Gratitude and Creativity: Thank You Card

These days it’s so rare that we receive anything but bills and junk advertising in our mailboxes. However, today there was a lovely surprise waiting when I opened my mailbox. I received a thank-you card in my mail. Receiving it made me smile from ear to ear.

Someone who will always be special to me sent me the card: my nephew. He wrote me a personal message of thanks. I’m so glad to know that he’s cultivating his own practice of expressing gratitude while he’s so young.

I have a bit of a thing for thank-you cards. I always have a bunch on hand at home to send notes to people when they do something nice for me. Sometimes I send a card or note for no reason at all except to let someone know how much they mean to me.

I’m sharing this because I feel so happy and proud of my nephew; and I want to encourage everyone to send a card or note to someone to let them know you care. If you don’t have cards think of another way to express gratitude for having her/him in your life.

Thank you S for your thoughtfulness

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Bruised

I’ve written extensively about my issues with sleep. I’m an insomniac. I’ve been one for years. That means I’m happy to get sleep whenever and wherever I can. Because of this I’ve developed the terrible habit of spending the night on my sofa where I often (read most nights) fall asleep, while watching TV, writing, surfing the interwebs, reading, using my phone – actually while doing just about anything.

A few nights ago, I dozed off on the sofa, yet again. I’m not sure how long I was asleep. However, while I was asleep, I fell over and landed on a plastic container in which I keep some of the art supplies I use most often. When I woke up, I had a deep indentation in the skin on my shoulder from where it had rested on the square lid of the container while I slept.

I also bruise easily. Because my skin is apparently as soft as a peach, that indent is now a lovely sore dark purple bruise that hurts a lot. I think my bruised shoulder might be a sign that it’s time for me to give going to bed at a reasonable hour greater effort. After all, who knows what I might bruise the next time I fall asleep somewhere other than my bed…

If anyone has advice for the best way to soothe a bruise, please share.

 

New Year & New Explorations

It seems so far away now: I rang in this New Year with bubbles in a glass that fizzed up my nose when I sipped them…

Now that the celebrations are over, I’m slowly – and painfully – settling into another new year. I could approach it with introspection, by summarizing all the things that happened or went unfulfilled for me in 2017, but if you’ve been reading my writing for the past few years you’ll know that my health did not improve and my doctors have yet to find the magic pill to heal me. What I’ll do instead is tell you about the things I’m looking forward to in the coming weeks and many months from now. However, I won’t go into details because, if I do, I won’t have much to write about as the year unfolds.

I’ve decided that 2018 will be a year of learning for me. That’s not to say I haven’t learned anything in past years, especially in the most recent years since the arrival of my illness when researching diagnoses and treatments to better understand all that’s happening to me; and when writing informative – and I hope educational – and coherent posts became necessary. When I started this blog a few years ago, the main goal was to share my experiences as a person with a chronic illness that involves severe chronic pain and to connect with anyone living with similar issues. Although, that scope unexpectedly broadened to include the creative things I do to cope, my illness and pain are still what drive the tales I tell; but I haven’t invested enough time to learn how what’s happening to me physiologically has impacted the body I inhabit or how it all might have started.

To that end, I got some new books over the holidays that should shed some light on things I’ve pushed to the back of my mind as I’ve battled through painful days and disappointing treatments while somewhat passively acknowledging the changes, obvious and subtle, happening within my body. I chose these books because of the whole-body perspective each author reportedly takes when discussing health and healing.

The books in my stack include

  • Gabor Maté, M.D., When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress: “provides answers to… important questions about the effect of the mind-body link on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases”.
  • Katy Bowman, Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation: “Diastasis recti, an unnatural separation of the abdominal muscles, in not just a “weak core.” It’s a symptom of a whole-body problem. Your abdominal muscles have many important jobs – they help you to do everything from twisting your spine to singing, accommodating pregnancy, and protecting your abdominal organs. They should not be splitting down the middle!”
  • Susan Hollister, Heal Yourself: Anti-Inflammatory Diet. The Top 100 Best Recipes for Chronic Inflammation: “Chronic inflammation has become an epidemic. Just look at your friends and family. How many of them have diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia or chronic pain? These are caused by chronic inflammation. This book will help you manage and prevent chronic inflammation. In the chapters that follow you will find activities, supplements, medications, and other solutions that will help you reverse your inflammation and alleviate its pain. You will discover foods to avoid and you will also learn which foods help to reduce inflammation.”

As I’ve done – and will continue to do – with my treatments and my creative coping practice, I will share what I learn as I progress with the hope that it’s beneficial to others too.

