The first month of this new calendar year went by very fast but to me it also seemed like one big long blur of dealing (coping?) with the continuation of low back pain as well as very tight muscles in that same area of my body and a flu bug that kept returning every time I missed some sleep or a nutritious meal I felt that was almost all that my present life had become.
However, amidst the clouds, unseasonably cold weather (for southeastern deep South---teens overnight and barely in the 30s during the day), dampness when it rained there were a few days here and there of bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. I would like to say that it was a reminder that this 'too shall pass'. It is definitely the kind of stuff that petitions to my God are made of. Give me a sign of 'hope' that I will not 'suffer' much longer. Just when I am ready to throw the towel in I get a short but much appreciated reprieve.
I don't know how it is with others but the type of weather I just described above is the kind that my RA gains some ground and I feel like my entire body is inflamed. I have had some half-serious discussions with my husband, Paul, about going somewhere else for the winter months, December and January in particular. We have relatives (his side) who live in Phoenix where I could stay but would that be fair to my husband? No. It is a struggle to find a place that will satisfy both my need to minimize and possibly avoid chronic pain.
When I read here on SP others who are facing similar circumstances unless they are really downplaying the impact their diseases have on them I feel like I am doing a lot worse than what they share. Not that I would want anyone to go through what I am presently dealing with but I just wish I could find a true kindred spirit at this time. I do feel alone in what I am going through but thankfully my husband is with me and shares in my sorrows. We pray faithfully and await for 'my miracle'. In the meantime, I look for and often find moments of pure joy amidst the clouds and chronic pain.
One of my team mates, Velvet Unicorn, shared a link to a website that has what is called the 'January Cure' which is a daily way of de-cluttering your interior home space and I joined it. Like so many other things sometimes starting is the hardest part. I diligently worked until my lower back hurt (and that was my Catch 22 in all of this) but I tried to pace myself and keep my projects small but yes on occasion I did do more than I probably should have. I enlisted the help of my husband when he was free and available. Together, we did wonders in our main living space, our dining and living room space.
My husband had complained about how dark and poorly lit our living room is/was for at least a couple of years. The woods in the ravine that we face has matured since we moved here 10 years ago and each year as the trees grow taller it blocks more and more of the direct sunlight. I have always loved the fact that our open porch (we are on the mid level of our apartment building which is built into a hill) is about 15-20 ft. above the ground so we have a treehouse view of all of the activity of the woods that we can watch almost every day. Just in the past month I have seen a huge hawk and owl ( 24" tall at least), a very large raccoon that could barely navigate the trees (he needs to be on our team LOL), a family of cardinals and other species of birds that seem to love to come and sit on our porch railings and just express their own joy in the world around them. I would like to think that for whatever reason they feel 'safe' coming to our porch and chirping their gladness of the day at hand.
The 'downside' is that our living room is bathed in shadows and it does make it hard especially on the cloudy and overcast days for us to clearly see as in reading or even talking with each other. Both of our eyes are declining as we age. I accepted that since I have worn glasses since I was a teen but for my husband it is a recent occurrence and he has had his fair shares of grumbling because of it. So, in the interest of taking care of myself more than I have in the recent past I bought some new very bright reading lamps that have really bathed our entire west wall with light whenever we need and for my arthritic fingers they also respond to touch. I wish every 'problem' was that easy to solve. LOL
Again, in the interest of taking better care of my/ourselves I also bought a delayed Christmas gift to ourselves and got two customized sleeping pillows from My Pillow.com. It was the best money I have spent recently. Each pillow is handmade according to the questions you answer when ordering them and they are guaranteed for 10 years. They mold to your anatomy around your neck, shoulders and head and both my husband and I agree with the founder in the informercial " It is truly the best night's sleep I have had ever! " In the past I have awaken with a stiff neck as well as sore shoulders to start my day. That has been gone since night One.
Another thing that I bought for myself was a Himalayan salt crystal lamp. It is a natural air purifier. I ran across it when I was reading others reviews about how much they really loved theirs. On the literature that came with it there were 'claims' that it really helped with migraines, allergies, reduced ability to come down with flus and colds, to name a few. I have had the worse allergies for almost a year and so I was interested to see how this would work for me. I would say that within a week's time a nagging sinus condition that I had had for a couple of weeks cleared up. I have not turned it off since I got it. I am so sold on how different the air quality in my bedroom is that I plan on get one for the living room as well as our guest bedroom. Although I have had a recurring cold/flu over the month of January it lingers but it hasn't been as rough as what has been reported in the news. It stayed in my head and never dropped to my lungs which a big deal for me since I have had recurring bronchitis and pneumonia for half of my adult life.
