Sleepless In (Enter City Here)

I’m awake. Again.

I went to bed around 9:50pm feeling pleasantly tired. I was yawning after a long day and having been up since 4:30 am. I followed my nightly routine, got into bed, got comfy and drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up to pee, it was no big deal…I’m not a great sleeper and I figured this was my usual “90 minutes later” wake up call.

I’d slept for 72 minutes. I think that’s a record for shortest time at night. And the worst part was I was wide awake. Like…wide awake. There was no chance I was going back to sleep.

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I hate having insomnia. I don’t know if it’s Fibromyalgia induced, or if it’s because of my sleep apnea or if it’s because of the medications I take, but I haven’t slept for more than 2-3 hours a night in over 5 years now. And once I wake up at 4am-ish, that’s it, I’m up for the day. I get the house ready for the day before my hubby gets up for work – the blinds open, the kettle ready, last nights dishes put away, the cat fed…those sorts of things. I make a coffee, come sit in my recliner and then hubby is up and I’m out of his way while he starts his morning routine. It works for us, and nobody gets hurt! Once he leaves for work, I have my breakfast and then I look at the long day ahead of me and figure out what I’m going to do to fill it.

Do I go back to bed after that? No, because as tired as I am, the best I’ll do is sleep for an hour and what’s the point? If I’m going to nap, I’d rather try to save it for later in the day, when there’s a chance I might sleep longer. That’s my hope anyways, Besides, if I sleep in the morning, I might miss the hummingbirds who come to the feeder on my back deck

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Sleep, or the lack of it, is a major side effect of having Fibromyalgia. Statistics show that people who have Fibro never make it into the deep REM sleep the way they need to so they miss the restorative sleep phase so necessary to feel rested:

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It’s no wonder I can never feel rested! I never get to the restorative stage! I also know I have sleep apnea. I have a CPAP machine and I have tried so many times to use it but I just can’t get used to the mask. I’ve tried a few different ones too, including over the face, and the current choice of the nasal style, but the longest I’ve lasted with wearing them is 4 hours before I wake up ripping them off of me. The worst part is that I am a side sleeper and trying to keep the damn things in place while on your side is next to impossible. Okay, maybe I’m just complaining because I don’t want to use the machine…how incredibly unsexy is that thing! but Hubby should be using one too and he refuses so part of the problem is also resentment.

So, after waking up after my glorious 72 minutes of sleep, and in the interest of good sleep habits I got up. At least I know better than to lay in bed, just hoping I’ll fall back asleep again. Here are some of those good sleep habits I’ve learned about over time:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations (hello 4am!)
  • Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep (does 5pm count?).
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy (I could be there 24 hours a day)
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed (but I’m sleeping!)
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine (I do this part well)
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex (well, the sex part at least works)
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature (no problem here)
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings (no problem here either)
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. (oops, big problem here!!!)
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack. (I’m okay with this one)
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. (I do okay with this too)
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. (I sometimes mess up with chocolate)
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime. (I don’t drink)
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime. (usually not a problem)

One thing I have been trying lately is listening to sleep meditation music. There are some really relaxing ones out there that work on the Delta Waves of the brain and you can also find good Apps for your phone. I have an iPhone and one app in particular that is receiving great reviews is CALM by Apple. The other is Spotify which has wonderful playlists of calming music already set up or you can create your own from the many tracks available. I love listening to sounds…the rain falling, trains in the distance, things like that, so I love that option with Spotify. YouTube also has many videos of sleep meditations and if you use a YouTube to MP3 converter, you can also download these to listen to on your phone, whether it’s an iPhone or Android.

Hopefully some of these suggestions will be helpful. I don’t want to be sleepless in any city, anymore. I have slept, it’s happened a few times…I’d just like it to be more:

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Collapsed in exhaustion. Notice my glasses are still on.

There is always hope!

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Are you grateful for your life?  Are you grateful for the things you’ve been given? Are you grateful for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue? What about your other Invisible Illnesses? For Fibromyalgia? I am, and let me explain why.

