Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, Chronic Readers!

I hope that you all had a really wonderful holiday yesterday and are recovering from too much pie and family time.

Personally, I had a pretty good Thanksgiving.

First off, it is just not Thanksgiving without the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Watching the parade has always been one of my favorite things to do; I can remember being really little and watching it on a teeny tiny portable television in my great-grandmother’s kitchen while she started cooking. It seems like it would be fun to go and see it in person; but then I think about how chilly and crowded it is, and I quickly change my mind to thinking it’s way more fun to watch it from the comfort of my couch.

(I was going to post some pictures of my favorite parade balloons, but my picture uploader isn’t working! I’ll have to edit them in later!)

The best part is when the Rockettes come out and do their kickline. When I was little, I used to tell everyone I was going to be a Rockette one day. I’m still holding on to that “one day.”

I usually watch the National Dog Show (presented by Purina!) and spend a ridiculous amount of time analyzing the competition. It is second only to my very involved analysis of the Miss. America pageant (#PageantGirl #MissJuniorMissState2007FifthPlace). I was glad to hear that a very stylish bloodhound won.

However, I didn’t watch the show this year because my family and I decided to have alternative Thanksgiving plans this year. My mom has always wanted to go Downtown because she heard that the Smithsonian museums are open normal hours but there’s barely a crowd because it’s well, Thanksgiving.

If you have ever been to our Nation’s Capital during the holidays or summer vacation, you know that the promise of little to no crowds is a big deal. I mean, really big.

So we went!

We powerlunched with the Roosevelts at the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial. We clicked our heels alongside Dorothy’s ruby slippers at the American History Museum. We even hung out with a pretty awesome elephant at the Natural History Museum:

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Fala and FDR

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Eleanor Roosevelt and Eleanor Bruisevelt 🙂

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Well Hi to you too, Mr. Elephant!

 

And I had quite a bit of Ele-fun at the gift shop.

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After swinging by to wish Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Jefferson a Happy Thanksgiving at their respective memorials, we eventually made it home to have our regularly scheduled holiday dinner. Yummy!

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Washington Monument

 

Today, of course, is Black Friday, official crazy-shopper-overindulgence-day. I’m not going to lie; I have been one of the first 50 shoppers in line at Target in years’ past, when the official open time was 4am. It was fun! It felt out-of-the-ordinary and like a special thing to do with my mom and sister.

Now that stores are opening on Thanksgiving night, I’ve become disillusioned. It’s not fun so much as it seems a pinch desperate, you know? Like each store wants to be the first and the biggest and the best, and pretty soon the day after Halloween is going to be Black Friday, which kind of bums me out. I like to keep my holidays as separate as possible so that I can properly celebrate each one of them. I don’t want Thanksgiving to disappear into the over zealous Christmas void!

Speaking of Christmas, though, now that Thanksgiving has past, I have no problem with the fact that my family and I will spend some time this weekend listening to carols and decorating. However, I think I’ll wait just a little bit longer before I break out my holiday t-shirt collection (…maybe).

 

I would love to hear about your Thanksgiving celebrations, friends! Did you keep your holidays separate and wait till today to break out the Christmas/Hanukkah decorations? Let me know how your day was here in the Comments or over on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell

 

Are you doing some shopping this weekend? Check out my Etsy shop, NARlyGifts, where I sell flippin’ awesome stuffed animals: http://www.etsy.com/shop/NARlyGifts

In honor of Black Friday (and actually waiting till Friday to have a sale!) I am offering $2 shipping on all items! The discount is already applied, no coupon code necessary. Sale good thru Cyber Monday (December 1st). Happy Shopping!

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The Reason for the Season

Miss. Manners warns that one should never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table, lest conflict erupt.

However, I’m not at a dinner table.

Let’s hope that no conflict erupts.

I don’t actually want to talk about religion, at least not in the sense of organized divisions of belief systems.

Rather, I’d like to instead just talk about the importance of believing.

In something.

Anything.

Something that is bigger than yourself.

Sometimes organized religion isn’t friendly to people with chronic illness. In addition to hearing about how someone’s Great-Aunt Susie’s best friend Alice’s niece got better with a special blend of vitamins, a large number of us Chronics have been told in some capacity that if only we 1) prayed harder or 2) believed harder, we would be cured of what ails us.

I don’t want to get into that any more than to say that if you are a person who says this to others, STOP IT.

All it does is hurt people’s feelings and create doubt and avoidance where you were hoping to create renewed fervor.

We are all trying just as hard as we possibly can, whatever that looks like in our own situations.

To continue…

It can be difficult, when you’re lying awake at night, staring at your ceiling, unable to sleep because of pain or hamster-wheel-thoughts or over-exhaustion, to think that any sort of God or Universe or Spiritual Being would ever purposefully do this to you. Because of course, you are a good person, and of course, you haven’t even lived enough of a life yet to have done anything to deserve all this.

