Help, I’m stuck in the weeds!

backyard weeds
Weeds in my backyard!

Like, for real. I mean, literally. Yup, stuck in the weeds. Not the quaint colloquialism that means I am hopelessly behind or mired in the details (okay I’m that too, but that’s not what this post is about), but literally I was stuck in the weeds. I’ll explain.

Last week I wrote about trying to recover from the pain and exhaustion I was experiencing after traveling a bit (spring break). Well, rather than allowing myself sufficient time to get better, I pushed my luck and got worse. I am the type of person that feels like I am wasting time and being lazy, if I’m not accomplishing something. This is the reason you won’t find me watching many movies or initiating  Netflix marathons. I get itchy with the feeling of needing to get to that “to do” list that is always growing. I’m also the person that doesn’t want to waste good money paying someone else to do something that I know I am capable of doing myself. As well, I’m sort of crazy about not using chemicals in my backyard where I grow food and my dog goes out to play. So, last Saturday, after spending most of the week doing the bare minimum and otherwise resting, I decided I was going to go pull a few weeds. I had a game plan (as I always do), I would go out for only 20 minutes and pull what I could, not a minute longer. Then I would come in and rest for an hour and see if I was up to going back out for another 20 minutes. I was doing great, until…that one wrong step.

Our backyard has a bit of hill that drops off on one side. That’s where most of the weeds accumulate. I had cleared a space of about 4×4′ and came upon a particularly large patch of clover that was rooted into the side of the hill. I decided I would start with that side to try to get all of the root system. The problem is, as soon as my foot was at an angle on that hill, my back gave out, and down I went. I was literally stuck in the weeds. I was able to get myself up and hobble to the patio, where I could sit down and try to recover for a minute. After I gathered my composure, I willed myself up and in the house. I immediately began the heat and ice routine, as well as applying Deep Blue Rub. You see, this has happened before. On top of everything else that causes me chronic pain, I have bulging discs at L4, L5, and S1, from a car accident years ago. Not bad enough to be helped with surgery, but bad enough to cause crap-loads of issues when I overdo it.

Fast forward to today (Thursday), and I am typing this while lying flat on my back, because it still hurts too much to sit. Add to that my joint and nerve pain in my wrists and hands, and it has already taken about 30 minutes to type this much, as I have to take breaks every few minutes. For the last 5 days I have been unable to walk very far, drive, sit, even making it to the bathroom is a challenge. You can imagine how thrilled that makes me. I’ve had to ask for my boyfriend to come back from working out of town to help me (which also drives me crazy, as I have a terrible time asking for help and can be a little stubborn about accepting it), missed out on important appointments, and watched the stacks of chores that I normally do, pile up around me. And I’ve had to resort to taking pain medication and muscle relaxers in order to get any rest, as the pain has been too overwhelming to sleep without them.

On top of all of this, I found out yesterday that my short term disability insurance has decided not to pay my claim, because my condition is not severe enough to be off work, they said. Want to know how they arrived at that decision? They considered only the notes of the Pain Management doctor that I have oh so much respect for (interject sarcastic tone here), and have only seen one time, for a sum total of about 12 minutes. Why take his opinion and not my Primary Care Provider’s? He is a specialist, I was told. Want to know my response? I said, “He sure is special, special at being an asshole!” It isn’t kind, and I’m not particularly proud of it, but it conveys the frustration I feel with this process.

Okay, the lesson for me? I need to be aware of only the now. What is happening in this very moment. I have to drop the expectations, the old feelings of inadequacy that cause me to try to live up to some unachievable standard. I have to quit worrying about what others think and concern myself only with what my body will allow me to do at this moment. I need to be grateful for the abilities that I do have, and the knowledge that everything will eventually work out as it needs to. I can’t be concerned with the future, as all I have is the moment that I am living right now.

Will I fight the disability thing? Yes, I will. I know that I’m not capable of being at work, and I know it’s because of the disabilities that I really do have, and that have been diagnosed and tracked for at least 3 years now. I will also keep learning and fighting to get answers to help restore my body to optimal wellness, for me. And, I’ll keep sharing what I learn with you. 🙂

Bobbie

 

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Spring Break

Dana Point Sunset 2
Sunset View from our Dana Point, CA Beach Cottage Rental

No, I didn’t quit my blog. It was Spring Break last week and I am not at a point yet where I have had enough time to backlog and schedule posts for when I’m not at home. 🙂

Everyone who has ever attended school in America knows that Spring Break is the time of year that you look forward to. The new has worn off the school year, your friends are starting to get on your nerves, and the promise of summer vacation is just around the corner. You want to get away. You need to let go of some stress. As parents, we remember this feeling, and many of us feel the same types of yearning to get away from work at this time of the year. I’m no different. Even though I am currently off work with my disabilities, I had planned a vacation from work for Spring Break. So, we went ahead with it. I’m going to share with you what I learned about traveling with chronic pain.

