Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Storage Unit Perspective

Poetry: And Yet Fibro Remains!

This shell of a body,
Which once was fit and strong
And let me soar, oddly
Keeps me trapped all day long:

Limbs are heavy and weak;
Bones cry out from the cold;
Joints and muscles e’er creak...
Making me feel so old!

Skin breaks out in rashes,
And it almost always hurts.
Energy e’er crashes
And returns in small spurts.

Memory is broken,
Many thoughts get mixed up.
Many fears unspoken
In a nightmare closeup.

Anxieties abound;
Doubts have dampened my soul;
Manic anger resounds
As I fight for control!

Head is stuck in a vise
And struggles with migraines.
Mind is filled with ‘advice’,
And yet fibro remains!

© 2013 Amanda R. Dollak

Monday, November 4, 2013

Perspective Is Everything

On a regular basis, I wear so many different hats:

  • woman
  • wife
  • stay-at-home mom
  • sister
  • daughter
  • aunt
  • friend
  • writer
  • poet
  • learning coach
  • animal lover
  • photographer
  • artist
  • believer
  • thinker
  • dreamer
  • helpless romantic
  • music lover
  • cook
  • maid
  • confidante
  • nerd
  • protector
  • book fanatic
  • chocoholic
  • couch potato
  • nature lover
  • gardener
  • bleeding heart
  • puzzle addict
  • fibro warrior

The list really goes on and on. But the titles I hate most are perfectionist and overachiever. The previous list is a long one, and my plate is usually overflowing with a towering heap of these roles and interests. However, no matter how much I accomplish, the perfectionist/overachiever side of me points out everything I did wrong and didn’t finish. It is relentless!

I am currently sick--again--so my house is messy and needs a good cleaning. My chronic illness, fibromyalgia, puts a damper on my career ambitions, making it impossible to work a traditional job outside my home right now. Oh, and I can’t forget that I don’t get to do many fun things with my kids anymore. Lists of my flaws, shortcomings, disappointments, and failures could fill my entire home many times over.

Nevertheless, none of that matters. What matters is how hard I try every day to be the best person I can be. My house may be messy right now, but even with a head cold that makes me dizzy, I’ve managed to put dents in the mess throughout my home. Fibromyalgia may be trying to ruin my career, but it helped give me the courage to strike out and reach for my writing dreams. Plus, it gives me a new way to help and reach people. Oh, and as for my time with the kiddos, they still know I love them. We have many wonderful memories to cherish, and we are still making more each day.

Life may get easier. It may not. But either way, if I focus on what I CAN do and do my best always, I know I’ll be able to look back one day without any regrets. I can only accomplish what is within my current limitations, and I need to forgive myself when I can’t do it all. There is always tomorrow for anything that is left over on my daily to-do list.

If you are struggling with this issues, as well, I encourage you to focus on your abilities only. Try to let everything else roll away. No matter what anyone else says, you are NOT lazy and you DO accomplish enough. A chronic illness is a full-time job, and everything else must fit around that (just as any other person with long work hours). Please, remember that your health should always come first!

© Amanda R. Dollak 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Health Is a Priority, Too!

After a week of taking my vitamins and supplements again, I'm feeling a lot more like my happy self.  No, I'm not pain free and super energetic.  I may never be.  But it is wonderful to be back to my functioning norm again!

My accidental self-imposed flare (because I kept forgetting my vitamins) has reminded me of how often we neglect our own health.  We rush through life trying to take care of our loved ones and to provide for our families.  We are so busy rushing from here to there and back again that we forget one important person: ourselves!

Now, I'm not saying it is time to get all selfish and think of only numero uno.  That wouldn't be a healthy way to live either.  However, it IS healthy, good, and advisable to think of our wellbeing, too, in the midst of daily life.  In the end, what it comes down to is if we aren't going to take care of ourselves, how will we take care of our others and provide for them?

I know it is a hard thing to grasp.  There is so much to accomplish in a single day already, so how can we make some time for ourselves?  Or we have convinced ourselves that it is okay to sacrifice now because we can rest later, after things quiet down.  Or we may tell ourselves that it's selfish to think of ourselves when other people need us.

Regardless of what excuses we conjure up, our health and wellbeing are and should be important to us. Our bodies are quite fragile.  They can only handle so much abuse and neglect before they start to break down.  I learned this difficult lesson a few years ago.

I am living with severe fibromyalgia constantly because (I believe) I disregarded the warnings my body was blaring and pushed myself too far for too long.  I had fibro symptoms most of my life, but never this severe or constant.  If I overextended myself here or got a little too physical there, I felt it.  But within weeks, the worst was behind me again.  I can pinpoint the onset of this constant fibro flare to August 2008, right after I graduated college.  And up until last year, my symptoms were steadily getting worse.

Since I began taking better care of myself (although I still have much to learn, obviously), I have constant pain and fatigue, but the severe levels come and go.  No longer am I bedridden.  No longer am I stuck in my house all the time because of pain and overwhelming anxiety attacks.  Those days are gone, and I plan to NEVER allow them to come back!

The biggest turning point in my life with fibromyalgia was the day I gave myself permission to think of myself and to take time out just for me every day.  I don’t always follow through on that permission. Sometimes I forget.  Other times I still feel guilty.  And once in a while, I get so frustrated with my body that I give up on myself for a spell.  However, each and every time, I come back fighting harder for the things that help me be healthier and happier with fibro.  And that, my friends, is all that matters in our daily battle with chronic illness.

© Amanda R. Dollak 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Trick or Treat!

May your Halloween have lots of treats & few fibro tricks!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Giant Gingerbread Cookies?

My diet is making me see yummy desserts everywhere, so could you help me out?  What do these haybales remind you of?

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Act Like a Moron Sometimes

I am always one who tries to focus on the positive and what is healthy.  But, sometimes, we all occasionally need to hear the bitter truth, and I am no exception  That is why I am going to admit today I sometimes act like a total moron.  Yep, I said it.  I own up to the sad truth, so I can learn from it and move on.