It can make believing hard.

It can make believing hurt.

This week it’s Thanksgiving, and the holiday season is right around the corner (unless you listen to Wal-Mart, in which case, it has been here since Halloween). In addition to Black Friday sales and Holiday Wish Lists and whatever new things there are to get, people tend to get a little nostalgic and a little thoughtful, about that whole “Reason for the Season” thing.

I’m not here to tell you any one reason for the season. There are bunches. Please feel free to Choose Your Own Adventure…

What I want to talk about really, is not forgetting to believe in something.

I have been down a lot of roads.

One of them was called “The Universe hates me and wants me to be unhappy.”

Really.

I actually used to say that.

Out loud.

A lot.

I thought it was true. I was sick all the time. It seemed like just when I felt a little bit better, something bigger and scarier and more dangerous was lurking, waiting for me to think I was out of the woods before attacking me and knocking me down once again. It kind of looked like just maybe, the universe was out to get me.

The more I said, “The Universe hates me,” the more I felt hated. The more I said “And it wants me to be unhappy,” the more unhappy I became.

I had an epiphany one day. Yes, it had to do with finding a specific spiritual path, and yes, I’m trying to keep my spiritual path talk “neutral” because I feel like there are 110 ways to get to the same place and not every way works for every person.

So I had this epiphany. It had to do with someone telling me that the Universe did not hate me. It did not want me to go around depressed, feeling bad about myself or my situation any longer. I’m not supposed to be the Victim in my own life story. I’m supposed to be the Victor.

I started reading a lot about spirituality. I started asking myself questions about what is important to me, what my values are, what I have been taught to believe, and what actually feels right to me now. I wrote a million things in a million journals. Eventually I came to a place where I could more or less spell out what I believe in, to myself, for myself.

Coincidentally, that’s when things started looking up for me.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you a magic genie in the sky started granting my wishes once I started asking for the “right” things. I’m not going to pretend that things magically started to go my way all the time just because I work hard to develop my spiritual side.

What really happened is that my attitude shifted. You can try to separate the two- attitude adjustment and personal belief systems, but I’ve found that they really go hand in hand. When I didn’t believe in anything, when I felt like “Is this all there is? Pain and suffering, everywhere, for ever and ever?” I could never keep a positive attitude. When I was nihilistic and felt like “Nothing I do makes a difference so nothing matters,” I wasn’t able to feel happiness. It wasn’t until I decided that I do believe, that I was able to feel things like hope and joy and gladness.

When I think of what I believe in, and how I’d like to explain it to other people, it’s very simple: I believe in love.

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(Please cue the Whitney Houston song montage… No really, don’t laugh. It sounds corny, but it’s true! Read on…)

No matter what condition I find myself in, I believe I am always available to love. Even when my heart is physically spastic, it is spiritually capable of opening up, to giving and receiving love. That’s a very powerful thing, because it tells me that absolutely, no matter what, I have value and I have the power to show others that I value them.

When I think about this, and what it means to me, I feel happy. I feel hope. I feel like the Universe loves me and wants me to be happy.

I feel like this picture, which is so beautiful and wonderful and didn’t have an artist credit where I found it, but I’d like to thank them, whoever they are:

Dont-hurt

A friend once told me that she could tell I was going to be one of those Chronics who aim to get “better, not bitter.” That was a huge compliment, knowing where I have come from, where I have grown from. It’s also an interesting observation. I feel like even when you first meet someone, you can tell just by the way they act if they truly believe in something more than themselves. People who do are secure, confident, and have a calm about them. They may not have all the answers- that’s not what it’s about. They know that it’s ok not to. They strive to be better than they were yesterday, because they know there is always a point to it.

Believing is a deeply personal thing. Like I said, it doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you find something that has meaning to you. If you find yourself feeling insecure in your life, check in with your spiritual side. Examine your beliefs. Does what you’re following truly fit you? Are you trying too hard to make something fit, that just won’t? You’re the only person who knows your insides- are they trying to lead you to something? It doesn’t have to be organized if that doesn’t feel right to you. You can be the only follower of your own unique path if that’s what has to happen. Just know that when you move confidently in the direction of your true thoughts and feelings, the whole universe will open up to you.

Please know that it loves you and wants you to be happy.

 

I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving and the holiday season, Chronic readers! It brings up a lot of *feelings* for me, sometimes heavy (today’s post), sometimes light (check in on Friday for my Turkey Day review!). I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

NARly Gifts

It’s here, Chronic readers!

I have finally set up my Etsy shop to sell wonderfully adorable, handmade stuffed animals!

