Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I cannot communicate with doctors. The frustration is driving me nuts. No, wait -- I was already nuts.

Oh, yeah, I remember now. Maybe my history with pshrinks hurts my credibility a bit.

Oh, ya think?

Anyway, after a very nice visit, the doctor suggested that I need to be doped up with drugs, to help me cope. He wrote me a band-aid prescription for anti-depressants. Oh, joy. How absolutely pleasant.


pgk said...

"pshrinks"--never seen that spelling before. Is it your own, original, creative spelling? Original or adopted, I'm picking it up.

And let's see ... scrolling down the page, I see a guy kicking his computer, a frog with a stranglehold on a heron (or egret?) trying to swallow him, a deflated balloon, a sinking ship...

Looks to me like you're coping well enough.

What I'm wondering is what the connection is between the picture of the guy kicking the computer and your going to your doctor and his prescribing you anti-depressants. I think I'm reading a hidden message but I'm not certain.

Wasn't able to get out today. Care to provide and update on the headaches?

Jim Cobabe said...


My headaches continue undiminished, both literally and figuratively. The doctor's assumption was that I am stressed and overwrought, which will presumably benefit from the administration of SSRI anti-depressants. This, by way of dismissing the episodes I described, because they don't fit his doctor's profile of typical stroke patient experiences.

Thanks, I feel so relieved. Now I'll just wrap myself in warm cotton and cease to worry about anything. I guess this is my cue to feel happy.

Excuse me if I reflect a measure of cynicism. I have earned it, with these doctors.

Jim Cobabe said...


I referenced the popular term "pshrink" with a true insider's perspective. I have spent some time within locked rooms with padded walls. Who can really say -- maybe that's where I belong?

Part and parcel with my antipathy for the medical profession.

Mary L. said...

Try again with the neurologist regarding the headaches, not the family doctor. Tell him how you feel about the antidepressants. If he agrees you should try the antidepressants, maybe you should. But headaches are not depression, it seems to me!

pgk said...

Don't get me started on doctors. It won't do either of us any good. Suffice it to say I harbor great envy of folks who find good docs.

Your cynicism is excused.

You ask, rhetorically of course, if you belong in a padded cell. If you're trying to scare me, it won't work. ;)

Maybe I'll be able to get out on that walk tomorrow. When I go out there looking for something I think might interest you, I see more.

Could you tell me a little about how you know so much about noxious weeds, fire ecology, and animals?

Jim Cobabe said...


Your advice is good. I wasn't thinking very clearly. Mom already was planning to talk to the neurologist tomorrow, you think like she does.

The doctors I went to this week both were just using their best information to come up with diagnosis and recommendations. Their methods work well for most people much of the time. Just my misfortune to be different enough that standard routines don't work. And not these guy's fault, that they keep trying the same tricks. They have a fairly limited repertoire. They're good guys, trying to help. I should not be directing my frustration at them.

Jim Cobabe said...


My original academic interest was directed toward studies related to biology and natural history. I pursued a career in the computer business when I found it an easier way to make a living. After many distracted years I returned to working in that field. I have long fed an avid interest in this area with an insatiable reading habit. So I have acquired a great deal of knowledge in what would seem to be rather useless esoterica now.

Fun stuff to discuss, though.

That's life. *shrug*

pgk said...

Not useless to me. Maybe later you could recommend some of your favorite books to me.

Well, I've had a long and difficult day myself and am not at my best.

I'll talk to you tomorrow.

'Night, Jim.

pgk said...

Good morning, Jim!

All systems go this a.m. for a walk.

It's very bright down here today, glaringly so, but I'm a sunshine junkie so that's perfect.

I'll be back later with a report.

Mary L. said...

Yikes, I'm not sure I wanted to know I think like Mom does!