Alas, by my count, there are still a number of things – mainly pain treatments –, which I did not post about last year because of the research required and the great emotional difficulty of processing the outcomes, while trying to write cohesive posts. Once I get around to finishing some editing, I’ll post them because I believe that learning about these treatments may be beneficial to others who struggle with chronic pain, regardless of my personal outcomes.

In the meantime, I’m back on the treatment and procedure(s) treadmill this week; and I’ll hopefully have some new and interesting – as well as successful – treatment information about which I’ll fill up the site. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, however, I do wish everyone (family, friends, and all those I connect with through this site) the best and hope that this year is already better than last…

 

Blue Gingham Mood

All things considered, today wasn’t such a bad day. I had an appointment with my least favourite doctor this morning. Of all the doctors involved with managing my health, this doctor is probably the one I least look forward to seeing. My feelings stem from her early unsupportive attitudes about my pain and the added speculation about whether it was all in my head, which she didn’t put aside until she received the detailed report from the Pain Clinic almost a year later. Because of this I avoid visits with her as much as I can until I can’t.

After today’s appointment, I treated myself to a great cheeseburger topped with Swiss cheese, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and the thinnest slice of a red onion. Instead of plain French fries, I had a side of poutine, which is fries all dressed up with gravy and melted cheese, and it’s about as Canadian as food can get. Also, for the first time in what feels like forever, I drank a root beer soda. The taste of each sip brought back some great memories. Root beer was a favourite drink when I was a child and there are some things you should never let go of just because you grow up.

However, I was in a good mood before those delicious flavours awakened my taste buds and my memories. I was in a good mood for the simple reason that I was wearing a new shirt that I bought recently because it’s the best shade of blue gingham I’ve ever seen. I know… I’m a total geek; and I’m okay with that because I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with finding happiness in small things. There’s also nothing wrong with dressing to look better than you feel.

 

Building On Happiness

The passage of time coupled with perchance interactions, have ways of presenting answers to questions we may not even be aware we’ve asked. The answers aren’t always worthy of celebration nor what we want to hear or see; however, when the information gleaned is unexpectedly joyful it can affect one’s perspective in delightfully life-affirming ways.

Throughout my life, I’ve had these experiences, but my tendency was to analyze and seek out more pieces to puzzles that only existed in my head. This created greater angst than necessary then it became nearly impossible for me to accept anything that presented itself to me at face value. Thankfully, I no longer have the need to analyze EVERYTHING in-depth and in recent years, because of my health challenges, it’s become impossible to invest copious amounts of energy into speculative mind, heart, and stomach churning overanalyses.

This brings me to a few nights ago. In what many of us may still refer to as “Kodak moments”; I saw for the first time since walking away, that I may have dodged one of the biggest bullets – actually two – in my entire adult life; and I smiled. Because of what I saw, there will never again be any looking back. There will no longer be any mournful sighing or wondering what might have been. And this smile – more like the grin of a cat after eating a succulent canary – will require no effort to reproduce. I will forever have in my mind’s eye the images that answered questions I never consciously asked and succeeded in dousing embers of lingering doubts.

 

Since then, I’ve been grinning from ear-to-ear and laughing out loud. (Not out of madness. I don’t yet spend that much time alone.) My laughter is akin to the way one’s fingers lightly skip across piano keys causing each note in a crescendoing scale to sing effortlessly through the air.

The heaviness that connected me to a long gone episode in my life lifted without any exertion on my part. The murky disjointed memories that held sway over me for years and caused me to doubt decisions I made in my best interest, lost all power. Then, as what I once characterized as meagre beatable obstacles replayed, a soothing calm fell over me as they became illumined to show they were, in fact, countless hazard symbols appropriately placed for me to dodge potential disasters on my path to becoming wholly me.

As cliché, and probably whacky, as all of this might seem to some people: the energy that becomes available for living one’s life when we let go of doubt(s) and the need for incessant forensic examination of the past is astounding. I feel freed from a thing I wasn’t aware was holding me captive. Part of my consciousness was running on a treadmill while the rest of me believed it was outside road running and hill training, stretching me and building my strength for the longevity we all need to carry us through life.

Although those physical activities are off-limits to me now – and I miss them, more than words can describe. I feel as if I’ve jumped off an invisible loop. Moreover, within the space now purged of subconsciously felt doubts, I can and I will exercise my conscious mind, emotions, and creativity to build on the happiness I already hold.

