I wore my badass panties today. I wanted to remind my doctor just who he was about to jam a bunch of needles into and make his personal pin cushion. It’s important to intimate your opponent.
The truth is, I’m also wearing them to remind myself. Another procedure to manage pain. It’s like looking at mountain after mountain sometimes.
Each new therapy and treatment becomes a part of the new me, added to my calendar on repeat: epidural treatments every 3 months, radio frequency oblation every 6…etc. The new old me.
You know those car covers they have to make old heaps look like corvettes when they’re covered up? They need to start making a version of that for people.
My doctor decided that cortisone shots won’t be effective at this stage and decided on a radio frequency oblation along three places. This kind of blasts some of the nerves to kill a few to quiet the pain. Bad. Ass.
I have to have three treatments done in three places along each side of the spine three times. They do one side first and then when I’ve had all three rounds of treatments they’ll start on the other side. I feel yucky now but only because of the local anesthesia that I always have a reaction to.
I have few restrictions other than to rest for a day or two and not be an idiot, so as long as I can not be an idiot this should be cake.
I stumble and stargaze through my days, my inner eye always fixed upon points unseen.
My heart hurtles itself without warning at the slightest encouragement.
Once I love you, I will always love you. You will forever cross my mind and I’ll whisper a prayer in your direction each time that you pass through my thoughts.
I have found that I can roll with any punch, any unexpected circumstance and find a different path towards my dream, or even discover a new dream as I tumble and toss through the wave that knocked me down.
I am unsinkable.
I am tenacious.
I have had to become so much stronger and far more resilient than I believed possible.
Instead of closing in, shutting down, I am bursting forth, spreading my wings and heading into the storm because I know I am strong, I know my way, and I make my own joy and I let laughter roll through the heavens of my soul.
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. — E E Cummings
I have been uncharacteristically quiet on social media these last few moths. Grad school and a pandemic aside, it’s been a tough year pain-wise. Truth be told it’s been a very difficult few years worsening to the point of incapacitating moments.
I have felt in my body that something was wrong for ages, but no matter how I pressed I was brushed off and dismissed. Fibromyalgia is a broad sweeping umbrella for widespread unexplained pain and the treatments are all about managing and mitigating flare-ups.
Except things just got worse and worse and nothing helped anymore. Something felt wrong. I pressed and pushed and advocated only to be dismissed over and over. I couldn’t begin to imagine how I would manage as the years and decades progressed if the last one was anything to go by.
A year ago I sat across from a specialist who told me another version of what every other doctor had said tto me: This is just how fibromyalgia is unfortunately. He didn’t even bother to examine me. He sat across the room and said there was nothing he could do for me, that I should try yoga, lose weight and get a good therapist.
He suggested the pain “would resolve itself ” once I worked through any trauma I might still have from my past.
Well wasn’t this fun? Now I could add “It’s all in your head” to my disheartening list.
I sat in my car and cried.
Fast forward a year.
The pain is out of this world. I broke through the atmosphere before Besos billion dollar toy rocket could with my pain levels.
I was desperate and decided I needed to find a way to be heard, truly heard, and by someone who would actually listen. Anyone who knows anything will tell you the person to talk to when you need something done is a nurse.
I went through the backdoor so to speak and asked to see our NP who has been the only constant in the practice we’ve gone to for 20 years and poured my heart out in tears to her in that exam room. She listened, really listened, ordered blood work and an MRI to get a look inside and set up referrals.
Less than a week after my MRI I got the call. I was right. There was a reason for all the pain and it had been going on for a while. Acute advanced degenerative disc disease in multiple discs, and acute arthritis in my spine and into my hips.
So, NOT in my head.
I felt simultaneously vindicated and angry as hell. Years. Years of pain. Years of being ignored and told this was the best it was going to be and to try yoga, lose weight, get therapy, [insert diet/fitness/nutrition/guru fad of the month here].
Within a week I met with a wonderful doctor, a spine specialist and pain management specialist, who has assured me that the next decade will feel a hell of a lot better than the last one, that I may have a ways to go, but I will get there and I have a team at my back. And yes, I still have fibromyalgia but it wasn’t the whole story.
