Category: Health

A Month of Healthy Eating

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” 
― Hippocrates

Bad news for me, team: I lost nearly 15 lbs in a single month doing nothing but changing the way I eat. I didn’t step foot in a gym, didn’t exercise at home due to an erratic work schedule, and made no other significant changes to my day-to-day life.

Why bad news you ask? Because it’s become abundantly clearly in record time that while I knew my diet was affecting me, I didn’t at all realize the extent. To see this much change this quickly has been startling.

Now, let’s be clear, I also changed up my birth control in this time frame (see here for the recap) which, based only on anecdote and personal experience, I thought may also have affected my weight (remember, the science is still out on this point). There’s no way to tell if this may  have had an effect, but I fully intend to talk to my doctor about it at a follow up appointment this month. There’s a working theory that I may be negatively affected by some unknown food item group (which is the most stupid, millennial thing to type) but that’s still up for medical confirmation. More info on that if and when my delightful GP helps me figure it out.

So, what did I do exactly? I’m sorry to say that there is nothing here you haven’t heard or read about before and there are no tricks, I simply cut out all the foods that make life worth living: no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no grain based anything. I massively upped my intake of fresh fruit and veg and have eaten more eggs this month than probably at any other point in my life. Seriously, if I never eat a hardboiled egg again, it will be too soon. I virtually eliminated all snacking, even healthy ones, and instead stuffed myself full at almost every meal with salad. I don’t care who tells you they love kale, there’s a 50/50% chance they are lying to you and dying a bit on the inside.

It worked. I’m feeling great. Damn it.

I didn’t tie this to a New Year’s resolution, I didn’t talk too much about about it or make a big deal out of it online or to friends, and I certainly didn’t have any weight expectations going into this. Like my birth control choice, I decided at the end of last year to try and proactively sort out some behind the scenes health and body issues that have bugged me for a long time and evaluating food groups is part of that overall project. The weight loss is just a welcome, if startling, side effect.

I mean…yikes.

I was looking forward to reintroducing a lot of food back into my diet…but honestly I think my consumption of these things will have to stay reduced if I want to continue trying to be more healthy. Things like dairy and alcohol are not food groups I ingested a lot of anyway before this started, but bread on the other hand… And while I don’t and never have eaten processed foods and have made good headway in reducing my sugar intake over recent years, clearly I could have been doing more to eliminate something which I suspect is one of the main culprits to my recent health roller coaster.

Final disclosures: I remain an unrepentant omnivore and moderate, I don’t think foods should be eliminated from anyone’s diet without medical advice and I’m certainly not urging anyone to do so. That being said if you do feel physically crappy for extended periods of time, notice changes to your body or brain rhythms, or sense that something is “not quite right” internally, talk to someone about it. Seek answers and options. I’m trying to be a less passive passenger in my own body than I have been for several years, and to have this many positive outcomes so quickly has been extraordinary.

To the comments! Have you made any big health adjustments in your life? What were your motivations, and what were the outcomes, both good and bad? 

Dad, Skip This One (or, I Got an IUD and We’re Going to Talk About It)

“Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is hers — and before it can be his, it is hers alone. She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it.” 
― Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race

Late last year I decided to switch my birth control to an IUD, which was a less common option available to me when I was first considering it nearly a decade ago. It’s becoming more normal, but still isn’t fully normalized among some groups so I thought, hey! We haven’t had a massively controversial topic here on SDS in a minute (…unless you are one of my more conservative readers, in which case, hi, I’m really glad you’re here! Thank you for putting up with my almost weekly exasperated political grumpiness). Why don’t we talk about one woman’s experience in controlling her fertility, thanks to a socialist system of medicine. That will bring people together!

Honestly, though, it’s worth talking about because I think IUDs should be a more common option than they are in some areas of the world. When I first went on birth control in the US, I timidly asked my then-doctor if it was an option only to be scolded that it wasn’t something I should consider. I kind of wish I had pressed the issue, but as I didn’t have massive complaints about my experience with the pill at the time, I stayed on it for nearly nine years.

Image via Pexels

In order to get an IUD I had to first discuss the option at a normal appointment, book a secondary appointment with a specialist to talk through the pros, cons, and risks of the procedure, and then book a third appoint to actually have the device inserted. It sounds a bit obnoxious, but I appreciate the amount of effort the NHS puts into informing and preparing patients for this birth control option. There are hormonal versions and non-hormonal ones, each with unique common side effects, and there are risks to any kind of invasive procedure, so arming yourself with information and asking a boat load of questions is not just encouraged, it was practically compulsory. I went through my series of appointments and scheduled the final one over the Christmas break to allow my body to go through any of the symptoms I was warned I could experience.

