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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reading Can Be Dangerous for Your Shoulder

While this is not a new event to me, perhaps I should fill you in on one of my latest mishaps.

To one side of our house lies a fenced area thick with hydrangea bushes and perennials. I had always fancied a secret garden carved into the foliage, some day. Some day came soon enough and my husband set to work to make my wish come true. Well, it became a bit of an extended project but eventually it all came together.

Last July, I was enjoying a warm, quiet afternoon reading in my newly finished Secret Garden. It was quite idyllic, actually. I imagined that I must have resembled a character in a Victorian-era novel. Sitting at the bistro table, sipping cold lemonade and holding my book in the other hand while a content doggy laid at my feet. The neighbourhood was quiet and drowsy. The sun warmed my skin and it felt delicious. This is Paradise, I thought ... almost. The only way it could have gotten any better was to read in the wicker swing chair, hidden deeper into the foliage.

I got up to walk the few steps to the chair. Wow, I can't put this book down, it's so engrossing. With my face stuck deep into the pages of the book, I continued walking. The problem was I had run out of deck and misjudged the step-off. As I took a tumble off the deck, I do remember quite clearly my inner dialogue. Being the true book-lover that I am, in the nano-seconds that it took me to crash land, all my brain could think was 'SAVE THE BOOK! SAVE THE BOOK!'

I must have landed harder than I first realized because I laid there, dazed for several minutes. I tried to get up but soon realized there was no need to hurry. The dog came around, sniffed me, sniffed the bushes and assessed the situation. Then she turned tail and sauntered off to lay down in the shade. What a big help you are! I said, wincing. What if I was hurt much worse? What if this was an emergency? You don't even care that I'm hurt, do you?  I called after the dog. She blinked at me and began licking herself. I pulled out the crumpled bookmark from underneath my bruised rump. At least I saved the book, I muttered.

I had fallen on my right side and my elbow and butt cheek took most of the impact. I  was scratched up and I felt dizzy and sore. I really could have done with some help in getting up but no one was available. I waited there until I felt too embarrassed to lie in the hydrangea bushes any longer. With a couple of grunts and some not so graceful manoeuvres, I managed to pull myself up by the wicker swing. I looked back at the hydrangeas. They had definitely sustained more damage than I had. Boy, they really took a flattening.

Yes, I was sore that night and for a few days after. But I healed. It wasn't until a month later that I started to experience 'unexplained' shoulder pain. I first noticed it when I was in bed, rolling over - a sharp stabbing pain in my shoulder and down into my arm. Before long it became uncomfortable to lie on my right side. I couldn't figure out what was wrong, what was the cause of the pain? It continued to worsen. It hurt during the daytime too ... when I lifted things, raised my arm and especially when I was driving the car. If I had to turn a corner - which tends to happen frequently while driving - the pain was excruciating. Soon, it hurt to do anything at all. So I stopped moving it. Makes sense, right? Wrong. I now have what is called frozen shoulder syndrome or adhesive capsulitis; a disorder in which the shoulder capsule, the connective tissue surrounding the joint of the shoulder becomes inflamed and stiff greatly restricting motion and causing chronic pain. I can attest to the chronic pain part.

Initially, I didn't connect the pain to the fall that I had a month earlier. I thought if I injured myself, the pain would instantly follow. But that's not always the case. When I fell, my elbow took a lot of the impact but in doing so it likely jarred something in my shoulder joint, too.

So what happens when you already have chronic pain and you suffer an injury that adds more chronic pain? You hurt. You hurt some more. And you cry. In my case it was obvious that my shoulder pain was a separate issue from the fibromyalgia. At other times, that line can be blurry so you should prepared to question a new symptom or pain. Don't assume it's always the fibromyalgia because sometimes, it isn't. Then, you get the appropriate help for the new pain or injury. No, it isn't fair but nothing in life rarely is. You just have to deal.

Currently, I'm waiting on results of an MRI that I had last week. I'm curious to see what will show up.  I don't think even MRI's can detect a bruised ego.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

I'm Back!

