Sick and Tired

 

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything here and even longer since I’ve been even on the site reading what my peers have written. Have I been busy? Yes………….busy being sick.

They say that you have to get really tired of being “sick and tired” and then you will do something about it…..I guess this is me doing something about it šŸ™‚

This term/ semester at work ran for 12 weeks, this is week 11 and thus far I have been away from work at home for 7 weeks I believe. I sat and thought about that this past week. It wasn’t seven consecutive weeks, it was more a week here, 2 1/2 there another 3 here etc. Its amazing how unproductive that thought made me feel.

I feel like I have just been wasting away in bed, in pain these past weeks.

Truth is, I don’t think I can do a “normal” 9-5 anymore………….well at least in my present work environment/ doing my present job. I wear the compression hosiery as a rule and I sit with my feet up and reduce my walking and moving around but it is still too much on my body. The more fatigued I become, the more pain I am in, the more pain then the more meds I need; the more meds I need then the more time I have to take off work, Its a vicious cycle.

I need a space where I can lie down in the middle of the day for an hour and then wake up and go again. One where I am not as pressured and hurried. I need a slower pace.

Reading about and talking to many other chronic pain warriors, its not that we can’t work or be productive but the terms under which this is done require adjustments and a measure of flexibility that is at times difficult to find in mainstream workplaces.

Back in March I wroteĀ March 2018: Iā€™m 1 in 10ā€¦.Oh the Irony!Ā That was focused on my Endometriosis more than anything else. Since then both conditions have gotten worse. I have a blood filled cyst that is ever increasing in size on the left ovary and at least two other fluid filled ones and a host of free fluid in my pelvis. That combination is very painful especially at ovulation and cycle times.

These cysts stop me from wearing my stockings as often as necessary because the stockings compress the abdomen which in turn pushes on the cysts, which as you may imagine is problematic.

The reduced wear of compression stockings has caused me to have many more vein blow-outs than normal. Again instant pain……I also started getting veins bursting and bleeding into the tissue. So, I would awake with a pool of blood just beneath the surface of my skin and the veins around it raised. The pools take a few weeks to disappear and in themselves do cause some degree of extra pain, especially within the first few days.

I’m driving less, leaving home less, scaling back on an already almost hermit like lifestyle……this is absolutely crazy!!!!!!

So, I’m sick and tired……………….now what is the change?

What is it that I am going to do differently? Well, first I have to have surgery to deal with the cysts and adhesions. After that…….I think I may be on the path to a whole new person.

See, I decided that I cannot just lie here in bed for the rest of however long and be sick. I have to live my life. If my body won’t cooperate, I have to use my mind. I must still strive to be the very best version of me in this season!

That Lyn, will push to have “Dr.” written in front her name. She will push to have the private psychological practice up and running and self-sustaining. She will push to travel and explore more. She will fight to live. I’ve no option really……………the alternative is to remain sick and tired and do nothing…..

 

 

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Learned Helplessness & Illness

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It’s amazing how long this post took me to write!

So much has been going on in my neck of the woods. So much to update on.

Well, you know Psychology is my jam…………….its my heart…………I love it! Sometimes though, it keeps me in my head………a lot!

In the 1970s, Martin Seligman came up with the term “learned helplessness” as a result of some experiments he did. Further study aligned it with the psychological concept of attributions.

Basically, what Seligman said is this:Ā  we have a bad experience, realize we can’t control it and from then on become resigned to the outcome. We don’t try to do anything to change it. So the next time we are faced with a challenge we don’t try; just decide that the outcome will be negative and give up…………we’re resigned.

Attribution theory is about assigning feelings, beliefs,intentions and meaning to behaviour; especially that of others. In this case the meaning assigned is about us as individuals; we determine that we are powerless and that the outcome will be negative. Therefore, we do not try.

What has this to do with my illnesses?

Well, learned helplessness is linked to anxiety and depression and we all know that chronic illness is a major risk factor to both these conditions.

Thing is though, I am beginning to feel like people expect me to be helpless, rather they expect me to act helpless.

I am ill yes………that could be considered a negative experience and in many ways I have no control over it. It’s a recurring decimal in my world. I don’t think it means I should be resigned to it. Yet, others seem to think that.

