Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

I plowed through this book, seriously flew through it! My reaction when I finished reading what I thought was just a chapter and flipped to the next page looking for more--its over, no more! Such is the torture of reading all but the last book of a trilogy or series! A necessary evil complicated by the fact that I was reading this on my NOOK and not paying attention to page numbers of the fact that there was a reader's guide and such at the end.

Anyway, on to the book!

Obviously I enjoyed the book, or I wouldn't have read it so quickly and be hungry for more. I struggled to settle in to it at first. This book switches between flashbacks of the time right after the end of Delirium and about 6 months or so past that, which is the present. But that becomes more fluid pretty quickly.

Lena is seen processing the events she just experienced in the flashbacks, and acclimating to her new reality and the people and conditions that populate that reality. In the present she has become a part of the resistance and is poised on the edge of her next big challenge, and the change that will come with it. I enjoyed watching her continue to grapple with what she has left behind her, her "now," and her sense that her future is now fully out of her control.

As i'd hoped, the author further builds and fleshes out the world this story is set in during this book. We see other cities, others Wilds, other people--both similar to, and wildly different from, the people and factions we have seen so far. It becomes clearer how misguided the government is, bent on a sort of purification of the populace as a whole. Elimination of things, and people, who do not fit their sense of order and purity. Awful concepts start to spring in to my mind like eugenics, gentrification and even genocide, though with a hands of approach, letting those less desirable struggle to find sustenance and safety--a sort of survival of the fittest set up with the fittest being chosen, not destined.

I can't wait to get my hands on Requiem! And I am adding Delirium Stories to my "To Be Read" pile, it has 3 stories, each delving further in to the stories of women in Lena's life--Annabel, Hana and Raven.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I am starting TOTALLY off topic. I am reading, really reading, more than 10 or 20 pages a day! New drugs? Maybe? Vacation? Maybe, but I don't care!

Okay, on to Delirium! Maybe I also read this quickly because I liked the book. I am anxious to start Pandemonium, the next book in the trilogy. I don't want to share too much, I would never want to spoil a book for anyone!

When I first started this book, I was worried I wouldn't like it. A cure for love seemed a bit silly and I was worried it would be too romance-y, which is not my thing. But it grew on me by 20 pages in or so.

Lauren Oliver's writing is easy to read. Descriptive, but not so much so that it feels overdone. I also feel as if maybe she intentionally makes it feel a little too soft at the beginning, too sentimental and gushy, so that the reality of it will feel more harsh.

Saying that this book is about a society that has found a cure for love won't give away anything the description of the book doesn't give away itself. When I first thought about it, curing someone of love seemed like something contained, something with not many facets. And, for someone who is still single at the age of 43 it felt almost like a good idea! I had forgotten about all of the aspects of love. Love of a parent for their child, love of one sibling for another, love of fellow humans. And there is what comes with love like empathy, sympathy, concern, that also come in to play. I also really grasped on to the brief mention of homosexuality, and how it was frowned upon. I had the thought that maybe it was that type of love, that society fights so hard against as we see in our true reality, that lead someone down the path of curing love. I love, yes love, that she also touches on the pain that often accompanies love and presents it as something necessary to truly experience love. I am a firm believer that life has to have hard times to really appreciate the good stuff, and like seeing anyone else embrace that concept.

Lena is a great character. She reminds me of myself, so maybe that is why I like her so much. I felt like some of the other characters were left a little hollow, but hope they will be filled in a bit more as the trilogy progresses, through their own stories and actions or those of others. Another character I really grasped on to is Grace, and I really hope we run across her again down the road.

I'll admit that there was one aspect that bothered me. And this likely comes from being someone who thinks too much and analyzes things until they are torn to shreds, but I have given up on fighting that in myself. I found myself surprised at times at methods of control and surveillance not being used by the government. A lack of love as a framework for society settling in to a rigid, authoritarian and oppressive existence really fascinated me. But I guess I was expecting cameras, all that "Big Brother" type of stuff. At some point I found myself wondering if the lack of all of the "bells and whistles" of such a society was intentional. Maybe a statement about the downfall of such a society being its own arrogance and blind belief that it is actually in control. Or maybe there is a connection to be made between love and ingenuity and that the desire that comes with love is what drives us to create, and without it we don't go any further, we stagnate. Or maybe I am thinking too much!

But, at the end of it all, I loved this story and look forward to seeing how it continues...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In a past life I think I was a photographer...

Taking pictures makes me happy, as does sharing them. I love sunsets, especially when they involve sometimes I may just share them!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Depression, Clinical Trials, Healthcare and the World We Live In

Tomorrow is my last day in a long chain of clinical trials. This odyssey began almost 3 years ago, and I have been in 3 different trial and taken at least 3 different medications, likely more. I am actually a little afraid of not being on a clinical trial, even though it seems I may have finally found an antidepressant that is a good match for me because I am finishing the current trial and there isn't a new trial that I am a fit for right now.

I first explored the idea of joining a clinical trial because I am diagnosed as clinically depressed (also called Major Depressive Disorder), I don't have health insurance--and haven't had it since 2006, and I know my depression well enough to know it was time to be on meds again. I have also always been interested in clinical trials and how they work, and thought that contributing to a better solution for people suffering as I do, even if it didn't mean a solution for me, would make me feel good.

