Tag Archives: chronic fatigue

Community Unity Opportunity.

I’ll be honest, I’m not at all grateful for illness- especially illness of the chronic variety. Fortunately, I’m not the type who believes that God made me sick to teach me some divine lesson, so I don’t feel any compulsion to be thankful for this portion of my life. Having said that, I realize that the longer I continue my journey of life with chronic illness, the more I am grateful for community. Before my symptoms reached a life altering level, I had no idea what it meant to be surrounded by support from people I had never met.
While I consider myself very much an introvert now, for most of my life I’ve been surrounded by people. I’ve been a participant in church groups and choirs, committees and classes, clubs and organizations. Now, my body can’t keep up with all those memberships. It requires a day’s preparation to make it to one event- forget trying multiple events in a day. And while that much socialization would be exhausting for me now, I still long to be around people who understand me. Now don’t misunderstand. I have wonderful family and friends. My husband handled my illness far better than I could have asked. My Mom still texts me first thing every morning to see how I slept and talks to me at night to hear about my day. I have great physical support- but I can always use more.
The first months of being sick/ disabled were the worst. I was too ashamed to reach out to friends who knew me pre-illness and too scared to reach out to new people. I thought the idea of joining online support groups was ridiculous. What kind of loser needs people she’s never met to help her navigate life? This kind of loser. Me. As I started looking for groups and forums for those living with chronic illness, I found people who could understand. I found kindness and compassion and empathy. I found people who didn’t think I was weird because I was too tired to both shower before an event and then actually attend that event. I discovered others who were living with the shame of not being able to keep their house as organized as they’d like. I even found friends who understood how it felt to decide not to have children- yet be simultaneously heartbroken by that decision.
Without my communities of online friends, I would have never discovered blogging or felt compelled to begin my own chronic illness communities both online and in person. I credit those friends who pulled me through the beginning of this awfulness with all that Crazy, Chronic Life has become. But, it occurs to me that I’ve yet to make an exhaustive list of all the ways you can participate in the CCL community. If there’s a community that interests you, join us. I promise; we’ll be glad to have you.

Crazy, Chronic Life- FB page– This is the main Facebook page where all new blogs and CCL updates post first. I also use this page for live videos and polls.

Facebook Crazy, Chronic Life Support Group– This group is for those with chronic illness- or their caregivers who may seek to understand more. Join us contests, silliness, and all the support you can handle.

Taylor County Public Library- Chronic Illness Support Group– If you live in or near Campbellsville, Kentucky, come join the in person support group and meet some of the (in my opinion) coolest people in Campbellsville!

Sorry for posting twice today. I’m trying to get all my “blog keeping” tasks caught up before I leave for Nashville.

Peace, love, and health, friends.

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A Diagnosis Matters.

While I certainly have plenty of experience in searching for a diagnosis, I’m not really writing this for myself- but rather, my friends who are undiagnosed and searching. Big hugs and love to all my chronic illness friends who are fighting this battle. I have your back, and I’m cheering for you.

