Sunday, June 27, 2010

Being Tested ... Update

It honestly feels like it has been months since I wrote that original post, but it's barely been two weeks. The first couple of days after my doctor appointment I was pretty much a mess. My anxiety was in complete control of me - constant stomach pains and racing heart beat, fighting off tears, unable to concentrate, unable to do anything really.

But I knew that I had to do something since I will have to wait two months before seeing the doctor again. First thing I did was get a massage since my shoulders and neck were like a rock. I was a little anxious about going because sixty minutes of nothing to do but think can be a bad thing, but I knew I needed it. And I was so glad I did. I just kept deep breathing the whole time. Three breaths in, four breaths out. It worked so, so well. I was completely relaxed the rest of the evening, probably more than I have been after other massages.

The next day I had an appointment with a hypnotherapist to work on the anxiety and getting through this. It's not a magic trick, but it has definitely helped. I decided to schedule three weeks in a row instead of every other week like I did in the past. I actually had my second appointment a couple of days ago and it went even better. I was able to relax enough to go completely under, which is amazing for me. I remember her counting to five, opening my eyes, and worrying about the fact that I was paying for a full session when it had only been ten minutes. When I asked her about it and she showed me the clock, it had actually been almost an hour.

Besides the fact that I have felt more relaxed on a day to day basis, I feel this little spark inside me since starting the hypnotherapy. It's hard to explain. I will tell you this much - Rommel and I went to breakfast at a restaurant this morning with some friends and their parents. We had to sit on the patio, away from the crowd, but I was at a restaurant. A month ago I would not have even said yes to the offer let alone actually sitting down at a table. I also said yes to a laser tag party for our cousin's son's birthday next week. Again, something I would have either just said no to or would have told Rommel to go alone.

We also went through an exercise where I picture all the negative stuff in my body, including the lump, disappearing. She prefers each person to come up with their own image, like one woman pictured chimney sweeps sweeping her leukemia away. I am picturing a dandelion and a wind blowing all the seeds away from me.

Don't get me wrong, it has not been a walk in the park. I still feel like this is a test for me. My anxiety makes me feel so out of control sometimes that I try to control aspects of my life, even unconsciously. The fact that I have to wait two months is something I have no control over and it eats at me. But this is the test that was placed in front of me and I believe that I can get through it gracefully.

As for my RA, I have been up and down. I only had a couple of days were I was in a large amount of pain. The rest of the time my hands were achy during the day and the pain increased in the evening. If I keep my hands moving, they are fine. But the moment they stop, the pain sets in. It gets annoying, but I can deal.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Feeling like me again...

I have to admit that I have felt pretty ancient the last six months. When it takes me five minutes to walk up/down a flight of stairs because of my ankles and knees or I am laying in bed with every joint aching, I can't help but feel 1,000 years old.

So I needed to do something to remind myself that I am only thirty and still a young woman. I wanted to something that I would make me smile everyday and it came to me yesterday morning as I was walking by the drug store.

Over the last several years, I stopped dying my hair crazy colors and slowly got rid of all the piercings. I kind of miss it. I didn't want to put any needles through my body, so I opted for some fuchsia hair dye.

I put in a few pink high lights last night and they came out absolutely perfect! I love them and they definitely make me smile. Kind of makes me feel like Morgan again.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I was just walking to the bank when...

I heard a meow. And it was not just any meow; it was a kitten meow. It was coming from the parking area of the apartment building across the street from our house and there was no chance I could walk away from the situation.

To make a long story short, after sixty minutes of crawling all over the ground I managed to pull the kitten out of the wheel well of a car.

I was already late for an appointment, but I ran over to my work to buy a crate and some kitten food. I filled a couple of bowls with food and water and left her in an empty office while I went to my appointment. I would rather have taken her straight home, especially since I was completely covered in dirt, but it was important. A coworker told me I looked like I sat down in the parking lot and rolled around for awhile, which was great considering I was wearing one of my favorite dresses.

About a hour later I picked her up and took her to my house to assess her health. Having dealt with feral kittens before, I figured she would need to be taken to the vet due to fleas and malnutrition. I was surprised to find that other than being seriously pissed off and a little dirty, she did not have any fleas or ear mites. She was a little skinny, but who knows how long she was under that car and when she ate last.

The dogs are not too happy about her presence because they have to be removed from the room so that she can come out of the crate. She is eating solid food, so she must be at least two months old, but she is still way too small for me to trust them around her.

