Mental Health


It’s difficult to tell in this snap, but it’s really quite nice out for March in Massachusetts.  Not exceptionally nice like it was on Wednesday, but nice enough.  A bit of a cool breeze, temperatures in the high fifties at 9:30 in the morning, clouds, and a bit of sun.  It’s the sort of weather that makes me feel like all hope is not lost.  Winter will end, the Earth is not dead, and I don’t have to be a crazy shut-in who only talks to her cats.  A change is blowing in with the wind and I feel good.

But, for as good as I feel when Spring is knocking on the door, there are still things that bother me: Americans, for example, work too much.  I think we’re pretty much insane for working such long hours.  I say this despite being a bit of a workaholic: I’ve been known to only take breaks during the work day because someone placed a sandwich in front of me and said ‘Bex, you need to eat something.’ (Not too often, but it’s happened more than once.)  Regardless, people work too much.

A few years ago I had a temp job that got me up before the sun, and didn’t let me out until after it had set.  It was winter, so this wasn’t all that difficult, but, still, it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever experienced.  Except when I looked around the office at the people who actually worked there: there were employees who where already in the office when I arrived.  As the sun was rising over the Atlantic, they were already on calls with clients and customers.  These same people were still on calls when I left an hour after the sun had set way beyond the Berkshires.  Another temp and I rode the elevator together at the end of one day and we asked each other “How the fuck do they do this?”  This life was for neither she nor I.

Now, I’m not trying to be insulting or make anyone feel badly about their job.  If I have, I apologize.  A person is allowed to love their job, or choose to be at work before the sun’s up and stay until after it’s down. This is not a criticism of individuals, but of the system.  America seems to value working long hours and not taking breaks; and we are conditioned to expect to be punished for taking breaks while trapped indoors during prime tanning hours.  It starts in school when we can see the beautiful weather but are forced to stay inside.  Therefore, as adults we accept being trapped in cubicles, chained to desks, stuck in windowless rooms with bad lighting and poorly regulated air conditioning.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday.

I’ve picked up some hours tagging and folding shirts in a warehouse.  It’s a pain, literally, to stand at a table and fold tee shirts all day, but it’s not the least exciting work I’ve ever done (that would be that temp job in the sales office).  Nor is it the most difficult.  It is physically taxing, but so was environmental ed. and summer camp.  It might be a bit more physically taxing because I’m older now and I’ve already put my body through years of environmental ed. and summer camp, but it’s nothing I’m not familiar with.  The other people who work there are pleasant, and there’s a window so we can see if it’s sunny or rainy.  In the afternoons, the older ladies who work there are replaced by a group of teenagers coming off their school day.

Yesterday, two of the boys were talking at the table behind me.  One asked the other why he wasn’t in school or at work the day before, the extremely nice day for March in Massachusetts.  The boy said simply that he had stayed home.  He told school he was “sick”, but in reality it was just that it was nice out and he spent his day outdoors.  The other teens were amazed and surprised.  One girl couldn’t believe his audacity.  I, however, couldn’t help being extremely proud.  This kid, all of sixteen or seventeen, understood that Wednesday was a Beautiful Day, and that Beautiful Days are meant to be enjoyed.  He’d even decided that this Beautiful Day was meant to be enjoyed out of doors.  The other teens went on and on about how crazy he was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed this kid chose his mental health over his attendance record, his grades, and a paycheck.  This kid has his priorities in order.

Take care of your mental health people, it’s more important than we Americans realize.


Universal Health Care for all American Citizens? Maybe? Guys?

Petition to Lower the Screening Age for Colorectal Cancer

I sympathize with this woman: thirty six years old she’s told she’s got a form of cancer typically associated with older people; and she learns that not only it is prevalent in younger adults, it’s completely treatable if caught early.  But Insurance companies won’t cover testing for patients under fifty.

Insurance companies are assholes.