As I have been sharing on my blog, this time away from work has been about improving my health. My primary focus has been on myself, and finding out exactly what helps me feel better and improves my overall wellness. So, I had BIG plans for this vacation. I have found that sun and warm weather help my symptoms, and I have always had a yearning to be near water, so going to Southern California seemed like a brilliant plan. It’s not too far from home, so the travel time shouldn’t be too hard on my body (I thought). I have spent several vacations there, so I know the area and figured it would be less stressful to try to get around and find what I need. There are gorgeous beaches, sunny weather, and lots of restorative qualities to be found from the ocean and the amazing views. I brought my essential oils, I had my meditation and yoga spot picked out on the deck of the cottage  we were staying at, I even packed apple cider vinegar and local honey to use in the daily morning “tea” I make for myself. All sounds like it should have been a relaxing time, right? Not so much.

What I found was that traveling is just as stressful on my body as work. Being confined to sitting in one space and position for more than about 30 minutes at a time (without being able to get up and stretch or shift to elevating my legs) hurts. So, traveling at all begins the pain cycle. Also, since sleep is an issue for me (in regard to being comfortable enough to not hurt), sleeping in a bed that isn’t the right firmness is also an issue. Although the beach cottage we stayed in was great, the bed in it was not great – for me at least. Now add exhaustion from lack of sleep to the pain. Next, my very fair skinned daughter spent a bit too much time in the sun (the first full day we got there – and the only sunny day) and got a terrible sunburn, which caused her to be dehydrated. Okay, now emotional/mental stress is added to exhaustion and pain, from worrying about her. Should I continue? I also wasn’t able to find great choices of gluten free food that were also free of my other food sensitivities, so I was eating things that caused inflammation to worsen in my body. Finally, with the rain we had there was no way to use the fabulous deck for yoga or meditation, and we were 3 adult sized people and a dog in a 4o0 square foot cottage, so you can imagine there was no space to be found inside to practice either.

What’s the good news in all of this? First, my daughter is fine. We were able to get fluids into her, I used coconut oil and lavender oil to cool and soothe the burn, and she is recovering nicely. Also, I did get to spend time with people I love and see some great Southern California scenery. Lastly, I learned a valuable lesson. I can’t plan for chronic pain. It is what it is. I can do my best to  prepare for it and manage it, but it’s still always there. Does this mean I can never travel again? Of course not. But it does mean that I have to be more aware of what the pitfalls are and how it might affect me. Also, that I may need recovery time after doing so. This is day three after returning home and I am still so exhausted I can barely make it up and down the stairs. I am back on track with my self care, and am hoping to experience some improvement from the pain soon. The main thing is, my attitude is still positive. I know I have the ability to choose my perception of life, and I am choosing to embrace and enjoy every moment as it comes.

Do you have any insights on traveling with chronic pain or Fibromyalgia? Please share!

In love and light, Bobbie

Please note: Products mentioned in this article have not be evaluated by the FDA. The products and information on this page are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your medical doctor regarding your medical care and never use information obtained from this site as a substitute for professional medical advice.

Wellness journeys suck.

Fair warning, I’m feeling like there may be strong language in this post. If that offends you, you might want to skip this one. If you can’t look away from the train wreck, then push on with me into the discomfort.

Okay, so train wreck sounds negative and stronger than the point I am trying to convey. Think of this one as a train conductor that knew he was approaching a break in the track, would most definitely derail, but ended up having enough time to slow down to nearly a stop before leaving the tracks. It was tense enough to cause you some major stress and make you face your current state of existence, but no one was physically injured in the end. That’s how I have been feeling these last few days.

I am on day 9 of a free 21 day meditation series found on chopracentermeditation.com. It’s entitled, Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body, and Spirit! Let me tell you, it’s bringing up some serious shit for me. I’m grateful for this, but it’s not easy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time, it’s that my perception is my reality. While working through these meditations, which always come with a daily centering thought, I have realized how much I don’t like some of my perceptions. How limiting they have been, how much bullshit I’ve allowed in my life, and how many times I have let living my best life fall away because I bought in to the insanity. And how LONG I’ve been carrying some of this weight around.

