Category Archives: Fibromyalgia
One of my favorite stories is about psychologists doing a study of pessimists and optimists. They put a young pessimist in a room with every imaginable toy. At first he happily tried out each toy, but soon he sat down crying. When they asked him, didn’t he like the toys, he sniffled “Yes.” But when asked why he was crying, he said, “They are very nice, but I know they will break. Toys usually do. I don’t want to enjoy them and then lose them.”
In the meantime the young optimist was in a room with just horse manure. To their surprise he was happily digging through the pile of manure. When asked why he was so happy, he answered enthusiastically, “With this much manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
I started 2017 with Lumbar Fusion Surgery followed by months of physical therapy, but still ending up in pain when bending and getting in and out of bed. All the bottom cabinets in our apartment are now pretty much unreachable for me. Since I’m short, the upper cabinets have always been out of reach, but now anything unbreakable is accessible with my new reacher. Though I’ve gotten fairly good at tilting things out with the reacher and catching them with my left hand, sometimes I start a chain reaction and all sorts of containers rain down on my head, the counter and the floor. As long as none break open, I just laugh and start over. However, the grits opening mid-air, provoked a different reaction. I’ll just leave it at that.
Shortly after surgery I awoke in the night unable to move my arms. I panicked thinking my arms were paralyzed, until I realized that the Velcro on my wrist braces for my carpal tunnel problem had locked onto the Velcro on my back brace. For a few minutes I thought I was going to have to wake Julian to help me, but I finally managed to get free. I think I did wake him with my laughter. Major blessings in the first several weeks of limited mobility and pain were Julian’s and all our family’s support and help and friends also brightening those days with tasty gifts of food. I felt very loved. And gained five pounds.
Some good news in April was that our Pulmonologist announced that my husband Julian’s Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis had not progressed. But then, he informed us that the scans had shown a tumor in his right lung. The biopsy showed cancer cells, so surgery was scheduled. It was a very scary time. Thankfully, it only took minimally invasive surgery to get all the cancer. So far, in each three month checkup, he is still cancer free. Another blessing in this was his surgeon, who is one of the most intelligent, funny, honest, humble, caring people we have ever met. I told her once that we admired her greatly, particularly because she didn’t think she was God. She laughed and said that she had figured that out pretty early in her life.
However, at the age of eighty-one Julian was now terribly frustrated by how slow his recovery was. Just fourteen years ago he had bounced back pretty quickly from heart surgery. And just as he was finally getting back to work on several architectural jobs, his heart went out of rhythm. So, back to the hospital we went for a Cardiac Ablation. Unfortunately, though the ablation seemed successful, for unknown reasons he began to hemorrhage profusely. The two nurses with him began to take emergency measures to staunch the bleeding, but he was losing consciousness. So, while one lowered the head of the bed to get oxygen to his brain, the other nurse (a tall good looking blonde named Amy) climbed up on the bed to be able to put enough pressure on the incision in his groin to stop the bleeding until the emergency equipment got there. About that time Julian regained consciousness and asked in surprise, “Amy, are you getting in bed with me?” (Hope springs eternal…)
The pressure equipment slowed the bleeding, but a vascular surgeon was called in to do exploratory surgery to see if an artery had been perforated. None could be found even with extensive exploration. So, though the original ablation incision was small, the exploratory one was quite long. Julian now continued to bleed from both surgical sites in the groin area, with the bleeding only very slowly becoming less profuse. A one day stay in the hospital turned into eleven days and he was still leaking fluid with some blood from both sites when they sent us home. I, an eighty year old klutz, who had just had two cataract surgeries in the ten days before this, and had numb fingers and no grip because of carpal tunnel syndrome, would now be bandaging and cutting off bandages on the two adjoining surgical sites about three times a day. Purely through the grace of God, I managed not to do him any further damage and after about another ten days the two sites no longer needed bandages. Julian never admitted to trepidation, but his sigh of relief was quite audible when we finally got to stop playing doctor.
This was now late October. Once again age took its toll and recovery was even slower. Julian lost all appetite, began sleeping excessively, and being untypically sad and even somewhat surly. So, the doctor gave him “cheer up” meds. Lo and behold, he became amazingly energetic, funny and now smiling with a wonderful sparkle in his eyes. We were both delighted. (I considered asking for a prescription for myself.) Unfortunately, he then didn’t shut his eyes for five days and five nights, so the doctor had to switch the meds. With physical therapy he slowly regained some strength once more and began to work again on his much overdue architecture projects.