You can find me here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/NARlyGifts?ref=hdr_shop_menu

My shop name is NARly Gifts.

The word “gnarly” has many definitions, but the one I like the best is “flippin’ awesome.” My initials happen to be NAR, and I named my shop NARly Gifts because I sell “Flippin’ Awesome Gifts You Won’t Find Anywhere Else!”

Fun, right?

At the start of October (https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/10/03/the-great-48/), I changed my blog posting schedule here so that I could have an extra “Spoon” to use for other projects. I made a list of goals, and one of them was to create an Etsy shop before the holidays. I love making stuffed animals, specifically elephants, and I’m very happy to be making this first step into pachyderm-world-domination.

I wrote about the first one I made here: https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/08/27/the-crafty-chronic-2/

Unfortunately, “character” fabric is copyrighted, and so I am unable to sell specific hero elephants on Etsy. Which is a bummer, because in addition to the Marvel superhero fabric, I also have Batman and Disney’s Dumbo.

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(If you are local and interested in a character elephant, there is no issue in my selling one to you…it’s that whole “commercial use” venue where things get tricky. Disney really likes its royalties to be paid to them directly, you see.)

I had to come up with an alternative, and I found this great “Comic Words” fabric, which I personally think makes a pretty awesome elephant:

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Elephants, while my favorites, are not the only stuffed friends I am selling.

I’ve also got bears:

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And puppies:

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As of today, there are only 4 items up on my shop- 2 Comic Words Elephants, 1 pink bear, and 1 brown dog (those shown above); however more will be up in the next few days! My goal is to have everything available by Tuesday, right in time for Black Friday shopping 🙂

I am super new when it comes to all things Etsy, but I’ve been reading a bunch of articles and blogs (there are so. so. many.) and I am excited (also terrified) to try it out for myself. Right now I’m only selling what I have made already; once I get the hang of things, I’ll expand to “made to order” in the hopes of selling a greater quantity.

Trying new stuff is scary. I feel like I have good ideas (“Maybe I should sell stuffed elephants.”) but don’t put them into practice enough. Sometimes it’s because of lack of confidence (“There is TOO MUCH information about selling on Etsy. How will I ever figure this thing out?”) or nervousness (“What if no one else likes super elephants as much as I do?”). Sometimes my chronic illness mindset muscles its way in (“Where exactly are you going to get the energy to make a bunch of stuffed animals?”).

But today, I’m choosing to say to all of that, “Take a hike.”

It’s scary to put your ideas and efforts out there, sure.

But it can also be fun!

I’ve decided I’m going to have fun with this. I’m allowing myself to learn as I go. If nothing else, setting up Shop is a new and different experience, and there is always something to be gained from new and different.

 

When was the last time you tried something new and different, Chronic reader? Do you have an Etsy shop? I’d love to know about it, and I’d love it if you’d take a peek at mine and let me know what you think!

Million Dollar Smile

Don’t you just hate genetics?

Please don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but I did not choose them, and I certainly did not choose their teeth.

Their teeth?

Yep, that’s what I said, their teeth.

teeth grinding

I went to the dentist yesterday. I thought it was any old regular cleaning- I high-fived my hygienist on my great flossing technique and managed to talk my way into a blue toothbrush and orange crème flavored lip balm in my goody bag. (Isn’t the best part when they give you free stuff? I think all doctors should do this- “Oh, don’t forget your complementary compression stockings on the way out!”)

Just as I was getting ready to get my stuff together, my dental hygienist stopped me.

“It says in your chart that you’re due for x-rays to check for cavities. We should really do that before you go.”

Dun, dun, dunnnnnn.

Background: I am slightly obsessed with my teeth. Ever since I was little, I have been pretty consumed with good oral health. Maybe it’s because my first dentist was a jolly old man named Dr. Sugar who looked and laughed like Santa and always gave us lollipops on the way out. Maybe it’s because one of the best field trips we got to go on in kindergarten was to a dental office down the street where someone’s dad worked. Maybe it’s because in 4th grade we had a presentation by an orthodontist who gave us all Batman Forever t-shirts and I wore my Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy shirt advertising this random guy’s work until it had holes in it. Maybe it’s because good teeth has always been associated with free stuff for me…

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I even once dated a guy who looked like this:

herbie hermie

Not kidding. It was wonderful. He had very nice teeth. ❤

Whatever it is, I am very proud of my teeth and their upkeep. I may have been a disheveled mess in my poor-health years, but I (almost) never missed brushing twice a day.

It’s just this thing about me, sorry if it’s weird. #SorryImNotSorry

Anyway, I never had a cavity until I was 24. I was actually really upset when they found it. It totally ruined my day. Maybe even my week.

As of yesterday, I have a mouth full of new ones.

I was pretty ticked off.

