R is for Relax Harder

I had a hard time finishing this post about getting dogs to relax, because Mia kept whining and trying to climb onto my lap. Think she’s trying to tell me something?

The idea of relaxing harder used to be kind of a theme in my life. I suffered from TMJ and headaches, and the medical professionals insinuated that these were stress-related ailments. My recovery would come when I relaxed harder.

Then I had an anxious dog, and I realized how alike we were. Could I have caused her anxiety? Was my inability to relax contagious? Or just a coincidence?

My TMJ got better, not because I learned to relax, but because I had Craniosacral Therapy that involved having a dude massage inside my mouth. In a general sense, I feel like I am more relaxed than I used to be. Certainly I’m more relaxed than I was during the seven months we lived with two dogs who couldn’t be in the same room together.

Outside of my house, though, there seems to be an epidemic of nervous and fearful dogs.

Among the possible treatments, which include Tellington Touch, ThunderShirts, ThunderCaps (just wait until T day in the A to Z Challenge), and anti-anxiety meds, is Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol.

The Relaxation Protocol conditions a relaxed response by rewarding a dog for sitting or lying calmly for various lengths of time in the presence of various stimuli.

Paws Abilities explains it well here.

Rubicon Days also writes about it in this post and that post.

I wish there were something I could do to help shelter dogs relax harder. In the short time I’ve been volunteering, I’ve seen anxiety escalate alarmingly in a couple of dogs. One started grabbing the harness out of my hand before I put it on him, and shaking it violently. He also grabbed my hands and wrists with his mouth; definitely not behavior that is going to get a dog adopted.

Another dog who was fairly timid when I first started walking him also has started grabbing my hands. A fellow volunteer gaped at me trying to extricate my wrists from his mouth, her eyes wide like she was witnessing a murder. Like she’s never seen a spazzy dog before. He actually mouthed me kind of gently; Leo used to leave marks when he did that as a puppy. Still, the behavior can’t continue. My strategy is to turn my back and cross my arms until he calms down, but it’s not like I have all day. Maybe I can reach in with lightning speed, clip the leash to his collar and then step on it, so he can’t jump up.

As a volunteer, I take these dogs for walks and play with them outside, which I hope enriches their lives with a little stimulation and exercise. I wish I had enough time that I could also massage their ears and jaws, and do Tellington Touch body work. I wish I could hang out with each of them every day and work through the Relaxation Protocol.

While I’m throwing out wishes, I might as well wish for them all to have loving homes, or at least foster homes while they wait. Living for an extended period in a kennel is too stressful.

R is for Relax Harder


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Three fingers and counting

You wouldn’t think it possible to doze off with a man’s hand in your mouth, would you? And yet, during my most recent craniosacral session, I’m pretty sure I snored while my therapist’s gloved fingers were massaging my temporomandibular joint from the inside.

In 2011, when I tried to treat my TMJ with acupuncture for the third time, my acupuncturist asked me how many fingers I could put in mouth. I could barely get my teeth around two. Go ahead, stick your fingers between your upper and lower teeth to see just how limiting that is. I had trouble biting into a sandwich.

When I participated in a TMJ followup study in June, I needed to hold my mouth open during a portion of the MRI, but the little spacer device wouldn’t fit between my teeth, so they had to make a special one by rubberbanding a stack of tongue depressors together.

So it is with great pride I tell you that after nine craniosacral treatments, I can now fit THREE fingers in my mouth, with a little room to spare.

My craniosacral guy said not many people can fit four fingers, so to let him know if I get there.

I might be up for the challenge. To give some perspective, this photo was taken when I was around 21. That’s got to be at least four, if not five or six fingers wide.

Please keep your inappropriate comments to yourself. This is for science.

