Hello, my intrepid warriors! I’m back for another raw, yet inspiring post. I know many of you out there have been sick for years. Some of you darlings have been struggling your entire life with your autoimmune disorders and chronic pain (I don’t know how you do it!), while the rest of us run the gamut along the timeline of how long we’ve been struggling. I’ve been dealing with my chronic illness for 8 years now. It took me about 4 just to get a diagnosis for three of them and I’m still trying to get the diagnosis for Crohn’s, even though they are treating it like Crohn’s, say it acts like Crohn’s, and it’s unlikely it is anything other than Crohn’s (wait for it) yet they cannot be completely sure that it’s not something else.
In the meantime, we try to do everything right to help ourselves through our illness. We research our illness like the devil so that we eventually become more informed than any doctor, frankly, I think many of us deserve honorary degrees given the depth of knowledge we accumulate. But we don’t just research. Let’s face it even when you are investigating outside WebMD where you are looking at possible death for most of your symptoms (mostly kidding), it is exhausting dealing with the volume of information for out there and so many differing opinions on what those symptoms could mean. You balance this out and tap into how your body works and how those symptoms behave inside of you and what it may mean. We might as well become Sherlock Holmes the way we are trying to connect all the dots and backtrack to the beginning source of all our problems. I think every one of us believes it had to have all started with one thing. Like something in our lives or body had to catalyze all our illnesses and health problems. That it couldn’t just be a random coincidence that at age 36 (just a random age I’m throwing out there) everything suddenly just tanked. I know I am one of those people. I sit there and wonder for hours, like that cat meme where it’s all the figures as he’s thinking how to make the jump? Yeah, that’s me thinking about how this all started. It had to originate with something.
Next on our list of things we try to do right, is keeping ourselves healthy. Many of us endeavour to eat healthy, exercise and even meditate in hopes that one out of the three will lift us from the depths of our misery. But does it? For most of us, the answer is a resounding no. Despite our best attempts at losing weight to make the pain better, eating healthier for various reasons from simply basic health reasons, to boosting our immune system, to even autoimmune guided diets. There are so many reasons people find themselves perusing diets thinking it will help them and it’s devastating when it doesn’t help. Some do reap some benefits and I am not here to tell you not to look for a diet that might help you. Diets can help you even if they don’t help your autoimmune illness. If you are overweight it can help your overall health to lose weight and it can help arthritis and other reasons that some might have chronic pain, to lose excess weight. But if you are going into things looking for a way to alleviate your chronic illness you simply may not find the answer you are looking for. And it’s very frustrating you can try and try to lose weight, be healthy, exercise if you are able and still not feel once ounce better. And you begin to wonder to what end is this all for.
Oh! How about sleep? Chronic illness and chronic pain are notorious for robbing our lives of sleep. We look for ways to sneak more sleep into our lives any way we can and sometimes we can and a lot of times we can’t and even if we can, it may never ultimately help the situation. You can get the 8 hours of sleep and still find yourself smack dab in the middle of a flare. Or you can sleep 14 hours or longer with naps, or be the reverse like me, where sleep is constantly elusive and then you read things like “If you don’t get your sleep, your overall length of life is shortened.” Holy crap on a cracker man! As if I don’t have enough to worry about, I am going to die earlier than expected just because I don’t sleep! That is a lot of stress. And stress, as we all know, can contribute to lack of sleep. And if you have OCD like me, you end up stressing about the stress you are feeling because you can’t sleep, which plunges you further into not sleeping and yeah. It’s a mess. It makes you feel like you can’t do anything right when you are trying so very hard to do everything right.
You can still do everything right, or try to, and suffer from the plague of symptoms that is your chronic illness. It isn’t you, it simply is and you need to remember that some days it’s just out of your hands. You can continue to do what you do to try and alleviate symptoms but forgive yourself and your body if it fails. I always try to stress that when I write is forgiving your body. Your body is ultimately no longer in control. The chronic illness/autoimmune disorder is riding at the helm and your body is like hostage-taking orders. So, if you wake up feeling like crap and all you want to do is sleep and you can take the day off, or maybe take a nap sometime during the day, go for it. Indulge and do what is needed to help yourself through the symptoms. It’s okay.
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Battling chronic illness is a 24/7 job. You never get a break from it. You try to do everything right; you do to your doctors, you take the medicine they give you; you do the therapy they want you to do, you exercise (if you can), eat healthy, get enough sleep, but some days try as you might, chronic illness wins. You wake up and you know it’s going to be a horrible day. You can feel it in every atom of your body and you dread it. Why? You do what you are supposed to. Why does your body, who should be on your side, betray you in such an intimate way? Because it isn’t your body and its chronic illness. Some days are just more difficult for your body to fight it and you have to allow your body the time to heal and get over the bump.
This doesn’t mean that you have to like it. You can be angry and throw things. You can curse and shake your fists at the sky and say, “Why me?” However, in the long run this does nothing to help the situation. Graceful acceptance of your body’s failings will provide more healing than fighting against it. There’s less energy wasted in acceptance, and there is a peace that fills you eventually when you realize and accept that some things are beyond your control. And as much as you’d like to have control over your own body, the chronic illness that inhabits it has more control over what is happening than you do. You have to let it go. You have to look for control elsewhere, in things like how you are taking care of your body, and what you are doing to ease your body when you are having a bad day, rather than being angry that this is happening to you.
