Your Chronic Illness Makes You Strong

I do my best every day to hide my pain and exhaustion. Most days I’m successful, but days like today I can’t even manage to make my smile look genuine. When you have a chronic illness, you don’t get to choose your good days, and there’s no telling how many hours of “good” you’ll get before it all comes crashing down.

Days like today you wake up from a full night’s rest, but feel like you haven’t rested at all. You fall asleep standing up in the shower, a body part you’ve never had pain in before will suddenly hurt like hell, you’re shivering in 90 degree weather, and it feels like you have weights strapped to your body. Days like today you do the bare minimum. Your hair is dirty, but your shoulders hurt too bad to wash it. Your have dark circles and a puffy face, but you don’t have the energy to put on any makeup. You throw on your comfiest jeans, shirt, and shoes so you don’t have to worry about your body hurting from uncomfortable clothing. Then you look in the mirror and don’t even recognize yourself, and you hope people don’t think you’ve let yourself go, because you did try your best to put yourself together.

Even after all of this, you have to look at yourself again and realize how much strength you have. You got out of bed this morning. You managed to shower. You made it to work. You did your chores. You really have strength when you have a chronic illness. Even if you don’t look like you care about yourself, you do, because people who care about themselves get through their day no matter how hard it is. You go to bed more exhausted than when you got out of bed, but you still accomplished something today, and that is what makes you strong. You faced the day with a smile on your face (genuine or not), and that is what makes you brave. Your illness gives you the drive to fight for your life day in and day out. YOU ARE AMAZING.

 

Fibro

Photo of Alexandra Jane Welcome taken by me: https://tianalachellephoto.pixieset.com/alexandra/waterfall/

 

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Nine years of pain, and finally getting a diagnoses.

“Nothing is wrong with you.”

“You’re very young and healthy.”

“You probably just need some rest.”

“Here’s a few days worth of medication. Come back if you don’t feel any better.”

These are just a few of the things I’ve repeatedly heard over the years. I’ve been in pain since I was a teenager due to a back injury. Any pain I had felt in my body since then I always just assumed was because of said injury. I had learned how to tolerate my pain for so many years, that I also tolerated any other symptoms, including the Anxiety I was diagnosed with at 16.

2012 came around and I’d finally had enough. I made an appointment with my Doctor to try some medication for my anxiety. While at my appointment I was also diagnosed with OCD, and given a prescription for Zoloft and an emotional support pet.

Fast forward 4 months. I had been experiencing pelvic pain for about 2 years, and was told it was due to my IUD. The pain got so severe I had to spend the night in the ER. Pelvic exam: Normal. CT scan: Normal. Urine sample: Normal. I was sent home with nothing for the pain, no answers, and a recommendation to see an OBGYN in 2 weeks. I did just that, and of course everything came back normal. I’d had enough, and got my IUD removed a few months later.

Between that time and May of 2017, I had regularly visited different OBGYN offices to get pelvic exams, blood test, ultrasounds, etc. All normal, and the pain was always checked off as period cramps or a temporary annoyance. Then in May of this year, I was once again experiencing severe pelvic pain. This occurred after a 30 day period, followed by an 8 day period a week after that (which I had seen my OBGYN for, and of course all tests came back normal). I went into the clinic and had explained to the PA my usual symptoms “Pelvic pain, back pain, months of fatigue, and night sweats”. She figured it was a ruptured cyst, and sent me home with a prescription for Naproxen. She told me if I wasn’t feeling better in a couple days, I would need to come in for an ultrasound. She called the next day to check up on me. I was feeling better, but still in pain. She made an appointment for me to come in for an ultrasound. Two days later I had my ultrasound, which came back normal. She sent me home with different pain med, and advised me to go to the ER if the pain doesn’t go away.

Nine years of back pain (which now resulted in knee pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, head pain, etc.), seven years of pelvic pain, and a countless number of times hearing the word “normal”. You can imagine how much I hate that word. I was at a loss at this point. Multiple Doctors, and all the research I could possibly do, but no answers. A couple months pass, and the fatigue I’ve been feeling since the Holiday’s is getting worse and worse every passing week. I could no longer function like this. I finally took the advice of an acquaintance, and made an appointment with my regular Doctor to talk to him about Fibromyalgia.

When this acquaintance mentioned fibromyalgia to me, I denied it. My best friend has fibro, and there was NO way I did as well. Her pain seemed much worse than mine. I can’t have what she has. I kept telling myself that my anxiety and OCD were making me tired and tense.

