Chronic Pain | What The Media Doesn’t Tell You

Chronic Pain | What The Media Doesn’t Tell You

 Living with a chronic Illness can be hard, plain and simple. Living with an invisible illness, one that causes chronic pain, is harder. It has become such a common practice for people to quickly judge another person based on their condition or based on their use of narcotic pain meds. It has even become true within our healthcare system and within the government. Sadly it is not uncommon for a patient to be looked upon as an “addict” simply because of a medication that they take. Much of this has happened in response to the media coverage of the Opioid Crisis and how the government is handling the crisis.

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Living With An Invisible Disability

Living With An Invisible Disability

 Living with a chronic invisible illness is HARD! When you live with a condition that can’t be seen you have to deal with so much. Not only because the daily suffering isn’t easily explained to others, but because every where you go someone seems to be judging you. People always assume that just because you don’t appear disabled that you are just lazy

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A Piece For All Women | 10 Things We Should All Hold True

A Piece For All Women | 10 Things We Should All Hold True

Why is it that today women (and men) feel that it is okay to sit behind a screen and a keyboard and saw awful things to people online? When did it become socially acceptable to put down another female simply based on her appearance? When did it become acceptable to say nasty things about another woman’s character, when you’ve never met her? And why did it become okay for each of us to put stock into what others say about us?!

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Chronically Cooking | Chicken Tortilla Soup & Banana Bread

Chronically Cooking | Chicken Tortilla Soup & Banana Bread

One of my main goals for 2019 is to spend more time in the kitchen. And no not necessarily eating, but cooking as well. So I’ve been looking for and trying new recipes. In fact I made a couple really good dishes recently and thought I would share them and the stories behind them with you.

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Filing Disability | What Its Really Like

Filing Disability | What Its Really Like

Disability......Has almost become a dirty world for those who are trying to gain disability due to some life altering condition and have been denied. Filing for disability is a long and arduous process at best

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Patient Physician Relationship | How To Handle Bad Care

Patient Physician Relationship | How To Handle Bad Care

Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, healthcare providers that don’t take the time to actually listen to their patients. Or providers that act more like bullies than providers.

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What Do I Take To My Infusion?

So your doctor just told you that they are going to get you scheduled for infusions and so many things start running through your head. Typically the very first one is NOT going to be "What will I need to take with me?" However, after the fear and all the questions about the medication you will be receiving has died down you will probably start thinking about what you will need to take with you to said infusion. How long will you be there? Will you want things to do while you are there? In General most infusions receive last anywhere from an hour to as long as 8 hours or more depending on what medication they are receiving. But you also have to include the time it takes for them to ask all the questions, get your IV started/port accessed and pre meds give so you can easily add about another 30-45 min on to your total time. That being said you will likely want to take a bag of some sort with them.  So that is exactly what I want to talk about today, things you may want to take with you when you go to your infusion appt. I actually talked to several of my friends who receive or have received infusions in the past about their list of things that they take to their appts. The common thing among almost everyone was that almost everyone takes a blanket. Everyone who has spent any time in a drs offices or hospital know that they are ALWAYS cold. Also many times part of the protocol for many infusions include Benadryl, which makes most very sleepy so having a comfy blanket when you get sleepy just feels good.  Some people even said that they take a pillow with them. I personally found that it was to cumbersome to take a pillow with me for a two hour appt. The facility I went to always had pillows available if I needed one. I did think about buying one of the small travel size pillows to take with me but never did. But I may do that in the future if I go back to getting infusion.

The other common thing among most of the people I talked to was entertainment. Since the appts last so long you will need things to keep you "entertained." Yes, we aren't children, but sitting in a chair hooked up from an IV for hours on end can get very boring. Most people said they take a computer, iPad, cell phone, or some sort of electronic device that they can use to surf the internet or watch Netflix. Netflix or something similar is a great way to pass the time. That being said if you do plan on streaming some kind of movie or TV show make sure that you take headphones (ear buds) and a charger for your device. Most infusions centers are set up with everyone in one big room or in a big open space. Not in single patient rooms like when you are in the hospital. So taking headphones is good for you and for everyone around you. Other things that people said they take with them to infusion appointments to keep them entertained were things like coloring books and colored pencils, a book or magazines to read, crossword puzzles or Sudoku. There are a million and one things I could list out, but the point is you will want something to keep you entertained when you get bored.

The final common thing that many people said they take to infusion appts was food. Many times as I have said before you are at these appts for hours and hours so you may get hungry. Most facilities will not feed you, if they do have food on hand it is most likely to be something like crackers and juice or something small. So taking your own food is important. You will probably not want to eat a lot before of during your first infusion just to see how the meds make you feel and if you will get nauseated. But after that you should know what to expect. If it were me I would take a protein bar  and water or something small that doesn't take up a lot of room in my bag and isn't super smelly for those who are around me that may be feeling sick.