Suddenly, his legs and feet began to swell and turn bright red. The diagnosis was cellulitis, so now he was again on antibiotics, steroids and having to try to work on his computer with his feet propped up above his heart. I took a photo of this rather hazardous acrobatic endeavor, but wasn’t quite mean enough to post it on face book or my blog. Well….not yet.
The next day he had a meeting to attend on one of his projects. By now, he couldn’t even get his well worn moccasin house shoes on, so I drove him to Walmart to buy some larger backless black house shoes. Since it was raining, he wore socks with plastic grocery bags over them. He put the new shoes on at the checkout counter, but since one foot was swollen less than the other, to keep that shoe on when he walked, he had to sort of shuffle his way out to the car. Well, at least they matched the color of his suit.
Then just as he was beginning to get back to a somewhat diminished “normal,” he developed a horrendous cough and began to have to fight to breathe. We feared the fibrosis had flared up, but it appeared to be an inflammation, possibly because of drastic weather changes and a cold. Back on steroids and antibiotics again. Exhausted by fighting to breathe, he ended up bedridden for several weeks and once more with swollen feet. An unexpected blessing was a recently bought new sofa that was perfect for sleeping with elevated feet on wedges our Steve ordered. He slept there day and night with the remote to control the TV and a view of a flock of cardinals that hang out at the birdfeeders outside the French doors.
Slowly he began once more getting some strength back. But, suddenly while working quietly in his office in our apartment, he was almost paralyzed by extreme pain in his chest that radiated up into his jaw. I got him to the hospital in four minutes. It would have taken the ambulance that long to get to us. Eventually, as they were running tests, the pain subsided and the tests looked okay, but they kept him over night for an echo cardiogram. While waiting for a room, we did our usual survival by humor routine and one of the nurses asked, “You do realize this is an emergency?” We just laughed and said, “We’ve had so many medical emergencies in the last couple of years, we’ve decided that humor is the best survival medicine.”
His heart didn’t show any damage, so he got to go home the next day, but barely in time to change clothes to attend the Developmental Services Banquet. This is our community organization for those with mental handicaps. Julian designed several of their group homes and was a very active member on their board for seven years. For about twenty years he also gave them the monthly stipend he got for being on the City Zoning Appeals Board. Last year we were invited, but he ended up in the hospital so we didn’t make it. This year they gave me a heads up that he was supposed to be given the award he’d missed last year. I think we got there two minutes before it started. So in his suit and tie, wearing his very dilapidated, but fortuitously stretched from wear, moccasin house shoes, he received an award and a lot of affirmation. Many of the award winners were clients with disabilities who work as helpers in the group homes. I was touched by the wholehearted applause and cheering of the other clients. The award presentations were interspersed with Christmas music like, O Holy Night, and the elderly client sitting behind me knew the words to all of them perfectly, but not the tunes. But the sheer joy in her voice brought tears to my eyes as I realized that this too was an answer to my Advent Prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.” I think Jesus is more visible in the handicapped than in the rest of us.
Our primary care doctor now scheduled Julian for an endoscopy to check for other possible causes for the pain that took us to the ER.
Meanwhile, our son Steve came from Atlanta to spend the weekend creating a wonderland with our collection of Dickens Village buildings, people in many different vignettes, animals, and trees and landmarks of London.
Julian directed this from the couch and it ended up with five levels of hills and valleys with bridges over chasms, a cave, and even a crime scene complete with crime scene tape that our son Tommy made and sneaked into the village a couple of years ago! Well after all, they had a lot of crime in Dickens day too. All the houses, churches, pubs and businesses have lights inside and the sheets of cotton snow cover the few empty patches outside. I think some zoning issues entered into the city planning also.
It really is both beautiful and interesting. And since it has grown to cover the whole end of the living room and now even continues around one corner, there’s no room inside for a Christmas tree. But outside one of the French doors, we have a small lighted one that looms large over the village. If you have to be sick, this is a lot better view than in the hospital. (Well, other than Amy the blonde nurse anyway.)
