Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Ein-Myaun Health

Hot. Hot, hot, hot. That's the news here from Myanmar. Not complaining, just reporting. We're talking 38C, 101F every single day. Oh, but it's a wet heat. Like a Houston heat. Air so thick, it's like you're swimming down the street when you're out for a walk. It is the height of the 'hot season' here in SE Asia. It's so hot, you don't really want to go out and do anything. A week with no blog. I haven't really had anything to blog about because I've been 'hibernating' in my AC'd apartment.

So let's catch up on some things about... well... it is my blog, so things about me.

If you've read this blog back from my days in Thailand, you'll remember I had some pretty significant issues with an inflamed disc in my back. Kept me bed ridden, and although it slowly got better, it regressed from time to time and there wasn't really any point in my last eight months in Bangkok that I was pain free.

Great news! I am now 100% pain free! The back has not bothered me at all. Ever since I came to Myanmar, I've had no issues with the bulging disc. Actually, I got better before leaving Thailand, a couple days after I sold my motorcycle. See, I'm pretty sure that was it. It was riding a motorcycle that kept aggravating my back. I sorta suspected that even while I was living with the pain, but I didn't really want to admit it to myself because that would imply I should stop riding a motorcycle! I loved the freedom and convenience having my own ride gave me. I loved the feel of riding the iron horse! I've had a motorcycle most of my life since I was 8 years old. If I could, I'd have one here in Yangon (motorcycles are banned within the city limits). One day, I'd planned on owning one again, but with this realization of how it causes me unending pain, maybe I should endeavor to buy a car.

On to a topic in other health news that I haven't talked about much on the blog, but my friends and family know about: my battle with psoriasis. For the last 18 years or so, I've had really bad plaque psoriasis. Big patches of white and red scaly skin covering most of my shins and much of my forearms. Elbows and knees totally covered. It itched. It caused me tremendous social anxiety. I'd tried everything to fix it, but nothing worked.

Just before I left Amerika, I'd gone to the doctor and he gave me a cocktail of topical steroids to use in combination. As I said, no single medicine I'd tried before had helped. Also just before I left, I visited the tanning salon two or three times a week. I had the time, and after five years in Seattle, I didn't want to arrive in the tropics pasty white. I was quite bronze when I came here a year ago. The UV radiation from the tanning booth also helped treat my psoriasis. With the medicine and the UV radiation, I was pretty much symptom free when I got here; I wasn't embarrassed to walk around in shorts.

Ultimately, the medicines I'd brought from America ran out, and I wasn't getting much sun on my legs, and although there are tons of businesses geared towards helping their customers appear more fair skinned, there are no tanning salons in Bangkok. The psoriasis came back. My regular doctor sent me to the Thailand Institute of Dermatology, the country's top skin clinic, where I underwent UV therapy.

Twice a week, I'd step into what amounted to a vertical tanning booth (medical strength) and in just a couple minutes, I got what amounted to a full day out in the sun.

It worked. They also gave me topical steroids, and after 4 months of this treatment, not a single symptom of psoriasis anywhere on my body for the first time in 18 years. Hallelujah!

I was worried about it when coming to Burma. I'm guessing there's not a single UV therapy machine in the entire country. I brought plenty of the topical stuff medicine with me from Thailand, but I knew that wasn't really what had alleviated my symptoms. I was worried the psoriasis would come back, as it always has before.

I've been here almost two months now. Haven't used any of the steroid cream on my problem areas at all (although the same stuff does do wonders for my jock itch). I'm still 100% symptom free. Hoooray!

One of the weird things about psoriasis, a condition whose cause isn't well understood nor is there any definitive 'cure', is that it is strongly influenced by psychological conditions. Another time in my past where my symptoms mostly went away is when I'd broken up with a girlfriend who'd been causing me a lot of stress. My symptoms were once again reduced by half when I divorced my ex-wife (same woman as the gf I'd broken up with years before that). See, stress exacerbates psoriasis. My skin, for these last however many years now, has been sort of a dermal indicator of my mental well being. When I don't feel like things are going right in my life, when I'm neurotic or unfulfilled, my skin tells me so by breaking it huge patches of auto-immune malfunction (psoriasis is an immune system hyperactivity; the skin is triggered into hyper-replacing itself when it doesn't need to).

If I'm psoriasis free, it means also that I'm stress free. Living here in Myanmar is tough, but it's an immediate, in your face kind of tough that I can handle. I had far more stress from the existential ennui of living in America surrounded by every creature comfort one could want, but still not feeling fulfilled. Here, my challenge is living. After that, everything's easy.

If my skin starts telling me I need to make a change, my brain will listen. 

For this week's video, we have me torturing an Ein-Myaun...



  1. No pain and no itching - that is really fantastic news. I hope you remember how much your back hurt the next time you fall in love with a motorcycle.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Stress can cause numerous physical issues. I am now basically stress free too and my Dr. is thrilled with all my lab numbers. :) So happy for you . I agree with Jim and Sandi. Please stay away from motorcycles.

  3. I have thought about your back pain many times. Along with not riding a motor cycle, you have also changed your bedding. This might have helped as well. Have you had any change in shoes?

    I have had some pain in my lower back since moving into the Alfa. Could be a different bed, could be a weight gain. It is not unbearable, just in the morning and it seems to go away after I have taken my Meloxicam and get moving.

    You are looking well on your more recent videos. Your face looks less puffy. Have you dropped some pounds?

    As your loving mother, I send you strong vibes to think about quitting smoking. If your stress level is down, and your health is better, this might be a good time to give it another try. Every time we hike I thank goodness that I quit. Life is good. Smoke free life is even better!


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