“How did this happen?????” I asked my dentist.

I mean, I really did just high-five my hygienist on my lack of tartar build up. She didn’t see anything amiss in my mouth. For the record, he couldn’t see anything either.

So where were these little buggers hiding?

Deep, deep on the inside of my teeth, only visible by x-ray.

“Ummmm…how exactly did that happen?” I asked.

“Well, it’s probably genetic,” Friendly Dentist replied.

Ughhhhh.

My mom and sister have both had problems of “genetic” nature with their teeth too. We have what our mutual dentist calls “soft teeth,” which is a pseudo-scientific term meaning at some point in our or our mothers’ lives, a deficiency of calcium and/or fluoride occurred and was passed on to us, affecting our own teeth from the very moment they started developing in utero.

Which is, um, weird. You know, if you think about it.

So really, my cavities are not my fault. I’d like to state that for the record.

Because, really, why else do I floss/brush/rinse as excessively as I do?

I would probably have to go back half a dozen generations into the past to find my long lost calcium/fluoride deficient ancestor who is responsible for my current predicament.

Don’t think that I wouldn’t, if I had a time machine. I’d pack a few hunks of cheese and a few dozen bottles of fluoride-fortified city tap water, and fix that problem right where it started.

There are so many components of our lives that aren’t just ours. It’s fun, and ok, a bit mind boggling, to think about. Sure, today in 2014 I have a cavity in my tooth, but it’s not simply my problem. It’s a problem that started <HeavenOnlyKnowsWhen> that I get to deal with now (#ThanksALot #RandomAncestor).

Personally, I am neither calcium nor fluoride deficient myself. I like to think the Buck Stops Here when it comes to this problem.

You’re welcome future descendants.

I go back in another week or so to get these suckers filled. In the meantime I’ll be keeping up with my regular routine.

Teeth are super important, you know?

Besides all the obvious chewing and smiling uses of teeth, did you know that your gum health can predict your heart health? Seriously. The amount of plaque build-up on your gumline is a good indicator of how much plaque is lining your arteries. This is because the plaque on your teeth is bacteria, and that bacteria gets into your bloodstream by creeping up under your gumline, and before you know it has relocated into your arteries. Read about it here: http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/heart-disease-oral-health

So sizing up the smile of that cutie at Starbucks is actually good future planning- less than stellar teeth might mean less than stellar health all around.

For instance, I’m pretty sure this guy is a goner:

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Yet so yummy…

I bet you have a great smile, Chronic reader. Do you love the dentist as much as I do or are you avoiding him like the plague? Does your dentist give you a goody bag of toothpaste and floss post-checkup?

I’d love to hear from you in the Comments here or on my facebook page!

Ugh, you guys… I just got home.

It’s late.

I’m super tired.

Never again will I schedule 2 doctor appointments for the same day.

One was the dentist, and for some reason, I felt like that didn’t count, but it did.

I really have no brain power left, so instead of trying to write something that may or may not make sense, please enjoy this adorable picture of a puppy who is just as tired as I am:

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#Pomeranian

 

I will be writing a make-up post tomorrow- please forgive me for the delay!

Dancing Through Chronic Life

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One-two-cha-cha-cha!

It’s really frustrating when you go to the doctor with a problem, with the intention of having him tell you something new to help fix that problem, and instead he smiles and says way too nicely,

“Well, you’re doing everything right.”

Don’t get me wrong; I am super glad that I have figured out how to do everything right. I’m a recovering perfectionist; of course I would never do anything wrong. (*SARCASM*)

It’s still kind of annoying though, to have your doctor say it.

Being chronically ill is not linear.

It takes a really long time to realize this.

Then it takes an even longer time to actually internalize it.

No, friends, being chronically ill is a Cha-Cha.

One step forward, one step back.

I happen to love love love Dancing With the Stars, and if given the opportunity, could talk about Derek Hough and his ridiculously watchable choreography forever and ever.

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Oh to be you, Shawn Johnson…

I’ll spare you for now (don’t think I won’t come back to this eventually).

But really, how often do we accept the backwards motion?

Um, never. Forwards is better, duh.

Yes, yes, forwards, and onwards, and upwards are all good things. They are what we all strive for, day in, day out.

However, backwards still happens. Backwards cannot be avoided.

Backwards can be okay.

(Insert Shock & Awe HERE)

For instance, I have been dealing with some backwards for a week now. I did something weird to my knee, it swelled, it hurt a LOT, I stopped run/walking, then I stopped exercising altogether, and spent most of my time on the couch. Having spent far too much time in circumstances that are described as “bed-ridden” and “house-bound”, the alarm bells have been going off non-stop in my head.

“This is not the direction we’re supposed to be moving in,” the little voice up there says sternly. “Let’s not get used to this!”