I have had my Invisible Illnesses for over half my life now, and they have been a predominant part of my life since 2004 when I went into a major flare that I’ve never recovered from. That was the year I had stomach surgery for severe Gastric Reflux disease – a procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication. The surgery itself was successful, but I suffered nerve damage in the sternum area from where an instrument being used was pressed too hard against a nerve for an extended period of time, causing it to be pinched for over an hour. This caused me excruciating pain that didn’t resolve for almost a year and had me addicted to morphine pills to the point that I was hallucinating. In fact, at one point, the general surgeon called in a Thoracic surgeon, who was going to crack open my sternum to try and fix whatever the problem was – a drastic solution indeed.

I’m grateful this didn’t happen and the Thoracic surgeon had the sense to suggest a drug called Gabapentin for nerve damage which is what he suspected was the problem, and he was right.

I spent almost a year in a hunched over position, trying to “contain” the pain, it was so bad. I ended up having to go for physical therapy and massage in order to loosen up my muscles to where I could stand in a straightened up position again.

I’m grateful for the therapists that helped me.

I’m grateful there are medical teams in place when we need emergency surgery, such as when a cyst I didn’t even know I had on my ovary burst, causing me horrid pain. It needed immediate removal and there was a team to do that. Just like there was a team to remove my gallbladder and my other ovary when it went rogue as well.

And I’m grateful for my three doctors who have worked with me and my overall health issues over the last five years, Dr Leong, Dr Winston and Dr Burnett, my orthopedic surgeon who did my hip replacement.

Okay, you say…it’s easy to be grateful to the people who help us, but how can you be grateful for having Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia and all the other stuff. Well, I’ll tell you.

When you have Invisible Illness, you tend to miss out on a lot of life. You may have to give up your job or volunteer activities, your hobbies and family life. You end up losing a lot more than you seem to have left. But what having a Chronic illness does is force you to dig deep to FIND what you’re grateful for. I made a list:

  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Quiet mornings after a good sleep
  • A perfect cup of coffee
  • A day where the kids get along and no one is fighting
  • A day where the cat or dog doesn’t barf all over the place
  • Feeling energetic enough to accomplish a few things on the “to do” list
  • Feeling rested
  • Feeling less pain than normal
  • Being able to go for a coffee date with a girlfriend or two
  • Having dinner with your family together instead of needing to lay down
  • Date night with your spouse
  • Watching a movie together instead of early to bed
  • Having a bath or shower
  • Having enough food on the table and money in the bank
  • Laughter
  • A sense of safety and security
  • A roof over your head
  • Feeling loved
  • Having a close friend you can confide in
  • Books to read and art to admire
  • Social media like Facebook and Pinterest
  • Ice cream or a favourite treat
  • Family and friends to share memories with
  • Vacations

I could go on and on…the point is, there is so much to be grateful for, but when you live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness, it’s easy to get stuck wallowing in the negatives, to the point you forget to stop and remember to be grateful. Take a moment now to list a few things that you’re grateful for and make it a habit each day to say thank you. An Attitude of Gratitude is easy to cultivate, but like a good garden, you need to tend to it every day.

Remember…

there is always hope!

A Chronical of Hope…

I have been loving the experience of blogging and went into it with no expectation of making money. I wanted to write about Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia and Invisible Illness. I didn’t even think it was possible to make money writing about subjects like that, but apparently, there is a way to monetize a blog to do just that. So…I’ve started a second blog.

The name of the new blog is A Chronical Of Hope – notice the play on words with Chronical, rather than the typical Chronicle? I have to tell you something funny about that. I use a free program called Grammarly for my writing online to make sure I’m spelling things correctly and using proper grammar (you’d be surprised how many times I use commas inappropriately!). When I registered the new domain name at Hover.com, there was no problem…www.achronicalofhope.com is all mine. But when I went to the hosting site Bluehost.com to actually host the domain, Grammarly corrected the word Chronical to Chronicle and I didn’t notice (I was doing this at 3am) and it totally screwed up everything. I couldn’t launch my new site for the life of me, and I couldn’t figure out why…everything was set up properly, everything was pointing in the right direction, but nothing…it would not come up online. I finally noticed the problem and a fine young man named Deepak at the Helpdesk spent 30 minutes working with me to resolve the problem – most of the time being taken because it takes time to switch things over. I had to laugh…good old Grammarly, doing its job too well!