Most of the time, I am an intelligent and sensible woman.  I have book smarts, common sense, and plenty of life experience for someone my age.  But to be completely honest, I do dumb things sometimes...things that leave me shaking my head in total disbelief.

My latest walk with stupidity is health related.  I have had fibromyalgia for years, and it has been severe for the past 5 years.  Since traditional medicine didn't work out, I've experimented with many lifestyle changes.  One of the things I've found which helps improve my symptoms and my quality of life is supplements.  I take vitamins B, C, D, and E daily.  Each morning, I also take magnesium and calcium supplements and probiotics for my IBS symptoms and urinary health.  That equals 9 pills to take every single morning.  Yes, it is a hassle to choke all those pills down daily.  I'd much rather be doing a thousand other things
However, without them, I'm back to being stuck in bed and miserable.  So, why do I keep forgetting them?  Why do I not make my supplements a priority?  I went a week without taking them--again--and I feel awful--again!  I knew this would happen.  Yet, I kept putting my supplements off again and again.  Does this make any sense to you? It doesn't to me, so I can only conclude that I can be a total moron at times!

So, once again, I'm making a pact with myself to make time every morning to take my supplements, no matter how disgusting they are or how busy life gets.  My body isn't going to take care of itself.  No, it is MY responsibility.  My body is precious and irreplaceable, so I promise to take care of myself today and always.  All of the hard work and discomfort will be with it in the end because letting my health go will only lead to worse and much, much more unpleasant consequences.  I'll thank myself later!

Have you ever forgotten your supplements or medications, as well?  If so, do you have any special  techniques that help you remember?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fitness Does Not Have to Be Futile with Fibromyalgia

October 27th will mark my 2-month anniversary of scheduling morning walks at least every week day. In the process, I gained 6 pounds and then went back to my starting weight. I’ve questioned my sanity. I’ve wondered if it is all worth it. I’ve struggled with my self-doubts and wrestled with my fibromyalgia. I celebrated my triumphant first run in at least 5 years. And I continue to be frustrated that the scale simply won’t budge!

Still, I’m NOT giving up! I refuse to let my fibro and extra pounds defeat me. I know in my heart I’m making progress and that is ALL that matters. I am experiencing spurts of energy like I haven’t known in ages. Yeah, I still get exhausted from my walks, but they don’t kill me anymore. Plus, I can now do a hilly 25-minute mile. Nothing fancy or noteworthy for the normal person. However, for this fibro warrior, who couldn’t even make it around the block the majority of the time when I first started, that is reason to celebrate, indeed!

Oh, and take a nice long look at the photo accompanying this post. At the beginning of my fitness challenge, I filled every inch of those jeans. The scale may insist that nothing is happening, but clothing doesn’t lie. My eyes and measurements don’t lie either. My stomach is slowly shrinking. My thighs and hips are tightening. My rear end is lifting. My poor bust is shrinking (but I know eventually it’ll all even out again!). So, who cares if I weigh the same yet? Not me!

I know I am building a solid foundation for future health and weight loss. I’m bringing back my muscles. I’m recreating the first real determination and consistency with fitness since fibromyalgia hijacked my life. And little by little, I’m reminding myself I still have it in me to be fit and healthy even with chronic illness in the mix.

What are you doing this month to reclaim your fitness and health?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Am More Than Just a Number!

Dear 178,

I would sure appreciate it if you said “goodbye” now!  I’ve been stuck with you glaring back at me for over a month now on my scale.  You have scoffed at my improved eating habits.  You have turned your nose to my morning walks on weekdays. You have tried to convince me that all my hard work is in vain.

Well, 178, I have a couple things to tell you before we part company.  (1) You are just a number, pal.  You are a poor excuse for measuring my progress towards a new, healthier me.  The inches that are melting away from me don’t lie.  The increased room in my clothing doesn’t lie.  And my newfound confidence and eagerness don’t lie either.  But you do, and I’m through putting so much importance on you!

(2) You are destined to’s just a matter of time.  Poor 178, you don’t realize how soon you are going to become just a memory.  You can’t stick around forever, not with my determination to bring back the body, which I loved and which was so full of energy and health.  You fate is sealed.  Before long, I’ll be shedding you for a leaner, meaner number, and I’ll never once look back.

But don’t take it too personally.  Even the new numbers aren’t going to mean much to me.  My health, my happiness, my existence--they all could never be summed up with a number on a scale.  No matter how big or small that number may be, it will NEVER be me.  And that realization has set me free from your vile control.

I am now free to enjoy life, no matter my weight.  I am free to love myself, regardless of my size.  I am free to embrace being me with gusto.  I am free to throw out the dreaded bathroom scale--and I am seriously considering it this VERY second.

Goodbye, 178.  I won’t miss you...EVER!  You may cling on for dear life a little while longer, but I joined a weight loss challenge this week.  And do you realize what that means?  Yes, I now have even more motivation to leave you in my dust.  So long, 178, and don’t ever bother trying to come back to visit.  You’ll never be able to reach me where I’m going!

Forever NOT Yours,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Got Lost Today

Snapshot from my walk
I got lost today. For a month now, I’ve been taking a morning walk every weekday. I head out each morning from my door and pick one of two paths: a hilly route around my block or a flatter but longer route around the dead-end street above my home. I chose the latter today, which makes this my sixth walk on this route.

It’s a pretty simple route: (1) walk from my house to the intersection. (2) Follow the curving street until it reaches the dead end. (3) Then turn around and retrace my steps back to my house. It’s so simple that I’m sure my dog could walk it on her own.

