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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to do Less When You Feel Like You're Doing Nothing!

Yesterday, I went to see my knee surgeon.  I walked in, feeling very proud of myself that I was only using the cane.  I was even feeling really good because I actually put on makeup, fixed my hair, and wore a dress.  These things have become a vanishing art for me lately.  I took my son, Jack, with me, simply because the walk from the parking lot is a little long, and I thought I might need an arm to lean on, which I did.

Now, let me mention that I know my knee doctor quite well.  Being the mother of three active teenage boys, Dr. M. has had the opportunity to treat two of them, even performing surgery on the oldest.  He is frequently telling my boys to stop hurting themselves, because they are going to make their mother old before her time.  Dr. M. has a wonderful bedside manner, and I always enjoy seeing him.

So, they took us back to the exam room, and I must say I enjoyed the one on one time, talking with Jack.  We could hear the doctor talking with other patients, and dictating into his little recorder as he walked from one room to the other.  The chair I was sitting in was right next to the door, and I felt this warm hand reach into the room and rub my shoulder.  Dr. M kept on going, though, on to the room next door to mine.

A few minutes later, he walked into my room and told me that I looked wonderful!  A girl can always use another compliment.  He spent a minute or two talking to Jack, telling him he was glad he hadn't been to see him in a while.  Then Dr. M. took his first look at my knee.  He looked up at me and said, "Mama," he has called me that for years, due to seeing the boys, "You are doing very well.  The incisions look wonderful."

I thought at that moment that I was doing everything right, and again, I felt quite proud of myself.  And then he said something that I didn't see coming.  Dr. M. looked me in the eye and told me that I was overdoing it!  How could I possibly be overdoing it?  I thought to myself that I haven't done anything for the last six weeks.  Yes, I've run a few errands, and I've gone to the grocery store once.  Overdoing it?  Me?

Dr. M. pointed out a couple of areas of swelling and told me that those were places with fluid in them.  He said that for the next six weeks, he wants me off my leg as much as possible and to start wearing the ACE bandage wraps again.  He also told me to keep me leg elevated whenever I'm sitting and to use ice frequently throughout the day.

I started to tell him that I had to get back to my old self, but he cut me off.  He told Jack that was to make sure that Mama stayed down, and to take care of me.  Of course, Jack told the doctor he would handle it.  At that moment, I felt rather ganged up on!  Then, I told Dr. M. that I just didn't feel like I was getting over this surgery as fast as I should have.  I laughed and said it had definitely shown me that I am now almost 50 years old.

Dr. M. smiled and said, "Don't you hate it when you finally figure that out?  But you have many other things going on with you, and with your fibromyalgia, it's going to take your body much longer to get over the surgery."  As much as I didn't want to hear that, It felt good to have someone acknowledge that the fibro was affecting me as much as it is.

So, here I sit, trying very hard to do less than I've been doing for the last six weeks.  Dale and the boys are enforcing the rules, and they are taking very good care of me.  I hate asking them to go and get me a drink, when I feel perfectly capable of doing it myself, but I also don't want to mess up the lovely repair job Dr. M. did on my old knee.  I'm slowly learning that it is possible to do less than nothing, but it sure isn't easy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Pain Caused by Others

The other day, a friend of mine, who also deals with chronic pain, was enjoying an outing with her family at a local farmer's market.  Like me, Tracey (not her real name) walks with a cane.  As she and her family were walking through a crowded area of the market, some idiot woman jerked her child away from Tracey, and loudly exclaimed, "Don't get near her!  Whatever she has is contagious!" This horrible remark was delivered with the requisite dirty look.  Needless to say, my friend was hurt and shocked by the incident.  

I cannot tell you how angry I was upon hearing this!  So now, walking with a cane denotes a contagious illness?  And if a cane caused this woman to yank her child out of Tracey's path, what other people does this woman consider a threat to her child?  I am sure that if this woman had her way about things, all of us with disabilities would be returned to the family attic of a century ago!

I remember in first grade, we had a young boy in my class with cerebral palsy.  Many of the children in the class avoided David.  He walked funny, he drooled, and he could be very difficult to understand.  And I was drawn to him.  David and I would walk around the playground at recess, holding hands.  Once you got to know him, he was the neatest kid!  I told my mother about my new friend, and she told me what a sweet girl I was for being his friend.  And, after awhile, I stopped noticing the things that were wrong with David, and only saw the things that were right with him.