Try and be grateful for the gifts that your illness has unknowingly given to you. For example, for me, chronic illness has given me the ability to do what I love, which is write, full time. It has allowed me to be home with my children and be there for them through a considerable portion of their lives to help them when they have needed me. And now, they help me a great deal with doctor’s visits and shuttling me around when I need to go somewhere because I can’t drive. So, while chronic illness has stolen much from my life, I have also reaped some benefits of which I am grateful for and would not have were I not sick.
Not everyone can be home with their kids. It does mean that most of the time we’ve been a one income family, but I have also made up for it in other ways. I meal plan, and make everything from scratch at home. From broth to yogurt when I am feeling up to it and have enough supplies. Sometimes I swear, I can’t keep enough mason jars in the house. I don’t know where they go off to. But I like doing the homesteading on a smaller scale because I don’t have the room to do it on a larger scale yet I’m practicing for when we go to Wisconsin and have our farm. Big dreams!
Closing off here with a reminder that you do what you can, you appreciate your body for what it gives you, you forgive your body for its’ failings and you continue to have a good life. Sometimes chronic illness wins, but it’s only one day out of 365 and even it’s more than that the good days still outweigh the bad in quality. You have to look for the positive in the everything.
I loved this image and the message it conveys. Positivity is not necessarily natural in everyone. It’s not for me. You have to train yourself to see the positive in situations. It’s not easy but as you train yourself it begins to get easier and you begin to think, “Why didn’t I see this before?”
Note from Author:
If you like what you are reading, please click the PayPal button and donate what you can. There is no amount too small and it’s rough trying to fight for disability, having medical bills to pay, kids in college and so on. I am trying to live my dream and my passion by doing what I love, and it’s the only thing I can do because I can’t work outside the home. So, if you can help it would make a world of difference in my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Five days ago, my youngest started to not feel well. She, like my oldest and myself has an autoimmune disorder. Hers is newly diagnosed and while she hasn’t had too many symptoms from it [lupus] she also has fibromyalgia and scoliosis, which can leave her feeling kind of crummy and achy. Her symptoms were vague and we chalked them up to chronic illness and being run down. However, on the third day when she came home from work and told me that the previous night, she’d been running a temperature, my heart seized with fear and I knew it was more than just a chronic illness flare up in combination with her symptoms. She went to the clinic and tested positive for COVID-19.
She has been quarantined to her room. Her sister, whom she shares tht room with, has been moved to my bedroom during the day and on the couch at night when I try to sleep in my bedroom at night. It’s been complicated because during all this we’ve had other issues going on.
We have an older dog who just recently tore his ACL on his back, rear hind leg and then a few days later partially tore the right leg. We’ve been acting as a trauma unit and a day care center for our dog and trying to manage keeping him and our puppy separated, which has not been an easy task. By the way, if any of my lovely readers know of any ingenious ways to keep an 8-month-old puppy busy while in quarantine, while having to be separated from an injured dog, and keeping said injured dog busy and entertained while he can’t move around, I’m all ears! This has been brutal.
I feel like when my husband goes on deployment that everything that can go wrong does go wrong and that this particular deployment has been the king of all deployments when it comes to things breaking, falling apart, people getting sick and things going wrong. I knew in my head with 3 working children that if someone were to be exposed to COVID at work, it was only a matter of time before one of my kids got sick. And should they get sick, then my chances of getting sick is exponentially higher. I don’t have a lot of places to hide in my house.
It’s been a day since I started writing this and I’ve tested positive. No surprise. My head hurts, my body hurts, and I’m exhausted on top of the normal exhaustion I feel as a chronic illness patient. I can’t even describe it. And the head pain. Like the worst migraine ever that just won’t go away and only sleep relieves it. My asthma has been wonky and I’ve been coughing but so far, aside from a little wheezing, lungs are clear on x-ray. Now, it’s just a matter of time and patience in the healing department and worry that I’m going to have some long-term effects because of my chronic illness. You keeping hearing about these “long-haulers” and I worry that this illness will leave an impression on me. I worry because of my vulnerability. Chronic illness has already scarred my body in so many ways; gouged out deep marks leaving me to never be the same again. It’s a heavy burden and because there’s so little that we know about COVID, I can’t help but worry about my future. What I do know, is when that vaccine comes out, I’m going to be first in line so there’s no chance of getting this again.
To those of you out there still fighting the fight, be vigilant! Wear your mask, wash your hands, protect your love ones. But if you do get sick don’t despair. My daughter felt very guilty when I got sick, as though it was her fault. Once this virus infiltrates your household it’s game-over. Everyone is exposed. Not everyone may succumb to getting sick, but everyone is exposed. This virus is everywhere and you can’t predict who you might come into contact with, where. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the virus’ fault. Be safe.
I’m hoping you heard that in the Great Arnold’s voice. It’s been just a bit as I’ve been dealing with a lot recently. Hubby being deployed, being home with the adult-ish children without him to help me keep my sanity, renovations on the house that took much longer than expected and weren’t completed and now the handy-man who was doing them seems to have ghosted me, my health challenges kicking it up a notch, a couple of those kids testing the limits of my sanity and good will and just the every day challenges of being a military wife trying to hold down the fort while her husband is half a world away. In a word, it’s been exhausting and has pushed the boundaries of my mental health in ways that hasn’t in many years.