     Hi everyone! I'm back after a long, Google and self-imposed lock-out. I'll be the first one to admit I'm not the sharpest pencil in the computer box. When Google took over, formats and passwords changed and I was hopelessly lost somewhere in the blogosphere. Well, I'm nothing if not persistent - enduring fibromyalgia has taught me that lesson. Long story short, I think I've figured 'er out and I've missed my readers. I'm ready to share more fibro adventures and any new information that I pick up on the way. I hope you'll come along.




Friday, February 3, 2012

The Nerve of Pain

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.  - Helen Keller

Pain ...

it has a way of grabbing your attention and chronic pain keeps you riveted.

Recently, my fibro pain has been under control. *cautious happy dance*.  I didn't say that I'm free of pain, however.  After a hysterectomy in 2001 for endometriosis, I was left with damage to the bowel and the surrounding nerves. I (too) often experience what is known as neuropathy (nerve pain).  The pain origninates in my bowel and radiates throughout my body, zinging me anywhere from my shoulders to my feet, much like an electrical shock. Unluckily for me and others with neuropathy, nerve pain is notoriously difficult to treat. It would seem that I jumped from the fire into the frying pan. And I'm sizzling in it as I write. Do you remember being hit with an elastic band as a kid?  Kinda stings, right? Mulitply that by one hundred. Now imagine that sensation on your insides. To give you a better description, it feels as if a cactus has lodged in my colon.

The pain of fibromyalgia is 'nerve-racking' enough to cope with on its own. Too often, fibro sufferers have a multitude of other syndromes. I developed IBS - irritable bowel syndrome after my surgery.  I also possess an irritable bladder. On any given day, my entire pelvis is in one big bad mood.

Millions of people live with chronic pain every day, which is described as pain that lasts longer than three months. Living with chronic pain affects your ability to work, your relationships and limits your activities. Left untreated, life can become one long pain parade and you're The Fibromyalgia Float.

Because pain is subjective and invisible, it's difficult for most people to understand how confining life is for the chronic pain sufferer. If a person has a broken leg, for example, it is expected that the limb will heal and the pain will eventually stop. This is acute pain and it differs from chronic pain.  Depression and anxiety often accompany the chronic pain sufferer as feelings of despair can quickly overwhelm a person.  People in pain will often avoid exercise or move around as little as possible to avoid worsening their discomfort. This can lead to a condition called disuse syndrome which means, basically, move it or lose it. Muscles that become weak with disuse are more prone to injury. Chronic pain sufferers are caught in a frustrating Catch-22 cycle of unintended self-sabotage.

As if living in pain day to day isn't stressful enough, a stigma exists for the chronic pain sufferer; they're brushed off as 'lazy and often, drug-seeking' and thus, left undertreated.  Am I wrong in assuming that most people would prefer to live an active, healthy and fulfilling life?  So, why would a person opt for a life of pain with no hope of a cure on the horizon ... one with sporadic pain relief, at best?  I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that we do not choose nor do we delight in being bedridden, exhausted and in pain. Honestly, who would? Would you?

When all you can feel are the shadows, turn your face towards the sun. - Helen Keller

Despite chronic pain, many sufferers have learned to live a productive life, despite daily pain. Learning effective coping strategies can help to reduce your pain. While it won't take away your pain completely, it can give you a sense of control over your body. Mild exercise such as yoga or tai chi can help to strengthen muscles and offer pain relief. Work with your doctor to find the right medications for yourself. This may take some time and trial and error. Practicing guided imagery exercises and meditation can help to lower your pain level. Explore alternative or complimentary medicine. Many pain sufferers swear by massage, acupuncture or herbal remedies for relief. There is no doubt that living with chronic pain is difficult, but there is reason for hope.

I am only one, still I am one. I cannot do everything, still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.  - Helen Keller

Don't rain on my parade, eh? This is one life circumstance in which I would welcome a down pour.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011: A Pace Odyssey

Happy New Year,

This is an excerpt from the January 2011 post of my blog:

Will 2011 be a better year for me? I hope so. If I decide to adopt the positive-thinking only policy, I stand a good chance of getting through the year happy and intact. Then again, accidents happen. Bad things happen to good people. My best answer is that a happy new year has yet to be determined. That's life.

