Posts Tagged Health

Continuing Ed

I’m supposed to be on a break from nursing school but I think I’m spending as much time as my former classmates in hospitals, in doctors’ offices, and researching online. It’s a lot of work trying to diagnose oneself!

I got a good kick in the butt recently to do as much as I can on my “down days,” research-wise, to ensure that I’m prepared for my final doctor’s appointment here and all the new appointments I’ll have in California. Right now my condition seems to be a mystery to everyone so I’m trying to find all the conditions that could possibly be causing/contributing to my pain. Additionally I’m researching all the doctors and/or pain clinics I might want to visit in California. I found this one that looks pretty comprehensive and promising. It’ll be a bit of a drive for me, but totally worth it as long as my insurance will cover it.

Also, I spent a good bit of time today going through the pain books I brought to the hotel with me, looking up the websites they recommended. It was time well spent as I was able to bookmark some great websites like these:

The American Chronic Pain Association

Chronic Babe

Healing Well

How to Cope with Chronic Pain

In other news I’ve got a big weekend ahead of me – I’m going to attempt to go to a women’s retreat. It will be a beautiful, rich time with some of my best friends and tons of lovely ladies. I’m very excited but also a little concerned about how much I will/won’t be able to do or how uncomfortable I will be. I know, I know… go with the flow and all that. 🙂 I’ll do my best.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend.

more to come…

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Letting Go

So you’re about to take a peek into what it’s like to live with chronic pain. It’ not always easy and optimistic – it’s often difficult and challenging and I’m going to share a little bit of this side of it. There. You’ve been warned.

One of the hardest things about living with chronic pain is the constant fluctuations. Sunday may be a good day that only requires two pain pills and allows me to get out and do a lot. You may see me at Walgreens walking around and looking normal. Tuesday may begin with sharp pains and significantly limit my activity. If you see me out and about, I’m parked in the handicap spot, shuffling and/or in a wheelchair. The continual ups and downs make it hard to plan or to have any kind of “normal.” I’m always trying to figure out what my normal is, analyzing every movement and meal to find the magic combination of activity and rest where I feel the best. Over the last week I thought I had finally found my normal. I felt pretty good for about four days in a row and I felt in control and free to do the things I wanted (within reason of course). And then I woke up today in more pain than “usual.” My whole normal was thrown off and I felt like I was back at the beginning, trying to analyze what happened and what I should do differently, if anything.

I’ve been seeing a counselor for the last few weeks in an effort to process all the things I am going through. With her help, I’m realizing that while continuing to try is a good thing (i.e. trying to get better, trying to find doctors who can help, trying to figure out what things help/hurt), my constant analyzing and quest for normalcy is just attempting to control my uncontrollable situation. I want a predictable life while I’m living with an unpredictable condition. She is encouraging me to just go with the flow and take each day as it comes. It’s ironic that I talk about that all the time and often blog about trying to “relax and enjoy the ride,” when that truly is one of the hardest things for me to do. I want to be in control; to plan and know what to expect. Going with the flow is a lot easier said than done.

Since I’m a planner, I’m now planning how to go with the flow. Sounds like a contradiction, right? But hey, it helps, so that’s what I’m going to do, dammit. 🙂 On my good days I’ll do everything I can (again, within reason) and on my bad days I will rest, research more doctors/pain clinics, plan fun things to do/see on my good days, look at magazines, do mind games/puzzles, knit, etc. I’m going to try to think of things I’d like to do this week instead of just this particular day, then do them when I can. For example, I need to go to the store this week so I’ll go on one of the good days instead of planning to go on a particular day and feeling bad if the day I planned to go ends up being a bad day. I won’t feel guilty if I can’t do as much as I would like. I will let go.

Thanks for reading some of my experiences. I hope it will help you understand what it’s like for people with any chronic pain or illness.

Here’s to letting go.

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Living with Chronic Pain or The View from My Sofa

There’s not much to see from here, but when I’m experiencing severe endometriosis pain, this is where my life takes place. I’ve been here the last couple days and I’m starting to get pretty familiar with my surroundings.