I finished off the semester and decided to take the summer off and resume in the Fall. It feels like all I do these days is sleep and find different positions to curl up around work, training, and home life. I manage a few tasks and then, WHAM! I’m down for the count.
Last Friday I had my first procedure on my spine and it went smoothly. Angry nerve endings still angry, another procedure to go in a few months.
Post op this morning went well even if I’m feeling frustrated. The doctor said worse pain was to be expected since the body doesn’t like having anything added to small spaces, even if it’s medication. It’s just the angry response and will quiet in time.
We often don’t have a lot of power when it comes to pain but we can have some power managing our suffering and I am so grateful for my family and friends and my pain management team. But I would also really like a vacation from this. I want blue green waters, salty air, soft sand and time to gentle my spirit and just breathe…..
I’ll always remember hearing Fr. Dennis’ wonderful, booming laughter errupting through the halls, usually at an off color, slightly inappropriate, hope to God no proper Catholics were in earshot joke as he rummaged for leftover jellybeans or Lisa’s famous lollipop stash. He had boundless enthusiasm, was unfailingly generous, sleeves rolled up, cleaning and cooking alongside us all. If he could have had his way he would have added 8 days worth of activities into those 7 day weeks. He was easy to approach, easier to talk to, and easiest to love.
One of my favorite memories of him was a Saint Patrick’s day many years ago. I was dressed for the occasion complete with a headband sporting bobbing shamrocks. Upon seeing me, Fr. Dennis announced with great gusto to the entire office how ironic it was for someone like ME, who couldn’t look less Irish, to be dressed as I was and wearing such an impressive headband “being so lesbian”.
He looked deeply mollified and attempted to get the word “Lebanese” out several more times, only to declare me lesbian over and over again and louder and louder each time to his open consternation and embarrassment, the wild and red faced laughter of the staff, and my complete and utter delight! I eventually supplied the correct word, patting him on the arm as he apologized profusely through a crimson cheeked, pained smile, and responded “It’s ok, father, besides it was just that one time in college.” He threw back his head and roared.
I’ll miss him dearly. The world will miss him dearly. I know for a fact my life was blessed for the gift of that man and I envy the delight of the angels at the endless hours of the sound of his laughter and his voice bellowing loudly for someone to show him where they hid the goddamn jellybeans.
I am a girly girl through and through. I love gorgeous makeup, getting my nails done, glamming it up, and all the lovely things that go with it. What I don’t love is having to spend time doing it.
Makeup (and I LOVE makeup) has never been a skill in my arsenal. Think Instagram fails, and clown college tryouts. I’m also active, outside a lot, and not a fan of my face melting off. I want, in short, to look fabulous and to put zero effort in while doing it. I’m lazy as hell that way but I want what I want.
This week I completed my first residency and I decided to treat myself to lip blushing (micropigmentation). I have to say I love the results. I adore pretty lip color and have accumulated obscene piles of glosses and lipsticks. What I haven’t loved has been the mask mess this past year.
My mission: find a way to have it ALL.
I have been playing around with ways of cutting down (or out entirely) as many products as possible in an attempt to achieve a wake up and go-mess free-always on point look with absolutely no effort on my part.
I stopped wearing eye makeup and lipstick and instead went with lash extensions and lipblushing (@beautifullookus ). I tossed my foundation and powder, and focused on good skin health, and moisturizing face oils to get a dewy complexion. Instead of spending money on products, over time I invested in dysport treatments to smooth lines and (treat my TMJ, amazing to be pain free after so many years!), the perfect peel to target melasma (dark patches), and lip filler to add a little oomph to my pout (@hellobeautifulmedspa).
I admit to being surprised when I crawled out of bed yesterday at an unholy hour to go to the gym for an ass kicking at the hands of my hilarious and sadistic trainer (@Ediaz691who deserves a blog piece entirely his own for the excellent hellscape of a fitness journey he is marshaling me through), threw cold water on my face and looked up to see a deceptively ready to go face on my not ready to be awake and ass kicked body. Well hello gorgeous, lets go get this pain party started! Mission accomplished. Time to go be awesome.
I am wooing myself. Yep, you read that right, wooing myself. Romancing me. Taking myself out on dates and treating myself like the goddamn queen of everything I am. Well, queen of MY everything at any rate, which includes a dishwasherless kitchen, thousands of loads of laundry, and a coop and barn to muck out regularly.
