Storms and Earthquakes







Part 1–Storms and Involuntary Confinement

The year had been a rough one in 2009 for many reasons. The winter of 2008 brought harsh winter conditions, probably 20 inches of snowfall, and that is out of the norm for the Portland area. This carried into 2010 and led to my family being stuck in the house for about 3 weeks straight with the exception of one break, where we went out to a store and to get a prescription. Barry walked to a store with crappy food about half mile away once or twice. One reason we had to keep the temperature in the house set to 62 degrees was because the furnace was malfunctioning. Throughout the years, the air rushing into the house through the heater vents had caused continuous sweating and chills for me. With the furnace going on and off constantly though, it was very uncomfortable, and I had sweats and chills during most of our incarceration in the house. The chilled, uneven atmosphere, partly necessitated by lack of money, took a toll on everyone in the family. During this time, I noticed my feet developed purple blotches, swelling, and itching. This went on for months, and it was inappropriately treated with topical antibiotics for several months until I put a stop to it. Even my kids had some symptoms in their feet, especially my daughter. They were also treated with antibiotics. I was worried, because the kids’ pediatrician mentioned my history of the autoimmune disorder, Graves’ disease, which causes the body to attack the thyroid gland. This results in an overactive thyroid and an array of horrid symptoms.

Then, on the kids’ birthday in March, and one day after my anniversary, I took a fall on our steps leading to massive pain for months. By the beginning of May, I was beginning to recover from the fall. H1N1 was big news, and fear and hype were in high gear. One day, my daughter came home from school, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I was downstairs writing an email when I heard moaning from her room in the middle of the night. I ran upstairs. She was not really very conscious, had vomited in her sleep, and it was everywhere. I cleaned up, gave her anti-nausea medicine, and reassured her the best I could. She looked frightened as there had been reports of death from H1N1. I did not think it was that, but I do not know to the day what it was.

Not long after, I developed an upper-respiratory illness. I was out of commission from May until the end of the school year in the beginning of June. I remember walking in a weakened state from my car into the school to say goodbye to my daughter’s second grade teacher and to give her one of my pieces of pottery, a soap dish. Even after school ended, I was still exhausted. The illness caused severe lung and chest pain, and it also caused difficulty breathing due to the fluid in my lungs. Nothing was done to treat this except Reiki, a technique where practitioners use different hand positions over certain regions of the body. Reiki practitioners, like my “holistic” M.D., believe that they transfer “universal energy” through the palms allowing for the individual to heal and for a state of “balance” to be restored in the body. While I had some interesting experiences with Reiki, it did not work in this case. I finally asked for antibiotics, which appeared to help some. I remember this part well, because it was strange. This same doctor wanted me to help choose the antibiotic.

Preparing for a garden, we enthusiastically went to the store to get tomato plants. I remember I was walking and suddenly extreme pain started going through my arches. I could not stand it and felt I had to get home quickly to take my shoes off, which I thought might be the problem. After rushing home, I took my shoes off immediately, and my arches looked like they had knots in them. Alarmed, I tried using a machine I had to treat this, which delivers low level current to tissues in the body. This was an exercise in futility and marked the beginning of very rough times for me. From June to late December or early January, I could not walk without blood curdling pain. It hurt to wear shoes, walk for any length of time, and I saw two podiatrists that offered little hope. Concurrently, I developed debilitating pain all over my body, especially in the hands, arms, shoulders,hips, and knees. In the fall of 2009, I started going to physical therapy and a chiropractor. I also had painful injections into my feet and into the lower part of my spine a few times. The symptoms begin to die down starting in December, and I was more functional by January. Other than physical therapy and chiropractic, I had been largely housebound, confined to a recliner, or bedridden. Well, I did get to go to a host of other providers that had no idea what was going on and said it was “just fibromyalgia.” There was also one enjoyable 10 hours spent in two appointments at the local dental school, and a few other appointments not worthy of mentioning.

While 2010 was not perfect, by late February, I was able to make a much-needed trip to Vancouver, Washington to see my dermatologist. It had been years since I had seen this doctor, and this necessitated filling out another bunch of annoying paperwork. I am certain this paperwork never gets looked at, because I am always asked the same questions in the room when I see the doctor. That was the the case with this appointment. It was because of the length of the paperwork that I had arrived at the doctor’s office early that day, likely one hour in advance. I must have been doing slightly better, because I never would have ventured out on my own if I had not been. What caused me to make this appointment is that I was having a strange pain on the cartilage of my left ear. This is the area people often get piercings in, and I feel so glad that I never chose to do this. I had noticed this pain over the years, and I had mentioned it to a doctor. Her response was, “Your ear looks red. It is probably from sleeping on it.” I hate to say that I thought to myself that it was not necessary to go to medical school to tell me that information.

