To explain my illness …or not to explain ;(

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Sometimes telling people about my illnesses can be a double edged sword.

On one hand I get tired of people commenting that I don’t look ill or that I should be able to do x y or z because I look just fine to them. Many times I have to tell people that I am not well and that is why I cannot do or help or work on something or go somewhere.

Honestly, most times I say I am tired or just not able, since I look just fine. There are people who may be suffering form an acute situation who actually “look ill” while mine is chronic and I don’t. Sometimes, I am compared to them and just about everybody else.

In this situation I figure the best thing to do may be to explain what’s going on. Thing is I am not always ready for the reaction.

I don’ like pity but that’s what I get more often than not. “I’m so sorry for you” or ” that’s so sad” or ” oh my, that just makes me want to cry”.

The flip side of it is people treating my like I’m dying ….or dead……. because they know I am ill. I wrote about it in I’m not dead yet…..sheesh! at that point I was frustrated because I was constantly overlooked for the simplest things.

Those who know I am ill and how the illness impacts me sometimes make comments like ” I know you won’t be able to handle it so I didn’t bother to ask” or ” You too sick to do that anyway” or even ” that isn’t for you, you gotta be able”. These types of comments cut me to the core.

Its as if my inability to do today equates to my inability to do ever again. Its the same thing that has frustrated me for a while now; people making decisions for me. They don’t even get my opinion on the matter and most times I can’t do anything about it.

See, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for whatever help is offered but at the same time I have a brain and an opinion on matters. I would like to be heard.

Its either feeling sorry for me and throwing a pity party or treating me like I am not capable of even the smallest decision/ action.

So, what do I do? What should I do? In many cases I do what most of us with chronic and especially “invisible illnesses” do; I say nothing and go about my business. I never ask for help because I don’t want to appear weak and I have mastered the straight/ normal face even when I am in the most excruciating pain.

I live a double life. I present one image but underneath the truth is very different, yet, I don’t see any other option. I can find the middle ground between being pitied and being deemed helpless but I think its difficult for those around me. Invariably those who I let see the real me gravitate to one position or the other. There are even those who shift from one to the other and back again.

Its taxing beyond words to live my life……………..so I know and can appreciate how challenging it would be for those who love me and have to work or interact with me on some level.

Yet, this is how I feel.

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On Independence

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Barbados recently celebrated 51 years of Independence. As with any other independence celebration there was some focus on history and the original independence day when it was declared that ties were broken and we were now free.

Free to make our own decisions, chart our own path, determine our own destiny.

Yet I am not so sure that the perception of independence is the reality. Looking at the country and all that we need to do to keep afloat I think independence has a different meaning.

As the celebrations were taking place all around me, I could feel my body waning. It’s amazing how those of us with chronic illness can just feel things happening. The slightest change and we know when a flare is approaching, when we need to slow down or stop all together. We just know.

I began to wonder about my life and how truly independent I am. after all I am an adult, the world says that I make my own decisions, chart my own course; after all God gave me free will. I can do what I want, when I want and how I want…right?

I guess on the level of theory that is all good. There may actually be the majority of people who believe this to be true and within the confines of of this world they live and operate as such.

What about me though? What do you do when the level of independence that every random person has is taken from you? What about being ill and your power of choice and decision is taken from you?

I can no longer decide to take the children out 2 days from now, or plan to go to the beach tomorrow or even just take a day to go shopping.

Every thing I do has to be done with illness foremost in my mind.

I was scheduled to participate in a church program two weeks ago and the day before I became ill to the point where I couldn’t walk. I was in crazy pain and had to call and inform the others that I may not be present.

I have been in the habit of always having a backup plan and making sure there is someone else who can do what I was scheduled to do when making a commitment. Its frustrating and depressing but its the wise thing to do.

Just yesterday I was lying in the doctor’s office on a morphine drip………..that was not my intention………….I planned to just pass by the office on the way to work and then jump into my day. The entire day went awry and my next 4 days have been decided for me. All my plans have been cancelled.

It just seems like every single aspect of my life is controlled by my illness. From my clothes, to my food, to my hobbies, to my plans, to ….just everything.

Last post I wrote about Counting the Cost of Illness , I didn’t look at the cost of my independence.

Sometimes, I feel as if I can’t do anything on my own anymore. I feel like people treat me that way as well. If I say I am doing or going X or Y, there’s always a series of questions or suggestions or offers to help. I’m conflicted because I know I need the help but there’s still the desire and need to prove that I can do it on my own. Its as if getting it done is some validation that the illness hasn’t taken it all from me.