I was wrong. My Doctor diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. The F word I really didn’t want to hear. He gave me the news, told me to get rest and exercise, gave me a sample of Lyrica, and sent me on my way. After my appointment, I sat in my car and took a couple minutes to cry. It was a bittersweet experience. I was crying because of the diagnoses, but was also crying because I was happy to finally have answers after 9 years of frustration. I realized also that just because other people may seem to have it worse than me, doesn’t mean that I’m not in pain as well. It may just be a different kind of pain. Fibro is different for everyone. I may have a symptom that someone else doesn’t, but we share the same illness.

After being diagnosed, I had the most amazing support from my husband, family, friends, and even strangers. I feel lucky to have such amazing people in my life, and hope other have the same support as well. I’ve also realized how strong I am. I’ve been through all of this, and have still pushed through it all. I will not let my illness get in the way of living my life. I appreciate my life so much more now. I realize that I do need to rest, and I won’t be able to do all the things that I want to do, or the things that other people are doing, but I’m still going to do everything I possibly can. I refuse to let my pain and exhaustion stop me from doing the things that I love. My diagnoses does not define me. define my diagnoses.

OCD

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder):

What is OCD? It’s a very confusing mental illness that most people mistake for over the top cleanliness or organization, which is absolutely true. However, that is a sliver of what OCD really is. I found an article that gives a very good insight on the disorder. Here’s part of the article:

“Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness. It’s made up of two parts: obsessions and compulsions. People may experience obsessions, compulsions, or both, and they cause a lot of distress.

Obsessions are unwanted and repetitive thoughts, urges, or images that don’t go away. They cause a lot of anxiety. For example, someone might worry about making people they love sick by bringing in germs. Obsessions can focus on anything. These obsessive thoughts can be uncomfortable. Obsessions aren’t thoughts that a person would normally focus on, and they are not about a person’s character. They are symptoms of an illness.

Compulsions are actions meant to reduce anxiety caused by obsessions. Compulsions may be behaviors like washing, cleaning, or ordering things in a certain way. Other actions are not obvious to others. For example, some people may count things or repeat phrases in their mind. Some people describe it as feeling like they have to do something until it feels ‘right.’ It’s important to understand that compulsions are a way to cope with obsessions. Someone who experiences OCD may experience distress if they can’t complete the compulsion.

People who experience OCD usually know that obsessions and compulsions don’t make sense, but they still feel like they can’t control them. Obsessions and compulsions can also change over time.”

You can read the whole article here.

The reason I’m even bringing this up is because people seem a little skeptical when I mention I have OCD. I used to be offended by it, but now I know it’s because people don’t really know what it is, and that there are different types.

For me, it’s mostly the obsession part of the disorder. Repetitive thoughts are part of my daily life. Sometimes it’s mild, sometimes it causes anxiety attacks. On the outside I may look fine, but on the inside I’m screaming. I can’t get that phrase out of my head, or that embarrassing thing that happened in 4th grade will play on repeat all day long, or having to count to the number 5 (it’s always the number 5) over and over again.

Although obsessiveness is the main part of my disorder, it can often translate to compulsion in some situations. These obsessions aren’t very noticeable to others, because I do them as sneakily as possible. Sometimes I don’t even notice them.

Organization: This one is odd for me, because I only need to be organized in certain places. Work is a big one for me. I get anxious when something at my desk isn’t placed correctly. Here are some examples of what organization looks like to me, and how it always has too look:

 

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I have to have my small notebook and whatever book I have with me on top of my folders. The highlighter always has to be in the middle, cap facing downward.

 

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My EXPO pens have to be perfectly parallel at all times, all facing the same way. The same colors always have to be next to each other.

 

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This notebook is where I write down all of my voicemail’s. It is always sitting at that same spot, right next to my phone. I have to write the message down in black. Once I call that person back, I have to cross it out in red. The pens always have to be at the top of the page, the black one closest to me, and caps have to be off for easy and quick access.

 

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Here is the most irrational one. These look like two perfectly good pens, right? WRONG. The pen on the left is the one I use to write down voicemail’s. It can ONLY be used for that reason. The other pen is faded, because I use it for everything else, and that makes it easy to not get them mixed up. If I notice I’m using the wrong pen, I start to panic. It’s so dumb, and every time it happens I know how dumb it is, but I really can’t help it.

