Cutting the rave short to post!

Today some of my Twitter friends seemed to be getting very concerned about what has happened and what may be happening soon, to the Australian health system. I am a little worried about progress on mental health care, but not convinced that the government can force much privatisation on the populace.

First, several Tweeps were convinced that the article by Mark Metherell in The Age newspaper http://m.theage.com.au/national/health-group-lures-private-patients-from-public-system-20111104-1n04h.html
Health group lures private patients from public system, meant that the government was quietly divesting itself of publicly-funded healthcare and “forcing” people to buy into the private system. The article also implies that the private hospitals will “lure away” people who need particular types of care by demonstrating a better record on several health measures, eg. rates of hospital-acquired infections, higher recovery rates from some surgery etc. As I read it, there ARE some advantages to private hospital care for some conditions, but ONLY for younger, less complex cases. Public hospitals take the sickest people and are often willing to risk complications in the hope of saving a life that others might not see as worth the extra investment of time and effort.

On the other hand, hospitals already co-operate in the use of resources and specialists. For instance, when my partner needed an emergency operation to have his gall bladder removed, the health system did lots of juggling between different surgeons and hospitals so that he could be operated as soon as possible.The public hospital that gave him 24 hours of doctors, nurses, drugs & accommodation didn’t charge him a cent for this care! Meanwhile they rushed him by ambulance to a private hospital where the surgeon got theatre time, operated swiftly, and only had one extra day there.
If he had been able to stay in the public hospital and have the same surgeon operate under his “public hat”, then he wouldn’t have paid a cent for anything.

This sort of cooperation is the norm.

At a public training hospital...

NONE OF THIS WILL CHANGE for publicly funded patients under the health reform arrangements in Australia. If you need care, you will get it as quickly as possible and necessary. For people who HAVE PRIVATE EXTRA INSURANCE [only NECESSARY if your income is over $140 000 for a family, or you pay an extra 0.5% tax], the government will require them to USE it if hospitalised in the public system. Previously you only had to claim on it if you used extra private services while in the public hospital. Soon people will have to draw on it when it’s available. That’s all.

Day 31 NaBloPoMo: Last I’ll ever see of 2010- gotta let go!

There’s one habit that’s easy to give up- the previous year, meaning it’s written date. You just get used to writing it after dickering about for 3 months with 2009, relax for 9 months and then it’s time to change again! Why aren’t other habits so easy to break?

Scratching!

I think I’m well on my way to trichotillomania right now as I can’t seem to stop scratching my head! I got sunburnt about 6 weeks ago on the top of my head, making it itch and peel in tiny dandruffy flakes. Then it got burned again about 2 weeks later- and now I keep lightly scratching it. Lots of people have the “head-scratch” habit and I know mine isn’t too bad, because I scratch or rub so lightly it is a pleasant sort of tickle. Others scratch until scabs form and they scratch those off- ouchhh!!!

How to break habits, hmm…? [she says, scratching her head] Well, having a background in that sort of thing, I’d tell myself to first make doing the habit thing very noticeable. Now that wouldn’t be by scratching harder, because that would just make my scalp a gory mess! What I need to do is make the movement of my left hand up to do the scratching much more noticeable (so I say to my self “you daft bugga, that looks ridiculous, don’t do it!”). So maybe I will put a big awkward bangle or bunch of little jingle bells on my wrist?? Or maybe there is something else I can do to break the habit?

Perhaps I should force myself to type on the lappy with my left hand, so it’s occupied? That sounds good!

He hasn't got much to scratch!

OK- maybe I’ll get sick of that. I need some alternatives for when I’m off the laptop (that can’t be a lot of the day, can it??). If I’m reading a book, perhaps I should hold it with my left hand? Maybe that would work- I’ll trial it. What about when I’m in the car waiting at the lights? Hmm…can’t really do anything that would interfere with driving- I’m outta clues on that one- any help out there, guys? I think I could safely keep my drink in my left hand when hanging about with friends, but I should wear a bangle to remind me of that one. Would there be any other occasion when I’d be filling my attention with the scratching? I know I should have a few more alternatiives. Meanwhile I’ll get on with the stuff I’ve listed and maybe that will take away the habit in all the other settings just by generalising- but I wouldn’t rely on it.

