Distraught…well, not that bad.

I’m sorry.  I haven’t been paying attention to my blog and I haven’t been supporting others.  I’m sure you all think I’ve dropped off the earth….maybe not, maybe it’s just me.

I mentioned in a previous post that I hurt my back.  Um, kinda.  I started having back spasms as side effects to a medication back in May, then the med was changed and I was put on another that caused akathisia (the need to move – like restless leg all over), this caused my muscles to tighten even more.  I saw my GP about it and she gave me muscle relaxants.  It didn’t get better.  I was sent to PT.  It didn’t get better.  I was put in steroids, they seemed to help some.  I was sent to a specialist, he gave me lidocaine injections in my back.  I was much worse the next day.  After a couple of days of that, I was once again put on steroids.  This time I think I’m having every negative side effect you can have from a short dose of steroids.

These side effects are hell.  (they are getting better)  My moods, oh my goodness.  I’m so sad, I am crying all the time.  I’m scared, I keep having feelings of intense fear wash over me.  Two nights ago, I was convinced I was dying.  I’ve been having slow moving vertigo, I barely see it moving, but I feel like I’m moving, and I can’t walk without help.  My head has been killing me.  Extreme nausea has plagued me.  I can’t sleep.  and I’ve had 2 seizures.  Oh, let’s just say, I’m going through a rough time.  But don’t worry, it’s getting better.  I know my mood swings are from the steroids, but it’s hard to deal with.  Poor hubby.

Speaking of hubby, he has worked from home the past 3 days.  He hasn’t wanted to leave my side.  I’m so very grateful to have such a supportive and caring spouse.  He makes me want to be a better person.

After all of this, my back still hurts.  I still have 2 days of steroids left, and I have exercises to do, hopefully that will get me on the road to recovery.  To be clear, according to x-rays I have no damage to my bones, it’s all muscular.  The muscles simply will not relax and they spasm often.  I have not had an MRI.  I cannot have an MRI because of my cochlear implants.  If they need more imaging it will have to be a CT scan.  We’ll cross that bridge if it comes.

Forgive me this post of self pity.  I will try to post more often, and get out there and support others too.  I miss you.

 

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When A Virus Hits

sick-cartoon

*this post mentions poop.  if you are uncomfortable reading about poop or the smell of poop well, you probably shouldn’t have read this sentence….oops.  Really this is as bad as it gets so if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll be okay.

The past few days I’ve been a big poopy pants.  No really.  I’ve had some kind of bug that had me running to the bathroom constantly.  I’ve been trying to loose weight but this was not the way I planned.  I’m sure most of you can relate.

What most of you can’t relate to is how this virus affected the rest of me, namely my vestibular system. When something like this hits me my vestibular system seems to think it needs to attack me too.  I was suddenly having vertigo while fighting a vicious virus, well poop.  Running to the bathroom with the room spinning can be a challenge.  (thanks hubby for all the help, sorry about the smell.)

Any kind of stress can cause a person with Meniere’s to have more vertigo.  When my stress levels rise there is a strong likelihood I will have vertigo.  When my body is under stress there is even a greater likelihood that I will have vertigo.  A virus will often have my head spinning.  If I don’t have vertigo when I am stressed at the very least my balance will be more compromised than usual…yes even more than usual, it really is possible!

What can I do?  When I have a virus there isn’t much I can do about reducing my stress levels, but I can try.  I practice deep breathing exercises, not only does this reduce stress, it helps reduce nausea.  I sleep as much as possible.  When your sick sleep is a good thing. Really there isn’t a lot I can do, so when the vertigo comes I ride it out the way I do every vertigo attack and hope it isn’t going to be a bad one.  Luckily, the attacks I had during this virus were not very bad.  As long as I stayed calm, practiced mindfulness, and relaxed as much as possible I was able to get through it with as little extra stress to my body as possible.  This was very important, as I was really sick.

I’m pretty darn lucky  that I have a great hubby to help take care of me when things like this happen.  REALLY LUCKY!

Now it’s time to catch up on life.  What’s up with you?

 

What You Shouldn’t Say To Someone Who Is Chronically Ill…and why you shouldn’t say them to me.