I hope this helps you all. Infusions can be a scary thought but if you can know a little about them going in it will help. Take time before you go to your first appt to research the medication you will receive and see what the possible side effects are. Also research how long it may take to start feeling better from the medication. My recommendation, for what its worth, is to make sure when you are researching to only use well know sites. Like the Mayo Clinic,  The NIH,  or the drug company website. Never use sites like Wikipedia. Wikipedia can be updated by anyone, anytime therefore the information may not be totally accurate. When living with a chronic illness knowledge truly is power, so taking the time to learn about your condition and the medications you will be receiving is a MUST.

With Love,

Amber

Dear Lupus.....

Dear Lupus,You came into my life with asking, without an invitation. You came in and made it known by all that you were GOING TO BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION. Who asked you to come? Who asked you to come into my body and take my life away?? I sure as hell didn’t.

Looking back you made yourself known and reared your ugly head the first time when I was in highschool. Although no one called you that. They just said I had mono forever. Six months to be exact! Who has mono for six months?!? I always wondered why the simplest tasks made me exhausted and the people around me could run circles around me for hours. I also wondered why I seem to require so much more sleep than others my age! It was because of you LUPUS. You went away for several years for the most part and I was grateful. I was able to finish nursing school and my bachelors degree. I was able to work as a nurse for 6 years without any issues. Even though you weren't active I was always exhausted all the time. And I could never stay up as late as people my age or couldn’t go out and "party" like others my age etc. It was all because of you. Damn you LUPUS!

Finally six years ago you officially made your move. You moved in and took up residence for good. Although we never discussed this, I never agreed to this, I didn’t give you a key or clear out a drawer for you. Instead you just made yourself welcome. Since that day long ago. You’ve made my life or a good part of it a living hell. I have lost several friends along the way because they think I don’t want to see them or that I’m just full of excuses as to why I don’t want to go out to eat or go the bar after work. Or because they simply don’t understand when I say I’m tired it’s not just lay down and take a nap tired it’s pure exhaustion. The one thing you’ve taken away from that hurts the most is the fact that I haven't been able to cheer on my sister as she pitches and plays travel ball all summer. Because of the heat. Since you moved in you made me so sensitive to the sun and have taken away my ability to be out at the ball field without paying for it later. And it literally has broken my heart.

You came and brought along uncontrolled pain (at times), long term steroids (leading to weight gain), inability to be in the heat or sun, sleep issues, and a plethora of other very undesirable diseases that go hand in hand with you. I can’t thank you enough for your generosity. You’ve done enough. Now go away and take all the “gifts” you’ve brought with you that are also not welcomed here.

One of the reasons I hate you the most is because between you and your friend endometriosis I will no longer be able to carry my own baby. And I've never wanted anything more than to be a mother. But because of you, the side effects of the drugs I take to treat you, and your buddy endometriosis that's no longer possible. My lifelong goal gone in a second.

You can also take adrenal insufficiency and Hemiplegic migraines with you. Because of the three of you I had to quit my job and move home with my parents. Because you were all being so mean. My blood pressure would stay in the 70's and 80's because my adrenal glands no longer act like they should. Over the last two years I have spent more time in the ER than most people do a LIFETIME!! All because of the debilitating migraines that are now a part of my daily life.

I'm tired of all of you. Tired of the medications, the depression, the anxiety and most of all the pain.  I never asked any one of you into my life, yet you are all here. You have changed my life in so many way I can't even count. I've lost the majority of my local friends. I will never be able to complete my masters degree that would give me the knowledge to teach nursing school because of you!! Thanks to you I can't hold down a job outside the home. You need to pack up and get the hell out of my life! GO. GO I tell ya!!

I live by the verses.

*Philippines 4:13 I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

*Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

With Love

-Amber

** This is my updated letter to lupus. I felt with it being Awareness Month this was a good time to update and share.

The Spoon Theory, How Spoonies Get Through a Day

When you are sick and really feeling terrible, there is nothing that can be more irritating than when someone says to you, "At least you don't loo sick!" While they may not mean this as anything but a compliment. In general it is NOT how most with an invisible (chronic) illness will take it. To hear you don't look sick when you have an illness where your body is attacking itself on the inside but can't be seen on the outside is very very frustrating. So much so that fellow Spoonie Christine Miserandino developed a way to explain how we are feeling. Her piece is called The Spoon Theory. If you aren't familiar with this theory you need to be. Christine decided that she needed to find a way to explain how well or poorly she was feeling to her best friend and roommate. Her roommate was the person who went to doctors appts with her, saw her sick and saw her cry. She stated that if she couldn't effectively explain it to this person, how could she explain it to anyone. She thought about it for awhile and decided using spoons would make the most sense. And at this point The Spoon Theory was born. And stated, "At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands."

