My Brain Screams

manipulated detail photo of saguaro catus by wendy holcombe

For over a year now I’ve been hit with one thing after another. Last Fall my bipolar medication stopped working and I basically had a psychotic break with the mania/rage going way out of control and battling a lot of medication side effects before we finally got that under control. Then I had a severe UTI that caused hydronephrosis in both kidneys, I had a cyst removed from my scalp that got horribly infected and I had a reaction to the antibiotics. In April the severe intractable migraine started and has continually gotten worse; over the last couple of months I’ve been having an escalation of cluster headaches, at least one a week. and now my antidepressants have stopped working. All this while we have been looking for a house, in the worse housing market I have ever seen, and we have to move from our rental by the end of November.

It is any wonder my brain has decided to check out?

In 2016 I started having seizures during an extremely stressful time of my life. It was determined they were psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. You can read more about that in this post: Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures What Are They? Since that time I haven’t had many, only a few and only in times of great pain (like when I was in the ER for my migraine) or extreme stress (like after a vertigo attack that happened during the mania). Lately they have been coming regularly. It is increasing my pain levels dramatically. When I have a seizure it looks like a grand mal seizure. It starts with my right hand twitching, then the arm goes, and the whole right side twitches and curves back, my head draws back, my muscles are all tight and spasming. It is very painful, and my neck and shoulder on the right side still hurt so much. I feel tingly on that side, and I just feel so off. During the seizure I am mostly aware, but I can’t do anything. Sometimes I’m not as aware, sometimes I’m very confused when it’s over. I always cry when it’s over. I feel so exposed, vulnerable, scared, and unsafe.

Just a year ago I was doing so much better I bought a car. I was driving, cooking, shopping, painting, swimming…. I don’t understand what happened. I’m not asking “Why me?” or anything like that, I’m simply confused. I know we made a major move, but I was doing pretty good for the first few months we were here, so I really don’t think it was the stress of moving. But I guess one stress could possibly have snow balled into a bigger stress… into a bigger stress… into more illness…but who really knows. All this could have happened no matter what. It could have happened independently, but it just happened to happen one right after another I suppose.

Where does it leave me now?

Migraines – I’m still starting Aimovig on the 28th for my migraines, but I won’t know if it’s working for 3 months. I just finished a round of steroids hoping to get a break from the pain, it did lower the pain level, but they made me so sick I couldn’t enjoy it. (Oh boy was I sick, Meniere’s and steroids do not mesh well together, at least not with me). I may go to the pain clinic to get injections in my neck, I haven’t decided about that yet. Just a little scared about that one. Oh, the Migranal nasal spray is working as a rescue medication, thankfully. It doesn’t completely take it away, but it comes close, so I am having a little bit of relief twice a week. More than I was getting, but as I said, it doesn’t take it all away, it takes it from a 10 to a 7 or maybe, if I’m lucky a 6. Ah….a 6…but that is a rarity.

Mental Health – I started a new antidepressant, Trintellix, on Tuesday. I’m to try it for 2 weeks and if it doesn’t work we’re going to try Ketamine. I’ve tried everything else. This should be interesting. I’m working with both my psychiatrist and my psychologist about my seizures. I need to get my pain and stress under control. One step at a time. Just one moment at a time.

Home life – We’ll be moving into one of Stuart’s dad’s houses the beginning of November. The house Stuart grew up in. We aren’t sure if we’ll continue to look for a house to buy, or if we’ll stay there and renovate his house. The house is a bit further out than we planned to live, so we’re going to live there for a while to see how we like it. Kinda cool that we can do that. I’ve just been freaking out a little about not having a home, and needing to settle down. I’ve been feeling so lost and temporary ever since we moved from our house, six years ago, but it’s been so much worse since we moved here. When we moved here we basically got rid of everything. We have 2 chairs in our living room, and one is very uncomfortable. We have no dining room furniture. Our home is very sparse. We did not plan on renting for this long. It’s just so hard on me. This has just been so hard. I need stability. I NEED IT.

Right now I feel very alone, vulnerable, and scared. The only place I feel safe is in my husband’s arms. He literally saves my life every day. I told him that if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here any more. So much pain, both physically and mentally…it’s just so much. And my amazing husband told me that he loves me so much, he never wants to lose me, but it also makes him feel guilty because he knows how much I’m suffering. I don’t know how I ended up with such an amazing man. He’ll never know how much it helps me to know he hears me.