Okay, so some history. I grew up learning that it was expected that I would be the best at everything. I needed to be the best at the sports I played, know all the answers to everything (always), which would translate to straight A’s and being favored by teachers and coaches and adults in general. I needed to be the prettiest, the fittest, the nicest, most polite, etc. This was supposed to make me successful, well liked, and make things “easy” for me. Do you know what it actually did? It made me always second guess myself, compare myself to everyone else on absolutely every level, hold back on things I had great passion for, and become disconnected from others and retreat into my own little mental world. And scared. So, so, fearful. Of everything.

Oh I was able to perform, don’t get me wrong. When the spotlight was on me, I was the best at the sports I played, got good grades, won singing contests, was the anchor of the class newscast, and was quiet, reserved and well spoken. For God’s sake my 4th grade teacher wrote in my signature book that I would be the first woman president of the United States! That should tell you something!!

I never stepped out of line, never broke any rules, never developed any sense of self. I became what others told me I needed to be. I was so afraid of breaking the rules that at the end of one school year (I think it was again 4th grade) they were giving out obsolete text books to anyone who wanted them. I took one. Perfectly legit, right? I was so worried that I had taken something that I wasn’t supposed to have and that my parents would be disappointed in me, that I hid it and gave myself horrible anxiety until I confessed to what I had done. All the while in tears, waiting for the condemnation and lack of acceptance I was sure was coming.

Why do I share this? Not because I want to blame my parents or the other adults in my life, I don’t. I am 100% sure that they were doing what they felt would give me a better life than what they had. And they did that! And I am grateful. I share this, because what I have realized is, this is some of the heaviness that I carry around with me every day. Not physical weight, but emotional and mental heaviness. Not only am I shifting my perspective to realize that experiencing and releasing those old emotions is allowing me to move forward toward living my best life, but it is also giving me the opportunity to share with you that there is hope of experiencing joy, even in the face of other adversity. I may have physical pain, and things that are not yet restored to balance in my immune system, but I am not defined by those things. My perspective is my reality. I am choosing to see things in a different way. The very essence of who I am, is not connected to that pain, nor limited by the body, or my thoughts.

So, why do wellness journeys suck? They don’t. That’s my old way of thinking, but I find myself wanting to fall back into that old pattern of limiting behavior. Of being so afraid to disappoint someone, to not be accepted, to not be right or good enough, that I make sure that I fail before I even get to the point that someone else could point out that I failed. When I found myself feeling scared of the fact that I was being vulnerable by starting this blog (which by the way is about the 4th try at blogging – in the past I always found a reason I couldn’t keep up on it and quit), that I was falling behind in the expectation I had set for myself with physical activity to try to best this fibromyalgia, and feeling impossibly isolated and alone, my first thought was; “Wellness journey my ass, this sucks!” What I am grateful for today, is that I was quickly able to turn that around and realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. That the rain has finally stopped for a bit, the sun is out, I have two daughters I love and get to experience their wonderful spirits, and I am enough. One step at a time y’all. Thanks for reading.

In warmth, Bobbie

 

 

 

I’ve tried everything – now what?!

If you were with me on Tuesday, you read about my ever so enjoyable, recent doctor visit. I promised today that I would expound upon the bit of wisdom that I gleaned from that visit – dopamine levels are important – especially in people with autoimmune issues. When I get potentially valuable info, I tend to be the type that immediately throws myself into research about whether there is more than one source to support the theory; and if so, how best to implement the change. This makes me feel like I have read SO much about the conditions I have been diagnosed with that I have “tried everything.” Keep reading and I’ll share what I have learned about dopamine, what I’ve been doing to increase it, and the results I have seen for myself.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects multiple systems in the body, including the nervous and immune systems (2 systems that contribute to most of my Fibromyalgia symptoms). As well, there have been recent studies that support healthy dopamine levels have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Inflammation is an indicator looked at when diagnosing autoimmune disorders, and one that my doctors have attempted to regulate with medications, with my personal conditions. So, it stands to reason that the good doctor was on to something, and I want to make sure I am producing dopamine optimally. How can I do that naturally? Read on.

MEDITATION. I know a lot of people get put off when they hear this word because it has a connotation of being intangible, unreachable, and maybe even pointless to some. Hold on a minute though. There is not only research to support the overall positive effects of meditation, but even that it has a positive effect on dopamine. I had trouble getting started with meditation, as many of us do, because my brain was so active with constant thought. There was an endless list of “to do’s” that would play over and over in my head. Meditation helps to quiet those thoughts, allows you to center yourself and be mindful, focusing on the now and releasing all the self defeating feelings of failure, inability, lack, and negativity. I have become able to connect to the energy of nature and my surroundings and feel a sense of calm, peace, and joy. There are multiple free guided meditations to be found on the web to help you get started. I also find that it is helpful to play soft music (my personal favorite is Tibetan singing bowls) and to diffuse essential oils to enhance the feeling of calm and tranquility. I typically use a blend of Frankincense and Lavender.

