Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday Night Insomnia

On this Saturday night/Sunday morning, insomnia pays a visit to my room. Is it the chocolate I ate at the movie? Is it the enormous amount of change and uncertainty in my life at the moment? Is it the insomnia of depression and anxiety? Or is it simply the gnawing knowledge that change is afoot, my mind awash with needless ruminations on the future? 

On these sleepless evenings, I toss and turn, I read, I pick up the laptop, and I eventually collapse in a heap or am lulled to sleep by soothing music or a guided meditation. Lately, I've taken to a form of prayer, reconnecting with the devotional self, a part of me that has lay dormant for far too long. My prayers are like requests for help, requests that I be saved from the runaway train of my mind

Outside, it's a humid and quiet New England summertime night. Nearby, frogs doze in their frog beds, beavers snore in their lodges, and bats circle in the dark air, feasting on mosquitoes. 
The other night, I heard coyotes in the distance, and it made me long for life on the road where we will hear many more wild sounds in the deep, dark night. 

For now, I am comforted by a lamp, the glow of the computer, the sounds in the still night air, and the beating of my own heart. 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Health Insurance Blues

Most of the readers of Digital Doorway know by now that my wife Mary and I are preparing to leave our static home in New England for an itinerant life on the road. That said, leaving our home necessitates quitting our jobs, and when that paycheck stops rolling in, something else will also end----our health insurance. 

Now, my European friends simply cannot comprehend this, but millions of Americans remain in jobs that they hate for one reason and one reason only---their health insurance. And many Americans who share our dream of self-employment and entrepreneurship also allow their dreams and aspirations to be thwarted by that very same health insurance bogeyman. 

What is it about America that those who wish to do something different must suffer for their choices? Why are there millions of uninsured children who go without primary care because their parents cannot pay for their care? Why do tens of millions of adult Americans with chronic illnesses languish without health care and health insurance? 

My wife and I want to manifest a life of creative self-employment and entrepreneurship, a vibrant engine of economic growth upon which American society was actually built. So, why are we forced to pay extortionate amounts of money so that we can have the simplest, most basic form of catastrophic health insurance? In this country built upon the entrepreneurial genius of those willing to take a risk, why are the risk-takers economically penalized? 

I ponder these questions as we look towards the end of my job, the cessation of our health insurance, and the uncertain road ahead. If we were European, this conversation would never have to occur. In fact, it would be seem ludicrous. 

Will this country ever change? 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NurseKeith on Twitter

I am honored to have been named among "the 200+ most worthwhile health and medical accounts to follow on Twitter" by the website MedicalFuture. I am in very illustrious company and I am humbled to be included in such a listing. Please check out the list!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Mind as a Train

I've been under a considerable amount of stress lately. My wife and I are quitting our jobs, selling our home of 11 years, leaving our hometown of 17 years, and starting a new life. Plus I have chronic pain and several other troublesome health problems. In the presence of these concurrent and challenging life factors, I am striving to maintain my emotional equanimity, mental stability, and a healthy lifestyle.

Watching how my mind works and the suffering that I experience when my mind gets the best of me, I can see that my mind is often like a runaway train. There are apparently no brakes, the passengers are screaming bloody murder, and the only refreshments available in the cafe car are drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, junk food, slothfulness, and a host of other unhealthy habits to which we humans so frequently succumb when under duress.

As this train hurtles down the track, I try to disengage and hop off at one of the platforms that whiz by at lightning speed, but it's difficult to get up the courage to simply be calm in the eye of the storm and trust that I'll land on my feet if I jump. And when I do indeed manage to simply stand on the platform and watch the train racing past, my hand will often get caught on one of the train's many handles, and I'll suddenly find myself being dragged alongside the speeding train, once again falling victim to the mind's subtle tricks, even though the only thing I need to do is let go.

Apparently helpless and at the mercy of the chugging engines of ego, depression and anxiety, I am frequently dragged alongside my churning mind, and my body is whipped against telephone polls, street lamps and signs along the way. As I struggle to gain my footing against this consistent onslaught of worry and anxiety, my shoes are torn off, and my bloodied feet drag along the ground as the train continues on its inexorable path.
These images may be graphic, but I feel that it's important to identify the feeling that one experiences when the mind's runaway train controls the trajectory of one's life. It seems that the train can happily speed along it's one-way track of worry and rumination perfectly well with or without my participation, so why not choose to simply sit in the grandstand, drink a cup of tea, and watch the action from that calm vantage point?
I admit it. I daily fall victim to my mind's attempts to keep me worrying, to keep the fretting fresh and new, to continue to enslave me to its wiles. But now, 45 years into the game, I'm beginning to catch on, and I'm seeing the ways in which I make myself miserable. I am determined to continue to learn how to get off at the station, rest my weary self, and be a witness to my mind. The lessons learned from that watchfulness and awareness---often called mindfulness---are ones that I will be sure to share here with you, Dear Reader. If you have a story, tactic or anecdote to share about mindfulness and self-care, please leave a comment, and I will be sure to respond.