I’d heard of craniosacral therapy for a number of years, as I investigated every single other thing I could think of to alleviate the pain in my jaw. I would have tried it sooner if anyone had said to me, “Of all things, this will make a difference. I promise.” No one told me that, and quite frankly, it seemed a little woo-woo. (Fluctuations in cerebrospinal fluid?) Also, I’ve had a few massage therapists tell me they “know a little craniosacral,” then hold my head very still for a few minutes. Didn’t seem like much.

Several months ago, a massage therapist referred me to a real craniosacral therapist. She told me he was licensed to stick his hand in my mouth and to make sure to tell him I wanted him to, because he doesn’t necessarily bust out that trick on the first appointment. Not everyone is into that.

Unlike other forms of massage, craniosacral is performed fully clothed. During my first session, he had me lie on the table and he touched my head and my shoulders, very gently. Too gently. Like he wasn’t really doing anything. Maybe he was analyzing my cranial rhythm? Taking my cerebrospinal pulse? I couldn’t tell if he was performing an initial exam or whether the treatment had started.

After a bit, he slapped on a latex glove and stuck his fingers in my mouth. (My chiropractor did this once, but for a much shorter period of time. He showed me how to press on my jaw from inside my mouth, which hurt the way a massage does when it’s too intense for comfort. When the finger was removed, I felt a release in my jaw, but only momentarily.) The craniosacral mouthwork was very thorough. He even replaced the glove a number of times. Too much saliva, I guess.

During my first couple of appointments, I didn’t feel as much discomfort as I did when the chiropractor put his finger in my mouth, although he did ask me several times if I was okay and to let him know if anything hurt.

I couldn’t tell a difference after the first few sessions, but my therapist said he was able to get deeper in there as we progressed, and the treatment became more intense. I liked that, because I felt like something was happening, and I never felt pain afterward as a result. Of course, my jaw still “hurt,” but it always hurt. I couldn’t tell you if it hurt more or less, or even if it bothered me every day. Maybe I should have kept a jaw pain journal.

It’s funny when you become so used to pain that you almost aren’t able to tell if it’s there. Does my jaw hurt right now? I don’t know. Let’s see. (Opens mouth, moves lower jaw.) No, I guess it does not.

I haven’t been pain-free because a few things have happened since I started the craniosacral. I had some dental work that involved holding my mouth open for a long period of time. (The dentist said, “Open…. Open wider,” and I felt stupid because that was as far as I could open.) I had a crazy migraine. Followed by a crazy stiff neck.

But after my last appointment, I noticed that I could fit three fingers in my mouth. Call craniosacral therapy what you want, but that’s measurable progress, people. That’s freaking science.

High on life, no thanks to the walk-in clinic, Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

I could barely walk up the sidewalk to the entrance when Alice and I arrived at the ER, my head was pounding so badly. Because I knew that emergency rooms didn’t take migraines all that seriously, I explained to the triage nurse that the Walk-In Clinic sent me there because I didn’t have a migraine. I had a worst headache ever that didn’t match the pattern of my one previous migraine.

She wrote down “migraine.”

We sat in the waiting room at least another hour, but at least the ER had wifi. I should have gone there first. I resisted the urge to tweet, “At the ER, probably have an aneurysm.” Or email my mom. No point worrying her when she probably wouldn’t be able to fly there before I had my CT scan. I watched all kinds of interesting cases get called ahead of me. A heavyset woman with a pink streak in her hair hobbled in and was offered a wheelchair because she was in so much pain after slipping in the shower. Another guy got rushed back when they discovered his pulse was 225 bpm.

I stopped thinking I was dying, and started getting pissed that this was wasting my whole day when I should be proofreading, and I’d promised to have the report finished by the next day. There was no way I could do that now. I should have brought the report with me, I could be proofreading right now.

I anticipated that the doctor would look at me and say, “Huh. I don’t know. You have a headache.” And give me something that might make it better for a short time, but wouldn’t really be a cure. That’s usually what happens to me.

