Category Archives: Health

Invisalign investment: Splurging on Straighter Teeth

In middle school I was a full-on metal mouth. Well, I had braces on my upper teeth but for some reason never had them on my lower. My parent’s insurance covered the costs and I hated every minute of it. Even with the braces I still had these giant gaps between my small teeth. The second I got the braces off the last thing I wanted to was wear a retainer every night. So I didn’t. And my teeth decided to return to their earlier position or something else entirely.

Fast forward into the future and I’m a 30 year old with crooked, gappy teeth. I wasn’t set on spending money on adult braces for cosmetic purposes, but on a recent dentist visit it was explained to me that my overbite was actually causing my lower teeth to chip, and the gaps in my teeth were causing food to get stuck and my gums to wear down. Since it was now also a medical issue I decided to start seriously investigating Invisalign as an option to straighten things out a bit. Continue reading

Acupuncture: Placebo Effect or Just Effect?

A few years ago I decided to try a new technique to get my hormones in check. Well, the technique is actually ancient, but it was new to me. A few needling sessions and a half-drunk container of herbs later, I felt much healthier, and even my doctor’s noticed that I was improving in a few areas.

Was it the acupuncture? The herbs? The fact that I started to eat a bit healthier since paying a lot of money to stick myself with needles and lie still for a half hour twice a month? I’m not so sure.

I found out that my new insurance covers acupuncture with a $25 co-pay, so I figured now is the time to find out if that experience before was just a fluke. I’ve been in for two sessions so far this time around. If you’ve never experiencing acupuncture before, it’s certainly a strange sensation. The needles mostly don’t hurt, though today I got one in my foot that I had the acupuncturist take out and replace with a smaller needle. There are a lot of theories around why acupuncture helps health issues, ranging from solving energy flow to flight-or-fight response in your system because you are being stuck with sharp objects.

There is definitely something to it, though, for when the needles are in the right spots and I’m lying there I feel this tingling sensation. It’s an interesting heaviness that is both relaxing and disconcerting. At the very least, needling reduces stress because it forces you to lie still for a half hour (and who has time to do that these days?)

Have you ever had acupuncture treatments or any eastern medicine? What have been the results?

Fitness is Free or Very Expensive

When my scale tipped 180lbs for the second time in my life, I knew it was time to throw in the towel (or pick one up) and invest in my health. I’m 30, so my yo-yoing weight is no longer a joke (haha I’ll totally drop those extra 50lbs in a year or two once I stop being a depressed pig, no probs bobs.) Uhhh… not that the pounds ever really came off easily, but this time they are sticking like superglue. Eeeeyikes.

So now I’m trying to decide just how much I want to splurge on this whole “getting healthy” thing. It’s not actually a thing, it’s the entirety of my life AND the most important part of it. Yes, I can be a frugalista and hit $325,000 in networth this year and die when I’m 60 because I ate and sat myself to death, or I can make a change today. My goal is 120lbs-130lbs, with 130-145 being acceptable and anything over that being very bad. Anything over 160 is extremely bad. I can’t believe I let myself get this gross again. Nothing I own fits, which is another problem, because I have to go buy a whole new wardrobe unless I can shrink back into my clothes. Sigh. Continue reading

Increasing Cost of My Health Issues

I’m the type of person who avoids going to the doctor like the plague until I already have the worst case of the plague. But after having ongoing spells — fits of strange feelings of sudden sadness, deja vu, a surreal feeling and metallic taste in mouth lasting about 30 seconds to a minute, et al — I felt concerned. I assumed it was just a panic attack, but after doing a quick google search and finding that my strange seemingly disparate symptoms actually were all descriptive of temporal lobe seizures. That got me to a doctor.

Well, actually I went in for a physical and mentioned my symptoms. The doctor seemed concerned as well and referred me to a neurologist. The neurologist, who happens to be a specialist in epilepsy (that’s what you get living near world-renowned hospitals/universities) actually didn’t think I was crazy either. I was pretty sure she’d take one look at me and say – girl, you have mild migraines — take some tylenol — or you clearly are having panic attack, here is some xanax and have a nice day.

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There’s Logic to this Depression

I hate making every other post about my mental health situation (you don’t believe me, do you?), but everything seems to tie back to that these days. Some spans of time are better than others, but overall this deep sense of panic is inescapable. I’m not being overly dramatic, it is just what I’m feeling at the moment. So I write about it. It’s better than some other ways to deal with it, anyway.