The next weekend our son Tommy and delightful Whitney with the awesomely beautiful voice brought our four granddaughters and they helped decorate the rest of the house. Then it was fun watching our talented artist granddaughters draw and getting to enjoy Whitney singing with Tommy accompanying her on the guitar. Another truly lovely Christmas experience.
Finally, Julian got to have his endoscopy which showed a pill had become lodged in his esophagus and caused an ulcer. A biopsy done to check for infection was negative. But now the challenge was to avoid the many delicious foods that irritate an ulcer.
A week before Christmas, nineteen of our family arrived for our annual Christmas gathering in a cabin at near-by Montgomery Bell State Park. Our grown children and grandchildren did most of the preparations and helped us organize and pack up our now downsized contributions. The cabin with its large stone fireplace and its wooded setting on a lake is a perfect place for a holiday gathering. The first day, Julian mostly rested, wrapped warmly in a comfortable recliner with everyone taking turns spending time with him and getting him things.
By the second day he felt well enough to be beaten at poker by both the grandchildren and great-grandchildren! It was a very happy day with even our grandson who teaches in Bolivia making it back in time. And we got to face-time our son Michael and his spouse Patrick in Cambodia, where they teach at an orphanage for children born HIV positive. I love that I have lived long enough to experience talking with and seeing our loved ones all the way across the world. In spite of all our challenges, it was a wonderful family Christmas celebration.
Christmas week, Julian’s blood pressure started vacillating wildly and he began to have severe chest pain from the ulcer in spite of taking nineteen different medicines each day! Unfortunately, all our doctors were out for a week of Christmas vacation. Adding to his misery, one of his new medicines made Julian very dizzy. He was walking to the bedroom and started to fall as he was almost to the king size bed. I was behind him and began to try to help him get to the bed. He started shouting, “Where’s the bed? Where’s the bed?” Because a week before he had had a sudden drastic loss of hearing, I thought he’d now gone blind! I managed to get him safely onto the bed and asked him if he could see it now and he snapped back, “Of course!” When I asked him why he couldn’t see it a moment before, he replied, “Because I had my eyes closed.” I had a sudden strong desire to strangle him, but fortunately my hands aren’t strong enough.
Now the sparkling lights of the village and the twinkling little tree outside and the bright red cardinals flaming around the feeders were still cheerfully visible over the rather large air purifier, the humidifier, and the walker. They could even be seen between the CPAP and Blood Pressure machine and various breathing aids on the rolling cart that we pulled next to the couch with its pyramid of wedges for elevating feet above the heart. The Christmas angels and burgundy candles around the tray with Julian’s nineteen medicines looked festive on the dining room table. I tried to convince Julian that a wreath of holly would keep his head warmer and add to the Christmassy atmosphere, but he wasn’t in the mood. I was tempted to dig out the left over “happy” pills and slip just a half of one in his milk, but it being the Holy Days, for once I resisted evil.
Julian now needed to not lie flat because of the ulcer and he still needed to keep his feet above the level of his heart. I suggested getting a hammock since our middles are our heaviest body area, both head and feet would then be high. But it’s already getting difficult to walk around the apartment, so Julian solved the problem by varying which end he raises with the wedges over the day and night. The other challenge is a diet healthy for his heart, esophagus, and feet. Low salt, low fat, low fiber, no spices, no tomato products, no dairy for two hours before and after a pill he takes twice a day, no caffeine, carbonation, citrus or anything acidic or alcoholic. And the steroids are making his sugar count so high that the frequent tears in his very thin skin won’t heal. So, low sugar also. I spent about three hours grocery shopping during the busiest shopping season of the year reading the contents of everything. But it’s a saving grace to have our son Chris living nearby and willing to come stay while I have to be gone. He and Julian share many interests and it seems to not only be a bright spot in those days for Julian, but to be bringing them much closer to one another. And the many kindnesses of our family and friends have touched Julian’s heart, helping him see how loved he is.