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So what is independence to me? What does it mean to those of us with chronic illness? I think Independence is about being strong enough to make the best decision for myself, to take care of myself. Sometimes that decision; the decision to ask for help or to let it all go and not push to do……………..that is true independence.

I just have to move that from the level of knowledge to behaviour. I know it’s true …..I just have to start doing it.

Like everything else surrounding these illnesses…………………..it gets difficult.

 

Counting the Cost of Illness

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I’m not sure if its the time of year and that my birthday is approaching OR the fact that I’ve been ill over the past few weeks in one way or another OR the seemingly unrelated conversations I’ve had during those weeks OR just wanting to do certain things but not being able to………….just feeling a bit morose right now 😦

As happens, in the midst of my pain and misery all the possible horrible things about my life come to mind. You would think that I should be looking at the bright linings on the clouds or something; that never happens by the way. It seems that as soon as I get a bit down I just ruminate on everything else that will push me further.

Staying positive is hard work!

I guess the first aspect of me counting the cost is financial. Its one thing for me to think that I can’t afford an item/ trip/ experience because I simply can’t and another to know that things would be different- at least from my present viewpoint- if I weren’t ill.

Truth is the cost of living in Barbados is pretty high. I remember when we could easily feed our family of 5 for an entire month on $600. Only returning to purchase vegetables and fruit on a weekly basis. That’s laughable now; yes the children are older and eating more but food really shouldn’t be costing $1200 or more a month. Yet, it does.

This of course is compounded by my gluten intolerance and fructose malabsorption; which both require that I have specialty items that are more pricey than the average.

Outside the food though, I feel like being ill has just drained my resources and as soon as I start to see my way back to saving and working on debt, up something else comes. I started to add my bills for surgery alone over the past 6 years and stopped when I passed $50,000. Yes the health insurance paid some of it but surgery year after year will deplete savings and incur debt. That total does not include bloodwork, ultrasounds, x-rays, doctor’s visits and meds which are regularly scheduled parts of my routine. My general medicine on a monthly basis costs around $100. In actuality that’s $500 since I only pay 20% of the cost and the health insurance covers the 80%……for most things anyway. Still grateful for that…yes.

A family member was asking last week if I had a retirement savings plan …….my response was “right now I am trying to live, retirement is a ways off and I may never get there”. Truth is, its on my list of things to do. However, with my total health care costs, health insurance, life insurance, my other debt and trying to save for college for the children…………there’s nothing left at the moment for it. In that moment I just went……if only.

So that’s financial costs. I am forever broke…………..long and short of it all.

Outside that, the cost to my family is constantly on my mind. I went to pick up my son from club two Saturday nights ago and he asked as soon as he saw me if he could attend the “social”. I just stared at him.

All his friends were looking and waiting on my answer. Since, they were all going and I could only tell him that I had to go home. This he knew. He knew I had to get home to take my meds and that I was out longer than usual and would crash as soon as I got into the house. Yet, he asked.

My son knows that I am ill and I cannot be out at night because I am just too tired and weak and its not safe. He knows that I truly am not able and his father has to do so much more because of it. Yet, the 11 year old wanted to be able to enjoy a night with his friends. So, I had to be the one to say no again….and again.

His teacher offered to take him and bring him home after ……………I was grateful. However, on the way home his sister was very quiet in the car. I asked her what was wrong and she said she wanted to go to the social also. Well, she’s 9 and not in his club or group …………..and honestly is someone offers to help with one child I won’t ask them to do the same with the other. I looked at her and my heart hurt. Then she said ” mummy I’m not angry, I’m just sad that you are sick and I can’t go”. I told her “I’m sad too”.

That scenario has played out time and again in my home. Event after event that either I cannot afford to pay for so they can attend because I can’t risk spending out of budget and then need the funds or I can’t take them to because its at night or I am just not well enough.

Families of the chronically ill have a hard time…………..especially children. I think its teaching them many valuable lessons but not all lessons that they need to have at this stage in their lives.

That sounds quite profound ………………….doesn’t stop me from crying…………sometimes daily.

In terms of counting the cost of my illnesses, the last major thing I fear losing is my sanity.

I know illness and especially chronic illness is a major risk factor to mental illness and depression. Sometimes I do feel like I am losing it. I do feel like I cannot do it anymore………..its too difficult. Sometimes, I do feel like I am just fighting a losing battle.

Some days are hard.