That said, I could focus on doing things like meditating — recommended to me by both my doctor and therapist — to help calm down and feel centered — but ultimately I’m just grabbing at loose ends here. So I’m depressed. Clearly. I’m just lost. On the days that end in massive amounts of tears and gasping for air, looking for a way out, I just try, to the best of my ability, to pull the pieces together and give myself the positive reinforcement required to shut my eyes, clear my head, and face another day. It’s not that bad, but then it is. You know?

Turning 30 has been harder than I expected for me. Besides the whole biological clock – going-to-be-really-really-hard-to-have-kids-thanks-PCOS – situation, I’ve run into some new medical issues. Nothing life-threatening so far, knock on wood, but things that seem to swing into play at a certain age and genetic disposition. Not to be all TMI (isn’t that the point of this blog) but my mother and grandmother have GERD and apparently I now have it too (if you don’t know what that is and really want to know, be my guest and look it up, but anyway it’s not fun. A whole new diet and a pill should help.) Yeay for being/getting old* (*not to offend anyone older than 30! Trust me I’ll be there soon as well.) Continue reading

Happiness Versus Fear of Uncertainty and the Depersonalization Effect

Taking off next to another plane this morning, I gazed out the window watching our planes part in opposite directions across a perfectly clear sky. The view was spectacular. I fly a lot, but there was something extra magical about the colors today, the light pouring over San Francisco, tinting the Golden Gate Bridge extra golden, the Pacific Ocean twinkling so bright it seemed as though despite the gain in altitude I could still reach out and touch it until our flight made its final turn to the east.

I love to wake up in the morning wrapped in the arms of my boyfriend, his gentle smile, and pull around me in a warm hug drifting in and out of consciousness. I’m very excited about moving in with him and starting our – adult – life together. As terrified as I am about the future, I finally feel ready for the next steps, whatever they may be. Living with my boyfriend, getting married, trying to have kids, maybe having one or two — being two months into 30 I definitely feel a change in my perception of the world and what I want.

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“Unlimited” Laser Hair Removal No Longer

Throughout my life, I’ve been a naturally hairy person. Shaving was useless as it just left ingrown hairs and dark stubble. I honestly could never feel beautiful or desirable with the dark hair all over my body. Even my boyfriend, who is the least superficial person on earth, would not want to touch me a day after I had shaved because of the hair on my legs. My bathroom, shared with a roommate, would always be covered in hair from my various attempts to rid myself of human fur. Enough was enough.

So a few years ago I started looking for a permanent solution. Lucky for me, I was an ideal candidate for laser hair removal – pale skin, dark hair. It wasn’t cheap and it sounded frightening, so I spent a lot of time researching different treatments, lasers and pricing options. I went to probably about six different consultations. For starters, I paid $1800 for a package of six treatments for my face, because due to PCOS I had thick disgusting chin hairs and sideburns that I would spend every second of my life tweezing. Then, when my face didn’t explode from the first few treatments, I decided to get serious. I wanted as much of my body hair gone as possible.

At one consultation, where I paid for a single bikini treatment, the nurse started to upsell me on multiple treatments packages, which that one treatment could be applied to. I gave her the run down of everything I wanted lasered. Which was pretty much, everything:

  • Face
  • Behind the Neck
  • Armpits
  • Arms
  • Lower Back
  • Stomach
  • Bikini Area (Let’s leave a landing strip, thank you)
  • Legs
  • Toes 

Yes, I think that is just about everywhere person can possibly have hair, with the exception of her head. She added up the cost for six treatments per area, and filled me in on a little secret — another spa, where she worked part time, had an amazing deal for laser hair removal. Unlimited treatments in 90 minute sessions for $4500. While $4500 isn’t cheap, my total for six sessions in each of my planned areas was going to be something like $7000. Unlimited. Sounded. Unlimitedly awesome. I knew that laser hair removal was designed to reduce, not fully get rid of body hair, but from what I’ve read six treatments really wouldn’t be enough to make a serious dent. I liked the idea of being able to keep getting hair removed until it was gone for good.

