how to protect codgers

A friend calls me yesterday, complaining that the new Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t prevent infection nearly enough for him to want to get it. He is in his 70s and says darn it, he’d still have a 60% chance of getting infected.

I thought about it and wrote back this morning:

Re the new vaccine the POINT is NOT to prevent infection, though it lessens it in codgers like me and you.

The point is that the vaccinated younger people shed a s–tload less virus if they get it, because their immune system kills it fast. This reduces the amount of circulating virus so that the codgers stop dying like flies. Also the codgers get less sick if their immune system recognizes B4 and B5.

Got it? Get the vaccine.

I am waiting for the top ten causes of death for 2021 to come out. Over one million US people have died of Covid-19. In 2020, there were between 300-400,000 deaths from Covid. That means that we lost 600-700,000 in 2021. If we lost close to 700,000 people, then Covid-19 would beat out heart disease as the number one cause of death in the US. When did that last happen? During the 1918-1920 influenza, the “Spanish” flu that has been traced to a chicken farm in the US midwest.

Here is a provisional and not final list: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/provisional-leading-causes-of-death-for-2021.pdf. Hmmm. The numbers are not adding up unless a lot of US people died of Covid-19 in early 2022. And cancer is higher than it’s ever been and creeping up on heart disease. But these are not the final numbers, sigh.

Here is a fascinating chart: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/lead1900_98.pdf. If you scroll to the end, the top two causes of death in 1900 were pneumonia first and tuberculosis. Heart was fourth. Heart rises to first in 1910 but then pneumonia is back at the top in 1918-1920. I think that the heart has been number one ever since, in the US. World top ten is not the same.

This is not the first pandemic and it won’t be the last. It is horrible. I think that everyone is doing the best they can, though some responses seem saner than others. Remember the old doctor joke about what to do in a code (when someone’s heart has stopped). First: check your own pulse. It’s a corollary that if the patient is dead, you can try to bring them back, but you can’t make them more dead. Also, my latest Advanced Cardiac Life Support class, on line, told me that sometimes I do not have to do cardiac life support. Their example was a decapitated patient. Really? Ouch, doctor humor. But truly, if you are freaking out or want to scream at someone or feel like the world is nuts and you have to do something, first check your own pulse. Slow it down. Breath in four and out four. I can drop my pulse from 101 to 71 in 20 seconds, just by slowing my breathing. You can learn to too.

My recommendation is that if you are due for the booster, get it. And thank you for protecting me and my friend and the other codgers.

No, it is not snowing here yet. But codger seems to be a word for an old GUY. Humph. Would a grumpy hummingbird be a grummer? What is a female codger? I am using codger for any gender, to heck with it.

Exercise mets

Mets could be metastases, a terrible word in cancer. But this is exercise mets. I am half way through my pulmonary rehabilitation for pneumonia and getting stronger. So what is a met? “One MET is approximately 3.5 milliliters of oxygen consumed per kilogram (kg) of body weight per minute.” (from https://www.healthline.com/health/what-are-mets#definition).

Ok, that doesn’t seem very useful. I find this way more useful, a chart of how many mets are used for certain activities:

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-are-mets#examples

The treadmill I am using at pulmonary rehab tells me how many mets I am using. However, last time I turned it on and didn’t enter my weight. It uses 155 pounds, which is more than I weigh. I think that then the mets are wrong. It isn’t exact anyhow. The important thing is that I am improving and off oxygen! I am now up to 5.3 mets, going at 3.3 mph, on a 4% grade, for 40 minutes. Pulmonary rehab is twelve weeks, twice a week, with a respiratory therapist and a physical therapist.

My respiratory therapist asks my goals. To bicycle distance, hike across the Olympics, and to ski again, off oxygen. That means altitude. Once we are above 5500 feet, the body really starts noticing the thinner air. I am not there yet but I am so pleased to be improving.

On the chart, I am in the moderate exercise range. To bicycle, I would have to be able to sustain 8 mets. Not yet, not yet.