I’m also doing something a tiny bit different in that I’m using WordPress.org, instead of WordPress.com to produce content on the new blog. All this means is that I own the content of A Chronical Of Hope – on WordPress.com, they own everything, because you are being hosted on their platform, which is why it’s free. I pay Bluehost a fee to host my new blog so I own the content. Big difference.

The main reason I’ve started the second blog though is that I plan on turning it into a monetizing blog – one where I can earn money.  I could do that with There Is Always Hope, but I would have to change-up my theme again and make a bunch of other changes to it, and I’m just not prepared to do that. I want to keep this blog for simply writing for the joy of writing. I will be marketing A Chronical Of Hope in a different way although to the same audience – those who live with Fibro and Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Invisible Illness. I’ll be working with Affiliates such as Amazon, selling products that would appeal to people with those conditions and I will use this blog to cross-market by linking to A Chronical Of Hope when appropriate. I also have plans to sell my e-Book on the other blog as well as I wasn’t able to set it up to sell on this one.

e-Book you say? Yes, I put together an e-Book with 30 Positive Affirmations in .pdf format so you can carry positive words in your heart. If your device can open a .pdf file, you can take these words with you wherever you go and read them whenever you need them. All done up in a pretty format, I think you’ll like it. Just $3.00 and payable via PayPal. You can click here to order if you’re interested and it’s now available to order off the last post as well.

I hope you’ve been enjoying my blogging journey as much as I have been. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on my writing and the topics I’ve chosen to write about and I hope to bring you more in the near future. Thank you for following me. I appreciate each and every one of you. Remember…

There is always hope!

 

A New Piece Published!

Wow!

I’ve just had a new piece of writing published on the Pain News Network as a guest columnist. I wanted to write about how we grieve when we lose so much of our lives to a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, MS, Ehler-Danlos, Lupus and other Invisible Illnesses.

Now, I saw information about the Pain News Network on the blog of someone I follow. I looked them up and saw that they accept articles from guest writers. I contacted the Editor to see what the requirements were and he told me that basically anything to do with real life and pain, as long as it hadn’t been previously published. So I sat down, thought for a few minutes and literally banged this out. He thought it was good enough and voíla, it was done!

Here is the link, and I would love your thoughts about it in the comments below. I guess I’ll have to update my “I’ve been published” section…this is my first publication outside of The Mighty!!!

I’m so excited and I’m really damn proud of myself!

https://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2018/8/8/grieving-a-former-life

There is always hope!

One Is The Loneliest Number

Living with Chronic pain is lonely.

I’ve been very lucky in my life with chronic pain in that I have a wonderful support team. My husband is amazing – he truly gets it and understands what I’m experiencing as he’s starting having some chronic pain issues of his own. My kids are terrific too and are my biggest cheerleaders. I’ve been blessed with amazing friends who are sympathetic to what I go through on a daily basis, and who understand when I need to cancel plans at the last minute because of my health.

But I’m lonely.

Chronic pain causes you to isolate yourself because you hurt so much all the time, you just don’t want to be around people, yet you don’t want to be alone either. You never know when a flare is going to happen, so you tend to not make plans because you don’t want to be that flake who is constantly cancelling things. I’d rather try and make spontaneous plans but it never feels spontaneous to me…it actually feels desperate. And nine times out of ten, when I do make plans, I end up cancelling them because I wake up on the day of the big event feeling horrid. It’s generally because I’m exhausted as well as being in pain, but no amount of napping is going to make me feel well enough to go out. Of course, if I didn’t have plans that day, I’d have slept just fine the night before. It seems that I’m busy sleep stressing about the date, knowing I’m going to wake up feeling crappy, and then sure enough because I’m sleep stressing…I wake up feeling crappy! And even though I have great friends, I’m sure they must get tired of me flaking off all the time too.

It’s even harder when the people in your life don’t “get it”. This quote comes from Stephanie Schwerin Uplook from a Facebook Fibro Group I belong to and is used with her permission.