And regarding all the useless, esoteric knowlege--I remember as a kid, if I a volume of the dictionary or encyclopedia was missing from the shelf, when I needed it, it could be found by your bed. You are the only person I know who read the dictionary for pleasure! I once told an encyclopedia salesman (before the day of google and wikipedia) that I did not need to buy a set of his wares to be a good mom--I could just call my brother if I needed to know something. Still works.

With Love, Mary L.

Jim Cobabe said...


Don't worry, I was just suggesting that you have very sensible thoughts. It was a poor attempt at a personal compliment.

Aside from the cyclopaedic volumes I memorized, there is also a little bit of practical information, just laying stacked in the corners. I guess there is a risk that some of it will disappear as parts of my brain begin to die. Funny how that seems to work. I was doing a series of math problems with one of the therapists, for example, and one of the operations in the series simply baffled me. All she asked me to do was keep subtracting seven from the product of the previous operation. For one particular set of numbers, I could not even do it after she told me what to do. It made no sense to me. I just couldn't grasp those particular numbers. The others in the series, I calculated almost without pause.

This kind of lapse is very disturbing to me. I can only perceive such voids by mental effort, but it is some deficiency in my brain itself that is the source of the problem. I can imagine huge pieces of my life spinning away into chaos, and me totally unaware that something is missing. And progressively less connection with an outside world to confirm my own private perceptions.

Frightful prospect.

I think I would prefer to just pass on quietly, when the time comes.

Jim Cobabe said...


Sunshine and blue skies here today as well, but it is pretty cool out. My dad and I tried and failed to change a flat tire on the ATV, in preparation for a winter storm that is forecast for tomorrow. We will get some help with that. I'm weak and he's old. Not a great combination for spinning stubborn lug nuts.

Some headache relief may be breaking through -- thanks to the slow acting drug administered several weeks ago by the neurologist. I have had several hours absent any noticeable pain, which is the first instance that I have noted since my first stroke in July. Small thing, maybe, but cause to celebrate.

Jim Cobabe said...


Requests for reading recommendations seem a little strange to me. Better tell me what NOT to read. Otherwise, I read everything I get my hands on, from technical abstracts at MedLine, to Reader's Digest.

What books and stories did I most enjoy? Tough for me to say, I like everything. Probably I have read the scriptures the most number of times. The most-read popular work I read is probably Les Miserables. When I was in high school I was a science fiction junkie.

pgk said...

Okay, Jim: Here's today's walk. It had a very different character from the last one.

I'm just going to post some of it now because the walk was long -- I was out for four hours today. If you want to hear more, I'll put it up.

The Wandering Chicken

A glorious day for a walk, the sky bright blue, the ground a-glitter with frost.

Leaving the neighborhood, I spot the Wandering Chicken, a white nomadic hen that for unknown reasons drifts away from flocks it adopts and strikes out on solitary foraging trips. Earlier this year, the Wandering Chicken started hanging around our yard, where our five cats and dog took to stalking it. I had the kids catch it – it likes people – and we took it to the vet who lives next door (kind of). It stayed with him and his chickens through most of the spring and summer but in late summer took to wandering again, taking up with my neighbor’s flock of black chickens. The chicken had to migrate across several broad pastures to get to that neighbor’s house. How it has survived the coyotes, weasels, bobcats, and the hawks for a year, meandering as it does without the protection of a flock, is beyond me. Today, it appears to have left behind my neighbor’s chickens and crossed the road into another neighbor’s yard where she pecks her solitary way through the orchard.

Out on BLM land, I find the ground frozen. As I walk the dirt trail running along the edge of a neighbor’s pasture, I discover I’ve happened upon just the right alignment between my eye, the frost crystals that have bloomed in low-growing plants, and the angled sun. Off and on for two hundred feet, the ice, softening in the rising warmth, breaks sunlight into thousands of colored beads – blue, red, yellow, and then the silver ones that reflect sunshine rather than refract it. The colorful spangle provokes in me a sparkle of pleasure, not just in the loveliness of the changing colors that erupt as I walk but also in what this iridescent whisper tells me about how I stand in relation to the sun.