The other part of organization I need is also really dumb. It can also be wasteful, which stresses me out. It’s another thing I can’t help. My handwriting has to be perfect. If I start writing and one word or letter is out of place, I have to throw it away and start again. I often get hand cramps writing lists, because it usually takes a few times for me to be satisfied with the way it looks. I know, wasteful and irrational, huh?

Routine: This one is not as severe, but can cause a lot of anxiety on bad days. I don’t have many routines, but the ones I do have can get pretty serious. At work, I have a specific parking spot and bathroom stall I highly prefer to use. When someone parks in “my” parking spot, I get incredibly upset. Sometimes I actually get angry that I have to park one stall over. Once my car is out of sight as I’m walking into the office, the anger goes away. When someone is using “my” bathroom stall, I don’t get angry, but I often get emotional about it. For a few seconds I feel like crying when I see that stall door closed.

These are just a few examples of what having OCD is like. OCD and anxiety go hand in hand most of the time. It’s incredibly exhausting to have these disorders. Some days I can’t focus because my brain is too tired from thinking. Some days I’m in pain from tensing up so much from these disorders. Just because someone “looks” fine, it doesn’t mean they are. Those of us with mental disorders are usually pros at hiding it, and we live our lives the same as everyone else on the outside, but the inside is a completely different story.

If you know someone with any of these (or other) mental disorders, please do your best to understand them. Most of the time we don’t even understand ourselves, so when other people don’t try to understand us, it’s very frustrating. Everyone suffers differently, and have different coping mechanisms. Do your best to get to know what those are, so you can help if needed! Thanks for reading!

Perfectly fitted pants

It is not 1955.

I try to keep rants off my blog, but I’m becoming more and more irritated through the years when comes to assumptions and comments about equality in my (and many people in this young generation) marriage. It’s 2017. We are all equal in and out of marriage.

Never ask someone “who wears the pants in the family”. It is the most outdated and infuriating question. When it comes to my marriage, we both have our own pairs or perfectly fitted pants. We do things equally and balance each other out when one is better at something than the other.

Stop acting surprised when I say Joe does the majority of the cooking. He’s a damn good cook and makes my belly happy. I love to cook too, and I do cook a fair amount of the time, but Joe is the master chef in the family. Ask any of our friends!

Stop acting shocked when you find out I make slightly more money than Joe does. And please, don’t ask how Joe feels about me making more money. It’s offensive, and he’s totally fine with it. He knows I’ve worked hard, and he’s proud of me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the wife making more money, and there is nothing wrong with being a stay at home dad if it works out that way. Women work  hard too, men can take care of kids too. There’s nothing shocking about it.

While we’re on the subject of money, no, I do not spend all my money on clothes and makeup. We split the bills. We both pay mortgage, buy groceries, dog food, etc. I have bills that I pay, he has bills that he pays. We don’t share a bank account, so stop assuming I’m using his hard earned money on myself whenever I want. I don’t know why people think all women are constantly using their husbands money to go get their hair and nails done.  Everything we own, we both work equally hard for.

Stop acting like stay at home moms or dads don’t do as much as their working counterparts. I’m not a mother myself, but I have plenty of friends who are. I see their exhaustion. I’ve talked to them about their stress and their daily routines. It’s exhausting just hearing about it. Moms work so damn hard. Being a mom is a 24/7 job, and there is nothing wrong with being a stay at home mom. Just remember that if you are, you are equal to your working significant other. Never feel less than because you don’t make the money or pay the bills. You are a fucking rock star that deserves more than you think you do.

To end things, I just want to thank my amazing husband for treating me with so much respect. We’ve had multiple conversations about everything stated above. We can both appreciate the equality in our marriage. I love how he’s constantly teaching me new things and encouraging me to learn how to check my oil, change my tires, etc. He’s always proud of my accomplishments, and complimenting my strength. We are an amazing team, and he’s never seen me as less than himself because of gender or abilities. We work together at everything, and I think it’s so important in a relationship to be equal. Thanks for taking the time to read my rantings!

Nightmare Nights

I call them my Nightmare Nights.

I have nightmares quite often. One or multiple. Sometimes I can shake them off pretty easily, sometimes they give me a little anxiety, and sometimes they cause a full blown panic attack. Usually this happens with a series of different nightmares, or nightmares that even after I wake up from them, I will fall back asleep and it will start all over. Last night it was a series of nightmares, and I woke up already in a panic attack. One of the worst I’ve ever had. These are what I call my “Nightmare Nights”.