Everyone’s experience is unique but typically the insertion procedure more difficult for for women who have never given birth, and sure enough, mine was not a walk in the park. It turns out that deliberately inserting something in the opposite direction nature intended things to move, through an orifice designed to stay closed until another human forces its way out–not easy! It took multiple attempts and I bless my doctor for for being willing to keep trying and talking me through the process and options. I handled the process with my usual style and grace: doing my best to crack jokes to mask my awkwardness and making conversation while stripped from the waist down as the doctor became intimately acquainted with my internal workings. The high point (or low depending on your point of view) was when the doctor, several instruments and intrusions into the procedure, suddenly exclaimed, “What on earth is that?” causing me to demand, “What’s wrong?” in a squeaky and alarmed voice. She burst out laughing and apologized, saying that she had overheard someone raising their voices in the hall and everything…of mine…was a-ok. I chuckled weakly and did my best to calm down.

The sensations were mostly discomfort with flashes of intense-discomfort-bordering-on-pain-but-not-quite. Pre-warned by friends, my GP, and plenty of research I came to the appointment armed with over the counter painkillers and was able to breathe through the worst of the poking and prodding. My procedure was longer than the average appointment, but the doctor built in time for a bit of recovery and monitoring in-office, which I appreciated.

After my innards had gotten over the initial shock (and I use that phrase seriously; my uterus had several questions about the situation and was making its discomfort known through some vigorous cramps) my GP took my blood pressure. It was nicely spiked, which is apparently a good thing because it turns out that for reasons not fully understood, the female human heart rate tends to plummet when you poke her in the cervix. Bodies are weird.

Fellow uterus-bearing types: be smarter than me. If you have transportation, and more importantly a designated driver, use this resource.

After my heart rate returned to normal and I felt pretty calm, I walked home the blessedly short distance between my GP and my flat. This was probably a mistake. At my normal pace this is a brisk, five minute jaunt and I had some vague motion that easy movement would help me “settle” my new internal friend in a gentle way. I was a fool, it was the slowest, saddest walk you can imagine. My steps were about four inches in length–anything more strident than that and I experienced intense muscular twinges from my knees to my shoulders–and very small movements triggered cramps that are on par with the most serious menstrual cramps I’ve ever experienced.

Again, I wouldn’t classify what I was experiencing as pain. The best way I can describe it is as a full court press of discomfort. My body had experienced something invasive and highly unusual and every part of me from my uterus to my lizard brain was clearly trying to adjust to a series of new sensations. It’s not unheard of for the body to expel the device for some women on their first try using it as their primary birth control method, and this was my most immediate paranoid concern.

By the time I shuffled slowly through the front door, I felt exhausted and achy all over. Jeff immediately tucked me into bed where, thanks to continuing full body cramps, I stayed there for the better part of two days. It might sound foolish, but I honestly believe I was going through some kind of wussy version of shock as I was a bit floaty for those two days and slept heavily. I was also advised to take it slow for a few days to allow my uterus to adjust to a foreign body, so things like exercise were cautioned against until I felt fighting fit.

But wait, there was more! The procedure triggered an early arrival of my period and kicked off an additional week of uneven spotting (both are very normal side effects and ones I had been prepped for by my GP). I was advised that spotting could occur intermittently for a few weeks but thus far I’ve not experienced anything past that first week of adjustment. In fact I’ve had no other negative side effects at all: my skin has remained even and healthy, which I was lucky enough to have before I went on the pill years ago, and after that first few days of wild physical and strangely emotional sensations, everything has leveled out.

So, why did I do it?

Image via Pexels

A few reasons. Though there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the pill contributes to weight gain or difficulty with weight loss, there is a lot of anecdotal content from people who believe that hormonal birth control contributed to their weight in some way. As for me, I’m not sure. My weight changed after I went on the pill all those years ago and whether this was due solely to the lifestyle change of getting married and living with a guy who consumes approximately seventeen times as many calories a day as me, or was influenced by other factors I cannot say for sure. But my weight started going up at about the same time I went on my prescription/got married and for the past nine years no matter how healthy I was eating or how regularly I was exercising (every day at my most dedicated), I never lost what I had gained. I’ve made some diet changes recently, about the same time I went off the pill…and I’ve lost nearly 10lbs in under a month with no other changes to my day to day life. It’s purely anecdotal and personal to me, but I’m very happy to see a dramatic positive shift even if it’s temporary or plateaus in some way.

