Faith & Health

Since I’ve been sick I find myself turning more and more to faith.  Before illness I only gave it a passing thought and went through phases of going to church and reading my Bible  (love my NIV version!) .  When I was growing up, as an only child, I would go to Bible school every summer with my cousins and we had a blast.  We went to a small country Southern Baptist Church and we all knew everyone.  One of the memories that sticks with me is going to Bible school barefoot, feeling the cool concrete on my feet & drinking too-sweet kool-aid with generic sandwich cookies.

As I grew older, it became “less cool” to go so I stopped.  During that time I became very conscious of a particular close family  member’s negative opinion of church.  Calling other family members “pulpit thumpers” , “Jesus freaks” and other undesirable things.  In my late teens I felt  the desire to return to my faith and this family member made a point to frequently call me the “church lady”.  This REALLY bothered me; I felt singled out and criticized.  Eventually I stopped going.  I should have ignored her and went on.

Even now, that person and those memories still have an impact on my life and spiritual practices.  I’m very defensive in talking with this person about all faith-related topics and try to not bring up the subject at all.  It pisses me off that I feel uncomfortable about this part of my life.  I’m not sure how I’m going to resolve this part of it.

However, my faith has brought me through many horrible situations and dreadfully hard times.  Had I not gotten sick I may not have made the faith-based discoveries and developed the inner sense of peace my faith has given me.  I have not yet found a home church to attend in my area and have some sort of odd hesitation toward going.  However, it’s next on my list to figure out and I’m excited. Frankly, I would rather be sick and aware of how awesome faith is  instead of well and clueless.

Wish I May & Wish I might..

It was THAT kind of day..

For the past month I’ve felt pretty decent and accomplished a bunch of stuff.  I’m grateful for this stretch of good time but they’re so few and far between.  For every good month, there’s usually three not-so-good and I get discouraged…

Last night at work I had to fill in a different spot than usual and it completely whipped my ass.  I felt awful physically-aching and exhausted–and didn’t get off work until later than expected.  I came home and fell in bed about 2 am and had to be up by 8 am.  I went back to work for my N-95 respirator fit-test then to my other job.  By the time I finished I felt like I had the flu-headache, body aches, ‘sore’ skin and hair, stiff joints, barely able to hold my eyes open.  I dragged myself in the door, fell onto the couch and slept for three hours.  I woke up with my shoes on, glasses on and my keys beside me where they fell out of my hand.  Up to take  my meds then back to the couch with the dog.  Wish I knew why this stuff happens; I haven’t been able to find ANY pattern.

Maybe part of it is due to my Methotrexate; if my throat is still sore in the morning I’ll go to the local Care First facility since my medications suppress my immune system.   Maybe it’s something that will pass quickly.  hope, hope hope!  I wish I had answers, or a nice miracle cure…

Surprises Aren’t Always Good

Thank goodness my migraine slipped away shortly after lunch time.  Imitrex is definitely my friend.  Working was much nicer without an insane headache, that’s for sure.  Generally tho,  something comes along and causes rain to fall on an otherwise lovely parade….

I spent most of last week filling out my renewal FMLA papers and finally had them ready to turn in. Lo & behold, my manager calls me in her office and tells me I didn’t qualify for FMLA this round because I didn’t have enough hours.  Surprise!!  Really, I was sure I had enough hours but apparently not….Human Resources will give me a print out; I’ll look over it.  Luckily tho, I’m feeling better and haven’t needed to be off in a while.  I also have decent lee-way so my job won’t be in danger if I have a couple of unexpected episodes–hell, they’re all unexpected though.   It’s amazing how insecure I feel without the safety net of government assurance.   I keep reminding myself I have a good job & they are comfortable working with me when I need it.  I also only have to work two days a week.   I’ll be fine so I just need to stop hyperventilating………

Migraines Suck

Back in the pre-sick days I had a migraine once every couple of  years.  Almost never and they only lasted half the day if I took Excedrin and laid down for a few hours.  Ah, the good old days…..

Now, I wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach upset and my eyeballs feeling like they’re being shoved out from the inside.  Then it creeps around my whole head. When I move I have vertigo and then I throw up. The light is dreadful and sound is the enemy.  I take Imitrex as soon as I feel it coming on, and if I’m lucky it will die down in five or six hours…

Today is one of those days & I’m REALLY hoping it dies down.  I have to go to work and I don’t want to be sick all day.  Thirteen hours is a super-long time to spend working in pain….Ugh.   I’m already on my employers’ intermittent FMLA program but I hate to call in.  I don’t want my friends and co-workers seeing me as the weak link and I don’t want to be unreliable.  Honestly, I don’t call in unless I’m really struggling.  Guess I needed to say that.  No matter how ‘adjusted’ I think I am, sometimes I feel the urge to qualify & explain myself.