I have so much, a wonderful husband, a roof over my head, nice clothes, good food, access to quality health care, support…. and yet I’m so unhappy. I’m so very sad. It hurts so much. My thoughts are consumed with pain. I find no enjoyment in anything. A friend posted a question on her blog asking if you found out you were going to die what would you regret not doing more of….and I could not answer that question. First I thought, not helping others more, getting more involved…. But then I tried to think of something I enjoyed that I would wish I had done more of, and I had nothing. There are things I used to love to do, but now…..not so much. My art…nope. Cooking…too much work. Taking pictures…can’t see it. I can think of nothing. All I do is sit and color by number. And that’s not for enjoyment, it’s to take my mind off of the pain…the migraine, the chronic daily headache, the back pain, the neck pain, the hip pain, the bladder pain, the pelvic pain…so much pain every day.

life is suffering. life is pain. life is ever changing. life is impermanence.

Catching Up After An Unintentional Time Out

A monsoon storm, the first significant one of the season, crashes a few bolts down just before the gates opened for the Annual Bloom Night at Tohono Chul Park, July 13, 2019, Tucson, AZ. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

After my last post about shame I didn’t mean to be away so long. That post caused a lot of reactions, some people seemed to understand my feelings of shame, others got very worried about me. First I want to apologize for not answering every comment, I have been going through an awful time with my migraines and simply haven’t been able to look at the computer much, and I will admit it has put me in a depressed funk, I’m so sorry if I worried anyone. The shame I feel is not overwhelming, I know I made it seem that way in the post, but I promise it’s not all consuming. It is not uncommon for people who have chronic pain or illness to have feelings of shame mixed in with feelings of guilt, I wanted people to know if they do, they aren’t alone. And I wanted people to know, I’d been feeling it and didn’t even realize that’s what it was. Now that I realize it, it’s easier to notice it, and to fight it. I understand that I have no reason to feel ashamed, I also understand that I have no reason to feel guilty, but those feelings still come. They are less now, but they still come.

Something happened this past week that I’d like to share. I’ve needed to cancel plans with our realtor a couple of times because of my migraines, and when we saw him he said, “Hi sickie! Feeling better?” At first I felt shame, then I was angry, very angry, and I stayed angry for days. I told Stuart if he wasn’t our landlord and a good friend of Stuart’s father he would no longer be our realtor. Then I decided he needed to be educated that this is not an acceptable thing to say to a person with chronic illness, or anyone for that matter. I was going to say something to him, but my advocate of a husband beat me to it. Stuart said that he was very apologetic and said that he doesn’t know why he said such a thing, it’s not something he would normally say. He doesn’t know that I know Stuart talked to him, and he hasn’t said anything to me. I’m simply proud that I didn’t just sit back and accept being shamed. This happens to us way too often and we mostly just shrug it off, I think we need to speak up more often and educate people as to how we should be treated. This is one way I will fight my feelings of shame.

Now, a really quick update. Since July 26th, my last visit to my migraine doctor, I’ve had 2 migraine free days, 2 days with moderate migraine pain (5-7), and every other day I had severe migraine pain (8-10), along with many other symptoms, such as nausea, light sensitivity, vertigo… None of my medications were working at all. My doctor prescribed Migranal, but it took until September 4th before I finally got it (stupid insurance hoops you have to jump through) and I can only use it 8 days a month. It’s been difficult. Our 15th wedding anniversary was September 3rd, we wanted to do something special, but instead I basically missed it. Good thing it’s the marriage that counts, and it’s a celebration every day. (HA…how hokey was that?!? It really is special though.)

I saw my migraine doctor yesterday. After my last appointment I had a CTA scan, that’s a CT scan that shows your arteries, it came back normal. I had just started Effexor to try to help my migraines, and I stayed on Emgality for prevention until we saw if Effexor worked. Well, Effexor didn’t work, so we are changing the Emgality to Amovig. You have probably seen the commercials for both of these drugs. They are similar, but a little different in how they work, so hopefully Amovig will be a better fit for me. It can take up to 3 months, to tell if it’s going to work at all. So I’ll know in December. She thinks this last 6 weeks could have been so much worse because of monsoon season. She said it has been worse than last year. I know I was affected last year, but I know I wasn’t this bad.

Relief. The Importance of Keeping a Medication Diary

Tucson night sky

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve been battling a severe migraine flare since April 20th, I’m so happy to share that I’m finally back to my baseline for my migraines and my rescue medications are once again working so I’m having sweet, sweet relief!! How did this come about? Well let me tell you, this was an ordeal! And it could probably have been sorted sooner if I had noticed something earlier, in the end, I’m glad I wrote about when I started new medications here.