Christine went on to explain that the difference between a healthy person and someone with a unhealthy person is that someone with a chronic illness has to make a choice and choose what they do or don't do every day! When a normal healthy person does not have to make that choice.

"Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control."

Christine goes on to talk about how at the beginning of the day the chronically ill start with X amount of spoons and that's how many you get. No more, no less. And through the day EVERY SINGLE ACTIVITY that you do costs you X amount of spoon. That's everything, including getting dressed, taking a shower, putting on makeup etc. All activities that most would be thinking that are simple and easy things that shouldn't be a problem. However, activities like that are the ones most people will take for granted and do without a second thought. That being said, those who have a chronic illness may have to forgo those activities, or others, like drying their hair and putting on makeup (simple as they may seem). Those things may definitely be skipped if there is an activity later in the day that they know will take more spoons and they really want to take part in or attend. Even if we may be able to do those simple tasks like those what were mentioned above it make take use 5 times as long as it used to. Simply because we don't have the energy to get them all done at once like we once did and may require frequent breaks through the getting ready process so that we don't risk exhaustion before whatever it is we are doing! Those of us with chronic illness have to do what we can to conserve spoons so we can make it through the day.

Let me give you an idea of what a work day looked like for me before and after my Lupus diagnosis.When I was working as an RN, right out of school before I was my first life changing diagnosis, my mornings were very different then they are now! 7-10 years ago every morning I would get up and get dressed, do the normal tasks like deodorant and brushing my teeth as well as doing my hair, which could consist of being in a pony tail/bun or down and curling it! I would put on my makeup almost every day and eat breakfast at home before leaving. I would always leave for work with enough time that I could ensure that I would arrive on the nursing floor a full 30 minutes before I started my shift so I could fully prepare for my day. I would work a full 12.5 hour shift, most of which I was on my feet and going, going, going for the whole shift. I would sit very little usually only to chart and long enough to eat a quick lunch maybe 15 minutes, if I was lucky. At the end of my day I would arrive in the room where we gave report, right on time because I was usually busy until it was time to give report and leave. Once I left work, I would often go out to dinner or even out to the bar for a fun night out after work. I could easily survive on 5-6 hours of sleep and do okay. During part of that time I was also in school for my bachelors degree, so I also had to work on studying, writing papers and going to classes online and on the computer, as well as spending time in lab or clinical.

The previous scenario is so different then what it's like now (most recently). When I was working as a hospice nurse in the field last year, I would wake up maybe 20 minutes before I had to leave, if I was lucky! Leaving just enough time to drink a yogurt shake or maybe something as i was driving, jump in some clothes, put on deodorant and perfume and brush my teeth. (Much different than the way I did before) Most days I would work anywhere from 4-8 hours a day depending on what my day was like, and how far i had to drive. By the time I got home I was in so much pain and so stiff I could hardly get out of my car and walk into my house. And most days I would shower and fall into bed. Even if i has only worked 4 hours. And this is where I would stay until the next day. I wouldn't sleep that whole time most days, but I didn't have energy to do anything else. And my spoons were totally and completely gone. There was no more meeting with friends for dinner after work or going out for drinks on a work night. And most nights I require no less then 8 hours of sleep, more likely 10-12 hours. And many times on my days off I would spend resting because I was tired from the day before and knew I need to rest up for the next work day.

When I came across Christine's Spoon Theory, I found it to be the perfect way to explain my days and how I pick and choose what I do and don't do. Over the last 6 years I have used this very theory many many times to explain what is going on with me and why I may cancel plans from time to time. When anyone new comes into my life I often times will send this to them so they can get a bit of an idea of what I have to deal with on a daily basis. And I suggest that all of you do the same. This works for all chronic issues. Not just Lupus and Fibromyalgia. It can be used to explain the energy conservation requirement of any condition that causes chronic pain and chronic illness. So since I could not show you Christine's complete theory, I want to provide the link for you. The Spoon Theory in its entirety can be found by clicking that link. I recommend all of you read it even if you have read it before. I also recommend that you keep the link so you can send the theory to any friends or family who you feel needs a better understanding of what you deal with all day every day. I also hope that those who you share this with will have a little bit better understanding. And will maybe refrain from using those awful 5 words we all hate so much to hear, "But you don't look sick!" If you are a friend or family member of someone with a chronic illness please take time and read Christine's whole piece. It would honestly mean so much to the person in your life who is a Spoonie!!