It’s now 40 years since I applied this strategy to breaking a habit for the first time! I hadn’t even studied psychology at the time, but a psychologist showed me how to do it without the fancy language. And it worked!

I was getting panic attacks while I was waiting for my school matriculation results- I think we finished exams at the end of October and we had to wait until the first week in January to receive the results in the mail. I had such a build-up of free-floating anxiety that it started to break through in all sorts of situations, much to my great alarm! I thought I was having a heart attack, my heart beat so fast! Anyway, I must have started to associate it with being in situations where I felt I couldn’t get away without making a huge “scene” because I started to panic at crowded swimming pools and beaches, in lifts and large rooms I hadn’t been inside before. I even started to panic in stairwells when there were other people going up and down- thinking I might trip and fall! When I went to enrol at university, I started to panic if I didn’t sit on the end of a row in lecture theatres- I was getting into a terrible lather!

So I trotted off to see the university counsellor. It was sooo simple- he taught me progressive relaxation, so I knew how great it was to feel relaxed. Then he started walking around the campus with me to places where I might have panicked- stairwells, banks, cafes, lifts and empty lecture theatres. He got me to describe how I felt and what I thought I would do in these situations. Then he’d get me to recall the feeling of relaxation and concentrate on getting that. As I was like everyone else who learns to panic inappropriately, naturally I found it very difficult to relax when I wanted to just hop into the Tardis and disappear! The alternative he taught me was to just go with the panic and make myself stay instead of walking out. We agreed that the feelings of panic were just physical things happening in my body and that they weren’t signs of a terrible illness- they were just feelings. Therefore it was OK if my heart wanted to go at a million miles an hour for a while, or if I hyperventilated or I broke out in a huge sweat- it would eventually stop and I’d be back to normal again, relaxing with the learned technique.

To cut a long story short, I mainly relied on “staying with it”. After all, I wasn’t going to run out of my first lectures and miss everything! What a waste of waiting for those fantastic results I achieved, getting me into med school at the top of the list! I was on the road to my dreams! So I stayed in those lifts and stairwells and lecture theatres and I let my stupid heart race, my palms sweat and my lungs over-exert themselves. I told them to behave themselves and stop bothering me. I told them they couldn’t hurt me; I was far too tough! And it worked. In a few weeks I had pretty good control, although I still hated the racing heart effect, but after 3 months I “suddenly” found that all the panics had gone away! What a relief- plus it gave me a feeling of victory over the automatic but inconvenient ¬†things my brain told my body to do on the basis of rumour!

Since that time I have been able to remain calm in most unexpected situations. When shit happens- eg. the photocopier catches fire or someone collapses, I just barge in and deal with it. I don’t hang about waiting to see how I feel about the situation- my feelings don’t matter to a fire or a person who has keeled over- I JUST DO IT!

So- I have to apply this knowledge to my head scratching behaviour. I may hit some obstacles when I try, but I know how to put extra strategies in place to overcome those. Right after this blog post, I will put something very noticeable on my left wrist and go for it!!

Pity I hadn’t learnt how to START a new GOOD habit all that time ago- I’m still struggling with myself about starting a regular exercise program. I’ve started and “failed” many times and I’m at a loss on what strategy to try next, except have someone else hold me accountable. But that involves a whole public health program, so it’s a little way off just yet! LOL!

NB. I am NOT a professional. There is some professional advice here.

Day 20 NaBloPoMo:

Lately several people I know have had migraines. One friend used to get them a lot, but now only occasionally, while the other gets them rarely and unpredictably. I used to get terrible migraines from the age of 10 to 34, but none since then, and boy am I pleased!

 

Apparently almost 30 million Americans suffer migraines each year with a similar prevalence in Australia. Here are some statistics about  migraine in Australia from Headache Australia:

  • up to three million migraine sufferers (10% – 15%  pop June 2001, 19.387m, ABS)
  • prevalence of migraine increases from 12 years to about 40 years and declines thereafter in both sexes
  • 23% of households contain at least one migraine sufferer
  • up to seven million tension-type headache sufferers (36% for men and 42% for women)
  • nearly all migraine sufferers and 60% of those with tension-type headache experience reductions in social activities and work capacity
  • the direct and indirect costs of migraine alone would be about $1 billion pa.