Being off oxygen (except night, flute, sustained singing and heavy exercise) is GREAT! The intrinsic problem has not been fixed, thought. Fully twenty specialists since 2012 have not figured out why I get pneumonia easily and how to protect me, other than masking and not working in Family Medicine or anything people intensive. It’s annoying, my career has been blown up. I don’t have much hope of an overarching diagnosis at this point, but I’m willing to keep trying. We don’t know everything in medicine and really, I do not think we ever will. It’s endlessly complex and fascinating.

I think the mets chart should be shared with patients. I had one couple who insisted that the woman had PMS even though she was postmenopausal. I scratch my head and continue to watch her. After months something made me suspicious and I order an echocardiogram. She had congestive heart failure, seriously reduced heart output. I promptly called the cardiologist and said, “This is new, she is on NO MEDICINES.” He saw her within a week. Sometimes things do not present in a straight forward manner. She felt much better once we got her heart functioning better. If a person is losing their ability to perform moderate intensity mets, they should see their doctor. It could be spending too many hours in front of a screen (turn it off, get up, go outside, walk daily!) but it could also be something else. Heart is the number one killer still.

Stay healthy and keep those mets up!

Ha. I did use the word certain, didn’t I? And one of my favorite exercises is dancing. Listening to this right now:

Covid-19, Long Haul and the immune system

“Whether immune-mediated secondary OCD could also develop as a consequence of COVID-19 poses a highly relevant research question to be elucidated in the near future [35, 36]. The first studies of their kind have demonstrated infection-triggered neuronal antibody production against various antigens in COVID-19 patients who were presenting with unexplained neurological symptoms [37].” from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01700-4

Um, yes. It is looking highly likely that chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and Long Haul Covid-19 are all immune system responses. They are not simple at all. They can involve antibodies, cytokines and killer T cells and probably other things.

Antibodies: the difficulty here is that we all make different antibodies. It’s all very well to say that people with PANDAS and PANS make antibodies to Dopamine 1 and 2 receptors, tubulin receptors and lysoganglioside receptors, but people each make different antibodies. The antibodies can attach and block the receptor or can attach to the receptor and turn the key: act like dopamine, for example. Dopamine makes people tachycardic, a fast heart rate. If dopamine receptors are blocked, that could be a source for “brain fog” and feeling down.

Cytokines: I worked at the National Institutes of Health back in the 1980s before medical school. We were studying interleukin 2 and tumor necrosis factor for cancer treatment. Building 10 had mice on the north south axis and human patients on the east west. It was fascinating. Now I am reading a current book on the immune system. There has been a lot of research since 1988. Cytokines are released by cells and are immunodulating agents. They are a form of communication in the immune system.

Killer T cells: When antibodies coat a cell, there are immune system cells that kill and/or eat the coated cells. This is good if it is an infectious bacteria or a cell infected with virus, but it is bad if it is your own joint cells or your heart cells or, horrors, brain cells. In rheumatic fever, antibodies to strep A attack the patient’s own cells as well as the strep A cells. This is called “pseudo autoimmune” but I am starting to suspect that all the autoimmune disorders are responses to stress or infection or both.

So if you are still reading, you are saying wait, this is awful, what can we do about it?

Our understanding of the immune system is better than 1988 however… it still has a ways to go. I think that Covid-19 and Long Haul Covid are going to seriously accelerate the research in this area. Meanwhile there are some things people can do to “down regulate” or quiet down the immune system.

If antibodies are causing some of the problem, we need to quiet them down. With severe PANDAS in children, plasmapheresis filters the blood and filters out antibodies. However, the body keeps making them. Infection must be treated first, but then the initial antibody response lasts for 6-8 weeks. Then the body makes memory antibodies and cells to remember. With reinfection, the response lasts for 2-4 months and then subsides if the infection is gone.

Treat infection first. Then treat urgent symptoms, including urgent psychiatric symptoms. Then work can start on the sympathetic nervous system, quieting down to the parasympathetic state. This is not easy with Long Haul Covid-19 or chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia because people are afraid, confused, in pain, exhausted. I have written about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems here and here. Start with slow breathing, four seconds in and four seconds out. It takes practice.