Our newest great-grandson, Raphael, who had a difficult birth on November 15th, didn’t breathe until they resuscitated him. He stayed in the hospital for ten days on a ventilator and needing medicines for seizures. But the neurologist said he could not believe the second brain scans taken at five days old were of the same child as the ones they took the first day. The neurologist actually called it a miracle. Raphael is a beautiful baby and now at two months has a marvelous wide smile. Though we may not know the extent of possible damage for some time, he has many many people praying for him even on the other side of the world. And he is already tenderly loved by all of us. They live in North Carolina, but we get to see photos and videos of him almost daily on face book. And they drove from North Carolina to Tennessee just for four days so his grands and great- grands could get to meet him. So, as 2018 began, I got to hold him and kiss his tiny feet and see him smile and hear his laughter. What a wonderful beginning for a new year.
A beneficial side effect for me of helping Julian through all this has been my regaining stamina and managing a lot of physical activity with very little pain. And in spite of relieving some of the stress by standing at the kitchen counter in the middle of the night eating half a peach pie and another time six jelly doughnuts mysteriously disappearing in two days, I haven’t gained weight.
When someone is in pain, whether physical or emotional, they are focused on the pain, and the small things that keep relationships pleasant are no longer a priority. Through most of our marriage, I have been high maintenance and Julian has been very low maintenance. There have been rough moments for both of us in adjusting to such an extreme change in that now. He doesn’t like to need help and I have always wanted a lot of it. He’s never been comfortable expressing unpleasant feelings. And I don’t really know how to help him, because I worked hard over the years to learn how to deal with my emotions without garbage dumping them on him. So, in spite of being married over half a century, we are still awkward in areas of our relationship. Sometimes, I feel like at eighty years of age, I’m still an amateur person.
Humor has been our glue and in many ways it is still our saving grace. But in this stage of our life, the challenge is to learn how to love across our differences in ways that help us relate heart to heart.
Last week, the doctor explained that a lot of the ongoing illnesses are side effects of some of the medicines that so far are keeping him able to breathe. So Julian is beginning to deal with the reality that his life is not going to get better. In fact, it will be a constant challenge to keep it from getting worse.
It’s a scary and sad time for both of us. Sometimes when he is sleeping, I feel like my heart is breaking and when I let myself cry, I’m afraid I will never be able to stop. Our family and our friends at church have been incredibly loving and supportive. And I find grace by reliving joyful memories of our fifty-nine years together. Julian suddenly lost a lot more of his hearing around Christmas. His expensive hearing aids made his ears itch so he never wore them. But now communication is much more difficult. A friend with similar problems has found something that has helped him and he is bringing it for Julian to try, so I am hopeful that soon we will be able to enjoy reliving those memories together.
Eileen and Julian in the South West of France 2015
One of the blessings of old age is a treasury of wonderful memories.
A warped sense of humor is also a great help.
For the fourth Sunday of each month, I prepare and give the welcoming and introduction part of our worship service. I study the Lectionary Scriptures for that Sunday and prepare a short reflection and prayers as the introduction to the service.
I always start preparing ahead of time and try to listen to the particular Lectionary scriptures for that Sunday as if God is speaking to my own heart and situation. My Sunday in May was a few days after my husband’s surgery for lung cancer.
The first reading was from Acts 1 after Jesus ascended into heaven leaving his disciples praying together as they wait anxiously for the coming of the promised power of the Holy Spirit.
These Scriptures describe Christianity being born. The disciples are trying to learn to trust God even when they can no longer see Jesus. But when things are going badly, they still become anxious. Jesus has asked God to protect not only them, but all of us that follow him. So we, just like our brothers and sisters from the very beginning, can bring our fears to God. The followers of Jesus, not just in church on Sundays, but even through our internet connections, gather through prayer.
The second reading, 1 Peter, tells us to rejoice when we are sharing Christ’s suffering for we are blessed by the Spirit of God, resting on us. And after we have suffered a little while, the God of all grace will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish us.
Letting go of fear of suffering is a challenge that I often don’t manage until I’m overwhelmed. But, when I do, I have found that I can let go of my fear by praising and thanking God for all He has done for me. It is much better when I don’t wait for times of obvious blessings to praise and thank God. When I actually praise God in the hard times, I realize that then suffering can bring me closer to him. That praise particularly connects me to God. God doesn’t need praise, we need to praise God. It changes our focus and gives us a new perspective that opens our eyes to the blessings all around us.
Here are some generic possibilities for praise and thanksgiving in hard times that I included in my reflection and prayers for Sunday worship.