Please share this post with anyone you might know who is dealing with a chronic illness either as the chronically ill, or as family or friend of the chronically ill, and you feel that they could benefit from it!

With Love,

Amber

I also want to send a shout out to Christine Miserandino for allowing me to quote her writing in this post!

Reference:https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

Dysautonomia- The In’s & Outs

October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month. What is Dysautonomia (can also be called Autonomic Dysfunction) you might be asking?? If you look it up you can find all kinds of information. According to Dysautonomia International, dysautonomia is a very broad term that causes a some sort of malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System(ANS). Let me pause here and explain what what the AND does so you can have a better idea of what problems could arise. The ANS Controls the body functions that would be considered “automatic.”  So things we can’t actually control ourself. Things like our heart rate, blood pressure, digestion of food, constriction and dilation of the pupils, kidney function, and our body temperature. Anyone who has Dysautonomia may have trouble regulating the above. So their blood pressure and heart rate may fluctuate and could potentially cause fainting, lightheaded, malnutrition or even death.  If I were to ask 10 people if they heard of Dysautonomia, I would guess it would be less than 5. That being said Dysautonomia is far from rare. It is said that over 70 MILLION people world wide live with this in some form. This condition is not gender or race specific. Anyone of any race, gender or age can be impacted.  Sadly, like many conditions that we apoonies have there is no cure. However, research is being funded to research and hopefully develop new and better treatments, and hopefully someday a cure. Sadly even though so many people are impacted by this condition, just like many spoonie conditions, it may take years to be diagnosed. Simply because of lack of awareness not only among the public but also within the medical profession   

Dysautonomia will generally involves failure of the sympathetic or parasympathetic systems. Causing excessive or even overactive ANS actions. Dysautonomia can be localized leading to reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Or more ge realized, causing pure autonomic failure. It can also be acute in action and therefore reversible , like Guillain- Barre. Or progressive and chronic like diabetes and alcoholism. Being that it’s a very complicated condition it can also happen as a primary condition, or along side with degenerative neurological conditions like Parkinson’s. Predominant signs of dysautonomia caused by sympathetic failure are impotence in men, and a drop in blood pressure when standing!! On the other hand if the patient is experiencing excessive sympathetic activity may have or show high blood pressure and:or a fast heart rate!!  Primary dysautonomia is  usually inherited or due to some sore of a degenerative disease, while secondary dysautonomias usually results from another condition or injury.

So we’ve talked about who can be effected by Dysautonomia/Autonomic Dysfunction acute vs chronic conditions. And what those conditions might look like. Now let’s look at signs and symptoms. 

Autonomic Dysfunction have the potential to affect only a small part of the ANS or the entire ANS. Symptoms may vary depending on how much of the ANS is affected and if there are any nerve disorders. 

Generic Signs and symptoms of Dysautonomia: dizziness and fainting upon standing up, (aka orthostatic hypotension), an inability to alter heart rate with exercise, or exercise intolerance. sweating abnormalities, which could alternate between sweating too much and not sweating enough, digestive difficulties, such as a loss of appetite, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or difficulty swallowing, urinary problems, such as difficulty starting urination, incontinence, and incomplete emptying of the bladder, sexual problems in men, such as difficulty with ejaculation or maintaining an erection, sexual problems in women, such as vaginal dryness or difficulty having an orgasm, loss of vision problems, such as blurry vision or an inability of the pupils to react to light quickly. 

Anyone can experience any or all or none of these symptoms depending on what the cause. Symptoms such as tremor or muscle weakness may occur due to certain types of autonomic dysfunction.

There are three main types of Dysautonomia: 

Neuro Cardiogenic Syncope (NCS) is the most common kind of dysautonomia. It is estimated that tens of MILLIONS of people are affected worldwide. The main symptoms a person with this condition might feel would be: fainting (or syncope), which may happen once or it could be happening frequent enough that it would interfere with a persons daily life! 

Naturally gravity will pull blood downward  but a healthy ANS adjusts the heartbeat and muscle tightness to prevent blood from pooling in the feet and legs and makes sure blood flow returns to the brain.  Most treatments are aimed to reduce symptoms. 

For people who faint they should avoid the following triggers. 

-dehydration, stress, alcohol, very warm areas, tight clothes. 

Meds like beta blockers and pacemakers are often used to treat people with severe NCS. 

Postural OrthostaticTachycardia Syndrome: This conditions is also known as POTS and affects between 1 and 3 million people in the US alone. Approximately 80% of those 1-3 million are female. IT COMMONLY AFFECTS PEOPLE WHO ALSO HAVE AN AUTOIMMUNE CONDITION!!!!!

