Pups, trees, and better health

December 27, 2016

img_20161223_091955I grew up in a suburb, then went to college in a quiet rural area. But my university had around 17,000 undergraduate students, plus graduate students, faculty, and staff. It was a city unto itself. After college I moved to a city, then a different city for graduate school, then several more moves within cities. Which is why it feels so odd to be living in the suburbs again.

Five short days ago I moved to a suburb that’s a lot quieter and smaller than the one I grew up in. This will be a huge adjustment, but overall I think it will be good. Since this blog is about living with a chronic illness, here are a few ways I think it will be good for my health:

  • This complex allows dogs and there are dogs everywhere. I’ve pet many in just these few short days, including my neighbor’s new puppy! Petting dogs always makes me feel better, no matter what. And soon I’ll have one of my own!
  • Check out the view from my desk at the top of this post. It’s not as great as my old view, but from my window I can see so many trees! From my apartment I can take a walk along a path through woods, something I used to have to drive to do. This will do wonders for my emotional health.
  • It’s so quiet here. I’ve been sleeping better than I thought was possible. When I’m awake, it’s peaceful and relaxing. It’s strange, and a huge adjustment, but I find it calming and lovely.
  • No. More. Stairs. I’m on the first floor and there are no stairs to get into the building. This is amazing!
  • Easy parking. I used to feel stressed out about finding a parking space. Then I would have to carry things from my car, sometimes several blocks, just to get to my building (before dealing with the stairs.) Now the tiny parking lot is by my front door, and I never have to park very far. Bringing in groceries today was so easy.
  • Laundry is now in my unit. The last time I had that was when I lived with my parents. My guess is that laundry won’t be fatiguing anymore.
  • No traffic. I have to do a lot more driving (I can no longer walk to things or take public transportation,) but it’s much less stressful.
  • Less pollution. ‘nuf said.
  • It’s a smaller apartment. There are downsides to that, and I’m not thrilled, but I also know that on the days I’m in too much pain to walk, having a smaller apartment will be super helpful.

In time, I’m sure I will find more ways this move will be beneficial to my health. In the meantime, I’m excited to enjoy these new benefits. Now excuse me while I go unpack some more boxes….

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I’m moving!

December 21, 2016

I can’t believe that in 24 hours I will be living in a new apartment. I have been in my current place for over 10 years – much longer than I’ve been writing the hundreds of posts on this blog. Wow!

A lot has happened in the last 10 years and maybe I’ll look back over them another time. But at this moment, I’m looking forward.

I’m looking forward to my gorgeous new kitchen with the island in the middle, granite counters, beautiful appliances, and open feel. I’m looking forward to the comfortable living room, the lovely patio (my first ever outdoor space!), and my 2 bedroom closets. I’m looking forward to the apartment complex’s gym and book club. I’m looking forward to off street parking. I’m looking forward to meeting my new neighbors and their dogs. I’m looking forward to getting a dog of my own! I’m looking forward to living in a place with no stairs! I’m looking forward to peace and quiet and a view of trees.

Yes, there are things I’ll miss about my old place. The many windows, lovely open views, and easy walking to lots of great things will be missed. I’ll miss being able to take the T (our subway) whenever I want to (and feel up to it.) I’ll miss having a lot of activity around. I’ll miss having friends without cars visit me (the new place requires a car.)

There are things I’ll miss but so many more that I’m looking forward to, and I’m focused on those.

I’m also excited and proud of myself that I managed to prepare without getting *too* stressed out or fatigued or pained. Thanks to some new supplements I’m feeling pretty good, I’ve been careful to pace myself, and my wonderful mother has been incredibly helpful. Not only did she come over twice to pack boxes in the last month, but now she’s staying over at my place for the two nights before the move to help me with final preparations. She’s an angel, and I’m super lucky to have her in my life.

And with that, I’m signing off for a few days. Hopefully I’ll have internet access at the new place right away (but the cable company has been difficult about that, so we’ll see.) I’ll be busy alternating between unpacking boxes and getting lots of rest.

See you on the other side!


Trying to do it “all” with chronic illnesses

December 14, 2016

It feels like everything is hard with a chronic illness. Pain, fatigue, and other symptoms affect us in ways most people don’t think about.

Walking is harder. Sitting is harder. Reading is harder. Cooking is harder. Planning is a hell of a lot harder.

Last year I wrote down goals for earning money in 2016. I didn’t succeed, but they put me on a better path than I would have otherwise been on. So I did it again for 2017. And then I did something else: I wrote down my personal goals. I’ve never done that before and it was fascinating.

