Category Archives: Healing

Up and at ’em…

Things are brewing. My paintings are gaining a modicum of popularity, a complete stranger bought something from my Amazon Handmade page, and Pirate Fest is coming up in about three weeks.

I am determined not to give in to the desire to flounder.

Having said that, I have something I have to do and I admit I don’t want to.

I have to, HAVE TO, treat my body better. I stretch a bit and walk almost every day, but it’s been years since I really pushed myself to exercise. This is really stupid of me because all the literature says the only thing that really helps Fibromyalgia is exercise.

In the past I haven’t exercised as much as I should because I was working. Now I am not. I no longer follow the 40 – 60 hour a week schedule I used to use as an excuse to stay away from the gym.

So my doctors have suggested it, the literature suggests it, I have time for it, why am I not shaking my booty?

I think I’m scared. I think I am afraid I will be disappointed or embarrassed by my limitations, which really is stupid because I’m the only one whose going to be around really so why would I be embarrassed?

Ugh. Maybe it’s just easier to walk and call it good. Who knows. All I do know is the excuses are gone, the medical situation calls for it, and if I am really going to try and manage my symptoms with minimal medication I have no excuses for not exercising my way to a more well managed disease.

So. Swimming twice a week. Crunches every day. 15 minutes of yoga when I wake up and 15 minutes before I go to sleep. Arm exercises with my wrist weights on when I am resting in bed. Then maybe, just maybe, I can get myself to run again.

Time to program the new Vivofit, set myself some goals, and get up and at ’em.

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Why giving up is a good thing…

I was having a conversation with a fellow Spoonie the other day and we were expressing our frustration with friends and family that keep telling us not to give up. I should be clear that both she and I have been to all the doctors and have tried all the medications and every treatment that isn’t brain surgery. She has had her headache for 13 years and I have had mine for 3 going on 4. This isn’t life threatening but there is no end in sight.

I don’t believe people are ill intentioned when they urge a chronically ill person to keep fighting but I don’t think they understand why we are better off if we give up.

There comes a time in the daily struggle of someone with an untreatable chronic illness when they are faced with a choice; either they continue to try all the treatments and medications and experimental stuff that has even the tiniest chance of curing them while bringing them untold discomforts in side effects and recovery times or they can acknowledge they aren’t going to find a magical cure and learn to live with their illness.

I have chosen the latter and so has my friend. We have given up and I, for one, haven’t felt this good in a damn long time.

I still hurt every day. I am still ruled by a headache that will be debilitating one day and not so bad the next with little or no consistency. However, I am no longer experiencing a long list of horrible side effects from ineffective medications. I am not going to see three or four specialists multiple times a week to the exclusion of living my life. I am no longer recovering from treatments or spending weeks in the hospital. Since giving up on a cure I have trained to be a silversmith, set up a studio in my basement, become a more attentive and involved mother, and kicked ass getting our house organized. I have begun to keep regular get togethers with friends. I have learned to manage my spoons, take rest days when I need them, and not feel guilty about canceling plans on bad days.

My energy now goes into managing my symptoms. I stopped taking all daily headache medications. I stopped taking all daily fibromyalgia medications. I use mindfulness, tea, and when it’s really bad tramadol to manage my pain. I exercise every day. I sleep as long as I need to. I listen to my body and I try not to judge myself when I have to rest.

I am living a fuller and happier life since I have given up the search for a cure than I have in a long, long time.

Giving up on a cure and the idea that this is all somehow temporary and accepting that I am disabled has freed my spoons up for learning how to live within my capabilities. I am feeling capable now because I am no longer comparing myself to healthy people. I am content carving out a satisfying existence within my limitations.

So, next time someone with a chronic illness is telling you they have given up I encourage you to rein in the urge to tell them to keep fighting. What they are likely telling you is that they are ready to learn how to build a full and happy life now instead of living for the day when they are magically healed.

So not self-helpful…

I think I may have PTSD when it comes to self-help books, books on migraines, or generally any written device intended to explain to me how to make my current state in life better.

I have been trying to unwrap why I loathe self-help lately and I have hit upon a theory. It’s a relatively new theory so bear with me but here we go.