I can answer that I did, indeed, come through 2011 intact and relatively unscathed. It had its highs and lows and October had its mega-lows and it wasn't merely because the calendar reminded me that I was a year older.

I had an unexpected falling-out with a person close to me, of all days ... Thanksgiving. As if that wasn't upsetting enough, that same afternoon, I received hate mail on my blog. Yes, hate mail.  I'm not talkin' bout a difference of opinion.  I'm talkin' scathing, venomous hatred.  Let's call this person 'Anonymous' as he/she didn't have the guts to sign their real or user name.  Anonymous called me a horrible person, as if they knew me intimately.  I'm mystified how a person can make assumptions about my life from reading a few blogs.  My blogs are carefully chosen snippets from my life and not meant to be interpreted as a personal journal. With a verbal attack coming on the heels of the falling-out only hours before, I was overwhelmed with hurt and shock. I felt emotionally tasered. It took me weeks of sadness, tears and self-doubt to claw my way back to Ground Zero.  Truthfully, I took it on - all the anger and hatred.  The thing that stung the most, other than being called a horrible person, was having my writing described as 'amateurish'.  I've been published several times and earned a diploma in Creative Writing, thank you very much.

In 2011, my eldest relocated to a different university, which as any mother knows, is bittersweet.  My youngest turned 16 and obtained her Learner's driving license. Now, THAT is unnerving ... and she better not expect me to teach her ... that's hard to do when you're crouched behind the front seat, eyes squeezed shut.  I had two lovely vacations.  Our youngest went to summer camp for a week, so my husband and I took advantage and enjoyed a childless holiday. Remember those?

I mended a few fences and strengthed friendships, new and old.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas season this year. The trick is to prepare early. You might think I'm crazy but I start writing Christmas cards in September. If you write only a few at a time and pace yourself, it does not become a last-minute overwhelming task. I buy gifts all year-round when I see something that catches my eye. By the fall, I had amassed a drawer full of stocking stuffers and gifts. I enjoyed wrapping gifts and adorning them with pretty bows, turning them into paper art. Pacing is paramount and I'm still honing that alien concept.

The fibromyalgia seemed no better or no worse until winter hit. The cold weather had never aggravated the pain in years past, so I was surprised and more than a little p.o'ed when it made its shivery debut. Now I could identify with so many others that complained of the cold exacerbating their pain. I didn't want to go out at night because the shivering was so bad. My hands and feet took the worst of it - I didn't even have to go outside for them to feel painfully cold. Who wears gloves inside the house?  I went through accidental withdrawal when I fudged up prescribed medication. That was no fun at all.  I was dizzy, my ears rang, my blood pressure dropped steeply and I slept constantly.  Worst of all were the bizarre, violent nightmares. I didn't know what was wrong with me. Ironically, it was through one of my troubled dreams that I found the answer.  I woke up and instantly knew that I was in anti-depressant withdrawal.  At least it was easily remedied and I was back up to regular fibro speed within a few days.

So, did I adopt a positive-only mindset? I'd like to think I did ... with a few, minor setbacks.  I read the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin, who spent a year researching, reading and journaling about happiness for her book. The key concept in Ms. Rubin's book was attitude and why dropping a bad one and replacing it with a positive one, ultimately, makes life simpler, leading to more satisifaction, which equals more happiness.

It's all about intention, making a concerted effort to harness your strength and to look around you for the good (and it's there) when everything seems hopeless. Find the lesson in your challenges. Learn from it, then let it go. Psychological and spiritual growth is desirable and I'd like to think I grew up a little last year.

And to Anonymous? Neener, neener, neener!
Well, I didn't say I grew up completely.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Christmas Song Revisited

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
Sweaty and tired, our skin is glistening,
Not a beautiful sight,
And we're achy tonight,
Plodding through a winter wonder land.

Gone away is a bluebird,
I'm dizzy and my vision is blurred,
Something is wrong
And it's not very long
Before we're limping through a winter wonder land.

In the meadow, we can't build a snowman,
And we forgot who the bloody heck
is Parson Brown?
We wonder how long this flare will keep us down,
He'll say: are you harried?
We'll say whaddya think, man?
It's a ruddy shame my specialist is out of town.

