So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

11 April, 2012

Something other than a PBP post

As some of you know, I was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. (Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Basically, my body is trying to kill my thyroid gland.)

This whole process has been a very interesting one for me on multiple levels.

You see, this happened because I changed doctors. I hadn't been to the doctor since before Little Foot was born, and I was beginning to get all agitated about it (as my family was very good about the preventative medicine things, so there's a certain amount of 'but I haven't had my appointment' deep-seated in my psyche).

And we did a little interview thing as my first appointment, rather than the checkup, and he asked me about my health concerns. And one of the things I said was "I want you to run my thyroid numbers. I was treated for hypothyroidism as a teenager, and I like to monitor my condition."

So, in among the other blood tests he ordered, he ran the thyroid numbers.

Not only did he run the standard three thyroid numbers, he ran the antibodies numbers, and bam. There it was.

But the great thing was that before he mentioned the antibodies, he said, "I don't like your TSH number. It is too high."

My previous doctor - at the same practice - would, I felt grudgingly, run those numbers for me every year. And I would get numbers like that - one time, that TSH was notably higher, even - and she would say "It's within the lab parameters. You're fine." Somewhere along the line I learned that some regulatory agency's recommendations wanted to see lower numbers, so I mentioned that to her, and "It's within the lab parameters. You're fine."

Now, consider what Wikipedia says about Hashimoto's: "Given the relatively non-specific symptoms of initial hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's thyroiditis is often misdiagnosed as depression, cyclothymia, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and, less frequently, as ED or an anxiety disorder."

I've been in and out of treatment for depression with anxiety features for years. I have chronic fatigue issues (which are not entirely related to my Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, also treated by this shiny new doctor).

It also has relationships with celiac disorder - which runs in my family, and for which my brother has been in treatment (I have a mild gluten sensitivity). And cardiac stuff - and just around when I went to the new doctor, I was having intermittent tachycardia / heart flutters, which have magically completely cleared up now that I'm on a minimal dose of levo.

It is nice, for a change, to have a respectable invisible disability condition. There isn't a blood test for depression to prove that there's a real problem involved. DSPS, well, you just have to go to bed earlier, kid, stop making excuses. PTSD? Drama queen. But no, I have magic numbers to prove that there is something that this is treating. It's oddly comforting, to be dealing with something that most everyone believes is actually real. There are actual antibodies. They actually do damage to the endocrine system. Science shows it!

Yeah, this is cynical of me. But at the same time as this I've been watching a friend deal with the sort of utter contempt that mental health stuff can bring out in others, and for all this culture's valorisation of the life of the mind and the desire to escape the body, we really do put a lot of stock in those little numbers, don't we?

09 April, 2012

G is for Gifts

One of the things that's common in a lot of discussion of ancient religions is the phrase "do ut des", which means something like "I give so that you may give."

The idea goes something like this: the stuff of being, particularly food, would not exist if it were not for the gods who embody those processes doing Their work, and thus it is appropriate for the people to return some of that which has been provided to the gods so that the cycle may continue. In ancient Egypt, this was amazingly recursive: the crops were harvested by the people, who paid a fraction of their crop to the church/state complex, which would use that to provide offerings to the gods, and after the "main" gods in a given temple had taken their share the offerings would go around to lesser shrines until, at last, they were given back in a process called "reversion of offerings" to provide the pay for temple officials, each according to their rank. (Who would then trade some fraction of their take for goods and services within their community.)

This sanctified version of gifting, however, is simply an example of what is, fundamentally, a natural process.

It is fundamental to the energy of life that it moves.

On the macroscale: the sun gives its light and heat. That gift is taken in by plants and used. Animals take the energy from the plants, converting some of it back into heat, sustaining themselves. Other animals eat those animals, repeating the process. In the end, the bodies of all animals are consumed by microorganisms and reduced to nutrients and heat, which are then given to the plants as part of the return to the cycle. The energy moves, passed from species to species until it returns to its interrupted journey through space, and the nutrients, similarly, are passed around in a great big circle.

One can think of this as a theft economy, of course, and there is a lot of critique to be made about the way people frame themselves as entitled to these things.

But it is also a process of gifting. Consider those plants who have evolved fruits - a massive investment of energy - so that animals will eat them, which scatters their seeds in the animals' dung - providing those seeds with a distribution network and a tidy package of nutrients to sprout in. Deer breed with the expectation of predation, and in fact in areas in which the big predators have been killed or driven away, the deer suffer horribly, as overpopulation leads to both starvation in the winter and the deaths of the plants that the deer wind up nibbling to death, which of course only aggravates the problem in the long term.

The network of exchange of this energy is a vastly complex one, but it is built on gift and sacrifice. (Recall that sacrifice literally means 'to make holy'.)

Likewise, human lives, not just human food traditions, are built on gift and sacrifice. Every one of us was born from someone who gave us a space to gestate and sacrificed of time, energy, health, nutrients, and other things so that we might live. Our intimate lives are built on gifts and exchanges and compromises, so that we may all have what we need to thrive.

An ancient Egyptian might have presented a gift to another with the phrase "for your ka". The ka being the soul carrying life. Because it is by these gifts that we sustain and encourage this soul to grow and be healthy.