But anyone with fibromyalgia soon realizes that nothing is ever easy with this debilitating condition. As usual, my 7-year-old son (who I cyber school at home) and I eagerly set off on our morning walk with our family pooch in tow. I noticed immediately that the morning air is getting crisper and the beautiful fall leaves are beginning to adorn the world in all their glory. Fall is my favorite time of the year, so soaking up the many sights, sounds, and smells of autumn is exhilarating. And I was filled with such contentment and happiness this morning…

...until my fibro fog decided to strike with a vengeance! One second, I was admiring the splendor of fall and taking a few snapshots with my cellphone. The next I found myself dizzy, disoriented, and with no idea where I was. For a few split seconds, my surroundings looked completely foreign, and I felt like I was lost!

Believe me, my first reaction was to panic and freak out. My heart started racing. My anxiety suddenly reared its ugly head. I began sweating profusely. And my entire body started trembling.

Catching a glimpse of my son, though, in my confused state, I reminded myself that I really needed to take a deep breath and try to come down. I know from experience the more relaxed I can make myself, the quicker the brain malfunction passes. Plus, I didn’t want to scare my little buddy.

As such, I closed my eyes for a few seconds. I took a few slow and deep breaths. And I pushed all the panic away. As soon as I opened my eyes, everything was back to normal as suddenly as my brain had gone blank. I recognized every house and every tree. I could visualize the way home even without looking behind me. With that realization, I sighed a HUGE sigh of relief. Another one of those horrifying (but far and in between moments--thankfully!) had passed.

My son and I finished our walk with our sweet doggy and continued on with our day like any other. Still, part of me couldn’t help but harbor the notion--just for a fleeting moment--what if one of these colossal brain farts (as my husband calls them) settles in and never fades away? What if I’m stuck in a state of intense confusion for the rest of my life? It’s a frightening thought, indeed!

Yet, I refuse to allow that thought to stay and fester. Ultimately, life is brimming full of what-if’s for everyone. Life is forever opening up new possibilities every second: both good and bad. However, only a handful of them ever happen, so it would be pointless and insane to obsess over the bad things that may happen (or probably will never happen) someday. If we focus too much on the negative possibilities, we’ll miss all the wonderful things that DO happen. Instead of enjoying the here and now, we will be squandering the present by worrying over what possibly won’t ever happen our entire lives. That’s certainly no way to live!

Consequently, my weekday morning walks WILL continue like nothing ever happened. Hey, I may get lost for brief moments from time to time with my fibro-dysfunctioning brain. It’s bound to happen since it’s happened before. But I refuse to allow a distant possibility to sideline me from living my life as fully as I can. Fibromyalgia steals plenty of my precious seconds. I’m not about to freely hand over any more of my life!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Brain Crashing in 10...9...8...

My brain will be crashing in 10...9...8...better make a mad dash under the covers! Even though I was having a great time tonight writing blog posts and working on a compilation of short stories, I’m on my way out, folks. My fibromyalgia was acting up with severe itchiness over my entire body--like it likes to do every now and then. I was forced to take two pills of Benadryl, and that stuff always throws me for a loop!

I’m seeing every color of the rainbow. My eyes are trying to wander off in different directions. I can’t even type the right keys because I can’t concentrate. Oh, and don’t get me started about how my head is buzzing like I drank WAY too much tequila.

I’m trying to push through it a tad bit longer so I can wrote a little old post stating that I’m thinking of and praying for all my fibro warriors tonight. My road is horrible right now. My symptoms are on a major flare up because I’ve already overworked myself and it barely is Thursday.

My friends, may the rest of your week be fruitful but still allow you rest. May your happiness be plenty and your symptoms few. May your body act as strong as I know you are in spirit. And may life surround you with blessings from above. Take care, everyone, and keep fighting the good fight!

Friday, September 20, 2013

I Ran Today!

Ok, break out the banners and balloons. Unleash the confetti and white doves. And cue the band for some awesome celebratory tunes...and don’t forget to clap your hands off, people. I ran today! No, it wasn’t a dream. I was wide awake, running on the two excruciatingly sensitive balls of nerves that fibromyalgia has made out of my once fit and active legs!

I am tempted to overdose this post with excessive exclamation points because on my darkest days, I assumed that my running days were over. Since some days I can’t even walk, a part of me convinced myself that I would never run again...except for in my dreams. But after 25 days of walking at least a half of a mile every weekday, I finally ran again!

It WAS for only about 4 minutes. I DID have to stop twice for a few seconds. It WAS on a slightly downhill part of my walk and gravity helped. And I DID feel like I was going to vomit and faint at the same time. However, I didn’t vomit OR faint, and I successfully hobbled back home beaming!

I doubt I’ll be winning any races anytime soon since my 11-pound dog and my 7-year-old son were beating me down the hill. But I ran! Yes, I ran for the first time in about 5 years!!! Can you feel my excitement and accomplishment I’m feeling here yet?

When chronic illness takes over our lives--especially when chronic pain is involved--it’s so hard trying to find a balance that works. Our minds want to live like we used to and mourn the days gone by. The illness strives to make us crash and burn, trying to convince us life is over. Consequently, our bodies are stuck in a kind of tug-o-war, violently turn back and forth between our mind and our chronic illness. If we focus too much on life before our illness, we will only run ourselves into the ground trying to be something that we aren’t anymore. On the other hand, if we focus too much on our health problems, we will be left wondering why life is still worth living.

Ultimately, it comes down to determination, moderation, and baby steps. Instead of focusing on what we used to do or what we no longer can do, we need to focus on what we CAN do right this very moment and make little goals to challenge us a bit further at a slow and steady pace. When I decided that I was going to add a little walking each weekday morning into my schedule I never imagined that I would be able to run today. Instead, my goal was to make it around the block in my neighborhood each weekday. I wasn’t concerned with how fast I was going or how many breaks it took me to make it around the block. I simply wanted to make it around the block Monday through Friday to increase my physical activity and to build up the strength and stamina in my legs. And I did that...and so much more!