And I won’t. Promise.

I’ve been “doing everything right” according to my rheumatologist. I’ve iced and elevated, I’ve rested and recuperated. Whereas my previous experience had led me to believe that I was simply never ever, ever going to be able to get back up on that treadmill, this has not been the case.

I took my step backwards, and now it’s time to take a step forwards again.

I walked a mile on the treadmill today, and it went just fine. No grapefruit knee!

On Tuesday, I talked about Adjusting my Attitude, and today I’m putting it into practice. I’ve always had difficulty “going with the flow” because I couldn’t clearly see a flow pattern. For me, I could only see abrupt stops with few starts in between. Maybe I’m just older now, or have finally earned my Chronic Illness Doctorate (#DumbledoreoftheChronics) but I’m starting to see it, the flow of steps forward and steps back.

Watch this video, at least the first minute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKeUpU446Xg

See how the lady dancer goes back, then forward? See how sometimes she spins so much she can’t possibly know which way is up? See how sometimes they just sidestep and go a different way altogether?

Chronic Illness does that.

It’s just not nearly as pretty.

I’ve decided that part of my attitude adjustment needs to be accepting the nonlinear motion of my chronic life. It helps to think of it as dancing, because I like dancing, and I could watch that Cha-Cha video over and over again (even though Derek Hough is sadly not in it).

I’m making a positive association here, linking my ups and downs to a well-choreographed piece of art in motion. It makes it easier to keep the cranky out.

“Well of course I took a step back,” I have decided to tell my alarm-bell voice. “It’s part of my choreography. Forward steps are up next.”

Maybe, just maybe, that little voice will quiet down long enough to see that it’s true. 🙂

 

Short post tonight, Chronic Readers; but something to think about, yes?

What has your Chronic Life Choreography been like, Readers? Are you a Cha-Cha like me? A deliberate, blinders-on Tango to wellness? A Jive of trying every new treatment that comes your way? A carefree Samba of letting it all go? I’d love to hear about it here in the Comments or over on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell

Attitude Adjustment

The original title for this post was Bad Knees and an Attitude to Match.

It’s been that kind of a week.

But then I thought, “Why? Why do this to myself (and my readers)? Why perpetuate my crankiness by posting it all over the Internet?”

The ornery voice in my head said, “Becaussssssssse! Everyone should know how upset you are that your kneecap has become a grapefruit, you’ve had to stop running, and that chronic illness sucks and is totally ruining your life! (slams metaphorical door to prove ornery point)”

I have every reason to have a bad attitude. I have every reason to be angry that <stuff> isn’t going my way right now. I am this guy:

the-credible-hulk-600x410

The CREDIBLE Hulk

It’s all totally legit. Every time I attempt to walk around for more than 15 minutes, my knee swells. It’s yucky. It’s painful. It came out of no where.

However.

Being angry about it doesn’t make it different.

Being a total crank-face is not making my knee shrink back to a normal-knee size.

If you’ve come in contact with me in the last week, you can probably guess that I’m not in the best or friendliest of moods, so there really isn’t much point in stating the obvious.

So I changed the post title, and will be trying my hardest to do what it says: Adjust my Attitude.

This is really hard.

Really,

Really,

Really,

Hard.

Somewhere in my Chronic life, my “catastrophize” button was turned on and the instructions for turning it back off were lost. I feel like a lot of my Chronic readers will get this, especially if diagnosis took a long time. You start to believe that everything is calamitous because everything is. At some point, you realize that not only are you freaking out about your random episodes of swelling, but also because you simply cannot find a red lipstick that is neither too pink nor too orange (WHYYYYYY).

Suddenly you are upset about everything big, small, in-between, and completely unrelated. You also happen to look up and realize that you are alone because the people who are usually around you have tired of your grandiose reactions to everything and are currently hiding out in their rooms “straightening stuff” so as to not have to share your negativity-contaminated airspace.

No good, my friends, no good.

Fact: My knee is swollen. My forearm is swollen. My index finger joint is swollen. My lymph nodes are tiny little rocks jutting out from my neck. It doesn’t feel good.

Also Fact: I have an appointment to see the Rheumatologist (aka Captain America) tomorrow. My heart is still beating (albeit too quickly). I can still breathe (as long as I avoid Clinique counters). My eyes still work, so I’ve been reading (Amy Poehler is my Spirit Animal). My fingers (though creaky) still work, so I’ve been sewing (Elephants!). My dog is very nicely sitting next to me while I type this.

Translation: The world is not ending.

I happened to see the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars over the weekend, and there’s a part where the main character, Hazel Grace, is talking about the 1-10 scale they use at hospitals to ascertain your pain level. She said she was saving her 10.

I feel like I need to start saving my 10 more often.