She has eaten quite a bit and is looking great now. We have spent some time playing, but she prefers to keep her distance from me. She'll find a small place to hide and just sit there meowing, but then she'll go after a toy.

Rommel keeps asking me what we are going to do with her. I am guessing that she is from a litter that was in somebody's home, so he thinks we should put up signs in the neighborhood. I told him that no one has put up signs looking for a kitten yet and I honestly do not want someone who did not even bother looking for her to get her back. A couple of people have shown interest at work, but I am really picky about who I would give an animal too. I am the kind of person who would have you fill out an application and show me your house before I even consider handing a pet over. Can't help it. I need to know that someone will love an animal as much as I would and give them the best care.

So I think we will have her for a little while. I already named her and Rommel is taking that as a bad sign that I will want to keep her. And I will admit that I am getting attached to Zooey (a girly name with a little attitude). We'll just have to wait and see how the dogs do or if someone great comes along and wants to give her a forever home.

All I know is that I am having fun playing with Zooey for now.


video

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I can't help but think that something out there is testing me.

I had my yearly appointment with the gynecologist on Monday. I have had so many doctors appointments over the last six months that I was not happy at all to have to add this one to the list, but I knew it was important to go and I needed refills for my birth control.

Knowing that I would be anxious about the appointment, I asked for the very first appointment of the day, which was at 9:00 am. I walk into the office and there are already people waiting, all of which have appointments listed before mine on the sign-in sheet. I tried to breathe and pull out my trustworthy ice pack (the cold calms down my anxiety, but also makes me joints throb). Thirty minutes later I get called in.

Everything goes fine until the breast exam. She finds something, but it is small so she wants me to wait two months and then come back in for another exam. Then I get pushed out the door.

I am kind of in shock when I get home. Almost every female I know has had some kind of cyst or lump that had to be checked out by a mammogram, biopsy, or second appointment and none of them have been anything serious. I also know that the odds are in my favor since I am in my 30's and none of my immediate family has had cancer, only extended family. My mother and husband agree that if the doctor was worried, she would have arranged for a test at that point and not told me to go in two months later. I try to calm down as much as I can, but one can't help but worry a little.

Tuesday morning I wake up with a racing heart and feel like I am going to be sick. I was anxious about the lump and having to wait two months to find anything out. I even called the doctor back and asked if there was anything I could do now, but they told me it was nothing to fret over and two months is what they prefer.

In my head, I know that it is probably nothing and that I will be fine, but my body has been in panic mode for two days and it does not feel like it is going to end any time soon. The morning is the worst. I get waves of nausea and cramps. I get hot flashes and my arms begin to tingle. Even when I feel a tad calmer in between the waves, I cannot concentrate on any of my work. Both yesterday and today were so bad that I had to take something to calm me down. By the time lunch comes around I am so exhausted from the anxiety that I have to take a nap.

If I can distract myself enough, the afternoon is a little better and I might be able to get a little work done. Once I get home, there is no cooking or cleaning. I have to lie down because I am tired again and my back is in pain due to the tension. I spend the rest of the evening reading until Rommel gets home.

You are probably thinking, "This just happened on Monday and she is talking like it has been days of anxiety." The thing is that I know the routine after fourteen years of this. The most recent episode began last August after the company I worked for was bought out and it lasted for six months. Six months of being too anxious to go anywhere other than work. Six months of a sick stomach and back pain. Six months of being too exhausted to do anything around the house.

The big difference this time is that I am also dealing with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis on top of the anxiety. The more anxious I am, the more joint pain I tend to have. Yesterday was a good example. I was anxious throughout the day and my hands, wrist, and feet began to ache in the late afternoon.

But it did get better last time and I know that it will get better this time too; I just have to wait it out. Although I am trying to be a little more proactive this time. I have an appointment for a massage tonight to deal with my back pain. I made an appointment with a hypnotherapist for Thursday. I saw her when I was originally diagnosed with RA and she helped me get through it without freaking out too much. I am also trying to avoid caffeine and sugar, which exacerbates the anxiety.

If those do not help enough, I might have to see the doctor about adjusting my meds for the time being. Believe me, it is not what I want to do, but I need to be able to work right now.