This is what she had to say:

Fibro sucks…having family members that don’t get it and don’t listen to one word you say when you try to explain how and what you feel. It’s not cancer, it’s not something they know anything about, it’s not terminal, it’s not that bad. You look fine…I’m really tired of being brushed off like it’s not that big of a deal. They don’t know how bad it can feel, the physical and mental toll it takes on me. No clue, no sense in trying to explain it. This last flare lasted a week and it was bad yesterday and today I’m tired and sore, I feel like my body is trying to recover from the flare, depression has kicked in. I’m wondering if this is how the rest of my life will be.

You know what’s the most aggravating?? I’ve changed so much of my lifestyle to get rid of this crap and I’ve seen no change. I swim every day, I have weights for the pool, I watch what I eat, I’ve researched and researched, I walk most days, I take magnesium supplements and I’ve seen a Rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic. Those are just a few of the things…and for everything I’ve done, it seems to be getting worse with every flare. That’s depressing. I’m 49 yrs old and to watch me get out of a sitting position after only 5 mins of sitting, you would think you were watching a 90 yr old. My husband can’t believe how quick my body locks up, even after I’ve been in the pool for an hour or how I can’t turn over in bed once I lay down. Getting up out of bed is another struggle…I’m so tired of this crap. I really don’t talk much about how and what I feel anymore with anyone. I get tired of hearing myself complain about how I feel, I’m sure they do too. I mostly have a good positive attitude and can deal with this but today, I’m tired, I’m tired of all of this.

Wow…that’s painful to read. But it happens to most of us and if you’re reading this and you have Fibro or Chronic Pain of some type, you’re probably nodding your head and recalling when this has happened to you.

Lately, most of my mornings have started off with a good cry…I’m 56 and it just hit me recently that this is NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY. No matter what I do, or how good I treat my body, this Fibro is never going to go away and in fact, will probably get worse as time goes by.

That’s a thought worth getting depressed about. How does one stay positive when that’s what you have to look forward to…nothing but more days of pain and exhaustion and the people you love not understanding you, so you continue to feel guilty about having a disease like this, like it’s your fault somehow.

All I can say for sure is that it’s NOT your fault, and you have to take as good of care of your body as possible and not let the words of others hurt you. They mean well, but they don’t understand what it’s like for us, because there is no way to make them understand. No description we give them of Fibro can possibly come close to actually living it. Just do your best to keep your spirits up, try not to blame them and do what you can to stay as healthy as possible. Find as many comfort measures as you can on the days you feel the worst and make a list of all the things that are good in your life so you can refer back to it on your really bad days. Those are the things I do. I also try to reach out to help others as it takes me out of my head and puts me into “action mode”.

So what do you do when it comes to loneliness? What do you do when you need help? My dear friend Brenda Teichroeb Heywood suggested this particular blog post today. She is a single mom of 7 children ranging in age from adult to 3 and is going through a very difficult situation right now plus getting ready to move. She had this to say:

“I have always been the type of person who did not want to barge in during a sensitive time for someone. In their pain, I did not want to bulldoze my way in and then expect them to be grateful for my “help”. Yet, here I am, desperate for help in this very drowning experience and so many are sitting back and waiting for me to tell them what I want. I am just so overwhelmed, it would be better for someone to just jump in. I wonder if it would be a helpful post to write to those who live with or know people to struggle with chronic pain. Is it better to jump in and help the person? Is it better to respect space and wait?”

I responded back to her:

“Sometimes the people able to help just don’t know how to. Personally, I think people stand back waiting to be asked because they don’t want to interfere with or disrupt a person’s life. They don’t want to intrude. It’s like saying “call me if you need anything”. They’re willing to help, but the onus is on you to reach out for it.”

And she replied:

“It’s hard. To be so exhausted and then still do the asking. One friend has offered over and over that she’ll help me in any way. I’ve asked multiple times for help with packing and sorting and she has yet to show up. Sigh. This is not for forever, but I’m worn thin. And I think the little girl in me just wants to be rescued. Maybe what we need from others is a person by person thing or season by season.”