One of the first things I did when all of this started was try to figure out if I anything had changed, had I started a new medication, was I eating differently, sleeping differently….anything? Well I had started Emgality, a migraine preventative, but I started it a month before this started and I was insured that it would not cause migraines. I had also started Viibryd, an antidepressant, but I (thought) I started it in March. Finally after my hospital stay in June, I went through my blog posts and found this post on April 27th that said I started an antidepressant the week before. https://picnicwithants.com/2019/04/27/little-update-from-travels-to-depression/ That was the week the intractable migraine started. The post also talks about how much better my migraines were in March after I started Emgality on February 28th. Ding! Ding! Ding! Could it be that this drug was contributing to this migraine flare? I was going to find out! I looked up the side effects for Viibryd and sure enough, one of the common side effects is “headache” (15%) and one of the lesser side effects is “migraine”. I put a call in to my psychiatrist and a message in to my migraine doctor. Wouldn’t you know it, my psychiatrist was out of the country! Ha! Glad to know my doctors had a good time traveling this summer! So, everyone knows what I did with my migraine doctor, if you missed it, you can check out my post on SPG Blocks here, but keep in mind that I was still on the Viibryd at the time. I got a message from my psychiatrist PA and they said that migraine wasn’t a side effect of Viibryd (Can you see me rolling my eyes?? I read the prescribing information handout that comes from the manufacturer, where did she get her information?) In the call I’d also asked about a couple of other antidepressants that are used at migraine preventatives to see what they thought, I was told that they didn’t go with Viibryd. Umm, I’m not going to stay on Viibryd! But she couldn’t seem to understand that. I can’t say it is all her fault, the front office there is awful! I love my psychiatrist, but it is horrible to try to get messages through, so I decided to slowly taper off of it by myself, and just wait for my appointment which is next week to discuss the rest. And guess what?! After being totally off Viibryd for about a week my migraines dropped to about my baseline, or below.

Since my birthday, I’ve taken a rescue medication once! Don’t get me wrong, I have had more than one migraine, but they haven’t been severe and I haven’t felt the need to take medication for them. At the first sign of a migraine I’ve been taking 500mg of Ginger and it has been helping (this is a great article about the efficacy of ginger in helping migraines). As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t take rescue meds more than 2 days a week, so unless a migraine is bad I normally don’t take it since I often have migraines an average of 5 – 6 days a week. I save those 2 days for days I have something planned, or days when it is very severe.

I just noticed that today is the 15th and I haven’t taken migraine meds since the 5th! Wow! Perhaps the Emgality is doing something too? I’m really thinking that the Viibryd was messing me up big time. And so far I haven’t noticed my moods dropping since I’ve been off of it. You know, I’ve been fighting a migraine today, but I think I’m going to take something for it. This is great! Maybe I won’t have to save my medication for worse days? Do I dare hope?

To close I’d just like to say that this has taught me to always mark on my calendar when I start and stop medications, and pay close attention to how my body changes. I really thought I was on top of these things, but obviously it can slip by you, especially during busy times and times of high stress. If I had been able to put together that this had been a side effect earlier I might not have suffered for so long.

The Problem With Basing Self Worth On Productivity – Guest Post by Christina Wiebe

Today I’m thrilled to share with you a post from a dear friend of mine, Christina Wiebe. I met Christina a few years ago while we were both contributing to a Chronic Pain and Illness Photo Project on Facebook. She is an amazing woman who happens to have Central Sensitivity Syndrome, and was just recently crowned Mrs, Vancouver Island 2019 – 2020. A few days ago she posted something on Instagram I wanted to share with all of you, so without further ado, I had this over to her. You can find Christina on Instagram @phoenixrisingstories.

“How do you know that you have self worth?”

When a solid thirty seconds elapsed and still no coherent answer came to my mind, I knew that I had work to do. Whether or not this was going to be a potential interview question asked of me as a contestant in the 2019 Miss BC Pageant (hosted in British Columbia, Canada), it was clear to me that beyond being able to confidently answer an interview question, I needed to be able to answer this question for myself. Why? Because I knew that for the rest of my life, it would be impossible for me to feel confident, empowered, and like I have the right to use my voice to effect meaningful change if I did not believe that I was worthy of being there in the first place.

As I approached what would be the most challenging, terrifying, intense, and overwhelming weekend of my life as someone who has been very sick and debilitated by Central Sensitivity Syndrome for many years, it dawned on me that after years of isolation, being predominantly housebound, and not doing anything our society sees to be traditionally productive and valuable (like pursuing a successful career, traveling around the world and doing volunteer work, raising a family, achieving higher education and so on) I was suddenly going to be in a room with 50+ women who were all doing these amazing things while I was lying in bed contending with symptoms. (Yes, I know I should not compare but I am human and the thought naturally crossed my mind. The point is not that I compared, the point is the action I chose to take as a result of it).

It brought to the forefront this concept and question of Self Worth. How did I know that I still have self worth? How could I possibly stand beside these women and still feel like I was enough? What is self worth? Where does it come from? How does our society, environment, upbringing, and social conditioning all influence how we perceive our self worth and value as human beings?