God, our father, we praise your glory. You are perfect beauty far beyond what I have ever seen. You are truth that transforms my faith and fills me with your Spirit. You are the life changing power of grace that gives me inner strength. You are perfect love that can heal my heart, mind, body, and spirit.
Thank you for the reflections of your glory that I see in the beauty of nature. Thank you for your Spirit increasing my faith by opening my mind when I seek your truth in the Scriptures. Thank you for grace that strengthens me when I pray in times of suffering. And thank you most of all for your perfect love expressed in Jesus that heals and opens my heart to You.
Since I am a devout coward and a congenital worrier, I often miss God’s call to praise and thanksgiving and have to become almost bedridden with the pain of Fibromyalgia before I remember to cast my cares on the God who loves me tenderly and unconditionally. But when I not only praise in such general things, but move on to specific large and small blessings, such as our children who give us such wonderful support, the plethora of bright red cardinals outside my window, songs of praise coming from within that lift my heart and mind to God, even strangers in doctors’ waiting rooms and people who connect with me across the world through blogs, that pray for us and I for them, and perhaps most of all, the powerful surges of the sometimes forgotten tenderness I feel for my husband, then the grace of joy bubbles up from deep inside me and my heart joins my mind in giving praise to God.
During a Jungian inner journey in my late fifties, I had a very vivid dream. My husband and I were in a dining room on a boat on a river cruise. They brought us a series of small appetizers one at a time, which my husband ate with great pleasure, but I ignored while waiting for the main course. At some point, I realized there would be no main course. I was furious and went searching the boat for another dining room. When I found one, they only brought me an apple, which I threw against the wall in frustration. I went out on the front deck of the boat to see where we were going just as it began to go through a dark tunnel which became so small that I had to hunch down as we went through it. I felt total despair at first, but became hopeful when I saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Since then I have learned to delight in and treasure the small joys of life, while accepting the pain of failures and disappointments that are part and parcel of being an imperfect human being in an imperfect world. I used to live focused on the future with its possibilities, missing both the joys and the grace available in the difficulties of the present. At seventy-nine, I am pretty much running out of future! But since that dream, I have had many experiences, both joyful and heartbreaking that have become grace for me. Life is about spiritual growth from living in awareness and finding meaning in the whole reality of the journey, not ego or worldly gains or idealized scenarios.
Heartbreaks that have brought grace:
The pain of loss filling me with hate, but persistence in prayer freeing me to let go and accept not only loss, but mine and others’ flawed humanity.
Letting go of past ways of experiencing tenderness and intimacy and becoming open to new ways of feeling deeply cherished even in my helplessness and physical pain.
Accepting that one of age’s delights, sharing laughter with the one I love the most, has an expiration date, because it brings on debilitating coughing spasms due to his progressive lung disease, then finding peace instead in quiet moments of just holding one another.
Letting go of the need for understanding, so I can begin to love instead of need.
Sadly recognizing my own vulnerabilities in the generations following me and knowing the pain these will bring them, but beginning to see that God can bring them through to joy as he has me time and time again.
Knowing that life will not get easier, but believing that grace will continue to bring the fruit of love from both heartbreak and joy.
