Chonic Pain/Ilness Photography 2015 Project Week 3

This is the final week of the Chronic Pain and Illness Photography Project I have been participating in for the past 3 weeks.  Facilitator  Stephanie Blumensaat did a marvelous job putting this project together and keeping the group running smoothly.  What a wonderful group of creative people who were willing to share so much of their art, their lives and their souls.  Simply amazing.  Stephanie has a blog, Chronic Pain Life, that you just might want to check out.  She will be putting together future projects that some of you might want to participate in, I know I will. 

I hope you enjoy these photos and insights into me….

Day 15 – Gratitude. – posting a day late

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I have much to be grateful for every day, yesterday was no exception, but it was a very rough day, things happening all around me that I could not help with or do anything about. (my dog had an emergency trip to the vet and I couldn’t move my head without vomiting to help…it was a very hard day.) Yesterday was filled with rapid vertigo. Yesterday I had a very long, rough day with vertigo. I am very grateful for the bucket I could throw up in if needed….and all the medication I had that made me not have to throw up so much. (I’m most thankful for my darling husband for taking care of our furry baby…she’s fine…and taking care of me.)
Truthfully, I’m very grateful the day is over.
Day 16 – Dreams

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 One dream I always had was to go to Disney Land, not Disney World, I wanted to go to the original.

Right before I got very sick, I was able to go.  This is the land of dreams….a place where dreams come true…..the photo is the refection of the castle.  I think this photo is very symbolic of my dreams today, they are very vivid and beautiful, a little wavy, and sometimes a bit upside down….that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped dreaming.
I still have many dreams, some are short term, some are long term, some are very attainable, some probably aren’t.  And that’s OK.  I think healthy people have the same kind of dreams….not all come true.

 

 Day 17 – Identity
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 The image I chose for this prompt is a mask I made….the outside shows how most of the world sees me….the invisible illness, my cheery exterior…is that part of my identity….yes, I think so. The inside of the mask shows how I feel about things and how I feel about me. I think this is a good representation of my identity.

This prompt was very hard for me. If I were able to really get up and out and create a new photograph for this prompt I would have done something different.

How do I Identify myself now? I’m still Wendy.

 Day 18 – Know This
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 Know This….You are not your illness/pain.
Your illness and pain are a part of you but it is not YOU.
Do not lose yourself.
Day 19 – Spirit
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Showing my spiritual side.  I hope you enjoy this photo as much as I do.
I took the selfie yesterday and manipulated it in Photoshop to show my spiritual side.
I study Buddhism,
I follow a mindfulness way of living.
This has made a huge difference in my life, and how I deal with chronic illnesses.
Namaste
Day 20 – Goals
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Take more risk…..overcome fear….first step!….walk out the front door…..

My goals….get out more.
We moved to a new place in August of last year. During the move my hip started to hurt. I haven’t been able to hardly walk since the move.  I had hip replacement surgery on the 14th.  I’m starting to walk again, that is going very well.  However, I’ve had vertigo attacks every day for over 30 days.  Fear rules my life. 
I started to get in the shower today, and was then going to go to the store with my husband.  A first outing since my surgery, other than to the doctor….
right before I got in the shower I was on the computer and the world started to tilt……suddenly it started to spin, violently…for 5 hours I was spinning with violent vertigo, so very, very sick!!!
Then I slept for 2 hours and I still feel like I have no balance and my head is mush.
Deep Breath!!!
This is a HUGE GOAL!
Get out that door!
Expand my life!
I know I can do it!
if not…my Goal is to be perfectly happy, in the life I have, just the way it is.

Day 21 – Invisible

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Invisible Illness and me

“You look so good!”
Just beneath the surface
no one can see
the cracks….
the cracks…..

Day 22 – Music  (bonus prompt)

As most of you may know, I’m deaf. My chronic illness took my hearing. I haven’t been deaf long, and music is still in my head and I still sing and love music…I just can’t listen to it. (I have Cochlear Implants and can hear some music but not like I used to.  Hopefully, I will be able to hear it better in the future, but for now, not so much.)