Isn’t that how we all feel…like we want to be rescued? Yet the only person who can truly rescue us from loneliness is ourselves. If no one knows how we’re feeling, we can’t blame them. And if no one “gets” what we’re going through, we either have to keep finding ways to explain it or realize that perhaps they just don’t want to get it. Maybe they don’t believe us, or maybe they’re too overwhelmed with what we experience. We frighten them with the intensity of our pain and fatigue and finality of this disease. They know it’s never going to end just as much as we do, but they don’t know what to do or say, so they do and say nothing. Or if they say something, it’s a joke. Or a nasty comment. Defence mechanisms come in all shapes and forms, so we can’t take it personally or we’ll go mad.

Loneliness goes hand in hand with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and all Invisible Illnesses. It’s up to us to learn how we want to manage it. Do we want to reach out to others or have them reach out to us? We need to communicate that to the people we love, so they know what the expectations are. You’d be surprised how many of your friends may be sitting there, waiting for you to call to say you’d love to get together with them – and they’ve just been waiting to hear from you to give the go ahead.

One is the loneliest number but it doesn’t have to be. Pick up the phone, send an email, say hi on Facebook…do whatever is easiest, but make a connection soon. Turn your one into two.

There is always hope.

Creature Comforts

Oh, today’s post is a goody!!!

Today, I’m talking about creature comforts…and by that, I mean the pets that bring us comfort when we’re in pain, or just needing a little extra loving. This is a guest post and I’m going to be introducing you to several of my Internet friends and their furry companions.

Lets start with Catherine Taylor and her Bichon Chloe. Catherine shared this with me:

Bichons in general are very loyal and Chloe and I bonded from the start. It was like she imprinted on me … she was my shadow. When she was a pup, we had her outside one day, playing in the girl’s sandbox/play centre. It had a small slide and the girls put her at the top of it and ‘encouraged’ her to slide down it. Chloe was having nothing to do with it. I went to the bottom of the slide, crouched down and called to her. She turned around and saw me and tentatively made her way to the top, looked around once and then slid down to my waiting arms. This dog trusted me 100%. I love animals and feel privileged when an animal trusts me. I believed this dog would risk her life for me, if she had to. We were friends for life.

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Chloe comfy in the chair

When I developed fibromyalgia, she stayed by my side as I spent more time in bed resting. She could have stayed near the action (and food) with other members of the family downstairs, but she became a fixture, literally, at my feet and often lying over them. It was like having a weighted therapy blanket (didn’t know about those back then). She wasn’t too heavy, just the perfect amount of pressure to make me feel snug and my feet warm, which are usually cold. She’d stay for the duration while I slept. Wherever I was, she was beside me.

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Chloe laying on Mommy’s legs in bed!

As anyone can tell you, it’s comforting and soothing to have the warmth and devotion of another being close by, one that doesn’t require anything from you. Studies have shown that blood pressure and heart rate decrease when petting an animal. Chloe passed away last year and I miss having her by my side.

What a sweetheart!!!

Our next guest is Elaine Zena Feather and her precious rescue baby Felix

Felix is my gorgeous rescue fur baby. He’s been with me almost a year and a half and he was barely more than a kitten when arrived. My granddaughter named him Felix which is also special. We’re not sure if he had been abandoned but he was definitely very nervous. He was happy to come to me straight away and have cuddles but he kept finding little hidey holes when we first got home (including diving into my drawer under the bed and he would not come out lol. My son had to remove the drawer and coax him out. Before long he made himself right at home, stretching his long, furry body out on the carpet.

 

He is such a loving boy and will lie right next to me wherever I am, snuggling up and wanting lots of cuddles. He will lie on my lap and turn himself over so he’s lying in my arms. Then he’ll put his paws up to my face for me to kiss them. I cannot imagine my life without him. He follows me round like a dog and comes running when I call. He’s very vocal and “chats” away to me. He really is a comfort and is loved by all my family. He is also very good with my grandchildren especially my grandson who was totally besotted with him. He has beautifully long fur and is happy to be brushed and will even roll over for me to do both sides lol.