Cancer is so often thought of as being “caused by” something or other: genetics, smoking cigarettes, someone else smoking cigarettes, occupational or regional causes, toxins in the drinking water, something gives you cancer.  And since we’ve polluted our planet fairly well it’s more and more likely that more people in the developed world will have cancer at some point.

Predicting at what age we will develop cancer is bullocks.  As highlighted in John Green’s novel The Fault in our Stars, children, pretty young children, can have cancer.  [Here be Spoilers]  In the novel, Hazel Grace is expected to kick it soon and she’s angrily preparing for it.  It is her boyfriend, who appears to be in a healthy remissions, it turns out, is the terminal one.  Because Cancer is a fickle bitch.

Insurance companies won’t screen for certain cancers until clients have reached forty of fifty.  Others they’re happy to screen for, but only every few years.  No one expects a healthy 29 year old to have breast cancer, so we don’t check for it.  It’s a little like saying, well, the Aztecs didn’t expect the Spanish so they weren’t prepared for them.

Cancer, an aberration in our bodies, doesn’t really care how old we are.

As someone who doesn’t have health insurance, I sometimes worry I’ve got something brewing, like Dawn Eicher in the colon cancer story, that hasn’t affected me, therefore I have not noticed.  I work in the outdoors.  I don’t always wear a hat or sunscreen; I have moles that like to act up.  I’ve probably got skin cancer and I don’t know it.  If I had Health Insurance (and went to my doctor regularly) we might know one way or the other, we’d be looking for it.  We might know which moles are cancerous and which are fucking with me.

Eicher has a valid point: if her insurance would have paid for a colon cancer test for people under fifty then maybe they would have tested her and caught it sooner and she, and people like her, could take preventative measures thus ensuring they wouldn’t have to go through the processes unnecessarily.  If Health Insurance was guaranteed for all American citizens the same would be true.

The poor, unemployed, underemployed, and homeless need Health Insurance just as much as relatively healthy, white, blonde, middle class soccer moms.  So sign her petition, but know that’s not the end of the problem.  If more people had better access to doctors, hospitals, and medicine many conditions could be prevented.

I know Universal Health Care has it’s drawbacks, but those are drawbacks I can live with.

(Before you cry “Obamacare!” it’s not good enough, not yet.)

Zombie Cow says “Miiiiiilk!”*

A coworker and friend once announced that I “eat like a pregnant woman”.  This endearing comment caught me horribly off guard, as we sat around our blue card table on the blue padded folding chairs that served as our “kitchen set”, which was situated in the middle room of a mold-infested, fifty year old camp cabin that wasn’t intended to be used as a kitchen when it was built, designed, or thought about.  At the time I very well could have been pregnant, and her remarks, therefore, did two things: A) sent me into a wild panic about my state of gestation, and 2) made me wonder about my eating habits.

I am not a picky eater; at least, I’ve never let it be a problem when eating.  As a youngest child who never wanted to make waves, I learned early in life how to pick out the things I don’t like and choke down the things I couldn’t get away with picking out.  What this means for me as an adult is that I am a very good houseguest.  I’m meeting my best friend’s mom for the first time and she’s made Melody’s favorite casserole complete with noodles, bread, dried apricots and raisins, then I am very graciously going to eat a small portion and choke down those dried fruits even though they are in a place where they don’t belong; I’m hanging out with the guys and we’ve got a large pizza with mushrooms, sausage, and anchovies, then I am picking the mushrooms and dried fish off and placing them, very sweetly, on the side of someone else’s plate.  When I’m feeding myself, it means I eat what I want.  And very often I eat in waves.

I mean this in a couple of ways: 1. when I’m feeding myself I will often eat one thing at a time.  I will start with noodles, then I’ll cut up some chicken, then I’ll follow it up with some broccoli and carrots, then I’ll finish with raisins (this is the proper place for raisins).  B. I exist on cravings.  I will go through periods of time where I really only want to drink water; or I want to eat peppers and onions; or I must have a cup of tea and a biscuit every day around 11 p.m., or I eat an entire fresh pineapple because I caught a whiff of it whilst in the produce section.