When I relax I often hum, when I’m up I often sing, my husband and I often make up silly songs and laugh…..the silly songs are wonderful, they make me feel normal, and keep up my spirits. Music can be very therapeutic.

Today I wanted to share something different with you.
A few years ago, right before I lost all of my hearing I sat down with a friend of mine who is a sound engineer and he did a pretty good recording of what my tinnitus sounds like. These are the sounds I hear all the time. I don’t hear the worst of it all the time, but I do hear some of these all the time.

One day recently I suddenly didn’t hear anything and it scared me. I felt completely alone and was terrified.  It didn’t last long. These sounds can drive me crazy at times, but they can also be very soothing.

This is my music….my Sounds of Silence.

Day 23 – Art  (bonus prompt)

art chronic illness

I use my art to help me with my chronic illness in many ways.
Here you will see where I have three expressions of me.
Silly loving Me.
Chronic Pain Me.
Natural, Strong Me.

I try to create something every day….drawing, writing, photography……anything creative…..
My art helps me heal, even if I’m just doodling, creating heals my soul.

(sometimes when I can’t voice my pain, I can show it in my art)

The Chronic Pain and Illness Photography Project is over now.  I’ll be returning to my regular scheduled programming.  🙂

I’m sure my regular readers are curious about my hip replacement surgery recovery.  I’ll give you a thorough update in the next post….here’s a little spoiler….my hip is doing GREAT!

See you soon.  I’m off to Duke for visits to my doctors tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…..  Yay!!

Chonic Pain/Ilness Photography 2015 Project Week 2

The second week of the Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project I have been participating in on Facebook has been amazing.  The people who are contributions and contributors are amazing.  This has become so much more than just sharing photographs, we are sharing our deepest fears, pains, joys, loves….our lives.  The support that has been given and felt is nothing like I expected from a Photography Project.  The project has been consuming.  When I’m not working on the theme for the day, I’m looking at contributions, reading stories, commenting, sharing….when I’m not actively working with the project I’m often thinking about the people, or a certain entry that has touched me.  This project will touch me forever.  I hope you enjoy my interpretation of this weeks prompts…..

Day 8 – Affirmations

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I try to live a mindful life. These quotes help me remember to live in the now, and remember that my body, just as it is right now, is just fine (I’m only human).

I also try to remember to be gentle with myself, I’m the only me I have. (I have a habit of beating myself up a bit, expecting more out of myself….my doctors, and my husband have often told me to give myself a break..I’m learning to.)

The photo on the left I took of my toes in the ocean, with a quote by James Baraz –
Mindfulness is simply
being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different.
Enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes. (which it will)
Being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way. (which it won’t) – James Baraz

On the right, a photo my husband took, with a quote by Pema Chodron –
Realize that this very body,
with its aches and its pleasures….
is exactly what we need to be fully human,
fully awake, fully alive.

Day 9 – Support.
stuart and wendy on steps
The greatest Support I have is my husband. This photo is from our wedding. When we got married, 10 1/2 years ago, I was sick, but not nearly as sick as I have been in the last 5+ years.
He had no idea what he was getting into, but he has always been my greatest support. He is always by my side, always holding me, understanding when I am a complete bitch to him, helping me with the most humiliating task, watching me go through numerous painful medical tests and treatments….he is the only one bringing home any finances, and he also cooks, cleans, takes care of our pets and me.
I feel he has sacrificed so much to give me the best life possible.

He says I am his support, that I am what gets him through the day, I am his inspiration….He tells me he was a selfish person before me, that he strives to be a better person because of me, he tells me that nothing he does is a sacrifice because he’d rather be with me, than do anything without me.  How can this be?  How can he give me so much, and still think that I am an equal in this relationship?

Our relationship gets better and better. (we did go to therapy to help deal with me losing my independence and understanding how to deal with a chronic illness. The therapist I went to, and soon asked my husband to join the sessions, works a lot with people with chronic illnesses.)

Our relationship is really my biggest support. Together, we can do this.