My world exists in concentric circles surrounding the sofa… In the first circle (the one closest to me) is everything I might need, immediately within reach: various pain meds and balms, tissues, my phone, water, pencil and paper (to chart how I feel and when I take medicine), a good book (collection of Sherlock Holmes stories at present), and the TV remote. The second circle contains items I can reach with minimal effort: the computer, the TV, and a book shelf full of books and movies. Everything in the third circle and beyond requires thought and a plan: the refrigerator/kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, the laundry room. Do I really need to go to the bathroom yet? Can it wait? I really want a sandwich, but that means I have to get up to make it… Yep, I’m hungry enough.

This may all sound pretty dismal, but it’s really not that bad. Yes, it gets a little boring and I get tired of laying around, but it is what it is. I actually have a really nice view of my backyard and the sky from here. I love it when there’s bad weather going on because I like watching the clouds change and especially the rain. I can see the birds flitting around out there too which is pretty amusing. You get used to appreciating these little things.

When the pain subsides I jump up and go to the bathroom/kitchen/etc, or sometimes out to the garden to pull some weeds and see how my plants are growing. This is the highlight of my day.

I pet my cat and try to keep my area picked up.

It is what it is. Sometimes it’s frustrating (especially because I’m on a treatment that is supposed to be preventing pain). Mostly I’m OK though. There’s nothing I can do about it besides ride it out. So I spend a lot of time on facebook to feel like I’m connected to a social life. I read books. I order more books, some about dealing with chronic pain, some about far-off exciting places. I try to make myself look as pretty as I can, even in my stretchy pants and t-shirts.

I’m really thankful that I’m not in school or working right now and that I am so blessed to have a husband who can provide for us so I don’t have to. I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like to have to even think about working or studying in a state like this. I am so lucky.

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to fulfill my dream of being a nurse. Sometimes I feel pretty good and can be out and about, but a lot of times, I don’t. Will I be able to finish my degree? Help people like me to feel better? Maybe work in a mental health ward  or substance abuse center like I dream about? Can I physically do it? I sure hope so. But I know worrying about it doesn’t get me anywhere, so I’ll just keep dreaming.

I’ll keep lying here on the sofa, watching the clouds float by, and the flowers grow. I’ll keep trying to make the most out of these days and feel like I am still contributing to life and society. I will read, draw, study, and write. And I will pray.

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On Being: an old soul, a woman, an advocate, a runner, and a learner

I am a whole comprised of many parts. Here are some of them that I feel especially define me at this time in my life:

Old Soul: I’ve always felt older than I am… I used to drive an old lady car, I have old lady aches and pains, I get tired a lot faster than other people, I MUST get enough sleep to function, and while I enjoy the occasional night out, or house party, I often prefer a quite night in with movies and beer. I used to hate that I felt older than my age. Now I realize it’s who I am and it’s better to just embrace it, accept it, and enjoy it, rather than try to be someone else. Accepting ourselves for who we are makes for a much happier life.

Woman: March is Women’s History Month. There have been so many fascinating, successful women throughout history who have defied opposition and judgment to shape the liberated life I’m free to enjoy. Despite all these wonderful female examples (and my old soul self) I still struggle with what it means to be woman. The massive amount of stereotypical images and information about what women are/should be makes actual womanhood even more confusing. I’m gradually developing an image in my mind of the complex, delightful meaning of who I am and what I am capable of as a female, and embracing all of my womanly potential. It looks a lot like this description written by my good pal Krista (a fabulous and fearless woman herself): “Women are also strong, and talented, and wise, and meek. They can be confident or careful, sexy or shy. Women are athletic and creative and beautiful and fun.” She is currently writing a series about influential women in history on her blog, Reviving Identity. I’d encourage you to check it out.