I had to step away from writing because frankly, I wasn’t able to string to sentences together. Between my fatigue, pain and ADHD, I was amazed I could put together a grocery list successfully. I’ve been binge-watching Netflix like a whore. Helstrom is incredible. I hope Netflix and Marvel can find a way to bring it back for season 2 because just wow. I know there was a lot of mixed reviews about it but I’m a huge fan of the story and I think they did an amazing job bringing it to life. I really think it was crappy timing, I guess with COVID and the shut down of Marvel studios and everything but it shouldn’t stop them from letting the series continue. But I digress- just a huge fan. I also re-started You, in anticipation of the 3rd season and let me just say that show is awesome too. Yes, it’s a little far-fetched, but it’s very entertaining and I love the inner dialogue. It’s something I can definitely relate to. Last but not least, Peaky -fucking- Blinders! Damn it if I don’t love that show. Devoured it twice. I won’t lie, I’m a Cillian Murphy girl. I’ve loved him for many years. How can you not be hypnotised by those impossibly blue eyes? -mm..my heart. Bottom line, I’ve been existing in a fantasy land these last few weeks to escape my reality because reality sucks.
My anxiety has been at an all time high. I’m angry at my a few of my adult-ish kids for their inability to even try to get along with one another. They aren’t children any more. At 26, 24, 21 and soon to be 20, I expect somewhat of self-control and respect for one another that is sorely lacking in varying degrees depending on the child. I feel like I taught them better than that, always stressing how important it was to treat each one another with respect and know that in the end they are sisters and when me and their father were gone, they’d be all they had. Sometimes, the simplest questions bring out these defensive responses, accusations and hostilities that I don’t understand where they came from. I feel like I am watching their relationships disintegrate before my eyes and because I never had siblings and I want them to preserve their relationship so badly, my attempts to salvage theirs comes off to strongly and more like a demand rather than advice. I wish they realised how lucky they are to have what they have; these individuals who would have their back no matter what, who would stand up for them anywhere, who love them fiercely. Having a sibling, especially a sister is so damn special. It’s the kind of thing that gets you through the hardest things in your life because you have this built in best friend. Someone who has known you all your life who you can tell your secrets to; someone who knows your secrets and who loves you despite them; someone that wants the best for you when you are dating and so help the person that breaks your heart. I’m not so naïve as to think that sisters don’t fight. I also know that sisters sometimes say terrible things to hurt one another. But it’s how you get through those things, how you forge ahead like in any relationship and lately, all I’ve seen and heard from my girls is such fighting and negativity that I feel like I’m living with a bunch of freaking dementors.
Still, here I am. More or less sane depending on which day you catch me and fighting each day with my chronic pain and chronic illness- fighting to feel better, fighting not to disappear into the darkness of depression because I feel like I’m free-falling into madness. It’s a struggle. Sometimes life is a day at a time; other days it’s an hour at a time and sometimes I lose all sense of time, an entire day lost to meditating some kind of peace back into my bones. I achieve this by completing mundane tasks like organising my folders on my computer like pictures and documents. Or I do dishes by hand instead of the dishwasher, if my body can handle it. There’s something quiet, peaceful and beautiful about the hot water running through my fingers while scrubbing the dishes and inhaling the delicately, scented soap. I know a lot of people would think I just a grew a third head saying that, but damn, I just find it spiritual.
Slowly, I’m finding my way back into writing. Both my blogging and creative writing. I’m working on some poetry and researching for material on a horror story I want to write. Horror is my nemesis. It’s my favourite genre, but I feel woefully unworthy of being able to write it. I am a student of Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Anne Rice, Edgar Allan Poe & Mark Z. Danielewski. I feel like I could never live up to their genius or simply craft a story in the same way they did because I just never have. I’m a blogger. I’ve never created a story from beginning to end in the way they have and it is terrifying to me. But what I do know? No one has become anything without being afraid. You have to have a certain amount of fear in order to light that creative fire. At least it’s what I’ve heard. Mostly, it just makes me nauseated and feel like I’m going to puke. But I’m not the kind of girl who gives up. Whether it’s a three- or five-page story or three-hundred-page story, I’m going to get this done. So, wish me luck.
If you’ve stayed with me through my hiatus, thank you. I appreciate it. Sometimes we just need to recharge for the sake of our mental health and our physical health when we are chronically ill and even if you aren’t. We have to take of ourselves. Neglecting ourselves is never good. Have a great Saturday!
Hello my Spoonieees!!!
I’ve been gone a long damn time, or at least it feels that way. I bet you thought I left for good? I hope you didn’t. I’d never do that. It’s difficult to tell talking into the void the way I do, but I hope there’s someone out there listening. I always try to answer when I get a comment or question. It’s inspiring and it helps motivate me knowing that I’m not alone, even when it feels that way. After all, that’s what I tell you. You aren’t alone.
