31 March 2010

Yaz and Hitting For The Cycle

Sadly (mebbe?) for the original and great Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski, this post has nothing to do with him... Though his rookie preseason did coincide with the first year birth control was made commercial available in the United States. Coincidence? You decide.

A professor of mine at Marist (one of my favorites, actually) once said that no invention in the twentieth century changed our modern world so much as hormonal birth control. He may very well be right. After all, the introduction of hormonal birth control placed (HBC) sexual independence in the hands of women in a way they never experienced before. Families and individuals could for the first time accurately and safely decide how many children to have. HBC helped to fuele the women's liberation movement and feminism, allowed women to actively control their reproduction, and opened cultural doors in our society unheard of prior to its introduction. The Pill is, in short, amazing. 

And yet...

Last summer, I decided to go back on hormonal birth control, for the obvious reasons. My doctor, a young woman herself, prescribed Yaz. I had been on HBC before, Yasmin, and it had worked fine. When the need for the drug stopped being present, I stopped taking it, obviously. But this summer, I was prescribed Yaz. Without scaring anyone too graphically, the damn pills made me bleed for a month and a half straight. Every time I called my doctor, she told me that it would take time to adjust. I hardly think that is a worthy side effect for an adjustment period, but maybe that's just me... 

Then, my hair started falling out. Not in clumps, but it was thinning noticeably (to me). Now, I'm not saying the Yaz caused my hair to fall out, but I eventually visited a dermatologist who told me anemia probably caused a bout of telogen effluvium, which is a fancy term for "your hair is falling out slightly, we don't know why, but it'll probably stop." I'm not going to say the Yaz caused this at all, but looking at the evidence, I just want to point out that a month and a half of constant blood loss might have some bearing on anemia. Just sayin'. Ahem.

I was peripherally aware of Yaz's legal problems while I was on it. Since I stopped taking it, all of this has caused me to wonder what in side-effect hell is the FDA smoking? How are drugs like this allowed on the market? Why was I pushed, and I was, into taking Yaz even when I voiced concerns about it to my doctor? Why isn't accurate, reliable, and personalized information about reproductive health choices available to women like me? It's enough to make me want to punch a baby. (I kid, I only punch toddlers and older.)

I've opted for alternative birth control now, I have a copper IUD, which prior to undertaking my own research, thought was a veritable death sentence. As it turns out, IUDs are actually one of the most reliable, widely-used form of birth control world wide, but due to the deaths associated with the Dalkon Shield in the 1970s, they never regained a share of the U.S. contraception market. So if Yaz has been attributed to the deaths of women taking it, why is it still out there? Why are women still taking it? And why aren't the risks associated with HBC enough to make us rethink how we approve and prescribe these drugs?

Women in America often lack in appropriate healthcare. In fact, Amnesty International and the World Health Organization have recently reported that the United States has worse mortality rates during childbirth than 40 other countries. American women are five times more likely to die during childbirth than their Grecian sisters. Can I get a "what the fuck"?
As US Amnesty executive director, Larry Cox, puts it, "Mothers die not because the United States can't provide good care, but because it lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women."

Apparently, my ovaries are worth jack shit in political capital. (So, to every woman out there who seems to think we don't need nationally subsidized healthcare, take note, madam.) And this is just a part of the greater issue surrounding Yaz. Was it just plain lack of political will that allows crappy, deadly, horrible drugs to flood the market? And worse yet, is it the same lack of political will (or worse yet, dare I say financial corruption) that promoted these deadly drugs to doctors, who in turn prescribed them to us?

So that leaves many of us with a conundrum of self-education. With all of these things in mind, we ladies are left in a position of veritable ignorance and yet great need. The information on what would work for the individual is out there, floating about in cyberspace and what have you, but that's not enough, if you ask me. (And you're not asking me, but I'm telling you anyway.) This information needs to be easy to access and available to all women. But if our doctors aren't going to do it, as they seem to be waxing the pharmaceutical companies' balls, who will? I can only relate my experience; I can't offer any expertise. I do think that American women still suffer a certain amount of shame and stigma when they take their own reproductive health into their own hands. The post I wrote about a month ago touched on how perverse our attitudes about sex really are. 

So until we really sort this nonsense out, I'm going to try to stay on top of my own health, in all regards. After all, if I don't do it, no one else is going to, obviously. 

22 March 2010

Find Your Calling... Even In The Dark

cartoon from this blog
Life in limbo has ups and downs totally unique to itself. One benefit is that I have an unlimited amount of time to myself. I have the privilege of spending copious amounts of time with my boyfriend, or with friends or family, or with my dog or doing whatever it is that might strike my fancy. The downside of this is the time to myself. Everyone needs alone time, clearly, but this is getting ridiculous.

