the MIRREN LEE

The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Day 23 ShouldaCouldaWoulda

Posted by themirrenlee on 23/01/2012

Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.

We all look back at decisions we’ve made and wonder, “What was I thinking?”! (I’m telling you, look up the song with this title that Christine Lavin wrote and performs. It’s just hilarious, and so true.)

What we have to remember first – always – is that hindsight is 20/20. What we know now we didn’t know then, so if we had it to do all over again we’d probably do whatever it was exactly the same.

But that doesn’t stop us from beating ourselves up about it, does it? Especially when a different decision would have: saved us pain/gained us money/put us on a better path/helped us fulfill an ambition/improved our health, etc. to infinity.

That happened to me today. I am going to explain it in terms of a health analogy, but those of you who don’t identify with health problems (do you know how lucky you are?!) might want to stay with me here anyway because the analogy applies to anyone who has experienced “What Was I Thinking?” (which would be anyone human).

I have mentioned my Fibromyalgia here, but I haven’t mentioned another health issue I’ve also been battling for several years: my sinuses. I have crippling allergies that affect my nasal passages (as opposed to food ones), such as pollens, dust and so on. I had a deviated septum operation 5 years ago that helped a lot, plus I’m now using a nasal spray called Avamys, which is expensive but so worth it. It stopped my nose sensitivity to the point where I almost forgot I had the allergies. Spring passed and I hardly noticed!

Unfortunately, about 3 years ago I started having the most horrible, chronic post nasal drip (or drowning in mucus, as I call it – I hope you’re not eating). My doctor didn’t know what was causing it, and my only idea was first, that it might be a reaction to some drug I was taking (which seemed strange and unlikely), or second, that the septum had deviated again. (My black humor lobe had me imagining my septum out on the streets, having gone off the rails and deviated into a life of sin and mucus.)

One thing chronic conditions do is lower your ability to fight them because you get so tired and discouraged you believe nothing will help anyway, so why bother. I didn’t ask for a deeper investigation into what was happening. My doctor didn’t offer to do so, either – in retrospect, not like her, but then again she was fighting my health issues on so MANY fronts at the same time that I can’t blame her. I “coulda” taken charge of my own condition and asked for it. Instead, I started suffering through debilitating sinus infections every 3 months or more. That meant constant antibiotics, which as we all know is not a good thing. Not only can regular use stop them from being effective, but many Fibromyalgics have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), as I do, and so they can cause great discomfort intestinally.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. The drainage was so constant and so thick that I found I could only try to sleep in one particular position, or I would start choking. I don’t have many fears or phobias, but choking is one of them. My childhood was filled with severe asthma, and until I was 12 years old – in 1963 – the standard treatment response was, “It’s all in her head; get her to a psychiatrist”, because it was believed to be a mental condition. (Ironically, it sounds a bit like Fibromyalgia!). Hard to believe today, I know, but from 5-11 years old, I had no puffers, no pills, no anything to help open my airways. When my lips started to turn blue, I was given a shot of adrenaline, and then, later, ephedrine. In 1963, my mother discovered one of the first allergy specialists to appear; I was diagnosed with allergy induced asthma, and the desensitizing injections, followed by the invention of Ventolin, started my ability to control the attacks.

Notice I said when I would “try” to sleep, because remember from my other posts that, until last month, I hadn’t been able to sleep for over 5 years. So the sinus issue was an added agony.

Two years ago, after I had moved to Melbourne from Sydney and was seeing another doctor, he suggested a CAT scan, which showed what I was told were maxillary cysts in both sinus cavities, and the septum back to its nasty deviated ways. I was told I would need surgery to fix it, which I couldn’t afford. We have free medical care in Australia, but with conditions. One is that if it’s not emergency surgery, a person has to go on a waiting list to go through a hospital clinic. This can take years. So a year ago, I went on the list, and finally got an appointment for this February 3rd.

All the time, I’m thinking, “Why didn’t I push for a CAT scan earlier? What was I thinking?” The question I shoulda asked myself is, “Why in hell didn’t I go straight to an ENT specialist about this from the beginning?”