EXERCISE. Duh, right? Everyone knows that exercise is good for everything. However, I have been walking the line between trying to find how much exercise I can do without hurting my self more (even small amounts of activity can cause fibro flare ups for me), and giving me positive results. My answer has been yoga. Not only does it go right along with providing me time to be quiet and reflective, when done in conjunction with a moderate amount of activity, I don’t have as much pain and I am finally noticing some increased flexibility. For instance, I have been using the treadmill, walking at a moderate pace for 3 minutes and then jogging at a bit faster pace for 1 minute bursts, for a total of 20 minutes (including a warm up and cool down) three times per week. I also do about 15 minutes of yoga everyday. I still have the challenge of being much less flexible than most, and don’t have the stamina for a full yoga class, so I choose online instruction. Dailyom.com has a very affordable 21 day yoga body course, and Yoga with Adriene has tons of free instruction on her YouTube channel, just to name a couple I use. Also, if I find I am having extra muscle stiffness, there is an essential oil blend containing blue tansy that when applied topically, gives great relief.

Sivana804_Aug_01_2013_20_01_59

FOOD.  While I have very specific thoughts about food and the way it affects chronic illness, I am will save that for a future post. Here I will stay on task and talk about it only as it relates to dopamine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that helps the brain synthesize dopamine. Protein rich foods like meats, dairy, nuts and seeds contain tyrosine. Almonds and avocados are also good sources. Oregano oil not only helps to produce dopamine, but it is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties also. Good quality oregano oil can be added directly to your foods to reap the benefits, and potentially curb cravings. Abstaining from foods that contain additives and other toxins will also support your body in producing more dopamine. Cutting out refined sugars is a major player in this as well. I have reinvigorated my commitment to eating a modified Paleo type diet. I prefer to limit my meat intake a bit more than most Paleo eaters, and increase my nuts, seeds, and protein rich veggies. Having been back to this for only a couple of weeks, I’ve noticed less visible swelling in my face, hands and feet, and less intestinal distress.

Again, I don’t feel like I have all the answers, but I do know that I have spent hours researching things that will help me on my road to wellness. The things I have laid out here, have had an astounding overall effect on my day to day life. I feel lighter, happier, and like I am moving toward a place of better health.

Email me if you have any questions (oilinmyhands@gmail.com) or as always, feel free to leave a comment.

Blessings, Bobbie

Please note: Products mentioned in this article have not be evaluated by the FDA. The products and information on this page are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your medical doctor regarding your medical care and never use information obtained from this site as a substitute for professional medical advice.

Disclaimer: While some of the links in this site are purely informational, there are some affiliate links contained in this post that I may receive a small commission from if you choose to purchase products.

Take Your Medicine!…or not?

Last Friday I visited what was probably the 10th “specialist” that I have been referred to through my primary care provider, in hopes of finding a better way to deal with my Fibromyalgia, Arthralgia, Chronic Fatigue, Migraines, IBS, and other general malaise. Previously I’ve either seen or been referred to a  Hematologist, a Rheumatologist,  an OBGYN, an Acupuncturist, a Physical Therapist, a Pain Diversion Clinic, a Doctor of Naturopathy, a Chiropractor, Massage Therapy, and a Certified Nutrition Specialist practicing Contact Reflex Analysis. There may be more, but these are the ones I specifically remember. Friday’s Doctor only deals with pain management. I was told this was a newly opened clinic that seemed to be having “good results” with their Fibro patients. Okay, why not try again, right? So, off I go. The conversation went something like this:

Doctor: “What brings you in today?”

Me: “I think my Primary Care Provider doesn’t know what else to do for my Fibromyalgia, so we’re trying this. I do prefer a holistic approach and not to be on tons of medications.”

Doctor: “I practice Western Medicine…EVIDENCE based medicine. You should see a Naturopath.”

As you can imagine I wasn’t thrilled with that response, but I think he quickly realized how abrasive it had sounded and spent the next ten minutes trying to explain why his way is right. Telling me things like the forums where I had read posts regarding negative patient experiences with drugs like Duloxetine and Pregabalin, along with their long list of side effects, are nothing to worry about – the medications are safe, and he “does this for a living.” I’m sorry, I realize I should use proper grammar and not make this look like a text message, but…ROFL! I did manage to keep myself from launching into the science (and evidence) behind more holistic therapies, as I’m sure he couldn’t have cared less.