My job search is repeatedly coming up dry. While positions exist that I qualify for, I have been informed that I am over-qualified and simultaneously under-experienced in general. This was made clear by the Connecticut DOL who required me to attend an "Enhanced Reemployment Program" last week. This consisted of being told that those in attendance were selected by a computer based on our application for unemployment benefits. That is to say, we were either over the age of 55 or under the age of 25 when we applied, over-qualified or under-qualified, or in a declining industry. Well, I was 25 when I applied, I have an MA in human rights, and worked in the non-profit sector. Three outta three is terrible! I had a resume expert look at mine after the program. She said it was pretty much perfect... and then handed me a sheet titled "Advice for the Over-Qualified." Yay?

I keep looking. The job postings I find keep getting less and less applicable to me. While I do have an MA, I only really have two years of industry experience. Granted, between my former boss, the graphic designer and me, we were the entire marketing department for six New England states. That alone should pretty much ensure that I have experience in damn near everything marketing-wise. But you can't really express that in a resume. And when employers are receiving hundreds, possibly thousands, of resumes for each posting, I'm sure they filter early and effectively. Lack of tangible and recognizable experience on paper is a serious hinderance. Beyond that, I've noticed job descriptions, similar to those I was looking at two years ago, are now requiring increasingly long experience in the industry. While a job might have required 1 - 2+ years experience before, they're now asking 5+ years and offering the same pay/position. I suppose in this job market, that's an employer's prerogative, but DAMN! I don't know what to do, really, except keep on keepin' on.

This has made me rethink my career path (I can't say I really mapped one out, anyway). Before I got my recently lost job, I toyed with the idea of going for my PhD. Back to giving the ol' education the long view is where I'm currently sitting. I still have thousands in student loans from my MA. I have no real income, per se, and what the state pays in unemployment isn't going to last long. My bank account is dwindling uncomfortably. I'm frustrated and stir-crazy and maybe I'm grasping at straws...

I would be inclined to pursue a PhD in either cultural anthropology or international relations, hopefully at UConn. What they're asking for application is daunting. They require my GRE scores, a test I took 5 years ago and, in my estimation, bombed (though I can't find the record of this failure in my piles of crap from undergrad). They need references from former professors. They need a signed waiver handing over my first-born; or at the very least, my ability to spin straw into gold. I loved being in school. From pre-school through grad school, I enjoyed every minute of it. Granted, my propensity for goofing off really struck in undergrad and lasted until well after grad school, perhaps hindering my natural abilities more than I would like to admit, but I still loved school.

My time in grad school ranks among the best of my life. I lived in London, went to one of the best schools, made amazing friends, and probably drank at least three years off my liver. (The last of these things probably affecting my academic performance in a less-than-brilliant fashion, but so it goes.) I loved what I studied, I loved the school, the library, and the city. If it weren't for an expiring student visa and and even more rapidly expiring bank account, I have little doubt I'd still be there now, working if I could get clearance, working under the table at a pub and entering a sham marriage with my friend Kat if I couldn't.

So school itself, regardless of location, is something I adore. Really, I'm never happier than when I'm learning something new. Ask anyone who knows me, I have an absurd well of useless and randomly acquired facts swimming in my head. Bits I pick up hither and thither tend to come out unexpectedly, often at times I feel socially awkward. I've learned, though, that my well of knowledge surrounding human rights tends not to be the best topic-of-conversation for, say, a dinner party with your boyfriend's parents, just as an example. (The "Palestinian Hanging" torture technique doesn't make for good light discussions. No one ever accused me of being socially graceful.)

When one obtains a PhD., it commits the new doctor to a life of teaching and/or research, essentially. Could I teach at the university level for a career? I think so. Would I be fired for assaulting a student who just didn't want to learn? Possibly. But teaching techniques are something you learn over time. I am well aware that I'd actually kill a child if I had to teach high school or younger. I substituted for three days back in 2008 and came away with a brand new respect for teachers. Yowsa. But I digress.

I still have no idea if this is something I want. I would seek a PhD not for the shallow benefits it would provide; but because I genuinely love learning and would really like to master a subject. I am, however, overcome with fear of my own inadequacies. I have no idea if I'd even be accepted. Should I bother going through the taxing efforts of applying, possibly including a re-take of the GREs? Could I hack it as a T.A., research assistant, and eventually (hopefully) a professor? How would I pay my bills? What would I live on while in school? And would getting a PhD. actually open more doors for my future, or close them?

