fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: health and beauty

living with chronic pain – someone else’s: part 2

by nikki meredith

chopping vegetablesMy husband walks in the door from work. I’m in the kitchen chopping vegetables.  He kisses me and asks how I am. I shrug and then place the tips of my three middle fingers over my right eye – the sign that I have a migraine.   “Oh no,” he says. “I’m so sorry.” And he does look sorry though I wonder how he can keep feeling sorry when it’s  such a frequent occurrence. But even more than that, I wonder, why do I do this to him? Why do I need to tell him?

It’s easier for me to answer why I shouldn’t tell him than why I do.  I shouldn’t tell him because I assume that the hardest part of living with someone with a painful medical condition is the feeling of helplessness. I know how I feel when he’s suffering from any malady, large or small, especially if there’s nothing I can do to make him better.  When you love someone, you want to alleviate his or her suffering and when you can’t, it’s terrible. And when you can’t alleviate the suffering, over and over and over again, it must be terrible over and over and over again.  So, I repeat, why do I tell him? If I love him, why don’t I spare him this ordeal? Read the rest of this entry »


they do it better in dutch: sex workers and the disabled

by caitlin meredith

painted wheelchair on dutch beachMy mom’s last two blog posts about sexual surrogacy and the movie “The Sessions” (see part 1 and part 2) reminded me of one of my old pieces of dinner party trivia. In Holland, the government pays sex workers to have sex with physically disabled people. I know – crazy, right? At least that was my first reaction.

At the time I learned about this little social service gem I was working in Sudan living with three Dutch colleagues. So many of the things they revealed about their quirky country astounded me that I became used to having daily conversations sprinkled with counter intuitive nuggets. None of them had ever tried drugs, including pot? What was the point of living in the Netherlands?? The government had public health campaigns encouraging people to snort their snot back into their noses instead of using a tissue?? This was deemed more hygienic? Their national cuisine is a bowl of mashed up everything called stamppot?

By the time someone casually mentioned the generous sexual services benefit I was a bit jaded and it almost escaped my “Wait, what??!!!” radar. Almost. Read the rest of this entry »

the sessions the movie and more: part 2

by nikki meredith

The Intouchables

About 20 years ago, for a profile I planned, I interviewed Cheryl Cohen Greene, the sexual surrogate Helen Hunt plays in The Sessions.  (for part I of this post on The Sessions click here.) I found her irresistible. She had a way of talking about sex unlike anyone I’d ever met. She could be funny, very funny, though I can’t remember any specific examples, and while she could talk about sex explicitly, it seemed neither pornographic nor clinical. Her conversation about sex made sex seem like a part of life. A natural part of life. Imagine that. It seems remarkable that so few people can do that effectively. Even in the 21st century. Maybe especially in the 21st century. I squirm when I read Dan Savage, a syndicated columnist who writes an advice and sex column for both gays and straights. I love his writing, I love his politics but when he talks about sex, I want to dive under the table. When Cheryl talked about sex, I wanted to hear more. Read the rest of this entry »

sex, surrogacy and supper: the movie the sessions, part 1

by nikki meredith

coming homeLast week I was having dinner with six of my friends – all of them, to one degree or other, hip or at least hipish. I mentioned that I saw The Sessions, the recently released film starring Helen Hunt and John Hawkes. I was fired-up about the film and I wanted to discuss it. Specifically, I wanted to talk about the following:

—  I know Cheryl Cohen Greene, the sexual surrogate on whom the Helen Hunt character is based in real life and as much as I love Helen Hunt, and as much as I admire her for tackling the role, I found her performance wanting. A characteristic that the real Cheryl Cohen Greene has, a characteristic that anyone who has ever met her will attest to, is her warmth. While Hunt portrays the quality all therapists must possess — unconditional positive regard — her version is crisp, clinical. Read the rest of this entry »

living with chronic pain – someone else’s: part I

by nikki meredith

I woke up this morning smiling.  It was the first morning in three days that I didn’t have either searing pain behind my right eye or nausea. I took the dog for a walk with a sizable bounce in my step. I ate breakfast and after breakfast I took a shower and, as I towel-dried my hair, I thought about how good the day promised to be. It was, after all, a glorious fall day and I was without pain. And then I heard the unmistakable, high-pitched whine of a smoke detector. I was confused. We don’t have a smoke detector.  (Why we don’t have one is a long story but it has to do with high ceilings in the kitchen and low tenacity in life.) I threw on my bathrobe and followed the sound to our guest room.  I opened the door. Opening that door was a terrible mistake. There was, indeed, a smoke detector emitting an ear-splitting shriek. I quickly closed the door. In a matter of seconds, the fierce, penetrating sound brought with it the searing pain behind my eye that had vanished a few hours before.

All that happened in that room is that I heard a sound. Read the rest of this entry »

shitty in pink: lady aid worker conquers night time latrine visits

by caitlin meredith

My feet but NOT my pink Crocs!!! Borrowed from a friend!