Symptoms can include: lightheadedness and fainting, tachycardia, or abnormally fast heart rate, chest pains, shortness of breath, stomach upset, shaking, becoming easily exhausted by exercise, over-sensitivity to temperatures

POTS is usually a secondary dysautonomia. Research has found high levels of auto-immune markers in people with the condition, and generally patients with POTS are also more likely than the general population to have an autoimmune disorder, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or lupus! 

Apart from people who have POTs having  auto-immune factors, other conditions that have been linked to POTS or POTS-like symptoms include: some genetic disorders or abnormalities, diabetes, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a collagen protein disorder than can lead to joint hypermobility and "stretchy" veins, infections such as Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme disease, extra-pulmonary mycoplasma pneumonia, and hepatitis C, toxicity from alcoholism, chemotherapy, and heavy metal poisoning, trauma, pregnancy, or surgery

Research for the causes of POTS is continuous . Some scientists believe it might be due to a genetic mutation, while others think it is an autoimmune disorder.

Lastly, (for the purpose of this post) 

Multiple system atrophy- Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is less common than POTS and NCS. One of the big difference in this conditions and the others discussed is that  It is more likely around the age of 55 years. Even though it is less common MSA is estimated to affect between 2 and 5 people in every 100,000. It is oftenhard to diagnose because it is often mistaken for Parkinson's disease because the early symptoms are similar. In the brains of people with MSA, causes certain regions slowly break down, in particular the areas of the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and brain stem. The break down in those areas leads to motor difficulties, speech issues, balance problems, poor blood pressure, and problems with bladder control.

MSA has not been found to be hereditary or contagious, and it is not related to MS. Researchers know very very little about what may cause MSA. As a result of not knowing the cause, there is no cure and no treatment to its slow progression. Treatment can, however, manage specific symptoms through lifestyle changes and medications.

As you can see Dysautonomia is very complicated and can impact many parts of the body from the heart to the brain. While some of the conditions that fall under this umbrella are well known with good treatment options.  Others, mainly MSA is very unknown and there is no cure or treatment.  Especially important to us is the research of POTS as is directly related to autoimmune like lupus. And many people with Lupus end up having POTS. Like many other conditions we need to do more research and find good treatment options for all these conditions!! References:

http://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/page.php?ID=34

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/dysautonomia

https://www.healthline.com/health/autonomic-dysfunction

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/76785.php

Raising Awareness of Invisible Illness 

Invisble illness, invisible disability....... To those who don’t have one, most would assume that it’s in your head. Thus invisible. However, this so far from the truth An Invisible Ilness is an illness that cannot be seen outwardly.  So for instance; Migraines, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Kidney Disease, thyroid disease, Heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Chronic Pain. This list goes on forever!!  Invisible illnesses could even include mental illnesses. You can’t and most of the time will never see mental illness outwardly. They are conditions that can not be seen by just looking at someone. They are conditions that may be wreaking havoc on a person internally but you would never know because they may or may not be showing any signs outwardly. The Invisble Disabilities Association has deemed October 15, 2017 - October 21,2017 to be Invisoble Disabilitoes Week Online. A week to celebrate if you will, or bring conditions like these to the forefront. So let’s do just that. When you see someone in their thirties get out of a car they just parked in a handicap spot. What’s your first thought? For most I would almost guarantee it’s not “Oh how sad, I wonder what condition has made them disabled!”  For most it is probably more along the lines of “Look at that fat lazy girl taking up a handicap spot. I bet that tag belongs to her grandma or somethings!”  Now, don’t get me wrong not everyone thinks that way. But I know a large amount of people do. I have even caught myself at times thinking things I shouldn’t. Sadly in this day in age it just seems like second nature.  People don’t automatically assume that their may be a reason that a 32 year old slightly overweight female has some big bad illness because on the outside other than maybe a limp or the look of exhaustion on her face you don’t see anything wrong.  

    According To Everyday Health,  “But for the millions of people who are living with arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other forms of pain that are "invisible illnesses," explaining what's wrong is another side effect of their condition. Not only do you have to put up with challenging, often painful, and sometimes debilitating conditions every day, but on top of that, you may have to face skepticism from people — friends, family, and co-workers, as well as strangers — who don't understand what's wrong with you.”

    So what do you do to get past the skepticism and the non-believers? Do you put up bumper stickers with a list or your conditions? Or wear a T-shirt that says something along the lines of “Yes, I’m really sick? No!  Because you can’t change the way people think.  All we can do is pass on awareness to our friends and family. And even the people who follow us on social media. The only way we will ever get past the way people who view those of us with invisible illness is awareness. 