Advocate: I have endometriosis. You all know this. And I will continue to tell my story to increase awareness. I’ve said this so many times and will continue to do so: “Without awareness, there is no cure!” The world’s most brilliant scientists still don’t know what causes endo (although they have several uncomfirmed theories). They still don’t have a cure. And millions of women continue to suffer (often silently) in pain. This is not OK! I am passionate about this issue (particularly since it’s personal) and I will fight for the rest of my life to increase awareness, funds, and research. March is national endometriosis awareness month and by this time next year I hope to have planned an Endometriosis 5K. It will be hard and challenging and I’m still not entirely sure if I can do it, but I’m going to do all I can to make this happen in an effort to raise awareness, and of course money, to donate to the Endometriosis Association.

Runner: As I mentioned above, I’d like to increase awareness through a race. Running is my anti-endo. The one thing that can really make me feel powerful when I’ve had so many times I’ve been laid up on the couch, curled up in a ball. Despite the pain, if I can get out and take one step, just one jog around the block, I’m releasing powerful endorphins (body’s natural pain killers). Often, after just 30 minutes of pounding pavement I feel some relief and, if nothing else, I feel mentally and emotionally stronger and empowered. Running brings me joy and clarity and a break from the hectic-ness that is my life. It is part of me.

Learner: I am officially immersed in the depths of nursing school and I will be until Dec 2012. I am brain-deep in books, education, theory, tests, clinicals, homework, etc… It is GREAT. and HARD. For the first time in my life I actually really have to try. School has always come quite easily for me and this is the first time I’ve ever felt challenged. This is AWESOME. and HARD. But I love it all the same. Through my education (as well as running), I continue to learn self-discipline and perseverance. Valuable life lessons, eh?

Well, that’s just a summary of what I’ve been thinking about lately and some of the different aspects of my life that I feel define me. What defines you? What makes you who you are? How do you learn and grow from these things?

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Workin’ it on out

I got my booty in gear today and ran a couple miles.

Hollaaaaaaaaaa! Look at me, keepin’ up with my goals and priorities. 🙂

So you know how I’m too much of a wimp to run outside in the winter, right? Thus, I ran at the community center today… on a treadmill. I’ve walked on treadmills before, but never ran. I was always (justifiably) afraid that my uncoordinated self would lose focus and fall off the back of the dang thing. But I mustered up some courage & balance today and tried it out. It wasn’t that bad! It was actually kind of fun, but weird because the whole time I was thinking “I’m not going anywhere! I’m running and I’m seriously not going anywhere!” I felt like it was easier to zone out though because I could just focus my eyes on one point and run, run, run.

I should note that I’m not just running for the sake of working out. I have an ulterior motive. Rumor has it that exercise might be able to help out endometriosis. Who knows, but I’m willing to try anything. (This is the same reason I eat sardines or herring at least once a week… something about omega oils…) So, fingers crossed, and hey – we all have our reasons for trying to be healthy right? Seriously, I don’t know many people who are in relatively good health who work out or eat well just for the heck of it. (Except my husband – he loves vegetables. Crazy.) It seems like there’s always a reason. Endo is mine. What’s yours?

Alright, well, time to go work on another priority: STUDYING!

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On Pain, Pt. 2

Well.

Hi.

I haven’t blogged in a while.

And by a while I mean like pushing 2 months.

Why?

Well, I’m not really sure.

Actually, I lied.

I know why.

The reason I haven’t been blogging is because I’ve been in some serious pain for the past few months and I just didn’t feel like I could/should be blogging when all I could even think about or consider writing about involved pain. Slowly but surely pain has taken over my life. I’m in pain… every. single. day. Sometimes I can barely even think about moving off the couch, much less running or blogging on a site called “See Mel Run”.

So. Here I am. A girl in pain.

However, I’ve realized that by avoiding blogging because of pain, or avoiding exercise because of pain, or avoiding seeing my friends, or getting out of the house, or studying for nursing school, or anything else, I’m allowing pain to control me. And, while pain is a huge part of my life and defines me in some weird, twisted way, it shouldn’t keep me from expressing myself through writing which I love.

Another reason I put off blogging is this: part of what I wanted to write about (and will write about in the future) is my journey with pain. I’m afraid that if that’s what I write about I’ll get people thinking that I want their sympathy or I want them to pity me. I don’t want either of those things, but I DO want to share about my life. And my life includes being “sick.”