I had to look back on my life and where it seemed like I was deriving my self worth from and what that moment of my 2014 Big Crash (becoming fully debilitated by the chronic disease and losing everything that I was working for in my life) taught me. I remembered the identity crises I went through when I lost my ability to work, take care of myself, take care of others, volunteer, and simply be a productive member of society. I felt WORTHLESS. In the eyes of what this world had taught me, I had no value. My life had no value. I could do nothing and so I was worth nothing. That feeling threatened my life many times over.

And that is when I realized – so many of us tie our SELF WORTH and VALUE to our level of PRODUCTIVITY. We internalize this message that to be deemed as worthy, we must DO THINGS in order to feel like we are worth something. We must achieve enough in order to feel like we are enough. And the fallacy of this is that if our self worth and value depends on being productive, we will NEVER feel enough and thus we will never feel fully worthy. 

Allow me to share with you the rapid, unedited stream of thoughts that flowed out of me one morning:

June 13, 2019

So the logic behind it is…by definition, productivity requires continuous action in order to achieve an even better and even better and even better result. To stop altogether would be considered zero productivity. I think as we grow up, the true meaning of self worth is obscured. We grow to associate self worth with productivity. Being better, doing better, having more. Which is the foundation for why there’s even the phenomenon of the rat race that we’re all trapped in. 

To break free from that rat race requires understanding that self worth doesn’t come from anything that we’re striving for or have set as goals. When we’re born, we’re born worthy. We’re already born with intrinsic self worth.

When a baby is born, we don’t see it as worthless. We innately feel like this newborn is precious and of immense, immeasurable value to us. Why? It’s literally not doing anything that we as older human beings consider to be necessary for feeling valued and worthy. The baby does nothing but exist and yet it’s of value. 

We all start out like that. We are all born worthy and valuable. The only difference is that this knowledge is obscured by social conditioning and thinking patterns that have been passed down but not questioned and therefore not dismantled as they need to be. 

The baby has infinite potential, that’s why we as adults value it so much. In that pure, untouched state, we can see that boundless potential. And then we forget and it gets obscured the older the baby (and thus ourselves) gets. But that infinite potential and value we’re born with doesn’t go anywhere as we get older; it doesn’t lessen, it doesn’t increase. It’s constant in its infinity. But like I said, it becomes obscured by all the distractions and false truths that this world inundates us with the more we’re exposed to it.

And going back to the question of “how do you know you’re enough?” – I said that when we’re born, we’re born already enough. But it’s profitable in a capitalist society to feed people the lie that they are not enough in some way. Creating this feeling of lack generates this need to then fill ourselves so we don’t feel like we’re lacking something. So we pursue things, we aim to be productive, we buy things, we pay for services that make us feel like we’re moving forward and getting closer to making ourselves feel like we’re enough. 

We’re in this world that’s telling us we’re not enough. We’re believing we’re not enough. We’re acting in ways to remedy this feeling of not being enough. And if we believe we’re not enough, then we believe we’re not fully self worthy. Because at the foundation of feeling like you lack self worth is the belief that in some way, you’re not enough.

All this to say, imagine what this world could be if we never forgot that from the moment we’re born, we’re born worthy, we’re born being enough, we’re born with endless potential? We then wouldn’t fall into the traps of doing things that keep us thinking and being smaller than we intrinsically are. We wouldn’t care so much or be motivated so much about the grades, the resume, the job, the salary. We would be free to really live out our higher purposes, to not act in order to obtain wealth and material things. We wouldn’t act because we feel the need to in order to prove ourselves (eg, feel the need to work so hard and appear so busy to gain respect in the community). We’d already know that we are enough just as we are, which then frees us to act simply because it creates joy. 

Any resistance we feel to fully accepting this truth is a result of our human nature. We don’t like change, accepting this requires us changing our whole belief system and how we view life, the purpose of life, and how our world has been constructed. 

It creates a subconscious fear: to fathom that we are infinite potential makes us fearful because we then have to let go of everything we know and every way we’ve been operating up to this point. And it’s kind of like what was said in the movie The Matrix: most people wouldn’t leave the Matrix if they had a choice. It’s comfortable being in the rat race because it’s what we know. 

But what we know is wrong. It’s time to change this mindset. It’s time to reclaim the truth that we are ENOUGH right now. We are WORTHY right now. Period. 

Christina Wiebe Mrs. Vancouver Island 2019

Journal Days of May

from my walk on Sunday – Prickly Pear in bloom

This month I’m going to do something very different, I’m going to try to keep a running journal of the month, so you might get a bit tired of me.

The idea behind this is two fold, I want to pay attention to my moods, and really see how this new antidepressant is working; and I also want to have a goal of accomplishing at least one thing a day, no matter how small that one thing is.

