Best. Houseguest. Ever.

September 25, 2016

img_20160925_090133My parents are on vacation this week, which means I get to hang out with this cutie for 8 full days! Yay!

After just a few hours, I was already feeling happier than I had in a long time. Lucky for me, our fall weather arrived around the same time the pooch did, so it was cool and dry yesterday. We took a short walk and sat down in a popular area. I read a book, stopping frequently to talk to people who wanted to pet him.

I’m a friendly person, so I often talk to strangers, but never like this. I must have spoken to at least 2 dozen people. And this sweetie loves to be pet, so he was thrilled to have 2 dozen people petting him throughout the afternoon. img_20160925_112223

I got a lot more exercise than usual, too. I know that I can’t keep up this level of activity every single day, but how great that on a sunny, cool day I was able to spend more time outside than I normally would, thanks to the furball from heaven. Even better, when I got home and felt too tired to do anything, he jumped up on the couch next to me and settled in for a cuddle. It couldn’t have been better!

He helps my pain, he helps my fatigue, he makes me feel less lonely, and he’s just wonderful to be around. Who could ask for more?

I look forward to the day I have my own canine companion. In the meantime, this guy and I will be living it up this week!

Please share photos of your pets in the comments. Today it’s all about pets!


Needing a change

September 21, 2016

I’m in a rut. I guess that’s to be expected since:

  1. My health limits what I can do.
  2. I’m totally a creature of habit.

Still, it’s bugging me. A lot. I used to travel all the time. It was rare that I was in my town for more than 2 months at a time. I’d go away for weekends, or long weekends, or week-long trips. I traveled locally, across the country, and abroad. And I miss it.

I did other stuff too, but travel was a great way to break out of the work-home-work-home-work-home-socialize-work routine.

So now I’m wondering about traveling again. I’ve written about it before, but this time I think maybe I should try it. I don’t feel quite ready, but I have a feeling that I never will.

I’m trying to decide where to go. My first choice is Sweden. I was planning a trip there when I became ill, and I’ve always wanted to follow through on that. With any luck I could use my frequent flyer miles and at least cover the airfare.

Or I could visit a friend in the U.S. That would be a lot easier and definitely less expensive. The problem is that the people I most want to see are in places I don’t particularly want to go. Either I don’t have any interest or, more often, I’ve already been there so many times. I’d rather go someplace new and different. After all, the point is to make a change, right?

I’m going to make other changes, too. I hope to move in the near future (I’ll let you know when that gets worked out.) And after that I’m going to try getting a dog again, and this time I’m hoping it works out better. But then what? I need to do something else. And I don’t know what it will be.

I want to get out and meet new people! But I’m an introvert, and going to events full of strangers feels unpleasant and exhausting. Plus, they’re so often in the evenings, and by then I’m not really up to going out. Or they’re on weekends and involve things I can’t/don’t want to do like kayaking, eating out, hiking, etc.

I need to find the right group of people to hang out with. And start doing new things. I need to get out of my comfort zone.

What do you do to get out of your comfort zone? Do you travel? Where do you go? Do you meet new people? If so, how? Please comment and give me some ideas!

Should I tell my doctor the truth?

September 15, 2016

Oh my, that headline could apply to so many situations! In this case, I’m talking about test results.

It happens a lot when you have fractured healthcare. Instead of one central system, each img_20160915_110637doctor’s office/hospital network uses their own database. That means that I’m often the one responsible for sharing information. Sure, every specialist sends test results to my primary care physicial (PCP). But they don’t send results to each other, and my PCP doesn’t send results to them.

Which is why I now find myself in a sticky situation. I try to be honest with my doctors. I try not to exaggerate too much about my exercise habits (or lack thereof.) I do it because I know it’s super important for them to have all relevant information. But right now I really don’t want to.

A couple months ago my PCP adjusted my thyroid medication. I wanted to try a higher dose to see if it helped my symptoms. He ran a blood test and it was borderline – the numbers were ok and didn’t suggest that I needed a change in dose, but they also didn’t show that a change in dose would be problematic. My naturopath wasn’t convinced. She thought that my results showed I shouldn’t increase the dose. Lucky for me, she wasn’t the one writing the prescription. My PCP wrote the new script and I started it immediately.

6 weeks later it was time to repeat the bloodwork. And damn, the numbers weren’t great. They were out of the lab’s “normal” range. Based on the research I’d done, I knew I might need to lower my dose, but I also knew that a lot of patients feel their best despite having numbers like these, so a change might not be completely necessary.