Being launched out of clinical trials scares me because participating in one almost made not having health insurance manageable. I was regularly receiving pretty thorough physicals, including EKGs, monitoring of my blood pressure, and various blood tests. I also received a full physical at least once during each of 3 trials, which included a full blood work that they shared the results of and even helped interpret them, even for aspects that had nothing to do with the possible side effects of the various medications. I actually feel that my health has been better monitored in the past 3 years than any other time in my adult life. They also were there to help me when I had a couple of medical issues and needed diagnosis and medication.

Participating in these studies has really helped me to embrace my depression and how it effects me. I am very grateful for this. We live in a society that does an extremely poor job of handling depression. I have been very open about my depression for quite some time. Not in a search for pity, or as an act of pride, but because I think it is something we need to talk about more openly, and more often. A few things I find really frustrating...

  • Confusing depression with sadness. So many people, when they hear of my depression, make suggestions as to how they handle it when they are sad. And yes, some of those things might help for a brief period of time, or might help alleviate some of the problems. But just like you can't cure a sinus infection by treating it as you would a cold, you can't help a person with depression by "treating" them for sadness. Sadness is usually about a specific struggle, or experience, of set of struggles or experiences you are dealing with and may be a part of depression, but depression carries with it the added "bonus" of having a brain that doesn't process certain important chemicals properly.
  • Thinking that depression is just "major sadness." Sadness is only one of many problems people with depression experience. Some of the other symptoms I battle with are insomnia, tiredness, lack of motivation, poor concentration, and pain. Fun, huh? Combining all these things with a feeling of unhappiness, or a least a sense of not being as happy as you should, and often an inability to pinpoint a cause of that feeling and therefor deal with it, can make life, and all of the things that need to be accomplished, really difficult.
  • Assuming that everyone who suffers from depression is suicidal. And I don't say this to invalidate the large number of people with depression who are. But I, thankfully, am part of the lucky group who doesn't deal with suicidal thoughts--something I personally think will eventually be linked to genetic differences. However, there are numerous times someone has assumed I am on the verge of killing myself, and although I certainly appreciate the concern, it can also be hard to spend much of your time around a person or people who refuse to accept that you aren't just saying you aren't requiring that type of concern.

I think that many of these things are not just wrong, but dangerous. Dangerous because if someone suffering from depression--someone who truly needs help beyond having a nice jog, or a relaxing bath--has their concerns invalidated enough by the people in their lives they may choose not to seek help. If someone is brave enough to talk about their depression with you, the most caring thing you can do is listen, with an open mind free from assumptions.

I find myself regularly angered by the state of healthcare in our country. I am a hardworking, tax paying 43 year old woman. It isn't okay that I cannot afford healthcare. I have spent so much of my time over the past seven years worrying about getting sick that I am surprised, and thankful due to my lack of healthcare, that I have not given myself an ulcer. Taxes pay for so many things that don't benefit me or almost anyone, including huge salaries for politicians that retired years ago and are still receiving healthcare. If my taxes pay for their healthcare why shouldn't they also ensure that I have it? This isn't a Republican problem or a Democrat problem, it is a HUMAN problem. The Declaration of Independence speaks of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I think it is pretty much a no-brainer that my health is connected to the first and third item. And, seriously, do we really think a better option is having a bunch of people running around without the ability to pay for potentially required procedures? Or to force people with contagious illnesses, that are not rare and are quite easy to catch, such as strep throat, mono, chicken pox, and so on to not receive treatment and instead walk around spreading their illness? And, back to the topic of depression, why would anybody fight a solution to creating a situation where people who need readily accessible meds to treat depression from having the ability to get them? You'd think drug companies and doctors would be fighting for the chance to have more patients, but no...

And these two things lead to one of the saddest things of all, and that is self-medicating. So many people out there abusing drugs and/or alcohol are doing so in a vain attempt (whether it be a conscious choice or not) to feel better or different than they are currently feeling. I have a couple of people I am close to who are doing this, and it isn't getting them anywhere and is hurting the people in their lives too. It is just so hard to watch, and I wish so much I could help steer them in a different way. I have tried many times to properly convey to them how helpful I have found some of the meds I have tried. Some of them may have chosen drugs or alcohol over antidepressants at least in part because of a predisposition to addiction. But some fall in to self medicating because it feels like the only thing they have access to. And sadly, particularly with alcohol, substance abuse often carries with it much less stigma than being diagnosed with depression.  THIS IS NOT OKAY!

I hope that we, as a society, see the painful and sometimes terrible, results of not dealing with depression and/or not helping people get the tools they need to treat it, learn to better approach it and help those that have it.

For me, I think I have finally found the right medication to treat my current bout of depression, and am excited to see where it takes me once I am increased to the regular dosage. I only hope that I am able to continue to afford it...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I may work retail, but...

...sometimes this is what greets me when I leave for the day!

It was one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen. Incredibly vivid! And made even more amazing to look at because of the differentiation of the brightness inside the main bow, between the two, and then on the outside. Just gorgeous!


I may live in a hotel, but my view is incredible, tonight the sun setting over the Rocky Mountains was amazing!