Category Archives: Health

What’s Making Successful American Women Feel Sick?

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Lean In. You can have it all. We’ve come so far in our society to tell ourselves this lie. Yet according to a new survey of super-successful women at Fortune 500 companies, women who are wealthy and highly educated reported to feel less healthy than those who were less successful. Despite the fact that these women were actually less likely to be overweight  and more likely to get six hours of sleep a night, they seem to judge themselves against an unattainable ideal, which makes them feel less healthy.

The Title of the Harvard Business Review Article “The More Women Earn, The Less Healthy They Feel.” It’s not that these women are actually unhealthy, just that they fail to find time to dedicate to their health, especially when it comes to finding time to see a doctor – 48% said they could not see a doctor due to workload. And women who are in high-powered roles find it challenging to find time to exercise – 25% had not participated in any kind of physical exercise in the last month.

As I’ve moved up in the work world to have more responsibility, I find it much more challenging to make time for health. I’ve never been a healthy person, so I’m not the ideal sample, but to perform my job well I should wake up at 6am or earlier and be on a 7:30 train to arrive at work, stay at work until 7 and – I should – attend after work networking events, to return home late in the evening. This is overwhelming to me and I don’t even have children or other responsibilities. I’m trying now to get exercise in by having a personal trainer come to my apartment at 6am three days a week, to make me work out for an hour. But that doesn’t work well when I’m falling asleep at midnight and I need eight hours of sleep a night to function. And my diet, albeit an improvement over what I ate in my 20s, is still hit or miss. Sometimes I’ll go to bed having not eaten enough calories for the day which leads to binge eating the next day. It’s a horrible cycle.

I would assume this is just as hard for men, so the study of women only is an interesting one. There are other reports which show that men often do less housework, especially which children, so women are often more busy due to managing both household responsibilities and work. That may be why this study about women’s health is worth an HBR article.

The other thing that isn’t mentioned, however, is that women generally have more medical concerns than men, and more medical visits required just to maintain their health. I don’t have any idea how a woman finds time to see a doctor over any fertility issues – though I guess I may have to figure that out over the next year or so. As a female executive, I think there is a larger fear that every moment out of the office, every doctor’s appointment, every hour not focused on the job, will be a huge ding against one’s record. Men don’t have to worry about that (typically.) And when the majority of senior leaders in a company are men, such topics don’t come up until you have to have awkward conversations — “I’m trying to get pregnant but I can’t get pregnant so I need to take some time to go to a doctor a few times every month.” Who wants to have that conversation with their boss?

But, beyond this, it’s sad that women in leadership roles feel so unhealthy. What is wealth and success if we don’t have our health?

 

 

Do I Choose to be Stressed?

A friend of mine, a stay-at-home mother who is married to an engineer who is likely earning over $200k a year, has told me to stop making choices that make me so stressed. I should go to a mindfulness class, she says, as this helped her resolve the majority of her own anxieties. They aren’t rich by any means for this area, but they do have a small condo that the husband’s parents purchased and they are renting the unit from them. I agree with her that I put myself in stressful situations and even when I don’t I have a tendency to stress about every little thing, but it’s hard to have a conversation with her about the stress I feel about money and the ability to live a comfortable life. I hear my mother’s voice, someone who doesn’t really want to understand money or retirement savings, but who just assumes it will all work out. And maybe it will for her. And maybe it will for me. But maybe not.

In the case of my life, I just don’t see it all magically working out. I have to make it work. And,  yes, that is stressful. I am literally making the choice between jobs that will pay over $150k and jobs that would pay $60k — and the crazy thing is it’s easier to get hired in the former right now. Those well-paid jobs come with a heaping dose of responsibility and the corresponding stress.

Here I am, one month from turning 32, and — this is the year I’ll get married and when I want to try to have children. I know having children will be challenging due to my health issues, and I also know that stress can contribute to infertility and miscarriages. I need to focus on being healthy and stress-free right now, but that’s hard to do when I am staring down these startup jobs that I’ll always feel under-qualified for and incapable of any sustained success. And just logistically these companies don’t have paid leave for maternity or anything, so I’d basically have to quit when I have a kid, if I have a kid. Which really sucks since I’m currently the breadwinner (well, at least prior to getting the axe!) I don’t know how I can make this work. It works FINE now – living in a one bedroom apartment and being ok with having to move if our rent goes up too much… but I can’t do this with kids. I mean, people DO do this with kids. But if I’m stressed now… then I can’t imagine how I’d feel then. And I don’t want to be a stressed out mother around my future children.

Today, I’m trying to decide whether to do COBRA for health insurance or to purchase it on my own. Neither option is great. For $550 a month I can have a $1500 deductible plan… or I can buy my own and do something like $350 a month for a $5000 deductible. In either case, it’s just a catastrophic plan and any other health needs… like… pregnancy stuff… wouldn’t be covered (well, it would go towards that impossibly high deductible or not at all.) My fiance doesn’t have insurance through work so it’s not like I’ll be better off when married. We’ll just be paying more in tax (if we’re both working) as our big reward for tying the knot.