I go to lift a bottle or drag a table or just try to do something……….anything and I get a look or a question like “why are you doing that” or “you know you shouldn’t do x, y, z”. It is a catch 22 because yes I know……..the potential exists that the activity may cause pain……….but I still have to try; what if they weren’t there? What would I do then?

You know the picture of the elephant above? It’s tied with a tiny rope to a small peg. Yet, the big, strongĀ  elephant just stands there. The elephant has been trained to be helpless; to act helpless………….and it works!

I refuse to be like that elephant!

So many days and nights I wonder if this is it for me. I wonder if things will continue as they are or if they will get worse. I don’t know……………….I don’t…………… but I choose to push. I choose to learn optimism.

It’s for this reason that I stillĀ  work; I still choose to study new things; I still crave new experiences; I still make plans for the next 2….5…..10 years. I push…………………because I have to. I don’t see another option.

Maybe if more persons believed in us, if they looked beyond the illnesses and their limitations and instead remained present to help if needed, but not always rushing to do things for us…………………maybe we won’t learn helplessness.

Friend, I encourage you and I today………….learnt optimism instead. Keep pushing!

Truth is….

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Truth is …..its been a while since I wrote anything…………well since I wrote anything here. I wrote and just kept it to myself.

Truth is I’m tired. I don’t have any other words to use but to say I’m tired. Sometimes I say this and people tell me “yeah me too” but they have no idea what I’m talking about. This tired is so deep that only someone in a similar situation can understand.

My body feels like I am just dragging along each day. It take all my energy to get up and get going and then to do it all over again the next day. Right now I have been in bed for the past three hours and I can’t seem to get up from here. I think its my mind that’s tired as well as my body and I don’t know how to stop it from being tired. I am constantly processing everything and not coming up with any different answers.

Truth is I’m hurt.….and I am angry because I feel I should be able to just forget it. This week at work I passed and someone made a comment about my stockings. I admit its pretty weird, since Barbados is so hot, to see people wearing stockings of any kind; furthermore compression stockings.Ā The other thing is that they are not in any way flattering to any outfit since they are so thick and concentrated in the color.

Now, I’ve heard comments before, but I just kept walking and told myself that I know why I am wearing them and anything said by others is irrelevant. This is 5 weeks back to work and about 8 full weeks wearing the stockings/ leggings everyday. Up until now it worked and I just went on through my day. However, this week I just felt like the comments pierced my armor. All the brave face and calm that came as a result of my rational thinking just flew right out the window. I hate the stockings, I absolutely hate them! Yet I know I have to wear them šŸ˜¦Ā  I just wish I could go out just once looking “normal”……that would bring more problems …so I wear them and try to smile when the looks and comments come and just do what I have to do.

Truth is I’m scared. I feel myself growing weaker and my inability to feel rejuvenated after a night’s rest dwindling. I feel my pain levels slowly rising and not falling at any point but slowly and methodically inching up. I feel myself moving towards a flare and I am scared.Ā  yes, I’ve had flares before, I won’t choose to have one; but they are horrible. I’m trying to rest more and cut back and do all I know to stop it from happening but its just a matter of time. I know it!

Perhaps the worse thing about a flare is not the pain itself but the moment when it breaks and starts to wane. The effort it takes to return to some normalcy and some level of acceptable functioning is phenomenal. I know that right now, I don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to deal with anything………because I am so drained………….and now I am so scared.

I’m scared that I can’t do it this time, that I can’t keep doing this over and over again.

I know I need a break, but I can’t take one unless I have no other choice. I have to keep pushing and pushing just to keep my head above water financially and otherwise. I need to remain the together mommy and wife.

Truth is I feel guilty. Even writing this now, I feel guilty. I hate this back and forth for myself furthermore my family. It seems that just the moment when they start to breathe easy and stop being hyper-vigilant around me; is the same moment when things start to go downhill. Its almost like I have a maximum amount of time when I can be relatively OK and do most if not all that is required of me as mummy and wife and at work. Then I just get sick again- not that I don’t know I am ill- but get sick again in the eyes of others.