There’s been a good reason for me being away. I’ve been extremely busy with life and life has been throwing some huge curveballs my way. My husband has been getting ready for a deployment that we’ve known about but has gotten delayed because of COVID. Now he’s gone and things are a little more settled, but only slightly. We got a new puppy just before he left. It’s something I’d been thinking about for a while, but finally just got the courage to do. After the death of out Pittie, Bowie, my heart was just broken. He was only 6 and he had gone from healthy to on death’s doorstep, literally in a few hours. It took 2yrs for me to be able to mourn him and be able to open our door again to another dog. This one is a Catahoula Leopard/Pittie mix and he stole my heart the moment I saw his little face in the rescue shelter website ad. I stalked it for 2 weeks before I had enough courage to go to my husband, knowing he was readying to deploy, unsure he would want to get a dog now. I’d also just undergone surgery for a spinal stimulator and the recovery was a bit brutal, and I was questioning whether I could handle training a puppy on my own while he away. By the time I decided I could, I thought for sure the puppy I’d seen would have been snatched up already, but there he was and even better, my husband thought it would be a great idea for me to have the puppy while he was away to take my mind off his absence. We adopted the little guy and I named him Nashoba, which supposedly means “wolf” in Choctaw. (Don’t quote me on this- it was something I found while looking for names for him, and because Catahoula’s are bred from the Molossus, Great Dane and dogs Native Americans used, I wanted to name him something that tied him to his roots. Yes, I am that person. LOL)
Nothing has changed with my health while having Nashoba, which has made having a puppy a little challenging. The one piece of advice I could offer any chronically ill puppy owner (and I’ll probably have a post coming out soon) is nap when they nap. If you have ever had a newborn (and even if you haven’t) you know they are notorious for not sleeping at night, but also requiring upwards of 15+ hours sleep per day. Take advantage of this. Rack out when they do. Forget chores, forget life as you know it for a few weeks while they are getting trained, my friends. It is a full-time job, which is why I have neglected my blog. I have barely been able to function for my family, let alone be able to research effectively for my blog and then be able to train a puppy and give him the attention he needs AND give my other puppers the attention he needs. He is a senior, who although loves his new playmate because he misses his previous one, also wants individual attention. So, it is important that if you have another dog, no matter the age, you are giving them the attention they need to and not so bogged down with one that you are utterly exhausted from training or just looking after the pup that you flop into bed at night and fall asleep. The flip side is that you are burning the candle at both ends, and trying to undertake everything, which leaves you in the same position- utterly exhausted. I know this to be true because burning the candle at both ends is my middle name.
I don’t ever go into things thinking this is what I am going to do. But I have found out in these years living with chronic illness and chronic pain, that because you have a measure of your independence taken from you, is when you have the opportunity to take it back you leap into that chance with everything you have. Backtracking here a little bit in my story, that surgery for the spinal stimulator- though it didn’t cure me by any means, it alleviated me a little of some of my pain. Someone who doesn’t live with chronic pain 24/7, 365 days a year, doesn’t understand how a little bit of an alleviation can transform your life. Do I still walk with a cane? Yes. Do I still take pain pills? Yes. Am I still in pain 24/7 365 days a year? Actually, yes. It’s just a little less so I can function a little better and do something’s a little better. The point I am trying to make here is that feeling a little better, sweetened the illusion and made it easier to burn that candle at both ends. But chronic pain is just one aspect of what makes me not feel good, and the chronic illness always makes things challenging. It didn’t matter whether or not I waited to get this puppy now or later, chronic illness was going to be my constant companion and the truth was, my mental health was beginning to head in a downward trajectory and I new having him in my life would be good for me. I love taking care of things, teaching them and watching them grow. It’s a great feeling. And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as the bond that develops with a well-trained dog, or any pet that you keep and rear from young one. I have a cat that I feel just as strongly about. Having animals in my life is extremely important to my well-being. They help me to be happier and feel better on days when I am not feeling well at all.
Swinging back to health-stuff; I swallowed a camera pill to see if we can finally nail down a Crohn’s diagnosis. They’ve been treating me as though I have Crohn’s because I have all the symptoms, but only loosely. To treat me, they need to be able to see where the damage is and so far, it has eluded them. They’re hoping the camera pill will reach in places the colonoscopy could not, given the length of the intestines and where my pain seems to be located. I’m happy it finally worked out as I seem to be active in a flare, so I’m praying that little pill takes some really good pictures after the God-awful prep I had swill down. I swear, it is absolute torture IBD patients have to go through to see what is going on in our gut. They’re going to be looking for any bleeding and damage as I have been anaemic and I may be bleeding from somewhere. Not badly, but enough where it’s causing me to be anaemic. After all this, even on the bad days, I still have hope that I’m going to be managed enough where I can carry on enough to function like a quasi-normal person. That moderately sunny day is enough to get me through to the next day.
I also made the monumental decision to change my rheumatologist. I didn’t feel like after two years under her treatment I was progressing in the right direction. I wasn’t getting worse but I wasn’t feeling great and there wasn’t a lot of feedback about the medication she was giving me or why she was giving it to me and as a blogger, advising my readers to take charge of their health and who they see and not be afraid to change their doctors if they don’t feel they are getting the care they need, I felt I wasn’t following my own advice. So, I investigated doctors in my area and found one who had tremendously positive reviews and was named number one in my city by U.S. News & World Report. I lucked out in that the doctor is a woman because it was a personal stipulation of mine- not that I haven’t run across terrible female doctors, but I always personally feel that they tend to understand women better. My first appointment with her was amazing! To my relief, she said my rheumatologist had not misdiagnosed me, but the medications I am taking are all at very low dosages including my infusions. We are aiming to increase the dosages to maximize therapeutic levels in hopes that this will help me feel a great deal better. Today, 8.6.2020, was my first infusion at the higher levels and it was a little rougher than usual but nothing I can’t handle. I’ll keep y’all posted on progress.