Arriving at one of my favorite cliff perches, I see the cows just below, lying on open ground next to the creek. A very light breeze sweeps up from the south.

Sometimes, when I come out here, I stumble into pockets of silence where they still linger, like snow does on the north side of the junipers after all the rest has melted off. Today, however, traffic sounds carry to the rim from four to five miles north of my position and three miles to the west, where the highway bends around the town. Overhead, airliners add to the noise as they scrape past.

I lay back against the rock and am surprised to find it not as cold as expected. I put my hat over my face – and old crusher I bought 25 years ago for my first trip to the desert. I decorated it with a hatband I wove on a Bolivian toe loom, which isn’t much, really – warp anchored to a firm point such as a C-clamp attached to a table, though you could loop it around your toe. It’s more trouble if you use your toe because you have to take the loom off every time you decide to step away from your work.

Now the hatband is sun-burnt, the linen yarns all a pale bleached-bone color.

Wow! I can’t believe how the traffic noise is carrying today. I’ve never heard it like this before. I’m going to try moving lower to see if some of the racket will just skip over me.

I strike out toward my lower perch by the spring, but I don’t walk far before I realize I’m feeling a tug from the opposite direction. Stopping to think, I find I don’t want to sit on another ledge, I want to go on the move. I reverse course and work my way along the rim of a shallow side-canyon, swing into the wash bottom, and begin climbing the other slope. Not sure where I’m going. I’m just covering some new ground.

pgk said...

BTW, very good news about the headaches! Thanks for sharing it.

Good night, Jim, and congratulations on making a breakthrough.

pgk said...

Last night when we came back from Moab, my husband Mark suffered a headache, I think because the pressure in his ears wouldn't equalize. I gave him a quick massage around his ears, which relieved the pain immediately.

I told him about your headaches and how I wondered if cranial massage would relieve them. Mark said that when he had attended a conference on brain injuries a few years back, cranial massage to relieve headaches resulting from brain injuries (of all sorts) was the hot topic. More than one session addressed the importance of that technique.

I asked if they had called it "cranial massage." He said they called it that and some more technical term he couldn't remember.

Jim Cobabe said...


My mother has suggested approaches to headache relief that seem of similar genre. She currently favors tightly binding the upper head with a rag that is infused with lemon oil or lemon extract. I tried it several times, but got no satisfaction from it, though I was admittedly approaching with a very skeptical attitude, apriori.

The drug I am trying, prescribed by the neurologist, was apparently developed to treat those predisposed to seizures. It has also found use in treating migraine. It seems to work for me.

Headaches have plagued us since the beginning of time, apparently. Seeking relief from headache is almost worth a study in itself. Especially to find something tha actually works as advertised.

pgk said...

My mother has suggested approaches to headache relief that seem of similar genre. She currently favors tightly binding the upper head with a rag that is infused with lemon oil or lemon extract.

It's a leap to say that cranial massage is "similar" to binding the head. There's no subsitute for a healing human touch.

No matter, though, if your medication is working, which it sounds like it is. I'm just glad you're feeling better.

(You are feeling better ... right?

Jim Cobabe said...


I am feeling better, without a doubt. It has been such a long time coming, I hardly know how to react. I feel like celebrating.

pgk said...

Well, then -- how about a celebratory blog post?

Jim Cobabe said...


I would favor a naturalistic approach to healing if the empirical evidence favors. Medical practice is proven wrong more often than not, in my case. Not a very good record. So why am I still alive? Not sure, but cannot put much blame on doctors for that. If they can give relief for my headache, I am very grateful.

I am gathering from my qwn brief survey of medical literature that massage therapy is most often found effective in relieving tension-related headache, and is relatively ineffective in migraine-like cases. Perhaps I will continue with the neuroligist's recommended drug regimen, for now. It is the one thing doctors have given me that has been an unqualified success, so far.