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Felix showing off his luxurious fur

His one “downfall” is he keeps bringing me “presents” which I do my best to rescue and then release back into the wild. Unfortunately I have ended up being bitten a few times by rescued mice and boy does it hurt. I just sometimes forget because I just want to try to pick them up before they disappear somewhere in my house that I won’t be able to find them. I can’t really blame Felix though because it’s what cats do and we have amazing open fields at the back of us which is a great hunting ground. They say having an animal reduces stress and stroking them is very good to reduce blood pressure but also to keep you alive longer. I totally believe that’s true cos having my snuggles with Felix is wonderful and makes me forgive him anything……..even him waking me up at 4am to go out lol xxx

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Elaine and Felix cuddling each other

I love how furry Felix is!!

Our next guest is Julie Villefana and her Old English Sheepdog Don Pedro

I have been living and coping with having Fibromyalgia as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for many years. At the beginning I slept a lot, as well as cried and generally felt very unhappy. My mum lived with us, so I was busy hanging out with her. She basically got me out and about as little as I did. Then about 10 years ago my mum had a stroke and was first hospitalized and then placed in a Nursing Home. I was devastated. I had lost my only friend who really understood, or at least tried to understand my new-found life. Even though I am happily married, my hubby is away a lot. So, about 8 yrs ago we decided to get an Old English Sheepdog. We named him Don Pedro and he was 8 weeks old when we brought him home.

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8 weeks old

He was so small that he fit on my mum’s tray on her wheelchair! He forced me to not only have to take him out to do his business and general exercise, but also to learn to smile again. He brought and still does, bring such joy to the world! He attracts attention wherever we are. Many stop to ask questions about him, to which I have to reply, naturally. He made me happy again. Sometimes I feel that I have to dress the part to just take him outside to be seen by the world. Plus, he is such a character and certainly has a personality of his own.

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Playing with his girlfriend

If it weren’t for him my life would be very much duller. He seems to have adopted my lifestyle in that he rests when I do, which is a lot. Plus he seems to sense when I am at my worse and snuggles beside me on our bed. (We actually had to get a bigger bed as he tends to jump in ours and slowly push us to the edges so that he can stretch out)! I post a lot of pictures of our Don Pedro on Facebook and Instagram, etc, because he is so photogenic and adorable to us at least.

We have been on the front page of the news twice, including even winning a Lookalike Competition! And now that we have recently moved to Victoria, he is constantly being photographed by the massive array of tourists. Yes I realize that his breed don’t live forever, and we hope that he will be with us for many more years of sheer joy, we know that he will leave us one day, where I will have to carry on as best I can, but for now I will enjoy everything that he has to offer. I thoroughly recommend an OES for anyone housebound and in constant pain as am I.

 

 

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Julie and Don Pedro enjoying the snow

I can’t wait to meet Don Pedro as Julie and I are friends in real life and she just moved to my town of Victoria, BC!

And finally, there’s my pet, Dorie. What can I say about my sweet kitty? We’ve had her for 9 years now, since she was a kitten and she is definitely MY cat.

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Dorie at 10 weeks old

She plays with Ray but she cuddles with me and I’m the one she curls up to at night when it’s bedtime. She sleeps tucked right up beside my tummy, as tight as she can and only moves when I need to get up to pee. She waits for me to come back and get comfy and then *boom* she’s right back in there again!

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She seems to instinctively know when I’m having a bad day too. She loves to come curl up in my lap on those days, offering me comfort. On other days, when I’m blogging or otherwise occupied on the computer, she’ll stay close enough to wait to an opportunity to sneak onto my lap whenever she can!

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Just waiting for her moment!

Dorie has two special toys that she considers her babies – a blue crocheted string and a small stuffed bunny. She carries Bunny and String around the house, chirping at them and leaving them in the strangest places. We’ve found them in the food bowl before, and I once found Bunny in the recycling bin and the bathtub! Our rule is that we never move them unless absolutely necessary.

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Bunny and String

Here I’d only set my motorcycle helmet down for a short while but apparently it was a good home for both toys! Dorie makes me laugh with her antics and I think that’s one of the best things a pet can do for you when you live with chronic pain – laugh!

Do you have a pet that helps you feel better? Tell me about it in the comments below and if you’d like to be featured in a post like this in the future, send me your information in the Contact Me form and I’ll be in touch!