I know I’m fortunate to even have these problems… but the next few years of my life are legitimately terrifying. These are the years when I either become a mother OR become a woman who never has kids. Either is a major, major life-defining situation. I want kids, even though I’ll never feel ready. I don’t want to watch my 30s go by and have just let work become the only thing that matters in life. And I’m the type of person that is all or nothing — it’s so hard for me to be just enough, but not too much, especially when in the startup world the general unspoken agreement is that you should work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week (give or take.)

Becoming a contractor would be ideal – for the flexibility – but then I’ll really have to deal with the health insurance situation… I mean, after rent, health insurance, and car insurance … that’s about $1800 a month right now. I just don’t think I can – for the long term – do the consultant thing. I think, even though the stability kills my drive, I need it. I just don’t know WHAT to do. It’s not like I can bring up the whole “hey… so I may get pregnant in the next year or two… and also, I may need to take crazy hormones and take time off of work in order to get pregnant because my body doesn’t work so can I negotiate some of flexibility into this contract or you know what just go hire some woman who doesn’t want kids or who already has them at least or just someone who probably won’t have substantial medical issues trying to get pregnant.”

My friend would tell me that I shouldn’t be stressing over this. But, I guess, I would want to ask her if she’d be stressed if she didn’t have a stable place to live and a husband with such a well-paid, high-stress career. She says she doesn’t care about money but I know she likes nice things — she has good taste — and I know she says she doesn’t really care about money because that would be too stressful, but that’s because at this point, perhaps, she doesn’t have to care, or she chooses not to think about it or be involved in her financial future.

There really isn’t anyone I know who is in a similar situation either — my friends here (the female ones) are either married and stay-at-home mothers or part-time self-employed types with husbands who have high-paid tech jobs, or they’re in a situation where they’re making about the same as their significant others and will probably leave the area since their careers don’t provide the salaries needed to last here. I don’t relate to (or have any friends to people who are) powerful women who have high-paid jobs. I mean, I’m not that type, I’m just faking it… for now. I really want to just tell these companies I’m interviewing for all the reasons they shouldn’t hire me… because I’m so tired of being a good interviewer but then feeling like I just don’t know what to do or how to do it when I start – or especially after I get through the few things I know how to do… and am left with a whole bunch of “figure it out” that never goes so well when I’m in charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight and Finances, Keeping Both on Track

As I head towards what will likely be my actual marriage year (2017), I’m fully aware that both poofy white dresses and slim, sleek white dresses accentuate one’s curves – for better or worse. I’m on a mission to actually lose weight and keep it off this time. Yes, I know I’ve said that virtually every year since 1983. Ok, maybe not 1983 because when I was a baby I did not say that. But you get the point.

The last time I was at a healthy weight I was extremely depressed and quite frankly not eating enough calories paired with riding a bike 5 miles a day in hilly terrain to commute to and from work. I didn’t notice the pounds just melting away over a three month period, but melt they did. Somehow my then-typically 155b body slimmed down to 120lbs. I wasn’t toned or anything so I still felt heavy, and to put this into context for those of you who understand women’s clothing my 120lbs was an adult size 8, not like a 2. I’m rather petite, so 120lbs – next time with some muscle and a little less fat – is my ultimate goal for W-day.

Unfortunately, since 2006 and my massive weight loss, I put all the weight back on and then some in the form of further depression and my binge eating habit. It was easy to not eat a lot when I was feeling anti-social and had no car, and no place to really hide my food, living with roommates and not wanting to leave the house other than to go to work and come home. Then I got a car and started to drive to and from work, a work with a vending machine and a crappy cafeteria which I ate at for lunch, often eating unhealthy food. I’d drive to taco bell for a treat and have two tacos and a pepsi. Needless to say, my body is very sensitive to caloric intake and I blew up like a blimp just as fast as I lost the weight.

When I stepped on the scale at a recent doctor’s visit and weighed 180lbs, I knew something I had to change. I only saw that number once before and that was two years ago, when I started to get my act together, and got down to 155lbs, only to drop back into a depression and eat myself back up to 180. It’s really frustrating, because it takes so long to lose weight and it seems it’s so easy to just pack it all back on and then some. And every year one gets older metabolism can slow so that makes weight loss even harder.

I also want to lose weight because I know if/when I have kids, I want to be able to have the energy to run around with them. I definitely can feel myself – my body – getting older. I’m not treating it right. I have to hyper focus on my health as I have on my finances throughout these last 10 years. Perhaps my 20s were really my financial fitness years, my 30s will be my personal fitness ones.

