perhaps nanometer, since we are in that scale) of your body to feel the punch like a nerd in a street-fight. If I had, in my past, ever doubted the presence of millions of tiny things called cells in my body, the doubt has now been cleared by the vicious throb of every single cell that makes the physical me.

We also take this “generosity” thing too seriously in our household – what I enjoy is what everyone else in the family must enjoy too.  What’s family all about if we don’t share?

So if you see a dense cloud of nanometric bio-particles around the Chennai area, they may be emanating from our household.  Stay away.

Unless you want to count the cells in your body.