He continued to make assumptions about my lack of knowledge and understanding of Fibromyalgia and even physical activity, at one point telling me that beginning an athletic regimen would cause me some discomfort. Are you serious? I had no idea! I mean, after all being a Portland Marathon finisher and multiple other distance races, certainly isn’t athletic or require any training of any sort. Please! Plus, there is not a single person I know that has dealt with a chronic or autoimmune illness for any length of time, that hasn’t done some research or learned quite a lot of the specifics of their condition. It’s a must – it impacts every moment of your life!

I’m sure this is not a unique experience for those of us that have pain or chronic illnesses, or potentially even just more standard visits. What I tried to do was take away any nuggets of wisdom that I could from this visit, and there were two. One, he shared with me that one of the things they find lacking in Fibro patients is dopamine, which is why they want to use nerve related medications (I’ve been prescribed Nortriptyline, Gabapentin, Venlafaxine, Pregabalin, etc). Secondly, he shared that studies have come out as recently as last month saying that moderate activity is extremely important, which is what led to his insulting comments about my current lack of fitness. I mean, he’s not wrong about it, but his assumption that I never been an athlete wasn’t cool.

So in summary, it’s worth it to keep going and keep listening to the Doctors, even when I don’t necessarily agree, or find great results with, their treatment plans. It keeps me connected to all types of medicine and research (because I firmly believe all information is valuable), and that some of the things they prescribe can be helpful. I walked out of the office with a prescription for yet another medication, but also aquatic therapy (good stuff) and some more knowledge in my arsenal to fight Fibro. Come back and read Thursday’s post, where I am going to explain how I am upping my dopamine levels naturally, and the positive results I am already getting!

In Warmth – Bobbie

I’m about to lose it!…want to watch?

Stress. I have lots of it. I have a gorgeous teen daughter who looks like she’s twenty, a self proclaimed hippie twenty-two year old daughter who tends to live on people’s couches all over the world (or share a condo with 5 others she’s never met while working a seasonal job in a city she’s never visited), and a job that I am on disability leave from due to my fibro body telling me its had enough. The funny thing is, none of my stress is coming from these things.

Okay, so it’s a little stressful that adult men look at my 14 year old, but she thinks it’s creepy, and I’m grateful for that. And maybe I would be worried about my nomadic daughter if it wasn’t for the fact that I know I did my best to impart any wisdom I may have had to give her, and she’s choosing to be happy. Who am I to tell her to stop? I’m also not worried about my job. It will either be there when I am better, or it won’t. That is if I get better. And that’s where the real stress comes from.

As a divorced woman somewhere a bit over 40 (I always forget the exact number), with a child I’m still raising, one that hasn’t completed college, and no college degree of my own, learning that I have an autoimmune condition was not good news. Like many who have dealt with the long process of getting a diagnosis of why you can’t sleep, why you sleep all the time, why you can barely eat but still can’t lose weight, why you have pain for no reason and it’s never the same pain, why you can’t remember anything, can’t focus, and why your body literally changes overnight – I felt like I was going to lose it until the day came that they decided to call it Fibromyalgia. Since then a few more diagnosis have been added: Arthralgia, Chronic Fatigue, IBS, Migraines. Not to mention difficulty absorbing Vitamin D, Iron, Potassium…the list goes on and on.

So what does that mean? It means 3 years of trying different drug therapies, trying pain diversion techniques, seeing tons of specialists, and literally crying myself to sleep sometimes. Yes, this is my stress. How do I work a “normal” job when I can barely roll myself out of the bed some days? How do I make people understand that while I look fine on the outside, my pain level is at a fairly constant 8? This is what I am referring to as what I am “about to lose.” I’m letting go of the need to live up to the expectations of others at my own expense.

This opportunity (which is how I am choosing to look at it) to be on leave and focus on repairing the damage of not listening to what my body needs and what my limitations are, and how I can heal myself without prescription medication, is what I want to share with you in this blog. That may mean ranting about pain one day, sharing a recipe for Paleo chocolate chip cookies the next day, taking a 3 day meditation break, and then telling you how my essential oil therapy is managing my allergies a few days later. Whatever it looks like, I hope that you will come along on the journey. I encourage you to connect with me and share your thoughts and challenges. It can only help us all increase our awareness.

Cheers!