Years ago, before my own chronic illness symptoms became as obvious, I accompanied a family member for a medical test. While I was waiting for my family member’s discharge, I started chatting to a nurse. She told me a story about a patient who had come in earlier in the week with vague symptoms. The doctor had ordered an upper endoscopy which came back showing no obvious problems. The nurse laughed sardonically as she told me how the patient burst into tears of frustration at the report. The nurse couldn’t fathom how a person could feel anything besides relief at getting a good report- and seemed convinced the patient wanted to be sick.
Even at that point in my life, when I had far less experience with being sick, this conversation grated on my nerves. I imagined the patient coming in- knowing something was wrong with his/her body- desperate for answers. I could understand the patient’s frustration in not getting the answers needed. The nurse, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why the patient was so upset.
Years later, now that I’ve battled my own set of vague and sometimes transient symptoms, I can feel that patient’s frustration so deeply. I’ve recently had an onset of neurological symptoms. My legs tingle- sometimes they just don’t work when I tell them to (which makes using stairs sometimes laughable and other times downright dangerous). My neurologist noted hyper reflexes on one side but diminished reflexes on the other. My bladder is a jerk. I’m basically a slow-walking neurological mess. And. . . there’s currently no obvious cause for my problems.
I’ve been through this before. It took years to find out I had EDS. I know that eventually I will find the right doctor who will order the right test to get me the right diagnosis. However, the truth is, I’ve fought this battle so many times that I’m growing weary of the fight. I catch myself cringing when my phone rings (and finding excuses not to answer), because it will be another doctor’s office, another appointment, another test. More needles. More side effects. More bills. (Did I mention MORE bills?)
So, as a person who has fought the fight for diagnosis for years- and will likely continue to fight for answers for the rest of my life- I want to make something exceedingly clear. It is not wrong or selfish to want answers. Just because someone wants to know the name of the illness plaguing them does not mean that person wants to be sick. They’re already sick and want answers.
If you’re still not convinced, think of it like this. Let’s imagine you’re standing around doing nothing- and completely out of no where someone punches you in the face. *BAM* You see stars. Your nose is bleeding. Holy moly, your tooth is loose. The assailant had quite an arm. By the time you come to your senses, the person who punched you is gone. You look around and have no clue who hit you. You cannot put a face or a name with what caused your pain. Are you selfish for wanting answers? No. Does searching for the person who punched you mean that you wanted to be punched? Of course not. No one would think you were strange or out of line for if you sought out multiple sources (ie. bystanders) to find out how you were injured.
Seeking diagnosis is very much the same. You’re suddenly sick, and you don’t know why. You want a name, a cause, SOMETHING to help you understand what is happening. That isn’t wrong. It’s human nature to seek a cause when an effect has occurred.
Friends who are searching for a diagnosis, I understand your struggle, and I hope only the best for you. Friends who have navigated this course successfully, I’m proud of you for fighting through this. Friends who are trying to understand why any of this matters, I realize that battles we haven’t fought ourselves are hard to understand, and I appreciate your kindness regardless. Please be patient with us- I assure you, we’re all fighting to be patient as we seek answers.
Peace, love, and health always.

I’m not always Pollyanna.

So, I’m not always Pollyanna. Don’t get me wrong. I try to look on the bright side. I remind myself that this exact moment of emotions and self-pity won’t last forever. Joe and I are known for being the people who have figured out how to make the best out of bad situations. That’s who we are- and that’s what we do. But, some days it doesn’t happen.
Some days I’ve been awake most of the night with aching joints and tingling arms and legs. I’ve slept fitfully at best. New neurological issues haunt my body- some which I’m not comfortable enough to even write about yet. I feel like I am begging for help that isn’t coming, and I’ve been down this road enough times to know that it’s a long one. Today is a day where I’m aware that even if my diet is perfect and I combat all my inflammation issues, my body will still be affected by this disorder at the most basic cellular level. I know there aren’t enough trips to the gym to enable me to enjoy Disney World in a couple of months without the aid of a scooter. I even realize that holding my body together for a week of vacation is going to require an effort of epic proportions.
I’m not trying to be negative. I don’t write this for pity. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to encourage me to keep going on (though I appreciate all those who have done that in the past). I won’t quit. I know this feeling won’t last forever. However, today I’m sad. I’m so pitiful, in fact, that Joe is cooking lunch and bought me surprises at Walmart (a Frozen toy, Saved by the Bell t-shirt, and chapstick- I have simple taste, friends.).
My point is- it’s okay to be sad sometimes. You can’t live in the valley of despair forever. I’m not suggesting anyone live a life of self-pity, because that requires more energy than any of us possess. However, give yourself permission to mourn your losses sometimes. Tomorrow, I start with a new physical therapist. Wednesday, I get a haircut. Friday, Joe and I have a date night scheduled. This week won’t be a waste- I won’t let it. But, today, I’m tired. I’m a little sad. I need girly movies and puppy cuddles.
The Braves come on in less than hour. The lunch Joe is cooking smells highly edible. Today won’t be the worst one ever, but it’s a bit more complicated than most. (Even this blog is short, because my fingers refuse to do what my brain is telling them. What the heck, body?) Occasionally, I feel like a fraud, because I encourage everyone to try to make the best of living the chronic life- and, to be honest, occasionally, days like today happen. So, here I am. I’m being totally honest with you, and letting you know I’m drowning in self-pity today. I promise I’ll return to your regularly scheduled Crazy, Chronic programming soon. But, today stinks, and sometimes making the best of it means admitting that and having the best sad, lazy day possible.
Peace, love, and health, friends.
Does anyone know if “Pollyanna” is available on Netflix or Amazon Prime? I need an outside, sunny disposition.