I wished Alice and I had stopped for lunch on the way to the hospital. I considered asking her to get me something from the cafeteria, but there was a sign near the triage desk that said not to eat or drink until after a doctor has seen you. And if I did need brain surgery, better to do it on an empty stomach.

A strapping dude who resembled MMA ref Herb Dean got called and the nurse said the room was a little far away, could he make it? He said he was fine, but I worried that I wouldn’t be. When it was finally my turn and I stood up, I knew I couldn’t walk very far. The same nurse didn’t offer me a wheelchair, though, so I had to ask for one, feeling like a “difficult” patient.

I was put in a room with four beds, but was on the end, so I never saw any of my roommates. I heard them though. A nurse said they were bringing a guy in without going through triage because he was “pretty miserable.” He had kidney stones, he was pretty sure, because he’d had them before, twice, in the 90s. He hasn’t been to the doctor since, but last year he was in a lot of pain and then when he “took a leak” another stone came out. It looked pretty old, so he thought it might have been left over since the 90s. He brought it with him. (He told this story approximately 67 times.) When his son came in, he spoke highly of the EMTs, who didn’t want to over-treat him. “I don’t know what triage is,” he said. “But they decided not to give me that.”

My doctor, an older fellow, came in with a stylish young woman he introduced but who said nothing, just took notes on laptop she set on the foot of my bed. He asked who this was with me and I said “My mother-in-law equivalent,” which he found highly amusing and a sign I still had most of my faculties. He was pretty sure I didn’t have an aneurysm (or encephalitis or meningitis). Not all headaches are the same. No reason to think that just because this wasn’t the same as my last migraine that it wasn’t still a migraine. Had I had any head trauma? Any dental problems?

No and no. I also hadn’t had any caffeine or alcohol to speak of. And barely any chocolate, if you can believe that. But he didn’t ask me any of those things. Just if I smoke, which I do not.

Have I ever had a CT scan?

“I had one a few months ago of my jaw, as part of a TMJ study, because I have TMJ. Guess I probably should have mentioned that.”

“That’s why I asked you.”

“Yeah, I’ve had really bad TMJ for years,” I said, straining through the throbbing behind my eyes to think what other details he might find helpful. “Did you ask me that? I don’t remember you asking me that.”

“Yes, I asked you about dental problems.”

“Oh. I don’t think of it as a dental problem.”

Anyway. It sounded like he was going to give me the CT scan and some drugs and I’d be on my merry way. Typical. Once again, I was in serious, debilitating pain as a side effect of my TMJ, for which there is no cure. All I wanted was a prescription, why did this have to take all day?

It was about 3 o’clock, maybe I’d still be able to pick Rob up from work.

A nurse came in and started telling me about the combination of drugs they were going to give me. Narcotics and Ativan. Uh, pretty sure that’s not what I got last time for my migraine, but whatever. And fluids. Ohhhh, you mean in an IV. This is all happening right now? OK, then. I gave them some urine; they took some blood. They started the IV.

The quality of my headache changed from throbby to lightheaded. Was that the drugs? Yes it was. OK, then.

I heard a nurse tell kidney stone guy what drugs he was getting. Same as mine. Guess it’s their standard cocktail.

Some dude started to wheel my bed out to take me to CT, but then got a phone call he had to take. He came back, and I went for a little magic hospital bed ride, had the CT, and was wheeled on back.

The throbbing was mostly gone. I felt pretty groovy.

The results came in. I was dehydrated. No shit. I hadn’t had anything to drink since that cup of water after my craniosacral at 11 a.m.

I did not have an aneurysm. He gave me a prescription for Midrin, a migraine medicine that also works on regular headaches, and a Vicodin/Tylenol combo. (I really appreciated that one after my tonsillectomy.) And he sent me on my way.