Some days I cannot even articulate how difficult it is to just push through the day.

A friend told me yesterday that “love goes a long way”. I know this to be true.

I believe that its the prayers of my friends and loved ones that keep me going. I know that many people don’t believe as I do but I know that there is nothing earthly that is responsible for the fact that I am still here and still in my right mind. In my human strength alone I would not be here today. It can only be God.

So, today I am morose. reflective, down, weary, “depressed” and many other words. Thing is I’ve been here before. The one lesson I have learned through all this is “this too shall pass”.

I will have better days and worse days and good days and horrible days but I just have to hold on. Hold on to those I love…………..hold on to love. There are many of us all across the world fighting for ourselves and fighting for each other. One day it will make a difference.

Until then, I can record this all here……………………..so I can return and read it the next time I need to count the cost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processing Morphine

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Did I mention I had  morphine IV? I think so, I believe I mentioned it in my last post Stages of Chronic Illness.

This was almost 3 weeks ago now. I was set to return to work on Sept 4 and back to the doctor Sept 11.

Firstly work on Sept 4 was different to work on Sept 11. School staff return to work one week earlier than the students. So the students only joined us on Sept 11. My gauging pain/ progress really starts from Sept 11 (but that’s another post).

Anyway, at the doctor’s visit we discussed my using extended release morphine. We had this discussion before but I had always said no, I was not doing that.

You see in my mind morphine said I had reached a stage that I was not willing to accept as yet. It said that I was “really” ill. Yes I know and I have known I am ill for years now but here in Barbados morphine is related to being terminal or at the very least “forever ill”. When you reach the point of having to use morphine on a daily basis you know that there is no going back. You will never be “well” again.

So all this was going through my mind each time the discussion came up. I knew I would have to get the IV ever so often but taking the tablets at home meant something different.

My cognitive dissonance was high. I was in a battle in my mind over whether I should accept the prescription and try the drug or decide not to do it.

My other concern was becoming dependent on it. That was the most scary thought 😦 I did not want to even process that but I had to.

So there I was in the office, wondering if I was fooling myself by holding out hope that my situation could get better. Was I fooling myself? Am I fooling myself? Am I in denial? Does my refusal to just accept that my life will always be like this say that I do not accept that I am ill? Does the refusal say I am not being realistic? All those questions were going through my mind and on some days still go through my mind.

Chronic illness has a psychology all its own. As I wrote in the last post Stages of Chronic Illness, this process is anything but linear. That is why I go forward and backward; why I think I have made decisions and then go over them again.

As a Psychologist, I sometimes beat myself up because I do understand all this. I get it! I can help others with it! I just can’t seem to help myself 😦

So, I finally said “Ok I will try it” to the doctor and left with the prescription in my hands. Off to the pharmacy I went with trembling hands, an unsettled mind and dissonance enough for me and a few others combined.

Morphine is such a controlled substance here that it is not stocked by most pharmacies. I had previously been able to get the fast acting morphine solution from the pharmacy without issue but they did not stock the extended release tablets. They had to order the tablets for me and that would take about 24 hrs. That gave me some more time to ruminate; and ruminate I did. I spent the time going over all the information I had previously researched and just making myself more nervous about taking the meds. I was a hot mess, to say the least.

I brought the morphine tablets home and after much prayer, took the first one. I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a level of pain relief that I had forgotten was possible.

I have been taking them now for almost three weeks, daily. My prescription is not very high 90mg a day. I have dropped it to 60mg per day and I am still able to function at a higher level  than before.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have pain and issues, especially at work, but I will write about that next time. However, I am doing better in terms of managing the pain.

My dissonance remains, I am still not comfortable with it but I can see the benefits.

In my perfect scenario, where I could not eliminate the pain, I would not be taking morphine; but hey, life is far from perfect.

I have Pelvic Congestion Syndrome and Endometriosis. That’s my truth. I am not in denial, I am not fooling myself but I am learning to Test and Adjust.

For now this is the best I can do and it will have to be enough.

Chronic Illness….. Like Swimming? My dream revelation.

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I had the most interesting dream recently.

For years I have been sleeping and planning my next day, or up all night and planning the next day from painsomnia. When I dream though, I have always had the ability to talk to myself about the dream, stop the dream and start another….pretty different stuff from what people tell me they experience.

I guess I would make a good candidate for dream analysis 🙂

Anyhow, so I was dreaming that I was at the beach. I haven’t been to the beach in a few weeks, I live on an island after all; I mean people come here for the beaches! Maybe its just because its summer that I’m thinking beach.