I have been getting feedback at the pulmonary rehab. When I arrive, they take my pulse, 02 saturation and blood pressure. They put the pulse oximeter on and often I am up in the 90s. I slow my breathing and watch my pulse drop. One day I came in relaxed and my initial pulse was 71. When I was a little late, it started at 99 and came down. The therapist took it off when I got my pulse down to 90. We can check our own pulse, the number of heart beats in one minute, or a small pulse oximeter is about $30.

We can’t really “fix” the immune system with drugs. Steroids can quiet inflammation but they make us more susceptible to infection and raise blood sugar and cause multiple problems when used chronically, like osteoporosis. Plasmapheresis is expensive and requires specially trained nurses. Doesn’t a breathing exercise sound a lot more DIY and cheaper too? You got this. Practice, practice, practice.

Care bare? No, Care Barrier.

My cardiologist told me to go to the Mayo Clinic six months ago.

I saw him last week and he wanted an update.

I said, “I filled out a request for a visit and my primary care referred me, but Mayo Clinic never called.”

He replies: “I will refer you.”

A week later I get a call from Mayo Clinic. But I do not have an appointment yet because

  1. They are booked out until November 18th. I am advised to “call daily” to get my appointment. They open up a week at a time, but don’t say when. A new meaning to “maybe you’ll get lucky”.
  2. They do not take my insurance and want a $5000 deposit prior to seeing me. I can fill out paperwork to ask for patient assistance. This would be the fifth hospital system in which I have filled out that paperwork. I have had to do it for four other places. The paperwork is different for each one and some even want a copy of my taxes. Do you think it’s secure? Of course it isn’t.
  3. I have to go in person to Minnesota, so add a round trip plane ticket to that $5000. They may do tests while I am there, so I don’t know how much of the $5000 I would get back. If any.

At the moment this seems insurmountable, but I will keep chipping away at all the insane barriers and paperwork. What a stupid medical system the US has, right?

We still need single payer and medicare for all. There would be one set of patient assistance papers, not five.

Top ten causes of death, US, 2020, and doctor time pressure

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

There is an article about US doctors, that primary care would have to work around the clock to apply all of the guidelines, here: https://news.uchicago.edu/story/primary-care-doctors-would-need-more-24-hours-day-provide-recommended-care.

Yes, but this is not new news. There was a trio of articles twenty years ago that said the same thing. And the guidelines have only expanded. Primary care is doing the same thing it has always done: what it can. Meanwhile we go to “Continuing Medical Education” and the other specialists ALL say we are not doing enough, we need to do more. Makes a woman cynical, don’t it?

Family Practice is a specialty, did you know that? We do a three year residency. Internal medicine is also three years, but many then “sub specialize” — further training in cardiology or rheumatology or nephrology, and etc. Sometimes we get a primary care doctor who doesn’t do the extra years but gets interested in something and they learn to subspecialize. We had a pulmonologist on the peninsula here, best I’ve worked with, who had not done the fellowship but learned it on the job. She was excellent and is now retired.

So you as a patient need to be aware of the top ten causes of death and do some thinking. Heart is still number one, in spite of Covid-19. All the cancer deaths are number two, but that’s only a fraction of the cancers. You want cancer screening, to pick it up before it is lethal. Pap smears, colon cancer screening, get your skin checked. Covid-19 is number three in 2020. Let’s look at the list.

US top ten causes of death, 2020.

  • Heart disease: 696,962
  • Cancer: 602,350
  • COVID-19: 350,831
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 200,955
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 160,264
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 152,657
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 134,242
  • Diabetes: 102,188
  • Influenza and pneumonia: 53,544
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 52,547

The list changes. What has fallen out of the top ten, since Covid-19 was not on the list back in 2019? “Intentional self-harm” aka suicide, was number ten in 2019.

Let’s go through the list one at a time and give you some basic tools and ideas about prevention, since your physician doesn’t have enough time to deal with all of it.