The fun blissed out feeling from the drugs was gone, but so was the throbbing. Alice dropped off my prescription and drove me through Wendy’s because for many years I have considered root beer floats to be headache comfort food. Rob picked up my prescription a short while later. Turned out both medicines had acetaminophen (Tylenol) in them. Was I supposed to take them together? The Midrin said to take 1-2 pills at 8-hour intervals. I took one, just in case, put the Vicodin in the medicine cabinet, and went back to my proofreading chair.

A very light pulse danced behind my forehead. Was that the headache coming back? Better take the other pill. And go to sleep.

The next day, I finished proofreading the report from home. I felt a lightness in my heart. Isn’t life wonderful? If this were my last day on earth, I would be totally fine having spent it curled up on a chair with a red pen in hand and my doggies at my feet.

What the hell? Where did this zest for life come from? My brush with death? It wasn’t even a real brush with death. I only thought I was dying for maybe 10 minutes. Mostly I was just cranky that I wasted my day.

But since then, I can’t explain it, I have felt better than I have in YEARS. Better physically and emotionally. Energetic. The music in my car affects me deeply. Nothing bad will ever happen to me again.

I went to a restorative yoga class yesterday morning, which was exactly what my body needed, but I found myself wanting to move faster, do more. Usually in yoga, I start crapping out, skipping plank pose and going straight to downward dog. Or child’s pose. But yesterday, in a class where there was no plank pose, I was thinking, “Come on, bring on the vinyasa!”

I don’t want to oversell it. I don’t think I could have handled Zumba yesterday. But I came out of forward folds without any lightheadedness, which I consider a very good sign. I haven’t taken any more of the meds, but I sure am glad I have them. If only I’d had them Monday night, I could have knocked that headache off its tracks before it interfered with my schedule.

Oh, and my jaw still hurts, so I’m not, like, cured or anything. But damn, am I high on life.

High on life, no thanks to the walk-in clinic, Part 1

As a presumed side effect of the TMJ that has plagued me for about nine years, I suffer severe headaches from time to time. The first notable one throbbed on one side and was accompanied by nausea and light sensitivity. I had driven the half-hour to work and was struggling to look at my computer screen when I realized, “Holy Sh*t, this is migraine.” I’d never had one before. My doctor’s office happens to be closer to my office than to my home, so it was easy enough to go there and get diagnosed. I can’t remember exactly what she gave me, I think it was a pill, and they left me in the dark exam room while I waited for it to take effect. I was afraid to leave before the headache was gone, so when my doctor came back about 20 minutes later, I told her I wasn’t sure it was better. I thought the migraine was better, but I could still sort of feel it lingering, you know?

The next thing to try would be the Imitrex shot, which as she described it, “feels weird.” You feel a zing and a tingling that goes up through your head and out, and when it leaves, the migraine goes with it. I’m sure people who have had the shot could describe it better. Her description kind of freaked me out. I felt better enough, I decided, drove home and never had another migraine again.

A short time later, though, I had a tension headache that did not ease up for three straight weeks. I had acupuncture, therapeutic massage, heavy drugs, and physical therapy, but I think it just went away on its own. That was four years ago, and since then, I’ve had bad headaches here and there, but nothing like what I’ve already described.

Monday morning, as I was getting ready for an awesome day at work that consisted only of taking pictures of salmon being cooked, eating salmon, and proofreading (which, don’t judge, is something I really love), I started to feel a familiar dull ache around the crown of my head. I popped two Aleve (yes, TWO) and went on my way. When I returned home from my big salmon lunch, I settled into my favorite proofreading chair and fell asleep. I woke up, carried on proofreading, and noticed the headache had returned. By the time I picked Rob up from work, I was slightly dizzy from the headache. After we came home from dinner, I returned to my proofreading chair to make up for the time I missed on account of my nap. At about 9 p.m. I stood up and moved to my computer, and as I sat down, my head started to throb and I thought, “Oh, this must be a migraine.”

Conveniently, I already had an appointment with a craniosacral therapist for the next morning. It was my seventh session, and so far this is the only treatment that has had any lasting benefit for my jaw. He dons a latex glove and massages inside my mouth. Pretty intense. (Probably deserves its own post someday, but let’s move on.)