My First Blog Carnival!!

I just saw my blog entry published in Graceful Agony’s first-EVER blog carnival!!  Woo Hoo!!  I’m among such awesome company.  I just can’t believe it!  I may have to have some chocolate to celebrate…..with fruit…..We all know fruit cancels out the calories in chocolate…..AND I’ve convinced the cafeteria staff at the hospital where I work that carrot cake really DOES count as a serving of veggies…Anyway, I digress.  I just had to share my excitement though!!

Impulse Control…Who Can I Blame..

Nearly six months ago I started taking Cymbalta. It has been an amazing blessing for both depression and nerve pain; I was very happy and had experienced few side effects. I cruised right along.

One Friday after work, I decided to go shopping for a bit before going home. For several months I had worked hard to save money and stream-line my budget. I hadn’t shopped in quite a while and was really enjoying being out. Before I knew it, three hours had passed and I was pushing around a whole new wardrobe in my cart!! In my mind I was reminding myself to transfer the money from my savings account as soon as I got home. Then I snapped back to myself. What the HELL!

I couldn’t believe I was about to spend my emergency savings on clothes I absolutely don’t need and don’t want. It was an odd feeling; I’m calling it pseudo-yearning. I was just “wanting”. So…I picked one thing from my basket–the one I wanted–and put the rest back, purposefully.

I drove home thinking about the different feelings I had while pushing the cart around and decided to do some research on the possible causes. After an hour I landed on the Cymbalta website and read about the incidence of impulse control as a possible side-effect. Bingo!! I spent some time weighing my options, risks and benefits then decided to stay on the medication. It has made such a huge difference in my life; I can identify and control the impulses. I have imposed concrete spending rules for myself and have been able to stick with them so far. Take-away idea: Know thy side effects. Guess I’ll see how it goes from here!

Am I a Closet People-Pleaser??

I went for a follow-up appointment with my favorite specialist, expecting the usual update & check in. As I brought him up to date on the treatments prescribed by my other specialist he became openly displeased (but never rude-he’s awesome!). He wasn’t happy that I was taking steroids or that my dose of methotrexate was so low & he wanted it to be injections not oral.  Did I explain to him the goals behind taking this approach?  Well NO.  Why not?  I have no flippin’ clue!!  I was reduced to a bumbling idiot in the face of his displeasure; I even felt guilty!  All of this took place in the span of five minutes; I am a medical professional, accustomed to discussing this stuff with him.  I can’t imagine the impact a situation like this would have on a layperson in the same situation.

I’ve had to back up & punt.  My strategy for the next appointment will include a written list with my rationale listed for the assorted treatments.  Maybe I won’t look like a dumb ass.  I always recommend my patients do this; maybe I should practice what I preach…..However, the bigger questions are: Why is his approval so important to me & why did it have such an impact? Hmmm…

Sick is the New Healthy

Over the past couple of months I’ve spent lots of time listening to folks around me.  I’ve consistently heard similar stories-some longer, some shorter, some more successful than others–but very similar.  I’ve noticed this in patients, co-workers, friends & family; Honestly, I was astounded I hadn’t picked up on the theme before now!

The majority of the folks I listened to were managing a chronic health concern.  Many them were managing poorly, but it was there nonetheless.  Hypertension, diabetes, COPD, CHF, autoimmune disorders, mental health concerns and a host of others.  In most cases, they didn’t even realize it!  Nor did they implement interventions to improve their health status…AND about 1/3 of those criticized others for not changing lifestyle choices to benefit their health.  The smoker criticized the obese patient, the alcoholic dissed the drug abuser,  the salt-a-holic harangued the caffeine drinker.

Do they criticize choices of others to justify why theirs is “not so bad”?  I think I’ve heard them all: “I only smoke 4-5 cigarettes a day”, “I don’t drink that much”, “It’s better than using drugs”, blah, blah, blah…  My friend smokes like a freight train but blames humidity and pollen for her sinus problems & wheezing.  Denial?? Yep.  Is it hard to give up any of this stuff.  Hell yes!!

Here I am, with my pot-calling-the-kettle-black approach, drinking my third pot of coffee as I type this.  I’m trying not to think about what it’s doing to my blood pressure.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a handle on it……..

Who am I Now? Introducing…Me!

Demographically, I’m a 45 year old divorced woman, mother of two grown children and pet mommy to a house full of critters.  I’m also a nurse and a patient, an educator and a student, a confident woman and a frightened child.   The “me” I am now has very little in common with the person I was  in my pre-diagnosis days; life is so much different from the one I had planned, yet I can’t imagine it unfolding in a different way.