I have one key piece of advice for female aid workers on their way to Africa: once you get there, get a potty. This might even be more important than my earlier advice about underwear. Displaying your undies  in full view of your boss only happens once a week – the potty issue comes up every night.

Nighttime elimination first became an issue when I worked in Darfur. Read the rest of this entry »

my migraine, my HMO and me

by nikki meredith

As I’ve indicated in a previous post, I’ve had migraines for 34 years. During that time I’ve been treated by internists, family practice physicians, neurologists, chiropractors, homeopaths, acupuncturists, biofeedback therapists, and a multitude of body work practitioners employing a variety of techniques – acupressure, shiatsu, rolfing, etc. I have practiced yoga, Pilates, and an assortment of aerobic exercises promising that the oxygen intake would diminish my pain. I’ve also been injected with Botox, which, as mentioned in my last post, did not work. I’ve ingested feverfew, fish oil capsules and St. Johns Wart and because some migraine sufferers have been helped by anti-depressants, I have been prescribed Prosac, Paxil, Wellbutrin and Nardil (this is a scary one: if you eat aged cheese, pickled herring or drink red wine, your blood pressure can spike to the point of death…but hey, if the drug eliminated my migraines, it would be more than worth that kind of vigilance). I have also been given a series of drugs that are prescribed for people with seizure disorders — Verapamil (a calcium channel blocker), Topamax and Neurontin.  Not only did none of the above eliminate migraines, many of them triggered terrible head pain  – the most severe migraine was produced by Nardil. Read the rest of this entry »

one woman’s experience with a good pain doctor

by nikki meredith

As I write this, an intense pain is beginning to throb behind my right eye.  I gave myself a shot of Imitrex, a non-narcotic vasoconstrictor two hours ago but the injections only provide me with two hours of relief and the pain is returning. One can only have two injections in a 24-hour period so if the pain returns, and it does three out of four times, I need relief for the 20 remaining hours. I’ve had migraines for 34 years and during that time I have been to countless clinicians — conventional, alternative and combinations of both. I have been prescribed every category of drug that has a record of treating migraines, either in double blind studies or anecdotally, both on-label and off-label and too many herbs, elimination diets, “therapeutic” diets, supplements and non medical therapeutics to recount here. Out of all of the above, only one thing ever worked preventively: the blood pressure pill Inderal.  For three months I was migraine-free. And then they came back, if not with a vengeance, with disappointing regularity.  The doctor tried upping the dose and kept upping it until I was so lethargic I could barely get out of bed in the morning. High doses made no difference.  That was 25 years ago. Since then, years of trial and error, mostly error, have resulted in pain more days than not.

Despite that, life has been fine for the past six years because I’ve been under the care of a pain doctor. Read the rest of this entry »

Painkiller Paranoia is Over Prescribed

by nikki meredith

At least once a week there’s an article in The New York Times about the dark side of opiate use. Veterans, NFL players, pregnant women, old people — all on painkillers, all at special risk, whatever the study of the week finds.  Oxy, as in Oxycodone, is now ubiquitous in popular culture: we have Nurse Jackie lying, stealing and having sex to score oxy; the The Good Wife defending a doctor accused of prescribing oxycodone to a star high school quarterback who overdosed; and many of the Harlan County reprobates on Justify pop, sell or kill for oxycodone.

All of this attention strikes fear in the heart of those of us living with serious pain. Most pain patients will not die if they can’t get enough medication to dull the pain  (in most cases opiates don’t eliminate pain, they only ease it) but our appetite for living will certainly be diminished and, according to research, the toll unmediated chronic pain takes on our bodies will shorten our lives.  The drumbeat to restrict the prescribing of opiates is getting louder and who knows where this attention will lead. Read the rest of this entry »

exercise and the single woman

by caitlin meredith

After a summer of five-times-a-week Pilates sessions, I took a vacation. Though I went on a few hikes, my focus was on catching up with friends and family in California, not on my alignment or core strength. No problem, I thought. I was sure that all of the time and attention I had put into my fitness entitled me to time off for good behavior. In my mind, the hundreds of roll ups and rollovers and Pilates push-ups were like money in the bank. Now it was my holidays and time to cash in. I was wrong.

Halfway through my first class back in Austin – a class I had gone to religiously for months – I felt like I was going to throw up. The second day was no better. I asked if they had really amped things up in my absence. I got a puzzled look back, “No…this is what we always do.” Walking to my car that day, still feeling ill from my output, I had the profound realization that being in shape is like having a chronic disease. Like diabetes, there is no cure or final success. There is no such thing as money in your fitness bank. It’s something you’ll have to manage for the rest of your life. And even though I’m loving the Pilates (except when I’m hating it) I had a second profound realization: That sucks.

My grandmother just died at age 103. If those long-life genes prevail, my fitness commitment could stretch into the next 65 plus years, paying higher recovery costs with each hiatus. That’s longer than my mortgage! Read the rest of this entry »

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