Thanks for reading!

There is always hope!

Some Body To Love

I love my body! Despite the fact it’s a piece of crap on the inside and has been for a very long time…I still love it!  220px-Breathe-face-smile.svg

It’s not a model’s body, not by any stretch of the imagination, but my husband still finds it attractive after 24 years together. He took this photo back in 2011 when we went on our first cruise and when I asked him if he could find it (because I wanted to show it to our daughter to prove I looked good in a two-piece back then), he looked at me almost in disbelief and said “of course I can find it”. He knew exactly where it was because it’s a favourite of his.

Pam'sButt

I was 49 when this photo was taken and I’m 56 now. I don’t look quite the same as back then but I’m working on it. I’ve had a hip replacement since this was taken plus another surgery, as well as many years of increased pain with my Fibromyalgia and other illnesses. In fact, over half of the Invisible Illnesses I live with now didn’t even exist in my body when Ray snapped this photo. But I still love my body, just the way it is right now.

I’m 5’2″ tall and I weigh about 145lbs right now. I fluctuate up to 150lbs. I have strong arms and legs, but my fingers and hands are weak. Once upon a time in 2008 in Calgary AB, I walked a Half Marathon in -23 degree temperatures (with a windchill of -30). The annual Running Room Hypothermic Half Marathon is quite famous and is now held in cities across North America.  This was my very first time – I took a training program but hadn’t trained properly near race day because of my health and really, I probably shouldn’t have even done it. However, I finished in 3:30:22 and in fact it was such a good race time that Ray almost didn’t make it to the finish line in time to take photos of me crossing (it was a surprise for me). I was delighted to finish and vowed I would never do anything like that again (I got a tiny bit of frostbite under my chin which was the only area left exposed).

HypoHalfMedal

I love my body now, but there was a time when I mourned for the body I used to have. Back in the mid-2000’s, I used to be in great shape. I went to the gym, I had a trainer named Terrianne and I lifted weights – heavy weights. I was doing 40lb bicep curls and 80lb hip abductors and at one point, I could leg press 800lbs. Yes, you read that right…I could leg press 800lbs. I was well muscled and toned and in the best shape of my life. It was only because of 3 unexpected surgeries between 2006 and 2007 that my life derailed and I was unable to recuperate properly. In fact, I had barely done any proper training for the Hypothermic Half when the Marathon actually took place, so to finish in the time I did was a real testament to the shape I’d been in previously. We really take our bodies for granted when they’re running well, don’t we?

I still love my body! Even after everything it’s put me through with surgeries, and Fibro and Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and all the other Invisible Illnesses, it’s the only body I have, so I try to stay positive and treat it well. I like to try to keep my mind sharp as well so I enjoy doing things like word search puzzles and crosswords and I’ve always enjoyed those online hidden object games. Because I don’t get out of the house a lot, I do tend to spend a lot of time on the computer, but sometimes, I’m aware of being “housebound”. It’s an awful sensation and it makes me feel like an invalid. A shut-in if you will. How about you? Do you ever feel that way?

Unfortunately, I have to use a cane for mobility purposes. I’ve had my right hip replaced and it works great, but my left hip still needs to be replaced in the near future. Additionally, my Left Achilles Tendon has been giving me problems for quite some time and even though I’ve seen a physiotherapist, he’s not been able to do much for me. We’ve tried massage and acupuncture and he feels that there’s not really much else that will help the problem, which he thinks is more with the tendon attaching at the bone. Ultrasound isn’t going to improve anything, so after 4 sessions, we’ve called it quits. The other reason for using a cane is that my right knee has problems with severe pain and an occasional buckling and collapsing problem. It’s arthritis that causes this and so I wear a knee brace and use the cane for stability.

Sometimes, when I’m out running errands, I have to use a rollator because the distance is too far for just a cane. Mine is bright orange and made by Hugo:

s-l300

I call it my “Pambourghini”. Seriously though, it’s great for use around downtown Langford where I live, or when I take the bus to the doctor because it folds up with one hand and it’s easy to transport if Ray and I take the truck somewhere instead.