Sleep.

I’m really tired. I’m always tired- this is hardly a revelation. But, if I’m being entirely honest, I have the absolute worst sleep habits ever. I don’t apologize for my strange relationship with sleep, though, because I have done everything within my power to help the situation- to absolutely no avail.
Here’s where I get around to making a point. Please, (please, please, pretty please, with melty cheese on top) do not cast judgment on the sleep patterns of those with chronic pain. Occasionally, I hear my chronic illness/ pain friends commenting about how their family/ friends have told them they would feel better if they would sleep on a normal schedule. While I agree that would be super fabulous- are you actually kidding me? Do you truly believe anyone chooses to stay up all hours of the night? Of course not. When you don’t/ can’t sleep your mind becomes victim to all the “what ifs” of your condition, relationship, and general life. Who would choose to do that? No one.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think chronic pain patients are the only people who can’t sleep. I know mental illness and hormonal changes affect sleep patterns. I’ve heard that my parents of newborn friends are rather sleep deprived as well. Joe has sleep apnea, and sleeps with a CPAP. It’s a sleep disorder. That’s another legitimate concern. I’m truly not trying to act like I’m the only person with a sleep concern up in here. (Although, Joe sleeps like a sweet angel baby once he dons that CPAP mask- as if there’s never been a sin to enter his blessed life, and I’m a little jealous.) I’m sorry. I really am. I feel your struggle, and I’m not trying to detract from it.
But, seriously. To all the people who feel I- or my other chronic illness/ pain friends- should just go to bed at a reasonable hour, please keep this in mind:
When I go to bed at night, I am quite literally putting myself into a device of serious discomfort. If I lie on my left side, I have to worry about my left shoulder dislocating. More specifically, I know my left shoulder will dislocate if I don’t move to another position quickly enough. If I lie on my right side, I’m lying on the hip that dislocates. Even if it doesn’t dislocate- it hurts. It really hurts. If I lie on my back, I lose feeling in my arms and legs- which makes my 37 nightly restroom trips almost impossible. (Seriously, you try walking on numb legs.) I don’t even try lying on my stomach, because my back spasms to the point that I literally can’t move to sit up. (Again, seriously inconvenient for the whole 37 restroom trips situation.)
I am a human rotisserie. I spend my nights spinning in place- hoping I will find a place that is comfortable enough to doze.
So, please. If you have opinions about what time sick people should go to sleep, keep them to yourself. It’s not easy. I assure you- we have tried every supplement, sleep aid, magic ointment, and tea. We are trying. We are combating pain, adrenaline surges, and the general fear of the unknown. It’s not easy, and I assure you- your advice about going to bed at 9 or turning off devices at 6 do little, if anything, to help. Please, give us some grace to figure all this out. It isn’t easy to live like this during the waking hours, and it when it’s dark, it gets even harder.
Chronic illness/ pain friends, please keep in mind that not everyone keeps our strange hours. I’ve found solace in online support groups during the wee hours of the morning when it’s impossible for my husband to be awake. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay if Joe is resting well during the hours that I’m trying (without success) to sleep. Joe has had to learn that it’s okay to let me sleep well past the hour that functional adults typically sleep. If you are living in a relationship that is juggling chronic illness/ pain, you have to learn to be patient while the other one sleeps. There are typically 6-8 hours of the day that one of us is awake and the other is not- just because our bodies run on opposite schedules. We are often quirky ships in the night. That is not only okay- it’s part of the balance of this life.
While we’re being very honest here, I’d like to also mention that my dog wakes me up for a drink of water (in which she must actually be walked to her bowl because she’s scared of the dark) at least three times a night, and Joe is a blanket hog. Those are very real situations in which the advice of healthy people is always appreciated. I’m considering making both of them sleep in the bath tub.
Peace, love, and health, friends.