If you are out there struggling in your life (like I and so many chronic illness sufferers are every day), please don’t give up. Our roads are not the same, but I understand so well that the journey with chronic illness is a hard one. Still, we canNOT allow our health problems to win! Even if our daily successes are tiny (i.e., getting out of bed, making dinner, washing laundry), they are still victories in our war against chronic illness and they should be celebrated! I know it’s so easy to only see our failures and inabilities. I do it so often with myself. But join me in taking a moment each day to reflect on the victories and to focus on the blessings in our lives. Then we can go to bed each night knowing that we fought the good fight, gave it our all, and are determined to wake up and do it all over matter what. Stay strong and determined, my friends! I am always praying for you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A New Week: I Am 6 Pounds Lighter!

Our beach vacation reminded me that I miss walking!
I’m not even going to pretend to understand it, but I weighed myself for the new week and I lost those 6 lbs. that I gained during the first 2 weeks of my weekday walk challenge. That puts me down 2 lbs. from my starting weight. Yay!

Maybe it was because my body was struggling to adjust. Perhaps being on more of a liquid diet this week from dealing with a cold helped. Or maybe my scale was just messing with my head. Regardless of the reasoning behind this gain and now loss, I’m proud of myself. Expect for this past Friday (because it was chilly and rainy and I didn’t want to make my cold worse), I have been dedicated to my goal of walking a half of a mile every weekday morning. Even when my legs got all incredibly sore and cramped up, I pushed through it.

In the end, all the added pain and discomfort is well worth it! If losing weight and getting more fit has a chance of lessening my fibromyalgia symptoms, I am going to be there every morning that I can. This is MY body. It isn’t under fibro domain and never will be. Here is to taking back our bodies and our lives from chronic illness, one baby step at a time!

What are you doing to help ease or reverse some of your chronic illness symptoms? How well are you doing with sticking with it and pushing through the hard days?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sudoku Puzzles: A Distraction and a Reminder for This Fibro Sufferer

Photo Credit: Public Domain
Since I can remember, I’ve always been a puzzle lover. Jigsaw puzzles, brain teasers, word searches, and crossword puzzles have gotten me through many sick and rainy days. They’ve also helped me to relax and combat insomnia on more occasions than I could count. And now, as an adult, I’ve grown to love and appreciate the unique challenge and fun of Sudoku puzzles. After completing thousands of Sudoku puzzles in last 10 years, they have easily become my favorite type of puzzle.

However, I’ve come to realize that Sudoku puzzles are a wonderful way to gauge just how much my fibromyalgia is actually affecting me, particularly the brain fog part. On a normal day for me in life with fibromyalgia, I can complete a medium-level Sudoku puzzle with a little careful thought. On my better days, the numbers of these medium-level puzzles come easier. On a great day or at least a moment of clarity, I actually have a good chance to finish a hard-level Sudoku puzzle or two. But on my difficult days, I’m lucky if I can make heads or tails of a beginner's Sudoku puzzle.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I’ve been sick with a nasty cold, and I slept about 12 hours the night before into yesterday morning. By the time bedtime rolled around, I was tired but my body wasn’t ready to sleep. So, I logged onto Facebook and decided to play a little Sudoku. I was so in the zone and so clear of mind (even with a head cold and it being after 1 am!) that I actually finished a difficult Sudoku puzzle and scored the highest points in my entire history of playing that Facebook app.

But not even 12 hours later, I tried to play Sudoku again on Facebook, and now I can’t even finish an easy Sudoku puzzle. I slept for nearly 8 hours. I awoke feeling fairly refreshed (well, at least for a fibro sufferer). But the clarity is gone again. I’m back to struggling to think through the brain fog that normally lurks in my head. Gone is the feeling that it all makes perfect sense. Gone is the sensation that I’m finally myself again. Gone is the almost effortless thought process that so many people take for granted every day.

If you are a fibromyalgia warrior like me suffering daily from brain fog, know that you aren’t alone. If you are a friend or a loved one of someone with fibromyalgia, this is especially for you. The fibromyalgia sufferers in your life are not faking it or being negligent or lazy. Their memory and cognitive problems are real and overwhelming. During one of their bad days, they are going to need your support more than ever. Just imagine how you would feel if you temporarily forgot names or phones numbers you’ve known for years. Imagine how difficult it would be for you to suddenly be unable to properly express yourself to others because you can’t find the right words at the moment. Imagine how frightening it would be if you forgot where you were or how to get back home for a while.

The worst of these scenarios are usually short lived and only happen occasionally, but just take a moment to imagine how unnerving and awful such an episode would be. And try to fathom how difficult and frightening it is to know it will probably happen again, but you have no idea when or how it will affect you next time. You can’t prepare. You can’t prevent it. The possibility is always lurking around every corner. That, my friends, is what it is like living with fibro fog. Please keep that in mind the next time the fibro warrior in your life forgets something important or does something that seems completely ridiculous. Living with fibromyalgia is a lot harder than most healthy people assume.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Weight Loss: Sometimes a Gain Is a Gain

This morning I entered my new weight on my MyFitnessPal profile.  I have been putting it off this week because when I stepped on the scale Tuesday, not only did I gain back the 2 lbs. I have lost so far, but I also gained 4 more lbs. since my renewed fitness starting point.  This was a blow to me because for almost 2 weeks now, I have been walking a half of a mile every weekday with my son and our dog, Honey Bear.

I have cut my time from an hour to as little as 20 minutes for this distance.  Walking doesn't hurt me nearly as much as it did at the beginning (at least, usually).  I can swear I see a difference in my thighs and hips already.  And my jeans are definitely looser in the front.  So, to see the number go up so far in so little time was shocking to say the least!