My mantra for 2018 is 'good things are coming' followed by 'the year of Self-Care'. I read an article here on SP about how your self-esteem is directly correlated to how well you care for yourself. For every person I am sure that is different but like the things above that I mentioned that is what it means for me: better lighting, less clutter, a better night's sleep and being able to breathe easier. I have also put at the top of my list: eat more vegetables. I have worked on more creative ways of getting them into my food plan.
However, what the struggle is this recurring influenza (no, I never go the shot either because I was sick at the time and keep continuing to relapse) is that I seem to 'naturally' crave for something sweet (read dessert like food like cookies or regular soda). I realize that when my carbs go higher than my weight loss slows down but again it is a balance between wanting to lose weight and trying to eat healthy while sick. Plus, let's face it, when you (well, me at least) is sick where you feel run down and need to sleep a lot it is really hard to focus on what you do need to do.
I hate to admit that in the midst of all this 'self care' I really had intended on going to see some doctors about my various 'pains'. My husband even sacrificed some of his vacation time to take me to these appointments. However, with this recurring influenza I had to cancel them at the 11th hour and I felt bad that my 'best intentions' fell through. The painful lesson that I have learned in all of this is don't neglect your health to the point where it takes longer than you would ever think possible for to regain your former status of health. That is what I did and now it is really a struggle to get back even to a place I was in July of last year.
I suspect that by eating fewer calories as well as trying to get some much needed physical activity in (and more specifically rebuild my weakened muscles) I am also more susceptible to getting run down. I am anemic and although I take iron supplements I still tire easily some days. Add to that my age and the fact that I was depressed for a couple of years and fatigue has unfortunately become all too frequent guest in my household. It is slow going and I have learned to develop more patience as a result.
I also bought something that I had heard another team mate mention: one of those high intensity light lamps that supposedly help with winter 'blues'. I have used it a couple of times but when it is a mild day and bright and sunny out (the sun is much brighter here in the South than the North) I prefer to go out and watch the woods activities and get some fresh air. Again, what has really lifted my spirits was seeing my husband helping me with the decluttering (and he is a busy busy man) as well as some of these more successful purchases I have made in the past month.
I have been emotional because I am facing a lot of the decisions that I made in the past that I realize were actually causing me more pain than the pain that I thought I was avoiding. I have realized that I did indeed cut my nose off in spite of my face when it came who and how much I was allowing certain people into my life and my heart. I built a lot of walls in the past and now I am trying to build bridges.
Not all of those same people are the best for me (my sister is still quite critical of my choices which can really hurt at times and I do share that with her) but I realize that I do 'need' to have more people in my life so I am trying to figure out the best way to go about re-introducing some family members. It is not easy because they are not known to give a lot of support but again it is a start and we do have some history. We have lived 1000 miles away from our respective families and although most of the time I was more than happy to be that far I also realize that we have missed out a lot on moving for a job opportunity for my husband.
I am afraid that all of us get older and at some point we may have missed the opportunity to keep connected. I especially felt lonely this past Christmas. I discussed with my husband the idea of returning to our home state for his 60th birthday but again it will depend on what if any medical intervention I may need before June. I am not sure how I will reconcile this social need of mine but I will say that for now it is a joy to be a part of a team that I have known for a few years now. Reconnecting with my team mates has really been one of the best things I have done to really end a lot of the isolation I have felt this past year.
Mobility is still a problem that I am working on. I have my power chair but now I am working on getting an interior car lift installed so I can transport it easier. Once that is taken care of I will be more independent and free to get around (as best as I can) during the daylight hours. In absentee, I am still keeping up with the monthly book selections and I have really rediscovered my love of learning and reading. I am also going to join some needlecraft 'clubs' in the near future. Again, patience is in order as I deal with how well I feel vs. what I can do to join 'the rest of the human race'. "Good things are coming".
I have decided to not pursue any medical help with my recent depression. Although I am more emotional because of enduring the chronic pain and just plain not feeling 100% (try 60-70%) I really do feel that I am not down or lethargic. Like many others I still struggle to get a good night's sleep but after making a top priority it is coming easier for me. The only thing that awakens me is pain which seems to be the worst at night. Patience. Patience.
So, dear readers, amidst the unpredictable weather, the RA (which right now is settled mostly on my hip joints), the slowness of my lower back healing; I do indeed experience moments of joy. I love the sunshine as it floods my window right now. I love the fact that I am finding ways to get my vegetables in (even for a non-vegetable eater like myself). I can 'escape' into a book and a new world and learn about topics (like elephants in the "Leaving Time" by Jody Picholt) that I would never had considered reading about.
So, believe it or not, LIFE IS GOOD!. There is much to be thankful for and much to hope for that will leave (I am ready when you are!). LOL.
This year for Valentine's Day I am going to gift myself with some spring flowers. And, possibly a box of chocolates.
Self-care is self-love is self-esteem. My prayer for me and you as well is More Joy than your Heart can Hold and Handle.