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Category: Work

Kate Update: Medicine, Mayo, and My Doctor

Despite my dramatically improved health, I still have minutes, hours, and days when I feel positively dreadful. When I turn around in my chair at work I feel like I just road the teacups. When I get angry and my blood pressure goes up (in addition to the hardcore medicine I am already on that raises said blood pressure) I get disoriented. When I abruptly stand, I nearly faint. Every time.

So, when I am having a stressful day at work, and I turn away from my desk, stand up, and begin walking to the water fountain to refill what I lovingly refer to as my Ironman (bought it before the movie came out), you can imagine how I feel. My ears ring, my vision blurs, and I literally feel my heart pounding behind my eyes.

But after a minute I am back to normal.

And I thank my lucky stars for the family doctor who pushed me to go to Mayo, for Dr. General Hospital and the Mayo Clinic staff, and for family, friends, and coworkers who helped me when I felt awful all day, every day.

And some days, like today, I get to actually thank those people in person.

This evening, while at a sweet and hilarious dance recital, I ran into my family doctor of over a decade (the one who retired while I was away at Mayo). He is a wonderful man and my heart was happy to see him, to be able to say I feel wonderful, and to thank him. Because of his advice, my husband (and others who met me after I turned 12) are amazed at my energy, activity level, and organization. They’ve never known me to be like this, and are getting to know who I am, all over again.

I continue to be overwhelmed by the significance of this improvement in my health. And I will gladly deal accept the aforementioned “touch of the dizzies” as a daily (or so) reminder of what my life would be like without medicine, Mayo, and my doctor.

Fibromyalgia, Mornings, and Pain: Don’t Give In

Recently I’ve realized something I may have already known, but it’s struck me so profoundly I thought I ought to pass it on.

I dread mornings.  I wake up with an upset stomach, a headache, and body that hurts so badly I can barely move.  Every morning.  It is a rare occasion that I stay in bed more than one minute after my alarm sounds.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I always want to roll over, call in sick, and sleep the day away, because at least when I sleep I don’t hurt.  But the reality is the more quickly I get up and out of bed, the more quickly I feel I can function.

And here’s the point…

How many of us give in to these awful mornings?  How many of us lose resolve after a few of these miserable mornings?  How many of us choose to go back to sleep, just to escape the pain?  Isn’t the reality that such a choice is actually inhibiting our progress toward being well and pain-free?

Too many fibro folks choose to do what seems easy (roll over and go back to sleep), or even wise, and by doing so choose to feel a bit worse each day.  We take a sick day, take it easy, and skip our exercise.  And we create our own version of the reality that so many fibromyalgia and chronic pain stereotypes are based on.  We act lazy, we sleep all day, and we think no one understands.

I am not immune to such follies.  I too give in to my pain, far too often.  But since my trip to Arizona I have rededicated myself to doing what is truly best for my body… getting up, going out, and doing something.

I need to show what I can do.

I need to see myself succeed.

I need to feel my health improve.

And I firmly believe that by doing so, I can create and maintain a cycle of improvement.  I know I will face truly challenging days.  But I pray my future lows will be higher than mast highs.  Improvement is my goal.  May it be a goal we share.

So, please don’t give in the bad days.  And if you are stuck in a cycle of submitting to the mornings you think movement is an impossibility, strive for the little victories.  Set achievable goals, hold yourself accountable (to yourself, a goal, or a loved one), and tell me about your successes.  Please.  We can motivate each other.

Fibromyalgia, Gauging Pain, and Self Doubt (revisited and revised, in part)

Before you read this post, I recommend you go here.

I’ve been thinking back to this post from last July…

As you may have noticed I have yet to post my follow-up to last Wednesday’s question, “What brings you strength?”  That trend will continue, as I have something else on my mind.

Over the past two weeks I have had a pain somewhere between my shoulder blades and my mid-back.  For the most part, the pain has been consistent, but last night something changed.  Everytime I moved in my sleep, my sleep ceased.  I’d wake up to stabbing pains that seemed to prevent breathing and movement.  Somehow, I managed to fall back asleep each time.  Much thanks to Amitriptyline, I’m sure. But I’m still not sure falling back to sleep was more convenient than just staying awake.  At least when you’re awake you can consciously decide not to move in a manner that steals your mobility and your breath.

