Thursday, November 20, 2014

Family Feud Therapy

I'm in the waiting room and there are four women in here, including me. Two of them are around my age and one is elderly.  We're all well dressed, quiet, unwilling to make eye contact, and a bit uncomfortable.  We also all keep our gazes down.

It makes me wonder what they're here for.

Family Feud is on the TV and all of them are now talking a bit, commenting on it. I'm not though. Now I feel even more strange. At least there was a tentative kinship in silence.

I think group therapy, if there becomes one,  will be difficult.  But still I wonder what their stories are.. what struggle they need help with.

I'm babbling.. nervous I suppose. One of the women is from Atlanta, she's definitely chatty now that the Feud broke the ice. And as much as I get curious why they're here, I wish everyone would be quiet.  I'm afraid they're going to expect me to join in.


Those were texts messages from yesterday, sent to Tony while I waited to be called back to my mental health therapy session.  The clinic actually calls that department - Behavioral Health.  I don't like that term though, it makes me feel like a naughty child.

I wonder if pretty much everyone struggles with going to see a therapist.  I know I do.  The only way I can get my head into it (pun intended) is to think about mental health being just like physical health - if either or both are unwell, they need a doctor.

I've had three therapists in two years.  The first one was not a good fit, to say the least, and it nearly put me off ever going again.  Only the fact that I knew I needed help dealing with being sick made me try again.  I liked my second therapist, a female Psychologist, but she ended up leaving the practice a couple months ago.  So, here I am with the third therapist and she's someone I could see myself being friends with were circumstances different.

As we were walking through a maze of hallways to reach her office yesterday, she pointed out this little nook with a couple chairs, a small table of magazines and said to me, "You can wait in there the next time you come, if you like.  It's a little more secluded and quiet."

I guess after only one session with me, she was either the Jody-whisperer or she noticed that while the three women looked like long lost friends by this time, I was staring determinedly at my phone, trying to conjure up a mute button that would work on them.

Talking with strangers is difficult for me and in a setting such as that, all of us being there for a reason that is probably private and uncomfortable to begin with.. well, it's not much different than having your legs hiked up and feet in stirrups while Dr. Awkward checks over your lady-business.  Thus, I was truly grateful when the therapist offered me the peace of that closet sized waiting room.

Liking your therapist is a pretty big deal.  Just as we need our physical doctors to listen to our symptoms, to believe us even when those symptoms sound crazy, and to realize we know our bodies better than they do, so do we need our mental doctor to simply let us talk and validate the sadness and anger that comes with disease.

She asked me what I need from her and the sessions and I replied, "Just for you to listen.  Be the person that doesn't love me, the person that I don't feel the need to protect from how awful being sick is.  Let me be selfish in this room, let it be about what I'm going through because out there, I'm fiercely proud, I'm still trying to hide it the best I can and I put everyone else first."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just 'Memes' Today

I love Pinterest.  It's like an online mall of everything in the world.. for free.  Perfection.

If you look off to your right, you'll see a Pinterest button that if clicked, will take you to my Fibromyalgia board.  It has funnies, knowledge, helpful tips, research, compassion and everything in between.  But every now and then, I want to bring that board here to my posts with some of my favorite memes.  Here are a few for the week:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gastroparesis Is Torture

Two months ago, I got sick with what I thought was your run-of-the-mill stomach flu.  It began with exhaustion.  I was so tired I could barely stand up.  I'm no stranger to that because Fibromyalgia carries with it an ass kicking level of tired.  But this was different.  I couldn't push past it and keep going.

Next were the burps that smelled like rotten eggs.  Over and over, they wouldn't stop.  My stomach bloated and became hard as a rock while slowly cramping and twisting.  And then came the diarrhea - the kind where you can't get off the toilet for five hours and your legs are paralyzed even as your butt cheeks cramp. I had extreme nausea and then the vomiting began.  It was painful and violent, the retching racked me until I thought I had broken ribs.

Three days later, things seemed better.   I had one good day and then it returned, more vicious the second time around.  I went to the ER, pretty sure I was dying but positive that I was dehydrated yet again.  I begged them to put pain medicine in my IV and asking for that is unusual for me. 

The doctors did blood work, X-rays, and all manner of other tests between my two ER visits and when finished, could only say, "We think it's some sort of viral thing."  I ended up sick like that for weeks - it would come on suddenly, excruciatingly and a few days later, I would be better for a little while.

At the third or fourth ER visit for dehydration and pain, the doctor asked if I had ever been tested for Celiac Disease.  I had no idea if I had or not.  All of you with a chronic illness will understand when I say that I've had so many tests for everything under the sun to finally give me the diagnosis's I now have & while I am pretty savvy about my own health issues, nobody can recall every test ever done.

The next day, I was being tested for Celiac.  It came back negative.  The Gastroenterologist told me that he suspected a condition called Gastroparesis.  He said he thought the original virus was so severe that it partially paralyzed my stomach.  Basically, every time I ate something solid, it digested so slowly that it would begin rotting and fermenting until those gross burps began.  Then, my body would expel the food by whatever means necessary.

After being put through a battery of tests for Gastroparesis, it was confirmed that I have it.  The doctor told me it could be temporary until my stomach fully healed.  Or, it could be permanent and lifelong.  I have a list of things wrong but I work hard to remain as independent and optimistic as possible.  That said, this diagnosis both scared and absolutely pissed me off.  A person can only take so much. 