Before I forget, there was also the decision to go back to school! I took one summer class that I got an A in and I have one more class- Algebra that is my nemesis, and then I will have officially graduated. Just one more thing on a very, busy plate of things to do.
Ok, this turned out to be a much longer post than anticipated, but I wanted you to know I didn’t forget about you. I will be here keeping you posted on my life, on my health, deployment, on the puppy and all of it as I get time but it will be more sporadic than usual because of everything. If there is anything, you’d like to see me write about, if you have any ideas, thoughts or suggestions, please drop me a line. I am always grateful for the thoughts and ideas of my readers. Without you, there’d be no blog and my life would be much different. I appreciate and value you very much.
**Images are not my artwork or creation and I don’t claim them to be.
It settled into the landscape-
like a toxic brume, infecting people
until we are engulfed
by staggering numbers of sick and
paralyzing numbers of death that
we’re ill-equipped to handle.
People are arguing the “why’s”
of using masks;
they are questioning the government and how far they can infringe on their “freedom”
by telling them where they can go, and how close they can stand to people.
the virus doesn’t care about your political affiliation, all it cares about is how to infiltrate your body.
Are you going to allow it?
Over a little James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause, angst?
One day I woke up and our world was different.
A virus had dug in to almost every part of world-
some people were frightened, while others rebelled
and chose to live in a moment of time that no longer existed.
Because that world no longer existed.
Virus- had infiltrated our lives, and
at least for time as we knew it,
until a vaccine could be found,
this was life.
A summation of 2020:
Quarantine, working from home, homeschooling kids/parents who never home-schooled, no graduations for some Seniors, improvised graduations for others- on racetracks, zip-lines and jet ski’s;
Doctor’s visits became tele-vists, going out to eat became curb-side-pick-up or delivery;
bars were closed but delivering drinks became a thing, Las Vegas went dark, movie theaters shut down.
But plagues are known for peeling back and revealing humanity’s stark cruelties,
which is what it did-
showing us in living colour how not only a certain populace can be brutally attacked by a virus,
but how it has been brutally attacked by police, and institutional racism, for decades.
It is only now, with the power of our cell phone- and with the power of the media- that we have been able to shatter the consciousness of the people.
A year ago, was a different world.
It was uglier.
We’ve been awakened to the offensive nature that goes against our humanity,
but we must fight those that wish to keep it in place,
in order to change the system and bring our vision of humanity.
Peace and change don’t come for free or without some kind of cost.
But in the end, it could mean a world of inclusiveness;
where your colour or being LGBTQIA is seen as a thing of beauty and
you’re respected for what you bring to the proverbial table.
LMZ ©June 14, 2020
Here’s a glimpse into a marriage where there’s chronic illness eating away at what was a healthy couple’s life. I am not making a distinction as to man or woman because frankly, I’ve seen this all too many times in either gender, so I don’t think it matters. It’s not really a male or female thing. It’s an understanding thing and a communication thing. Many times, this goes down in social media. A call for help. Here it goes: Individual with Chronic Illness: Hey guys it’s me. It was a bad day and I’ve been really sick. The pain has me so I can sit up without the world spinning and making me so nauseous I vomit. If that wasn’t enough, I have a sinus infection. I haven’t been to work and it’s causing financial strain. I’ve been told to buck up. I have to move on from this pain. I can’t sleep forever and there’s things that have to be done. They are resentful of having to do everything after long days at work and also needing to keep up with children. I get this. It’s not like I want to be laying here in pain. I miss work. I miss being useful. I’ve tried getting up but vomiting on standing is a great deterrent. Still, I’ve made my decision. For the sake of my marriage and my job I am ditching my doctors and my meds and I am getting up. Mind over matter as they say. I will do this. They will be proud of me. I don’t want to lose my marriage because I am weak. Wish me luck, I will need it.
First, as many of us are in groups for chronic pain or fibromyalgia or other chronic illness, we are only getting once side and it’s easy to hit that keyboard, typing out emotionally. I’ve done it. Not too long ago as a matter-of-fact. But we may not be getting the whole story. It’s not to say our friends aren’t telling the truth, but it’s just a general fact. Like any marriage, we aren’t privy to what is happening behind closed doors and that is very much the same when it comes to social media. We only know what one person is posting. That being said, being reactionary to a problem has never worked for anyone and making someone feel guilty for being sick, when it isn’t their fault for being sick is a terrible thing to do. As every therapist has ever said, communication, communication, communication. Two people who are invested in a relationship who are dealing with something as invasive as a chronic illness, need to sit down and talk about it. Ditching doctors and medicine and pretending like it’s no longer there will not solve a damn thing. You don’t pretend like you don’t have cancer and survive it for very long and while chronic illness may not kill you outright, it will kill your relationship and your career, if you don’t learn how to deal with it in a meaningful and logical way. That means sitting down and talking to your significant other and working out how you divvy up chores. What are you able to do on a day-to-day basis that won’t leave you so exhausted that you aren’t able to function the rest of the week? What are you able to do during the weekends that will lighten your load for the week, like preparing meals ahead of time or prepping work clothes or getting things ready for the kids? There are ways to work around chronic illness with your partner if you collaborate with one another instead of work against each other.