    Awareness can come in many forms. For me Blog. I can get my information out to larger volumes of people by blogging. I also use My social media accounts as platforms to spread awareness. Do people get tired of it? I’m sure! But we have to spread awareness for the Invisiblem Illnessea that are touching our families and friends. Should we shove it down peoples throats? Absolutely not, people aren’t going to change!  Some people will always think we are just lazy. And you know what we have to be okay with that bc we can’t change anyone else. 

    So help me help us this week by spreading awareness of Invisible Illness. One way we can do so this week is to change the frame on our face book profile picture to one that says I live with an Invisible Illness for the week. That just might open some eyes for people around you!!  The Huff Post posted this graphic and it feels like the perfect way to end this blog. But should you have any questions or anything please reach out!  

    Go out and spread awareness of your Invisible Illness/Disability!

    https://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/invisible-illness-when-others-cant-see-your-pain.aspx

    https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8178886

    Dealing with Social Isolation

    When you read the words social isolation what is the first thing you think of?  Is it Tom Hanks being stuck on a deserted island and resorting to talking a volleyball to not go nuts?  Is it those poor old people who live by themselves and have no friends or family to ever come see them? According to free dictionary.com - social isolation is the process of separating, or the state of being alone.  So this could be taken in several different ways.  Anyone can suffer from social isolation.  When you are chronically ill you often suffer from many kinds of isolation. You are feeling isolated from the world because you don’t leave the house often due to not feeling well and for fear of getting sick. You may also feel religious isolation because you can no longer regularly attend church like you once did. And you feel like you are isolated from your church family. Probably the most common type or feeling of isolation is the feeling of isolation from your friends and family. Also known as social isolation. Due to the fact that you no longer feel like doing the things you used to and you often times end up cancelling plans. And once you start cancelling plans much of the time people will stop asking you to do things. Because they just assume you’ll say no. And possibly because they assume you just don’t want to spend time with them when that’s so very far from the truth. 

    “Belonging” is a complex social concept, relating to people, places, and things. It is fundamental to our emotional well-being, helps define us, and keeps us connected. Social isolation, on the other hand, is when you distance yourself, physically, psychologically, or both, from your network of needed relationships.When you have a chronic illness, isolation can have unforeseen consequences, including worsening symptoms, unexpected health crises, hospitalization, loss of interest in activities, and decreased levels of energy. Anyone living with a long-term health condition is at risk for social isolation.” Upwell.com

    I asked the members of Lupie Groupies (the Facebook support group I am administrator of) about their thoughts and feelings on isolation. Below are what they had to say.  This fellow spoonie said “The only time I feel the isolation is when I'm feeling better. Otherwise to be honest I'm just to sick to care. If I am lonely or bored it means I'm improving ( which hasn't happened in awhile).”  Which made me think. She is so right. It’s when I feel better that I start noticing my feelings of isolation because I feel like getting out of the house and doing things. Whereas when I’m sick the last thing I’m thinking about is leaving the house to hang out with friends.”

    Kim had this to say “I too generally feel more isolated when I am feeling better. However, these past few weeks have been the High Holy Days for our Faith and I have not been able to participate either because I have been too weak or in the hospital. This is really hard on me as my faith is very important me. I have not been to services in a while because of my fatigue and pain. These issues just aren't going away either. I also don't see many people on a regular basis either due to illness except family. When I am doing better this can be upsetting at times. I am an outgoing person with a heart for people. The friends I have do which are few have been my friends for 30 years and we are more family now than anything. They have stuck but others have not because I cannot be there to go out to lunch or just hang out. I cannot say with any certainty that I will available for them. My body doesn't allow that.”  She touched on many of the types of isolation I talked about up above. And I appreciate her openness and willingness to share. 

    Elizabeth had this to say,  “I've been fortunate to have a long stretch of time that I was doing very well and was able to do things with a lot of people. Now I'm falling apart again, Benlysta stopped working, I HURT all the time, etc. I've had to cancel so many plans that I've had for quite some time and any time I allow myself to think about it I start crying. The internet is good for kind of talking with people, but on the other hand it sometimes hurts to look at Facebook and see life going on without you. And they should live their lives, I get that, but when living my life equals sitting around in pain it's rough. So yes, social isolation for me is the worst right after a feeling great period because I'm having to say no to so many things I enjoy and then watch others have fun without me.”  She makes a great point about the internet. It’s a great tool for finding support groups and friends suffering with similar conditions. And finding people to talk to who share your feelings. However, it can also be a negative experience when you see all the fun things and vacations and such that your friends are doing and you aren’t able to. 