I’ve been feeling pretty low lately about how little I’ve been able to accomplish because of my pain, I want to prove to myself that I am more than my pain and accomplishments come in all sizes and all should be celebrated. I’m hoping by committing to posting about this on a regular basis I will force myself to stop thinking of the things I can’t do and pay attention to the things I can.

Today I woke with the continuation of a migraine from yesterday, that continued from the day before. I had an appointment with my therapist at 11am so I took a Maxalt and drank a little caffeine hoping it would take the edge off and make the day more bearable, unfortunately, it didn’t. In the waiting room there was a lady sitting directly in front of me and one sitting beside me, they obviously new each other and were having a conversation in normal tones. I was struck by the fact that I could not understand more than the rare word here and there despite the fact that it was a very quiet room. Once again I wondered how I could meet people and socialize. When I left I planned to go by the grocery store to pick up a couple of things but the pain was so great I thought I would throw up before I made it home. I took a second Maxalt when I got home, but again, it simply did not work. I decided to message my doctor and ask if there is another rescue medication I can try as Maxalt seems to have stopped working. I am still hopeful that the Emgality will help, but I need something to get me through the moment.

Today I made it to my therapist appointment! I had a lovely mindful moment with my dog, and a few other mindful moments too. I attempted to do a Body Scan meditation, but I didn’t finish. I will try to do it again before I sleep tonight.

I’m trying hard to not focus on the fact that I can’t cook dinner tonight, or get the dishes out of the sink because my back and head hurt so damn bad. So I’m avoiding the kitchen.

Stress? Who’s stressed?

I swear if I hear one more person say that something that is wrong with me is due to stress I will scream!  I have felt this way for many years.  When I was having vertigo daily they said it was made worse by “stress”.  When my asthma went crazy, they said “stress”.  When I had severe GI issues for months, I was told I needed to reduce my “stress”.  You know the last time I looked stress does not cause Meniere’s Disease, or allergy onset asthma, or fructose malabsorption.  Don’t get me wrong, I know stress can do a number on you, but I feel like it’s a catch all.  If they don’t know, then it’s stress, after all if they can’t fix it then it has to be MY FAULT.

Finally, I am having issues that I think may actually be caused by stress.  I will be the first to admit the last few months have been pretty stressful.  My mother-in-law was placed in long term care, we moved across the country, I left my sister with the understanding that we may never see each other again, Stuart started a new job, I’m finding new doctors, I have to have surgery on my wrist on TUESDAY, I don’t know how long to expect to be out of commission to recover from said surgery (I hate being so dependent, not having use of my dominant hand is hard), we’re looking for a house (and not finding what we want), we’ve been looking at cars (for me),  I’m starting to drive again, we’re living in a small house that I can’t get organized because we don’t want to get too settled since we will be moving again soon, I’m suddenly surrounded by family (some of that’s good, some not so good)…………….WOW. writing all of that out was stressful, and I haven’t listed everything.

20180718_131709
This is me with a migraine, the right side of my face gets all numb and droopy.  #realmigrainepose

For over a month my migraines and cluster headaches were much, much worse, is this because of the stress, or is it causing more stress….short answer, Yes.  I must say though, for the past week they’ve been getting better, I think it’s because of the medical marijuana I’ve started using (more about that soon).  I’m having some GI issues that just don’t want to stop.  (it’s even waking me up at night, and I haven’t made it to the bathroom a couple of times…is this all from stress, who knows, but I doubt it’s helping),  I’m irritable, quick to anger, and just plain grumpy.  I’m overwhelmed and in pain, and I’m taking it out on everyone else.  I don’t like myself right now.  My anxiety has increased, but it’s not too bad, yet.  I’ve been a little depressed, but it’s not all consuming.  So, there’s a lot to be stressed about and it’s kind of taking it’s toll.

I’m trying to meditate every day, but it seems the more stressed I am the harder it is for me to meditate.  I feel like I’m not being very mindful either.  I’m living too much in the future.  We are buying our forever home and I keep thinking things like, “I don’t want a pool because I don’t want to keep it up when I’m 70”, “I don’t want any stairs because I might get sicker again, and I also we might now be able to climb stairs in a few years.”, and my personal favorite, as I’ve been going though things and deciding what to keep I keep thinking, “will anyone care about this when I die?” ….I just turned 55, I’m not that old, but I sure am living like I am.  (except I want a cool yellow car, that will keep me young)  I worry about how M’s condition will advance.  I worry about Dad, he spends all his time at the home what M, and she’s beginning to have moments where she doesn’t remember who he is exactly.  How is he going to handle it when she no longer knows who he is.  Then I think about what M’s daughter said, she told me about another relative who had Alzheimer’s and how they told her that they may not know who she is, but they know they love her.  I think Margaret will always know she loves Dad.  It breaks my heart every day though to see this amazing woman slip away.  (she just turned 77)

I really want to get back to focusing on living in the moment and simply not worrying about the rest.  Why worry about the now? It’s going to be gone in an instant.  I want to invite joy in my life.  I want to step away from the drama that I’ve found myself dropped into.  I need to nurture my inner self.

