Routines & Motivation ~ by Sam

I feel that title is lacking, but I did the best I could. I keep thinking I should come here and write something meaningful about things that are going on in the world ~ because so many things are going on in the world ~ and then I keep thinking, “Wait, what? It’s what time? I have to make dinner…or…Oh…you all already had dinner? I guess I should eat dinner. And like…do…something…” It’s been…you know…weird around here, as I am sure it has been for most people.  It’s been weird in ways that aren’t worth writing about, because there all the same ways it’s been weird for everyone: our 16-year-old is learning remotely, husband is working from home, all 5 of us are here all the time, it’s hard to keep track of the days, the time, etc.  It’s been weird in other ways, too.

I spent 19 days home isolating under doctor’s orders for symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath from late-March through mid-April. It was…strange, and sometimes scary. I wasn’t hospitalized, and there was no known exposure, so I wasn’t tested. It got pretty bad, but not hospital bad, and for that, I thank my lucky stars. I may never know for certain if I actually had the virus or not, but , more than a month later, I still don’t feel fantastic.  I lost about 10lbs I didn’t need to lose while I was sick, and I’ve only gained back 2-3. I still get tired, and easily winded. It’s…well, it is what it is. I expected it to take some time before I felt up to speed again, but I am starting to feel a bit daunted.

On May 8th, while watching TV with two of the kids, I had what turned out to be a complex partial seizure, and ended up taking an unscheduled field trip to the ER. Not my favourite way to spend a day, by a longshot, but, after a few hours there, lots of tests, a consult w/ the attending neurologist, and a follow-up with my regular neurologist, I do FINALLY have a diagnosis. (Some of you might remember that I have in the past eluded to some unnamed medical issues ~ this is that.) So, yes, I have epilepsy. It wasn’t a great surprise, and I have been taking an anti-seizure med for some time now, but, hey, now, when filling in forms, I know which box to tick when I get to the question about whether I have epilepsy/seizure disorder.

So, now, officially, I have CRPS, fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s Disease, IBS, asthma, and epilepsy.  And I’ve been trying to recover from frozen shoulder since November, and, I have to say, that one is starting to get on my nerves, which I think might indicate progress.

I have a couple of meds I take to manage some of this stuff, and then there are some lifestyle changes that help.  Things like physical therapy, keeping a somewhat regular schedule, taking my meds on time, exercise, good nutrition, good sleep habits…Of course, the caveat is that some of these things interfere a bit with things like regular sleep, exercise, good nutrition, but, look, I’m not here to argue about this.  I’m just trying to do my best to achieve these things.  Really, I am.  I swear.  It’s just…I’m having a hard time, y’all.

Boy, I feel this has turned into a much whinier post than I intended.  Sorry about that.  I logged on here in the first place to talk a little bit about how I have been feeling unfocussed/unmotivated.  I want to establish a better daily routine. In my dreams (not the real ones, but the ones I make up) I want to get up every morning, take my meds, start my day w/ yoga, followed by a healthy breakfast. Instead, I hit the snooze button too many times, sometimes forget to take my medication until after breakfast (getting kid to school, when that’s happening), have nothing but coffee for breakfast, realize I am running around in yoga pants at 3pm, but haven’t actually done any yoga, feel light-headed, eat something stupid, because I have forgotten to eat all day, look at my messy house, get irritated and start trying to accomplish something ~ anything ~ get distracted and start doing something else, still don’t do any yoga, maybe realize it’s time to make dinner, if we’re lucky that day, but, more likely, there’s been some small disaster (a cat knocked over something and I have to clean it up, or the fence fell on the apple tree, or I took a jar of sauce I’d made out of the fridge for dinner, but didn’t have a good grip on it, dropped it on the floor, had to clean that up ~ bonus: floor’s clean), and whatever it was, there’s not going to be time left to make dinner.  I’m still wearing yoga pants.  I haven’t done any yoga. Or done my physical therapy, which I’m supposed to do every day. Or gone for a walk (which is also supposed to happen every day).  Or done any sewing, or worked on the blanket I am supposedly crocheting…and I keep wondering what it is I DO all day long.

Right now, for instance, I am sitting here doing this, and I know I need to pay bills and balance the checkbook. On the up side, at least later I will be able to look at this and know what I did ~ and I put in laundry earlier, so that will be done, assuming I remembered to start the machine.

I’ve been trying, in the past few days to “just do it,” but my body is still adjusting to a higher dosage of anti-seizure meds, and it’s kinda like, “HAH.  No, seriously.  Where’s the coffee?”

So, for now, I’m trying to take things slowly.  Of course, if you know me, you know this is driving me nuts. I’ve done yoga twice this week. That’s better than never. When I sign off here, I will probably do it again, and I might even practice my banjo, too (which would be the second time this week ~ and is a big deal, because I only started being able to hold it again last week). Maybe I’ll sew. Or maybe not. I did at least cut one of the curtain panels that needed to be hemmed yesterday, and I made dinner.

One evening recently, while I was washing veggies to prep them for the grill, I felt the ground swell under (and then kind of up through) me, and I had to call the kids to ask if we’d had been a tiny earthquake. We hadn’t, it was just me. I’m luckily everyone is here, and someone was nearby so I could go sit down, and the veggies got prepped.  We had fantastic veggie kabobs, tiny earthquake notwithstanding.

Veggie Kabobs

Unfortunately, I’m not here to give you any advice, or tell you that I have solutions to your organizational, health, or daily planning problems. Ultimately, my goal would be for things like taking my meds, doing my exercise and integrating the necessary healthy lifestyle habits into my life that will help me feel my best to become so much a part of my routine that it feels effortless. Maybe that’s a a lot to wish for, but I’ve always believed in aiming high.

To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Listen.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.
Cook.
Write.
Read.
Dance.
Laugh.
Sing.

I might clean some stuff, too.
Maybe.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

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.