Later on, we'll perspire
And our skin feels like it's on fire,
Our nerves are totally frayed and
We'll scrap the plans that we made,
Stumbling through a winter wonder land,

In the meadow, we can't build that snowman
Or pretend our life hasn't turned upside down
It's not very fun
When the body aches come,
And the fibromyalgia really takes us down.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bloggus Interruptus

I've been away from the blogosphere long enough to be forgotten. That is, assuming I ever was a somebody.  I ran away.  Various factors led to my 'exit stage left'.  I blame the 4F's's:  fibromyalgia, fibro fog, fatigue and fear.  Yep, fear.  I allowed a hateful  internet 'troll' to get to me.  My last post was in October and an Anonymous Asshole left a stinging hit and run commentary and I quickly became the road kill.  This nasty incident had me questioning myself, my writing, my motives for blogging and why I wrote anything at all. Things were so bad that I questioned my worth as a person.  I swallowed the hate and disintegrated into little bits. I crawled into my fibro cave and I was terrified to write another word.  That was my first mistake.

I looked for redemption, for proof that I was not this horrible person I was being accused of.  Totally knocked off balance, I needed reassurance from people to validate me as a person. That was my second mistake.  I was looking for love in all the wrong places.  I knew I was loved by my family and friends and that felt warm, fuzzy and wonderful. But it wasn't enough.  I didn't understand that all I had to do was click my heels together three times to go home and I would find what I needed.  The love, the acceptance I craved was right there in my own back yard, within myself, but I didn't know how to harvest it.

For me, learning to trust myself for my own validation has been a difficult lesson.  Still, I have to admit that I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the flood of support from friends, followers and my online family.  It did feel good knowing that so many people cared for me and defended my character.  It touched my heart and I will carry that with me, always.

By publicly sharing my life, I know that I open myself up to scrutiny.  I expected that.  Not everyone will agree with me, or like my blog. This is an inevitable by-product for letting people in to read about your junk.  But I never,ever, thought someone would attack me so viciously, at such a personal level.  After I was blind-sided by Anonymous, I looked at my blog statistics, to find where it gathered the most traffic.  I expected to see the majority of hits from Canada and the States.  I was stunned to see I had an audience in South Africa, parts of Mexico and several countries in Europe!  I was gob-smacked!  Right then and there, I realized  how vulnerable and exposed I was ... that anyone on the planet could comment on my life, judge or persecute me. I needed protection, practical and Divine.  After adjusting security settings, I created a spiritual shield, an imaginary 'favourite blanket'.  It had to be impervious to both aggression and hatred.

 My sacred blanket now enfolds me.  I will never again allow anyone to get inside of me, to trash my inner sanctuary.  Mistakes one and two led to Number One Lesson Learned:  Resilience.

Today,  I have no agenda or fibro information to impart. I just want to say that I'm  BACK.  I guess in a weird kind of way I can thank Anonymous for that!

Thanks for reading.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting Your Daily Dose of Stress

We interrupt this mildly amusing blog in order to bring you breaking news: sometimes humour isn't enough to get us through the rough spots.

Who of us wouldn't like more hugs, smiles or that encouraging pat on the back?  When pain reaches a crescendo, it's time to crank open the release valve. Like an untended pressure cooker boiling over, the resulting KABOOM will blow the lid clean off.  The reality is we live in an increasingly stressful world. Stress that is ignored often breeds more stress which then leads to compound stress. And, it doesn't have to be a major kick to the gonads to take you down, either. With enough time, a stockpile of everyday, unresolved grievances can result in lift-off.  For emotional wellness, may I suggest you clean out your 'lint trap' regularly? If your 'duct' is clogged, it only takes one tiny spark to explode into a full-on blaze. I know of what I speak.

How's this for stress?  Wrestling with a dryer fire the night before your vacation. I'd say that ranks high in the 'shoot me now' category.

Usually, I can count on one hand how many times I will crack open a suitcase throughout the year:  once for spring break and again for summer vacation.  It's mid-September and I've already racked up 5 mini-vacations, with the possibility of one more next month. That's an impressive feat for a fibromite homebody..