Appetizers on the journey this Christmas season:
The tree full of cardinals outside our windows, children’s laughter, babies’ smiles, hugs from my husband Julian, people being kind and friendly in a crowded grocery store right before Christmas, Americans’ amazing kindness to the handicapped, Christmas decorations, Julian sitting quietly in the dark enjoying his Christmas village, both Leonard Cohen’s Halleluja and Handel’s Messiah, getting to do the sermon from the molehill at our worship service on Christmas day, our son Mike’s photos and delightful descriptions of his students at the Cambodian orphanage for children born HIV positive, our son Chris getting an interesting new job and so many people in Dickson telling me how wonderful he is, my suicidal friend now ministering to others, seeing friends find new hope in the person of Jesus without having to buy into the hang ups of any denomination, Tylenol taking away all my pain for a while, my loyal friend Margie being a constant in my life, my sister-in-law’s mouth-watering fudge cake, my first cup of coffee in the morning, Christmas memories on face book, our son Steve’s humor and willingness to take care of us Aged Parents in bizarre experiences in foreign airports, all of our grandchildren and great grandchildren, grandson Josh and wife Paula and seven year old Eisley’s adventurous spirits, grandsons Jordan and Jake’s caring hearts and courage, Nativity scenes, granddaughter Hadley so happy wearing her Unicorn Onesie at Norman Family Christmas, granddaughter Emma and her BFF talking and laughing non-stop in the back seat while I drove them to the mall, getting freed from my temporary insanity of hating someone by saying a prayer for love and peace each time while writing it on over a hundred Christmas cards, our teen-aged granddaughter Sophie hugging Julian whenever she sees him and laughing and discussing great books with nephew David, the HO HO HO’s – my friends who are not afraid to color outside the lines, my very own fun super drummer boy great-grandson Aaron, our daughter-in-law Molly’s incredible ability to continue to love even those that bring her heartbreak, our daughter Julie’s infectious laughing attacks that we call “Julie moments”, eight year old Bella’s unfettered enthusiasm for life, memories of waking up to a snow covered world, grown granddaughter Carmen’s resilience and lightning quick sense of humor, the delight of making vegetable soup to share with sick friends and the poor, becoming friends with our fascinating and loving cousin Mary Eleanor, my ninety-four year old friend, Barbara’s children coming to see her in shifts from all over America this Christmas season, grown up great grandson Ryan still having good memories of going downtown with me before the stores opened to earn nickels by sounding out words on signs, some people actually responding to my blogs, being able to keep up with my best friend from High School and College on line, getting to know interesting and friendly people in Canada, England, Nigeria, France, New Zealand and other countries across the globe through the internet, my Study Club women friends, who have miraculously bonded across huge differences in religion, politics, age, background, economics and interests.
These are just a few parts of the wonderful collage of my life that bring me seasons of joy in what sometimes momentarily seems like the “cesspool” of life.
Loved this because, “Been there; done that.” It sounds simplistic, but actually is a good tool to break habitual cycles. Also, something a depressed teen-ager can relate to well enough to use it.
When I used to get trapped in a bad cycle of “I hate my boring life and I hate my selfish boring self,” I put slips of paper in three glasses. One glass labeled, Boring Necessary Tasks. The second labeled, Kindnesses to Others. And the third named, Attempts at Creativity or Totally Worthless Fun.
I drew randomly from first BNT and when that suggestion was accomplished, I drew and accomplished one from KTO, and then finally from the third, my reward group. Often accomplishing the first two unblocked my creativity.
I had two sets of these groups: Level One involved only a tiny bit of energy and time for each suggestion. Level Two took a larger investment of both.
On struggling through mud swamp days, I started with Level One and then moved on to Level Two. (Or not.)
Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.
I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)
So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.
This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our…
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Fatty, Fatty, Five Foot Four – Can’t Get Through the Kitchen Door ( or I’m Heavy from All Those Stones I’ve Already Thrown at Myself)
With some hesitation, I am entering the fray started recently by someone’s criticism of an overweight television personality.
A couple of years ago, I lost about twelve pounds, because of knee problems, surgery, and a slow recovery due to my pain being prolonged by Fibromyalgia. The simple fact was, I was bed-ridden, sleeping a lot, and couldn’t get to the refrigerator on my own. Encouraged by this, I went on the Adkins diet and lost thirty-three more pounds. I looked so much better that some people didn’t recognize me. I felt so much better that my whole pattern of life changed.
But I’m still addicted to food. It’s just that since I like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, leafy green vegetables, and nuts, I can now pretty much eat all the time and gain weight slowly enough to have some control over it. (However, my husband dislikes most meat and all green leafy vegetables, so my grocery bill has almost doubled.)
Goodies and baddies. Baddies and Goodies. A reality of life: there are no unmixed blessings or troubles.
Long ago, I recognized that I have a tendency to become addicted to pleasures, because pleasure temporarily deadens emotional pain. God helped me recognize this in time to head off serious alcoholism in my late twenties, avoid temptations to adultery in my thirties, and finally stop smoking three packs a day at age forty-eight.