I deal with a level of pain that defies words because of Fibromyalgia.  When it flares, it's a soul sucking vacuum of agony.  But the Gastroparesis?  It's a different and more awful kind of sick.  There's something very wrong with the hinges of your jaw popping as your mouth tries to open itself wide enough for the launch of masticated ham and gravy.

I'm hoping this is temporary.  That my stomach is just cranky and sore from the virus but will buck up soon and welcome the buffet at my favorite Chinese place.  I'm hoping that I don't have to live the rest of my life with another illness because it makes me sad if I do.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Time To Hibernate.

Winter is coming.  Beyond the obvious and awesome Game of Thrones reference, it's true for my part of the world.  The cold, snow and ice are upon us in Wisconsin.  Just one more day of October, Halloween, the first holiday of the season.  Children are suited up in their favorite make believe and hoping for any treat other than the orange or black paper wrapped chunks of peanut butter.

As anyone with Fibromyalgia knows, the cold is devastating to our pain levels.  Not only the cold but precipitation too.  We feel the snow and ice as if we were outside (naked) making angels in it even when we're curled up in our favorite recliner and buried under blankets. 

I don't think any of us look forward to winter but for me at least, there is a positive side.  I make myself be less busy and relax more.  It's time to catch up on reading, one of my most favorite things to do.  If my Epub files were actual books, I would have piles of them in every corner.  I pull out projects to start and hopefully finish.  (I'm a bit of a procrastinator.) 

The 'To Do' list that I've been adding to for months beckons me.  Things like going through computer folders to clean out and organize.  Dozens of pictures wait for me to say, 'Awwww', and print them for the pegboard in my office.  Homemade Christmas present ideas are written on scraps of paper piled in a desk drawer. 

It's time now.. time for hot coco, jammies and slippers, buttered popcorn, movies and TV shows to catch up on.  It's time to write again. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Friendship & Illness

I've had the same best friend for 34 years.  Just looking at that sentence makes me blink the shock of not only a friendship that has spanned decades but that I'm as old as I am - 43.  Where do the years go?  That's such a cliche question and yet, as cliches go, they are popular because they're true.

This friend is meaningful to me, as one might suspect.  The history between she and I is full of  laughter, tears, joy, pain and growth as women.  We have seen each other through some of the best and the worst times in our lives, as girlfriends do for one another.

I sit here and recollect a hundred special memories.  I could call her right now and say things like - Go Fish & Old Maid.  Skittles taste testing.  Marlboro menthol, Joe biting Kendall, wrecking your Chevette, Arsenio Hall, Beaches, Nora bar, kicking Betsy's ass, Baby Got Back and that silver necklace, Alan Jackson, and so much more.

Random words and we would laugh until we cried or start a conversation we left unfinished six months ago, as if we hung up yesterday.  That's the kind of friends we have always been.

She is the one person (besides my younger brother) that was there for my childhood and that's important to me for reasons I won't go into right now.  She could call me in the middle of the night asking me to unlock my door and listen to her until dawn and I would.  I have.  I can't think of much that I wouldn't do for her.  On the flip side, she has done so much for me too.

And with all of that said, I feel abandoned by her through these last few years of illness.  I know I could call her right now and say, "I need to talk about being sick.", and she would listen.  But I also know she wouldn't really want to hear about it.  She wouldn't honestly try to understand what I was saying or how I feel.  I know that deep down, she would think I should 'quit whining and toughen up, get on with life', without realizing that's the point - it's impossible for me to get on with my old life or be the old me.

When we do talk on the phone, she tells me about her relationship problems and I listen, sometimes for long periods of time.  I offer opinion or advice if she asks or if I think she's receptive to it.  I tell her often the things I think are special about her, her best qualities.  I give her my empathy, love and never make her feel like less for crying.  I show her my faith in her strength as a person.  I try to uplift her, to let her know she always has me in her corner.

That's what I need from her.  It's what I have needed from her since I was diagnosed five years ago but especially now as the Fibromyalgia and some of the concurrent issues progress and become more debilitating.  I feel like she willingly give that without being asked, as I would and have for her.  That is not the case and as time goes by, she and I talk less and less and rarely see one another.   I miss her, this girl that I learned to put make up on with.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nobody Wins The War

I never want to invalidate anyone else's illness, injury or pain, however temporary or not.  That said, I do have this type of response now and then.  I never say it aloud and I chastise myself for thinking it at all but I believe it comes from a very normal and human need to be healthy, and jealousy when we know we won't be.

I try to remind myself that there are others who have it far worse than I do and to be grateful for the blessings.  However, I also have to give myself permission to have those moments of anger, sorrow and yes, even self-pity.  It's okay.  It's necessary because we can't be strong all of the time.  We need to express everything, even the ugly parts.

I admit, even if it's only here on my blog, that sometimes when people complain of a minor illness, I want to shake them and scream.  I want to tell them they have no idea.  That they know nothing, Jon Snow.  I want to beg them to switch bodies or lives with me, even for one week, so I can remember what it feels like.  I'll gladly take their cold or stomach flu for six days if I get just one that's free of pain.

The flip side of that coin is that whomever switched lives with me would have to live mine for a week.  I know we may think that we would like those that do not believe or understand our disease to live with it for a week or even a day so they finally have some empathy and compassion.  But, I don't think any of us could actually do it - knowingly inflict this upon another person.  I couldn't.  Not even for one day of freedom.

Fibromyalgia is a war with no end.  Winning is only found in getting up each day to fight another battle.