Shhh... photo by w. holcombe

Shhh…
photo by w. holcombe

I found a wonderful blog called Indisposed and Undiagnosed. (actually she found me first…and I’m so very happy she did!) She wrote a wonderful article about What You Shouldn’t Say To Someone Who Is Chronically Ill.  She has GREAT answers to her questions, and I think everyone should jump right over there and read her post!  She’s a fantastic writer and you will love her answers and suggestions on how to really talk to someone who is chronically ill.

Here’s her suggestions on what not to say….I wanted to list my reasons for why….

10. “It’s just a bad day”

I do have worse days than others….but it’s never, “just a bad day”.  I live with this every single day.  Even on the days I can do more, I live in constant fear that it will be stripped away.  I have to be aware that a severe vertigo attack could hit at any moment, I have to be prepared for the worse.  I know a cluster headache too could take over and have me writhing in pain, praying for death over that pain.  (they aren’t called suicide headaches for nothing!)  I also live with a chronic persistent headache that never goes away.  I’m very grateful for my better days and try to take full advantage of them…but I never have “just a bad day”.

My bad days are severe.  I can’t focus on anything.  The world spins violently.  I throw up…a lot.  I’m often in pain at a level of 9 or10 on a scale of 0-10. My bad days often end up in the ER.  These are not the days I show many people.

9. “Have you tried…” // “You should try…”

Unless you have what I have….please try not to go here.   When you do have what I have, we can compare notes, but normally I’ve tried all of that too.  However, I don’t mind talking about it….unless you are trying to sell me something, or really think what you are telling me is going to “cure” me.  There is no cure.  If you think it might relieve some of my suffering, by all means talk to me…but don’t talk down to me.

I’ve tried so much, you have no idea.  I’ve also had many reactions to things I’ve tried.  And yet, I’m still searching and trying new things.  I have to be careful, I have a lot going on, I am not going to compromise my health by trying something that my doctors don’t okay first.

8. “Come out with me and you’ll feel so much better”

This may be said with the best intentions, but I won’t feel so much better.  I might end up feeling worse. But that isn’t to say that some days I might want to get out.  Some days I really want to go out.  However, you have to be understanding if I say I have to go home…NOW!  And we would only be able to do the most gentle of outings.  In a quiet place…unless you can be very understanding about my hearing.

The thing that I’d much rather hear is…..”Would it make you feel better to get out for a while with me?”

I normally can’t go out and do much.  A visit would often be better, just sitting with me and telling me about your life would be great.

7. “At least you don’t have…”

I used to think like this, but I can’t compare how I am to others.  I am very compassionate to everyone who has any kind of illness….they have their fight…and I have mine.   I was told by my doctor when he diagnosed my vestibular illness… “I think this is one of the worst diseases that I know of that will not kill you.  However, sometimes you will probably wish it would.”   I’m not saying that for pity, it is just the way it is.  No I don’t have certain diseases that can be much worse….and I am very grateful for that.  If I sat around and only thought about…at least I don’t have ______.  It would drive me crazy with guilt for feeling any suffering over my illness, and that would be impossible.  Yet, my illness has made me much more empathetic toward others who are ill.

I must be gentle with myself, I know this is a hard road to live on, and carry on the best I can.

6. “You need to stop being so negative”

I try SO HARD not to be negative.  I try to keep…not so much a positive outlook, but a realistic outlook….and I do not sit around feeling sorry for myself.  I accept how my life is, and try to make the best of it.  Sometimes that is damn hard, and yes I can be a bit negative, I get depressed, and overwhelmed.  Wouldn’t anyone?

I don’t have many people to talk to, my dear hubby is the only person who really hears it all.  When I see friends and they ask about things, they may hear more than they want.  I don’t mean to sound negative, I’m really just telling things the way they are…just the facts.  And unfortunately, when you asked, I thought you wanted to hear about it.

Imagine if you had a stomach bug and a bad headache for over a year….wouldn’t you feel a bit negative sometimes, and need to complain to someone every now and then?  Well I’ve had a lot more than a stomach bug for and for longer than a year…understand a little?

5. “You got this because…”

I’ve heard this one a few times….I think I kind of ignore it.  I mainly hear things like this from people who are trying to sell me something to “fix” me.  Other people, I think….really?  I’ve been to how many specialist who can’t figure it out…what makes you think you know?  Now, I do hear it from people who have diseases, trying hard to figure out why they have it.  I went through that.  Why me?  Then I realized…Why not me?