I also suspected, and I discussed the possibility at length with my doctor, that the pill might have been contributing to the frequency of my migraines. These attacks have become more frequent in recent years and as time went on I found them getting closer and closer together.  Changes in your levels of female sex hormones are a possible trigger for migraines, so it seemed possible that the medication that regulates my hormones might have something to do with the pattern of these attacks. Then again, stress also triggers migraines for me so a number of factors could be at play here. Again, the science is still evolving on this, and again, I discussed this with my doctor across several appointments in considering switching up my birth control methods. Ultimately we decided to try a non-hormonal option to see if there were any changes. About a month later, I’ve yet to have another migraine attack.

Finally, removal of an IUD is a fairly easy procedure and if you’re on a non-hormonal option as I chose, your normal fertility is restored almost instantly. Meaning that if and when we decide my husband and I want to try and start a family, I won’t have to go through a process of weaning my body off hormones first. An option that was instantly effective upon insertion and is instantly negated on removal appeals to me.

So all in all, this first foray into addressing a couple of health concerns this year seems to be going okay and the decisions seems like it was a good one so far. It was worth it for me to take a few days discomfort in exchange for a non hormonal method of birth control that’s over 99% effective, lasts up to ten years, and doesn’t require a daily medication. I did a lot of research into it as an option and am lucky to enjoy a health system that offers it as an option and takes providing me with it as a serious matter worthy of informative sessions with specialists.

The comments are open: if you feel like sharing an experience in making a major health decision, please do so. I’m interested in hearing how people choose to take control of their health or wellbeing and as there are about 7 billion bodies on the planet, I suspect there are 7 billion stories out there about choices, consequences, and information to share. 

A Year of Health

“The First wealth is health.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve been thinking all month of how I want to frame 2018 (I’ve talked about my 2017 theme here and here if you want a refresher) and I’ve figured out what I want to focus on: making an effort on health. It was the one facet of my previous theme that I felt I didn’t make as much progress on as I would have wished in the past twelve months, so I’ve decided to make it my priority for the next twelve.

This feels like the most basic of basic goals, but I’m hoping my take on it is broad enough to keep it interesting, with enough specific goals to make progress trackable.

Body Health
Yes, yes with the typical exercise and weight goals, but really I’m trying to just “mind” my body better overall this year. I’d prefer regular exercise to intense workouts, regular meditation to aggressive “detoxes,” and feeling good in my clothes and own skin to focusing on numbers. I am not a natural health bunny, I hate every moment at the gym and default to lazy every chance I get; the only thing that helps me overcome my tendencies are ingrained habits and routines so I’m going to focus on building these this year. I’m also going to try and confront or fix some longstanding physical issues I’ve had (migraines, uneven muscle tension, hormones, etc.) instead of just living with them. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment scheduled before the end of the year to address a couple of internal situations, and like everyone and their dog, I’m resetting my diet this January after a December of absolute nutritional debauchery. Farewell, sugar. Speaking of…

Get in the Kitchen
No two ways about it, we need to cook more and eat out/order in less. This is for financial health reasons as well as physical ones–we spend more money than we should on easy food or food that we end up wasting because we don’t use it quickly enough. I’ve been focusing on consumption a lot in different ways for several years now, but somehow I’ve never really cracked food the way I have other areas of our lives. This is something I want to change…but I also want to change what I eat. I’m a natural grazer who (at my worst) veers between binging on snacks and missing meals. I think that cooking more regularly and the planning that goes into it will help me cut down on this as well has help me eat better food overall.

Brain Health
My bad stress habits and anxiety are more under control than they’ve been in years, but I could definitely do with a bit of help here to really get my brain in better working order. I’d like to engage with a therapist at some point in this year to help me work through a few lingering issues. This is one of my goals, but it’s something I’d like to commit to doing in 2018 instead of having it as a free floating goal. I also want to continue the mindfullness practices I’ve picked up this year and try to simply make lifestyle choices that I know keep me balanced and sane: using my holiday time, separating work and personal life, regular dates with my husband, long talks with friends…all of these things are good for me and I want to make sure I make time for them.

Financial Health
This is a continuation of some of the best parts of my Year of Less But Better that I want to continue to focus on. I consider this part and parcel with brain health as nothing is more stressful than money. I’m going to continue to move ahead with the self-challenges I do to limit my shopping or consumption and find ways to game-ify savings or usage the way consumerism typically game-ifies spending.

In short, I want to make more of an effort this year to take charge of things that I have been more passive about in the past.