Unfortunately, by fifty-five I ended up in physical pain and in a wheelchair,( but fortunately allergic to most pain killers.) Friends, grace, and prayer helped me get through about six or seven years of this, but the delight of good food also played a significant part. When not able to exercise, while dulling both physical and emotional pain with the only pleasure left, I gained eighty pounds. I jokingly, but truthfully, say that I didn’t quit smoking, I just switched to smoking food. I am actually five foot- two inches tall and after my fourth child weighed one hundred and four pounds. Do the math. I became seriously obese in my sixties. I am still overweight for my small frame and height, just not grossly so. But, the need for the pain killer of food is still my current challenge.
Certain personalities are susceptible to emotional stresses in different ways than many others are. They are not only over-sensitive to slights or criticisms of themselves, but imagine others are also, and take on everyone else’s presumed pain. I remember getting stomach cramps every time a teacher got onto any pupil.
Also, some people’s ability to visualize wonderful possibilities, makes them idealistic and inclined to judge themselves and others as falling short.
The positive side of this is that when they have enough talent and brains, to actually gain influence, they can make a difference and make life better for many. But, the need to make a major difference in the world, produces a chronic sense of failure for many, while also tending to make them unsatisfied with the lack of vision and achievements of organizations they are involved in. Thus alienating them from others and creating an even greater sense of failure. Some of us “do not work and play well” with others in organizations or even religious institutions.
There are obvious addictions, some more destructive than others. But many go unrecognized or appear harmless. An addiction to shopping doesn’t do much harm, if you are rich, but can destroy solvency and relationships, if you are not. An addiction to judging others can pass as righteousness, when it actually simply serves to distract us from our own unrecognized pain over our failure to be the person God has created us to be.
Not only is nobody perfect, but nobody ever manages to become perfect. We are all different. And the areas, that we each are being called to grow free in, will not be on the same life schedule as someone else’s. In the gospel of Matthew we are called to be perfect only in forgiveness, of ourselves and others, which requires ongoing admission of failure and repentance on our part, until our last breath. And paradoxically, I believe that takes knowing we are loved totally.
An addiction to cleaning house can seem virtuous, unless it makes life miserable for everyone else, or requires time that is needed for something else God is calling us to do or be. Workaholics frequently end up divorced. Addiction to affirmation leads people to be chameleons, who then have a difficult time discovering whom God has created them to be. The list goes on and on. Whatever need controls us, no matter how positive the results may seem, is an addiction and will keep us from becoming the person God created us to be.
Working with the elderly, it’s become obvious that many are unable to accept help and can’t find peace, when they can no longer do for others. That may sound virtuous, but it’s not, when that is no longer whom God is calling us to be. When we are being called to be still and not only KNOW that He is God, but to be empty enough to be filled with Him, to become one with Him, then even just hating not being able to do for others, will defeat finding that which is actually the pearl of great price we all seek.
We cannot get rid of our addictions by ourselves and we can’t get rid of them all at once. There are seasons of life and there are times we are called to new freedom in specific areas. It takes recognizing our own addictions, however subtle or harmless seeming, so that we can accept the grace to get free. In other words, we have to work to cast the log out of our own eye, before we even think about judging someone else. Self-awareness is the basic need for ongoing conversion, for letting Jesus truly become Lord of our whole selves.
I am still finding that is a full time job at seventy-five, even though I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord at thirty. Letting Him be Lord of our whole self, even the parts we don’t want to see, is a lifetime job and only He will know when we’ve become the unique, loved, but still imperfect person, that He created us to be, so we get to go home.
Fibromyalgia: Intensifier and Prolonger of Pain with Flare-Ups Severe Enough to Make You Pray to Die
I discover more people struggling with Fibro every week. I am in remission and have only had a few relatively mild flare-ups for over four and a half years. Unfortunately most people who do not have fibromyalgia really haven’t got a clue about how crippling it can become.
I started having just mild and brief attacks of pain in my hands, when I was in my thirties. I assumed it was arthritis. In my late sixties I had a couple of week long flare-ups with wide spread pain so severe, that I could not sleep or find anyway to get out of pain. I got slight relief from hot baths, but spent days and nights huddled in a recliner, wrapped in quilts, sobbing. If someone just touched me gently on certain spots, I cringed in pain. I am allergic to most pain medicines, including even aspirin, but steroid shots helped. I am a devout coward about many things, but I have come through five Caesarian Sections, a hysterectomy, gall stones attacks, and gall bladder surgery, always recouping quickly without much drama or whining. So, I was pretty sure the pain was really bad and not just me being a wus.