  1. Heart: The people who have not seen a doctor for twenty years, um, go see a doctor. If you have high blood pressure for twenty years, you will also have heart failure, which means pump failure. This is bad and will kill you. Check in at least every three to five years. In the US currently, you are a “new” patient after three years, so it’s best to show up just before that three year mark. Call ahead, everyone is short staffed. Check blood pressure, cholesterol and quit smoking (that includes pot, also bad for the heart), cocaine is very effective at trashing the heart, alcohol is bad for it, so is methamphetamines, and any other silly and stupid substance “overuse”. Kratom? Bad. Fake pot? Also bad. Turn off the tube or computer and go for a daily walk. Outside. Without headphones or earbuds. Try to figure out the bird noises, ok? Eat more vegetables. Don’t be stupid.
  2. Cancer: do the screening tests. Get the HPV vaccine for your children. Get pap smears. Use sun screen. Get your colonoscopy when you hit that age. Want to read about a screening test? Go to this site: https://uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/home . This is the clearing house for the current guidelines AND THEY CHANGE. They get updated. The vaccines are all here too. Get them.
  3. Covid-19. If you aren’t vaccinated then I don’t even want to talk to you, unless you are seriously immunosuppressed and your docs told you not to. Otherwise your brain has been taken over by non-scientist crazy whackos. IMHO.
  4. Accidents have been rising up the list and currently number one is opioid overuse deaths. Do not buy pills on the street because even if they claim to be oxycodone they may actually be fentanyl. The drug cartels aren’t so good at diluting the fentanyl enough to not kill you. If you are on prescribed opioids you should have a shot to reverse it (narcan shot or nasal spray) and your family or friends should know where it is and how to use it. Next is guns and cars. Guns should be locked up with the ammunition locked up separately when you are not working as a policemen or hunting a deer or rhinoceros. Cars should not be driven under the influence and hello seat belts. Oh, let’s see, wear your helmet on the bicycle, roller blades, e-bike, jet-skateboard or whatever. Wear a life jacket in the boat. Don’t point Axe towards your face and try to light the spray on fire.
  5. Stroke. This is all the same stuff as heart. And also Covid-19 increases your risk of stroke.
  6. Chronic lower respiratory disease: this is mostly caused by tobacco, tobacco, tobacco, marijuana, tobacco, asbestos, tobacco and woodsmoke or firefighting. Smoke is bad. Vapor is smoke, ok? See your doctor to get help quitting smoking. My father quit after 55 years of 2 packs a day of unfiltered Camels, so don’t tell me you can’t. Also it takes an average of 8 tries or so to quit. Yes you can.
  7. Alzheimer’s: keep your brain active, eyes are important, ears are important, eat those vegetables and if you live where I do, vitamin D in the winter.
  8. Diabetes: sweet drinks are bad. Fake sweet drinks are bad. A coke has 32 grams of carbohydrate. A Starbuck’s mocha 12 oz has 60. Quit drinking sweet drinks. Your goal is no more than 15 grams of sweetener a day. Now, what exactly is a carbohydrate? It’s anything edible that is not fat or protein. However, there are lots of very low carbohydrate vegetables out there. A cup of kale only has 8 grams of carbohydrate. Sweet peas and sugar beets have a lot more. Diabetics and everyone else should have at least half of every meal be vegetables, green and yellow and orange. Fruit is sweeter and all of the portion sizes (except kale) are less than you’d like to eat. Prevention is good.
  9. Influenza and pneumonia. Get your flu shot. There are two pneumonia shots and the first is given at age 65 and the second at 66. Except in people with heart or lung problems, then they get the vaccine early and repeat at 65 and 66. I think we are going to have a group of people who always mask on planes. I am one of them.
  10. Nephritis and etc. This is kidneys. What can affect your kidneys? Pills and illegal drugs, mostly. All pills that are absorbed are metabolized (which means broken down) by either the liver or the kidneys. Kidney function goes down slowly over a lifetime with age. We are seeing a huge rise in kidney problems because of too many pills. Yes, supplements too. Natural does not mean safe and what the heck is natural about a pill anyhow? Take as few pills as possible. Take ALL the pills to show your doctor. Ok, your doctor might be clueless about supplements. We had one person nearly hit the liver transplant stage until she showed my partner her supplement’s new label “Can affect the liver.” Holy cow. Should say “Can kill you.” So back to prevention: my baseline was that people should have blood lab basic testing every five years before age 50 and every three years after that if they were on NO PILLS. If they are on ANY pills, I recommend yearly testing. Did you know that the supplement companies can change what is in the pill at any time without telling you? Isn’t that reassuring? Heck no.
  11. There are still a long list of other causes of death. Liver disease, intentional self-harm, and on.