As the dream progressed and I was in the water, I said to myself (this is said to myself. like in my thoughts about what was happening in the dream) Lyn, how long can you really swim before you are floundering and trying to thread water. Then it hit me…….this is just like dealing with illness.

Truth be told I’m not the best swimmer 😦 when I;m on I’m on but when I’m off its a mess.

Swimming

My preferred style is freestyle, I am relatively good at it, not to win a race or anything but I get it done well. When everything is aligned and my body is slicing through the water it is beautiful.

When I am feeling well and able to do what I want, when I want, that is beautiful too.

Just like when I’m swimming, this doesn’t last too long. Ironically, for both situations its the pain that cuts it short. In swimming, the abdominal engagement needed to be in good form, quickly becomes painful.  In handling illness the pain stops me in my tracks. Just like swimming I end up….

Floundering

In the water as my form goes, my strokes become short or not as streamlined. The kicks start to be uncoordinated and I really don’t go as far as I can. It is clear to all looking on that I am struggling or becoming tired.

In handling the illness, my struggle is mental before I even acknowledge that I am floundering physically. Its hard to concentrate, brain fog is intense and then the physical steps in. I am exhausted and can go from there to being in bed just because walking or moving is too painful.

Treading Water

I’m really not good at this part.

I see my husband and children treading water for over an hour sometimes….or it seems that way to me……I can manage a few minutes. I think its a combination of physical skill and mental energy.

By this point I am usually tired from what has happened before and I find no relaxation in treading although I believe I should and it is to serve as a time to regroup and rejuvenate.

With illness its the same. I believe I am frustrated by this time and feel that I should be doing better or handling the situation better. Although, I know its OK to rest. Its necessary to rest.

The pain colors the experience in both situations.

Floating

They say this is the fall back position when in the water and exhausted. Float on your back. Me, I say get out of the water……..that’s not always possible. I can’t get rid of the illness, gotta find a way to deal.

The beauty of floating is that the water supports your weight.. It reminds me that there is support, in places I know and in some that I haven’t thought of.

When in the water on my back, I look up and see the sky and clouds and all the beauty. It reminds me that there is a God who is there for me, holding me up when I can’t do it on my own .

 

So, yes I will actually go to the beach and do some swimming. Just like that is a process, dealing with my illnesses is a process as well. Some days I will be good and others not so good. Then I may be barely making it and keeping my head above water.

I know though, that through it all there is support. For this I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update….Helped one Condition….Hurt the other :(

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Life has been really interesting since my last post. I’ve been somewhat stressed to the point where I wasn’t letting anyone in. I felt as if I was losing grasp on everything and chose to take some time to regroup.

In the midst of this time I had the most unnerving experience. The pic above is my left foot. As you can see the veins are all popping. Truth be told this is minimal to what actually took place.

I could see all my veins right up my calves, up my legs and across my pelvis. When I saw this happening I knew that those inside my pelvis must be huge! That’s not all, I was in the most incredible pain I have had since having surgery.

Apparently, dealing with the Endometriosis has caused me some issues with the Pelvic Congestion Syndrome ;(

The adhesions which has everything in my pelvis stuck together and were causing me intense pain were also holding the veins in my pelvis (like bands) and constricting them/ restricting the amount of blood that could flow into them. Removing the adhesions has helped to reduce the sharp everyday pain that I was experiencing but has also freed the veins and they now exist without constriction.

Therefore, the veins can now have the maximum amount of blood pooled inside- thanks to the faulty valves…….

Doc says I have to return to the Daflon- meds for  venous conditions; in order to work on the veins all together and reduce the varicosities.  I most likely will have to wear prescription grade compression stockings everyday to work as well. Doc says the maternity ones that will come right up to just below my breasts 😦

So it truly is like a Chronic Illness See-Saw…. 1 Step Forward….2 Steps Back. I had an intervention to help in one area but because that area was the focus and not all two, that intervention has created an issue with the second area. We worked on the Endometriosis and now the Pelvic Congestion Syndrome is in full swing.

What now? More research- I’ve been doing quite a bit and will share in my next post; more treatment; more medication; more trial and error?

I guess this is what happens when we treat one when there are two to be considered.

Thankfully, my time of reflection has placed me in a pretty good frame of mind. I’m in a good space right now. Hopefully, it will last.

Truth is, it could be worse……….so much worse.

I remain thankful for each blessing amid this storm.

 

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.