However, I have decided that sometimes a gain IS a gain with weight loss.  (1) I have proven to myself that when I put my mind to something, fibromyalgia can't stop me.  There were some hard days...and I know there are going to be plenty more.  Sometimes, I creep back a lot closer to needing an entire hour to walk a half of a mile.  Sometimes, I'm tempted to give up.  But I've decided that weight loss is an important step towards reclaiming my life.  As long as I remember this, fibro may slow me down, but I CAN do this!

(2) My mobility has improved already since I started walking regularly again.  Yes, I still get terrible leg pain and muscle spasms.  No, I won't be running or skipping any time soon.  Still, my balance and coordination are a little better, and I seem to be having less issues with my lower body.  It would appear my legs and feet don't get painful and achy as quickly now.

(3) I may have gained 6 almost 2 weeks, but I'm definitely seeing some change in my thighs and hips.  I won't even pretend to understand what is going on with my body right now, but if I must gain a few pounds to start seeing some slimming, I'm all for it!  Who am I to argue with progress, even if it is disguised as a defeat?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Live in Constant Fear of Losing My Mind

I’m going to confess something to you today. I live in constant fear of losing my mind. No, I don’t question my sanity. Well, at least the vast majority of the time. I’m not concerned that I’ll snap and go postal one of these days. Oh, and I’m in no danger of losing touch with reality and trying to live a fantasy. I’m much too down to earth for that.

No, there is a constant fear hiding in the back of my mind that fibromyalgia is going to take over completely and my memory will be shot. Even now, my short-term memory is holding on by a thread. I forget to lock doors at night. I forget whether or not I already took my pills. I forget appointments. I forget phone numbers. I forget that I already told people the latest news. I forget recipes that I’ve known by heart for years. I forget usernames and passwords. I forget where I put things. I even forget momentarily where I am.

The list goes on and on in life with fibro fog. Sometimes, my memory lapses only last seconds. Sometimes memories come flooding back with a certain thought, sound, or action. Sometimes, though, the info that I’m searching for is lost forever. It can be an overwhelming and scary life to lead whenever your second biggest personal fear is losing your mind!

My latest mishap that occurred because of a memory lapse happened this morning. My fiance woke me up at 4:30 to tell me that all our cats were outside because they escaped through an opened window. Of course, as soon as he mentioned that open window, I remembered immediately that I was to blame. I had only planned on keeping the two screenless windows in the house open for a short time while I was in the room. It was hot in the house and I was overheated and miserable. A couple cracked windows was enough to keep me from melting into a puddle a goo.

I honestly had every intention of closing those windows. I love my furbabies, and I worry all the time about them getting out and eventually getting hurt. Outside is a scary place for a frightened cat that can’t find a way back in the house or that has no clue how to survive. Dangers lurk everywhere. I would never intentionally put my kitties at risk.

That is why my stomach is sick still with the thought that I put them in danger. No, it wasn’t intentional, but accidents do happen and then I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself. I’m thanking God still that all my cats are back in the house safe and dry. Yet, I’m also kicking myself and worrying that something like this will happen again.

We are planning to get new screens for these two windows as soon as possible, but what are the chances that I do something else that inadvertently causes harm? The chances are pretty good with my memory’s track record. And that thought scares me!

I use Google calendar to send me reminders to my cell concerning every important thing I need to remember. That way if I forget I will still get it all finished. Well, it looks like I’ll be adding a lot more daily reminders, including checking all windows and doors. It is time consuming, but almost anything is worth it to win this war for my mind!

Friday, August 23, 2013

If Blogs Were Houseplants...

If blogs were houseplants, I would be in serious trouble!  They would surely be dead by now.  I have been neglecting my blogs lately.  They are shriveling and drying up.  They are crying out desperately for some love and attention.  And I really don’t blame them…

When I started all three of my blogs I didn’t really have a plan.  It was more of an impulse.  I had some ideas.  I live to write.  I wanted some place where I could write whatever inspired me.  And it wouldn’t hurt for me to have some extra writing practice either.  So, I jumped in headfirst, eager to test the waters.

At first, my enthusiasm carried me along.  Sometimes I would go a few days without posting, but I eagerly came running back  I never run out of ideas to write about, so I was convinced that at least three posts per blog per week would be a breeze.

Boy, was I wrong!  I never planned on my son having difficulties in school and needing much more of my attention for the 2012-2013 school year.  I had underestimated how greatly my fibromyalgia affects my concentration and my ability to sit at a desk.  I hadn’t planned on my mom getting married or the week-long vacation that followed.  Oh, and I never realized how insane it can be to plan your own wedding in only three months.

I know, excuses, excuses.  Blogs are a commitment and when we start them we make a promise our readers to keep them up and running.  Still, knowing now where I went wrong from the beginning, I can now make a new beginning and start over fresh.  From now on, I’m going to put regular posts into my schedule, and even if it is only once a week per blog until I get my true blogging legs, at least I can revel in the consistency.

Thank you for understanding and supporting my journey into blogging.  I hope you continue to check back in the coming weeks to see what new posts I have in store.  You never know what new treasures you might find amongst all this blogging dust!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Which Heals Faster: My Body or My Pride?

Accidents happen.  There’s no way to prevent all of them.  We are imperfect beings living in a chaotic universe.  So, running into the occasional mishap is simply part of life.  Still, sometimes something happens which leaves us shaking our head and red faced from the shocking stupidity that can erupt when imperfect people collide head on with an imperfect world.

Tonight I had one of those moments.  After a long day of cleaning and organizing my house, I was ready to relax and then go to bed early.  With the new school year fast approaching, I’ve been aiming to slowly shift my schedule--gradually going to bed earlier so I can be ready for much earlier mornings.  To help me unwind, I hopped in the hot tub and soaked for a while.  By the time 10:00 pm rolled around, I was de-stressed and more than ready to sleep.

However, before I drifted off to dreamland, I wanted to be nice and pack my fiance a lunch to take to work in the morning.  He works so incredibly hard for our family, so he deserves a healthy lunch waiting for him when he wakes up. Well, I busily went to work in the kitchen and gathered everything I needed to pack his lunch.