I thought he might be able to make the throbbing go away. But what if he didn’t? I still had this huge proofreading job to do. I couldn’t just come home and suffer the throbbing. Should I go to the emergency room? Didn’t seem like the most efficient plan. I knew that ERs didn’t consider migraines life-threatening (and once read a “Overheard in the ER” site where ER staffers mocked people for considering migraines “emergencies” when they got them several times a month.) And no way I could drive the half-hour to my doctor’s. I probably shouldn’t even drive myself to craniosacral five minutes away. But Rob was at his second day at a new job and I didn’t want to ask his parents to drive me to my doctor.

I had the genius idea to go to a Walk-In Clinic that takes my insurance and purports to “offer immediate medical services for non-life threatening medical conditions.” (Note: that’s a direct quote from the website and I object to the hyphenation. How do you threaten a “non-life”?)

After my head and gum massage, my head still throbbed. Every time I stood up or changed incline, I felt like my brain was throbbing right behind my eyes. I wasn’t nauseous, though, or light-sensitive. And the pain was dead center, not isolated to one side. So maybe it wasn’t a migraine, but I thought the Walk-In doctor would be able to give me some drugs and make it go away.

I waited more than an hour, alternately reading the subtitles of a Planet Earth special about whales, and closing my eyes and leaning my head against the wall behind me. If I remained perfectly still, the throbbing stopped and I just felt a regular tension headache. I’d had the foresight to bring my Nook with me, but even if I could have read it comfortably, I didn’t want to undermine my claims of a “migraine.”

When I finally saw someone, it wasn’t a doctor, but a physician assistant. She was concerned that my headache did not follow the pattern of my one previous migraine. (Can one migraine have a pattern?) I described it as “A worst headache ever,” and it changed with movement. She didn’t want to treat it as a migraine in case it wasn’t a migraine, because it might be something else. She advised me to go to the emergency room for a CT scan. She’d note in my chart that she’d told me to go there, so insurance wouldn’t think I just decided to do that on my own. I should tell them at the ER that I’d been sent there from the Walk-In Clinic, and they would triage me accordingly.

Instead of saying, “So, do I get my $20 copay back because you have done absolutely nothing for me?”

I asked, “What else do you think it could be, if not a migraine?”

“Oh, you know,” she said (I’m paraphrasing). “Buried aneurysm.”

She left the room to write me a note and I waited another 20 minutes wondering, “Should I call Rob? Do I really want him to leave in the middle of his second day at work? I’ll just go by myself. It will be fine. But what if it is an aneurysm? At what point do I call Rob and tell him, ‘Hey, I’m at the ER. Gonna have some brain surgery.'”

I started to freak out a little. And cry. And feel pissed off that every minute I spent waiting for the Walk-In Clinic to release me was a minute I should be putting toward my ER wait. When the nurse finally came back, she told me that she had been trying to reach my doctor to find out what I took for my last migraine, but no one answered the phone there. I could have told her that you can never get anyone on the phone there.

I went to my car, head throbbing, and called Rob. When he answered, I wailed, “I’m freaking out,” and filled him in. He very calmly came up with a plan to have his mom pick me up where I was and take me to the ER. That’s when I realized he couldn’t come get me himself anyway, because I had driven him to work. He’d have to take the bus home to get his car.

He told me later that when he first heard me crying, he assumed something bad had happened to the dogs. Of course he had. That’s always my first fear, too. Not that he then thought, “Oh, phew. The dogs are fine. Kari’s just having an aneurysm.” No, he thought of Bret Michaels, infamous Lothario and lead singer of the band Poison, who went to the ER a few years ago with the worst headache of his life, which turned out to be a cerebral hemorrhage.