I’ve become so used to having the same type of nightmares over and over again, that I’d like to believe I know what they all mean. This blog post is going to be about the nightmares I have, and what meaning I believe is behind them.

  • Teeth: These are the nightmares I have most often, and they started when I was 7. My first nightmare about teeth was when I lost a tooth, and that night, I dreamt of an evil tooth fairy chasing me down a colorful sidewalk. She had sharp teeth and stringy blonde hair. She was terrifying, and I hated her. Ever since then, I’ve had countless dreams about my teeth cracking, breaking, or falling out. I have severe anxiety about my teeth, and tend to grind/clench my jaw when I sleep. The anxiety has even caused daydreams about my teeth. If I bite something too hard, or hit my tooth on my glass, I start to panic thinking about what could have happened to my tooth. I know…it sounds crazy, and I don’t know where the fear of something bad happening to my teeth came from, but at least it makes me take good care of them!
  • Father: I won’t go into too much detail about these dreams. I want to save a whole blog post about my father when I’m brave enough to do so. I have nightmares about him weekly. Small ones of him stalking me, chasing me, or just running into him. The bigger nightmares are the ones where I live with him again, and I can’t escape my house. I’m stuck with him forever. Another one I have is that my mom decides to give him another chance, and he’s a part of my family again. All of these dreams I believe mean that I fear having him in my life again, even for a minute. Also, that he still controls my life in some sort of way, even though I haven’t talked to him in nearly 8 years. The worst one though, is when Joe (Alpha) and him become friends, and Joe doesn’t believe anything I’ve told him about my father. This I interpret as my father taking away what I love most. He took so much from me for 16 years of my life, that I fear he will take away the most important thing.
  • School/Bullies: This is also a nightmare I have almost weekly. I’m back in High School, depressed again, bullied again. My “friends” stepping all over me and using me. If you don’t know, I dropped out of school after the first quarter of junior year, and graduated at 17 by doing packets. I was depressed. I was being bullied and emotionally abused at home, bullied and emotionally abused at school, self harming, not sleeping, and ditching every class I possibly could just so I didn’t have to be around anyone. I cried in the bathroom a lot, or ate my lunch by myself in a quiet place no one would bother me. I have nightmares of reliving my teenage years, and the only interpretation I have for that is I still have anxiety about school. Specifically running into people I haven’t seen since I left. The people who made me feel worthless, and the people who I thought were my friends. Often times I think about running into my biggest bully, the one I had from 4th grade until even after I left High School, and calling her out. I want her to know what she did to me and feel guilty about it. But let’s be real, I’m not bold enough for that.
  • Husband Stealers: These nightmares go along with the nightmares of my father stealing Joe from me, except in these nightmares, it’s the girls who bullied me or wronged me. The girls who turned my best friends against me, the girls I was jealous of, or the girls I didn’t even know that snickered at me in the halls at school. These nightmares vary from Joe becoming best friends with one of these girls, cuddling/flirting with them, or full on cheating. And it’s always done right in front of me like he doesn’t even care, while the girls stare at me like they were successful at ruining my life yet again. *I just want to add that these nightmares have nothing to do with me not trusting Joe. I trust him more than anyone, and know he would never hurt me like that.*

 

What I’ve realized from these nightmares, is that even if you don’t think about these things on a regular basis, they will always be in the back of your mind. Emotional scars never fade. The demons are always there waiting for the perfect moment to creep back up, and those moments are usually when you’re sleeping. Some people are lucky enough to experience a bad situation and just get over it. Others are damaged forever. I am one of those others. I am super grateful to have a husband who knows about all of these demons and is there to hold me when I need it (like this morning when I needed him after my panic attack), and friends/family who have all been through similar situations and can relate when I’m having a hard time. I’m also grateful for my dogs, that let me squish them when I need to calm down. I’m surrounded by a bunch of emotionally fucked up people, who are truly beautiful and amazing, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Photo by Trevor Wilson 

TTC

TTC: Trying To Conceive

This is not something I thought I’d talk about. Not until the BIG DAY where I can make a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! But, that day may be soon, or far away. I don’t know what my future holds. I’m staying positive, but I’m also terrified. I’ve never had a regular cycle, even on birth control. We’ve only been trying since November (not consistently like we should have been), and I’m not upset that I’m not pregnant yet. I know it takes time, and as much as I want to be believe it will be easy, I’m so scared it will be a rough journey.