On that note, here’s something I want you to know about my perspective on pain: I learned in one of my nursing classes about something called the Health-Illness continuum. Basically, there’s a horizontal line with health and one side and illness on the other and individuals can find themselves at varying points along that continuum. But. There’s more. There’s also a vertical line which slides along the continuum with high-level wellness at the top and low-level wellness at the bottom. So according to this theory you could find someone who is ill, yet has a high-level of wellness. How does this work? While one is “sick” they can at the same time be very “well” as they exhibit high-level wellness in their social, mental/emotional, and spiritual lives. Based on this idea, while I experience pain and am “sick”, I feel I am extremely “well”.

All that to say: I guess I’ll give this blogging thing another go. Warning: I am going to be honest about my life and what’s really going on with me.

What’s going on with me lately? I’m attempting to make my way through nursing school (which I LOOOOVE) while working through my pain each day and trying any and everything to help me deal with it and this terrible disease.  Things are actually going quite well… I’ve started physical therapy which I hope and pray will help and today I actually got out for a 20 minute run/walk!

Sorry this post was a bit depressing. (Wait, I didn’t want to apologize for talking about what’s going on in my life! Oops!) Anyway, to any readers I may have left, thanks for being patient between posts. 🙂

more to come,

Mel

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Oh (cold) Snap!

**cough**

**sneeze**

**sniffle**

No doubt you’ve been hearing those gloriously disgusting sounds in your classes/jobs/homes the last few weeks.

It’s that time of year when colds are running rampant. And it’s that time of year when we all start reaching for the tissues, the hand sanitizer, and the home remedies we learned from our mothers that have been passed down through the generations.

Throughout the cold season I’ll be sharing some of my family’s traditions for home cold care, some of my own go-to remedies, and a little background as to why they work.

#1. Herbal Tea – this is absolutely the first thing I reach for at the slightest signs of a cold (runny nose, headache, scratchy/itchy throat, chills). When I was a kid I got sick a lot and my mom would always make me loads and loads of hot, soothing tea. Now, whenever I feel something coming on, I guzzle mugs and mugs of steamy herbal tea.

Why I like it: It warms me up from the inside out and since I use honey to sweeten my tea it also coats and soothes my throat. There are many great options out there but my very favorite tea is Celestial Seasonings’ Echinacea Complete Care. The hint of cooling eucalyptus and mint are super comforting and relieve any annoying throat scratchiness. Plus, there are many supposed benefits of echinacea.

Why it works:

Drinking warm fluids when you are feeling ill increases your body temperature ever so slightly.  This increase in temperature encourages your body to cool itself down. It does this through sweating which can help rid the body of toxins. An added benefit of drinking hot fluids is that vapor from the steamy tea helps break up mucous and aids in decongestion.

Drinking decaffeinated tea increases your fluid intake which flushes toxins out of organs and aids in digestion (absorption of nutrients). Drinking enough fluids provides a moist environment in your throat, nose and ears, and also helps to balance sodium levels in the body. Dehydration can contribute to a feeling of low energy and tiredness, so hydrating properly will promote energy when you feel ill by allowing your body to function properly and carry out normal functions.

Many cultures have long believed in the mysterious power of herbs to cure many ailments. Echinacea, derived from the purple cone flower, has been believed to stimulate the immune system and enhance the body’s defenses, specifically to decrease the duration and intensity of the common cold. There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not it is actually effective. A study published in The Lancet: Infectious Diseases found that echinacea cuts the chances of catching a cold by 58%. This directly contrasts studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and New England Journal of Medicine disputing any benefits of echinacea. So while the documented evidence is inconclusive, many people swear that echinacea benefits them and helps them fight colds. I’ll let you decide. Do note that if you have asthma or any allergies to ragweed or other flowers in the daisy family you may have similar reactions to echinacea.

So put on the kettle, brew some tea, and drink up!

Cheers to you and your health!

**Note** I am not your doc. All material on this blog is provided for your information only and is not to be taken as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken solely on the content of this blog. Please consult appropriate health professionals with any questions related to your health and well-being.

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