In Part 2 of this thrilling tale:

The Physician Assistant’s note fails to bump me to the front of the triage line, and I start to doubt that I have an aneurysm at all. I realize that my detour to the Walk-In Clinic was a complete waste of time, but it’s not until well into the next day that I start to wonder about that $20 copay. What did I pay for exactly? Do I have recourse to ask for a refund? I mean, she probably spent as much time “examining” me and writing my “note” as she spent with the out-of-town baby with an ear infection who came in after me and left while I was waiting for Rob’s mom to pick me up. But the P.A. didn’t DO anything for me. I was at the Walk-In Clinic for TWO HOURS with a throbbing headache that could have been a brain aneurysm!

Is that my fault for making the wrong choice? I could have gone straight to the ER, but I went to the Walk-In thinking it would be more efficient for me, and not waste the time of those busy ER doctors treating real life-threatening ailments. My visit to the Walk-In Clinic was a gamble where I bet $20 (and two hours of my time) that they could help me, and I lost.

Kari after dentist

I’d never had nitrous before, not even recreationally, but last time I had a crown done, I felt a little freaked out, and kinda wished I’d had the gas. So today, when I had two fillings replaced, I asked for it. That’s right. I won’t pay $30 for a fluoride treatment that my insurance won’t cover, but drugs? Totally worth that much.

And I learned something new. Novocaine has epinephrine in it. I was not aware of that. That’s why I started feeling jittery after five or six shots last time!

Today’s dental work was done on upper teeth, so two shots did the trick. But I had the added discomfort of excruciating TMJ, which made “Open Wide” quite uncomfortable.

The nitrous, though… How magnificent! The floaty feeling reduced any anxiety I might have felt from the loud noises in my mouth. (My jaw still hurt, but they put a little bite rest between my teeth to help me keep my mouth open.) Meanwhile, my mind spun with ideas for the wonderful blog I would write about the experience, but frankly, I can’t remember anything except the title, which is derivative anyway.

I felt like I was in a movie with fast edits depicting a drug-induced blackout over the soundtrack of a drill. Like: Flash! My dentist’s face looming over me. Flash! The assistant asking if I’m doing okay. Flash! Rinsing. Flash! Suction.

When I first matured into needing dental work such as crowns and a root canal, my dentist, whom I adore, suggested that probably my teeth were cracked around the fillings because I grind them. Ridiculous. I don’t grind my teeth.

I didn’t think I clenched either, but that denial has become harder to maintain since I’ve worn grooves into my night guard.

While participating in a TMJ study at few weeks ago, I told the School of Oral Medicine doctor that story, under the assumption that clenching my teeth must be the cause of my TMJ after all.

He said perhaps I was clenching because I have TMJ, not the other way around. Fascinating.

There ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure for TMJ

My TMJ on the left side has been bothering me for about a year now. What I remember when my right side hurt several years ago was that nothing fixed it, but the pain eventually faded. So I have that to look forward to.

Again, I feel like I’ve tried everything. Each time, I have high hopes that some new thing will cure it. I tried chiropractic for the first time this round, and after two sessions, I thought, “Yes! It’s getting better.” But then he adjusted me using the little activator thingy against the jaw joint itself and I think that made things worse for a few days. Also, on my first visit, he gave me a little lesson in semantics:

“TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. What you’re describing is TMD, temporomandibular disorder.”

Later I realized that what I shoulda said was, “Oh, yeah? Well, ‘doctor’ refers to someone with an MD … It’s a semantics thing.” (Jerk store!)

Be that as it may, the sentence “My TMJ is bothering me” is still accurate. It would be “I have TMJ” that he objects to. Since everyone has TMJ. Most of us have two.

What frustrates me every time is practitioners who expect me to feel complete relief after each session. It makes me want to lie. “Oh yeah, I’m totally better.” Because I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I keep coming back saying, “Yep. Still bothers me. No improvement at all. Keep doing that same thing that you did last time that didn’t work.”