The partner who is chronically ill may be experiencing a deterioration of the body due to illness, but you as a couple, are experiencing a deterioration of communication due to an inability to come to terms with reality. Your significant other is trying to maintain life as it was before you got sick [Before Chronic Illness], while you are trying to navigate life with your illness, coping with bad pain days that leave you unable to get out of bed [After Chronic Illness]. You’re both speaking a different language and it’s nobody’s fault, really but it is society’s fault for shouldering the blame on the chronic pain patient and saying they need to, “buck up,” and that they need to “just get over this and move on.” Did that sound too harsh? Are you thinking, “c,mon now, no one really says anything like that anymore?” They actually do. Not just loving partners to one another, but doctors to patients. I know, right?!
Take a step back and remember that there’s a reason you are together. Remember that togetherness isn’t all about the good times. Sometimes it’s about looking at things differently and choosing to view it through a different lens so that what may have once seemed like a crappy deal, may now be a gift you never knew existed or a possibility that you never realized lurked behind that door. It really just depends on how you frame things and sometimes it’s not easy and it takes time to learn how to look at things differently. You can’t be upset at your partner for not catching up to your way of thinking and you have to be understanding that it may take time for them to catch up. Remember, it’s a life changing adjustment for both of you regardless who has the illness. But it is worth it in the end. You are gaining peace. You are gaining understanding of one another and you are gaining more time with each other.
You’ll adjust to the pain
Five years later…
Tell me when I’m going to adjust? I don’t think there’s any way to adjust to chronic illness. I think it’s just one enormous roller coaster ride you have to brace yourself for and hope for the best. When you reach the top of one peak, you stare down and close your eyes and when it shoots down, you scream, hoping nothing will happen. You hope the car won’t skid off the tracks and that you won’t go flying out of your little, boxcar. You hope your blood pressure and your heart can take the whips and bends and the peaks and slopes. And it will never be when you expect.
Tell me when I’m going to adjust? To the days when I feel so badly that I don’t want to move from the couch? Where getting up to fix breakfast feels like a monumental task set forth by the Gods to Hercules himself, and I’m there in his stead looking dazed and confused? When I’m feeling so lethargic in my brain as I sit down to write, that I feel like I need a cattle prod to tease my brain awake and even then, it’s yawning and stretching without any sign of life, leaving me there to stare blankly at a page on the screen wondering if I’ll be productive or not today.
Tell me when I’m going to adjust? To the ever-multiplying issues of what began as one chronic illness, that is now eight chronic issues. How do I adjust to my life when some of these issues are progressive? When walking with a cane now, and sometimes even needing a wheelchair will mean needing a wheelchair more than needing the cane later on in my life? How do you adjust? I read something, somewhere, talking about how older people with chronic illnesses have at least been able to make memories, whereas young people have not been able to do that. But where is the line? Where is the cut off of ample memories? Have I made enough memories 35 when all this started? Or 40 when it started to get bad? Or 45 when I’ve been reduced to the cane and wheelchair when I need? When is the cut off for memory-making?
Tell me when I’m going to adjust? To the ever-present, every increasing, pain that is in my life and that has control over every facet of my life in ways that I never dreamt of. Pain, that was once something that I dealt with on a localised basis, mainly in just my head, which was enough on its own to knock me down for two weeks sometimes, if the migraine was that bad, has now become something I deal with in multiple areas, where the pain doesn’t go away and that I live with 24/7. I never, in any terrifying dream, thought it possible to exist in the manner I find myself existing, and yet, here I am. But I wouldn’t call it adjusting. Adjusting implies that you’ve found some balance in your life with your condition and there is no balance. It’s just life on one big see-saw. You’re either up or you’re down.
Tell me when I’m going to adjust? Friends will understand and so will family. They will adjust to your life as you know it and they will support you. Tell me when that will happen? My family, for the most part, understands, but adjust? I think they have adjusted about as well as I have. And the kids- the kids shouldn’t have to adjust to life with a mom who can’t participate in life the way other moms can. It sucks. My kids have taken on like as caretaker for me. They drive around Miss Daisy. They worry about their mom all the time. It sucks. My friends? I don’t have any outside of my computer. They all left. They couldn’t deal with a sick friend. They couldn’t deal with someone who maybe needs to cancel plans at the last minute, or who can’t eat the same things or can’t jump around and do crazy things. I probably have more in common with folks in a Senior Living Home (and that is not a dig, I’ve actually always got on better with people older than me- the plague of being an only, imaginative, sensitive, intuitive INFJ-T, child). Even now that my children are adults, it’s difficult to do things. We’ve broken down and purchased a wheelchair for when the events are too much walking for me and my cane. But it’s still difficult. They can’t make plans without taking into consideration their ol’ mum. Tell me when they’ll adjust to that? Never, because it just gets worse from here on out.
Tell me when I’m going to adjust? To a progressive illness? It may not happen in five or ten years, but at some point, things are going to go from bad to worse. How am I going to adjust to that? I can barely adjust to my life now and I will be expected to adjust to things then as well. How can it be so easy to just say to someone, adjust? Forget how life used to be before your body betrayed you; ignore how your body failed you and pretend that you don’t live in pain 24/7. It shouldn’t be that difficult right? You are only human, with flesh and bone and nerves and blood.