Within seconds, I had everything I needed to pack my fiance’s lunch...except a container to pack his sandwich. We store these containers on the top shelf of the corner cabinet--well out of this fun-sized individual’s reach. Too much in a hurry to get done and get to bed, I skipped leaving the room to get the step stool. Instead, I slid over one of the chairs from the kitchen table and climbed up to grab a container.

As soon as the container was in hand, the chair started to lurch.  Before I could even scream, one the legs of the chair bent and I went flying head over heels!  My hip slammed into the metal part of the chair, my entire weight surging behind it.  I continued to roll forward, and before I knew it, I flipped head first over my shoulder and landed on my knee and elbow.

Believe you me, that fall knocked the wind out of me and I literally felt like I was dying!  I hit a pressure point in my hip as I crashed into the back of the chair.  That alone would have done me in.  But oh, no.  I HAD to collide with the floor at such a velocity that it forced every last bit of air out of my lungs.

I stayed there laying in a tangled heap on the kitchen floor for what seemed like an eternity.  Saucer-sized cat eyes stared back at me in utter disbelief and fear.  Then one of my cats decided to be brave and walked across my back for a closer look.  She then plopped down and lied next to me with her little furry behind stuffed in my face.

All I could think was this is it.  This is the end, and the last thing I’ll see in this life is fuzzy feline butt! Miraculously, though, I gasped and my breath rushed back into my chest.  Of course, this little ‘near-death experience’ probably only lasted mere seconds.  But to me, it felt like I really HAD been knocking on deaths door.  I was so relieved to be alive...and able to move the hairy cat rear away from my face!

However, as I tried to stand up, the reality of my accident started to sink in.  I could feel the swelling in my hip, elbow, and knee immediately.  As I struggled against the pain to right myself, I felt blood dripping down my leg. And finally, as my children came rushing into the room to see what all the ruckus was about, the true pain of my mishap sank in--my pride was definitely more than a little bruised!

As my children asked me a zillion questions (including why my pajama shorts had partially fallen down), I began to wonder to myself which hurts worse: my body or my ego?  Suffice it to say, I am still awake 5 hours later nursing my very sore hip, my banged up knee and elbow, and my wounded dignity.

No, this whole incident wasn’t my fault.  Apparently, the chair had a faulty weld on one of the legs.  It was a hidden accident just waiting to happen and I was the “lucky” one to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Still, I can’t help but feel embarrassed and a bit like a clutz.  The fact is I’m a magnet for freak accidents, and this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself the hapless and blushing victim of circumstance.  I know it won’t be the last either.

Over the years, I’ve realized that my body is pretty adept at bouncing back from accidents, and I think that within a matter of days, I should be back to my old self.  But what about my pride?  Well, this one was a doozy and only time will tell if I can live down this mishap!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Things You Should NOT Say to Someone With a Chronic Illness

Normally, I like to talk directly to you, my fellow fibro and chronic illness warriors. YOU are the only people who matter to me. I am here to share in your struggle. I am here to try to help. And I am here to listen and understand. That is the main purpose for writing about my struggle with fibromyalgia.

Today, however, I want to make a little detour from that main purpose and address all those around us: friends, family, co-workers, enemies, critics, and everyone in between. Today, I felt the need to address the top 10 things you should NEVER say to someone suffering from a chronic illness.

10.) “Oh, but this pill will help...” Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that we chronic illness sufferers DO want to get better. We DO appreciate your advice. We DO love that you are concerned and are trying to help. But please, take a moment and listen. Some of us (particularly those with fibromyalgia) have tried everything under the sun, and we are still struggling. Many chronic illnesses are complex and tend to vary person to person. There is often no cure and no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Please believe us when we say that a little pill is NOT the answer.

9.) “But you finished all that stuff yesterday...” This is definitely one of my pet peeves! Just because we were able to be productive yesterday, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have a bad day today. Oh, and no, we aren’t just making excuses so we can avoid you and slack on our responsibilities. Actually, our symptoms come and go. Some days are better and some days are rotten. At times, we can catch a glimpse of the old life we used to have. And other times, we are reminded just how fragile and limited our medical conditions can make us. It’s just how life with a chronic illness plays out.

8.) “You just need to get out more...” Why is it as soon as we get discouraged or have a bad day that people assume that we are simply depressed or in a rut? Our symptoms are real. They are NOT in our heads. Having a flare day is NOT a sign of weakness or of a poor outlook on life. And no, our problems cannot be solved simply by getting a social life. Would you try to treat the flu or the chickenpox with a girls’ night out? I don’t think so!

7.) “Oh, I felt like that once; it wasn’t so bad...” Wait? You didn’t just go there! Attempts at sympathy and understanding are very much welcomed. But since you haven’t walked a mile in our shoes, check your judgement at the door, please. There is NO way you are going to win any bonus points by trying to trivialize our symptoms. We know what we feel. It is very real and very present for us. For everyone’s sake, please keep your comparisons to yourself...or even better, don’t make them at all!

6.) “But I thought you’ve seen a bunch of doctors...” Yes, we have visited more doctors than we care to remember. We have been poked, prodded, and violated in ways that would make you cringe. We have spent thousands--even millions--of dollars and countless hours trying to get to the bottom of our medical conditions. And we will continue throwing endless time, energy, and cash away in our pursuit for health. Nevertheless, we aren’t cured and some of us aren’t really even better than when we started out. Doctors aren’t magicians or miracle workers. There are some things even they can’t fix.

5.) “You’re still sick? I’ll keep praying...” Now don’t get me wrong. Prayer is a wonderful thing, and we always appreciate it. God is up there listening and He has been known to create miracles from time to time. However, man can’t live on prayer alone. Just like you we have other needs. With your next prayer, could you throw in a prepared meal on a flare day? Or maybe an offer to pitch in around the house? Or perhaps a little companionship during the periods we are stuck at home. Thank you for petitioning the Lord for what He might do to help, but don’t forget the little things you could do to help, as well. It’s the little things that mean the most!