As angry as I am with this ignorant woman, I feel the most sorry for her child.  This little girl is going to grow up hating those who are different from her.  It is attitudes like this which lead to discrimination of those who are different, whether it is race, sexuality, or disability.  And, if history repeats itself - which it often does, this little girl will grow up and pass her hatred on to her children.  It makes me more sad than angry, in the long run.

If I had a magic wand, I would take this little girl, and others like her, to London right now.  Of course, the Olympics are a wondrous spectacle, but that isn't where I would take her.  I would bypass the regular Olympics and go straight to the Para-Olympics.  I would show her that being different does not mean being less than.  I would show her world class athletes, competing to the best of their abilities, and doing things that I wouldn't be able to do in a hundred years.  And I would try to teach her that just because someone looks different from you, it doesn't mean that they aren't exactly the same on the inside.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Looking for the Old Me

I'm looking for the old me, and I can't find her anywhere!  Ever since my knee surgery, it seems like something goes wrong every time I turn around.  Everyone, including my doctors, is telling me that I am doing so good since my surgery.  They are all amazed that I'm already walking so well, and they tell me to keep up the good work.  And I usually just smile and tell them thank you.  I don't know how to explain to them that my body has launched a full scale attack on me.

Like all of you, I'm used to dealing with my chronic pain, and most of the time, I can work around it.  Partly because I want to, and partly because I have had no other choice, I have stayed very active.  I have continued to do all the errand running, kid-chauffeuring, chief cook and bottle washer duties that I always have.  I knew that after my surgery, I would be out of commission for awhile, but I also thought that it wouldn't last nearly this long!

I would love to go to my doctor and tell him what's going on with me in the hopes that he could "fix" it.  But how do you start to explain to another person what's wrong with you when you can't even put your finger on it yourself?  I don't think he would know what to do with "My body is attacking itself.  Make it stop!".  He would be very sweet about it, but I can already see the puzzled look that would come across his face.

I know that some of this had to do with the fact that I went about two weeks with virtually no sleep.  Luckily, that has started to work itself out, but I'm still not feeling any better.  I'm running strange fevers for no apparent reason, and my muscles feel like someone has taken a baseball bat to them.  Normally, I would just blame the fibro for the muscle pain, but this feels different.  I've been taking an antibiotic for a bad tooth, so you would think that I wouldn't be running a fever.

I'm also having a lot of pain and stiffness in my fingers and my wrists.  I normally type close to 60 words a minute, but now, I'm typing like a kid taking her first typing class.  I'm having to stop between each sentence to stretch and rub my hands and wrists.  I'm also starting to have headaches and neck pain, and I've never had problems with those things.  Other things are hurting as well, but I'm sure you are getting the picture.

What energy I did have has gotten up and left, and all the caffeine in the world is doing nothing to restore it.  I'm tired all the time, and I just feel weak as a kitten.  I know that my family has gotten really tired of sandwiches and microwave dinners, so last night I decided that I was going to cook a big dinner.  I made meatloaf, green beans, mac and cheese and stuffing.  At one point, I was standing in front of my stove with tears running down my face.  Thank God for Matt and Jack!  They jumped in and helped me get things finished.

So, if you see the old me, please tell her to come home!  All is forgiven, and I promise not to complain so much about the pain, and how she is falling apart.  I promise not to think that she is Super Woman, and will quit pushing her so hard.  I promise to say she needs a break, and then stick to my guns!  Hopefully, she's already on her way!

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Fight Against Exhaustion

Tired.  Spent.  Done.  Run down.  Running on empty.  Shattered.  No matter how you say it, those of us who suffer from chronic pain know what it's like to be absolutely exhausted.  Some of us suffer from insomnia on a chronic basis, and others only suffer from the occasional sleepless night.  Regardless of how often you go without sleep, the results can wreak havoc on you.

Everyone, whether they suffer from chronic pain or not, experiences some problems sleeping at one time or another.  How many of you have worried about a problem at work or school, and spent the night tossing and turning?  I know I have, on more than one occasion.  In fact, I have suffered from insomnia since childhood.  I remember being a little girl and being told that I had to stay in the bed whether I could sleep or not.  This made me even more miserable.