    There are ways to combat feelings of social isolation. Upwell.com have five things that can be done to combat those feelings. They are listed below. 

    Five ways to keep social isolation from taking over your life

    1. Do your research. People often struggle with what they don’t know. Invest time in learning about your illness, symptoms, and treatment options so you do not fall prey to the emotional difficulties of illness, including the desire to be alone. By being proactive, you can understand triggers and keep isolation from taking over your life.

    2. Participate in e-social activities. We are blessed to live in an age where social networks make it easy to reach out to others. These are especially helpful when illness and pain prevent us from leaving our homes. Many different e-social activities, including email and instant messaging, give you an opportunity to stay connected daily. It does not matter whether you are reaching out to friends, family, or online acquaintances; the important thing is that you are connecting and not struggling alone. 

    3. Join a real life support group. Real life support groups are a great place for the chronically ill and isolated. They are a resource for information and emotional support, and they offer an opportunity to vent to people who understand. They are also an excuse to get out in the world. To find a local support group, Google a national organization for your condition, and then locate links on the page related to support groups or a local chapter. For example, the Arthritis Foundation has a local chapter search where you can find all the resources for your area, including real life support groups. Or, you can try the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' support group page.

    4. Take part in the real world. There will be times when you struggle to take part in the real world—whether it is spending time with loved ones or focusing on your career perspectives. Participating in the real world keeps you from becoming isolated. It also keeps you enjoying life, making memories, and feeling positive in a life that isn’t necessarily easy. Let others know you can participate, and join in all the activities you reasonably can handle. Volunteer, join a book club, or meet a friend for coffee or lunch at least once a week.

    5. Get comfortable with being alone. While it is important to have a network of people to relate to, there will be times when life requires you to be alone or when you simply want to be alone. Get comfortable being on your own. Learn to lead your own life and make your alone time productive and healthy. You can try meditating, writing, or reading to help you deal with isolation when chronic illness is dominating your life.   

    Social isolation can be something that anyone can deal with. But those with chronic illness are more common to deal with these feelings. One of the ways upwell.com gave to help deal with these feelings is to find a support group. Support groups can provide you with information but they can also be a place to find friends and confidants in those who are dealing with similar conditions. If you don’t have a support group but are interested in finding one let me know and I can help you find one. 

    Amber 

    Reference:

    https://www.upwell.com/articles/coping-and-support/manage-social-isolation-with-chronic-illness.html

    Content Direction— Please HELP!

    I’m working on developing my website and really turning it into what I want it to be. I somehow want to merge my health, which is a huge part of my life, along with some of the fun stuff. Like makeup, and tutorials and reviews and book reviews.  But I need to know what you the reader is interested in, so I know where to go from here. Below I am going to give NUMBERED ideas for content. After you read this please leave me a note in the comments telling me what you would like to see more of. So I can reign in all these thoughts and know where to focus my energy!  I appreciate the help. If I don’t list something you would like to see, leave it in the comments as well. 

    Thanks for all your help!

    1. Medical content- my main focus has been and will continue to be on chronic illnesses. Treatment options, research etc 

    2. Makeup content- reviews, tutorials etc(might also include some clothes and bags)

    3. Books reviews/discussions (from all genera)

    4. Lighthearted, uplifting content - poetry, bible verses, prayers etc

    5. Life content. What’s going on with me and the family, maybe more about what’s happening with me weekly.!!?

    6. Self-help kind of content

    8. Anything you want to see here let me know!!! Thanks for taking time to respond to this I greatly appreciate it.                                                                      Content meme found using google search. 

    Living vs Surviving 

    You know the question..... We’ve all asked it, and all thought carefully about how to answer. The question is nothing life altering to most and seems simple enough. But to many the answer is FAR from simple. Now you are probably wondering what question I might be speaking of. Well..... the common probably the most common and generic question asked, “How are you?”     To most that’s not a big question and gets a simple answer of “Okay,” or “Fine.” But how many of us with a chronic illness ever answer this truthfully? When was the last time you answered and said “I had a really horrible night l, my pain is at a 9, my head is pounding and I think I’m going to lose my breakfast and I’m barely surviving?”  Probably never! No one is ever that truthful and no one ever expects that kind of answer. What would you honestly do if someone you hardly knew all laid that on you? This leads me to my topic for this blog. The difference in living and surviving. And how truly different those two things are!!  If you were to define living what would say? To me living is just that, being able to go about your “normal” life with little to no pain. Not really thinking about your illness because if is not effecting your daily life. You can come and go as you please and not have to think about your daily spoon use. You can go do the things you enjoy and the drop of a hat with no second thought. Or do nothing at all. But you have the decision because you feel GOOD!!