This is when the walking on eggshells around me and watching carefully so I don’t fall, watching my breathing and making sure I take my meds…….like some type of police officer…..starts again. Its almost as if they feel the need to do all they can to get me back to the “before flare” state.

I feel guilty for putting my family through this time and time again………..yet there’s nothing I can do about it.

Truth is I am all the above and more. My mind tells me to process it and work through it but I don’t have the will. I just want to ball up and have a good cry. Thing is my guilt will stop me from doing that …………………because everybody is watching.

I know I am not the only one who feels this way at times but truth is I am lonely. I can talk to those around me and my few friends about it but I still feel lonely. I think its because I know they don’t / can’t really understand what I am saying. Neither can they get what I am saying when I say nothing or just give the basic response.

Truth is people take it personally when I don’t want to talk about it all. They start to question my friendship………….if they tell me everything they why don’t I talk to them? Truth is there’s nothing more to say.Ā 

Truth is I write more deeply than I talk

If they ask me now I would probably say I am ok. Funny thing is I am………………..but I’m not.

Truth is I am confused

Truth is I am miserable

Truth is I am not even sure myself.…………..I wish I could skip what is coming but that is the nature of the beast.

Truth is I know this will pass and I will be all positive again. I just would rather go on without the flare and all that surrounds it.

Truth is just leave me alone šŸ˜¦

Chronic Illness See-Saw…. 1 Step Forward….2 Steps Back

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Chronic Illness can be like a see saw. Just like the one in the photo above. Sometimes the thing that makes the difference between whether there is progression or regression can seem so small but yet so big at the same time.

Years ago in Barbados there was a Soca song that was written to describe the government………..I think it was…………most songs written are about some social issue.

Anyway, today as I was thinking about the effects of being ill, besides the image of the see-saw with the slightest thing tipping the balance, that song came back to my mind. Its called “Breakdown” by Serenader.

The chorus of the song goes:

One step forward

And two steps backward

And tremble

Hold ya belly and tremble

 

How apt.

I feel like I take one step forward and then two back. Just when I think I am improving something happens that pushes me back again. This thing that occurs is not always physical, it could be a simple as a comment made by someone.

I misplaced an item, truth be told I have no idea where it is. It is not something that I would not place in a secure location……this just adds to the frustration.

I asked the one other person who could possibly have it to check through her things just in case. Her response was quick and sharp………….you are supposed to have that not me! I just left off what came before that statement.

My immediate thought was ” I really have to explain to this woman again………..sigh!”

When you don’t experience brain fog it can be the most difficult thing to understand. When you do, it can be the most difficult thing to explain.

I searched and searched every possible place that it can be in my home and I have not found it. All the while I am thinking to myself ” gosh girl, you really losing it”. The “it” there being my mind and not the item.

I really felt horrible………….I really feel horrible but there is nothing I can do about it now.

You may ask if something so slight can have such a devastating impact? The answer is definitely yes.

Its such a delicate dance from day to day to be in good spirits even amidst the physical challenges. Sometimes staying in that space is exhausting all by itself. Little things can seem like failures or statements of inadequacy and inability. Little things can make you question whether you should even try to do or to be sometimes. The slightest thing can lead to regression.

So when you take one step forward, then two back…………what’s left to do? Hold ya belly and tremble? Or just breakdown?

I don’t have the answer. It can be any or all. However, for me…I just keep on stepping and trying to maintain this delicate balance.

The Measure of Success

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How do we measure success? How do I measure the success of the surgery? Is it an all or nothing thing?

This morning I awoke feeling crampy and aching all over. I’ve got pain on the right just around the ovary and my brain is kinda fuzzy. Feels like PMS………well in my case PNothingS. Great! Just wonderful!

Honestly, from Friday I was feeling like my hormones were getting wacky. I decided to adopt a wait and see attitude. I don’t know about others but after gynae surgery my cycling goes haywire and takes some time to settle down. According to my charting before the op, I should have ovulated last week. Obviously with all the organ handling, separating and removal on May 10, I was still in post op pain and mode last week. I now need to start charting again to establish what the cycle will be.

So, what does this pain today mean? As I am writing here I have already taken some meds and the pain is between 6 and 7…………livable/ doable. Does this mean that the surgery was not successful?