So how? How do I go about changing my attitude?

The irony is not lost on me that most attitude adjustment advice includes some form of taking a walk or working out, and that is what got me here in the first place. I was trying to feel better, darn it! It’s not my fault that it backfired and made me feel worse!

I simply need to find another way.

First off, this adjustment has to be realistic. If I were to jump from this:

cranky

To this:

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La la la la la la laaaaaaa….

I would never believe it.

It wouldn’t stick.

It’s better to ease into attitude adjustment. Sneak up on your cranky-face self.

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I kill you with kindness, Bad Attitude!

Changing your focus is helpful. I kind of did that above, when I stated that while my being in pain is a fact, it’s also a fact that parts of me aren’t in pain and that I am also not letting my pain eat my whole life. I’m simply working around it. There has been no exercising, but there has been reading and sewing, with a side helping of trying to keep up with the Kardashians (which will never happen and so the effort was futile, but whatever).

Sometimes gratitude lists work, in which case, I’m thankful for: a roof over my head, food to eat and clothes to wear, my very patient mother, my very adorable Suki, medication, meditation, Captain America sweatpants, pillow-top mattress covers, sunlight, library books and Dancing with the Stars.

Also, I am grateful that I do not have to wear a plastic cone around my head for 3 weeks, like Suki does post-eye surgery.

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If anyone DESERVES to be cranky, it’s this kid.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.

If gratitude doesn’t work, I can always try distraction. You know, use brain fog to my advantage.

ADD-distracted

Because it’s hard to remember what hurts me when I am reading about this orangutan named Suryia and her friend the hound dog, Roscoe, who live at an endangered species farm in Myrtle Beach. Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3SbjjMChqw#t=85

I mean really.

od3

See, after all of that, I feel kind of better. I feel like, in this moment, not everything is so bad. I mean come on; I live in a world where orangutans and hound dogs are adorably photogenic best buddies. I am free to scratch my nose, unlike Suki. Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s chocolate in the cupboard. Doesn’t cocoa have magical anti-inflammatory powers? Therefore my eating a copious amount of it counts as medicinal, right?

Attitude = Adjusted

How do you break free of a bad mood, Chronic reader? Let me know here in the Comments or over on my Facebook page!

Adventures in Chronic Time Traveling

One of my friends recently posted on Facebook: “i wish time machines existed so that everyone who ~wishes they were born in a different era~ could live their dream and id never have to hear that bs again.” (Shout-out to A! Hey girl!)

When I finally stopped laughing, I realized that it’s funny because it’s true– people say that all the time.

“I just saw the Great Gatsby. All that glamour, all that champagne! I wish I lived in the 20s.”

“I can’t get over the dresses of the 1950s. And the hair! I was totally born in the wrong decade.”

And of course, my personal favorite:

“Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book. I wish I were Elizabeth Bennet.”

Ok, ok, I’m not going to pretend that I have not also hoped that a closet in my bathroom would turn into a magical portal that transports me to the Bennets’ attic so that I could switch places with the real Lizzy and have the real Mr. Darcy recreate the Colin Firth A&E version Darcy-coming-out-of-the-pond-scene. (Lost in Austen, anyone? If not, Netflix it, now!)

Because I have.

However, then I think for a minute about the very real possibilities of what it would mean to be a Chronic in 18-whatever and that gives me pause.

I started my chronic life as a Fainting Lady at age 14, roughly Lydia Bennet age. Swooning was not an uncommon lady-trait at the time, should we believe the hype. So I probably would have fit in, at least for a little while. Eventually, I’m sure everyone would come to gossip about my “theatrics” and think I was making it up for attention, not unlike how some Chronics are treated in the here and now.

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“Oh Mr. Whickham, you’re just so dashing, I simply couldn’t handle it!”

But perhaps my constant state of dis-ease would afford me holidays to one of those “health retreats”- you know, the ones in the country, usually with some sort of water cure or healing vapors. That could be a fun field trip, right? Or maybe not because a week in a carriage to get anywhere might not be all that great- and I thought sitting in car traffic when symptomatic was bad!

As for recreation, I’m good at crafty stuff, so I would do ok with needlepoint and painting, perhaps with some pianoforte lessons on the side. I happen to have a good ear for French. That whole walking-everywhere thing might get old, or be helpful-who knows? I don’t know that it would be such a good idea for me to ride a horse, but I’m not sure how socially acceptable horseback riding was for ladies then, so I might be in the clear.

I figure that my unusual paleness would be a boon to my husband-finding endeavors, as porcelain ladies always seem to get the most attention. Plus, my parents would be making the match, so I wouldn’t have to bother with that whole dating thing. Which might be nice; dating is, well, dating.

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“In sickness and in health? Sure, yes, totally.”