My PCP, who I love for this very reason, asked about my symptoms. I wasn’t showing any symptoms of being hyperthyroid. I know to watch for them, because that would be bad. On the low end, I’d feel anxious and jittery. On the high end, I’d be at risk for a heart attack. So yeah, you want to catch it at the low end. And I haven’t had any of those symptoms, despite test results that show I could be borderline hyperthyroid. Since he mostly doses based on symptoms, he said to keep it as is, for now. But we’ll change it if I show any symptoms at all.

So what’s the issue, you might ask. Well, the issue is that the practitioner I see the most frequently, and who I work with most closely, is my naturopath. Given her reaction to previous test results, I know she’ll want me to change my medication dose when (if?) she sees these. And she won’t be entirely wrong.

I worry about all of the things she’d worry about. Being hyperthyroid is bad. It will raise my risk for all sorts of problems. And on top of that, I need all of my systems to work together. I need to make sure I don’t strain my adrenal glands or cause other problems. But at the same time, I want -no, I need – to feel as good as possible on a daily basis. I can’t feel crappy now just because it might prevent some hypothetical problem down the road.

Or can I?

And this is where I’m stuck. I know that I should share these test results with my naturopath. She can’t force me to do anything. She can’t change my prescription. But she can reasonably point out all of the reasons that I already know a change might make sense, reasons I don’t want to be reminded of. So maybe that’s the real problem. I don’t want the reminder. Because I feel that I’m taking a risk, but one that’s worth taking.

If only I felt more confident in that decision.

Doing too much and not enough

September 13, 2016

I miss you. I’ve been wanting to write and I just haven’t had the time. I’ve been too busy, but I don’t feel like I’ve been doing anything.

I want more time alone, but I’m lonely and miss hanging out with friends.

I need more time to work on my new business, but I’m working too much.

I have a million and one things around the house that need to get done. I can’t find time to just sit and do them, yet I feel like I do nothing but sit and work on chores.

Why is this? If I had to guess, I’d say that my fatigue is worse and it’s throwing everything out of perspective. I don’t feel like it’s necessarily worse, and yet, I’m tired. So tired. Much more often.

I’m constantly busy, constantly doing things (during my feeling-not-completely-like-shit hours, that is) and yet, nothing seems to get done. Is some of that because I spend too much time on Facebook? Sure. Does computer spider solitaire get in the way? Definitely. But it’s not only that. That might account for short bits of time, but that doesn’t explain why I still haven’t gone over last month’s bills, picked up a video at the library, or put away the laundry that’s on the drying racks.

I feel the pain, but it shouldn’t be stopping me. It must be the fatigue.

Because even though I resist it, even though I feel like that can’t be the case, I know it is. Whenever I feel like I’m constantly doing stuff but nothing is getting done, it’s the fatigue.

Damn you, fatigue!

Sugar, fat, and pain

September 7, 2016

Chocolate! Potato chips! Cookies! Pizza!

I’m in pain, and I want sugar and fat and I want it NOW!

But why?

To some extent, I know that I want sugary and fatty foods more when I’m in pain because they’re comforting. I’ve read the research about how sugar affects the brain in a similar way that heroin does. I get it.

And when the pain is especially bad, I allow myself to eat more junk than usual. So maybe it’s also a bit of that association. Those are probably why I wanted sugar this morning.

But now it’s different. Now it’s a need more than a desire. Like when I crave a hamburger and then a few hours later I get my period. My body is saying: you’re about to lose blood, you better eat some iron. It makes perfect sense. But I feel that same kind of craving right now for fatty and sugary foods and I can’t imagine why.

Are my energy reserves low from fighting the pain? Is this my body’s way of telling me I need to beef them up? (so to speak….) Is is something else along those lines?

I’ve learned a lot about my body in recent years, but this is one mystery I don’t know how to solve. It will have to wait until later though. Right now, I need to go forage in the kitchen….

What about you? Do you experience these kinds of cravings? What do you think causes them? How do you handle them?


August 31, 2016

It’s one of those days. Well, it’s one of those weeks, actually. For now. Because of course I don’t know how long this will last. It could be months or years.

The thing about chronic pain that a lot of people don’t understand is that it isn’t necessarily consistent. For me, I have different kinds of pain to different degrees in different parts of my body at different times.

Maybe one day my knees are brutal but the rest of me feels ok. And another day my toes hurt so much I can hardly stand up and my wrists are just sore. Maybe my knees are on fire while my neck is throbbing. Some of it is predictable and some of it isn’t and that’s just the reality.