I had been given a list of ENT specialists to ask if they would “bulk bill” me – another option we have here, if the doctor chooses to participate. They can bill the government instead of the patient, but usually don’t get what their regular fee is, so, as a result, many refuse to participate. This is especially true with specialists, which, of course, is what I needed. I was so discouraged by it all that I talked myself into believing that ringing anyone on the list was useless.

Ah, but here we are at the start of my Third Act, my Fresh New Journey, the 2012 New Year that I am determined will see me get my life back. So I decided to stop being so negative and called the first doctor on the list. “Yes, no problem, we can bulk bill you.”

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda. Boy, did I feel stupid. And grateful.

I saw him today. Guess what? I was unfair to my poor septum – it hasn’t become a deviant at all. It’s still as straight and strong as it was right after the operation. There are no cysts – just a slight thickening of my sinus walls. I … don’t … need … surgery. Even what I thought was sinus discomfort on the left side of my face is simply my usual TMJ problems (temporomandibular joint, or jaw hinge) from the Fibromyalgia, exacerbated by teeth clenching with the constant pain.

So what in hell was with all the mucus? Well, it seems that the average person produces and swallows about a litre (just over 4 cups) of what is technically called “catarrh” a day (that’s a pretty disgusting thought, isn’t it?). I am just producing tons more, and it is simply AN IRRIGATION ISSUE! A simple, clean-out-my-sinuses-with-a-special-liquid-twice-a-day issue with a simple, albeit not very pleasant, solution. Why do I produce more? Who knows? The doctor didn’t really venture an opinion, but it’s probably connected to my hyper sensitive sinuses that caused me to live on antihistamines before I discovered Avamys (and yes, I’ve tried every spray on the market – this one is a winner). I “shoulda” been cleansing my sinuses years ago. Maybe I “woulda” if I hadn’t felt so sick and discouraged. But I “coulda” if I had done what I talk about in my post “Reasons vs. Excuses”: stopped making excuses and calling them reasons.

Now comes the part for everyone:

I don’t need to beat myself up about it. You don’t need to beat yourself up about “WouldaShouldaCoulda”s that you’ve done. (And everyone has done them. It’s part of being human.) As I said, we all probably would have made the same decisions again if we had the chance for do-overs, because we can only act on the information we have/the way we’re feeling at the time.

I have been very determined, persistent, creative and courageous in my health battles. However, I have also made numerous mistakes – ones that have caused outcomes that didn’t help me. I am going to be more vigilant from now on about not doing that. No matter how tired, discouraged, sick, stressed or depressed I feel, I am going to keep searching/asking questions until I get the answers that satisfy me. Otherwise, I have no one to blame but myself if I find I’m not making measurable progress in reasonable time towards what I want.

Now apply the above paragraph to life in general, substituting “life” for “health battles”. It’s a pretty good affirmation to repeat to yourself, isn’t it?

The important lesson here is: to learn the lesson. And that lesson is to examine exactly WHY we made the decisions we did, so that maybe in the future we won’t make the same mistakes, which is very tedious. (It’s much more interesting to make new mistakes.)

Of course, I cancelled the clinic appointment. What a wonderful feeling to say, “I don’t need it, thank you.”

Will the treatment work? I’ll let you know. But I’m convinced it will because of what Judge Judy says: “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.” Since this makes sense, and Judy is never wrong, I’m sure I’ve found the answer!

It’ll also work because it feels right. It feels like part of this whole journey of new health solutions that started this year for me. I hope with all my heart that anyone else out there who needs this boost is getting it.

Just don’t be passive about your journey in life. Say “ShouldaCouldaWoulda” as little as humanly possible.

Now, excuse me, I have some sinuses to clean.