With this ear pain, I would wake up in the morning unable to turn over. I know it must sound foolish, but it was and is incredibly painful as a condition. Usually, it was accompanied by incredible pain in my shoulder. Often, my partner, Barry, would have to help me turn over as I was paralyzed from pain. Other times, it was a slow process on my own, filled with pain. This agony coupled with inadequate treatment led me to have to make a trip up to Vancouver, WA. It was a trip to remember for sure, and a terrifying one as well!

Part 2–Earthquake

I never like to go to Vancouver, and this was no exception. I made my way through the familiar landscape from my house to my doctor’s office, arriving one hour early. The drive is not a particularly interesting one. Most of it is freeway, and it makes the drive feel even longer. While Vancouver and the Evergreen State attempt to welcome me in with a sign I cannot even picture in my mind, going there reminds me of where I grew up in Twin Lakes, WA. Like Twin Lakes, this was another lonely suburbia, but this area is particularly inhospitable. Much like a customer resisting handing over a check or cash to a salesperson, my foot reluctantly pressed into the accelerator pedal, with me being sucked into the abyss of this area. Vancouver has a saying, “Keep Vancouver normal.” This saying appears to be a response to Portland’s “Keep Portland weird,” This might not seem like much of anything on observation, but that slogan of Vancouver’s means to me, keep anyone deviating from the norm out. Moreover, keep the evil threat that the nearby city elements present out of Vancouver. I know there are many decent people in Vancouver, because my own family lives there. This represents my impression of the area, however.

Regardless of my feelings about Vancouver, this is where my adventure took place. I do not like seeing doctors, as usually they have a history of doing nothing for me, often adding insult to injury. I was happy that I could drive by myself, however. After parking, I entered the building I had been in too many times over the years. The image of the inside of this building on the first floor is burned into my memory. Upon entry through the double doors at the building’s entrance, if you look off to the right slightly and then straight ahead, there is a Shamrock Medical Supply Store. Just prior to that store and to the right is an elevator leading to a multitude of medical provider’s offices. To the left of the medical supply store is the stairway that leads to the upper stories as well. I have never liked elevators, and the elevator in this building, I specifically did not like. The building is relatively new, but it seems like a rundown yet sterile building. I had grown to hate it over the years of going there to see two different doctors, one of them being this physician.

I decided to take the stairs. I opened the door to make my way up. Immediately, I heard a loud sound and the walls fell like they were vibrating. I looked up at the lighting, and what appeared to be an electrical source to it. I thought, “Why do they need such powerful lights and electricity in the stairwell?” The feeling was so intense that I made my way as quickly up the stairs as possible. Anyone that has watched movies likely can recall scenes when stadium lights are turned on. It makes a loud, powerful, electrical sound, but usually after that, just humming that is often tuned out by listeners. This reminds me of the intensity of sound I heard, except it was a sustained, highly amplified “buzzing” sound. Think of a the sound that florescent lights make in a department store, except perhaps dozens of times stronger. While it is true that I hate elevators, this was too much as an alternative. Finally getting to my floor, I quickly opened the door to exit to what I thought would be relief, making my way to the doctors office. The thing is, the vibration did not stop. By this point, I thought it must be an earthquake. I had not heard anything on the first floor so this was plausible to me. I continued to the office, opening the door. I checked in at reception, looked around, and everyone seemed to take no notice of the shaking of the walls. The floor felt unsteady underneath my feet. It is hard to describe this, but I guess it felt like s was using a jackhammer very close to, if not inside the building perhaps on a lower floor.

I asked for my paperwork, and proceeded to sit down to fill it out. I kept looking up though, because it just kept going. No one seemed fazed by this. I have always been sensitive to noise and vibration, so I thought maybe only I had detected the earthquake. I have read and watched fascinating accounts of animals detecting things with some sort of internal mechanism humans do not seem to possess as a rule anyway. I remember reading that elephants had gone to higher elevations to escape an eventual Tsunami as humans watched perplexed wondering why the elephants were doing this. They would come know not much later as catastrophe hit. Maybe something like that was going on with me. Furthermore, I was slightly embarrassed to ask anyone as they were all in their own worlds. I remember a child was playing games on a touch-screen phone, talking with his dad.  It had been so long since I had out of my house, I had not seen this type of phone before. I figured a kid should be scared to death with the shaking going on.