 

This one’s for the teachers who can no longer teach . . .

Back to school time is one of my favorite times of year. I love buying crayons and pencils far more cheaply than any other time. I enjoy the enthusiasm of a second-grade girl picking out the perfect backpack. (In my day, kid, we had Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers, and they were the bomb.com.) I appreciate a clean classroom that shows the tireless efforts of the janitorial staff to prepare the building for young learners. And, I’m borderline obsessed with classroom decorations. (Seriously, parents. If your child has a teacher that has decorated every inch of his/her room, please comment to the teacher on how amazing your child’s learning environment looks. Those decorations are time consuming and EXPENSIVE- and more than likely came out of the teacher’s personal funds.) I have loved this time of year since I was old enough to join my older brother for back to school shopping when we were kids.
Now, though, it’s different. I still love the energy and hopefulness of both teachers and students at the beginning of the year. I still enjoy hearing about first days of school. I’m thrilled that my social media is filled with teacher friends’ pictures of their classroom for this year or parents’ pictures of their little ones headed off for the first day. I even look forward to taking a super obnoxious “First Day of School” picture of my own absent-minded professor (and husband) when he heads back to the classroom. There are aspects of this time of year that make me smile, but the fact remains that this time of year hurts.
I am a teacher- or I was, at least. Mentally, my calendar still runs August to May rather than January to December. I still have nightmares where I’ve missed the first day of school or I have a class of 40 students who won’t listen to anything I say. But, if I’m being honest, I’m also haunted by a dream where I go back to work, and I’m a teacher again. In the dream I keep saying, “I never thought I’d be well enough to do this again.” Then, I wake up, and my shoulder is dislocated and my heart is racing, and I realize I’m still in the same body that disabled me more than four years ago when I taught my last class.
I’m not complaining, really. I’m certainly not trying to put a damper on anyone’s back to school enthusiasm. I’m simply saying to all those who feel especially vulnerable at back to school time, I feel you. I feel your tears. I feel your mourning of unrealized future plans and dreams. Most of all, I get it. I understand how it feels to simultaneously be grateful that you’re able to stay home and focus on your health- all while being enraged that your body has demanded that of you. I understand how it feels to want to hide from your former colleagues because of the shame of “not being able to hack it”- all while hoping they’ll tell you about their classroom experiences so you can live vicariously for a moment. I understand what it means to hurt this time of year- even though it’s one of your favorite times of year.
I don’t have advice on how to handle this hurt, because I’m in the middle of it. I know that it gets better with time- I haven’t openly wept in the back-to-school section of Wal-Mart this year, so that’s progress. I don’t know when or how broken hearts heal. I imagine this will always hurt a little- especially at this time of year. So, while I continue to try ‘to bloom where I’m planted,’ I’ll be the first to admit that where I’m currently planted hurts, but I’m not the only person living that reality. So, former teachers, school employees, and students who can’t return to class for whatever reason this year, I feel your pain, and I’m here. Maybe if we keep our heads down and watch a lot of movies on Lifetime, August will pass quickly and painlessly.
By the way, my absent-minded professor has requested to wear a Spiderman costume for his first day of classes, because he saw it in a Wal-Mart back-to-school commercial. (Goodness, this guy . . .)
Peace, love, and health.

Birthday, Anniversary, and U2- Oh my!

Who am I? Where am I? Does anyone know what day of the week it is?

