From the perspective of a weight loss blogger...
Jennette Fulda had it all. She lost over half her body weight (186 damn pounds), wrote a terrific memoir about the experience (Half-Assed), quit her frustrating office job and started her own successful web-design business (Make My Blog Pretty). If she weren’t such a nice person, it would be really easy to
On February 17, 2008, Jennette got a headache. She still has it today, over three years later. Three years… 1095 days… 65700 minutes… one headache. Can’t imagine what that would feel like? You're in luck; you don’t have to. She wrote a book, Chocolate & Vicodin, describing with the frustration and triumph that comes with learning to deal with chronic pain.
Play your cards right... and read a little further... you might get a free copy of the book.
I managed to lure Jennette Fulda over to my blog to answer some questions about Chocolate & Vicodin, among other things.
Merry: So tell me, Janet — may I call you Janet? — what could cause someone to have a headache that goes on for years? Are there any ‘usual suspects’ for a problem like that?
Jennette: Well, Marie, the International Headache Society has 14 classifications for headaches. The type of headache I have is usually labeled Chronic Daily Headache or New Persistent Daily Headache. Those headaches are both primary headaches, meaning the headache is the problem itself as opposed to secondary headaches which are a symptom of something else like the flu or neck trauma. They don't really know what causes these types of headaches. Several classes of drugs are used to prevent and/or alleviate the pain, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, beta blockers, triptans and others.
Merry: Jeannie, how did you cope with pain that doesn’t let up? How has it changed you?
Jennette: Good question, Miriam. In the literal sense, chronic pain has changed my brain due to a fancy, scientific term called neuroplasticity. The longer you're in pain, the better your body gets at being in pain. It essentially learns how to be in pain, so it becomes harder to cure. Chronic pain can also make your brain shrink over the course of many years, and it can cause cognitive problems. Other than that, I'm great!
As for coping, distraction is always a good one. Have you ever been driving in a car and suddenly realized you've been listening to a crappy song on the radio for several minutes? You didn't notice because you weren't paying attention. In the same way, I can sometimes distract myself from the pain by doing tasks that require concentration, like writing. I also use ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.
Merry: I was wondering, Jan. You have the perfect opportunity to say "not tonight, I have a headache." Instead, you found ways to have a life despite pain. But woman, you've had this headache for years! Why didn't you just give up and say @!#%?
Jennette: Well, May, I did go through a period of depression after the first eight months of the headache. I had to leave work to cry in my car in the parking garage, and I was vaguely considering suicide sometime in the distant future. Thankfully, I got help and I kept going to doctors to try new things. We've been able to bring down my pain so it's tolerable. I still can't do as much as I want to, but I'm doing much better than I was three years ago.
Merry: In Chocolate & Vicodin, I was surprised that so many people had trouble with your name. I mean, Jennette basically consists of four letters. Is it the way you repeat some of the letters that confuses people? Ever thought of cutting a few of those extra letters out?
Jennette: My parents gave all three of their kids names that could be shortened to nicknames. Thomas is Tom, James is Jim, and originally Jennette was Jenny. They changed the traditional spelling from "Jeanette" to "Jennette" so the nickname would make sense. Unfortunately, the most popular girl's name the year I was born was Jennifer. So there was always another Jenny in class, which made me feel less then special. I changed it to Jennette one year when we moved. It used to annoy me that people couldn't spell my name, but now I don't really care if they misspell it unless it's on something important or official, like the cover of my book.
Merry: Jennette, I've been treating the subject lightly, making fun of all the ways people mess up your name, but like a lot of other people out there I don't really know the best way to act with someone who has a chronic illness. I want to show support, but I worry about saying the wrong thing and putting my foot in my mouth. What would you suggest?
Jennette: The biggest mistake people make is that they try to cure me. I don't expect you to fix me. I think people give advice compulsively, even when asked not to, because they hate to see someone suffer. Their advice comes from good intentions, but I'd much rather you empathize with me and validate my feelings than try to cure me. A cure probably won't work, but telling me you admire how I'm handling my illness or asking me if there's anything you can do to help will definitely make me feel batter.
I also don't like it when someone tells me they hope my pain goes away (which I know sounds really, really weird). The sentiment is well-intentioned, but the sad fact is that most chronic pain patients never find a cure. Telling them you hope they’ll be cured is like telling an amputee that you hope their leg grows back. That would be fantastic, but it’s probably not going to happen. Telling me you hope I’m cured only reminds me of the fact that I most likely never will be. Instead, wish me better health in general or tell me you hope I’ll have a low pain day.
Merry: One last question. If a magical wish-granting fairy appeared before you and offered to make your headache disappear forever, but only if you went back to your highest weight, would you take the deal?
Jennette: I really don't know. Let's be glad this fairy doesn't exist and I don't have to make this decision. I feel like I've kind of reached a mid-point between those two options anyway. I've regained about 50 pounds or so, but my headache pain is lower. I don't have the energy to exercise and cook as well as I used to, but it's not so bad that I'm housebound or on my way to other obesity-related illnesses.
I might just take the fairy in a choke hold and demand that she give me both things before I turned her into fairy dust.
Merry: Sounds reasonable; silly offer for a fairy to make, really. Thanks for stopping by!
[Okay, she's gone. Now I'll dish about what I really think about this book.]
Things I liked about Chocolate & Vicodin:
- The intelligence : Jennette has a way of writing about her struggle that cuts through confusions/confuddlements/tangents and addresses the problem directly. I found that refreshing.
- The humor: I’ve peeked at other reviews, and that was one thing every single reviewer picked up on. The topic sounds depressing, but Chocolate & Vicodin has a surprising amount of humor.
- The suspense: I got hooked on trying to find the solution. Throughout the book, people
shower delugedrown Jennette with suggestions as she tries a lot of remedies.
- In this book, there is a complete absence of car chases, catchy musical dance interludes, or death-defying duels between highly skilled ninja warriors.
- Rather than battle dragons, orcs, or very short boy wizards who have a scar on the forehead, Jennette deals with bureaucracy, insurance forms, and doctors. Me, I'd rather battle the dragons.
- Damn it all, there aren't even any sparkly vampires! (Wait — that was supposed to go in the Things I Liked list.)
- In other words: it's a memoir, not a novel. No glib, easy answers.
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this memoir to review.
Datclaimer: You too could be given a copy of this memoir! Read on.
Giveaway Note: Leave a comment, and if Mr. Random Generator picks your comment, Jennette will send a copy of Chocolate & Vicodin to the USian address of your choice. A free book! Just from leaving a comment! Only in America.
Giveaway deadline: Leave a comment by Tuesday, March 15th at 8:37 pm Oregon time.
P.S. If you have questions for Jennette, please include them in your comment as well. Maybe we can lure her back to answer them!
This contest is now closed