I just can't help but wonder why me? And I do not mean the lump. Okay, maybe I do mean the lump a little, but mostly I mean the anxiety. I am so tired and this year has been so insane already with the RA, etc. And I know there are people out there that are dealing with so much more than I am right now. I guess I just need my self pity time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Distractions

Always looking for ways to divert my attention from the way I am feeling and wanting to remind myself of all the things I have to be grateful for, I decided spend some time taking pictures around the house today.

We found this foreign movie poster from Breakfast at Tiffany's at the farmers market this morning. Rommel worked his magic and talked the vendor down to a decent price so it now has a permenant place on my wall. I purchased the cupcake painting last week at the local art show last week from a booth selling art from the local high school. It's so cute.


I love Charlie Harper's work, but I can't even afford a print. I happened to find a Charlie Harper version of the game Memory and got an idea. After the fourteen dollars for the game and the cost of a couple frames, I had two pieces of Charlie Harper artwork to hang on my wall. I actually like them more than a print because I get to enjoy so many different pieces of his work.



I also took a few pics of our garden. There are already some vegetables popping up. The bell peppers and tomatoes look great and I can't wait until they are ready to pick. Our peach tree is already so heavy with peaches that I am going to have to tie up all the branches so they have some extra support.



Then there is the local "wildlife". It is a little hard to make out because of the dirty window, but this is a picture of our favorite squirrel. He constantly knocks over the bird feeders, buries peanuts in my flower pots, and taunts the dogs, but he still has a little place in my heart.


Zimmerman, named after the host of Bizarre Foods because he likes to eat bugs, has claimed a permenant spot between some plants in the front yard. It not only provides shade from the hot summer sun, but also gives him the perfect view of the bird feeder.


It was pretty easy to distract myself from the fever that stuck with me all day today. The infected spot on my foot, which probably caused the fever, was a little harder to forget. My only guess why it will not go away even though I am diligently taking care of it is my RA medication, which suppresses your immune system. No wonder they tell you to do your best not to get sick or hurt (why wouldn't I any way?). I am so tired of doctors, but I will be heading back there again tomorrow.

But I have so many wonderful things to be grateful for, even the doctor.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Brain Fog Is Kicking My Ass!

Many people with an autoimmune disease experience cognitive dysfunction, otherwise known as brain fog. It is characterized by confusion, forgetfulness, and the inability to concentrate.

It's not something that I have to deal with all the time. It makes sense that someone would have trouble thinking during a flare; I can't imagine someone being able to think straight during that kind of pain. But I notice that it tends to happen to me in combination with the fever and muscle aches.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like it seriously interferes with my life. It's just damn annoying! There has been the typical forgetfulness, such as forgetting what I was talking about in the middle of a sentence or someone returns my phone call and I cannot remember why I called them in the first place. I also have to work really hard to get myself to concentrate on one task while in the office. The worst is spelling, which I have never had a problem with.

Here are some more lovely examples from the past week:
  • I completely forgot a friend's birthday, which is really weird for me. The worst part is that when she mentioned it was her birthday on the phone, I did not even try to lie. I just burst out with, "seriously?"
  • I walked by Rommel's empty prescription bottle every morning this week and said to myself, "I need to call that in." But I never did and I went through the same thing the next morning. It was like my own mini version of Groundhog Day. Rommel finally went to the pharmacy himself this morning.
  • I spent 15 minutes sitting in front of the computer trying to remember how to spell exercise. I was not even close enough for spell check to pull it up. It's like words just evaporate into thin air when I try to spell them.
  • I had to look up the three characteristics of brain fog when I started writing this post because I could only remember the first two even though I had just read the definition two minutes beforehand.
I know it's not that bad. I just hate how stupid it makes me feel sometimes. Like when I asked my boss if she was excited to go see some Elvis impersonators this weekend with her nephew. She gave me a strange look and told me that she had gone last weekend.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Art, Movies, and Walking the Dog

The weekend started off a little iffy, but it is ending pretty darn well. I stayed in bed a little late on Saturday due to nasty cramps (sorry guys, but that's a girl's life for ya) and finally got to work an hour after I should have been there. But I was still feeling awful and ended up leaving early. I headed home, crawled into bed, and fell asleep for a couple of hours.

After some sleep and pain killers, I was feeling somewhat better, so Rommel convinced me to head out to the Montrose Art Show for a preview. I always get so excited about the art show each year and we usually go on Sunday because of my work, but we decided to browse the booths and then go back again on Sunday.