My hands still hurt from the mysterious illness that had yet to be diagnosed or paid attention to, so I tried to focus on filling out the paperwork. I figured the earthquake would stop at some point. It was distracting though, as it continued with quite an intensity for a good half an hour, likely more. I completed my paperwork and made my way to the receptionist. She told me to have a seat, and the doctor would call me soon. I have heard that before, but this doctor did not usually make me wait. I specifically scheduled an appointment right after his lunch so I would not have to wait. Unfortunately, I waited over an hour. While the intensity of the vibration of the walls and floor decreased, it by no means disappeared. It certainly did not while I was in the waiting room. Finally, a medical assistant came and called me back to a smaller room. I sat there in a pained state as the the medical assistant asked the me typical questions that I had just filled out. “What medications are you on?” she asked. I indicated that it was all in the paperwork, somewhat frustrated that I was being asked to repeat it when I had diligently filled out what was required. I was told the doctor would be right with me. This time it was true, because my doctor walked into the room minutes later. By that time, most of the vibration had stopped. In fact, while it was on my mind, it faded into the background as I discussed my symptoms with the doctor. He did not mention an earthquake and seemed to not notice it either. Weird! He told me that I had a condition, and I cannot recall the word, but it is known loosely as “cauliflower ear” or “boxer’s ear.” He explained that sleeping on one side, something I commonly do, was likely the culprit. Then he said he was going to give me an injection of cortisone into my ear. He should have said in three or more areas, but he did not. He left the room, prepped the medication, and came back. He had me lie down, and then he proceeded to inject three times into my ear. This hurt in a way it that is hard to describe, and I think he was trying to be quick about it, but that made it worse. We talked for a little bit, and he asked me to make a follow-up appointment. I stopped on my way out, scheduling an appointment. Then I left the building. I hoped that this would at least help relieve some discomfort in my ear.

I made my way out of his office, and considered options for leaving the building. I decided to take the elevator, because the experience in the stairwell had been too much for me, regardless of its cause. The elevator trip was uneventful, but I really did want to leave. I was grateful to be out of the building, and I just wanted to get home. Fortunately, the experience stopped after I plunged through the double doors. Once home, I wanted to know if there had actually been an earthquake. I got online, and I searched the Internet. There was no indication that an earthquake had taken place. I thought perhaps, being as sensitive as I am, maybe I just felt it because it was a low magnitude one. However, the intensity of the shaking reminded me of an earthquake we had in the early 1990s. I felt the news would have reported an earthquake of that magnitude. I was stumped. It made no sense to me that the vibration would have continued beyond the stairwell if it was the lighting and electrical there. I knew something was wrong, but there was really no way to verify it.

Some time later, I had to go up for another appointment in Vancouver. That appointment was located in a converted house across the street from the building where my dermatologist works. This time I took my family, and I told them I wanted to go to that building to check if the lights still made as much noise. I really wanted them to hear it and see it for themselves. After my appointment, we drove across the street and parked in the parking lot. We all went into the building. I opened the door to where the stairs were. The noise I had heard simply was not there. I could hear the humming of the fluorescent lights still, but it was not loud at all. I often heard fluorescent light noise, so that did not surprise me. This led me to conclude one thing, and it did frighten me. There was no earthquake! It was in my brain. An overactive nervous system or neurological event must have been responsible. While this was concerning to me, most of what I told doctors had got me nowhere. I cannot even remember if I brought this up to a doctor, but I likely did. Most of the things I bring up the doctors are met with a typical answer. I usually get one of two responses. It is either, “I don’t know,” or “It is your fibromyalgia.” For the most part, I get the latter answer.

Traditional medicine revolves around covering symptoms with medications, which usually causes other issues. In addition, chronic conditions like the ones I have experienced in my life are not dealt with well in medicine. Even acute issues can be problematic for physicians. Emergency rooms are set up to handle that type of medical problem. Chronic issues are not really looked at the same, with doctors often missing, dismissing, or judging their patients. Moreover, I believe this is because they do not know what to do, but that is another topic.

This is one of the myriad of experiences I had and amongst the most disturbing, and I could not help but think again, “Is there something wrong with me?” More aptly put, I always knew something was wrong with me but had no idea what it was. It would be some time before I had any answers. Little did I know that it would not be until November of 2011 before I got any answers about my autoimmune disease. These symptoms, I believe, were evidence of the autoimmune diseases with which I was contending. My body was at war against itself!

When I think of that building, and the physiological “earthquake” I experienced, it reminds me of how my body feels. Just as I wanted to escape the building to a safer environment , I have often wanted to escape my body as well throughout the years. I often say to my husband, “I want to get away from myself…,my body.” I also have a second type of prison though. I have felt and feel very alone with much of my illness over the years. The fact is, people cannot feel what I am experiencing at the time it is going on. Because of this, they cannot see the war that is going on in my body. *

*Below is a link to the the fundraising site to help me get treatment.  It gives details on my health struggles, which have gone on for years.  If you can, please donate to help me win the “war” in my body. Small donations add up and can get a great cause.  $1-$5 donations are great.

You can also donate through Paypal directly at Donations are being taken by my sister, Maria.  Thank you for reading and for any support! *

*Below is a link to the the fundraising site to help me get treatment.  It gives details on my health struggles, which have gone on for years.  If you can, please donate to help me win the “war” in my body. Small donations add up and can get a great cause.  $1-$5 donations are great.

You can also donate through Paypal directly at Donations are being taken by my sister, Maria.  Thank you for reading and for any support!

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