4.) “Maybe if you just tried a little harder...” Oh, this one irks me to no end! We chronic illness sufferers fight every day for so many things people normally take for granted. We fight to keep our food down. We fight to walk. We fight to take care of ourselves. We fight to do the simplest of tasks. Having a chronic illness is downright hard work, but we keep at it day after day. We are relentless, merciless overachievers, and it bothers us immensely when we can’t measure up. So, what makes you think we could push ourselves anymore than we already do? It simply isn’t humanly possible.

3.) “Perhaps you only need a little more faith...” God IS a miracle worker. He DOES heal the faithful and CAN move mountains for those who truly believe. But isn’t it a little arrogant to believe that you know what God is or isn’t doing in someone else’s life or what He is thinking? The truth is the Lord works in mysterious ways. He often does the exact opposite of what mankind believes should happen. And by the way, I think I remember hearing something about only needing faith the size of a mustard seed.

2.) “But you don’t look sick to me...” This statement here is a verbal slap in the face! Please, don’t ever say this to anyone with medical problems. Since when is there a visual requirement for being sick? There are a lot of illnesses and conditions out there that are quiet and devious. They silently wreck people’s lives with little to no external evidence. You wouldn’t tell someone that they aren’t suffering from heartburn or a headache, so please don’t take it upon yourself to judge whether or not we are suffering from a chronic illness.

1.) “But don’t you want to do more with your life...?” No, chronic illness is NOT a poor career move. It is NOT a poor lifestyle choice. We didn’t wake up one day and say, “Oh, I think I’ll develop a life-altering condition today.” We still have our hopes and dreams. We still have our desire for and vision of a better, more prosperous tomorrow. We struggle with our worth, our usefulness, and our purpose. Exactly like you, we want--we NEED--to feel like we are living a productive and purposeful life. If it were up to us, we’d kick chronic illness to the curb in a New York second and move on to greener pastures. But that’s the thing. It is NOT up to us. We are stuck in an unfair situation, and we are forced to make the best of it. Yes, that is the life we have been given, and we choose every day to live it as best as we can. How could you expect anything more?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Woohoo, I Lost 2 Pounds This Week!

It appears my hard work and dedication is paying off.  I haven't been perfectly consistent with the recording part, but I certainly have been doing a fine job measuring my food.  Portion control is an important part of weight loss, so I am happy to see I am getting into the habit of measuring out my food.

It is amazing how much food we are actually consuming when we assume it is simply a single serving.  Even my idea of a cup of milk or juice has been way off.  Each time I poured myself a bowl of cereal or a glass of juice, I was actually getting about 1 1/2 servings.  Those extra servings meant extra calories.  And boy, those extra calories can really sneak up on you!

For whatever reasons (i.e., age, fibro, giving birth to two children), my metabolism has drastically changed.  Gone are the days when I could freely eat whatever and how ever much I wanted without gaining an ounce.  I must be more diligent and mindful of every little piece of food or every sip of drink that I consume each day.  Calories go down a lot easier than they ever come back off, so unless I want to continue gaining more weight as I grow older, I must continue to take full responsibility.

Yes, this is a big change for me.  Sometimes, I am uncertain about what would be a healthier food choice.  Right now, I'm hungry most of the day since I've been overeating for so long.  Actually evaluating, measuring, and recording my meals takes up precious time.  However, my life and health are even more precious.  I am worth all this hassle and discomfort.  In time, it will get easier as all of this becomes habit.  And I know as I see more and more weight melt away, it will encourage me to fight even harder for my old body.  Yes, I CAN do this!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

I'm Baaaaack...and Better Than Ever!

A Healthy Snack (courtesy my kids)
Hello, my fellow chronic pain warriors. I'm back and better than ever. I apologize for my vacation from blogging. I needed some time away because I had much too many responsibilities on my plate. I needed to help my kids finish cyberschool for the year. My mom got married this month, and I was her maid of honor.

And afterwards, I took my children on their first beach vacation. June has been full of changes and new experiences. I came back from our vacation more revitalized and energetic since I can remember. That feeling is intoxicating to someone like me--someone who suffers every day with extreme fatigue and pain. It left me hungry for more of the relaxation and rest that allowed me to run for the first time in about 5 years. For those few minutes, I felt like my true self again, and I need more!

Consequently, I've decided to make July a personal improvement month. If you've visited before, you might notice the brand new MyFitnessPal badge sitting on the left of this page. I have decided to focus on my diet. I want more than anything to finish losing the weight necessary to bring me back to a healthy BMI. I have had the best of intentions for the last few years, but I haven't always followed through. I lost 20 lbs. in 2012, but then my weight loss stalled.

That's why it is time to shake things up a bit. I need to start taking responsibility for the amount of food I eat and the dietary choices I make. To help me accomplish this, I am going to measure and record my food every day until I reach a healthy weight again. No more pretending my extra helping or extra snack isn't going to hurt. From now on, I'm accountable for each piece of food I put in my mouth!

And I want you all to be a part in my new diet accountability. With this badge, you will be able to track my weight loss. I'm hoping that with all of you watching, I will be more motivated to stick to a healthier diet.

Here's to more days when we all feel like our true selves!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Writing Poetry Helps My Fibromyaliga

Dealing with fibromyalgia on a daily basis is messy business! It can be maddening and infuriating. Your friends and loved ones often doubt you and hardly understand what you are going through. Sometimes, you even doubt yourself or have a difficult time understanding this chaotic condition (even though you deal with it firsthand all the time).

It can be lonely and full of grief. Fibromyalgia can leave you mourning friendships, intimate relationships, and careers, which were once the center of your life. Your inability to be as mobile, energetic, and available robs you of people and things you love. Before you know it, you wake up and find your life is now a shadow of the full and robust existence it used to be.