Tell me when I’m going to adjust? I see more doctors than my 83-year-old father. I’ve had more tests and surgeries than he has too. Tell me when I’m going to adjust to seeing my body in the mirror and looking at the scars left by countless surgeries and stitches that have tried, in vain, to fix me? The hip surgery (total hip replacement) and spine surgeries (lower lumbar fusion and sacroiliac fusion)? Those are just the visible scars. The scars on the inside are more difficult to bear. The scars on the inside are more difficult to contend with. The mental illness can be more debilitating than physical illness. But coupled with the physical illness, it can be unbearable. You don’t adjust; you just live. You live hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute, fighting tooth and nail along the way because you refuse to give in. Because you still have so much to live for.
That’s what this ends up being all about. Not trying to adjust to this life of illness and pain, but about living. Living the best way, you can, through the worst times imaginable. You just live, because you can’t adjust to pain and illness, ever. You can’t adjust to it because it’s always changing. Symptoms are always evolving and sometimes you find out that you have new things wrong. There’s no adjusting to that. You just live. You wake up in the morning and you feel grateful that you can start the day. You feel grateful that despite the pain you can see your kids and plan a future with your husband. You take it hour by hour and minute by minute if that is the only way you can do it. Grateful for the seconds in between. You don’t adjust. You just live.
Other Wistful-cisms…and Conclusions
I want my old brain back. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that could remember an entire grocery list on her own. The one that didn’t need to write everything on post-it notes or List-App’s on the phone or computer. The brain that made me a pretty successful mother of four small children, under the age of 5 and then when they got older: returned to school and later on, returned to work as well. There was a lot of juggling going on and I was managing alright. Looking back on it now, what I saw as overwhelming was stressful, but not as overwhelming as it would be for me now. It amazes me the volume of information I could store in my memory without needing to write it down. Entire lectures got banked up there with little need to study. I could remember my medication (for the few I took) without needing to write it down or needing an alarm on my phone. I stored in my brain at least five family and friend’s numbers and now I can only manage my husband, the rest are in contacts on my phone. Some of this can be attributed to getting older, and our lives stored on our phone, while others are truly a memory issue that is a direct result of my autoimmune disorders. Many of us are familiar with brain fog; this is like brain fog on steroids that can be positively alarming.
The clarity is gone. The crystalline keenness in which I had been so accustomed to seeing things had now dissolved into feathered edges that forced me to squint. It makes me angry and frustrated and deeply sad because everything that I want to do well, like sitting down to write, which I love, is twice as hard. Words don’t just fire off the synapses like they once used to. It feels as though they are blanketed in a thick, low fog and I have to search for the words, sometimes using Google, or the Thesaurus like a fishing rod, several times to hook and reel the right words I am searching for. There are times I will slam the laptop shut, frustrated that this is how things have turned out. Frustrated that this is my calling and that the universe has seen fit to throw in another challenge as if life itself weren’t challenging enough. But I refuse to allow it to rob, what it is I love. If I just lay down and die, it wins. I’m sorry, but if there’s one thing that people with chronic illness have in reserve is strength.
I want my health back. I’d settle for my health at my 30’s. I had migraines every few days but now, when I get a migraine on top of everything else that makes my body feel like someone’s punching bag, it makes me feel one hundred times worse. I want the freedom of being able to eat what I want and not have to worry about it making me sick to my stomach. You forget about how food makes you feel; you forget your vanity and about the calories because you’re losing weight from the terror waged every day in your digestive system and all you want to do is enjoy food for the sheer sake of pleasure because food has now become your Moriarty. Worse than that because you can thwart your nemesis, but you can’t thwart food. Food is life.
I miss my old body and freedom of travel. I want the luxury of being able to travel whenever and wherever I want and not have to take into consideration my illnesses and how travel will impact my body or how the stress of everything will tire me out or be too painful for me. I want my 20’s and my 30’s when I could run and jump and climb and do yoga. I wake up in the morning and the first thing that greets me is pain. There are different levels of pain: some is throbbing and aching in my joints and muscles, while others radiate and spike down from my lower back down my leg. It’s not something I get used to and I have to breathe a little humour into it, thinking, “Well, if I ever wake up and not feel pain, I know I’m dead.” A little dark humour, but that isn’t anything new with me. People would probably find it surprising to hear that I would like to go out more. I am most comfortable in my house, given my anxieties, but there is still an explorer in me. However, because I feel fragile and I’m afraid of unknown terrain hurting me, I distrust going out. Hence, missing my old body and freedom of travel.
I miss unfettered laughter, a quiet mind, a carefree spirit. Did I ever have these things? I’m 45 years old and when looking back on my life and grasping at memories of my childhood and teenage years and older I wonder if I ever did truly have these things. Was I shaped by a bipolar mind with anxiety? The PTSD is a condition that was developed, but surely, I was a clean slate at some point? But the truth is, I don’t think the slate was ever clean. And still, I would take it over some days now, because I can taste the levity on my tongue; the sweetness of it and recall the serenity and carefree spirit that allowed me to take chances I don’t think I could take now. Mental illness paints things a shade darker. Creates shadows where there aren’t any or ought not to be any. I can briefly grasp at what was during manic episodes, but it’s never right. They’re either pale comparisons or too bright and too clean. Like I jumped into Wonderland. I wonder what it’s like to be in a normal head and experience emotions normally and not acutely because as I miss the unfettered laughter and quiet mind, I also miss the natural ability to arbitrate emotion. Instead, I feel with every atom of my being- every pore. I love with every ounce and feel with every tear, those losses that may be minuscule to someone else, are devastating to me every time, taking a bit of me with them.