    On the flip side surviving is just that. You are just getting by. You may be working and doing all the things that are required of you but that’s all you are doing. There are no extra events or fun activities because there is no energy. Even the activities that should be simple like showering or doing makeup are to strenuous and must be skipped to save energy for things later in the day. And when you are in survival mode you are definitely thinking about your spoon use! 

    I asked some of the women in a support group that I help run about their definition of living vs surviving and this is what they had to say! 

    One fellow Survivor said this “Living is being able to enjoy and do what you love. It is exploring, traveling, dropping everything and with no plan getting in the car and driving for the weekend and exploring back roads and meeting people. Surviving is figuring out if you can drive to your doctors appointment without killing others and not caring if you die. It is living on yogurt and eggo waffles because cooking is to hard. It is knowing the house or apartment is trashed but you can't do anything about it because the friends and family have given up because there is no "getting better." “

    Another had this to say, “My husband always tells doctors that I am alive but is not living. I think you can substitute surviving for alive. What he means is I'm breathing, but I have no life beyond my bed. So to us, surviving is just getting through each day, while living is doing all this things I took for granted before I got sick...going out to eat, seeing a movie, going on vacation, watching my son play baseball. The list is endless.” 

    Both of those are so true. They both do an excellent job of explaining what it means to live versus survive. And how different those two ways of life can be. Living is enjoying life and doing what you want when you want. While surviving is truly finding a way to make it through each task with the end goal of getting back to bed or the couch as quickly as possible. 

    So what do you do to get through those times when you are just surviving? Those times when people ask how you are and you wish you could really be honest, but instead you just tell them you are doing fine! Here are a few simple tips to get through those times when you feel like you are just simply surviving. 

    1. Do only the things that are essential! The bathrooms, the vacuuming and dusting can be put off for a few days until you are feeling better. The things like showering, dressing and general activities of daily living are more essential and those tasks should be focused on first. 

    2. If you have someone available ask for help. If you have a spouse, kids or even coworkers (not always an option I know) who can take over some of the tasks that for you are too hard to do at this time. 

    3. Rest, Rest, Rest!  Take any and every chance you can to rest. Even if you can only take a 15 min power nap to close your eyes and recenter yourself, use that time to so so. If you can schedule in a 2 hour nap then do that. Just rest. Whenever and however you can. 

    4. Even during the good times make sure that you take time for you. Whether that’s something as simple as a nightly bath by yourself after the kids go to bed.  Or something a little more elaborate like a mani/pedi and a massage once a month. Whatever it is is FIND TIME FOR YOU!!  

    5. Last bit definitely not LEAST. Find someone you can confide in. Someone who understands the daily struggles and will be there for you to lean on emotionally. Whether this is your spouse, your bestie, a counselor or someone you’ve never met but have connected to in an online support group. Whoever it may be, having someone to talk to will really help when you are struggling. 

    So as you can see there is a definite difference in living versus surviving. This may not be something you’ve ever thought about if you don’t live with a chronic illness that causes you periods of poor health and exhaustion. But it’s a real thing. Yes, technically we are all living but you have to look at quality of life as well. That’s where the term surviving comes into play. At times when you are doing just that. Just simply making it through each day alive. Remember there are groups out there with others going through situations similar to yours and they will be not only great Resources but they can also be a place where great lifelong friendships can be made.  

    Sleep..... Why have you forsaken me?

    Sleep..... Something many of us really enjoy doing. It's a good way to pass the time if you are bored. It is how our body refuels itself for the next day. It's just plain good for us. In fact most doctors will tell you that you need at least 8 hours of GOOD sleep. Good sleep is a whole new ballgame. I'm going to make a generalization here and say that most people with Lupus or Fibromyalgia or many other illnesses have trouble with sleep.  We as a population are the ones who probably need it the most.  Lack of sleep can cause so many problems for all of us. It can cause difficulty sleeping, errors at the workplace. And just plain make you feel like crap.

    It seems to me like my insomnia comes in waves. I do really well for awhile and am sleeping at night like a normal person. And then BAM something hits and throws me totally off.  Like for the last two weeks. It is usually 3 in the morning before I can finally go to sleep, and then I only sleep for a few short hours.  It seems like being sick with the flu is what triggered this episode. But it is so frustrating when you just lay there and look at the ceiling and can't go to sleep.  Lately I have tried everything to sleep. You name it I've tried it. Hot baths, soothing music. Something has to change especially if I am going to go back to work soon. I will need that sleep.  So my goal for today is to research methods to help you sleep without taking a sleeping pill. So be watching for that post with tips and tricks to make sleeping easier.  Now it's time for me to take a nap.  #lifeofalupie

    ~Amber