I made the conscious decision to begin vying for my own affections as years piled upon years, accelerating with alarming speed along the lines in my face and through the quicksilver streaks in my hair, and crashing headlong into the weirdest, strangest, hardest year most of us have seen.
If wooing yourself sounds like an odd thing to do, and I am almost certain it does, just wait until you try it! Ah me! I had no idea how wonderful I could feel sitting in a vibrating chair for an hour, while an angel of God works miracles on my tired legs and feet, leaving me with the prettiest toes a woman with sasquatch size feet never, ever, remotely dreamed possible. You want to get a look at the lovely painted branches sticking out of my log length feet and see for yourself?!
This simple act of self-indulgent self-care was one of the many things I had never allowed myself to enjoy prior to last Fall. My “treat yourself” moments began and ended with what felt like decadent escapes to the beach alone and hikes with my dogs through the woods. Taking myself out and getting something as impractical as a massage, lash extensions, facial, manicure or pedicure as a means of actively loving myself always felt, well, selfish.
There were and are more pressing needs to attend to than wasting money on myself and so I never did. I was the mom who could be seen returning my Christmas and birthday gifts to put towards bills or field trips or dues for school for the children. It was impossible for me to see myself as worthy of “the list” and so I never put myself on it. Mine was an unrequited love. The thing is, however, I AM worthy of “the list”. I deserve to be on my own list, my own calendar, and I needed to make a change.
When the world felt like it was closing in and breaking apart, I couldn’t help but feel that way too. The discussion of self-care became a popular topic everywhere from work, to school, to social media and I was the fiercest advocate. When it came to everyone but me. Co-workers, friends, family members and schoolmates called me out on it. They pushed me and encouraged me to take myself out for my own “date nights”. Or “date days”. I am, after all, well past my late night revelry years and can be found rolling up sidewalks in front of my house shortly after dusk.
Loving myself felt like a revolutionary idea years ago, but though I lost my share of battles, I won that war. Now it was time to put my money where my mouth was, walk the walk, and take myself OUT. I wander around for weeks after getting my nails done, grinning with pleasure at my hands, walking into walls like I’m staring at an engagement ring. It’s such a simple and small thing and yet it makes me happy. I look forward to time with myself. Sometimes I am awash in my feelings, and swimming in my thoughts. Sometimes I am stillness and rest.
“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.” ~ Brian Andreas
Im not too proud to admit (ok, I’m not proud at ALL) that I limped pathetically out of the gym tonight after having my ass handed to me on a platter by my trainer. I am feeling every inch of the poor life choices I’ve made during the pandemic inspired sloth and gluttony 24/7 party I threw for myself this past year.
Thank god for Ethan for kicking the ass of this middle age bag of mayonnaise because I for damn sure would not do a single one of those hellish exercises on my own.
Every bloody time I slowed and stopped he just smiled and said “take a break if you want, I’ll just add that time on at the end. Swear at me all you like.”
I told him (between painful gasps and lunges) that I could barely breathe much less speak or swear and that I’d need to catch my breath first. I assured him I’d just add all the swearing at him I wanted to do onto the end of our session. Bless his heart he had the nerve to laugh.
If I can summon the strength to climb into my bed, I swear to you I will be back hungry for more punishment Monday night. If I can’t raise my damn leg tonight, I’ll just sleep right here on the floor with my dogs. Oh, and I’ll still show up ready and willing for more torture. This bag of mayonnaise is coming for that kid.
I have a bowl of snow and water next to me that I’m sticking my face and hands in to calm my body.
Ive been crying and anxious for two days now. I worked too many hours back to back without sleep last week only to work long and hard on projects for school that can’t upload and are due tonight. My body aches from a painful fibromyalgia flare and I feel simultaneously shut down and overwhelmed knowing full well that there are others suffering so much more compared to me and that I should never complain. I should be able to handle this.
During a panic/anxiety attack the amygdala (fight or flight response system) goes into serious over drive and the body stars flooding with cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline at intense levels.
Shocking the body forces the brain to focus on those immediate sensations giving the amygdala the time to slow down and the central nervous system time to reset.