 

UFO: Unidentifiable Food Object

Every so often, I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity to have an extended visit with my friend R. That involves breakfast, usually lunch and on rare days, like today, dinner. Today, as we sometimes do, we had breakfast at an all-day breakfast café near my home. I had a plate of neatly stacked French toast with scrambled eggs and R had the big breakfast with all the meats that tend to turn my stomach into a roaring ocean: bacon, ham, and sausage. As we ate our leisurely meal, we chatted about all sorts of things and mapped out the rest of our day.

Today we planned a very late lunch/early dinner at a favourite restaurant where R will definitely upgrade his meat choice and I might actually act like the omnivore I am. After being told I need to eat more meat a few years ago – apparently, my primarily vegetarian diet doesn’t provide my body with enough iron and protein – I now indulge in feasting on select meats (except pork, which I can’t digest) to keep my body steeped in hemoglobin. But I digress…

The plans for the rest of the day involved more food, conversation, and laughter. However, after our very late lunch/early dinner we knew we needed much lighter fare to take us through the evening. This called for a quick trip to the grocery store to grab some fruit and snacks. As we walked through the produce department deciding which fruit would be best I came across something I couldn’t make sense of. Were they mini mini eggplants/aubergines?

Nope…

They were grapes: sweet sapphire grapes to be exact. I’d never seen anything like them before. According to my mother – to whom I sent a photo of this strange fruit – and the interwebs, they are an old variety of grape. They are black, seedless, elongated, and tubular with dimpled ends. These grapes can grow as large as 5 cm to 7 cm (2 in to 2.75 in); and are usually harvested in mid to late August. Because we’d never seen them before we didn’t buy any. Truth be told, they freaked me out a bit. However, I’ll head back to the grocery store over the weekend so I can try them now that I know they are not mutant, radiated, GMO something or others.

In the meantime, I’m wondering how many other customers had a similar reaction to mine, or if others were more adventurous about trying this unidentifiable food object upon first sight…

 

The Pill Box

Every week, either late Saturday night or at early light Sunday morning, I go through the ritual of filling my pillbox with my medications. My pillbox has 28 compartments. Each gets filled with a varying number of medications in the form of pills or capsules. On average, I take a combination of about 32 pills and capsules each day. However, the 32 pills and capsules don’t account for all the medications I take daily because I have others that come in different forms i.e. liquids, inhalers, and – on the odd occasion when my gastrointestinal system protests against ingesting certain types of oral pharmaceuticals – suppositories. Early on in my illness, I was even prescribed a topical anesthetic for pain that came in patch-form, but it did little to reach the source of the pain deep in my pelvis.

The largest part of the pills and capsules that fill each pillbox compartment are medications I take to manage my pain. They aren’t all opioids/narcotics, but the majority of what’s in the compartments usually is. Unfortunately, not all these medications always do what they are prescribed to do. Therefore, over the last four years there have been many changes made to my medications. Changes in doses are usually an increase in strengths – as petite as I am I seem to need large doses to manage my pain –, but I’ve learned that dose increases doesn’t have to mean an increase in quantity. Some medications have also been swapped for others of equal strength when they have caused unexpected side effects or delivered no benefit at all after weeks and in some cases, months of hoping for some relief with them; and occasionally new medications get added to the mix in an effort to boost the benefits of what works.

The Pill Box – 1

The Pill Box – 2

Sometimes, the number of pills and capsules I take might fluctuate from day-to-day. That fluctuation depends on whether my doctor(s) writes prescriptions for medications with a minimum and maximum dose. Because my pain medications are largely opioids/narcotics, I try – not always successfully – to take the lower end of a prescribed dose when possible to manage my pain. My Pain Specialist prescribes my primary pain medication in two forms. The first is a long-acting opioid/narcotic prescribed to be taken multiple times each day that is intended to manage my pain for a scheduled period. The second is a breakthrough or ‘rescue’ dose of that same opioid/narcotic that I take in between the long-acting doses; especially in times when my pain levels are high, which is most of the time. I try to take that breakthrough medication on the lower end of the prescribed dose(s), when I’m having a good day, which is rare; or if I’m lucky enough to sleep through the night the overnight breakthrough dose gets skipped.

The main point of having a pillbox is to make sure I don’t miss scheduled medication doses because I take so many throughout the day. Unbelievably, I’m not always successful and might miss a dose of something from time to time, whether it’s because I get distracted or I’m fortunate enough to get some restful sleep. Nonetheless, the brightly coloured compartments of the pillbox that I fill with brightly coloured pills and capsules is my constant companion and may remain so as long as I need a reminder to take 32 pills and capsules – give or take a few – each day.

If you don’t have a pillbox, how do you remember to take your daily doses of multiple medications?