And it can be overwhelming and stressful. During a fibro flare, even the smallest of problems and obstacles can seem insurmountable. Because your symptoms require so much extra time and fibromyalgia leaves you forever exhausted, you are always feeling pressed for time--as though you are running weeks, months, or even years behind. Even the smallest of task can be impossible on bad days.

Fibromyalgia can create so many negative and strong emotions, so it is imperative to find a way to purge yourself of all this emotional turmoil on a regular basis. One of my favorite outlets for my fibro’s emotional baggage is writing poetry. Composing all the words and lines gives me a constructive way to purge myself of the negativity that loves to haunt me. In my poems, I may start out dark and dismal, but by the end, I find hope and strength again. I feels amazing to work that all out on paper!

I also love writing poetry about my fibromyalgia because my finished poems serve as permanent reminders of how I’ve wrestled with my chronic illness and still always manage to end up on top. By writing down the little insights and encouragement I find while composing my poems, I can ensure I will have more positive insights to fall back on during future setbacks and bad days. Ultimately, writing poetry is a wonderful way to cope with fibromyalgia now AND in the future.

What helps you to cope with your chronic illness?

Check out my latest fibromyalgia-inspired poem here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weather Woes

My poor body is in total shock. It has been sunburned, then frozen, then soaked, and finally roasted--all within a matter of two weeks. (And now it looks like it will have to deal with scattered thunderstorms again for the next few days.) The weather has been completely bipolar this month, and my body is suffering.

As many of you may already know from experience, fibromyalgia doesn’t like extreme weather. And it especially hates sudden and drastic changes in weather. These changes make the body severely sore, stiff, and unable to regulate its body temperature. And the worst part is weather is a fibro trigger that we can’t do much of anything about.

You may argue that we can always move to a more tolerable climate or simply stay in the house. However, weather can be pretty unpredictable anywhere you go. And hiding indoors does little to silence the chaos outside our door.

In the end, we are forced to muddle through the best we can. When we experience a weather flare we should try to get plenty of rest. Also, stocking up on anything that helps soothe our flared symptoms is a must. Finally, we can’t allow ourselves to do too much. Pushing ourselves when we are already under a lot of strain from the weather will only makes things worse. Using common sense and pacing ourselves during these difficult times could be the difference between a flare that lasts only days to one that goes on and on for weeks.

Which one would you prefer? I, for one, would much rather spend as little time laid up as possible. Because of this, I’ve learned to listen to my body and only do what it is capable of doing at the moment. If it says to sleep, I sleep. If it tells me that I’m pushing myself too hard, I take a break and later return at a much slower pace. Ultimately, we must all learn to listen to our bodies. That, my friends, is the best treatment we can prescribe for ourselves!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sometimes I Run...Sometimes I Crawl

Hiking with my children
The normal progress of life is you learn to crawl as an infant. Then, you gradually learn to walk as a toddler. Finally, as you continue to grow, you gain the balance, strength, and agility to run. This progress leaves you with the mobility needed for the prime of your life. However, life doesn’t always like to follow the rules and it is filled with exceptions.

I am an exception. I’m 29 years old, but sometimes I still have to crawl: literally and metaphorically. As some of you may know from reading my past posts, I now realize I probably have had fibromyalgia since I was a young child. I never felt quite ‘normal’ and wasn’t as energetic or resilient as most kids. I was frequently sick and had many aches and pains. But through it all, I still managed to live an active and full life…until four years ago.

Four years ago, fibromyalgia crept in and became a permanent resident in my life. No longer was it content to come and go. It wanted to hijack my life and try to steal it away from me. For about a year, I allowed it to do just that. I was so exhausted, overwhelmed, and filled with pain that I stayed in bed much of each day. Of course, I still wanted to get better and I tried everything I could think of to treat my symptoms and figure out what was wrong. However, I virtually gave up on everything else in my life. Essentially, I had two things left: motherhood and my mystery illness. All else was stolen away from me.

Now that I’ve grown wiser and more accustomed to life with a chronic illness, I know now I cannot allow fibromyalgia to leave me in such a sad and unbalanced state. I must be a mother, and I must cope with my condition. But I also must be a daughter, a sister, a friend, and (soon) a wife. I must do what I love, set goals, find purpose, and enjoy the simple things in this world. I must hope, dream, believe, aspire, and grow. Sometimes I may run towards my future. Other times, I may crawl at such a slow pace that some may think I’m not moving at all.

Regardless of my speed, I must always be actively living this life. Life is far too short and fleeting to sit around waiting for things to change or to feel sorry for ourselves. Instead, we should be embracing the present and living right now the life we so desire…before the chance passes away!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Side Effect Warning: Sun Sensitivity

Since many of you may be taking medication (prescription and/or OTC) or supplements for your fibromyalgia, I wanted to share a little warning.  Last weekend, I ended up with a severe sunburn on a partly cloudy day, cool day.  I've never burned so easily in my life.  Consequently, I set out to find out a possible explanation as to how I could suddenly burn so easily and so horribly.

On the suggestion of a friend, I researched the OTC medications and the supplements I take daily to see if any of them cause an increase in sun sensitivity.  I was shocked to find out that Aleve (and other NSAIDs can have this side effect).  My doctor was the one that prescribed this OTC pain medication to me, and he didn't mention this possible side effect.  And I've never read such a warning on the packaging.

Read more about my surprising and painful ordeal here.

To avoid the excruciating pain I went through this past week, I'd suggest that you research any and all medications and supplements you are taking.  And if sun sensitivity is a possible side effect, please, don't take this symptom lightly.  Don't think that you are okay simply because you don't burn easily.  Use sunscreen, wear a hat and/or other protective clothing, and spend more time in the shade if you are going to be outside for long periods.  A little caution could help prevent this from happening to you!