Day 10 – Comfort
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Comfort comes in all shapes and sizes for me.
When I first thought what I reach for first when I need comforting, I thought of my Monkey. I got him right before I first started getting really sick. He has seen me through a lot. He not only cuddles with me, but he makes a great neck pillow, a lumbar support…ect. I take him just about every where. Yep, this grown woman takes her stuffed animal to the hospital with her!
My painting of Buddha meditating represents my mindfulness practice, and meditation. Mindfulness practice has been a great comfort to me. I think it has helped me more than most medical treatments. I have also begun to study the Buddha’s teachings in the past few years and this has also been a great comfort to me.

The photo I took of the wild flower with the little bee on it is comforting to me because it reminds me to appreciate the little beautiful things I see, and not get so caught up in all the pain and suffering. It reminds me that life is constantly changing, just as the seasons change, my life is changing….I take comfort in that.

Day 11 – Who I Was:
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This was the hardest prompt for me to date. It brought up so many emotions. When I first read “Who I Was”, I thought, I’m still the ME I’ve always been, yes, I’m sick, but I’m ME….then I started looking at pictures…thank goodness I don’t have a lot of photos of the “before” pictures on my computer.  This brought up a lot of emotions.  Emotions I thought I’d dealt with a long time ago.  But grief isn’t linear, and right now, I’m grieving a bit for some of the old Wendy…..this just touches on some of the old me…A little of Who I Was….
top left: a selfie with (my then boy friend) now hubby – a little sexy thing. I miss feeling sexy, or being able to have sex without pain, or being able to have a normal sex life….no, to be honest, I really miss having a wild sex life! I finally met the love of my life, and not long afterward my sex life was ruined. I’m not that me any more.top right: I’m in the front on the left. This is a birthday party for one of our old friends. This was a normal occurrence before I was sick. I was social, I entertained. I went to museums and art shows and parties…… I had a lot of friends. I’m not that person any more.

bottom left: Me on the left with a friend at the NC State Fair. I was spontaneous, I could run, and jump, and play….I loved playing with kids. I was FUN. (sometimes I still am, but it’s hard..it sure isn’t spontaneous, and I pay for it afterward) I used to do these things without fear. I can’t do that any more. The now Wendy is full of fear.

bottom right: Me cooking…well baking…well, enjoying the products from baking…haha. I love to cook. I love everything about it. I have fructose malabsorption, I’m allergic to wheat, I’m hypoglycemic…..ect… These things, well yeah, I’m sick with it, but it didn’t matter much except when eating out, because I loved to cook!  It was just a challenge. I loved to play with ingredients and learn to make new flavors with the foods I can eat. I had a gluten free food blog with close to 2,000 followers. Suddenly my balance issues got too bad. I was having too many accidents in the kitchen. I can’t cook now. I really, really miss this….this is one thing I hope I can get back. I can’t drive either, but I’d rather be able to cook than to drive. And I live in an area where I can’t really get anywhere without being able to drive.

Day 12 – Motivation

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LIFE – My little flower represents life….even when it isn’t supposed to be there.

Much of what I’ve already posted are motivators to me, however, I think the thing that motivates me the most is life. I want to live my life. It may not be the life I expected, but it’s still my life. I’ve learned to change those expectations…and simply live day to day.

I read something recently that stuck with me.
Sometimes the best way to motivate yourself is to stop trying to motivate yourself. (That really hit the nail on the head with me. Sometimes I have a hard time getting motivated, especially when I’m depressed. Sometimes I just have to act.)
You do not need motivation to act.
You do have to make a conscious decision to act.
The action could be big or small.
It may not turn out the way you want.
How you feel about that is irrelevant.
(OK…that part is really hard. for me this part means, being ok with how things are, no matter what happens.)
Actions move you forward.
Waiting for motivation keeps you stuck.
What you do with this information, you do in this moment.
The decision is always up to you.
(this came from a website called mindfulness over matter)

I also have to remember to always be gentle with myself and forgive myself if things don’t turn out as I planned. If I can’t get motivated or even act on something sometimes, it’s ok, forgive myself and move on. Give myself a break.

Day 13 – Challenges

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Whew – To sit down and think of all the challenges I face each day, I couldn’t sum it all up here. It was difficult to pick what to share with our group.