As I've gotten older, my insomnia has gotten more severe.  Today, no one tells me that I have to stay in the bed, but I would give anything to just be able to lie down and sleep.  Since my knee surgery, my sleep has been almost non-existent, and I don't really know why.  I can't find a comfortable position, and I'm spending most nights traveling from my bed to my recliner and back again.

I do take pain medication, and another medication to help me sleep.  About an hour after taking these night time meds, I am literally falling asleep in my chair.  I will get up, go get in the bed, and within just a few minutes, I'm asleep.  Sounds good, right?  Well, it just doesn't last!  Within one to two hours, I am awake.  Sometimes pain from my knees or back wakes me up, and sometimes, I have no idea why I'm awake.  And the effects of only sleeping a couple of hours a night are really starting to get to me.

My pain levels are really high right now, and I think that's because I can't get my body to relax.  I'm carrying around so much tension in my muscles that I constantly feel like I've been beaten.  I have a headache that won't go away, and I really don't get that many headaches.  And I'm starting to get very emotional.  I cried off and on all day yesterday, and then I would get mad at myself for crying about something so stupid as not sleeping.  I'm also getting really mean.  It didn't matter what Dale or my boys did or said yesterday, it was wrong.  And I knew that I was being nasty to them, but I couldn't stop!

During the day, I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat.  I will sit in my recliner with the TV on, and the next thing I know, I'm asleep!  I've been trying to keep myself awake during the day, because I think that the naps may be keeping me from sleeping at night.  I've given my family orders not to let me sleep more than an hour at a time during the day.  But unfortunately, even on the days when I don't nap at all during the day, I'm still not sleeping at night.

Something has got to give!  I feel like I'm completely shutting down, and not in a good way.  I don't know if any of you have ever felt this way before, but it's like I can feel my body vibrating with exhaustion.  You can leave comments on my blog, so I want to give you a challenge.  If you have any sure fire sleep inducing tips or tricks, post them here!  I know that I'm not the only person out there who isn't sleeping, and maybe we can help one another find that strangest of all things - a good night's sleep!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Heartbreak

As we all know, pain isn't always physical.  Most of us have had some sort of emotional trauma in our lives, and the pain from that is sometimes worse than the physical pain we experience everyday of our lives.  I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and I have made no secret about it.  I believe that if others, especially children, see that we have nothing to be ashamed of, they will be more comfortable in coming forward and reporting this heinous crime.

Watching all the media coverage of the Jerry Sandusky trial in the last few weeks has brought a lot of those old emotions back, and I have suffered for the victims of his crimes.  I have cried for those boys, and celebrated the fact that they were brave enough to finally come forward and testify against this monster.  And I have cursed Sandusky, and those at Penn State who covered for him all of these years.  The whole thing sickened me!

In my humble opinion, Joe Paterno and the other officials at Penn State University turned a blind eye to what was going on right under their noses.  The reputation of the University, and it's sainted football program, were more important to them that a group of helpless, at risk little boys.  I'm shocked and sickened that not one person lifted a finger to stop the abuse that was happening.  I'm sure if it was one of their children, they would have been screaming it to the rafters, but these little boys who were, for the most part, already troubled, were not important to them.  They hid their heads in the sand in order to pass the buck.

Yesterday, I was looking at the website for one of our local TV stations, and they were asking what the public thought about the fact that they had taken Paterno's "halo" out of the mural on campus.  Most people thought that it was the right thing to do, and that it didn't go far enough.  And others, like me, felt that his statue should be taken down.  I kept reading, and then I came across something that stopped me in my tracks.  A few people were blaming the children and their parents for the whole debacle!

I was absolutely shocked.  One person said that everyone should stop blaming the Penn State officials and Paterno.  She said that if the children had come forward sooner, none of this would have happened!  She also said that it was the parents fault for not making their kids speak up sooner!  I could not believe that anyone would think that way in this day and age, and then I was further shocked that other people agreed with her.

Well, this really got my dander up, as the old saying goes!  I couldn't just sit there and not say something, so I actually wrote about my childhood abuse.  I told them that I was raised in a good home, with lots of love.  I told them that I was taught to tell if someone ever did anything inappropriate to me, and even then, I didn't tell my mother until I was 21 years old.  I explained that these boys were at risk children who had been let down by the adults in their lives over and over, and they probably believed that no one would help them.  I was just so angry.