Finally about seven years ago, I ended up bedridden for two months.The pain in my wrists was so severe that I couldn’t lift a cup of coffee without wearing wrist braces, my back and hip pain not only kept me from walking, but awake night and day. My ankles hurt too much to put pressure on the gas or brake pedal in the car, so I couldn’t drive. My husband decided to net-work our home computers to his office computer, so he could work from home and take care of me. The then only marketed medicine did not help the pain and made me feel drugged.My doctor had run out of suggestions.
I went on line and joined the Fibromyalgia Association, receiving their monthly newsletters. In these, there were a variety of testimonies about treatments that had helped others. I decided to start with the simplest and cheapest and work through the lists.
The simplest was taking Dextromethorphan, available across the counter. After several weeks this actually stopped the flare-up that seemed to have become chronic. I stayed on this for several months, until my blood pressure began to rise. This is not a good medicine for anyone with high blood pressure. Fortunately, since I stopped taking it, I have not had any totally crippling major flare-ups.
Partly from age related actual physical wear and tear, at seventy-eight when I have to walk long distances, I use a walker. I don’t need it to walk, I need it to sit down just for a couple of minutes to relieve pain and then I can go on. Also, since I both work and play on a computer, I end up with numbness and pain in my right wrist and hand from carpal-tunnel syndrome. I have found that wearing a wrist brace, just when sleeping, actually solves this problem. Most of the time, tylenol extra-strength handles any other type of flare-up.
The problem for me is that at my age I have some wear and tear that would cause some pain anyway, but fibromyalgia not only makes the pain worse, it tends to make it constant. Finding ways to handle stressors
is the key for me. Hating having to do physical chores triples my pain. My best way of managing physical activity is to balance it with frequent breaks. Working consciously to mentally and emotionally accept large and small unpleasant realities and to find grace in them on a daily basis has brought me the most relief.
One woman I met several years ago, who had been bedridden for over two months, got relief with the medicine Plaquenil, though it took almost three months to be pain free.
There are success stories with various natural treatments and there are new medicines on the market. Fibromyalgia has a wide spectrum of symptoms including fatigue and confusion. It seems to be caused by the central nervous system becoming hyper-active and sending out pain signals much more severe than any soreness,injury or emotional response merits and also prolonging the pain way past when the cause has been cured. No one has a clear handle on it yet.
Get a doctor’s diagnosis, which generally will involve tests to rule out arthritis, lupus, and other serious muscle related illnesses. Be proactive. Become knowledgeable through the Association newsletters about options for treatment. Sometimes, doctors have a certain mindset about medicines and treatments, so find one that is willing to work with you to find the best for you.
Though cause and effect aren’t clear, there are some things that seem to make it worse. Again, this can vary greatly from person to person. Become aware of triggers for you. Changes in atmospheric pressure, exhaustion from overdoing physically, particularly when tense, are some I’ve noticed. Depression and resentment are major triggers for me.
If you have a personal relationship with God, surrendering all to God mentally or verbally over and over while in the pain, or praising God even in this time of suffering, and persevering until you mean it wholeheartedly, often can be incredibly healing. I admit that there are times I personally don’t manage this.
When in a flare-up, cut yourself a lot of slack. Mentally treat yourself tenderly, like you would a beloved child in pain. Prioritize and do only what is the most important. Allow yourself to just be. No matter what anyone else thinks, this is the a path to relief.
However, become aware of what is going on in your inner world. There may be something needing healing, resolution, or acceptance. This has the potential to bring more permanent relief than just medicines or rest.
Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed by a difficult situation and am having some flare-ups again. It has taken over a week, but remembering what God has brought me through before, and working on letting go of my picture perfect expectations of myself, life, and others has given me relief.
I recently made a CD of favorite songs about peace, inner peace, personal peace, and world peace. Playing this when driving in heavy traffic, when needing to relax, and when going to sleep has been a great help.
Anything that relieves stress can help lessen a flare-up and allow you to get needed rest. Sex is actually a good temporary stress reliever, as long as the circumstances don’t cause resentment or anxiety.
Repetitive physical exercise,however, particularly during a flare-up, can make the pain worse.
Don’t despair. There is help. But it may take some trial and error. Persevere.