In the center of my collage you will find a lot of spoons on the floor. If you are acquainted with the spoon theory you will probably understand this immediately. If not, I recommend you read it, you can find it here: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ I haven’t been the biggest fan of the spoon theory myself, because there are many days I have no “spoons” and I still do things, sometimes you just have to push through it or you don’t make it to that doctor’s appointment you made 3 months ago (yes, I’ve still had to cancel those way too many times). But for me this represents all the challenges I face on a day to day basis that take every bit of my energy, or that I have to get up all my courage to do (like take a bath or shower) that normal people have no problem with.

From there we will go from top left to right around to the bottom left.

Selfie of my incision after one of my ear surgeries. This represents the challenge that I’ve had many surgeries on my ears and they are still ruling my life. Between the vertigo and the lack of hearing, causing me to shy away from social interaction and have fear almost every moment of the day that I will be attacked by my own head and lose control of my body.

The next photo represents one time I had vertigo when in public and was stuck in a parking lot of over 4 hours, I was 1 mile from my home. I finally got my husband to get me home, I ended up having a violent attack for over 9 hours. I thew up most of this time and lost control of all bodily function. It is a huge challenge to get over my fear of having vertigo in public and just go out, and it is a huge challenge swallow my humility and allow my husband to take care of me and clean me up when I have soiled myself.

The last on the top row, another selfie, represents my challenge of living with Bipolar I disorder. I have been mostly stable for about 20 years, but it is still a challenge. I have to be very dilligent about taking my medication and taking care of myself. I have to really pay attention to my body and my mind. If I notice any symptoms returning I need to get in touch with my doctor immediately. There is always a chance the medication my stop working. Having Bipolar I is classic Manic Depression, and it is very challenging.

The middle row left is a do not disturb sign from a trip my husband and I took before we were married. This represents the challenges I have having sexual relations with my husband. If anyone wants to talk about this, I will be more than happy to. I know this is something that is very hard to talk about, but it is very important to break down that barrier. You are not alone.

On the middle left top is a self portrait of me painting. This is a big challenge now. I can paint, but I get confused. There are many days I simply can’t paint due to pain, but I also have a hard time with subject manner and style. I feel more empty inside about my art. I would like to put my illness on canvas to get it out, but I just can’t. I’ve done a couple of commission pieces, but I have to have no deadline. It’s simply a really big challenge. My doodles make me happy, at least I’m doing something.

Just below, you will see my arm with many hospital bracelets on me. This is actually from my last visit to the hospital. This represents the challenge of having to go to the hospital so much. To so many doctors. To owe so may hospital and doctor bills that only my husband can pay. To me it even represents fighting for disability.

On the lower left you will find my Headache Pain Scale. This represents the challenge I have always found in telling doctors how I feel. I don’t feel that doctors really understand patients a lot of the time. I’m lucky I have many good doctors. I’m also lucky that I have the kind of insurance that if I don’t have a good doctor I can fire them. (and I have) But finding a doctor who really understands is a challenge. (also not being able to hear makes it hard for a doctor to make himself understood to me….we definitely can have communication troubles.

The last photo on the bottom left represents the unknown. They have come to the point that they have told me that they don’t know what is wrong. We know I have a vestibular illness, probably more than one, but they don’t know what. I have been told for many years I have Meniere’s disease. I have been through more tests and treatments than you can believe, now I’ve been told, they can’t do any more. I’m stuck with the unknown. There are other conditions they don’t know about, the Avascular Necrosis in my hip, they don’t know if I will get it in other joints….good chance. Some doctors have said that other diseases I have may all go together, other doctors say no? I think my body may hate me. The photo is an x-ray of my hip on the left, and a photo of my ear on the right that I have manipulated beyond recognition.

These are some of the challenges I face. Sorry I couldn’t keep it shorter

Day 14 – My Body

my body

It’s cute….but very fragile.
(note, I could never get in this position, not now, but I used to love yoga, I could have…)

*this is a straw wrapper version of me, created one day when I was playing with the wrapper from my hubby’s drink.

As you can see the Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project has become much more than sharing photographs.  Everyone in the project is sharing a part of their soul.  I feel so honored to be a part of this project.  One week to go…..