I've never gone public with my abuse in such a big way.  But, I believe that those of us who have gone through childhood sexual abuse and survived must speak up about it.  We have a responsibility to let today's victims know that they can survive this, and even thrive.  We have to let them know that there is no shame in being a victim.  We have to let them know that nothing that happened to them is their fault.  And we have to let the idiots of the world know how very wrong they are!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm Going to be Fifty, and I'm Just Now Realizing It!

I know how old I am.  In fact, if you ask me how old I am, I'll rattle off the number without even thinking about it.  Chronologically, I am 49 years old, and I will be 50, in September.  But, despite my physical failings, I've never felt that old.  In my mind, I'm still in my 30's. Now, most days, I feel like I'm 80 physically, but my mind has never felt old.  Perhaps the fact that I didn't have my children until I was in my 30's has kept me younger.  And there is the fact that my brain surgery that I had as an infant caused some damage in allowing me to mature.  But for the most part, I've never really related to the fact that I will be turning 50 years old this year!

The after effects of my recent surgery have reminded me that I am most definitely not as young as I used to be.  The last time that I had surgery, I was 28 years old.  It was another knee surgery, and like this one, it was done on an out patient basis.  I had the procedure on a Wednesday or Thursday, and was back to work on Monday.  In fact, I even made it to Happy Hour with friends a week after the surgery, and never thought anything about it.  It has now been about a month since this surgery, and I'm still trying to get back to my old self.

I'm definitely getting older.  I'm not bouncing back after this surgery.  I am tired all the time, and I don't feel like me right now. I can't seem to sleep more than a few hours at a time, and I wake up before the chickens these days.  Last night, I went to bed at 10:30, and I was up at 4:00 am!  And while my knee feels much better, the rest of my body is staging a full scale revolt.

Right now, my back is killing me, and my fibro has gone into a full flare up.  There isn't a part of me that doesn't hurt. The other day, I was walking across the living room, using my cane, and I realized that the combination of the back pain and the fibro had me walking stooped over.  I looked like I was 90, not 50! On top of those aches and pains, I've also gotten a cold.  As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing worse than a summer cold!  My mind keeps trying to tell me that I'm really not all that old, but my body has other plans.  Today, I'm feeling every minute of my almost 50 years!

I used to think that people who were 50 had one foot in the grave.  I remember being in sixth grade, and our teacher telling us that in the year 2000, we would be the same age that she was.  I was convinced that I would never live that long!  Today, 38 doesn't seem that bad!  What I wouldn't give to be able to turn back the clock to those days.  I wouldn't have fibro.  I wouldn't have the chronic back pain.  And I would still be oblivious to the fact that I really was getting older!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

First Sight of the Empty Nest

This week has been extremely quiet.  Of course, you know that my oldest son, Chris, no longer lives at home.  And my two younger boys, Matt and Jack, have been spending time with friends.  About three weeks ago, Matt went to Kentucky Boys State, which is a five day camp for the top 100 students in the state.  The day he got back, he left to spend time at his best friends house and he's been gone ever since.  Jack left on Monday to stay with one of his friends and won't be back until Sunday!

I have always jokingly said that I couldn't wait til my kids were grown and gone, and yes, it was a joke!  I adore my sons, and for the most part, enjoy their company.  However, I have always believed that our purpose as parents, is to raise our children to be productive members of society.  I looked forward to the day when they left for college, because that meant that I had done a good job in preparing them for life in general.  I'm still looking forward to that day, but I really didn't realize how much it would affect me!

The last few days have been so quiet around here!  Now, when Jack is home, things are never calm and quiet.  That boy has more energy than the Energizer Bunny.  He literally bounces off the walls.  Jack can not walk through a room.  He jumps across the room, touching the ceiling as many times as possible.  Jack rarely sits still, and he has two volumes - loud and louder!  The first day that he was gone was actually rather nice.  I didn't have to say, "Jack, quit jumping!" once.  And then, the quiet started to get to me, and I kind of missed the jumping!

Matt will be a senior in high school when school starts again, and it is so hard to believe that he could be that old.  We are looking at colleges, and will probably be taking a few trips this fall to look at schools.  At the moment, he seems to be focusing on two schools.  Vanderbilt and the University of Louisville are at the top of the list.  I couldn't be happier about those two!  At first, he was thinking about schools on both the East and West Coasts.  I was fine with that - until the time to actually start the process got closer!