The fact that nearly everyone died either from childbirth, fever, or a random outbreak of something awful would mean that if I happened to kick the bucket a bit pre-maturely due to lack of body functionality, at least I’d be in good company. In addition to missing such modern marvels as beta-blockers and IV saline, I’d probably miss indoor plumbing the most. People were only just wising up to this revolutionary idea in the 1800s. Jane Austen had too delicate a sensibility to mention Lizzy Bennet’s bathroom breaks in Pride and Prejudice, and you know A&E didn’t want to ruin the magic by adding in the basic facts of life. I happen to really enjoy my indoor water closet and wouldn’t want to part with it.

All of the above is assuming that I were of privileged class. If I weren’t? Well forget it. I’d probably starve to death because no one needs a fragile, fainty scullery maid.

It’s funny to me that as time has marched steadily on, with new technologies and medical discoveries occurring, that things have gotten a touch worse for Chronics in a social sense, not better.

Like, if we time machine-traveled to switch places with Lizzy Bennet, our Chronic conditions could probably be masked pretty well behind the fact that nearly everyone had some sort of chronic condition that was yet untreatable. So you faint a lot- your new husband has gout and can barely move! It’s totally ok that the two of you don’t get out much! Once a year you throw a party to remind everyone you’re still alive, or if you can’t manage that, a short and sweet note to your sister every now and again would do the trick.

But once you get to the 1920s, people start realizing there’s something called “crazy” (thanks a lot, Freud) that’s not as charming as “eccentric” and suddenly we’re all Zelda Fitzgeralds, involuntarily committed to the asylum by our “well-meaning” husbands. (Ok, I know, Zelly dear probably had some real issues that needed to be addressed. But not any more than ole F. Scott did.)

This continues so far into the 20th century it’s laughable. It’s a simple fact that most chronic illnesses affect women at much higher rates than men. The prevailing idea seems to be that 1) Men don’t get sick and 2) Women make themselves sick in the body by being sick in the head. Case in point: the word “hysteria”, which means “a fit of madness, frenzy, or uncontrollable emotion,” comes from the Greek word “hystera,” which means uterus. Ergo, having a uterus makes you prone to fits of madness.

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Um, whaaaaaaat?

I really wonder sometimes if Hippocrates & Co. were just sitting there, wondering about the facts of life in ancient Greece, and someone said “A uterus houses new life- I wonder what other dark powers it possesses?” And then they all had a good laugh while they made a bunch of stuff up.

The DSM didn’t even bother to remove “hysterical neurosis” (if we’re using our classical translations, this means a “nervous condition” brought about by the uterus) until 1980.

Face.

Palm.

It’s taken a long time for the medical community to wrap its head around the Autonomic Nervous System in the first place. I cannot imagine what they would think of me walking around talking about how mine is broken, 30, 50, 75, or 100 years ago.

I would not have been a particularly happy camper in say, the “idyllic” 1950s. Waiting to find a husband until I was 18 would put me in the height of my personal illness debacle, and while my high school boyfriend might have married me, I probably would have instead succumbed to Old Maid-dom (because there really wasn’t a choice spectrum pre-feminist movement). Which means my sister would have a live-in, though not altogether helpful, babysitter living in her basement.

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The magic cure-all of the 1950s.

 

Or, you know, I’d be the prettiest gal at the Funny Farm, blathering on about my broken nerves.

This is not what people think of when they giddily express longing for by-gone eras. Why should they? Hollywood has done an excellent job making the past look like so much fun. In truth, people want to live in a historical, fictionalized, cinematic piece, preferably of the BBC America Sunday Night Special-variety. PBS is pretty, but it’s reproduction, not reality. (Because can you imagine how painfully boring Real Housewives of Downton Abbey would be? Wait- bad example. That would probably be fantastic.)

I’m perfectly content to live right now. Right now, I have access to medication, hygiene standards, and the Internet. Which happily means that I can order myself a flapper costume for Halloween, some estate jewelry from Etsy, and a vintage reproduction wardrobe that would incur the jealousy of Zooey Deschanel from ModCloth.

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You don’t have to live in a different era- you can just dress like you do! It’s 2014, anything goes!

I can have all the best bits of Eras Past and my penicillin too! Thanks a bundle 21st century!

 

If you could time travel or wake up in another decade, which would you choose? Have you ever thought about what it would really be like? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below or on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell.

