Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Chocolate & Vicodin: review & giveaway!

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 think petty, jealous, resentful thoughts hate her guts. Sounds like a great life.


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 deluge drown Jennette with suggestions as she tries a lot of remedies.
Things I didn't like about it:
  • 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.
I recommend reading Chocolate & Vicodin. We all have to deal with pain. Everyone develops different strategies to cope. Jennette Fulda came up with some thought-provoking ways to deal with her headache.

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


Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't know what else to say here. Chronic pain like that... yeah, still don't know what to say. But I'll go over there, and hopefully I'll be more insightful.

C said...

Jennette's blog is great, so I'd love a chance to read her new book...for free! :)

Anonymous said...

It sounds like an interesting book.

Amanda said...

I've got a copy of and have read Half-Assed, which is awesome. And I have a post-it with "Chocolate and Vicodin" written on it stuck to the spine of my payroll binder at the office, which is likely freaking my bosses out now that I think about it. I need to remember to pick this up. Thanks for the review :)

Shelley said...

Fun review of a difficult subject - I had a headache for a year in 95-96 so I can relate. But that Jennette's headache is STILL ongoing? Criminy. That is rough. I'd love to read her book.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I wanted to spell our son Ian's name "Iain" - i.e., the CORRECT way - but Teh 'Bride put her foot down because HER real name has a weirdo spelling that people can never get right and when I said "Iain" she said "Wah!1!" and so, long story short, "Ian" it is.

Book sounds interesting. I can't imagine getting used to a years-long headache, but it's a testament to human endurance, and Jennnnnnetttteee's in particular, that she has.

Kelly the Happy Texan said...

I really want a copy of this book. Love chocolate with vicodin sprinkles.

Lee said...

Liked your interview & review. I've been sucked into a health care rabbit hole and think this book could be helpful.

Tiffany Drew said...

I SO want to read this book! My mom has been suffering from chronic back pain for years and for about a year or two now has had daily migraines. I would love to read this and then pass it on to her!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I deal with chronic migraines and can't wait to read this book.

Anonymous said...

I want to read both books now!!! Going to the library this afternoon to see if they have "half-assed" on the shelf.....

sonya said...

I want to read both books now!!! Going to the library this afternoon to see if they have "half-assed" on the shelf.....

Jennette Fulda said...

@Amanda - LOL! I always wonder if the bankers think it's weird for me to cash checks with the memo line "Chocolate & Vicodin"

Thanks to all of y'all for your interest in the book. Best of luck in the giveaway!

Nitmos said...

Sooooo, you aren't giving away free vicodin? (slams door disgustedly and walks out)

The Merry said...

Dang it, Jennette, you missed out on a really good way to publicize your memoir ;)

Anonymous said...

I would love to win a copy of “Chocolate & Vicodin.”

Jennette, you said something very important for everyone to remember for many situations when a friend has troubles of any kind, not only physical pain: “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.”

badagle said...

Wow, what an awful thing. I have a friend with lupus who has chronic pains, but they change.

Kalle said...

Having just spent several free hours working my way through the PQ blog, I'd be glad if the random generator picked me! Thanks for the interview and to Jennette for sharing with everyone. Best wishes for low pain days all around!

me said...

I was wondering why you were each getting the other's name wrong...

The great title caught my attention a few weeks ago. I had a constant headache for several months in 1997. After many tests and drugs, they decided it was probably a pinched nerve. It was so annoying and painful, I can't imagine having it for several years.

McB said...

Great interview, both of you. I have no questions, but a great deal of admiration. Yes, Merry, you, too.

Gay Straight Alliance said...

I liked the interview; you both are smart and clever.

I had recommended the book to a friend/neighbor of mine who has chronic headaches (I hope she didn't think I was trying to "cure" her by the suggestion - LOL).

Merry, I thought for sure you would have had one more thing you didn't like about her book: No pics of Hugh Jackman.

WapakGram said...

I have a classmate who is dealing with years of headache pain and we all want to fix it. But we know we can't. So we feed him instead. Luckily he is a guy so he doesn't gain. just your interview gave me insights in how to be a better friend. I can't wait to read this book and pass it along to him.

lopa said...

I loved "Half Assed" and can't wait to read this. She's a terrific writer.

Jym said...

There are different types of - vicodin, hydrocodone lortab - analgesics for the treatment of pain. It mentions Findrxonline prescription medications should be taken in moderation and low supervision medical. Also notes not buy online without a prescription.

One Crazy Penguin said...

How did I miss this post!?! Great interview and I would love to win a copy. She has a great writing style :)

LMI said...

I read the book a couple of weeks ago, so wouldn't need another copy.

I really liked the book. Very different from Half Assed, but not surprising, considering the theme of the book and what she's been through.

Chronic pain sucks, period. But thankfully, mine has gotten a lot easier to deal with (chronic back pain) even if it never goes away.

I hope her health continues to improve and that she finds balance between dealing with the pain and her happy weight:-)