Thursday, July 23, 2009

How I Spent My Sabbatical

As you may be aware, I have been given a very gracious gift by my employer: a three-week sabbatical. After seven years of continuous employment, employees of my company are given three weeks of time off that must be taken all at once. These three weeks are in addition to the usual time off allowed for the year.

I chose to take my sabbatical during July, to maximize my freedom with outdoor time. Sadly, my time off is almost up and I will return to work again on Monday. As I wax nostalgic about the past three weeks, here is a list of some of the positive things I did during that time.
  1. I went through Chapter 16 of my FMS/CMP survival manual book and created my WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan).
  2. I had my refrigerator repaired.
  3. I slept late whenever possible.
  4. I spent a lot of time in my native yard, observing all kinds of wonderful wildlife, like butterflies, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers.
  5. I stretched and took walks around the neighborhood almost every day. I frequently stretched outside in the yard, getting my sunshine and enjoying the wildlife at the same time.
  6. I walked to the library and checked out a couple of books.
  7. I enjoyed homemade salads and fresh summer fruits. I frequently enjoyed them outside, while watching nature.
  8. I wrote in my journal.
  9. I ordered some gifts for myself and others, including stationery made from elephant poop (really), and a mbira (thumb piano). I spent plenty of time playing with the mbira (I learned 10 simple songs already) and my old harmonica, too.
  10. I took a brief ride on my bike. (The brakes need to be adjusted.)
  11. I created things online for my Zazzle store.
  12. I took a few epsom salt baths.
  13. I watched The Red Balloon.
  14. I visited a local pub for lunch and a drink, then bought myself an ice cream cone.
  15. I joined a new meetup group and met some interesting folks.
  16. I did two pub crawls in different towns with my husband.
  17. I got a massage.
  18. I listened to classical music while reading in my recliner, while sipping coffee, tea, or water.
  19. I baked banana bread from scratch.
I am sad that my "summer vacation" is almost over, but I'm very grateful that I had the chance to take it easy and forget about work for a while, all while enjoying great summer weather and the peak of growing season.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Do you want to BE your disease?"

My husband asked me this question recently. It's because I'm so forthcoming about my condition with everyone, even people I just met - or never met yet (online pals). It's a question that made me stop and think. Am I doing the right thing? Is this information going to alienate my new friends, or cause them to judge me in a negative manner?

I just like to share everything, so people don't guess or wonder about me. I realized that I am secretly hoping to preemptively give people the information that would explain any strangeness about me that I expect them to encounter, eventually. With an invisible disease like Fibromyalgia, I don't want people to think I'm fine because I don't look or act "sick" during their initial interactions with me - I may not be up to the next outing or whatever, and want to be upfront about that. I'm the kind of person who doesn't like those phony "let's get together sometime" un-vitations. We all know someone who confirms attendance at an event or party and then doesn't show. I HATE that. I am the kind of person who means what she says, and I don't want any false expectations. I figure that it's only fair to others if I let them know what's going on with me right away.

My husband's got his own invisible disease - Crohn's - so
I can certainly value his perspective on this. Perhaps he doesn't like to disclose his health problems to everyone he meets because of the embarrassing nature of the worst symptoms. Although I don't mind discussing my IBS at the dinner table, I can certainly understand not wanting to tell every stranger you meet that you sometimes have to make absolutely sure that a toilet is nearby. That's not a "nice" first impression. (And yes, I also notice that others aren't so happy to discuss my IBS, either - dinner table or not. Wimps! Heh.)

His symptoms also wax and wane, like mine do, so he also appears to "not look sick" to others when he's able to be social. However he's had his diagnosis for a lot longer than I've had mine, so he knows his triggers and cycles better than I know mine. (Color me jealous.)

I think there may also be a gender component to the differing ways we view this topic. As a male, I believe he doesn't like to introduce himself to the world as a sickly person, with vulnerabilities. It's just not masculine. As a female, I don't worry too much about appearing sickly, I guess, because I don't really believe that I need to appear so strong. I do have some self-respect, don't get me wrong, but I know that society doesn't expect me to be Hercules because I'm a chick. That means that I don't really see the big deal in letting everyone know that, well, I'm not Hercules - not by a long shot. Guys - yeah, I guess they might not care to remove the doubt so early on. I can understand that.

So, do I want to BE my disease? No, of course not. I don't want to celebrate it or love it. But I do like to be clear with people. I may seem okay today, but I'm in pain all the time, even when I'm smiling. It takes a lot of effort to make lemonade out of these lemons, but I'm doing it, for my own sake. I want people to know I'm making an effort to choose to interact with them. I am tired. I'm uncomfortable. And I'm in pain. Perhaps I could be napping right now, or resting up, or making progress on some important project or chores, but I'm writing this post today because I care about you, my dear readers.

I have Fibromyalgia. I'm also a person with varied interests. I'm hoping you will not judge me too harshly for telling you the truth about me, whether it's nice or not. I just know I'm not going to hide it like some skeleton in my closet. It's not my fault that I have this challenge - it just is. This is part of who I am.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some Quiet Time

Here again I lie in bed
While countless thoughts race through my head.
Dare I look to check the time?
Of course I do - 1:39.

Spouse and I retired by ten,
As always, I took my Ambien,
Yet he's the one who's sound asleep,
While I avoid making a peep.

I notice silence; no birds are singing,
Though, of course, my ears are ringing.
I'm also hungry at this odd hour.
Should I have a snack, or rely on will power?

Maybe if I close my eyes
Husband's snores will hypnotize.
I try it for a little bit,
But my thoughts return to... a biscuit.

No! I must not give up hope!
It's just some quiet time. I'll cope.
I turn over, snuggle in,
Take a breath, and even grin.

Yes, I will be dreaming soon,
Not thinking thoughts about the moon,
Or wondering how my level of pain
Will soar tomorrow, thanks to my brain.

Not reprioritizing stuff
Because I won't be up to snuff.
No, I won't worry 'bout tomorrow,
Whether there'll be "spoons" to borrow.

I'll just return to dreaming bliss,
Perhaps I won't remember this.
I check the clock. Two hours have passed.
I can't believe it. That went fast!

But this is how it always goes.
Fibromyalgia's insomnia blows.
Perhaps, someday, they'll find a cure.
For now, I guess I must endure...