*S.N.O.W. The New DSM Disorder

February 26, 2010 snowstorm Dutchess County 24

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S.N.O.W stands for Sadness, Nothing, Overwhelming, Winter disorder and people in the Northeast are suffering from it in masses this winter. Because of an extended period of snowstorms, approximately every two days, sometimes more often, more and more people have been diagnosed with the above disorder. It appears that this new syndrome called S.N.O.W. now appears in the new DSM (Diagnostic Symptoms Manuals used in mental health.) The disorder has the following symptoms: claustrophobia, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. To illustrate the symptoms the following scenarios should make it more understandable:

1) Claustrophobia: many people who are unable to go outside and are not able to be independent, to drive on their own through wintry conditions, feeling closed in, unable to breathe, unable to go anywhere.  Every time there is snow, freezing rain or ice the feeling of claustrophobia intensifies.  People suffering from claustrophobia generally also suffer from the following:

2) Anxiety: The feeling of being anxious, disturbed, uneasy. Your heart beat may seem faster, stronger, you may have chest pains and the feeling of being nervous all the time. This is natural for this condition.

3). OCD:  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: patients generally run to the window or door, or they stand next to the aforementioned window or door flattening their faces against the glass for many minutes on end. They go back and forth to see if the snow has stopped, the ice pellets have turned to rain and how the snowflakes fall and in what particular pattern. Patients also try to gauge how much snow, rain, ice, etc.   Patients say that they sit riveted to the Weather Channel or local forecasts or both.

4) Depression: the feeling of sadness that does not go away, feeling “blue,”sad, lonely, isolated, unable to feel joy. The feeling that you will never be happy again, that you are unable to enjoy anything in life including but not limited to: loved ones, music, television and anything else you formerly enjoyed doing. You may not want to get out of bed (and really, why should you?) because you feel there is no way out. You may be correct in this assumption.

Once the diagnosis has been made, the following recommendations generally fall in the following perimeters: 1) prescriptions include: a week, 2 weeks 4 weeks or three months (depending on the severity of your patients’ symptoms and bank account) to a warm climate for as long as you can. Some destinations, for example, are: in Arizona, New Mexico, Florida or Los Angeles.  A sun “lamp” to give yourself the (fake) feeling of getting outdoor light can also be used though there are no firm statistics that support this.  Tanning beds are also thought to be an option, but one which comes with a medical advisory of a possible link to skin cancer, more specifically, melanoma.

Of course your mental health professional may write you a prescription for anti-depressants but really, by the time they actually start to work (6-8 weeks) Spring will be hopping on its feathery feet to come and stay for a little while. For the short-term, think of yellow daffodils sprouting and listen to the song “Breathe” sung by Anna Nalick, continously. Symptoms of S.N.O.W. should dissipate within two to three months. It is possible that in the winter of 2012 the symptoms may resurface.

*a parody

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Forecast: Snow And Pain

Ground blizzard conditions in Ontario. HWY 26 ...

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I never wanted to be a weather forecaster but I have found if I listen to my body, I truly, can predict the weather. This is not a fun job for me; nor is it a fun job for any people who have Fibromyalgia or another chronic pain disease. There’s a blizzard going on in the Northeast and before I heard about it, I felt it. I felt it in my tired and achy bones and muscles. I couldn’t stand up from a seated position without a lot of pain. I needed to hold on to someone’s hand because I felt off-balance. Some experts say it’s related to the barometric pressure changing. My degree in weather forecasting is not that advanced.

My bones, muscles and body hurt enough as it is. Today, my back and shoulders  and legs are aching and cramping horribly. I am having trouble getting up, sitting down, walking (shuffling) while holding on to the railing in my house for the stairs, one step at a time. I also have the infamous Fibro (Fibromyalgia) Fog that causes me to lose my train of thought or forget something that someone just told me ten minutes ago. It’s bad enough that it’s painful but feeling embarrassed and humiliated is another blog post altogether. I do not understand this mystifying illness; that said, it is hard to expect others to understand it as well.