Ours is a society of the quick fix. If we have a cold and can’t sleep we take NyQuil. If we have a cold and need to go to work we take DayQuil. What we don’t do is rest long enough for our bodies to battle the cold on their own.

Due to our quick fix mentality we have a tendency to offer solutions to the people in our lives who express problems. We rarely actually commiserate. It’s not because we don’t feel sympathy or even empathy for them, but our language of caring has morphed over time from listening and empathizing to offering solutions.

As a migraine sufferer I have had a lot of experience on the receiving end of solutions. It doesn’t bother me from friends or family but it’s the complete strangers that make me crazy. Usually when I meet someone and they find out I have migraines I get asked my entire medical history by someone without a medical degree because their fourth cousin once removed has migraines and maybe they can mention something my nationally recognized neurologist hasn’t thought of yet. It is exhausting and not a way I want to spend one of the rare times I actually leave my house to go out into the world.

I think this is why I hate self-help mechanisms. Rather than listening to each other, talking about our feelings, and creating deep, strong bonds of friendship we are offering other people’s takes on our interpretations of someone else’s problem.

Meet someone at a party going through a divorce? Offer them this book. Got a brother with MS? Here’s a book on how one person worked through their experience with it. Children being… children? Here’s a book on how to parent in a way the person who wrote the book likes most.

Now I am not saying seeking self-help is a bad thing. Personally, if you want to read books on parenting, relationships, investing, whatever medical diseases you may have, and that helps you handle life, go for it with my blessing! There is nothing wrong in my mind about seeking out information.

What upsets me is offering these unsolicited solutions to others in lieu of care.

I get it, caring is hard. It’s time consuming, it takes real listening and empathizing to truly succeed at it and none of us have the time or the energy.

Is that last part true though? Would we find consoling someone less tiring if we did it more often? Could it be we are out of practice and therefore it seems more tiring and time consuming then it truly is?

Here’s my truth: My best memories are from times when I opened up my mind and heart and joined someone in their hardships. Really joined them. Crawled down into the hole they were stuck in and sat with them for a while. I have been blessed enough to build truly amazing relationships with people because I was simply sitting with them and listening when they were having a hard day.

Sometimes the way to be the most helpful is to offer no help whatsoever.

This one time, in pain camp…

IMG_20150316_121423~2Here I am in my room at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital writing letters home to my loved ones.

I have a spacious room, one once intended for two. It has a ton of space as a result. I have cozied it up with a sari quilt, a fuzzy leopard pillow, and a bouquet of peacock feathers from the feed supply in town. It will be my home for the next week or longer, so I wanted to make as home-like as possible.

Today I began the day with “rounds”. Unlike most hospitals, we go to our team in the lounge for rounds and meet with everyone at once. My team and I discussed treatment for the day and the week, and analyzed yesterday’s failures and successes. I was informed what doctors I would be meeting with, what medications I would be trying, etc.

As I walked back to my room Nurse Joan came and took me in to see the plastic surgeon. We discussed my last horrific experience with nerve blocks and he asked me to try again. So, I had occipital nerve blocks done. Six injections into the back of my skull, leaving me a numbskull. For the next six hours I track the result. So far, numb. Can’t quite tell if the headache is better or not. Can’t say the experience is pleasant. It is not, but it was not the horror show I experienced last time so whatever he did differently, I’ll take it.

Dad has been coming to see me every day. He sits in the comfy recliner by my side while I deal with treatments and headaches, reading a WWII book on his kindle. Sometimes he will tell me a bit about the book, a memory from my childhood, something about when he and mom met. It’s been a cozy time to get closer to him. I am beyond thankful for his presence.

I try to stay cheerful with silly touches like Ruby Slipper socks:

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And letters from loved ones. Thank you to all who have sent them, they help a lot.

Today is a high pain day, but I managed to make my bed, eat some breakfast, and blog. My next mission is to take a walk and then I will come back and try the next medication on the list of hopefuls.

 

The collapsing star…

Hatchet told me I am a collapsing star.  When I feel well I expand out into the universe, reaching out to everyone in my life and pulling them to me with energy and excitement, questions and concern.