For several years now, the variation has always fallen within a certain range. My toes hurt up to a certain point in a certain way, my knees hurt up to a different point in a different way, etc. I got used to that. I knew how to handle that.

I don’t know why, but something changed. My knees have hurt a lot more lately, and in a different way from before. There’s a sort of stabbing pain followed but what feels like a loss of structural integrity, though I usually manage to not fall but shifting my weight briefly.

Even worse, my wrists have started to hurt in an all-too-familiar way. This is the pain that I had 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 9 years. It isn’t quite as severe as it used to be, but it’s the same type of pain. Occasionally (maybe 1-3 times per hour) it gets worse for a few minutes. The only thing that ever helped was a medication that I’d rather not take, but I will if this continues. But it did help. That was 15 years ago (the first time I took it) and 7 or 8 years ago (the second time I took it.) It’s only been about a week, so I’m hopeful it will go away.

Maybe it’s the weather? Maybe I did something to trigger it? Is it a coincidence that my knees and wrists got worse at the same time? Are they related?

All I know is that I’m in a scarier type of pain than I have been for a while now. That’s the thing: it’s emotional. The pain in my knees is bad, but I can walk through it. The pain in my wrists isn’t much worse, but for some reason it’s limiting what I can do. And for many years it limited my ability to write, to type, to cut my meat, to brush my hair, to wipe my ass…. I’d understandably rather not go back to that place.

So now I wait. I wait and hope. I hope that the pain diminishes.

Because I accept that I will be in pain, but I don’t want to be in this level of pain, in this type of pain, in this part of my body.

Why I prefer the virus

August 25, 2016

A few days ago I wrote about some symptoms I was having, but I didn’t know why. Now I know.

When I felt fatigued, brain fogged, and just “off” for the first couple days, I assumed I was just having “bad” days. After 4 days I was concerned. What if this wasn’t just my typical “bad” days? I wasn’t getting better. What if this was a long-term issue? That happens all the time, after all. I get a new symptom, or an old symptom becomes worse, and it stays that way for months or even years. Crap crap crap!

On day 5 I was fed up and I emailed my Naturopath. It was a Sunday, but I felt better having reached out anyway.

The next morning she wrote back: there’s a virus going around with my exact symptoms. I wrote back that I don’t have any other virus-like symptoms. No runny nose, sore throat, or upset stomach. She assured me this is what the virus is. Extreme fatigue. I decided to accept that. And then something interesting happened.

I rested.

For the first few days I had tried to continue my normal life. That means trying to “be productive” and “get stuff done.” Sure, I might be doing a lot less in a day than a healthy person, but I was doing it nonetheless. I was working on blog posts for this and another site, I was thinking about doing my laundry (though no actually doing it,) I was trying to clean up around the apartment. But I was failing at all of it. I just couldn’t manage.

Then I spent a couple days not doing anything and feeling guilty about it. I’d accepted that I needed to rest for a few days, but there were so many things I should be doing. I even went out briefly one day to get a prescription and some groceries. I felt bad about canceling plans with friends. It sucked.

Once I was told I had a virus, though, I rested without guilt! It was lovely! I watched tv, crocheted, listened to audio books, and read. My only responsibility was to keep myself fed, and I did that with simple meals: eggs, leftovers from the freezer, sandwiches. I washed dishes only as needed.

If I’d rested from the start, the virus probably wouldn’t have lasted so long. It was 8 days. Today is the first day I feel 100% over it. But I probably would have felt better days ago if I’d only rested from the start.

The thing is, when you have chronic illness you can’t rest every time you feel bad, because you’d never do anything. Even when my fatigue was at its absolute worst, I did stuff. Or I tried to do stuff. Or I felt guilty about not doing stuff. Because I felt that way every day, so pushing through was the only way to get shit done.

But a virus is different. It’s temporary, and we know it’s temporary. Resting with a chronic illness, only feels good in the moment, but resting with a virus means overall improvements in health. It’s worth resting if it means I’ll get better, right? So I rested.

And on top of that, there’s the sympathy! Family and friends were checking on me every day. That doesn’t happen with chronic illness. And I get it. Checking on someone every day for a week is one thing, but you can’t check on someone every day for the rest of their life. Still, it felt good to know people were thinking about me and wishing me well in the moment.

So given the choice, sure, I’ll take the virus every time! I felt only slightly worse that usual, and in exchange….

I got to rest without guilt!

What about you? Do you feel guilty when you rest? Do you find it easier to have a virus that you know will go away? Or are you the opposite? Please comment and let me know how you feel about it!

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