Seriously, y’all, we’ve had way too many holidays in the Early household. First, there was Joe’s birthday. He doesn’t ask for much- just a small party with his parents, a day in Louisville for the two of us, and a small party with close friends. Dude wanted 3 celebrations. Now, I can’t judge. I declare the entire month of September as the “Festival of a Tiffany,” so I can’t really begrudge his three celebrations. But . . . by the final celebration, I was sticking potato chips in the dishwasher. Because, when I’m tired that seems like a totally logical place to store chips.

Now, if you’d told me six years ago when Joe and I chose a wedding date that my body would eventually require a couple weeks to recuperate from Joe’s birthday, then I wouldn’t have had the wedding eight days after. But, it’s not legally possible to change my marriage date, so the next weekend was devoted to our anniversary- which happened to involve a U2 concert.

Yikes. Here’s the thing- I love music but, sort of, hate concerts. But, you guys! It was U2! That’s basically a check on everyone’s bucket list, so I had to go. The problem? I was still in recovery mode from Joe’s birthday palooza. Literally, the day before the U2 concert, I was in the recliner all day with insane chest pain. (Note- I’m not being an idiot and refusing to get a medical emergency checked. My chest pain comes from EDS/ POTS, and I have a decent understanding of its source. Over the last six years, I’ve learned this weird body better than I ever thought possible.) There were several points that day when Joe offered to sell our concert tickets on Facebook. But, it was our anniversary trip. I could have cancelled. Perhaps it would have been wise to cancel.

But, to be entirely honest, I’ve lost enough to illness. My marriage has lost enough to illness. If there is a possible way for Joe and I to do something (within reason, of course), then we’re going to do it. Friends, here’s the truth. I didn’t feel great. The concert was outside. U2 came on a couple hours later than expected. It was hot. Joe and I were both tired (him from pushing my wheelchair in 95 degree weather and me from this new phase of never ending chest pain), but we did it. We saw U2! I’ll be honest; if you watch Bono, and don’t get a little emotional at some point- you’re made of steel. I was already a U2 fan (albeit not a superfan), but I have so much more respect for that group and all they stand for. Fan girl shout out- One Republic opened for U2, and they were the bomb.com!

But . . . you know what? The weekend wasn’t over. After the concert there was still the matter of our anniversary. Fortunately, Joe and I decided to forgo the whole gift giving/ fancy dinner thing and instead spend a couple nights in Louisville. That meant I got two nights of 10+ hours sleep (Why do I always sleep better in a hotel? I refuse to admit that it might be the lack of the four-legged bed hog named Zoey that sleeps between Joe and I.) Obviously, when we made our plan, we didn’t know that I was going to be very much on the struggle bus. But, I was so grateful for those two nights of rest.

Here’s my point. Being chronically ill complicates every aspect of life. My marriage is permanently marked by the stain of illness. Joe asks how I’m feeling/ doing every single day- because my health is unfortunately a constant theme. However, Joe and I have made a commitment to having all the fun we can in our time together. Sometimes, that means taking a chance on a concert when I feel like dirt. Other times that means going honky tonking in Nashville the night before a serious doctor’s appointment at Vanderbilt. Friends, I’m far from a relationship/ general life expert, but I still have advice. Take every chance for fun. Put yourself in situations that might be hard but will also be fabulous. Obviously, make sure you’re with someone who will understand if you have to bail, but take the chance that the entire experience could be wonderful.

While I’m giving advice- here’s a little more. I used Snookie (the wheelchair) in order to enjoy the concert. That wasn’t in the original plan, but she became necessary. Once we realized that I was feeling rough on Thursday, we called the venue to see if disabled seating was available. This required us to drive to Louisville a little early in order to swap our tickets. Switching to accessible seating also meant we were on Club Level, so I could go inside and cool off under air conditioning as needed. Also, by taking Snookie to the concert on Friday, I saved what little energy I had available in order to enjoy Saturday/ Sunday in Louisville.