Obviously I was not in my right mind and did not consider the 100 degree weather, so I ended up with this:


And it isn't just any sunburn. Oh no, it's a graphic looking sunburn because my two tank tops and bra left three different lines on each shoulder. I also have a diagonal line across my chest because my shirt was lower on one side than the other.

It was disgustingly hot, but we enjoyed looking at everything and shared some awesome beignets, a deep fried pastry covered with powdered sugar, which were cooked to order.

Today we went back to Montrose for the farmer's market and art show. We made sure we left early because it was supposed to be just as hot as the day before and nibbled on fresh croissants while we walked. I bought an adorable painting that says "I love cupcakes" and is covered in pastel cupcakes. It will be a bright and colorful addition to my bedroom wall. Other than that, it was the usual stuff, but it was still fun.

Rommel went to his friend's place to watch the Lakers' game, so I had the whole afternoon to myself. I turned on a documentary called Herb and Dorothy about a middle class couple that have been collecting art their entire marriage and I began cleaning my bedroom. The movie was so interesting that I ended up sitting on my bed just watching the movie. Then I started another documentary on a monk who was sent on a mission to find a reincarnated Lama. Again, very good.

I also called my grandfather to wish him happy 90th birthday. I wish we could have been there to celebrate with him, but Rommel's work is crazy and I have no vacation. Maybe later this summer we can head to Vegas and visit him.

Rommel ended up coming home early because he did not want to watch the Lakers lose and decided he would rather play a video game, but I still had a lot of energy. I decided to take Simba on a walk and leave Sunny with Rommel since I have a hard time walking them together. Let's just say that I think I found my new personal trainer! Unlike a walk with both the dogs, Simba did not bark at other dogs or stop every few steps. He actually ran about a third of the way and of course I had to do it with him.

Here's a pic of my bubby, Simba, and me after our walk/run and he is clearly exhausted.


I can't forget Sunny though, so here is a pic of the two of them. Please, please, please ignore the overflowing closet in the background.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The funk continues...

I have continued to be in a kind of funk this week. I tried to keep up with my "if I am going to be achy, I want it to be for a reason" attitude on Tuesday. I lit up the BBQ and filled in up with enough chicken for both our dinner and a week's worth for Sunny and Simba. While the chicken cooked, I began cleaning the laundry/mud room. I was already tired but once I started, I could not stop until it was done. When I finally finished, everything below my knees was throbbing and I had lost my appetite. But that completely exhausted feeling was nice and I slept unbelievably well.

I was definitely feeling all the work I did once I woke up on Wednesday and the pain in my hands only got worst over the day. The one thing getting me through it was the thought of the massage I had scheduled in the evening. By the time I left for the appointment, I could not even use my left hand to turn the steering wheel. It was the worst flare that I have experienced since being diagnosed and every movement or touch caused unbelievable pain. I described it to Rommel like throwing a stone in the water. The initial hit did not cause the pain but the ripples in the water were awful. I ended up wearing a compression glove and a wrist guard just to try minimize the movement, which helped a tiny bit.

I was able to sleep in this morning since it was my day off. It felt like there was nothing ever wrong with my hand in the first place, but I was nauseous and had a fever again. I honestly felt like I could stay in bed the rest of the day and watch TV, but I had to get up to run a couple of errands.

I came home and life decided to throw me a little curve ball to get me going. Apparently there was too much food stuffed in our freezer and the vent was covered up, which meant it began to defrost. Four rolls of cookie dough were included in all that food, so I figured I would pull them out and start baking. I ended up making a couple batches of sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately this is all I was left with:


The oven was set to 375, but when I smelled something burning and opened the oven, the thermometer read 500. I cooled it down and the next batch baked fine, but then the temperature went back up again and burned the last batch. It didn't work out the best, but at least I was doing something.

I crawled into bed again, but even though I still felt kind of depressed, just lying there was so boring. I considered my options and decided to water the plants in the backyard. Next thing I know I am spending an hour digging into the ground and trying to straighten a tree we planted last summer. I was dirty and sweaty when I finished, but it was a good tired and I felt better than I have all week. It is rather hard to see the tree in this picture, but I was so proud of the work I put in that I had to take one.


I not only still learning to deal with the pain I feel at the present moment, but I am also trying to come to terms with the idea that there will be more flares in the future which can be pretty depressing at times. But like my day today, just because something starts out gloomy does not mean it has to end that way.