What really bothers me is when I have a vertigo attack, severe migraine or really bad day and people say….”What caused it?”   Really?  Do you think if I knew that I wouldn’t avoid it?

Or they try and figure out what caused it…..Okay, yes these things can have triggers, but most of the time, I have no idea.  The only thing I have figured out that really bothers me is the weather and we sure can’t control that.

4. “So, what’s wrong again?” // “You’re still sick?”

This tells me you don’t think I really have a chronic illness that is not going away.  It tells me you don’t believe me.  It also tells me that you think I would play the “sick card” to get out of doing things with you.

Well, I am sick.  Yes, I am still sick, chronic means it is not going away.  I wish it would.  I want it to be something that I could just take a pill for and it would get better.  You probably get sick and it goes away in a little while, you have no idea what it is like to be sick all the time….and I am so very grateful that you never have to feel this way.

I hate being sick all the time.  I never know what may happen in the future, everything changes, maybe this will change, but the prognosis is that it isn’t going away.  I had to get used to it, I hope you can.

3. “You’re just exaggerating/making excuses/want attention”

I’ve never heard anyone say this to me….but I’ve been told it has been said behind my back.   Sad huh?

Well…..It hasn’t worked has it?  I’m alone most of the time.  I’m lonely.  I miss people.  If you are reading this and you think I ever did this….I promise I haven’t.  I really don’t want the kind of attention I get by being sick.  I don’t want attention from doctors, or platitudes from people.  I want to be able to have relationships where everyone feels I give as much as they do.  I want to work and play and live……just like everyone else.   But my life is different now.   It’s much different.   Some days, I’m okay with that.  Other days, it tears me apart.

Just know…..everything I say about my how I feel and about my illnesses are true.  I do not want special attention because of them.  I only want a life.

2. “But, you don’t look sick”

What exactly does sick look like?  No…really…think hard.  Of all the people you have known, all the movies you have seen with sick people, all the times you have been sick….did they all look the same?  Sick people look different.  We don’t all have sicknesses that show on the outside, all the time.

I try not to let people see me at my worst.  It scares me.  When I have a vertigo attack I am terrified, I do not want anyone near me who isn’t my husband or medically trained to see that.  I hide my pain as much as I can, if I can’t I need to be away from people.  Understand, when I’m at my worst you won’t see me, so of course, I don’t look sick when you see me.  You also have to understand, I may be gripping everything bit of will I have in my body to hold it together just so I can look good in front of you, so I can be as normal as possible for a moment, I don’t want to scare you away by looking as sick as I often feel.  I’m afraid you will never come back if I look too sick…..yet if I don’t look sick then you think I’m not…..it’s very hard to know what to do.

I usually get…..”You look so good!”  or “I’m so happy, You look Great!”  or worst  “You look like you feel so good”  ….. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me.  I don’t let a lot of people know how bad I feel.  It bothers me when someone close to me, who knows I have been having a very hard time, sees a photo of me and says one of these things….I suddenly think….Really?  You too?  You think just because I look good for this posed shot that I feel good?

1. “It’s all in your head”

I’m lucky, no one has ever said this to me.  Of course, I’m not sure if anyone has ever said it about me.

I love the answer that Indisposed and Undiagnosed gave….it is so true:
“The only thing I can say to the people who have used this line before is;

Yes, it is all in my head.

I used to feel so hurt when someone would say that to me, but then one of my specialists told me that, it really IS in my head. It stems from the brain, which controls our entire body.
It might be my brain, it might be an organ, but whatever it is; IT ISN’T DOING WHAT IT IS MEANT TO BE DOING.
So, do not feel ashamed or upset, and most certainly do not second guess yourself if someone ever says this to you.
It really IS all in your head (hehe).”

Be sure to go to  Indisposed and Undiagnosed and read her suggestions thing you CAN do for people with Chronic Illnesses.

I’ve decided to make that a separate post….I have a lot to say…haha

** Please note**  I do not blame any person for dropping out of my life.  It is hard to stay in touch with a chronically ill person.  Especially in the beginning when they are so hurt and it is so consuming.  After that, it is even harder to come back in.  Life changes, I understand that.  For those who may want to communicate with me on any level, I welcome you.  Being chronically ill and mostly housebound is a lonely life sometimes.

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

affirmations

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
comfort collage
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:
wendy before
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

life

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

callenges collage
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…..