Call for Submissions: End of Life Stories

Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays that explore death, dying, and end of life care, for a collection to be published by Southern Methodist University Press. We’re looking for stories that transcend the “I” and find universal meaning in personal experiences. We hope to include stories representing a wide variety of perspectives—from physicians, nurses, hospice workers, social workers, counselors, clergy, funeral directors, family members, and others. We want narratives that capture, illustrate and/or explain the best way to approach the end of life, as well as stories that highlight current features, flaws, and advances in the healthcare system and their impact on professionals, patients, and families.

Essays must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with a significant element of research or information. We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award one $1500 prize for Best Essay, and two $500 prizes for runners-up.

Guidelines: Essays must be: unpublished, 5,000 words or less, postmarked by December 31, 2009, and clearly marked “End of Life” on both the essay and the outside of the envelope. There is a $20 reading fee (or send a reading fee of $25 to include a 4-issue CNF subscription); multiple entries are welcome ($20/essay) as are entries from outside the U.S.(though subscription shipping costs do apply).

Please send manuscript, accompanied by a cover letter with complete contact information, SASE and payment to: Creative Nonfiction, Attn: End of Life Stories, 5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202, Pittsburgh, PA 15232.

Please share this announcement with anyone who might be interested in submitting work. Please email any questions

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Anchor House Ride

From July 12th to July 16th, my wonderful brother and hundreds of other amazing and giving bicyclists will be cycling their way from Oswego, New York to Trenton, New Jersey as participants in the Anchor House Ride for Runaways.

The Anchor House is "a multi-service agency for runaway, homeless, abused, and at-risk youth and their families" that has "committed its efforts to providing comprehensive, life-saving assistance to our most vulnerable population" for the past 30 years.

As a bicycle-pedestrian activist and avid cyclist, my brother, Ken Carlson, has achieved monumental results in his volunteer work on behalf of his Central New Jersey community of West Windsor, and his support of Anchor House is yet another manifestation of his generosity and kindness. Please feel free to donate to the Anchor House Ride for Runaways as Ken's sponsor, or simply leave a supportive comment here to thank him and his compatriots for their selfless work and dedication.

The Fresh Air Fund Half-Marathon

On August 16th, The Fresh Air Fund of New York City is hosting its annual Half-Marathon in order to benefit the excellent programs sponsored by the Fresh Air Fund for New York City children. If you would like to run in the event or sponsor a runner, please click here for more information.

From the Fund's website: "Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend one of five Fresh Air Fund camps."

As a native New Yorker, my father benefited from a Fresh Air Fund scholarship in the 1930s and spent a summer in the countryside, working on a farm in New York State, so it seems natural to post about the Fund after receiving an email from their staff.

May every child have the opportunity to experience fresh air, good health, and the benefits of charitable programs dedicated to their well-being!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Change of Shift Begins Year Four of Publication!

Change of Shift, nursing blog carnival extraordinaire, is celebrating it's third birthday and the beginning of it's fourth year of publication. I am honored that Bob the Nurse is once again featured in this week's edition, and perhaps Bob will receive more invitations to travel the country from this continued exposure. 

Speaking of Bob, please stop by his blog and check out his latest adventures in Hawaii. He leaves for Arkansas soon, so new travels and destinations await, and he will no doubt pop up on Change of Shift regularly!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

On Vacation

Dear Readers and Friends,

Digital Doorway will be on a brief hiatus until the end of the Fourth of July weekend. Mary and I are on a brief vacation in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. Please stay tuned, and visit again next week!

Happy Summer!


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Exclusive Early Peek at Wikio Health Blog Rankings!

I am honored to have been given a sneak peek at the latest rankings for health-related blogs on Wikio. Digital Doorway is lucky enough to consistently be in the top 50 health blogs on Wikio, and I am happy to share this preview of the newest rankings with my readers. Enjoy! 

1Highlight HEALTH
2Kevin, M.D. - Medical Weblog
3Diabetes Mine
4In the Pipeline
5DB's Medical Rants
6The Covert Rationing Blog
7The Carlat Psychiatry Blog
8John Goodman's Health Policy Blog
9Junkfood Science
10Her Bad Mother
12The Doctor Is In
13Healthcare Economist
14Schwitzer health news blog
15Health Care Renewal
16Six Until Me.
17Disease Management Care Blog
19Musings of a Dinosaur
20Fight Aging!
21The Rotund
24The Last Psychiatrist
25MSSPNexus Blog
27retired doc's thoughts blog
29Cranky Fitness
30hospital impact
31Beyond Meds
32Brain Blogger
33Doctor Anonymous
34Dr. Deb
35Digital Doorway
36The Trouble With Spikol
37Postpartum Progress
38Weighty Matters
39Caustic Musings
42fat fu
43Autism Vox
44Medicine for the Outdoors
45Genetics and Health
46Brass and Ivory
47Eye on DNA
48soulful sepulcher
49Adventures in Autism
50Inside Surgery
51Autism Street
52Natural Variation - Autism Blog
53Autism News Beat
54Capital Health WW-MD's Notes
55A Nurse Practitioner's View
57The Voyage
58The Urban Monk
59Mauzy's Musings
61Hard Won Wisdom
62Jung At Heart

Ranking by Wikio.