It seems the longer I have to stew in my own unemployed juices, the more confused I get as to the avenues open to me. I know I would always be welcome in the City of Salt, and that I can live at home pretty much as long as I need (I really, really don't want to need to do so for much longer!). But in spite of the fact that the world is essentially open in front of me, I feel very confined by past choices and my inability to identify what I want and need - from myself, from my job, from others. It's days like this that I think life would be so much simpler if we were still stuck in a feudal system. I may have been a serf, but at least I knew what my life was about... and that I'd probably have a job for life.

02 March 2010

I Can Ruin Rice & Other Funachievements

Being funemployed has opened up a world of opportunities for time-wasting, exploration, and résumé meddling. Here is a quick run-down of things I have discovered about myself in the last two months, feel free to mock me at your will. (Also, I hate lists, but bare with me, it's what I'm working with here.)
  1. I Can Ruin Rice. I can't really explain why; even when I follow the directions to the letter, I somehow manage to mess it up. Now, admittedly, I've only ever tried to make "real" rice a few times, we all know the instant rice packets you can buy are a lot easier. Keeping that in mind, I have a big container of delicious kasmati rice that I like to have with my leftover Thai and Indian food. Every damn time I try to make it, my rice ends up watery. It's almost enough to completely mess up my chicken masala or green curry. Almost.
  2. My Resume Knows No Limits. Given all my spare time and job-hunting, I have a lot of time to inspect and re-write my resume. This has happened easily a dozen times. Sometimes I get exceptionally creative and add hot pink headings and lots of underlining, just to amuse myself with bad design. I never send these incarnations of my resume, but I keep them and laugh at them and stare at my degrees and experience and wonder why the fuck I am still funemployed.
  3. I Am Still Clumsy. My inability to have any kinesthetic sense is not news to anyone who spends more than five minutes with me. I broke my ankle falling down two stairs for the love of God. In the last two months, I can't explain how many trips, slips, and total slap-stick style goof-ups I have committed. Adam reintroduced me to skiing. The two and a half days total days we spent skiing, he was able to witness me getting my ass totally kicked my a sapling, face-planting UP the mountain side, and eventually ending the 2009-2010 ski season with a crowd-worrying yard sale that sent me to the lodge for the rest of the day. My knee still hurts.
  4. I Am A Destroyer of Mobile Telephones. The last cell phone I had before my current one died a slow and painful death. I cracked the outer screen, then months later, I cracked the inner screen. After that, I dropped it while on the treadmill. Ultimately, I flipped it open while walking up the stairs and, being clumsy (see above) it flew from my hands and smashed on the tiled floor. The phone before that was stolen. The one before that may or may not have accidentally been run over after being thrown at the wall. My current phone is working through the last stages of its existence after it slipped from my grasp while holding an armful of random paraphernalia and managed to land squarely in the dog's water dish.
  5. Even Though I Am Funemployed, I Have Little Spare Time. This is not entirely my fault. Some of this is Adam's, some is the computer's and its related job search. Other mysterious time-suckers include (but are not limited to): sleep, alcohol, television, miscellaneous illness, half-finished books, helping my parents around the house, and the like. Regardless of these varied time-suckers, I feel less and less productive each day. It's quite disheartening.
  6. I Know Way Too Many Creepers. Part of me have always known that certain individuals in the periphery of my life possess creepy tendencies. It may simply be because my brain is less occupied otherwise that I have come to meditate on their behaviors and come to the conclusion that these peoples exist. Or, considering my somewhat abstract and unpleasant recent romantic past, these individuals have been, quite unexpectedly, been testing the waters of Courtney's Interest to gauge whether I would be receptive to their advances. (I am not.) I think, however, it is something else entirely. As Krissy and I recently discussed, we seem to attract creepers. Not because of anything other than the fact that both of us are very receptive of different sorts of people as well as very willing to give people plenty of time to prove themselves. Sometimes, we do this to a fault and Krissy ends up getting harangued at a bar by a boy with a 1940s Soviet hairdo and a penchant for punching walls.
  7. I'm Not Really Good At This Blogging Thing. I know plenty of folks seem to enjoy my posts. And I like posting them, but I can't seem to keep on any sort of schedule for posting. Do you really want to read my abstract lists and musings on random events and mishaps? Moreover, who has hijacked my site and is abusing it?

01 March 2010

Life in Limbo

That image really speaks for itself, but it's a film poster for a movie that came out in 1999 and I thought it was oddly appropriate. It stars Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and David Strathairn. I might just have to check it out.)

I have, as of today, March 1, 2010, joined the hordes of uninsured, unemployed Americans. I went skiing over the weekend (a post of funness for another time) and managed to wonk-out my right knee. The only concern I had at the time was whether or not it was serious enough to need medical attention. Not for my health, but because of my current mess of a life. On Friday, I managed to squeeze in my last medical appointments in a semi-reckless, no-follow-up-care kind of way.