Currently, I have been craving milk.

Ok, to understand this, you must understand a few things about me and my family.  Firstly, when I was growing up we always had either 2% or, later, Whole milk in the house.  (I hate skim milk or 1% or fat free or whatever it is called – milk with zero fat is the equivalent of drinking cloudy water as far as I’m concerned and if the water is cloudy my government, common sense and the EPA recommend you don’t drink it.)  If I have a choice I will still choose fattier milk.  Second, I spend between four and six months of the year living at a different camp.  We eat food prepared for approximately 100 people and we drink milk out of either little cartons or a large bag that’s kept in a refrigerated box with a handle you must raise in order to make the milk come spurting out of the tube….  Occasionally, we’re lucky and our cook orders something fun like coffee milk to mix things up.  But overall, I’m not drinking all that much milk when I’m at camp.  (My mother would here launch into a lecture about osteoporosis and bone density and that I’m losing calcium what with the amount of caffeine I ingest over the course of a routine work day.)  Thrice, some time after I graduated from college, after I started living in my parents’ house part-time, my family started drinking Raw Milk.

Let me say this: Raw Milk is delicious.  These crazy kooks drive forty five miles weekly just to get unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk harvested from grass-fed Jersey cows.  This is the best tasting milk I have ever had in my god-given life (and this includes milk that’s been shaken with syrup and sugar and served ice cold at the soda fountain in Yarmouthport).  And it comes in, the environmentalist in my loves this, reusable glass jars.  All the health benefits, so many I cannot even retain all of them (something about enzymes and magic ju-ju) and the thing that I love most is the reusable glass jar…

Anyhow, in the past couple of days I have not been able to get enough of this magic milk goodness.  (I may have finished off an entire half gallon jar by my loneself this past weekend.)  In part it is because I made these killer dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies Sunday night, but it’s also just a craving.

Like how when I return to Suburban Hell after eight to twelve weeks of “roughing it” and I sleep for seemingly days on end, I think my body is just trying to restore itself.  It wants and needs calcium and vitamin D, and all that other wholesome stuff found in milk, and my brain knows I can get it properly now that I’m back in Suburban Hell.  So my body wants me to chug it like I’ll win a prize for the most consumed.

When I am “roughing it”, I am seriously compromising my health.  We work fourteen hour days, we get seven or six hours of sleep every night, we drink more coffee than is good for us, we are constantly going from one temperature to another, we are one minute hoisting stuck kids out of black mud, and bandaging up scraped knees the next.  We go from one extreme to the next in only moments.  We have a new set of walking petri dishes we must educate and entertain every week, sometimes, twice a week, that are breathing on us, touching us, hugging us and spreading their germs through their sticky, unwashed hands and childlike affection for their not-really-teachers on their field trip.  We try to anesthetize these germs, and get a good night’s sleep, by drinking grain alcohol, fermented wheat, or distilled molasses.  This further dehydrates us and makes a small part of our bodies cry out in pain.

We often run on caffeine and adrenaline.

Now that I’m over (for the most part) the never ending sleep portion of my recuperation period, I’m into the replenish nutrients portion.  Mainly: Calcium and Vitamin D.  My body is so whacked out from the sudden stop in momentum, and the switch from being constantly out of doors, to mostly indoors that it requires more vitamin D and needs to wrack up some calcium points.  Hence: craving milk.

I wouldn’t say that I eat like a pregnant woman, especially since my sister ate very little when she was preggers and whenever she ate after 6 p.m. she vomited it all back up (I’m not doing that), I just eat in a particular way; a particular way that would be more stable if my lifestyle were more stable.  But we’ll try that experiment a little later in life.  For now I’m going to ride out my cravings, delight in the fact that I am not pregnant, and wonder what my next craving will be.  I’m probably low on vitamin C, but seeing how I don’t eat or enjoy citrus fruit I wonder what I will want to eat next.

For now, get me some milk!

*Zombie Cow actually says “Steaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak!” but I’m not craving steak…. yet.