I think its too early to even think that. Things need to heal first before I can truly assess the pain. Even then, if the pain levels are still as they were before does that mean no success?

I’ve thought about this, spent a lot of time on it actually. I would say no; success is not as cut and dry as pain before surgery/ no pain after surgery OR horrible pain before surgery/ less pain after surgery. I think I should look at the little things, small progresses made and see how they add up as opposed to looking for the drastic change.

So far I’ve noted success in:

  • Bowel function- I can have a BM now without intense pain, stretching and cramping and having to move from bathroom to bed and stay there for at least half an hour before I go anywhere or do anything.
  • Sleep- I am sleeping more now that being awake throughout the night from pain. I still need to wake up to empty my bladder but for the most part I can sleep.
  • All day pain- previous to the surgery I was in pain all day long. Up until today that was not the case since the op. There is pain yes but not consistently throughout the day. It will take me some weeks to work through what is happening now and see if the pain has reverted to mainly cyclical and minimal in between.
  • Mental State- the impact that chronic pain has on mental health should never be discounted. Previous to the surgery, the flare I was in had lasted so long that I was really down in the dumps. I smiled and did what I had to/ what I could to fulfill my various roles but beneath it all I was seriously struggling mentally. Right now I am in a better mental space. Partly because of the improvementsĀ  I mentioned above and also because I was able to get some questions answered by having the procedure i.e what was stuck to what, where the growths were etc. So no matter what happens going forward at least I start from a more stable space.

Each of these things is major in its own right. Each one was a source of worry for me before the op and contributed to my overall disposition. The improvement equals success to me. I claim the small victories.

If we continue to look for the big earth shattering changes, most times we miss the small but significant ones.

Yes, I’m in pain today. It may continue for a few hours or a few days I have no idea. What’s good though is that I am in a better place to deal with it now. That’s success.

As the quote above says, this is a storm that I am in. I don’t know how I get through most times (actually I do………it’s all God) and I have no idea if it is over or when it will be over. However, the one thing I do know is that when it is over/ when it wanes before picking up again I can see my growth. I can see how I have developed and how I have become stronger. The person I was going in is not the same person coming out.

This to me is success!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Chronic Pain Labor Lessons: When you can no longer push.

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22 hours before I gave birth to my daughter I was sitting in my doctor’s office, it was just the weekly check-up. I was 39 weeks and feeling horrible. The doctor did an in office induction. He told me to go home and rest because I would not make it through the night, the baby would be born by morning.

I went home, spent most of the day in bed and as he said went into labor close to midnight. Off to the hospital I went.

As the contractions grew closer, the doctor arrived and we got ready for the delivery. let me backtrack a bit and say I was exhausted. It had been a rough day. My body was worn even before the labor began. I had an IV and oxygen and was just trying to have a living baby and stay alive myself.

In the room were the doctor, midwife, my husband and me. People were asking me questions and I could not answer:

Lesson 1: When in pain its difficult to think

This has been my experience over the past few weeks as my pain has continued. I have an increasing amount of brain fog. To the point where I am making a statement and midway I completely forget what I was saying. I forget people’s names; things that were so simple and almost second nature to me have become difficult in those moments.

Back when I was in labor, it was Ok. It was accepted that I was in too much pain to process what I was being asked. Now people just call me forgetful or question my brain function.

I wonder why?

As the labor progressed, I started to whine. really whine. I had come to the point where I thought no other person understood what I was feeling and I didn’t have much energy left.

Lesson 2: When you talk about your pain……….people think you are exaggerating.

I was telling everyone how I couldn’t take the pain any longer. The responses I got while in labor were meant to encourage but came across as being ignored. I was reminded that I had done it before and that my body knew what to do and not much  more to go etc.

I have the same experience now. Only thing nobody really bothers to encourage. Let me say here that I do have my small, faithful group of cheerleaders; they are exempt from the “nobody”.

Generally though, people think I am exaggerating when I speak about pain. I’ve gotten so many “it can’t be that bad” and “you’re making it seem worse than it is” comments that I actually stopped talking about it. I’ve gone silent…for the most part.

Although labor was painful, it was better because at least people believed the pain existed…….even if it was minimized in order to provide encouragement.