Since your doctor does not have time to think about all of this every time you stop by, it’s partly up to you. I don’t trust Dr. Google at all, but the sites I go to are the CDC, the Mayo Clinic, NIH, AAFP (American Academy of Family Practice). I look at lots of quack sites too, to see what is being sold, but I am not advertising them!

Be careful out there.

The photograph is Elwha watching the four point buck and wondering if it will eat him or not. From last week.

Parasympathy

In 2013, Catherine Hodes, director of the Safe Homes Project (a domestic-violence program), started a workshop called “Is it Conflict or Abuse?” An abusive dynamic, she argues, requires one person to have power over the other, whereas conflict involves two people struggling for power. The distinction can be confusing, and in some cases “both people feel like they’re being abused, because they’re not getting their needs met or they’re not getting their way.”

From the Atlantic Monthly article: That’s it, you’re dead to me. September 2022 p. 14.

I think this is a fascinating idea, in the article that questions the internet wisdom of getting rid of “toxic people” in one’s life. When we cut off someone we consider “toxic”, we aren’t peaceing them, are we? Peace me, peace you, how do we actively peace people instead of being afraid, on guard, at war. I think everyone is more afraid after the two years of Covid 19 pandemic and all of the deaths and the Long Haul Covid and war. Everyone has a shorter fuse, everyone is stressed.

Remember that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight system. The body makes less thyroid and less sex hormones and makes more adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid and great for short term, but bad for long term. If we are continually stressed, cortisol messes up the immune system and we get auto-immune disorders, the body attacking its’ own cells. The adrenaline raises our heart rate and blood pressure, neither of which are good for the heart long term. When the thyroid hormone is on the low side, we feel tired. The adrenaline makes us feel wired and we have trouble sleeping. The cortisol makes us more likely to get sick and raises blood sugar too. The low sex hormones, well, women can stop menses and men start asking for viagra.

So we as a world, need to learn to downregulate the sympathetic nervous system and go back to parasympathetic. The relaxed one. The one where we have less adrenaline and less high cortisol and more thyroid and our gut works and sex works again. How do we get there?

Breathing is one way. Slow breathing: 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Work up to 20 minutes. One of my veterans said he was not used to feeling relaxed, it felt weird. Ok, it may feel weird, but maybe we need to practice it. He did. There is circular breathing too, 5 seconds in, 5 hold, 5 out, 5 hold. Zen meditation, facing a wall for 40 minutes, works too. We try not to follow the thoughts. The thoughts pop up anyhow, but not following them down the rabbit hole is interesting and challenging. Mindful mediation and Jon Kabat Zinn’s books and tapes work as well. It takes practice. Practice peace, practice relaxing. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely practice?

Stupid cat videos work for me too. Laughter works. What makes you laugh? I like the silly animal videos, the moose playing with the wind chimes, three baby bears rescued (with care) from a dumpster, with the truck driving off to avoid momma bear. Rocking, knitting, sewing, fishing, walking the beach, cuddling a baby, dancing, listening to music, playing music. Which works for you? Silly movies. I don’t like horror movies, and I love cartoons and animation. Engage the child at heart for the parasympathetic nervous system.

In high school my daughter said that most fights were stupid. “One person says something without thinking. The other person goes off and gets upset. She stops talking to person one, who has no idea what is going on, and they often talk to their friends. So there is this big fight over some dumb comment.”

I don’t think it ends with high school, sadly enough. And before we label someone “toxic”, maybe we need to wander off and breathe, or watch a silly cat video. Whatever works for you that doesn’t hurt others.