When I am hurting and scared I pull inward, hide inside myself.  I don’t reach out to anyone, and I find myself lonely and afraid in a dark pool of my own making.

When I am hurting, I don’t want to reach out and ask for help. I know I can’t expect my friends and loved ones to know I am hurting. They have lives going on, things that demand their attention with the loud energetic voices used by stars who aren’t collapsing in upon themselves. They are also likely quiet tired of me being in this state. It has been years since I could answer the question “How are you?” with “I am great.”

My voice has grown quiet. Literally. It actually hurts for me to speak up. I noticed this last night at coffee as I tried to join in the conversation of my friends. I lack the ability to do so. My voice cannot be made loud enough to break into the bustle of lively conversation without causing me significant discomfort. That realization has driven me deeper within myself today. Even when I am included, even when they reach out, I am isolated.

Today I am in my sanctuary. As Dan is still mid process of moving in things are scattered about and it is not the calm cave of peace it normally it. However, it is mine, it is whole, it is quiet. It has my cat and the dog. There is warmth and subtle light.

I have set my healing schedule. I will walk once a day, long walks. Far distances with or without people and pets. I will walk to improve my health. I will study and read to improve my mind. I will wait for the medication to improve my head. I will make all my doctor’s appointments. Cardiologists, Neurologists, Anesthesiologists, etc. I will call the clinics and insurance people. I will keep up with my laundry and chores. I will cook and eat healthy meals.

When my children are home I will read with them or play games with them. I will spend time each day focused on each of them. I will carve that out.

I will save the dark hours of the night for despair. The hours when the pain wakes me up or prevents me from sleeping. The hours when I become certain my life will not improve beyond these small accomplishments. Despair best suits the night time. The darkness helps it settle into your bones. The morning always brings with it a little hope and a renewed dedication of purpose.

As scared as I am to attend this pain clinic, I hope it gives me back my voice. I hope I come home with the tools I need to manage this lifelong disability so I can stop being a collapsing star and once again reach out to the people I love with excitement, exuberance, and joy.

Move ’em on, head ’em up, Head ’em up, move ’em out

This whole “lead a normal life” regimen is really hard.  So far I am mid-transition with my medication which means I am getting the sharp face punches more frequently.  The good news is they last a very short time and I am learning to breathe through them.

Still, the only way I can keep on with the normalcy prescription is to just keep moving.  The first day I cleaned my entire living space from head to toe, reorganized my files and office, cleaned my son’s space, washed and folded laundry, waked to campus, taught class, then hung out with the kids, doing homework and such until bedtime.  Ten o’clock, my chosen bedtime, has never been so happily greeted.

The second day I spent in search of the icky cat pee smell and spent two hours scrubbing hardened cat resin off of various parts of the house where my twelve year old had failed to sweep up spilled litter when changing the catboxes.  Afterward I mopped assiduously. For exercise I spent 45 minutes on the exercise bike. Finally, I worked for a few hours, cooked dinner and did dishes before helping the kids with schoolwork, baths, and bedtime.

By the time the third day rolled around I had the hardest time getting moving.  Every step seemed a struggle and every action a burden.  All I wanted to do was lie in bed and watch t.v. or sleep.  Instead, I got up.  I got the kids ready for school, made myself breakfast, and did thirty minutes on the exercise bike.  I worked, applied for jobs, reviewed my current cases and did laundry.  After school I took Marlena to the doctor for a knee injury at school and once home ran errands for her and made sure she was comfortable.  When she and Ollie left with their father I did rest some.

I keep thinking that if I just keep busy I will get used to it again.  I used to have tons of energy and was able to handle dozens of complicated things every day while still managing to be a good parent.  I even did this with migraines.  Heck, I’ve had ’em since I was 12, so learning to cope with them was  a necessity.  I succeeded through law school with more than 16 headache days a month and a small child.

Still, despite the prescription to just keep moving, I can feel the tiredness pouring from my body.  It’s inclination to lie down and sleep is powerful, fed in part by the three or four different medications I am on that cause drowsiness.  At this point, it’s sheer will, stubborness, and the love of those around me that keeps me going on this new lifestyle change.