Why am I so happy with Vanderbilt and U of L?  They are both close to home!  Vandy is only about 2 1/2 hours away, and U of L is only 30 minutes from us.  I like the idea of being able to go see him if I want to, and I like the idea that he can come home for the weekend.  So much for being ready for him to be grown and gone! Of course, I want him to love college like I did (although, I hope he doesn't discover partying like I did!).  I want him to make loads of friends, and actually want to stay at school over the weekend.  I just want him to come home some, too.

So, I am starting to prepare myself for the empty nest.  It won't be completely empty for three more years.  Jack still has three years of high school to get through, and I know that I have three more years of telling him to stop jumping.  I know that I have three more years of having his friends tromping through the house, and I know that there will still be days when I wish that things were quieter.  But I also know that the day is coming when I will wish one of my kids would come bounding through the room, just being a noisy teenager.  They really do grow up too fast, and I don't think we can really ever prepare ourselves for the day that they leave.  I'm proud of them, and I'm ready to see the men they will grow into.  I'm just not ready for my chicks to leave the nest!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Caution! Bitching Ahead!

I'm tired of recovering from surgery!  I'm tired of trying to be patient!  I'm tired of people telling me that it takes time to recover!  I'm tired of needing people to do the simplest of things for me!  I'm tired of being in pain all the time!  I'm tired of not being able to sleep in my bed!  I'm tired of not being able to get comfortable!  I'm tired of not being able to get in the tub for a good long soak!  I'm tired of being tired all the time!  I'm tired of feeling emotional all the time!

Getting over surgery was so much easier when I was younger, so I guess I'm also tired of getting older.  If this simple surgery has been so hard to recover from, I can't imagine what it's going to actually be like when I have to have my knee replacements!    I'm sure that this bitchy phase is going to pass, but it's taking a very long time, and I'm tired of feeling bitchy.  I'm really sick of the ACE bandages that I'm having to wear.  They are either too tight, and feel like they are cutting off my circulation, or they are too loose, and keep sliding up and down on my leg.

I really do try and stay positive about things.  I'm not always successful, but I feel like I'm always in a bad mood over the last week.  When people ask me how I'm doing, I really want to tell them the truth instead of saying the obligatory "I'm fine!".  But, I also think if I actually told someone the truth, they would run and never speak to me again.  Last night, my husband said that his back and shoulder were really hurting.  Normally, I'm very sympathetic about other peoples pain.  I try not to judge, because everyone's pain is subjective.  I didn't say anything, but I thought that he couldn't possible hurt as bad as I did, and I wanted him to just shut up!  Not a very pretty picture of me, I'm afraid!

I think part of the problem with my emotions right now is that I am completely exhausted.  I cannot seem to get enough sleep.  Right now, I'm averaging about 4 hours of sleep, and even those four hours are broken.  I've been sleeping in my recliner, which up until the last few days, has been quite comfortable.  Not anymore!  Sitting in it is uncomfortable, but it's the only place that I can keep my leg propped up.  Sleeping in it is even worse, because I am stuck in one position all night long.  Last night, I decided to try and sleep in my bed.  It felt like heaven when I first lay down.  My muscles seemed to relax and I fell asleep quickly.  Within a couple of hours, I tried to turn over to my other side, and the pain woke me up immediately!  I made my way back to the recliner and managed another couple of hours of sleep.  I am just so tired right now, but my body hurts too bad to go back to sleep.

I am praying that this mood will pass soon.  I don't like feeling this way; it isn't me!  I really do appreciate everything that my family is doing for me.  Dale and the boys couldn't be any nicer to me.  If I want something, they get it right to me.  If I need help getting up, they are right there to help me.  They are even putting up with my foul mood rather well.  Dale is doing a good job with the cooking, even though it really isn't easy for him, and he has gotten all the errands done with the help of our good friend.  And the world hasn't come crashing down on us without me being in charge!  All of these things are good things!

So, today, I'm going to try and fake being in a good mood.  I'm going to let Dale and the boys know how much I appreciate everything they are doing for me.  I'm going to try and not complain about the recliner quite so much.  I'm going to keep telling myself that ACE bandages aren't perfect, and they are going to slide or get tight.  I'm going to try not to whine quite as much as I did yesterday, and I'm going to try and leave the bitchiness here!