I know my strengths and weaknesses, and typically when I’ve fallen off the wagon on health goals in the past it’s because I’ve tried to tackle too many challenges at once. In giving myself a year, I’m more hopeful in making lasting changes. Already I’m trying to think of some blog projects to support this theme the way I was able to in 2017, but I’m wide open to suggestions if any of the minion coterie have some brilliant ideas for the kinds of posts you’d like to see here on SDS in the new year.

Thanks as always for following along!

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

Of Hospitals and Medicinal Spirits

“One afternoon, when I was four years old, my father came home, and he found me in the living room in front of a roaring fire, which made him very angry. Because we didn’t have a fireplace.”
―Victor Borge

A bit of a misadventure occurred last weekend when I managed (don’t ask) to burn my right hand over a good portion of the palm and fingertips on Saturday night. I’m no stranger to injury, my klutziness ensures that various bumps and bruises are never far off, but I’ve never been particularly badly burned before. Let’s just say I would not have been cut out for martyrdom, it hurt like a [censored].

After keeping it under cool water for twenty minutes while Jeff consulted the NHS and various hospital sites, we wrapped my fist in a wet towel and hopped on the Tube. Guy’s Hospital was only one stop away so we figured it would be a fairly painless enterprise (I say painless, but it should be noted that my nerves were well and truly freaking out at this point and long moments of tingly numbness would turn into even longer moments of eye-splitting throbs that made my whole arm shake, it was not fun). However when we arrived, the nurses informed us that we would have to go to the nearest Accident and Emergency center instead, which required another Tube ride to Westminster to walk across the bridge under the shadow of Big Ben to St. Thomas Hospital instead.

My language had deteriorated to dock worker level by this point, but after the wait to get checked in and sent to yet another area of the hospital, I didn’t feel particularly bad about the fact. The nurse who treated me first tried a silicone wrapping that made everything feel significantly worse before suggesting what she called, “Old fashioned treatments,” instead. Apparently the thing that causes the pain with burns is contact with air so the real trick is to cut off the connection. You learn something new every day! She covered my hand in an oily solution and taped a sterile, bright orange plastic bag around it and then asked a surprising question.

“Do you drink, my dear?”
“No,” I responded.
“I mean alcohol,” she said helpfully.

Note. Can we just take a moment to recognize that she seemed to interpret my “no” to mean anything BUT alcohol and felt the need to clarify?  In Britain, water is optional, booze is not.

“Yes, I know. I don’t drink.”
“Oh!” she said, looking genuinely baffled. “Well, I would have suggested a glass or two of wine, but just stick with the paracetamols then.”

Clearly we were going very old school in our methods. A life’s ambition realized, kittens, I have been prescribed medicinal spirits. Someone bring me my fainting couch!

At the time it felt like it took forever, but it turns out I went from injury to (free!) treatment and was back out the hospital door in less than two hours. I was off most typing for a day and a half, but things are looking pretty good. Compliments of Jeff and his assorted merit badges.

2014-08-16 21.14.22

Incendiary Monday: I Don’t Understand Anti- Vaxxers

“Not until the beginning of the 20th century did Europe’s urban populations finally become self-sustaining: before then, constant immigration of healthy peasants from the countryside was necessary to make up for the constant deaths of city dwellers from crowd diseases.”
― Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Diseases brought to the New World in the 15th century eliminated millions upon millions of people – depending on which historical view and statistics you believe of it, the disease wing of the Columbian Exchange killed at least 75% and up to 95% of the indigenous inhabitants. The main diseases that caused this? Smallpox, measles, diphtheria, and typhus. All of which we now have vaccines against.

The iteration of the Bubonic plague that ravaged Asia and Europe on multiple occasions but was still horrifying enough to be called the Black Death killed between 30-60% of the population. It killed an estimated 200 million people worldwide in 100 years. We can treat it in the first 24 hours, but to this day we have no cure for it. If it reappeared in our population again in the same numbers as the 14th century, the consequences could be beyond imagining.

"The Triumph of Death" by Peter Brueghel the Elder - a contemporary depiction of the ravages of plague and the social consequences that followed.
“The Triumph of Death” by Peter Brueghel the Elder – a contemporary depiction of the ravages of plague and the social consequences that followed.

My point? Some diseases we have fought against, and won. We have overcome the tens if not hundreds of millions who have died over millennia because of them, survived as a species, and struck back. Diseases that have wiped whole civilizations from the face of the earth have been vanquished through medical science. Some diseases we are admittedly still fighting.