My partner used to say he was having migraines, but his descriptions sounded more like tension headaches and cluster headache. Many people describe any headache where they need to take a painkiller as a “migraine” without realising the distinctly weird aspects to a migraine-type headache. From my own experiences contrasting “ordinary” headaches with migraines, the “ordinary” headaches usually lasted up to a maximum of one day, they eventually went away with no treatment, or a lie-down or a few aspirin or paracetamol tablets. The paracetamol would even cure severe headaches with a large enough dose over 24 hours and I never felt any after effects or “hangover” from those headaches.

 

My migraines usually came on fairly quickly, whereas ordinary headaches sometimes built up to a peak over many hours. The migraines often had no discernible “trigger” that I could attribute them to, except the ones that came after a long period of tension- like the end of school exams or after a series of concerts I played in. As a teen and in my twenties I often got a migraine right at the end of my periods, which I used to call a “progesterone deprivation” headache, for want of any medical classification! Other people used to get awful migraines before their periods and accompanied by what’s now known as PMS- puffy tummy, maybe swollen ankles, short temper, a bit of misery/anxiety and a bigger than usual appetite, especially for sweets and chips. I’m sure a few bulimics are born through these experiences!

 

It’s difficult to convey the exact feeling of migraine to people who have never had one- but there is a lot more to the migraine than just a bad headache. The videos on this site present some real migraine sufferers telling their stories- people like any you might meet. My migraines were fairly classic- I would feel vaguely “dull” in the head, as though I had been in a rough pillow fight (LOL) and I would get surges and lulls in my hearing ability- some sounds would seem so clear and loud they would hurt- I would wince away from people who were probably talking quite normally. I still have a sensitive ear which I can’t let loud-voiced people sit next to when I’m in that mood, although I don’t get headaches from it. The ear seems to vibrate too much to the point where the eardrum jitters by itself and makes a little buzzing I can hear, feeling as though a mosquito is trapped in my inner ear, tickling the ear drum or hammer 7 stirrups bones.

 

The really classic part of my migraines were the auras- the feeling of impending something or other (not exactly “doom”) but a slightly anxious, waiting, feeling, accompanied by weird visual effects. I usually got blind spots or black spots, sometimes stationary, sometimes moving. The flashes and splotches usually had bright colours around the edges- classic psychedelic pinks, purples and greens with white light and black. At least twice I had huge blind spots that just would not shift- for one my doctor got the neurologist and ophthalmologist out on a Sunday as he thought I might be having a stroke- but I had no other symptoms. This nasty one occurred when I was rehearsing for a concert- I was meant to be accompanying two friends for their music practical exams in a few weeks. The huge blind spot made it impossible for me to see more than a third of the sheet music- I couldn’t keep moving my head or the page as I was fully occupied playing the clarinet! This attack was eventually cured after 48 hours with some ergotamine and codeine tablets.

 

Occasionally I would get numb spots on my body with bad migraines and rarely I would become slightly paralysed in my left leg or arm- only once, with my very last migraine, I had a little trouble walking. Some people get quite paralytic migraines- that would not be my idea of fun!

 

As a kid, when my migraines started, the headaches were dismissed as either malingering or as not very severe “because children don’t get bad headaches”- from mum, the neighbour or the doctor. Kids don’t have much credibility with either headaches or stomach aches- people think they don’t want to go to school and don’t take any notice. At least these days kids are believed with migraines, but I bet it isn’t as easy to convince their mothers! Because no one took my migraines seriously until I was about 16, some of them would last more than a week- I was given an aspirin or two if we had them in the house. When I was 16 my mum started getting migraines and then she realised I might not be faking it- as she suddenly got all these weird flashing lights and stuff, just as I was complaining of! It’s funny that mum’s best friend from work suffered dreadful migraines and had to self administer injections and lay low for a few days, because hers were marked by terrible nausea and vomiting- yee-ouch- I would not like to throw up while having a migraine headache. It would feel as though your brain was disintegrating!! Anyway, circumstances demanded that my migraines should be treated as vigorously as my mum’s and we were both given a supply of ergotamine tablets to take when necessary. Neither of us had the vomiting bit, although mum had nausea with hers. The tablets worked like magic for me- all the aches and flashing lights would disappear within two hours- excellent!

