acceptance: strength, not defeat

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After having to accept yet another thing about being chronically ill, I wrote the post below and left it to “ripen.” In the world of crazy coincidences that are my life these days, Emily Ruth of Chronically Creative contributed a post each day of invisible illness awareness week, including an amazing one on, you guessed it, acceptance. Take the time to check it out – well worth the reading. Her facebook page has links to all her posts including the invisible awareness week ones. If you haven’t visited her site or facebook page, you should. She is one amazing woman!

And, honestly, I hadn’t seen/read her post when I composed me.

As a child, I accepted that my ankles and head would always hurt and I had life threatening allergies.

As a pre-teen, I accepted that I would be incapacitated at least two days a month due to pain.

As a teen, I accepted that depression would always shadow me.

As a teen, I accepted that I would get migraines that could last a day or a week.

As a young adult, I accepted that my shins would ache unless I walked enough each day.

In my mid-20s, I accepted that only one week of the month was okay; the other three where spent in PMS, PMDD, bloating and pain.

In my late 20s I accepted that I would always have digestive issues.

In my 30s, I accepted that I would always have to fight my demons; one moment of inattention could lead to months of hell.

In my 40s, I accepted that my facial pain wouldn’t go away; that my neck spasms would get worse and the only thing for the pain generated by tightness in my neck and shoulders were prescription muscle relaxants.

In my 40s, I accepted that I would not have access to alternative/naturopathic therapies such as healing massage as health insurance doesn’t cover it; the clinics/medical health professionals were not easily accessed through public transit.

In my 40s, I accepted that my dental pain wasn’t going to stop, and there was little I could take or do to make it more bearable.

In my 50s, I accepted that the osteoarthritis which I’d had since my 30s, would always affect my jaw, “face bones”, neck and spine, and even with osteoporosis medication, bone density remained poor, and falling as much as I did was not a good thing.

In my 50s, I accepted that I will not get the kind of psychiatric, therapy and medications that I need to get better.

Acceptance isn’t negative. Instead of running head long into the brick wall, you examine it closely for cracks and imperfections – places where the bricks/mortar could be chipped away.

Acceptance doesn’t mean I’m giving up, lost all hope, or spirit. Acceptance means that I will control what I can. I have chronic pain; chronic pain doesn’t have me.

Acceptance, for me is being a realist; knowing that the research I do is worthwhile, but it isn’t going to cure me, or lessen the symptoms, make things easier. I’ll be more informed, even if that presents the hard fact that there is nothing to help with the symptoms, or there are beneficial, stabilizing and “normalizing” medications and therapies I can’t access due to health insurance and public transportation issues.

Acceptance is that I will not let my illnesses define me, confine me, or be me. Although I may not feel it right now, I am more than being in never-ending pain and endless deep depression.

Acceptance, too, is appreciating that the level of pain (physical and emotional) I deal with is so slight compared to what others struggle with every second of every day.

Acceptance of the small things: making a toddler’s face one big smile; returning an earth worm to the earth, rather than leave it wiggling on the concrete sidewalk; fancy coffee drinks; snowdrops that spite the winter by blooming through the layers of snow; blue skies; rainbows; harvest moons; blog and face book postings; email from a friend; fall’s riotous colo(u)rs; honey crisp apples; sharing a smile; giving and getting hugs; dropping a quarter in the Salvation Army “kettle;” donating art supplies for art therapy at a woman’s shelter. None of these will win me an Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, Pulitzer, or Nobel Prize. But, these are things that make me feel lighter and delighting in what being aware of and accepting the importance of the small things in life can do.

when a byte bites back: chronicness and viruses

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Cough and the Common Cold

Cough and the Common Cold (Photo credit: RobertFrancis)

The other day a suspicious email in junk folder was accidentally opened. Hoping a quick reaction time, anti-virus software, and computer scans averted my laptop from coming down with some nasty infection. Of course, now every “hiccup,” slow to load page, makes me nervous, and wondering if there is still something lurking among the bits and bytes.

swimming in dangerous waters

I react much the same way to the potential/perceived arrival of unwanted health guests. Is this a shifting or morphing of current conditions, just a brief encounter with a bug, or opening the portal to a longer affair?

Seasonal allergies, for example, have morphed from sneezing and itchy eyes into a persistent sore throat; just like the one that precedes colds, and can be a side effect of two current medications.

Feeling extra foggy-groggy, lethargic, headachy, and nauseous can subside after a few days or might indicate stocking up on kleenex, saline nasal spray, hot beverages, Dramamine (gravol) and comfort food would be a wise decision.

When is feeling exceptionally fatigued a reaction to medication, a shift in the chronic state, or an incoming infection? With no working internal thermostat, sensations of feeling hot or cold, skin feeling sweaty or clammy are ordinary, so when to get out the thermometer? Feeling more achy could symbolize a “flare,” over-exertion, or the flu. Depending on your “normal” body temperature, a reading of 98.6 could indicate a mild fever. Nausea and whooziness, feeling weak and shaky can mean the onset of the flu, or manifestations of chronic health conditions.

Not as hyper-vigilant as the above sounds; the blending chronic condition symptoms, potential uninvited guests and side effects come “naturally” now. I even have seasonally adjusted colds: the springtime one that open morphs into a sinus infection; in summer comes with a nighttime, keep-me-awake cough; an especially achy fall version; and a winter holiday cold where I bring kleenex along with the presents.

And, by the way, what is an “uncommon cold”?

Welcome any suggestions, and your experience with chronic illness and bugs, viruses, and nasty germs.

whimsy: create a stay calm and carry on poster for #hawmc 2012

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I think of bipolar 2 as having a unique signature like fingerprints or strands of dna; yet still linked to a broader universe of symptoms.

My version of bp2 is characterized by chronic deep depression; falling into a black hole where starlight never reaches, and nothing ever breaks free. Irritation grows to outbursts of anger; I’m a danger to doors, walls, furniture and anything that can be thrown. I can be equally self-destructive in thought, word, and action. To ease the emptiness, and satisfy some internal “itch,” I lean toward excess in food and drink, shopping, and obsessions.

The project is to create a “stay calm and carry-on poster” that reflects my health issue and perceptions of it. I needed to find something that fit the full spectrum from sadness to “madness.”

So, “stay calm” to control the uncontrollable, to slow down the racing thoughts that get ahead of me, to stop destructive behavior(u)r before the first object flies; before chasing the first hollow excess.

“And believe in whimsy” to remind myself that all the world isn’t shadows where the demons lurk; that there still are fairy lights and pixie dust; refracted rainbows of colo(u)r shining through prisms. Every day can be more than sadness.

[my apologies -- somehow the version I published contained the "edited-out" bits. The post should have ended with "Every day can be MORE than sadness"; everything else after that should have been deleted! What is now up should be the shorter, edited version]