I wrote down everything big. And I realized how much harder it will all be than I would have thought just a few years ago.

I wrote down the book I want to write, blogging here, improving my health including doing regular physical therapy and other exercise, getting a dog (yay!), joining a dating site (well, maybe), making new single friends (most of my friends are coupled off at this point) through attending meetup groups, and some other things I’ll be telling you about soon.

It was a really great exercise and I recommend everyone do it. It puts everything into perspective. Doing this forced me to seriously consider everything I want to do, then narrow that down to what I want most. Then I broke that down into what I need to do to make it happen. For example, in order to make new friends, I need to join some meetup groups and actually attend, instead of my usual thing of joining but then staying home. (If you don’t know about meetup.com and you want to get out of the house more, check it out! I can’t do the physical activity groups like hiking or playing frisbee anymore, so I’m joining knitting and board game groups.) And I wrote down how many times a day I’ll do physical therapy, how many times a week I’ll check in on dating sites, and so on.

And then I looked at my list, added up the time required for each thing, and thought, “No wonder I’m so overwhelmed and never feel like I have enough time to get things done!” It was great! I mean, it sucked, because I have to give up something that’s important to me. But at least now I understand that it wasn’t that I was unorganized, just that I was trying to do more than my health allows. I have fewer hours, and I need to accept that. Sure, I’ve got a lot less on my list than I would if I was healthy, but it’s still too much. I can’t go right from a date to taking a walk – I need to rest in between. I can’t make new friends unless I have the energy to go out with them, and that takes energy from other activities. I still want to hang out with my current friends, knit, read, and do other things. Plus, showering, getting dressed, laundry, washing dishes, and even eating take up a lot of energy. But I don’t have to tell you that.

And of course, I can’t assume that any of my plans will stick. I could plan to do 3 hours of stuff every Monday, and some Mondays I’ll be able to do more but others I’ll have to less or maybe nothing at all. It’s completely unpredictable.

So that’s how I find myself looking at my list of personal goals for 2017, feeling keenly aware of the ways that everything is just a bit harder with chronic illnesses.

I don’t have the answers yet, but at least I can see the problem clearly. Something’s gotta give. Ok. I accept that. Now I just need to find the answers.

What about you? Do you set personal goals? How do you find ways to fit everything in or pare down?


The power of a laptop

December 9, 2016

img_20161129_183012

Maybe it wouldn’t bother me if I was out of the house more. It certainly could be a whole lot worse. But no matter how you look at it, I miss my laptop.

I’m lucky that I had access to a computer at a young age. When the pain in my wrists was so bad that I couldn’t hold a pen, I could still usually type with a few fingers on my left hand. It was slow, but it allowed me to more or less keep up in my classes.

Then the internet appeared. That was interesting. Email was fun for sending letters to my grandparents (yes, my awesome grandfather was an early adopter!) And slowly, the computer became more integrated in my everyday life.

Now I’m like many others: email, Facebook, and a lot of other web sites are daily activities. But I use my laptop for so much more. My to do list, my health records, family photos, my daily symptom log, my finances, and a lot more is on that machine. Quite a lot more. I’m on it every day.

And on the days I don’t feel up to leaving the house, it’s my connection to the outside world. I see what my friends are doing on Facebook. I connect with other chronic illness folks on Twitter, I email my mom.

Some of this can be done on my smartphone, which I’m also very lucky to have. Some of it can’t. And some of it can theoretically be done, but not by me. I can do lots of typing on a laptop but I can’t do that same typing on a tiny smartphone touch keyboard. There’s a text-to-speech feature, but that’s not the same. For me, it doesn’t work at well.

And that’s why I’ve wanted to write a post all week but I’ve been waiting. I can’t imagine trying to do this on my phone!

A week ago I was having a perfectly fine evening when I got that image above. Twice.

Not good!

Thanks to sage advice from a couple of friends, I brought my laptop in to a repair shop. My hard drive was failing. Ugh.

I bought a new hard drive, which has now been installed. They’re just transferring all of my backed up files, and then hopefully in a few more days I’ll have my laptop back!

For now I’m using my previous laptop. It’s not in great shape. I can’t do much on it, but at least I have a browser. A connection to the outside world. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.

I’ll have a lot of work to do next week. I need to reinstall all sorts of software on my laptop. But that’s ok. At least I’ll have my baby back.

And then I can breath easier. Relax. And finally put my latest blood test results into my personal tracking spreadsheet.

P.S. If you’re a computer user, make sure you back up your files! I’m so glad I did!


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