My migraines ceased completely and suddenly when I was 34, and just as suddenly, the depression that had been teasing me for many years came on full blast and would not go away. I asked my shrink boss to refer me to a shrink colleague and started on the road to getting it fixed- continuing journey unfortunately broken by long relapses. I’ll tell you what though- there is NO WAY I could have migraine and depression at the same time- it would be curtains. Absolutely incompatible with life as I’ve known it!

 

Medical researchers have discovered that people with migraine are much more likely to have a stroke (brain blood vessel bursting or blocking) than non-migraineurs – not surprising to me, considering what migraines feel like! I’m sure hypochondriaics with migraine are terrible doctor-shoppers, trying to convince someone they are having a stroke RIGHT NOW. I would have believed them if I hadn’t had migraines and emerged unscathed.

 

A  friend of mine when I was lecturing at uni had a stroke during a migraine, while she was driving home for lunch one day. She didn’t stop, but felt really odd, the headache became very intense and she sweated like mad and found it suddenly difficult to steer, However, she went home, ate some lunch and returned to work. When she came into the near-empty lunch room everyone there realised there was something wrong with her- she was rather giggly- though normally rather a serious and straightlaced person, she had trouble talking and couldn’t find the right words to say. Someone took this very seriously and packed her off in an ambulance- she came back to work six weeks later, quite well, but with a rather different personality! I liked her a lot better after her stroke! She has never had another stroke and is living a quiet retirement.

 

So, any migraine sufferers in BloggoLand? Anyone like me who had them and now doesn’t?

Day 20 NaBloPoMo: No more migraine for me

Lately several people I know have had migraines. One friend used to get them a lot, but now only occasionally, while the other gets them rarely and unpredictably. I used to get terrible migraines from the age of 10 to 34, but none since then, and boy am I pleased!

 

Apparently almost 30 million Americans suffer migraines each year with a similar prevalence in Australia. Here are some statistics about  migraine in Australia from Headache Australia:

  • up to three million migraine sufferers (10% – 15%  pop June 2001, 19.387m, ABS)
  • prevalence of migraine increases from 12 years to about 40 years and declines thereafter in both sexes
  • 23% of households contain at least one migraine sufferer
  • up to seven million tension-type headache sufferers (36% for men and 42% for women)
  • nearly all migraine sufferers and 60% of those with tension-type headache experience reductions in social activities and work capacity
  • the direct and indirect costs of migraine alone would be about $1 billion pa.

My partner used to say he was having migraines, but his descriptions sounded more like tension headaches and cluster headache. Many people describe any headache where they need to take a painkiller as a “migraine” without realising the distinctly weird aspects to a migraine-type headache. From my own experiences contrasting “ordinary” headaches with migraines, the “ordinary” headaches usually lasted up to a maximum of one day, they eventually went away with no treatment, or a lie-down or a few aspirin or paracetamol tablets. The paracetamol would even cure severe headaches with a large enough dose over 24 hours and I never felt any after effects or “hangover” from those headaches.

 

My migraines usually came on fairly quickly, whereas ordinary headaches sometimes built up to a peak over many hours. The migraines often had no discernible “trigger” that I could attribute them to, except the ones that came after a long period of tension- like the end of school exams or after a series of concerts I played in. As a teen and in my twenties I often got a migraine right at the end of my periods, which I used to call a “progesterone deprivation” headache, for want of any medical classification! Other people used to get awful migraines before their periods and accompanied by what’s now known as PMS- puffy tummy, maybe swollen ankles, short temper, a bit of misery/anxiety and a bigger than usual appetite, especially for sweets and chips. I’m sure a few bulimics are born through these experiences!