Little by little you begin to feel your body relax, your heart rate slow, your breathing ease.
Thats the science behind panic and anxiety attacks.
If you haven’t experienced one (wonderful! 🙏), its hard to really understand what it feels like. People will tell you you just need to think positively, brush it off and march on, and while good, strong, positive self talk is truly important, it fails to acknowledge the science going on inside and can feel dismissive to the person going through that hell.
People who know what this feels like because they have experienced it first hand know exactly what i am talking about.
It is so strange to understand exactly what’s happening in your body and why you are feeling the way you are physically and emotionally as a result, while still in the throes of a rollercoaster ride you want no part of.
It’s helpful even if the result is still exhausting. We can know all the right things to say and do for ourselves and yet here we are anyway.
When someone you know is going through this just be compassionate and offer sensory experiences to help them through the rough parts. Ice water, cool cloths, fresh air, a hot shower, hands to hold, arms to be held in, something to listen to, rest or a break.
Just be there. However that looks. Understand that it feels like drowning and failing all at the same time for that person. It will pass, but the passing can be exhausting. Just be there and know that your presence helps more than anything.
The passing of this moment is as inevitable as the arrival of spring even in the coldest storm.
Look who’s got some skin in the game now…my last run over 3.5 was well over a year ago and this past year made getting back to fighting shape something I just kept pushing off onto “future me”. Future me seemed like the just the woman to tackle what felt like an overwhelming task, whereas present me seemed better equipped to indulge in long, lazy days, rich foods and zero workouts apart from leisurely hikes with my dogs.
Present me got very comfortable and future me stuck her head around the door and whispered “You are far too comfortable. It’s time to get uncomfortable again. It’s time to set a goal challenging enough to make you sweat, and make it public enough that you have to see it through. While we’re at it, let’s do it for a cause that’s bigger than your foolish worries, put some money on it, and carve this motherfucker in stone.”
So here I am. Present me started the day comfortable and curled up with my dogs, and future me kicked me in my ass and registered for a half marathon in October. A slushy, slow ass 3.5 miles later, staring at my confirmation email I’m definitely uncomfortable. Shaking my head at myself, anxious, uncomfortable, and grateful to be pushed.
I’ve worked through two covid outbreaks and been on the front lines like so many other essential workers. We’re the ones stripping naked next to our cars so we don’t expose our families to more than we already are forced to, due to the nature of our work.
We’re the ones taking baths in hand sanitizer and leaving our work shoes in plastic bags in our trunks. We’re the ones working straight through the holidays and breaks and taking power naps in chairs in our break rooms and cafeterias, six feet apart.
I’ll be the guinea pig for others because its my hope that this reduces the risk of exposure to my family since I pose the biggest one. I’d rather have waited to see how the vaccine pans out over time but sometimes you gotta just do it for others.
Ive seen some posts about the frustration of having to wait for the 3rd or 4th round and I hear you. This entire situation is so far from ideal. People are worried and stressed and anxious to be inoculated against this.
Maybe keep hold of the thought that the ones receiving the 1st and 2nd round are also the ones who have been on the front lines without a break. Did you know that health care workers aren’t allowed to quarantine when they’ve been directly exposed?
We’re compelled to work if we’re asymptomatic while we wait for the results of yet another exposure induced test because if we stayed home every time we were directly exposed there would be no one to care for the sick. Thats our job.
We’re the ones who are required to work through holidays and snow storms and power outages whether we’ve slept or not. We stay until the roads have been cleared and the next shift has been able to shovel out and get to us to maintain safe patient staff ratios. We can’t abandon our patients. Its the law. Sometimes that’s a very long wait and we still have to dig out our cars to go home.
We’re the ones stripping down and bagging our work clothes before we go home. We keep our work shoes in the trunk next to our overnight bag and shovel incase we have to stay through another shift because of a storm. Without hazard pay or bonuses or increases in our differentials.
It’s hard to wait and you shouldn’t have to. Im grateful. Im fortunate. Im also worried about everything I face and force my family to face so I’m thankful that I was able to be in the 1st round. Hopefully it works.
If it doesn’t, I did let the kids know I love them and where my porn stash is so they could clear everything out before my parents get there.