 

As I stated earlier, I had oxygen and an IV during labor and I was becoming exhausted. After the doctor checked and said I was ….cm dilated I told him that I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed help.

Lesson 3: There comes a point when we can no longer push through…we need to ask for help and keep asking until someone listens.

The doctor did two things at that point. He got me some pain meds and asked me to pull myself up into a sitting position using the bar over my head. the meds helped with the pain and sitting employed gravity to help the labor progress.

I came to the point this year where I could no longer push. See, I am accustomed to just pushing through the pain. Doing what I have to do regardless, just getting it done. I realized that all that I was accustomed to doing and using were proving ineffective. I needed another level of intervention.

 

Again, people understand and accept this with labor. In my case they just behave as though I am making the choice to stop doing what I am accustomed and using an illness as the excuse……….instead of just saying I don’t want to do it.

Labor is known to or known of by everyone. I guess that makes it easy to empathize and sympathize. My illnesses being unknown and misunderstood must automatically place me in the category of someone who is pretending or lying.

 

Shortly after the sitting and meds I was ready to push. One push and she came screaming into the world.

Final lesson: Regardless of the journey, bruises and bumps along the way….I can make it through.

By the time my daughter was born, I was spent, physically, emotionally and psychologically. I was hungry, sweaty, bumped and bruised but I made it.

I take comfort in that. I know that chronic illness is not like labor. Labor is an event. It passes and then is no more. I am not going to have these illnesses one moment and then a few hours later no longer have them.

However, there will be acute pain episodes and sometimes weeks or months where the pain flares beyond the norm that can be likened to labor.

From January to now I’ve been in labor. The contractions are almost back to back now and I know it will soon be time to push. Through all the challenges with brain fog, talking about pain and being ignored and having to ask for help I know I will make it.

I will still be ill. However, this period shall pass. I will have the scars and memories but I will be ok.

After that, whenever next my labor experience begins again…..I will remember the lessons I learned to get me from one point to another.

Unrelenting pain :(

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These past few weeks have been rough, extremely so. I cried more than I have cried for years. I cried from frustration, from depression, from “isolation” (I wasn’t isolated but felt so), I just cried.

As you know I was at home from work for a while because the pain was just too much for me to cope with. It was not only physical, it became emotional and psychological. That combination threatened to undo me. I felt as though I was just unraveling and was powerless to do anything about it.

Reality is that emotional turmoil and psychological stress lead to decreased levels of coping. In my mind I just hit rock bottom. Truly, hit it. I had many days here at home alone in bed to consider all that was taking place in my body and mind. It exhausted me to the point where I just slept for hours on end. I needed to sleep, so I did.

I wish I could say that the pain has subsided or eased up any……it hasn’t.

I went back to work on Monday, not because I am any better, rather I felt I needed to go. This week is the last week of school here and I wanted to terminate with my interns and close off the office for the holiday.

Although happy to see me, my office personnel were and are concerned about my pain levels. I have been “surviving” on the maximum dosage of pain meds throughout the day. Just today, I had to put my feet up and lean back in order to stay at work. When the pain increased it jumped from 6 to 8 and began to threaten 9.

I came home after work, ate a little, took some meds and went to bed. I stayed in bed for 4 hours before I was actually able to get out. I tried before and it didn’t work. The pain was just piercing my body. As usual it was mainly concentrated in the right ovary but extended across my lower back and down the right leg. On two occasions I attempted to get up from the bed but the pain just pushed me back down. Its unrelenting.

So, from January to now my spiral continues. Yes there are moments where I can do stuff; I was able to bake the children some cake for the children on two occasions. They were really happy about that. I still cook, although I do most of it sitting instead of standing like before. For the most part though, my bed and couch have become my best friends. I loved them before but we are almost inseparable now.

How do you answer the question when you forgot what normal feels like? You don’t. At least not in a way that makes any sense to those who ask it. I’ve also learned that normal doesn’t exist, not really. It is what I make it. Right now, normal is more hours in bed than out, that’s ok. Normal evolves as things change.

I continue to pray and trust that my normal will one day be free of pain……….and if that’s not an option……….then that the pain will be manageable. I refuse to let this pain define me………I cry….. but then I move on.