Here’s the thing though – I don’t want to be defined by my Chronic Pain, and just because I use a mobility device doesn’t mean I don’t want to look my best at the same time. I try to dress fashionably but I also have my own unique sense of style. I can’t wear high heels, so I tend to wear shoes that have some sparkle to them. I love long dresses for a more feminine touch, and over the course of the last three years, I’ve gone from having summer hair (practically bald) to short hair to long hair.

And when I have a chance to go out with friends or with my husband on a rare date night, I want to look good. I want to dress up and be pretty and look like every other person around me. I don’t want someone to be able to pick me out of the room and say “oh, there’s the one with chronic pain”.

But while I care very much about how I look, I’m often too tired or too sore to go anywhere and when I do go out, it’s usually a medical appointment. The last person I need to impress is my doctor. In fact, I generally want him to see me at my worst, so he knows what my day-to-day look really does look like.

GWSoonFlu

In order to try to take care of myself, I’ve recently taken on a 30 Day Challenge to do 20 Squats, 20 Wall Push-ups and 20 Bicep Curls every day. I want to try and be as fit as I can in the body I have but I know I need to start slow so I don’t cause a Fibro flare-up. This was my modified answer to an invitation from a friend for a 100 Squats a Day Challenge. So far, I’m on Day 2 and I’ve done both days in good form!!! Go me! I set an alarm on my iPhone to remind me what to do and when, and I’m determined to follow through!

There was a time when I didn’t always feel this way. I felt like my body had betrayed me. It was hard to go from being so healthy to suddenly being bedridden half the time, or unable to go for a walk without using a cane. It was frightening to think that this was going to be my future, and chances were it wasn’t going to get better, only worse. And in a lot of ways, it’s been true. I’ve had to give up hobbies I loved because I don’t have the stamina to keep doing them.

When I lived in Calgary, AB, I used to sing in a women’s 4 part a cappella Barbershop Chorus called Rhythm of the Rockies, and in a quartet called Quintessence. We were part of Sweet Adelines International and our chorus would compete in Regional Competition against other choruses from BC, AB and SK – we were the All Canadian Region, Region 26! The winner of the Chorus competition would go on to International competition the following year. In 2005, Quintessence decided to compete for the first time in the Quartet competition and ended up winning Novice Quartet of the Year!! I think we placed 10th out of 16 Quartets as well. We were so proud of ourselves!!!

Quintessence

Quintessence Quartet: Cheryl (Baritone), Pamela (Bass), Lauri (Lead), Judith (Tenor)

Rehearsals became too much for me, when pain and fatigue took over my life. We competed one more year, in 2006 but that was my final year of singing, including in the chorus. What a huge disappointment that was for me. I had been singing in some form or fashion for most of my life. And now, that was gone. It’s even harder now that I live where I live as the very excellent Pacific Edge Chorus from Sweet Adelines rehearses just down the road from me. I would love to be a part of singing again but I just don’t think I could manage the energy required to be involved again. I have to be honest though…every Tuesday night, I’m teased by the fact there’s a rehearsal going on!!

How do you feel about your body? Do you feel like your body has betrayed you since you first developed Fibromyalgia? What has Fibro taken from you? Did you used to be involved in any crafting or hobbies that you had to give up?

Do you still like your body?

Despite everything, I still love my body. I’ve forgiven it for what its gone through. I know it’s not it’s fault, it just is what it is. Overall, on the outside, I think I’m aging well. I have no wrinkles, lots of silver in my hair which I love, and the older I get, the more content I seem to be with life in general. I’m in love with my hubby, my kids are doing well in their lives and my three grandsons are all happy and healthy. Those are the things I like to focus on, not the parts that are breaking down left, right and centre. I try to remain positive and stay joyous. Contentment IS achievable, but it takes fortitude and the right mental attitude.

If you’re struggling, I invite you to reach out. I have a wonderful little booklet with some powerful words from women I’d be happy to pass along to you, so if you’d like that, send me a message using the Contact Page. It’s about more than just body image…it’s empowering in many different ways, but all about being a strong woman. And that’s how I like to think of myself. I am a strong woman!

Our bodies are complex, but they’re all we have. Let’s all be strong and learn to love them again, just as they are.

Remember…

there is always hope