We need more parasympathy in the world. Yep, I just made that word up. Relax and if you can’t or won’t, consider practicing.

Peace you and please peace me.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23266-parasympathetic-nervous-system-psns

https://healthnews.com/family-health/healthy-living/how-to-activate-the-parasympathetic-nervous-system/

August 19, 2022

Defiance

Ok, this is a beautiful and romantic song, and yeah, George Strait is pretty.

And then there’s the Offspring. Singing Self Esteem. Guess which I like better.

The Offspring: defiance and singing about all sorts of things that we don’t talk about: “The more we suffer the more we really care!” Some of my patients needed to listen to this song. Often the mom, with a spouse and three children, who was taking care of all of them but not herself. “Who takes care of YOU?” I would ask. “No one,” some moms would say. “Look. There are FIVE people in your family. You are one of them. You deserve the same level of care that the rest of them are getting. I want you to include yourself in the people you take care of.” “BUT” “NO BUTS. If you don’t, then you are setting expectations for your children: the boys that a wife will take care of them and the girls to be walked on. Is that what you want?” “NO.” “Change it.” They often would, slowly but surely.

And The Offspring are further my heroes because of this song: Opioid Diaries. Ok, a punk band telling opioid overuse people to get help. MY HEROES! Thank you Offspring!!! It’s not easy to watch but wait until the ending and what if offers. I treated opioid overuse for the last 12 years in my small family practice clinic along with everything else: diabetes, hypertension, whatever. I never felt threatened or frightened, but some of that is because I grew up in an alcohol family. I recognize addiction. Reminding my of my parents is not a good sign. And I had to learn boundaries at home first. This is an uncomfortable video to watch but to me it is beautiful, because it offers hope.

Why I hate insurance companies: 1

I had cobra from my job in 2009 and the insurance company refused my bills. Not one bill. Not once. EVERY BILL EVERY TIME: 1. my healthcare 2. my son’s healthcare 3. my daughter’s healthcare 4. my daughter’s orthodontia 5. my dentist 6. my son’s dentist. I had to call EVERY TIME to get them to pay. Calling an insurance company takes 25 or 30 minutes, right? Eventually I asked for customer service who first said it was my fault because “you probably paid the bill late”. I said, “No, I was on time every month.” Then customer service wouldn’t call me back. I finally called their COUNSELING HOTLINE, since it said I would be “paid” $30 to get counseled, and said, “MY LITTLE SISTER IS DYING OF BREAST CANCER AND THE THING THAT IS MOST STRESSING ME OUT IS YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY WON’T PAY THE COBRA BILLS AND I HAVE CALLED CUSTOMER SERVICE OVER AND OVER AND THEY WON’T CALL ME BACK. HOW ABOUT YOU COUNSEL ME HOW TO DEAL WITH THAT!” And I cried. I got a call back from the head of customer service saying “Oh, it’s a computer glitch and we had you misfiled. We have fixed it.” They “misfile” people all the time, or drop patients if they get sick, or say the person didn’t pay on time. I HATE INSURANCE COMPANIES. Anyhow, be warned that insurance companies are there to earn money and will try to avoid paying you in all sorts of ways, including ways that are illegal.

We need single payer healthcare, medicare for all. If we all have healthcare, think of how many small businesses would start up. And why don’t we have single payer healthcare? I think the big corporations don’t want it.

Physicians for a National Healthcare Program: https://pnhp.org/

Medicare for all: https://medicare4all.org/

And my dear friends not on the road any more: http://madashelldoctors.com/

Who is the man in the photograph? I don’t know. This is an old tintype. They came from my Great Aunt, Esther White Parr, married to Russel Parr. Perhaps they are Parrs, because my Uncle Rob did not know any of the people in the four tintypes I have. My sister and I used them for portraits in our china doll houses. I hope he is not the CEO of an insurance corporation, but then, all the white collar white men tried to dress that way then.

Adverse Childhood Experiences 14: Hope

I keep reading bits about despair and about how a generation of children is being “ruined” by the pandemic.