Anyway, upon waking this morning I made the stupid, stubborn, short-sighted, decision to go to work, like it ain’t no thing to have blurry vision each time you breathe in deep.  Like it ain’t no thing to be unable to stand up straight.  Like it ain’t no thing to have what feels like lightning bolts travel through your body every time you go over a bump or turn a corner.  Seriously, I had NO idea turning the steering wheel used so many muscles in your back.

But I wasn’t totally stupid.  I did leave a desperate voice mail for my chiropractor in which I said something about imminent death and begged for her time.  And, lucky for me, her unbelievably sweet office manager (who is, in fact, the sweetest woman I have ever met, after S Gold, of course) called me within the hour with delightful news.  They had a spot for me!  So I busied myself with work, and minimal movement, and the wait zoomed by.

Then came the car ride.  And I almost died.  Not because of a dangerous driver (though I saw plenty) or wild weather.  Nope.  I almost died of wussiness.  Now, I’m not sure that is a real word, but I honestly thought I might not make it the twenty minutes to her office.  I worried a bump in the road might sever my spinal cord.  I was sure another breathe meant certain death.  But I was wrong, as I often am.  Thank you Mom for talking me through the rough ride.

Now, to shorten the rest of the story.  I went to the chiropractor.  My floating ribs appear to be rather confused.  They used electrical stim and it worked like a charm… for half an hour.  I ate lunch at my parents’ home.  I went back to work.  I worked a full day.  I nearly lost my sanity in pain on the drive home from work.  This time Daniel talked with me, and the distraction was just enough to get me home before I totally wussed out.

Since being home I’ve done a lot of nothing.  But I have realized the pain is not simply skeletal or muscular, it’s a healthy mix of both.  It’s not my normal fibro pain.  Nor is it my arthritis pain.  This feels like (even though it likely isn’t) it’s far too near my spine for my comfort (in all seriousness).  I’ve got a massage scheduled for tomorrow at lunch, although the thought sounds like torture.  And, to be honest, if I feel like this in the morning, I’m going to a “real” doctor.  Whatevertheheck that means.  I cannot live with pain like this.

Which brings me to a post I wrote last july: Fibromyalgia, Gauging Pain, and Self-Doubt.


That pretty much sums up what’s been on my mind today.  So, as I sat waiting for my chiropractor today I reread my post.  And I’ve been thinking.  Am I actually a wuss?  What if I really am nuts?  Am I just overly-sensitive?  Why the heck have I been to the doctor SO MANY DANG TIMES this year?!  If it’s not a cold, it’s a busted foot.  If it’s not a busted foot it’s difficulty breathing.  If it’s not difficulty breathing, it’s an ear infection.  If it’s not an ear infection, it’s… ?!  What is this?  If this is simply “back pain” I’ve never had pain in my life.  If this is “normal” I have led the most privileged life… ever.  I kinda feel like I have, but shouldn’t we all?

Now, to tweak the post from last July:

I had a doctor’s appointment over lunch and by the time I got back to work I was spent.  I gutted out another hour before deciding to work the rest of the day from home. As I walked to from my car I did what I always do when I leave return to work early from a doctor’s appointment… I quizzed myself.  I ranked my pain on a 1-10 scale. I ranked my fibro fog on the same scale. And then i second-guessed myself.

Would “normal” people think this pain was as unbearable as I seem to think it is?  Would “normal” people support my decision if I could share my pain with them?  Would normal people even have gone to work today?

I have to ask myself those questions nearly everyday.  I think one of the most challenging aspects of fibromyalgia (and any invisible illness) is self doubt.  And it was introduced to me by doctors, teachers, friends, coaches, and so-called experts.  And it leads me, on tough days, down a mental road of confusion and frustration.  Wondering if I’m just a wuss.  Wondering if I’m positively incapable of being the tough girl I was taught to be during my decade as a gymnast.  Wondering if saying I have fibromyalgia is just a polite way to tell people I am an incapable and inconsistent Gen Y-er with absolutely no tolerance for pain.