Little update on me: My surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, the 7th.  It is a minor surgery, I’m not even put under general anesthesia.  They just put a little incision on the inside of my wrist below the thumb (on the side, not the palm) and snip a little to release the tendons.  When I saw the doctor in Charlotte, NC, he told me that often when the injections don’t do anything that there are actually 3 tendons running through the sheath instead of 2.  He said they don’t know why but it often doesn’t show symptoms until middle age.  This is even more probably since I have it in both wrist, luckily the injection worked pretty well in the left wrist though.  The doctor here didn’t mention it, but he did comment that the orthopedics department at Atrium Health (formally known as Carolinas Heathcare System) is one of the best in the country.  (right now they are ranked number 3)  So I kind of believe the doctor at CHS.

My migraines have improved some since I started using medical marijuana.  Most of what I’m taking is a very high grade of CBD oil.  I will write a post soon telling you all about my journey through getting a card, learning what to buy, and my experience in the dispensary.  The gammaCore has still not arrived.  The doctor’s office dropped the ball when ordering it, then they didn’t put in the request for the free trial for the first month.  (they did change offices this month, and my doctor is new and has been the only doctor in the group to prescribe the gammaCore, all of those factors led to the good up)  The gammaCore company called Stuart last week and told him that it should be no problem getting it approved by my insurance.  If that is the case, why haven’t I received it yet?  I sure could have used it this past month, the cluster headaches have been killer (literally, if I thought I had to live in that kind of pain all the time, I’d kill myself.  Cluster headaches are called Suicide Headaches, because of that very reason, people will kill themselves to get relief.  I start Botox in about a month; I was supposed to start on Thursday, but that was my original surgery date so we cancelled it.   The monsoons are causing a lot of severe barometric changes almost daily, I’m sure this has been one of the reasons my migraines have been so bad, so hopefully they will get much better in a month of so, when the monsoons are over.

 

It’s late and I have a headache, so this post was not even read over to check for errors, please forgive any typos, grammar errors, or other atrocities.

 

 

 

 

Thinkfulness Mondays (filling in for Wendy): thankfulness; appreciation; gratitude

Wendy chose the theme: thankfulness; appreciation and gratitude to highlight what a Mindfulness Turkey Day should be. Of thankfulness for what we have tangibly, but most importantly, for those intangibles: the fairy dust; the miracles; the possibilities; grounded in our moments; spreading hands and hearts. Appreciating the touch of a hand; a donation to a food bank; thankful for the moment with friends; aware of the needs of others; and appreciation on the need for us to help.

This Saturday is giving Saturday at my local library. I am thankful I am able to provide some tangible help: toys and books for children and clothes for their mothers.

Wendy has a nasty migraine making working on the computer right now feel deadly, so I stepped in to help – what are friends for? Please send her messages of support as she deals with yet another round of migraines, cluster headaches, vertigo, and back pain. She got so far, but needed to rest her eyes. I so understand, so here I am offering up quotes about thankfulness, appreciation and gratitude. But I would pose we should think of “thinkfulfness” – the ways in which our minds wrap their synapses around the mindfulness approach to living – including celebrations of ourselves, friends, families, and perhaps through donations, or volunteer work

So, I searched beyond my usual sorts of quotes (with Wendy’s assistance), and have more than Wendy’s usual three. These resonated with me in terms of thankfulness, appreciation and gratitude. A cornucopia, and over abundance of meditations on gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation.  I was unable to post Wendy’s lovely image; instead an unedited collage of my back yard.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.“ G.K. Chesterton

“Every day, spread the magical stardust of thankfulness into your life.” Terri Guillemets

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Anon

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A. A. Milne

“Don’t cry because it’s over, be happy because it happened” Dr. Seuss

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” J F Kennedy

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom”. Marcel Proust

“In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” Elizabeth Gilbert

“We take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” Cynthia Ozick

images are copyrighted to Lorraine; unable to upload Wendy’s marvelous images.

And to end on a musical note: a song discovered by a search that seems to fall within the theme of thankfulness.