My memories from the U2 concert? Priceless. I wheelchair danced like an idiot. I sang along loudly and off-key with Joe. (We sort of specialize in both loud and off-key singing.) My weekend memories with my husband are just as special. This life is rarely simple, but I am so glad that Joe and I have made enjoying each other a priority. My challenge for each of you is that you take a risk in order to enjoy time with someone special to you. Maybe that’s going on a vacation to a whole new place (if so, I want to hear all about it!) or maybe that’s staying up late to watch a movie that will make you both laugh until your sides hurt. Do what works for you, but take a chance on something fun with someone who matters (family, friends, significant other).

By the way, we’ve already bought tickets for a Bruno Mars concert in Louisville this September. (Thank goodness, the Yum! Center is indoors.) The fun and insanity continue. Live it up, friends.

Peace, love, and health.

I’m Pretty Sure You Want This Book.

This (link at the bottom) is my book. Okay, technically, it’s Joe’s book too, because he did a lot of work on it. But since I’m the person with the chronic illness and this is a book about chronic illness- well, I’m a little emotionally attached. Just in case you’re thinking you don’t need this book or don’t especially want it, humor me while I make my case.

So, here are the “Crazy, Chronic Reasons Why You (might) Want to Read This Book.”

  1. It’s a beautiful love story. Okay, it’s not exactly a beautiful love story. As a matter of fact, I mention bodily functions that are neither beautiful nor lovely a couple times. However, Joe and I wrote this together. He literally saw my desire to write a book and not only encouraged it- he did a lot of the work. We talked through every chapter together before I wrote it. He physically typed a lot of the book, because my crazy, dislocating hands wouldn’t allow me. We have called ourselves #TeamEarly from the beginning, and this collaboration showcases exactly why. We work together. We laugh together- and, when necessary, we cry together. So, while a book instructing you with how to cope with very public and very projectile vomit isn’t exactly romantic, the love and cooperation that went into each page certainly is.
  2. It’s likely to boost your confidence. Do you want to know why it will boost your confidence? Because as you read through this book and experience our raw honesty, there will be times when you’ll think, “I would never be dumb enough to get myself in that situation.” See? You’ll feel smarter. Okay, seriously, this book talks about embarrassing symptoms that so many of us face- brain fog, incontinence, mobility struggles, etc. Let’s be honest- I’m about as graceful as an elephant changing underpants. I have a long history of blunders to share. I will give you tips to saving face as much as possible when your body decides to be a jerk in the least convenient of places. Personally, I always feel more confident when I have a contingency plan.
  3. People seem to actually like the book. You guys, I have reviews, and they’re not bad. They’re actually, well, great! Even more impressively, to the best of my knowledge I am not related (by blood nor marriage) to anyone who has reviewed my book. You never know when you write something if it will reach your audience in the way you hope. There’s a chance that Joe and I have been drafting and typing our little hearts out on a project that stinks. But . . . it’s beginning to look like it doesn’t. I actually believe we may have accurately portrayed this life in a way that others can relate.
  4. It will make you cool. Okay, there are many words that could describe me, and “cool” will never be one of them. I will never listen to the right music or understand pop culture references. However, illness has made me more sensitive to the needs of my chronically ill/ disabled friends. We have done our best to convey to significant others, caregivers, friends, congregations, and ‘that lady from WalMart’ how to be aware of the needs of others. And, seriously, what’s cooler than compassion? Am I right?
  5. I will appreciate your support forever. Everyone isn’t in a place where they can buy a book. I understand that completely. Please know that every word of encouragement, like, and share mean the world to me. My Crazy, Chronic Life blog audience was the driving force behind this book, and your love and encouragement help me keep my head above water on the hardest days.

Friends, each of you have encouraged Joe and I throughout this process, and we truly appreciate it. (I considered telling everyone that to show our gratitude Joe would be available to sing at the wedding of anyone who buys our book. Strangely, he didn’t consent to that.) So, one more time for the people in the back- my book link is below. Try an excerpt. See if it’s for you- or if it might help someone you know.

Peace, love, and health to each of you.