So I splurged. It was my biggest purchase yet outside of my then $8k car. I bought “Unlimited Hair Removal” in March of 2011. I always knew that I was risking the spa going out of business in this purchase, but I hoped I could get the value out of the $4.5k before that time came. I had to stick to a very strict visit plan. I couldn’t hit all the areas each visit, and the treatments had to be 6-8 weeks apart, so that resulted in 1-2 visits per month to a spa about an hour away from my house, across a toll bridge. It was kind of a pain to get there, but the deal was worth it. I couldn’t find anything else remotely close to it, and the spa seemed actually reputable. I was so excited about the journey to becoming hair free as I made my way in for my first appointment.

Getting your body zapped with a laser is not fun. They say it is going to feel like a rubber band snapping against your skin but that is a lie. Basically every hair follicle shot by the laser gets so hot that it explodes under your skin and feels like tiny shards of hot glass. Early on in treatments, at least for the first six treatments, there are a lot of hairs each zap gets at a time. This is good because it goes faster, but when doing areas like the legs that are large, or the bikini that are extremely sensitive, the pain can be intense. I would use numbing creme for my bikini and face but that just helped minimize the shock. Trust me, it hurt. And each time they increased the strength of the laser, so it hurt more. 90 minutes straight of this is torture. But worth it.

Since it’s dangerous to have laser treatments when you are tan at all, I would take the summers off from going in for treatments, figuring that I had, well, “unlimited” treatments forever, I could wait. Then, this summer, I got a letter from the spa’s doctor saying “you are at the clinical endpoint of your treatments, you cannot come in anymore.” Wait a second. I was like, WTF? Unlimited doesn’t mean six months after I go in for a treatment you randomly decide that I’m done. Granted, some areas have seen serious improvement (my legs, while they still have a few strands of hair here and there, are a billion times better than they were when I started) but others are still a bit patchy (my armpits and bikini, which I figured would take just a lot more treatments, but again, I had an unlimited pass, so eventually all the hair would be gone.)

I wrote a nastygram to the company saying that it’s ridiculous they say I’m at the medical endpoint of my treatment because I’m treating multiple areas of my body and it’s impossible for them all to magically have the same medical endpoint. Also, my nurse, at my last session, said nothing about being close to a medical endpoint, which I kind of assumed would be told to me before the treatment was over (“oh, yea, this area only needs one more treatment and you’re done.”) But the nurses there constantly told me stories of women who would come in for years for treatments, if hair started to grow again, they would just zap it. That was the magic of this deal, which really was too good to be true.

In response to my nastygram, the assistant wrote me back saying, contrary to the note I received, that this package had been discontinued. Now, that really got me boiling, because you can’t discontinue something that I bought with a signed contract for unlimited treatments. A few more nastygrams later, which threatened bad online reviews and legal action, they offered two dates when I could come in and meet with their doctor (who also owns the business) so he could look over my history and current progress to determine if I needed more treatments. This was a pain in the ass because the doctor was only available in the middle of the work week, and I live an hour away from the clinic, but I figured once I showed the doctor my armpits and some other areas that clearly still need treatment he’d be reasonable.

Unfortunately, when I came in, the doctor told me the REAL story – they were selling the business. In three days. And they couldn’t tell anyone about it. So… I was pretty much SOL. I negotiated one more 90 minute treatment the next day in the late afternoon, which required traveling a 2 hour trip to the spa that normally takes 1 hour because of traffic. I really couldn’t do anything other than that. Funny enough, the nurse who first recommended me this deal that I met at the other spa in 2011, who had left this spa for a while, was randomly back working there one day a week, and she was the only nurse with an appointment to fit me in. So it was like coming full circle.

As she zapped me I thought about how glad I was that, despite not having a truly unlimited deal, that I was able to have about 10-12 treatments per area for $4500, which really would have cost something like $10k-$15k had I paid separately. It was still very much a worthwhile deal, I’m just bummed that my “unlimited” treatments only lasted for two years. Had I been smarter, I would have not taken the summers off, and made appointments more frequently, at the risk they would sell or go out of business.

 

 

The Price of Weight Loss

Two weeks ago, I walked into a local weightloss office and filled out paperwork on my health history. I gave my FSA card to the receptionist, who entered in the card numbers into the system, locking in my $400 per month payment for this program that guarantees to help you lose 5-10lbs per month. Then I spent an hour with the clinicians learning about the program and proper portions. I was given a shot of amino acids and sent on my way to a new, thinner me.