We’re in the middle of a snow, blizzard emergency now.  I am praying for the electricity and power to stay on so we have heat all night. I’m piling on the blankets, flashlight at my side, candle at the ready….just in case.  It may look pretty outside with snow drifts and the sheets of snow coming down sideways in the light of our windows but it doesn’t feel pretty. It feels horrible, it’s like clenching your teeth in every body part. My neck is stiff and constricted, my shoulders are tight, I feel like the Tin Man of the Wizard of Oz but there is no oil to relieve my pain. I hope for continued heat for all my friends but especially my Fibromyalgia friends because we really know what COLD feels like.

Stay warm my friends, we’ll all get through this together. Huddle under extra blankets and lie still. There will be hot coffee in the morning or English Breakfast Tea with milk and sugar. It’s just the beginning of winter; we have a very long way to go.

“The Waltons” (Really Not Fun To Be Them)

“The Waltons” television show was a show during the seventies that I watched religiously.  I loved  the interaction of three generations living in the same house in the old days, eating meals together, without heat, without electricity, without modern day appliances and without complaint. Not so for my family.  Two weeks ago, the county that I live in came head to head with a blizzard whose strength was overwhelming. Nobody thought it would be that bad…little did we know. We got about 21 inches of snow, heavy, wet snow and it snowed for days. Sometime during that first evening our lights started to flicker. Uh oh. They flickered again. This time we were feeling uneasy and doubtful. Sure enough, two minutes later, the lights dimmed, the electricity halted, the tv turned itself off and we were in our little house, feeling the heat escape rapidly, minute by minute.

I must say we were all calm. We had put our flashlights and candles together at the first flicker,  thinking that we probably wouldn’t need them. The snow kept coming and the trees were getting very heavy with new wet snow. Some heavy branches were already kneeling down in the snow from weight.  When we started to hear trees and branches breaking and hitting the window, we were justifiably scared. It sounded like something you could only imagine in the movies; but it was very real and terrifying. Whip, Crash, Shudder, the branches sounded like breaking glass as they threw themselves at our house.

We managed to get through the four (really long) days and nights with firewood, food and an afternoon with my mom. My daughter had a sleep-over for one night, which she practically had to beg for, and my son and husband who volunteer for the ambulance corp, were able to spend time in their quarters too. Even family members of the ambulance corp were invited. Luckily we had cell phones that were able to be re-charged.  Interestingly, the absence of noise, brightness, computer screens, X-box was almost fun. Almost. I did miss listening to music but I read by the fire in the daytime and at night we huddled under our covers, blankets, sleeping bags, down jackets and pajamas. When it was just my dog and I home one afternoon, we lay against each other on the light green, navy, red squares of the carpet in front of the fire and cuddled; a sweet memory I am not apt to forget.

Our neighbors moved into their sister’s house, five minutes away in another town. All 4 grabbed their sleeping bags and left for the entire 4 days. I envied them at first,  immensely. There was no question of where they would go, it was a given.  In the beginning we were annoyed that no-one had invited US into their homes for the night, not to mention the duration of the storm. When I complained to my sister and mother we heard things like “well you should know you are welcome” and that angered us more. I was brought up NOT to ask but to wait for an invitation, especially knowing my mother and sister’s love (NOT) of overnight guests.

Our family stayed together, we froze together, talked together. Not a lot of that happens when school is in session and when everyone is so busy. There was no X Box, no computers, no music, no television. We sat, in front of the fire and talked, hearing the twigs crackle, the orange flames enveloping the logs, the night silent and still with utter darkness. The only light we had was the brilliance of the full moon in the sky that shined on us late at night.

When we awoke we saw that a large tree had crashed down through our fence and it lay suspiciously close to where my daughter’s room was. Two other trees were down and hundreds upon hundreds of branches. We were lucky, noone got hurt. We may have been cold, and cranky, we complained about the cold constantly and couldn’t wait for the electricity to come back up. When it did, 4 days later we were ecstatic. The heat turned on, the refrigerator buzzed, random lights went on, the music from radios blared and the silence ended. Even though we were freezing cold and we had no options,  I think we won, staying here together. My children may yell and beg to differ but for me but I have to say, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Good night, John Boy.