My favorite treatment at this time is massage therapy. For a while, I had trouble finding a massage therapist I liked. And now I’ve found one who’s covered by my insurance. I don’t have any real expectation that massage with cure my TMJ/D, but hey, it feels good.

A few weeks ago, my therapist told me that my insurance company likes to see a steady rate of treatment, rather than someone coming in for a massage here and there, just ‘cus it feels good. So I attempted to make appointments every week for the next few weeks. She was booked last week though, so I had one scheduled for today.

Then, a week ago, I tweaked my neck. Despite alternating ice and heat and a visit to the airport massage bar, it bothered me to distraction at work almost all last week. So when they called to tell me my massage therapist had an opening Friday, I took it.

She was surprised that I still wanted to keep my appointment for today. Like, “Two massages in a four-day period? Really? Uh, OK, if that’s what you want to do. It’s your body.”

Why should I feel self-conscious about that? You said I should come in more regularly! My neck was still kinda sore, you know! It’s still sore now, after my second massage in four days. Even though when she finished both times, I said, “Oh wow, it’s so much better.” It was better of course, but not cured.

There’s no cure.

Reverse psychology

When I suffered from excruciating TMJ pain about 6 years ago, I tried everything I could think of, and nothing really made it go away but time. I’d read that eventually the nerves deaden and it stops hurting. That was on the right side of my face and it did stop bothering me for a few years. A year or so ago, the clicking started on the left side and developed into near constant aching.

I’m trying acupuncture again and this time am seeing some results. After three sessions, I’ve had a few hours of relief lasting longer each time, but so far the results haven’t lasted through the end of the day. I also started getting headaches again last week. That may be related to having a sore neck from getting thrown around on a boat on Monday. I’ve been stretching and using my pneumatic cervical traction device. (Love that thing.)

I have a night guard, but feel like I clench my teeth harder when I have something to bite in between them. So I’ve been trying to fall asleep to some relaxing meditation CDs. (OK, they’re on my iPod, but they started out as CDs). Deepak Chopra’s is my favorite, but you get sick of anything listening to it night after night. I have another called Just Relax, which is a little annoying, but has in the past helped me fall asleep.

Unfortunately, my iPod was set on “repeat” and was still playing when I woke up in the middle of the night from an anxiety dream. Yeah, that’s right. Anxiety dream WHILE a relaxation track is playing. The dream where I’m packing up an entire apartment and don’t have enough suitcase space or time. And when I woke up, I was drenched in sweat. So, uh, not much of an endorsement for that particular track. Unless the effect of listening to it repeatedly for hours had something to do with it having the reverse effect.

Keeping it real

All is not as well as I so optimistically declared last week. My foot still bothers me and my TMJ has gotten bad again.

Active release therapy for TMJ is not as much fun as having my foot rubbed, and I feel sore after. I’ve had two treatments and I hope that it’s working, because never mind the pain, it’s annoying to have my jaw click every time I open my mouth.

I don’t know what to do about my foot. I’d really like to use the memberships at the two gyms I joined in February. At this point, I feel like I’ll never be able to exercise normally again.

Or eat normally. Did you know there’s soy in everything? Bread, candy, my favorite frozen eggplant parmesan…? And I’m sure I have some kind of allergy to soy, because every time I have anything with a soy product in it, I break out.

So, ick.

The bright light on the horizon is that we are expecting.

To get a puppy.

I have mixed feelings about breeders vs. rescues, but know I have to be very careful in the selection of Isis’ baby brother, because of her special needs.

I drove a long way to meet a puppy who turned out not to be much of a German shepherd at all, but perhaps a mix of a Rottweiler, Australian shepherd and chow. What a handful that would have been.

There’s a 6-month-old possible shepherd/Australian cattle dog mix that I am drawn to. He’s a little fearful, and I worry that he could learn some reactive/aggressive tendencies from Isis. She’ll be all, “Hey, tall guys wearing hats are bad. We must bark like crazy at them so they don’t come in the house to kill Momma.” Also, perhaps a cattle dog requires as much exercise as a border collie or Australian shepherd.