I want my old brain back, and my old body back and- but I always stop. Because whining about it and venting about it is different than actually getting it back. It’s necessary to do. After all, you have to grieve what you’ve lost, because in a very real way you have lost a part of yourself, but in another way you’ve gained a different part of yourself and that is the part, I’m not willing to let go of, as much as I might complain. Why?
Because my chronic illness, while being a pain in the ass 99% of the time has taught me three very important things: Being Compassionate toward others, Listening without Judgment, Living Life Despite The Pain. It’s pretty simple and while I could probably add more things, these are pretty much the foundations by which I try to live my life. It’s not always easy; I’m not a saint, but I try. Compassion is not something I find difficult, especially when encountering so many who find it difficult to be compassionate toward me. I’m already naturally empathetic. Listening is almost as easy, but listening without trying to interject opinions or thoughts and just listening to a person is more difficult. People often want to speak about how they relate to a person’s situation, or how they would deal with it, or how they feel about it. The keywords here being they/themselves. Listening and focusing on them, and not yourself is more difficult. It is something I work on every day- not making it about me. Living Life Despite Pain, of just Living my Best Life is strange, the most difficult. My life has been focused around my family- my husband and four kids and learning how to live life in a way where it also makes me happy- where I am doing things so that I thrive as well, feels selfish. But we need to make the most of every day we are living on this earth, so that is what I am working on.
If you like what you are reading:
It’s difficult being chronically ill or chronically in pain. On the one hand, because pills are given to you by your doctor and don’t necessarily carry the same stigma like natural or holistic remedies, people assume they make them better and that they are good for them. (I am purposefully leaving out opiates because of the current climate surrounding this medication and because most understand that pain medication doesn’t cure you, only masks the pain.) What they don’t get is some meds cure one thing while giving you something else. Example: some medicine you take may be great at helping your Crohn’s but may wreak havoc on your liver later down the line and long term. This is the reason for contraindications on many medications that you are warned about prior to taking them. The kind you hear about on commercials for everything from diabetes medications to anxiety medications: “May cause liver damage, heart damage, stomach bleeding, psychosis or suicidal thoughts and possible death.” I don’t tell people to abandon medicine, but using natural methods when you can, seems logical to me when the prospect of continually ingesting toxic chemicals will eventually have adverse effects. It really isn’t if, it’s when.
Conversely, as someone who’s been studying and practicing holistic medicine in some manner for 20 years, I see many people who jump into the practice with both feet without taking into account they are still taking medicine. When I gently bring up the fact that they are taking such and such medication while also taking such and such herbal supplement or trying to concoct a blend of herbs that might help them naturally, I just about lose my mind. Just because it comes from nature doesn’t mean that it isn’t powerful. Just because it comes from nature, doesn’t mean that it can’t harm you. There are many herbs and flowers out there from where we can get medicinal relief- key word there is medicinal. These teas, tinctures, salves and anything else we can come up with can interact with medicines that we take orally or even put topically, on our skin. It is up to you, the budding, student, chemist, to study that which you are using and also that which you are already taking. It’s also up to you to talk to your doctor or pharmacist. These people are educated in the dosages and interactions and can save you from possible harm. Do not either, decide to just take yourself off all your medications without first consulting with your doctor first. Some medications need to be tapered off first or the shock can be too great to your system. Afterwards, if you want to dive into the world of Natural Herbal Remedies, do so under the guidance of someone already experienced. This is the best way to learn and the best way to ensure you don’t inadvertently harm yourself. A teacher can double check what you are doing while also teaching you.
Here, is where we return to the unique subject of opiates.
When it comes to pain medication and ways to deal with pain medication there are many variables. Everyone responds differently to pain. Generally, everyone’s first course of action should be something non-invasive and therapeutic, like therapy and yoga while medications should bring down inflammation, without possibly causing addiction. Medicine is tricky because everyone is unique and you can’t look at someone and know how they will respond. If you want to try holistic ways before you even get to medications, try: white willow bark, turmeric, cloves, ginger, birch leaf, capsaicin and arnica, just to name a few. However, most of us who are taking opiates have all run the course of a holistic route and perhaps still use holistic efforts as we can. We’ve also tried to use general medicine such as OTC medications and then tried physical therapy and yoga and perhaps, some of us even tried acupuncture to try and gain some relief before we were shuffled off to pain management or surgeries or both.
We are a group of people within our society condemned, because we’ve had no choice but to seek outside intervention for chronic pain, for which there are those who have found themselves in the unfortunate position of addiction- a place a no human would seek to get themselves caught. Now, at the mere whisper that you’re taking hydrocodone it’s like you’re wearing a Scarlet Letter “H”. And it might just be that a Scarlet Letter might be preferable. Doctors are taking patients off their medication’s cold turkey; families are intervening between patients and their medication. It’s becoming rather biblical out there, and I do mean righteous. With doctor’s believing they know best, and patient’s families believing they know best and no one stopping and thinking to ask, “Hey, maybe we should ask the patients what they want? Maybe we should ask the patients what they need?” It’s frightening for many people who live day-to-day wondering when the plug is going to get pulled on their meds. When they might be forced to live in horrible pain.
There are many facets to this story. Many ways you can go about trying to heal yourself and you should have that choice instead of being persecuted for them. Continue to learn what you can and make the best, informed decision you can for yourself because you are the one that has to live with the pain. Only you.