Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Strange Place...

I'm in a bit of a strange place lately.  I have not been feeling well physically.  I've known for a long time that I grind my teeth at night.  In college, my doctor gave me medication to help with the headaches I got from it.  The assumption was that I was under a lot of stress.  I finished school, I was less stressed, and the headaches didn't occur as often.  Over the years I've gone through phases.  Sometimes I'll get headaches every day for a month or two.  Then I won't get any for a while.  I know the teeth grinding is a problem though, because my dentist tells me it has damaged my teeth.  I had to get a crown on one tooth because I'd completely cracked it in half.  Apparently the tooth on the other side of my mouth is cracked and might also require a crown.

I've looked into treatment for bruxism (the official term for teeth grinding).  My dentist recommended an occlusal guard (to wear at night), which costs about $600.  I'll admit it - I'm cheap.  I didn't want to spend $600 on a mouth guard. 

Unfortunately, my headaches started occurring more frequently.  So I stocked up on ibuprofen and basically ate them like candy.  Over the past one to two months I've felt nauseous.  I initially attributed it to medication changes (and certainly some of it was due to that).  When, however, the nausea persisted long after my body should have adjusted to the new medication I started to consider other possible causes.  (I seriously considered the possibility that something in my office was making me sick.  I know it sounds silly, but I moved to a new office around the same time I started feeling bad.  I thought there might be a correlation).  What I eventually realized (purely by accident, when I heard my husband make a comment about needing to eat before taking Tylenol), is that eating ibuprofen like candy was upsetting my stomach.  I'm pretty sure I far exceeded the recommended dose; I guess I didn't realize how often I was taking it.

Anyway, this finally convinced me to do deal with the problem.  Before investing $600, I decided to look online.  I found a company that claims to make mouth guards for dentists.  For $150, they mailed me a kit.  I took impressions of my upper and lower teeth.  I mailed them back.  They should send me a mouth guard in the mail within a few weeks.  I'm crossing my fingers.  If it doesn't work then I will just pay the $600 and go through my dentist.  At this point, it is causing enough misery to be worth whatever I have to pay.

So I'm feeling hopeful about that.  But something is also going on with me emotionally and I'm not quite sure what it is.  I suspect it might be related to switching from one antidepressant to another; the new one just doesn't work the way the old one did.  Thinking back, when I was first treated for depression (back in high school) I tried multiple medications before finding one that worked.  I took that one for several years.  At some point I thought it was making me gain weight.  I started something else and took it for seven or eight years.  At that time, I complained about always feeling exhausted.  My doctor said the particular antidepressant I was on probably made this worse so I switched to another one.  I took this for about five years. 

I switched medications again about three or four months ago.  I've tried to give it a fair chance to work.  I've actually found it difficult to tell if it's "working" or not.  I haven't really been "depressed," my mood has not necessarily been sad or dysphoric, but I definitely don't feel as good on a daily basis as I did with the other medication.  I frequently feel irritable and want to be left alone.  It's like my average mood went from a seven to a five.  I can function at a five but I felt better, could concentrate better, and was more productive at a seven.  I'm grateful it's not worse; I think that's why I haven't asked the doctor to try something else yet. 

Anyway, that's where I am at the moment.  I am hopeful that I'll figure things out.  My new mouth guard should arrive any day now and I'm optimistic about it.  I see my doctor in three weeks; we'll discuss my options and make some changes.  Until then, forgive me if I'm not writing as regularly as I usually do or if my thoughts seem slightly less coherent.  I'm working on it; give me some time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On Vacation!

I just got back from vacation!  My husband, stepdaughter, and I went to Miami for five days.  We'd initially planned to go to Jamaica, but some unexpected setbacks required us to change plans at the last minute. 

I think most would agree that vacations are beneficial.  Time away from work for rest and relaxation is critical for happiness and well being.  Intuitively, we know we feel better after a few days off work; there's also a large body of research demonstrating the benefits of vacation.  People who take regular vacations report higher overall levels of satisfaction with life than those who don't.  Employees returning to work after vacation show increased work engagement and job performance and decreased emotional exhaustion and burnout. 

Unfortunately, the measurable benefits of vacation are short lived.  Study after study finds that work productivity and burnout return to pre-vacation levels within two to four weeks.  This remains true even when people take extended vacations (say, longer than fourteen days); within a month, productivity and burnout are back to pre-vacation levels. 

This suprirsed me.  I am a strong advocate of vacations.  We spend all week pining for the weekend.  We rejoice when we finally reach Friday.  An upcoming vacation has the same effect, only amplified.  We can look forward to a vacation for weeks or even months.  And afterwards...well, some of my best memories are of vacations past.  I cherish those memories.  They never fail to make me smile.

But how do you measure that?  I'm not sure you can.  I think many of the benefits of vacation are not measurable.  As far as science goes, if you can't measure it then it doesn't exist.  But science is not life. Life is full of intangibles that cannot be seen, touched, or measured but that nonetheless enrich our lives and give them meaning.

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