Personally, I don’t understand why people choose not to vaccinate their children or themselves. People who forgo the vaccinations that made the health victories possible outright baffle and frighten me. [Edited for clarity] My personal experience with anti-vaxxers has been almost entirely with individuals who are part of anti-science, hyper-individualist wings of (mostly) American discourse that sincerely scare me. [Editing ends.] It is a dangerous mindset and it effects us all. The “science” that informed the latest and most vocal wave of them has been utterly debunked and officially recanted. The threats of the diseases they refuse to vaccinate against are still real – and they are still horrifically deadly. The nature of every major disease threat in human history is that it is communicable, we either live or die as whole communities.

There is no reason at all why I or anyone else should sicken and die with diseases that a decade ago were declared eliminated in my native country.

Agree? Disagree? Want to change my mind? Discuss.

Rant inspired by this post from the Daily Beast, shared by a friend of mine. 

A running count of preventable diseases and deaths since 2007.

Incendiary Monday Post – Healthcare, Birth Control, Women’s Roles – Oh My!

“Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is hers — and before it can be his, it is hers alone. She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it.”
― Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race

My old job did a horrible job at supporting women’s health. There, I said it. No real maternity leave (unless you count 12 weeks without pay, after which time your job is hypothetically up for grabs and much relies on the goodwill of your department), no day care (there is a single care area, but it is a research facility and not open to public enrollment), and frankly less than impressive health care options.

I have my theories about this, but primarily I think it’s because it’s a private religious school that’s part of a traditional gender essentialist cultural. Women with kids should be at  home with those kids, goes the thinking. Granted I certainly I never heard anyone at the university say this in an official HR capacity, but I heard it everywhere (including some classes) unofficially, even from administrators of my own department. Let me be clear, I do not believe for one second that the policy and procedural edicts on the subject were the result of some cabal of men evilly stroking cats and scheming in a dark room somewhere, but I do think that this idea of prescribed gender roles passively plays a role in making assumptions about what working women do or do not need long term.

1970's ad from Australia.
1970’s ad from Australia.

I’m not going to get into the arguments for or against this cultural set up now, except to say that for a school that emphasized family values, I often wondered why I saw so many policies and procedures – and cultural mores – that made it hard for women (employees and students alike) to have one, because that’s a rant for another day. What really bothered me personally was the issue of birth control.

Yes, my birth control was theoretically covered by my work insurance plan. In practice, however, it turned out to be cheaper for me in the long run to go through Planned Parenthood for my annual exams and prescriptions. That is ridiculous. I often wondered what was the point of my healthcare plan if the main thing I used it for besides dentistry (being otherwise a pretty healthy person) turned out to be more financially heavy than services outside its administrative scope. And believe me, Planned Parenthood was not popular or commonly marketed as an option in this state!

But the real challenge came when I quit that job in preparation for our London move. I needed a supply of  several months to get me through the summer, the move, the settling in, and the setting up of our new health plan in Britain – we’re covered by the NHS but opted for additional coverage as part of Jeff’s work benefits package. Planned Parenthood could only give me 2-3 month of a prescription at a time, and my GP couldn’t write me a prescription that could account for my change of employment status, since my insurance disappeared with my job. My GP was a great doctor who took them time to listen to my concerns and ultimately wrote me a full year’s prescription and worked with the pharmacy to fill it, since they also normally dispense it in smaller quantities. But it was entirely out of pocket for me and cost nearly $400 to do so – a bit more than a $1 a day to remain child free by choice.

VictorianPostcard

Fast forward to London. When down to my last month of birth control, I make an appointment with the doctor’s office I’ve registered at (coincidentally a 7 minute walk from our flat). My stats and measurements are taken, my health history is reviewed, my current prescription is examined to verify they carry the same or a similar drug, a new prescription is written. The whole process takes 10 minutes. Four days ago I walked to the adjacent pharmacy and filled it, getting two months of BC. It is not as attractively or complexly packaged as what I got in the States, but the dosages are identical.

It cost me nothing.

I don’t pretend that socialized medicine is without consequences, particularly for a country as large and divided as the US. But I grew up in socialized medical care – by which I mean… the system that treats the military and government servicemen and women of the country. It too had some major drawbacks (witness a large scar on one arm when having skin biopsied vs the nearly invisible one I got for the same treatment in private care), but when run properly it works. Astonishingly well. I’m for more of it, particularly more that treats women’s health as an integral part of the system, since we’re 51% of the population, instead of a specialty field.

Discuss.

– My friend Heidi documents a less than stellar experience from her Danish doctor. Any other expats have stories to share, good and bad?

John Green talks about healthcare costs on the vlogbrothers channel, worth a view even if you disagree vehemently.

– A post laying out the pros/cons of universal healthcare and comparing it in the US to other nations

Another pro/con examination