Baby, baby, baby. All I think about. Hours spent on Pinterest planning a gender reveal, baby shower, nursery. For a little peanut that isn’t even in my belly yet (not that I know of anyway). I started a baby journal today. I wrote a letter to our future pack member about how much we want him/her. How hard we’re working to prepare. All of this is keeping me excited an positive.

I have my preconception appointment in a couple hours. I hope it brings good news and all the information I need about conceiving, pregnancy, etc. I’m going in with a positive outlook. I want everything to be okay. I want my OBGYN to tell me I’m damn good and healthy. I want a baby. Oh so badly I want a baby.

He or she will be our only child through pregnancy (unless I have twins. Huge possibility!), and hopefully some years down the line, we can welcome another family member into our home through adoption. I’ve wanted to adopt my whole life. I can’t stand the thought of children in the foster care (care? there is no real care) system. They need love, my love. I can give them so much love, show them what it’s like to be part of a family. Sorry…kind of getting off track on that one.

I’m going to share the first letter I wrote to my hopefully future, no, absolutely future mini me.

 

Dear Baby,

I’m going to the Dr. today for my preconception appointment. That means you’re not in my belly yet, but mommy and daddy want you to be! You’re all I’ve been able to think about these last few months. I want you so badly! Mommy and Daddy have been working hard to prepare for you. Bills are almost paid, the house is getting some much needed makeovers. We’re ready for you to complete our family of five (Daddy, Mommy, Yana, and Pal). I know your grandparents are anxious to know you as well. You’ll be the 7th grandbaby for Grandma Cindy, and the 1st for Grandma and Grandpa Ells. You have so many cousins, aunts and uncles that will love you! I can’t wait for you to be here. Please hurry!

Love,

Mommy

 

I hope I can fill these pages with pregnancy symptoms, a little + sign, food cravings, giving birth, and most of all…love. All I want is for baby to know that he/she was made from love. So much love ❤


 

Cleanse #2

It’s time for my social media cleanse for the month of February. I started a day early (January 31st), because I just needed a break. I’ve been so stressed and tired, and I wanted some time to myself. I’ve already finished a book that I absolutely loved. Dystopian books are my absolute favorite, so if anyone has suggestions, send them my way!

Day 2 of my cleanse, I decided that I needed a much longer break from Facebook, so I deleted it. I’ll probably reactivate it in the future, but for now I’m loving not having it. I feel much less stress and anxiety now that I’m not seeing all of the politics and arguing. I know I need to stay informed, but Facebook isn’t the way to do it. I’ve seen little positivity lately on all sides, and it’s made me emotionally exhausted.

Alpha and I have been working on our house. We’ve been so productive with tearing down wall paper, scraping off popcorn ceiling, and ripping up carpets. We’re almost done will all of that, then we can do the fun stuff (paint)! Normally I would document these things on Facebook or an Instagram story, but I realized people probably don’t even care, so I’m glad I’m doing this during my cleanse.

The more I’ve stayed off of social media, the more I’ve realized that people don’t really give a shit. You’re virtually surrounding yourself with people you haven’t seen since freshman year, or people you’ve never actually met. You follow people on Instagram who don’t even care about your existence. It sounds depressing, but it actually makes you more grateful for the real people in your life. Don’t get me wrong, I know social media is amazing for many reasons, but overall it’s kind of soul sucking.

When I’m not on social media, seeing what my friends post, I actually miss them more. I think about everyone I love daily, and how much they mean to me. Their text messages and voices make me feel more peaceful than ever, and seeing them is more meaningful. I’m counting the minutes until my girls night with my favorite people tonight. I just need some cozy time and deep conversations with my besties.

I don’t really have much more to say other than I’m loving life right now, even with all the stress. I feel like I’m keeping myself busy in healthy ways, and strengthening friendships. I’m constantly improving on my photography (should I blog my work?) and feel more confident in my modeling. I’m incredibly happy right now, and I’m excited for how bright my (social media reduced) future is. I just want to thank everyone who has been there through all of my mental health issues and hard times. Everyone who has listened to me, encouraged me, and supported me. You know who you are and I hope you know how much you mean to me. Love you so so much ❤