When people see me and I say I need to lose weight, they roll their eyes. I’m not morbidly obese, but I am medically overweight. I have a body fat percentage of 39%. Obese is 32%+(!) I’m at an age now where I can no longer ignore this. While some people can just exercise their weight off, I have a few larger problems to deal with first. One is that my insulin regulation is messed up. I know this because I have PCOS and also unless I remove most carbs from my diet I will not get my period naturally. I want to fix this because I’d like to have children in the next five years, and I want to at least set myself up for the best odds to procreate. Infertility treatments will be much more expensive and if I can avoid them by getting myself to a healthy weight, then all the better.

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$1000 a month on a psychologist?

I’ve written before on my concerns on over-spending on healthcare, particularly mental healthcare, as my income has ranged from $50k to $100k. Even though today I make more money than I did years ago, it still seems a bit unreasonable to spend $1000 a month on a psychologist. However, that’s how much qualified mental health costs in my neck of the woods. I just spoke with a local psychologist who sounds like he may be able to help me reduce stress and be more functional, yet he costs $235 a 45 minute session. Does it make sense to spend $1000 a month on mental health therapy when my rent is only $600?

You could argue in the long run I’ll make more money if I get appropriate mental health help. I may be able to keep my job longer… be more successful in my tasks… prove to management that I’m capable of sustained success and therefore worthy of a raise… etc. But it certainly won’t help my bottom line in the short term. And wouldn’t something like yoga (even at the really expensive studios around here) or straight-up personal training be cheaper and actually make me healthier in the long run?

Perhaps I’m just resistant to allowing therapy to work because I don’t want to believe I can pay for someone to tell me how to fix something that isn’t physically broken. That said, these days I’ve been about at my wit’s end and need help. I need help enough that I’ve started to call local psychologists. Yet, then I remember that they charge $200 a session, and that means $800-$1000 a month, or $12,000 a year. Even though my take-home pay is $4200 a month after 401k and taxes, that’s still a lot. How much should I spend on mental health?

The Hard Realities of Aging and Falling to Pieces

A recent article on “life before death” dementia and late-life illness struck a cord with me and my family. While I’ve always been fearful of death, the reality is that death isn’t just a one-time end. Even if you’re “lucky” to reach 100, for everyone, that means many years of degraded mental and physical health. It must be terrible to go through, but it’s equally as terrible for everyone else around you trying to help you progress slowly towards death.

My Grandmother, 83, has a gambling problem. In the last 10, mostly 5 years, she has gambled away her entire life savings of more than $300,000. Everyone knew she had a problem, but no one legally could intervene to help. Now, she’s broke, and at age 83, approaching the age of severe medical problems, even after leading a relatively healthy life (more thanks to good genetics than being healthy.) My mother and her sister’s had already been in uncomfortable discussions around what to do with her — as her social security did not provide enough money to pay for her two bedroom apartment in her Las Vegas retirement community, but she refused to move into a smaller space.

A few days ago, my grandmother fell down. She broke a bone in her neck, which was operable. On the scene of the fall, the paramedic asked her how old she was — she said 64. The doctor’s brought her to a rehab facility after she stopped being combative and arguing with them, and after one day there she told my mother via phone she had been there for weeks. The doctor diagnosed her with mild dementia. Now the question is not how she can afford the 2 bedroom apartment and a $2000 tax bill, but how to afford many years ahead of assisted living.

Meanwhile, her daughters — my mother, and her two sisters — are not in strong enough financial places to step in and help. My parents are concerned about their retirement savings as the stock market has not recovered, and they continue to spend like it is magically going to. I tell my mom over and over to not make the same mistakes her mother did, but she cannot see spending money on clothes and cleaning help as the same as her mother’s gambling away all her savings. In the end, the money will be gone, I tell her, so it’s the same. She ignores me.

For now, they need to figure out what to do with their mother as she gets increasingly senile. She’s always been a bit crazy, so adding real dementia to that crazy could get very bad, very fast. My mother is considering trying to get her to move out to New Jersey to be closer and find a lower cost place to stay, but all is up in the air right now. I don’t think my mother can really handle her mother at the moment, as my dad is in the later stages of terminal cancer and his cancer will likely get worse in the next few years or even months.

Overall, this is a very depressing situation, but so goes life.