At least with a breeder, you know what you’re getting. But then I feel bad about all those dogs in shelters.

Reminds me of a PETA ploy of a few years ago, advertising a free gift bag to new owners of AKC-registered puppies. The gift turned out to be a body bag and a note saying that for every breeder-born dog, a shelter dog must die.

Kinda turns me off to PETA a little.

Miracle cure

I guess I ought to give a shout out to the miracle cure that has enabled me to put weight on my right foot.

Active Release Technique

It feels like a deep tissue massage, but as I understand it, she separates scar tissue from tendons, ligaments and muscles, alleviating the pain.

The pain in the ball of my left foot was debilitating, no joke. It hurt to walk, and ached even when I was doing nothing.

The relief I felt after the first ART session with Barbra was immediate. After 3 sessions, I’d say I’m 87 percent better. I still have to favor the foot a little, and hesitate to do things like jump rope or stand one-legged with all my weight on the ball of my foot. But I got through a step class yesterday without pain during or after.

I’ve had her work on my stiff neck too. It’s funny, I feel completely pain free immediately afterward, but the tightness comes back within a few minutes. So I have less grandiose expectations about her curing that problem and enabling me to do kettlebells again.

She treats TMJ as well, so that’s next on my list, since the left side of my jaw has begun clicking. (That was the first symptom I felt on my right side in 2003.) I swear, if it turns out that TMJ can be CURED by ART, I’m going to be so relieved and so pissed off that I didn’t know about it 7 years ago.

What ails me

When I last wrote, I complained that I was having headaches every day. The good news is, since then I only had one headache, but unfortunately it lasted for an entire week.

Naturally, my first self-diagnosis was brain cancer, but I think the cause actually is really, really tight shoulders. So, now I’m back to the “relax harder” protocol.

I took last Monday and Tuesday off and couldn’t get in to see my doctor until Thursday. She prescribed a home traction kit, therapeutic massage and a muscle relaxer.

The drug did nothing. The traction thing (which I could not even figure out how to assemble, thus intensifying the headache), as it turned out, has a chin strap attached via pulley to a bag of water. A chin strap. That goes around my chin. Pulling on the temporomandibular joint. Right, so I can’t use that.

Internet investigation reveals that what I really want is a $300 pneumatic device, but I can’t decide the best place to get one, except, like eBay, and I don’t think my insurance will cover that. Nor can I arrange to have it delivered at 11 p.m. Saturday.

The therapeutic massage thing got equally confusing. My doc referred me to a physical therapist that I had seen before … except she’d moved to a new location, so the doc sent the referral to that place. But when I called to make an appointment, I’m told that they don’t do massage therapy and since my physical therapist is new there, she’s not covered by my insurance.

And I’m trying to remember, was I supposed to get physical therapy, or just a therapeutic massage? Because I already know what kind of exercises a physical therapist would make me do, so why pay $20 a session to be told again?

Then it occurs to me that perhaps actually doing some of those exercises could alleviate my pain.

It’s all too much for me, so I spend my entire weekend sleeping, rather than try to figure it out.

On the drive to work yesterday, I wonder why I’m even bothering to go in, and once I arrive, decide it was a mistake and go home. However, I don’t crawl into bed, but actually get some for-work reading done in the backyard, while the dog chases bugs. I check the work email and am just slightly productive. And relaxed. Start to feel the headache release, just a little.

While I would love to credit the backyard and the dog with curing me, it probably has more to do with the “medical massage” I had last night. Not that it was at all relaxing. What it entailed was a dude poking my head and neck, trying to find the spots that hurt. “Is this tender? No?” (pokes harder) “How about now?”

This however, made clear that the vice-like grip on my skull is coming from the ropy parts of my neck. It was the kind of massage that requires next-day icing, but I am feeling much better today.