What’s most challenging for me is that I’ve never been the athletic type, but I love to move. I have so much energy in me and sitting at my desk all day just numbs me. I’d love to go to an adult dance class but my social anxiety typically keeps me from it. Or I’m just too busy traveling and it’s a waste of money. I know, excuses, excuses. Mostly I just am too caught up in my depression to get myself to do much of anything. At least I’ve been walking some to and from work – I try to get in 1 to 4 miles of walking a day during the week, and now that it’s spring a longer hike on the weekends with the beau. I also have a gym membership through work which is awesome and I really need to use it more. I just spend so much time commuting that my energy is shot by the time I even think about going to the gym.

I know more than anything being healthy takes long-term dedication. Being healthy is different from being in top shape, and before one can even consider becoming fitness-model worthy, she must spend a heck of a lot of time just getting to basic health. So that’s my first goal. I want to lose 1lb a week and not get off track this time. According to my scale, which I think is too low, I’m at 173lbs now. I’ll be tracking there as by the end of May I want to be at 167lbs. I still can’t believe how I got myself to 155 two years ago and completely messed up the downward trend, but it is what it is. At least my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet. I think he will on our nine year anniversary, which is next month. So that gives me some time to get myself presentable for a wedding. One he officially proposes to me, and once I’m down about 20lbs back to 155, I may splurge on the personal trainer to help with the last 30.

L’Shana Tova: Here’s to New Years and New Beginnings

While I don’t consider myself a religious person, I do like that the Jewish New Year occurs in the beginning of fall, vs the standard global New Year of January 1st. Fall is a natural transition period between the long days of summer and getting back into the swing and grind of winter. It’s also a good time to pause and reflect one’s growth and changes over the past 12 months. This year, in my own, there have been many.

But 2014 seems to be ending with a bang. I am very close to closing out an amazing employment opportunity that I’m excited about for so many reasons. The subject matter is something I’m deeply passionate in and I think I’m most excited about the chance to work with a few particular individuals who are just the cream of the crop in their roles, especially the small external team I am already pulling together. What really hurt at my other job was that I didn’t feel like I had the right team for success – and in a leadership role it is absolutely impossible to win alone. Just like casting a play a director knows the success of her show is largely in who she gets to show up for auditions and who she puts in each part, so is the success of managing an important function in an organization. I have at least one superstar player on board, at least for a short while, and I’m just absolutely floored that he is willing to partner with me on this mission. I know he has his choice in employment so it means a lot for him to take a chance on me, despite that I’m actually very confident that I am going to an excellent job in this specific role.

Turning down a large company for a position at another smaller company is tough, but not so tough when I feel like I’m set up for success in the smaller company. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me and it’s surely and uphill climb but I’m going to get it done. I’ve taken my offers to negotiate a very strong package for myself (knock one wood) that will not only serve as fuel towards my savings goals but also further motivate me in going above and beyond to kick every ass there is in sight. I’m scared as all hell but well rested and ready to do this. And, side note, as soon as health insurance kicks in I’m investing immediately in a great psychiatrist and some anxiety meds and/or antidepressants to smooth out my mood so I can focus on what is important.

I’m starting to feel like 2015 is going to be one incredible year, all leading up to my wedding in spring 2016! And, in addition to working for a company whose mission I believe in and who has a team I really like, my seemingly unreasonable goal of saving $500k before I have kids is actually achievable if I can achieve my full bonus over the next two years. It’s pretty amazing to think that my ridiculous goal – which I set when I had $8k in the bank in 2007 – is actually within reach.

While I’m still waiting for the final contract to come through, it seems as though this is going to happen. I still have another solid offer which is there for the taking, but I am really revved up about this opportunity and just need to focus on my mental and physical health to make the best of it. Let’s do this.

 

Mental Health Care: Expensive even with insurance

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I suffer with a mishmash of mental illnesses. For those who don’t — my list of diagnosed errors of the brain includes major depression, bipolar (II) disorder, generalized anxiety, ADHD, social anxiety, narcissistic personality disorder, among other, non-diagnosed yet still symptomatic crazies. Despite wanting to get through life without help for years, I’ve been in and out of therapy. Also, due to these illnesses and disorders, I’ve been in and out of jobs – which makes spending a ton on mental health treatment not the wisest.

This year I thought I had the good fortune of health coverage that would actually cover a reasonable amount of my weekly psychotherapy sessions. It would still be expensive, mind you, but after hitting the $500 deductible (that’s less than a month of weekly sessions) my outpatient therapist would cost just 30% of her total billing rate. Except, it turns out, that’s not true at all. It would be impossible to know this in advance of submitting a claim based on the way the health insurance benefits are explained. Apparently only $77 is considered a reasonable cost for a therapist visit, and the other $53 per appointment doesn’t even count towards the deductible. Continue reading

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