Before diagnosis I was a type A, almost-workaholic.  I skipped meals, stayed up late & got up early, not to mention smoking & drinking too much.  Surprisingly, my body seemed to be plugging along just fine but little did I know….  I was always tired, had extreme chronic diarrhea and periodic rashes.  I chalked it up to being busy and never gave it a second thought.  The fact that it was ‘abnormal’ never crossed my mind; after all, ‘normal’ is what we grow accustomed to–right?

To fast-forward the whole show, I ended up sick, chronically.  My whole life was turned upside down & I was almost homeless; luckily God smiled upon me and I climbed back up.  Thus began my ascent into the person I’m growing up to be.  I have noticed some amazing changes-more from what I don’t feel rather than what I do.  Surprisingly,  it’s all good!

I am much more confident in my abilities now.  My last five years have been heinous and I MADE IT! Yes, I can handle most things.  Situations don’t get my panties in a wad anymore.  I’m able to remain calm & detached; this has been such a blessing for me–yet I’ve found it infuriates others.  Guess they want a reaction…Whatever.

I also don’t stress & obsess over anything; it will be handled in it’s own time.  My priorities determine it’s importance and I’ll deal with it–when I choose.   This also infuriates others, but they will learn to deal with it.  Their failure to plan/anticipate does not constitute an emergency for me.  Others don’t have to understand my priorities.  Most of them can’t.   Sometimes I come across as being a bitch…Whatever.

I rebel and resist much less than I did during my pre-diagnosis days.   Which famous movie contains the line:  “Resistance is futile.”  Wish I could remember……Anyway….. Rebelling saps too much energy and usually ends up negatively.  I’ve adopted the practice of pulling when I am pushed.  At least we’re moving in the same direction & resolution nearly always follows.

What’s my most favorite part of the new chronic me??  I don’t feel compelled to explain anything to anyone.  There is no need & I have no obligation to do so.  Do they like it?  No…Whatever.   They ask me a question, I say “no”.  If I’m asked why, I simply say, “It’s personal, but thanks for asking.”  Along the same vein, I have learned to pick my battles.  I don’t mention anything about my health unless I feel like answering questions and explaining.  I do want to promote education & advocacy and it’s important that I explain myself well.

Thank you for reading my introduction; many of you are learning about me at the same time I am.   I’m proud to be part of Graceful Agony’s first ever Blog Carnival!!

Frugal is as Frugal Does!

Staying with the theme of my last post, I wanted to elaborate on my pledge to live beneath my means.  For years I lived on the edge of financial ruin and didn’t realize it.  I made good  money, had multiple credit cards and never thought anything would go wrong.  Who….me??  Anyway, you know how that worked out for me.

After I crashed and burned financially I was terrified of it happening again.  I saved every penny I could find.  After all, pennies make dollars! I also opted to eliminate all, ALL unnecessary expenses for at least six month.  I cut my cable, house phone, subscriptions, extras on insurance and every frill I could find.  I subscribed to multiple frugal websites, decided to “shop” from my pantry for at least one week a month instead of going to the grocery store, and to make my own cleaning products when possible.  For cleaning, vinegar is my old standby.  I mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 2-4 drops of concentrated dish liquid and water in a spray bottle and I use it to clean counters, windows, and most other surfaces.  I also decided to make  my own laundry products such fabric softener and laundry detergent.  There are a ton of free recipes on the internet; look around and find one you like.  I also make my own fabric softener using Alberto Vo5 conditioner, which is .69 a bottle.  I pour the conditioner in a gallon container, fill with warm water, shake well and use a cap full per load.  When I want more scent I use a couple drops of essential oil.   I carry my lunch and snacks to work–bonus–I’m eating much healthier!  I don’t want my lifestyle to sound like drudgery and doing without.  That isn’t the point I want to make.  By saving money in as many areas as possible, I have the opportunity to spend consciously rather than absent-mindedly.  When I want a pedicure, I get one.  If I want a new outfit, I buy one.  However, I make sure it’s not an impulse, trendy reflex purchase.  Added bonus here-I look better too!

Keep track of all of your spending for at least three months.  I was living in denial and did not realize I have a problem with eating out.  A LOT.    I also became a big fan of Dave Ramsey and Suzie Orman.  PAY off debt first!   I hope you’ve gleaned a few ideas to save money and improve you consciousness of spending.

Worth repeating–I LOVE the Graphics Fairy!

The Graphics Fairy

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Erica’s Running Journey

Erica’s Running Journey