Josh Grobin: Thankful

Somedays, we forget to look around us,
Somedays, we can’t see the joy that surrounds us,
So caught up inside ourselves,
We take when we should give,
So for tonight we pray for,
What we know can be,
And on this day we hope for,
What we still can’t see,
It’s up to us, to be the change,
And even though we all can still do more,
There’s so much to be thankful for,
Look beyond ourselves,
There’s so much sorrow,
It’s way to late to say, I’ll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth,
It’s so long overdue,
So for tonight we pray for,
What we know can be,
And everyday, we hope for,
What we still can’t see,
It’s up to us, to be the change,
And even though we all can still do more,
There’s so much to be thankful for,
Even with our differences,
There is a place we’re all connected,
Each of us can find each others light,
So for tonight, we pray for
What we know can be,
And on this day, we hope for,
What we still can’t see,
It’s up to us, to be the change,
And even though this world needs so much more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

I Give Myself Permission to …

I’ve been participating in a Chronic Pain and Illness photo project.  I participated in the same group last year, you can see those photos on these posts: Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project, Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 2 , and Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 3.  This year I’m sharing a few photos here and there, not the whole project.

I’d love to hear your take on this topic.  What do you give yourself permission to???

Today – I give myself permission to Cry.

My x-rays showed more degeneration in my neck. C5-C6
The pain is intense. It just hit me that this is only going to get worse. The pain will always be there.

My father is in the hospital. I can’t go. I can’t ever go.

Today I give myself permission to cry.

(photo taken today, I manipulated it with photoshop, but the tear is real.)

crying

Grief and Acceptance

When people think of grief they often think of death, they don’t think about grieving over other significant losses.  Those of us who have had major losses due to chronic illness know all too well that we grieve those losses.

The five stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” are: Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Anger, and Acceptance.  Kübler-Ross describes these stages as being progressive, you needed to resolve one stage before moving on to the next.  This is no longer thought to be true.  It is accepted that most people who have loss go through states of grief but it is not linear nor is it finite.

The 

Eckhart Tolle Quote

Often people think of acceptance as being okay with what happened.  That is not the case. Most people never feel completely okay about a great loss.  Acceptance is about accepting a new reality. This is the way life is now, it is the new norm, our lives have been forever changed and we must adjust accordingly.  At first finding acceptance could be just having more good days than bad.  We can never replace what has been lost.  However, we must listen to our needs; we change, we evolve, we accept.

Once you have reached a good level of acceptance this doesn’t mean you can’t feel sad again.  We are constantly reminded of our losses, when these reminders arise we can find ourselves feeling grief again.  It’s at these times that our acceptance is most helpful.  We may feel our losses, but we know there is life after.

I accepted my losses long ago, however, feelings of grief do come flooding back from time to time, especially if I lose something else.  When one is chronically ill, we often find we lose more things as time goes on, even when those losses have nothing to do with our illness it can bring back all the emotions from our previous losses.

For example, in the last 2 years I’ve had a number of new losses.  We had to move because my husband found a job in a new city.  This move caused me to lose my home, my neighbors, more friends, and my doctors.  Then a new diagnosis that causes more pain and loss of range of motion was another huge loss.  The losses just seemed to keep adding up.  I have more grief that I have to work through.  Simply because we dealt with our previous losses does not mean our new losses hurt less, or that we don’t need to grieve.  However, it does mean that we now know that acceptance will help us deal with our losses, and give us the ability to move on.

I should point out here that prolonged intense grief can produce a physical or Prolonged Grief Disorder.  “Prolonged grief disorder require bereaved individuals to have severe levels of yearning, and five of the following nine symptoms for ≥6 months post-loss: disbelief and bitterness over the loss, confusion about one’s identity, an inability to trust others, numbness … and feeling that life is empty and meaningless since the loss, difficulty accepting the loss and moving on with life, and feeling stunned by the loss.” (Holly G. Prigerson, Paul K. Maciejewski – 
 Based on numerous findings of maladaptive effects of prolonged grief, diagnostic criteria for Prolonged Grief Disorder have been proposed for inclusion in the DSM-5 and ICD-11. 
There is a great article at Psych Central on the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief, here you can also find a quiz to help you decide if you are suffering from complicated grief.
If you feel you are suffering from complicated grief I urge you to seek professional help.  It can get better.

Recurring Grief with Chronic Illness

grief

Recently someone told me, not in these exact words, that they understood I have been though a lot and lost a lot, but I needed to stop pitying myself, I needed to move on.  I don’t feel like I pity myself,  but this hit me hard.

I’ve never said “Why me?”, I’ve always thought, “Why not me?”.   However, I have had a lot of losses, and sometimes it gets to me.  There are things I miss. Does that mean I sit around feeling sorry for myself because I can no longer do them….most of the time No….ummm….sometimes..maybe. Most of the time I’ve come to terms with it, and I’m happy with my life as it is….other times, the grief comes back in a wave that I just can’t control.  I’ve heard the same thing from other people who have chronic illnesses.

I have now read many studies, articles, and books that talk about this, and I found this is normal. (You can refer to the list at the end of the post for some of the material I read, if you want to check it out.)