Not so, I say. There is hope. We need to support each other to survive and then to thrive.

This generation WILL have a higher than average ACE score. If the Adverse Childhood Experience scale is from zero to eight, children in this time period will have at least one higher point than average and many will have three or four or more. Loss of a parent, a sibling, beloved grandparents during covid. Increases in domestic violence, child abuse and addiction. These are all part of the ACE score.

What does this do to children? They have survival brain wiring. They will do their best to survive what is happening. A friend and I both have high ACE scores, 5 or more, and we are both oppositional defiant. We showed this in different ways. He grew up in the same community. He escaped from home and knew all the neighbors. He walked to the local church and attended at age 3 or 4. He has lived in this community all his life.

His oppositional defiance showed up at home, where he consistently refused to obey. And in school, where he confounded and disobeyed teachers and passed anyhow.

My family moved every 1-5 years. I hated moving. I wouldn’t talk to kids in a new school for a year. It was very difficult. So my oppositional defiance was very very internal. I hid in books and in my head. In 6th grade I got in trouble for hiding novels inside the school book I’d already read. I also would just not listen and my respect for the teacher got even lower when she would be angry that I knew the answer to the question once she’d repeated it. I wasn’t listening because I was bored. She was the first teacher that I thought, well, she is not very bright. The next year they stuck me in the honors class and I stopped being bored, though I still questioned practically every opinion every teacher had. I wanted evidence and I did not believe it just because the teacher said it.

I am not saying that oppositional defiance is in every high ACE score. I don’t know that. Why oppositional defiance? Imagine you are a small child and you are beaten. There isn’t rhyme or reason. You can’t predict when the adult will be out of control. Why would you behave “well” if it makes no difference? You might as well do what you want, because nothing you do will change the adult. Or imagine you are a small child who is with one person, passed to another, then to another. You may not exactly trust adults after two or three repetitions. And you want to survive.

There is an increase in addictions, behavioral health diagnoses, and chronic illness in adults with a high ACE score. A researcher when I first heard a lecture about it said, “We think perhaps that addiction is a form of self medication.” I thought, oh, my gosh, how are we ever going to treat THIS? Well, we have to figure that out now, and we’ve had 30 years to work on it.

I was very comfortable with the oppositional defiant patients in clinic. I got very good at not arguing with them and not taking their behavior personally. They might show up all spiky and hostile and I might be a little spiky and gruff back: sometimes that was enough. I think the high ACE score people often recognize each other at some level, though not always a conscious one. With some people I might bring up ACE scores and ask about their childhood. Sometimes they wanted to discuss it. Sometimes they didn’t. Either was ok.

One thing we should NOT do is insist that everyone be “nice”. We had a temporary doctor who told us her story. Her family escaped Southeast Asia in a boat. They had run out of water and were going to die when they were found by pirates. The pirates gave them water. They made it to land and were in a refugee camp for eight years or so. She eventually made it to the US. She was deemed too “undiplomatic” for our rural hospital. I wondered if people would have said that if they knew her history and what she had been through. It’s not exactly a Leave it to Beaver childhood, is it? When she was telling us about nearly dying of thirst in the boat, my daughter left her chair and climbed on my lap. She was under ten and understood that this was a true and very frightening story.

We can support this generation of children. This has been and is still being Adverse Experiences for adults as well. Family deaths, job loss, failure of jobs to support people, inflation. Remember the 1920s, after World War I and the last pandemic, of influenza. “On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, which provided enabling legislation to implement the 18th Amendment.” (wikipedia). There were forces trying to legislate behavior, as there are now. The result in 1920s of making alcohol illegal was speakeasies, illegal alcohol, and violence. Some people acted wild after WWI and the influenza pandemic and some people tried to lock down control, by controlling other peoples’ behavior. It did not work then and it will not work now. The wildness is out of control grief, I think, grief dysfunctional and drinking and shooting and doing anything and everything, legal or not. We remember how the 1920s ended too. Let us not repeat that. Let us mourn and grieve and support each other and support each other’s decisions and autonomy.

Blessings.