I’m just irrigatin’ …

2 Responses to “Day 23 ShouldaCouldaWoulda”

  1. Peter O'Brien said

    Dear Mirren
    I have had a lifelong problem something like yours. However, I’ve never used Avamys. A few years ago, an ENT specialist called Dr. Marti, at the Eye and Ear Hospital, suggested to me that the prepared, commercially sold, sprays were a rip-off, and that you could do the same job with one quarter of a teaspoon of ordinary household salt dissolved in one cup (250ml) of warm water. You could put this slightly saline warm water into a spray bottle, I suppose, but I just make a little cup with the fingers of one hand and snort it, and then blow it out, one nostril at a time. I do this over a large laundry sink.
    I find it advantageous, once I feel that the sinuses are clean, to lean my head forward and down for a count of thirty, so that any water remaining in my sinuses drains into the upper part of the sinuses and then out into the sink once I return my head to slightly above a horizontal position. (Otherwise, one can find a small stream of water emerging from one’s nose some hours later at the most inconvenient possible moment!).
    It remains to flush the muck in the sink down the drain, blow one’s nose thoroughly, and wash one’s hands. Job done.
    On a very different point from this same posting; ‘Judge Judy says: “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.”’ Oh, Really? “Sense” in this context will be “common sense”, which is the communal sense. The communal sense is contingent on communal experience, which is, in the first instance, dependent on the limits of human senses, and in the second instance is, we could say, ‘conditioned’ by common expectation (mostly, we see what we expect to see). But the universe doesn’t care about human expectations or the limits of human senses. The universe is deeply “counter-intuitive”; paradoxically, we have invented a set of conceptual tools that has achieved astonishing success in describing the universe at all scales; this set of tools is called mathematics. However, most people, on hearing the word mathematics, want to run and hide; that is, the communal sense embraces a very widespread bias, one could even say bigotry, against the most successful analytical tools yet devised. The great biologist J. B. S. Haldane once remarked, “The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine”. Indeed, but as Haldane would have been among the first to agree, the limits of our imagination expand as our knowledge expands, and our knowledge expands through the application of analytical tools (mathematics foremost among them) to evidence.
    See what sort of replies you get when you start talking about the nature of truth…
    All the best
    Peter O’B.

    “I’ll take the awe of knowledge over the awe of ignorance any day!”;
    the late Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

    • How lovely to get a well thought out comment to a post I’ve written. I appreciate the effort you made to write down such a detailed response.
      Let me talk about Judge Judy first. Maybe I should have put an LOL or a winking face when I used her quote, but they have become so twee with overuse I just couldn’t bear it. I was hoping that by just seeing her name readers would take my reference in a humorous, ironic way. I mean, using right wing, self important Judge Judy as an example of wisdom is like using Sarah Palin as an example of intelligence! Judy is amusing, but her statements suffer from their very didactic dogmatism. Of course her statement isn’t true, it’s just that it has a kernel of truth in it, and it sounds good! However, in reality, there are endless examples of things that don’t make sense that are, in fact,true. It doesn’t make sense that people hate each other based on their race, creed or color, for instance, but unfortunately it’s true.

      Douglas Adams is one of my favorite writers and thinkers, and that quote is one I think of often when reading the news!

      As for my sinuses, I always like to share health experiences, so thank you. However, your case sounds a bit different from mine. The doctor you mention is wrong if he thinks that sprays don’t work for those of us who need a topical barrier against allergens, particularly pollens. Irrigation is different from prevention. I’ve tried every spray over the years as they’ve come along, because they cut down on the need for constant antihistamines, and each one has been better than the one before. Avamys is now the gold standard for protection, and I haven’t needed antihistamines at all as long as I use it every day. Quite incredible. (Sometimes eye drops are needed for irritation, but nasal sprays can’t help that.) For some, antihistamines are fine – for me, they’re always a soporific, so I am very grateful not to need them now.

      Even my nasal irrigation issues are different from yours. I’ve tried the salt solution, as well as every commercial one. Unfortunately, I am so sensitive that everything caused stinging and discomfort so I gave up. Thankfully, the doctor got me to try the “Sinus Care” version of the Flo Sinus series of solutions, and it’s been fine. However, I find the irrigation process borderline painful and nothing is coming out except the solution! I am now getting frontal headaches, and the post nasal drip is no better. So I may have another underlying issue that needs looking at. The good news is that I now have an ENT specialist in Melbourne, and a visit to him again may be in my future if I don’t improve in a couple of weeks. What you are describing is what I want to achieve!

      Again, thank you for your comments. I’m always happening to hear other people’s perspectives/views/opinions/information. It’s all input, and all input is good, as far as I’m concerned.

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