Free Dresses, Dancing, and the Little Black Cast ~ by Sam

It’s been an interesting week.  Spent the first part of it trying to make sure Justice was (finally) enrolled in all of the classes she needs in order to graduate high school and get in to the college of her choice.  Cannot believe we have reached this stage of her life.  Seems like only yesterday she was lacing up her tiny, shiny red boots and yelling, “Tum on!  Let’s Det Doin’!” (“Come on!  Let’s Get Goin’!” for those who struggled with the translation.)  The college mail keeps arriving at the door, so it must be true.  Her future is bright, and, as much as we miss that tiny, spunky little girl, we are incredibly proud of the young woman she is becoming.

Hallie started rehearsals for her latest play this week, Into the Woods, in which she will play the Stepmother; and Kaia spent the night at the mall with her Girl Scout troop.  She has just bridged from “Junior” to “Cadet” Girl Scout, which is pretty awesome.

On Friday, I went in to the podiatrist for a check up on the foot I injured some time ago.  After 1 week in an orthopedic shoe, followed by 4 weeks in a cam boot, I had made no progress whatsoever, so the doctor decided to go ahead and put me in a cast.  After another 4 weeks, we will remove the cast and see how I am progressing.  I chose the elegant black cast, so I can attend my many soirees.  I jest.  There are no soirees; but I hear the black cast looks cool if you have people sign it with metallic markers.  Besides, they were out of the light blue I most wanted.

I’ve injured a tendon, and it’s tough to know how long it will take to heal, since poor circulation to my extremities due to Raynaud’s disease will slow my healing.  I have fashioned myself a few small toe cozies from socks, to keep the toes toasty warm, and, hopefully, speed along the process somewhat.  I am bored out of my skull, not being able to go for long walks or do all of the running around I usually do, but I am spending a lot of time practicing my banjo, looking for a few good books to read, and planning to take up my knitting again, so it’s not all bad.  I’m determined not to let it get me down, and to try to keep myself upbeat and active…at least in my upper body and my mind.  My foot’s a little sad, I think, and sort of claustrophobic.  However, it seems to feel much better in the cast than it did in the boot, which had two thick straps right across the injured area.

Later that day, I happened to pass the Gap, which was having a 30% off your entire purchase event.  I’ve been walking around for months with this $40 reward coupon I got from them for some reason, so I decided to go in and see if I could find anything I liked.  The young man there was super helpful in trying to find me some jeans that might fit over the cast, but, after 4 or 5 pairs, we were forced to give up the ghost.  I did, however, find two cute dresses in the clearance section, and, with the additional 30% off and my reward coupon, they were essentially free (I think I paid a couple of bucks , just due to tax).

Here is a picture of me in one of those dresses, at our daughter’s annual school picnic yesterday, dancing on one foot, to get a coupon for a free pretzel.  Y’all know how much I like free stuff.

DancesWithCast

Shane won a $25 Macy’s gift card at the picnic, too, which was a nice surprise.

Oh, and here is a picture of my foot, propped up on a pillow, where it ought to be for the first couple of days in the cast. CastFootPillow

On the up side, I am spending so much time sitting around practicing banjo that I should be a veritable virtuoso in, oh, I don’t know, five or six years.  🙂  But, hey, at least it is starting to sound like music!

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Chronic Illness and Hypochondria ~ by Sam

I decided to tackle this issue today, because it hits very close to home (right smack in the middle of it, actually), and causes a great deal of stress.  Since we talk about strategies for lowering stress in our daily lives, let’s talk about a major contributing factor: chronic illness.  I am chronically ill.  I have fibromyalgia, IBS, Raynaud’s disease, asthma and an assortment of allergies (food and environmental).  My bones are weak, and I am hypermobile (which isn’t really a problem in and of itself, but does leave me prone to injury).  I seem to excel at injuring myself.  (Interesting note: people who have fibromyalgia tend to be more prone to injury, so I am not alone.)  In my life, I have had an assortment of broken bones, sprains, a partial ACL tear, a Type III tear of the Medial Meniscus, and, currently, I seem to have ruptured a tendon in the top of my foot.  I don’t “think” I am sick.  I don’t take my illnesses and injuries too seriously.  I really am sick and prone to injury.  I don’t get bumps and bruises; I get torn ligaments.  It’s different.

Oh, and I have panic attacks.  Hell, wouldn’t you?

But, I am not writing this to say, “Oh, woe is me!” and I am not writing it for myself.  I am writing for the thousands of other people who suffer through chronic illness.  I am writing this because there seems to be a great deal of misconception when it comes to chronic illness.  Some of these illnesses are “invisible,” meaning, when you see me on a daily basis, I don’t look “sick.”  So, it’s hard for people to remember (or believe) that I am.

From the outside, I look lazy, or weak.  So, I am writing to caution you, when dealing with anyone in your life, to remember that you only get to see the outside.  The world only gets to witness what we choose to put on display.   Many of us our very private people, and prefer to keep details of our illness to ourselves (you can Google them all, or ask me questions privately, if you like), and most of us hate being perceived as whiners and complainers.  So, we don’t talk about it.

Except when we do.  Because, sometimes, we DO need to talk about it.  I seek out others who have similar issues, because I know I can vent to them, and they will understand (online forums are great for this purpose).  I rely on the support of my friends and family, who I know love me, warts and all.

When you are tempted to think someone is being weak or lazy, or complains too much, please pause and think.  It’s possible that they have already fought and won numerous battles before they even left the house that morning ~ things you will never know about, like, maybe, that man woke up unrefreshed, feeling like someone spent the whole night beating him with a bag of hammers, but he got out of bed, anyway.  Maybe, that woman cried through her morning shower, because all of her skin feels severely sunburned all the time, and washrags feel like sandpaper; but she showered, anyway, because you can’t just go around dirty all the time.  Maybe, the child had to use a nebulizer this morning, and is jittery and grumpy as a result, because, otherwise, he couldn’t breathe.  Maybe, that incredibly slow walker at the the grocery store moves that way because it feels like she’s stepping on broken glass.  Maybe, your friend is late because he had an attack of explosive diarrhea, and he’s still not 100% sure it’s over, but he showed up anyway, because it’s not like he isn’t used to this.  Maybe your coworker is distracted because she is just in so much pain that she can barely think.  The fact is, we just don’t know what people don’t tell us.

Please, if you know someone who is suffering from chronic illness ~ or even someone who is just “always sick” ~ try to be supportive and understanding.  I cannot count the number of times I was called a “hypochondriac.”  There are two problems with this: a) I am not a hypochondriac, and that person with whom you are irritated might not be, either; and b) hypochondria is a real, serious, and treatable condition.  If you truly believe someone you care about suffers from hypochondria, for God’s sake, help him.  It’s important, here, to caution anyone dealing with a person (yourself, or someone you love) who seems to be “always sick” not to chalk it up to hypochondria and move on.  The fact is, even if no doctor can find a diagnosis, that person may still be suffering from some kind of chronic illness.  Don’t give up.  There are answers.

Lastly, I will offer a few words of caution about those “answers.”  They are just that: answers.  So, now, we know what to call this.  We know how to begin to treat it, and possibly improve the situation.  However, chronic illness is called “chronic” for a reason.  For some people, identifying the culprit means starting on the road toward recovery and improved quality of life.  For others, it means learning to manage symptoms, learning how to live with being chronically ill.  So, don’t hold your breath waiting for a “cure,” but don’t give up on finding one, either.

How do I manage the stress of being chronically ill?  I’ve found this works:

Relax.  Breathe.  Brace yourself.  Soldier on!

Thanks for taking the time to read.