Screw you, self doubt.  I am better than you.  I trust myself, and I am learning to trust the part of my brain that tells me, “Enough is enough, K8.  Be wise with your health.”

So, after the round with self doubt I decided to dwell on the positive.  I was am able to contribute significantly to month-end reporting and analysis last this week.  I am learning a new skill, with the help of a coworker, and I was able to use said skill complete a project all by my lonesome Monday today.  I was able to work around the house over the weekend without working myself to immobility.  I know that sounds absurd, considering the nature of this post, but it’s true.  My back was hurting long before last weekend.

I am making progress. I am making progress at a more deliberate pace than I, and most everyone but my doctor, would prefer. I am making progress because I listen to my body and allow it to have ups and downs.  As long as the next down is higher than the last I will continue to be upbeat and optimistic.  If ever the next down is lower than the last I will reassess and revamp my coping methods and treatment plan.

Thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy post.  Pardon any confusing bits.  I fear this evening’s painkillers have done a number on my thought-process… and my typing.

And a special thank you to my Twitter friends who suggested ice as a comfort for extreme back/spine pain.  I am using it, as I type.  I just pray it continues to help me, as I sleep.

Life: Fibromyalgia, Birthdays, Work, and You

Yesterday was my half birthday, among other things.  And when I got to work I kept typing the wrong password.  It wasn’t until I accidently hit tab one too many times and typed my “password” into the username box that I realized I was, in fact, typing “birthday” as my password.  What was I thinking?!  Seriously… this never-ending cold has me doing some silly stuff.  I think this post jinxed me.

Last night during one of my many runny-nosed, insomnia-ridden alert-ish hours I stared blankly at the clock wondering why Aveda’s Shampure line leaves my hair smelling so good for so long.  Honestly.  I looked like a wreck.  Sounded like a smoker.  Felt like a helpless toddler.  But goodness knows, I knew my hair smelled good.

This morning, as I ran out the door to work I just had to grab this super-cute tissue box Daniel bought for me.  I felt like such a winner bringing a tissue box to work.  It was like the first day of any given grade school year… when teachers collect all sorts of goods as an entrance fee.  I know, I know, they need the stuff, but those lists are hilarious.

Today was my annual evaluation at work.  It went well and was a powerful reminder of how blessed I am to work for a company that respects and supports folks like me and you.  I was surprisingly proud of myself when I realized this time last year I was at my lowest point… in the middle of my worst fibromyalgia flare, on FMLA leave, struggling with the hell that is Cymbalta.  But this year… here I am.  Working full-time.  Driving.  Walking.  Even traveling.  What a blessing!  And what a difference a year makes.  Thank you for the significant role you played in pulling me out of said flare.  And thank you for your continued support.  I am humbled by your love and honest feedback.  And I pray your pain may be eased for your kindness to myself and those around you.  I know kind deeds and kind words are eventually returned.  And I know prayers are answered.  And I know those answers typically come through another person.

Tonight has been full of reflection for me.  And there are many more things to be said, but I absolutely MUST sleep before tomorrow.  So, I’m off to cope with my nightly pre-bed panic by showering with my beloved Aveda Shampure. Here’s to calming smells, comfy clothes, and a cuddly husband.

A Quick Note…

I will not be posting (at least not what I intended to), as previously promised.  I spent the evening visiting ladies from my congregation and helping my husband grade papers (and watching American Idol).  I apologize for dropping the ball, but I’ll pick it back up tomorrow.

In the interim (and on subject) I’ve uploaded a few pictures relating to tomorrow’s post to my Flickr.  I’m still not sure if I’ll keep my non-blog related pictures under the same account.  What do you think?  I’m leaning toward keeping all my pictures on there since… this blog is about MY LIFE w/fibro.  And I know I always enjoy seeing various aspects of your life… although it’s tough to imagine the reverse.

I pray this finds your week going well.  Mine is full of stuff to do and things to be happy about.  And, thanks to an understanding employer, I was able to get some extra rest today.  I am concerned that this bug I’ve had for nearly six weeks will bring on a flare if I don’t finally kill it off.  And, I know rest is important… so I’m off to get some.  Have a great evening!