When Signals No Longer Carry Their Old Meaning


It’s funny how signals you’ve recognized over a lifetime can sometimes morph on you and the signal no longer means what it used to mean — or that it no longer means to YOU what it means to others. This has been brought to my conscious thought by our most recent visit to the doctor.

Like a lot of people, one of the meds I take is a water pill — the doc wants my body not to retain water.  But because of the precise nature of my heart ailment he also wants me to drink a lot, stay hydrated, and avoid caffeine (which is a diuretic). So, we have multiple goals regarding hydration and my body and among others I’m trying to learn that the sensation I have always “felt” which meant to me I wanted another cup of “joe” now is no longer allowed to communicate to me the same meaning.  I have to find some alternative meaning for that “longing” that all caffeine lovers know so well.

pile of pillsA second example of signals no longer carrying their old meaning relates to another cardiac medication one of the major side-effects of which is feelings of extreme tiredness.  While I have spoken in recent weeks about my feeling relaxed and also about waiting for a new sense of direction I would be foolish to think that some part of those sensations are nothing more than medication induced lethargy.

It appears that this particular sensation is one that I’m not likely to feel any relief from in the near future.  Turns out one of my most recent tests suggests I need a higher rather than a lower dosage — so feeling tired all the time is going to be a more common experience than I might like it to be.  Of course the alternative is undesirable:  going off the meds puts me at a huge risk of sudden cardiac death — not to be envied at all.  So, I do my best to adjust.

ADJUST…

package-of-medicine-pills-for-better-healthmedicinepills-and-capsules-in-aluminum-container-on-wooden-tablemany-various-pills-lying-on-the-tablepile-of-drugs-closeup_byphbhr__S0000It’s a word that’s never been a huge part of my life.  I suspect it will become more a part of my life as I age.  In my youth I visited a goodly number of “old folks” in hospital, at home, etc..  I was conscious of the fact that waiting and adjusting had become a big part of their lives; because many of the folks I visited were — at those occasions — not their previous selves at all.  Age, or strokes, or blindness, or broken bones, or any number of other infirmities had robbed them of some of their mobility, much of their independence, and a terrifying degree of independence.  The thing is, that for many of us, barring the undesirable event of dying young, we will face much the same circumstances at some point in life.

My personal “problems” are really nothing to complain about.  Oh, I talk about these things, but it’s not because I’m upset about it — these are normal experiences at this time of life and I’m quite fortunate to have as few of them as I do; to have excellent medical care; and to have a partner who is at my side and who is part of my mutual support system.  Life could be a WHOLE lot worse!

But that doesn’t mean that the adjustments along the way come 1.) naturally, 2.) easily, or 3.) quickly.  A lifetime of living ingrains certain behaviors.  Habits develop strong roots and little things like the signals we have set for ourselves generate automatic responses that now — in later life — have to be curbed or completely abandoned.  We have to be thinking about them to even recognize that we are doing certain things. Or we have to be made aware of them by others who see our behavior and recognize in it something worthy of note.

Like a great many people I take a statin for cholesterol.  You may have noticed in the news over the past couple years that there are concerns that link memory loss to statin ingestion.  One is tempted to inquire which is worse, too much cholesterol or a crummy memory.  I realize that little things that I used to pride myself on remembering aren’t always at my fingertips; so far I’m not concerned enough to take myself off the medication and I don’t know if doing so would return any of what has been lost or not.  For the time being I’m content to go along.

For all of us, aging is a great unknown.  We don’t fall prey to the same illnesses.  We aren’t all equally able to deal with whatever illnesses we fall prey to. There’s no guarantee for tomorrow, or even 5 minutes from now — but we could any of us be here 20 years from now — medicine and science have progressed that far.

It’s impossible to explain to your children, or sometimes to even explain it to your contemporaries — just what you’re feeling.  I for one feel a fool every time I visit my heart specialist.  I was diagnosed with my condition when I was asymptomatic.  I didn’t display any of the symptoms that people with my condition are “supposed” to show.  I’m still pretty much asymptomatic.  So when the doc asks me how I’m feeling I feel foolish saying that aside from feeling tired all the time (which he warned me was one of the side effects of my meds) that I feel fine.  So, what am I doing there — other than going in for a 6 month monitoring session. It FEELS ridiculous!  But it isn’t.

I don’t know how other folks deal with these things.  I only know that it’s a challenge but that I could be challeneged a lot more and a lot more seriously, so I just shrug my shoulders and turn over the calendar page and go on living.  Each day is precious, always has been, always will be.

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4 thoughts on “When Signals No Longer Carry Their Old Meaning

  1. Being a nurse I never thought too much about adjusting – until I it became my problem as I grew older. The Myasthenia makes doing simple chores difficult. I tire easily and get short of breath. I joke about how I never realized growing old would be so much work. I’ll be 70 in a few months, but mentally feel like I’m 45. I’m on 6 medications, 2 of which are for BP. Thanks for your thoughts. It gave me a bit of support that I needed.

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    1. You know, there’s that old saying that “Old Age isn’t for sissies” and there’s a lot of truth to that.

      But, the options to getting older aren’t all that desirable, are they? No one wants to die young!

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  2. Peter, I am sorry you are going through this. My husband is experiencing similar issues, especially the fatigue. He has found that getting some exercise, however short, is helpful. The hardest part for him is just getting out the door! It is a battle every day. He would much prefer to just be in a chair reading or on his computer. Hang in there!

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    1. Liz, I’m pretty well indoctrinated into the “use it or lose it” frame of mind so we do make a point at getting out and getting at least some exercise a few times a week. As for the rest of it, it’s life. What I have is much less of a headache than what a great many people suffer with. And I have outlived numerous of my contemporaries already so even if something were to happen now I have no regrets. I have lived a happy and full life — what more can a person ask for? I’m not in any hurry to shuffle off this mortal coil, but I suspect I don’t get an actual “vote” on how that works out. 🙂

      Peg is good about encouraging me, and I trade off and encourage her too. Between the two of us we do the best we can. Anything else is up to someone other than us.

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