Often we are handling our situation well, we have accepted the things we’ve lost….then suddenly the grief will hit us again.  Something may happen to spark it.  It could be you were feeling good and suddenly you are having a flare – now you feel horrible again, you just got a new diagnosis to add to your list, a medication you were on stopped working, there is an event that you can’t attend that means so very much to you, you tried to clean the tub and couldn’t….something happens….  Grief comes in waves, it doesn’t end just because you have been dealing with a situation for a long time.  Our grief is discounted.  People do not understand how we must grieve about the things we have lost, and how these losses continue to build up. Or how much we still miss this huge thing we lost. We cant hold this inside, it is not healthy.

When a person loses a loved one, they are expected to grieve. We often think there is something wrong with them if they don’t. We aren’t surprised when years later they still miss the person and sometimes need to cry. Everyone thinks this is normal. The chronically ill often lose huge portions of their life. The life they were living is suddenly taken away, changed forever. We aren’t just sick, but we often lose many things we loved to do, often our jobs, many friends, and a lot of our independence. We’ve lost all of this, but we are expected to bounce back, find a new life, forget what we had. I’m not saying we should sit around and feel sorry for ourselves all the time, but we need to grieve. We may have started a new life, we may be happy, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have moments when we really miss what we lost.

I recently started having seizures.  This means, at least for a while, I am losing even more of my independence.  My husband is now working from home all but 2 hours a week, and for those 2 hours we are going to have someone come and stay with me.  Now I can’t just make sure someone is in the house when I take a bath in case I start to have vertigo, I need to have someone in the room!  This brought on a huge wave of grief. It brought back everything I lost. So much sadness, and it brought a lot of anger with it too. Of course, that is a stage of grief. I’m beginning to get a grasp on things, but I will need some time yet to grieve. I realized I haven’t really let myself grieve about a lot of my loses, I was so busy trying to be strong.

There is really only a couple of things I long for all the time and those are things that cause me to feel guilt.  Guilt also has a lot to do about letting go of loss.  There are some losses we hang on to because we feel so guilty we can’t do these things any more, this isn’t healthy.  We shouldn’t feel guilty, we are sick.  We can’t help that we can’t do things…but we still feel guilty.  Many of us feel guilty we can’t work. We feel guilty we can’t do things with our families.  Personally, I feel a huge amount of guilt because I can’t cook.  Hubby does so much, he is spread so thin, and he hates to cook.  I have a restricted diet, that makes things even more difficult, I feel so guilty that he has to cook, especially when I loved to do it….but I can’t.  It’s too dangerous.  It breaks my heart every time he has to cook dinner.  I know how much he dreads doing it, and how hard it is for him.  (but he really has become a pretty good cook)

Sometimes we are completely irrational for a while when we are grieving.  For example, I can get so angry with people, I feel so many people abandoned me.  I get so worked up about it and just want to scream.  If someone who normally gets in touch with me hasn’t, I will think they too have abandoned me, and will build up these huge things in my head….then they will get in touch and I’ll say, they did it just because they felt obligated.  Then, it will pass and I will realize my friend who got in touch, loves me and simply had things going on, besides I could have reached out to her. Thanks to mindfulness practice, and Toni Bernhard’s book How To Live Well, with Chronic Pain and Illness, I know that it hurt when people disappeared from my life because they didn’t react to my illness the way I expected them to, not because of what they did.  It’s my expectations that cause the pain.  I don’t know the circumstances, and frankly at this point, it doesn’t matter.  But sometimes, something will happen that will bring back that pain. And I will forget that it’s from my expectations and I just get mad as hell.  ….. And my dear husband hears all about it….then I calm down and let it go and I’m okay again.

The biggest point I’m trying to make it is, it’s okay to have a pity party, as long as it doesn’t last all the time.  It’s okay to grieve what you have lost, over and over again, it’s natural.  It’s okay to have a few things you will always long for….that doesn’t mean you are obsessed with it, it means it was very important to you and you just miss it.

Remember, if you lost a loved one, you would always miss them.  People do not think this is unusual, they do not think this is something we should completely get over.   We lost huge parts of our lives, why are we expected to not miss it?

I highly recommend Toni Bernhard ‘s latest book, How To Live Well, with Chronic Pain and Illness. In it she talks a little about this…check the chapter 35. It helped give me a way to deal with chronic illness. It gave me a lot to think about. Different ways to think about things, how to talk to people about my illness…. and well…I think you will get a lot out of it. Her first book How To Be Sick, I read over and over…. and I think this book is even better.

Greiving Chronic Illness and Injury – Infinite Losses
Experiences of loss and chronic sorrow in persons with severe chronic illness

Middle Range Theory of Chronic Sorrow