The most recent of our travels took us on a weekend excursion to visit our daughter at her new home in a new city where she attends university. Part of that journey included a 2-hour ferry ride. I enjoy this aspect because, unlike a car where you're cramped and confined, the ferry offers a variety of options. You can get out of your vehicle and walk around, stretch yours and the dog's legs. You can browse around the gift store, have a meal, find a private corner to enjoy a book. You can take in the view from an upper deck or visit the gift store. Oh, I said that already, didn't I?  After docking at the terminal, we whipped out our trusty GPS and plugged in the coordinates. I'll admit it's one handy little device, but that voice! Is it just me or does that smug, Miss Know-it-all voice wear on your last nerve?  My husband seemed delighted with her expertise, but after a few minutes, I wanted to hurl it into oncoming traffic. Recalculate that, dummy!                                                                                                                                                                            

When we arrived, I immediately took in the ocean view. How could you not?  At the same time, I envied and rejoiced for my daughter who had the good fortune to stumble onto such a gorgeous place to live. Barely 200 feet away, a scenic rest area beckoned. If if I lived here, I would sit and marvel at the spectacular view every day, rain or shine, fibromyalgia or not. We went inside ... hugs and gifts were exchanged and we settled in for some warm and fuzzy time. We hadn't been there for more than 15 minutes when ...

... it happened - an unexpected, unpleasant incident. The excitement of our visit fizzled into a wisp of smoke before our eyes. Everything turned sour after that. To protect her privacy I cannot reveal details but suffice it to say it cast a miserable black cloud over our visit.

We stayed a few hours, helping with various repairs, as promised. When we returned to the hotel for a rest before dinner, I felt it coming on: headache, soreness, fatigue - even my skin was painful to touch.  I was already behind the 8-ball before we headed out to pick up the kids for dinner. They had just piled into the back seat when my husband's cell phone RANG.  The hotel was calling - never a good sign. There had been several complaints about our dog's excessive barking.  I realized our dinner plans were sunk. So, back to the hotel we went.  We were starving but our options were limited, thanks to that barking diva.  Dinner had to be eaten in the hotel room but the thought of 5 pricey room service meals didn't appeal to our wallet. We brought in pizza.  It wasn't exactly fine-dining but we were together and that's what mattered to me.

On Sunday, we visited with the kids one last time. The previous day's tension was gone and the mood was lighter, happier. Before boarding the ferry back home, we visited the city. Brooke and I browsed through a few funky boutiques, so the day wasn't a total loss. When we got home that evening, all I wanted to do was hop into my pyjamas and a pair of fuzzy socks to warm my perennially cold feet. Traveling with fibromyalgia can be an ordeal that requires advance planning and preparation which in and of itself is exhausting.  I already knew I was going to have to take it easy the next day. That meant no obsessive cleaning and tidying of the house. On Monday, as predicted, I spent most of the morning in bed, resting. When I did get out of bed, I used the 15 On/15 Off method of pacing myself:  this entails setting a timer and engaging in light housework or whatever for 15 minutes. When the timer rings, lie down and rest without playing on the computer, watching TV or reading. For me, it's important to rest completely, physically and mentally without distraction.

After lunch, my step-mother phoned. My father had been experiencing recurrent leg pain for a few weeks and she was concerned that it was not getting better. She talked it over with me and my husband and we advised her to take him to the emergency room for an X-ray, to rule out the possibility of something more serious. I wrestled with the idea of going to the emergency room with them. I wanted to be there for them but I was so tired I could barely pull up my underwear. Thoughts of should I go or should I stay home ensured that I received my daily dose of stress ... and guilt. I reminded myself that my Dad had sacrificed for his family all his life. Yet I couldn't find it within myself to get out of bed and sit with him in the hospital.  I gave myself a pep talk (maybe it was more of a scolding) and dug deep. I dressed and drove to the hospital. When I got there, the nurse told me they had already been treated and gone home. All that stressing out and they weren't even there!  I was anxious and restless and my hands were shaking - a result from all the meds I take. It's a wonder the nurse didn't try treat me for nervous exhaustion!

So, I missed the opportunity to sit with them in the waiting room but my heart was in the right place. I had a clear conscience. I made the right decision despite the fibromyalgia trying to beat me back into submission.

Do they sell stress vitamins by the barrelful?