 

It’s difficult to convey the exact feeling of migraine to people who have never had one- but there is a lot more to the migraine than just a bad headache. The videos on this site present some real migraine sufferers telling their stories- people like any you might meet. My migraines were fairly classic- I would feel vaguely “dull” in the head, as though I had been in a rough pillow fight (LOL) and I would get surges and lulls in my hearing ability- some sounds would seem so clear and loud they would hurt- I would wince away from people who were probably talking quite normally. I still have a sensitive ear which I can’t let loud-voiced people sit next to when I’m in that mood, although I don’t get headaches from it. The ear seems to vibrate too much to the point where the eardrum jitters by itself and makes a little buzzing I can hear, feeling as though a mosquito is trapped in my inner ear, tickling the ear drum or hammer 7 stirrups bones.

 

The really classic part of my migraines were the auras- the feeling of impending something or other (not exactly “doom”) but a slightly anxious, waiting, feeling, accompanied by weird visual effects. I usually got blind spots or black spots, sometimes stationary, sometimes moving. The flashes and splotches usually had bright colours around the edges- classic psychedelic pinks, purples and greens with white light and black. At least twice I had huge blind spots that just would not shift- for one my doctor got the neurologist and ophthalmologist out on a Sunday as he thought I might be having a stroke- but I had no other symptoms. This nasty one occurred when I was rehearsing for a concert- I was meant to be accompanying two friends for their music practical exams in a few weeks. The huge blind spot made it impossible for me to see more than a third of the sheet music- I couldn’t keep moving my head or the page as I was fully occupied playing the clarinet! This attack was eventually cured after 48 hours with some ergotamine and codeine tablets.

 

Occasionally I would get numb spots on my body with bad migraines and rarely I would become slightly paralysed in my left leg or arm- only once, with my very last migraine, I had a little trouble walking. Some people get quite paralytic migraines- that would not be my idea of fun!

 

As a kid, when my migraines started, the headaches were dismissed as either malingering or as not very severe “because children don’t get bad headaches”- from mum, the neighbour or the doctor. Kids don’t have much credibility with either headaches or stomach aches- people think they don’t want to go to school and don’t take any notice. At least these days kids are believed with migraines, but I bet it isn’t as easy to convince their mothers! Because no one took my migraines seriously until I was about 16, some of them would last more than a week- I was given an aspirin or two if we had them in the house. When I was 16 my mum started getting migraines and then she realised I might not be faking it- as she suddenly got all these weird flashing lights and stuff, just as I was complaining of! It’s funny that mum’s best friend from work suffered dreadful migraines and had to self administer injections and lay low for a few days, because hers were marked by terrible nausea and vomiting- yee-ouch- I would not like to throw up while having a migraine headache. It would feel as though your brain was disintegrating!! Anyway, circumstances demanded that my migraines should be treated as vigorously as my mum’s and we were both given a supply of ergotamine tablets to take when necessary. Neither of us had the vomiting bit, although mum had nausea with hers. The tablets worked like magic for me- all the aches and flashing lights would disappear within two hours- excellent!

My migraines ceased completely and suddenly when I was 34, and just as suddenly, the depression that had been teasing me for many years came on full blast and would not go away. I asked my shrink boss to refer me to a shrink colleague and started on the road to getting it fixed- continuing journey unfortunately broken by long relapses. I’ll tell you what though- there is NO WAY I could have migraine and depression at the same time- it would be curtains. Absolutely incompatible with life as I’ve known it!

 

Medical researchers have discovered that people with migraine are much more likely to have a stroke (brain blood vessel bursting or blocking) than non-migraineurs – not surprising to me, considering what migraines feel like! I’m sure hypochondriaics with migraine are terrible doctor-shoppers, trying to convince someone they are having a stroke RIGHT NOW. I would have believed them if I hadn’t had migraines and emerged unscathed.

 

A  friend of mine when I was lecturing at uni had a stroke during a migraine, while she was driving home for lunch one day. She didn’t stop, but felt really odd, the headache became very intense and she sweated like mad and found it suddenly difficult to steer, However, she went home, ate some lunch and returned to work. When she came into the near-empty lunch room everyone there realised there was something wrong with her- she was rather giggly- though normally rather a serious and straightlaced person, she had trouble talking and couldn’t find the right words to say. Someone took this very seriously and packed her off in an ambulance- she came back to work six weeks later, quite well, but with a rather different personality! I liked her a lot better after her stroke! She has never had another stroke and is living a quiet retirement.

 

So, any migraine sufferers in BloggoLand? Anyone like me who had them and now doesn’t?