Go Out and Read This: WILD

It has been a looong few days, Chronic readers. My sweet, sweet Suki had to have surgery yesterday to correct a chronic eye-ulcer problem (ew!) and while she did just fine and is on the mend, the stress of it all (we have to watch her closely to make sure she isn’t jumping/getting too excited-plus she’s crafty when it comes to figuring out how to detach the plastic cone from her head) has been pretty intense! Add to that a sudden drop in temperature (um, hello 45*F, we weren’t expecting you until after Thanksgiving) and some weird swelling in my knees (I’m a real runner now-I’ve got an injury!) and my body is just in kind of freak-out mode. I was not surprised to wake up “a weird shade of pale” (thanks, Mom) with a fever this morning. Just as well, Suki needed a couch buddy today anyway.

I’ve been trying to make more time to read. I recently checked out a pile of books a mile high from my friendly local library, and one of those tomes happened to be Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.

Every once and a while, I read a book and, for reasons unexpected, it means so much to me. Wild is one of those books.

The subtitle, “From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” is very telling. Cheryl Strayed really was lost- her life as she knew it was falling apart around her- and somehow, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself for 100 days allowed her to find herself once again.

I have Chronic-girl fantasies (read: delusions of grandeur) wherein I too take a Thoreau-esque walk in the woods to find myself. I would love it if someday this could become a reality. I would love to feel the feeling of being a part of the world in that sort of intense way that only seems to come from being in nature.

So many things about Cheryl’s journey reminded me of Chronic Illness. I feel like I’m getting really good at making nearly anything a metaphor for Chronic Illness, but really- a long journey where you must keep moving forward while strapped to a heavy load which you must carry that long way? Yeah, I think I’m going to connect the dots here.

Cheryl starts out with a certain level of confidence. She has been to REI, that wonderful and perhaps false-bravado perpetuating store, where she has loaded up on all the “tools” she will need to bring with her. She has dehydrated food, a water purifier, a Swiss Army knife, and those all-important hiking-specific boots. Numerous chats with zealous employees plus her own background of living simply on an open stretch of land in Minnesota as a child lead Cheryl to believe that she knows what she’s in for. Yet, when she finally makes it to the trail, she realizes she couldn’t possibly know what it would be like till she got there.

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It’s the same way with Chronic Illness. When you are sitting in your doctor’s office, and they hand you a diagnosis, you walk away from that thinking you know what you’re in for. You have the basic information. You buy the meds and the <stuff> that the Internet tells you will make your life easier, and you think, “Yeah, I can handle this.” Once you get out there, though, living your life in Chronic-dom, you realize that while it’s nice to have information and supplies, you could not have prepared for what the actual day-to-day would be like; you just have to live it.

My favorite chapter is called “A Bull in Both Directions.” While out on the trail, Cheryl is confronted by a Texas longhorn bull, which seemingly appears out of nowhere. She blows her REI-purchased “loudest whistle on Earth” to scare it away, but is startled to find that, having closed her eyes for just one moment, she has no idea if the bull ran away from her in the direction from where she came or in the direction in which she was going. Cheryl has two choices: she can turn around and go back or she can keep moving forward.

You don’t have to have a chronic illness to realize that this is a profound moment. We all know where we came from; the nice thing about the past is that we already know what happened. That gives it a sense of safety, doesn’t it? It’s really easy to dwell on past things because we know how they turned out and hindsight allows us to see the way that it could have/should have/would have been. The present is tricky, because while it’s important to “Stay In the Moment” as numerous new-age gurus tell us, it’s just as easy to get stuck there too- neither moving forward or back for fear of making the wrong move.

The future then, the part where you continue on even though there might be a bull up ahead, requires courage to step into. Cheryl takes a short moment to acknowledge this for herself before she continues on, and it made me wonder- do I adequately acknowledge for myself what a huge deal it is to move forward every day instead of looking backwards? Because it is a Big. Freaking. Deal.

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Cheryl’s journey, though on an actual physical trail, does not make a straight line. There are times when she needs to bypass a section due to weather conditions, parts where she goes miles away from it in search of water or a town to pick up her supply box at the post office. The first page of the paperback edition is a map with her path on it- there are starts and stops, detours and chunks missing. I feel a kinship with Cheryl in this regard. Even though she planned it, even though she did all the right things (packing an ice ax, for example), sometimes she just had to find another way around. Because sometimes in life, you just need to. Sometimes linear can’t happen. Does she get to where she’s going in the end? Absolutely. That’s what matters.

I really could talk about this book for ages, but I would be giving away all the good parts. And while taking pieces out and reflecting on them is good for a blog post, you can’t get the full effect until you read it yourself. I’m not kidding, afterwards I felt a sense of satisfaction as if I had just traveled right along with Cheryl. Books like this are important to read. It’s nice to get out of my head once and a while and take some time in someone else’s. It reminds me that while our circumstances might not be exactly the same, we all have something to learn from each other about how to deal with whatever life throws at us. In the end, we are more similar than different.

Have you read this incredible book, Chronics? What did you think? It’s being turned into a movie staring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl- are you looking forward to it? I am!