I realize the so-called healthcare "debate" is raging violently in D.C. right now, and I know there are many people who feel that socialized healthcare is the debil. I know there are those running scared about the personal cost of relinquishing the control the insurance companies have over our welfare. Well, let me say this once and for all to those who have medical coverage, but squeal and run screaming "socialism!" and cover their ears when people talk of state-run healthcare: SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Until everyone can rest well at night knowing that they, their spouses, their parents, neighbors, and children have access to reasonable healthcare at all times, this country will remain in the shitter. Let's be honest, the morons screaming about communism and socialized medicine and fucking DEATH PANELS are either wealthy enough or secure enough not to worry about whether they will pay for food or rent or medicine this month. They won't worry that their child won't get proper attention when ill or injured. They won't ever stare down the gullet of never-ending medical bills on a minimum-wage salary.

And let's be honest, Medicare, Medicaid... they're already socialized. Unless you're among the many misinformed individuals out there who seem to think that these programs come from some magical never-never land, our healthcare is already largely socialized. I am no expert here, but as one of the few post-industrial nations out there without some form of government-run healthcare, I can see that there's more than just a little wrong in the United Sates.

I love my nation. I'm a patriot, but never confuse that with nationalism. I hate watching the healthcare "debate" devolve into sniping and steonwalling by Republican'ts who are bitter they lost the election paired with the covering diplomacy of Democrats. Nothing is getting done. And almost 46 million of us are still uninsured.

Allow me to regale you with an anecdote. While I was in school in London, I managed to break both bones in my right ankle in a fine display of clumsiness and grace while running for the tube. Not my shiningest moment, but it is what it is. When I got to the A&E (that's the ER for us Yanks), I was treated and hospitalized. I ended up with eight pins and a plate in my ankle. Yay for modern medicine! Incidentally, the hospital was a teaching hospital attached to the university I was studying at. The entire story is hysterical, but I will save it for another day.

What's more is, as my friend Alice who kindly accompanied me to the hospital that night will attest, while on relative ineffective pain killers in the exam room in the A&E, I told every person who came into the room that they shouldn't worry because I had insurance. Never you mind that my ankle had to be reset and was so swollen that I had to lay in the hospital bed for five days before surgery. I was concerned immediately with begin able to prove that I could pay for my treatment. The pain in my leg? Merely a nuisance compared with my fear that I might not receive as thorough treatment as I needed. I was in a constant state of panic about this until the next morning. A lovely case-manager, a bespectacled, slightly egg-shaped man in a maroon blazer, came to my bed. He asked why I was in the United Kingdom. I told him I was a student at the school and mentioned I had insurance. He asked for my student ID. I gave it to him, and mentioned I had insurance. He wrote down information from my ID. I mentioned again that I had insurance. He looked over his glasses at me and smiled. He said everything was covered because I was a full-time student for the year. I was relived and suspicious at the same time. Talk about a what the fuck moment. I have always been a proponent of socialized medicine to some degree, but my own experience solidified my stance.

Yes, this is an anecdote. Not everyone has a pleasant medical experience in foreign countries. Yes, the combined income tax and National Insurance rate for UK citizens making over £37,400 a year hovers around 40%. Yes, Americans balk at this number. Yes, that can't be a whole lot of fun.

But what is the cost of healthcare for those who are uninsured? Astronomical, especially when you consider that most of those who are uninsured are, like me, not exactly rolling in dough.

I've been actively searching for jobs. I applied to a few earlier today. There aren't many out there to be had. I did get a suggestion from Monster.com that I apply to be an Orkin exterminator, but considering my fear of chemicals and dislike of creepy crawlies, I decided that I needed to keep looking.

The problem is that many see government-provided healthcare as a way to pander to the lowest common denominator in the Unites States - the happily unemployed, social loafers living off welfare and unemployment and whatever else. Regardless of what systems of protection or support we have, there will always be individuals who fit this description. (This is not, in any way, an argument against these systems.) It worries me deeply, however, that so many Americans seem not only unconcerned that their fellow citizens can languish in medical hell, but determined to make them stay there. And worse yet, I see these individuals as the self-same who would deny a young woman her reproductive freedoms (read: abortion) because every life is sacred... except hers. Yep, wrap the ol' noggin' around that one. Carry on.

At what point did we become a laissez-faire nation? Not in terms of government systems, but in terms of genuinely caring about our fellow citizens because they're human and in need? The gap between the Haves and the Have Nots is gaping and only growing bigger.

I don't mean to rant. But I will be honest with whoever reads this:

I'm unemployed. I'm uninsured. And I'm scared.