Monday, September 27, 2010

What Am I Smiling About?

The other day, Don and I went out with some friends to enjoy some of our favorite beers together.  During the conversation, I started noticing my back was making sitting uncomfortable.  At first, I ignored it and tried to make the most of the socializing fun.  Eventually, I gave out and slouched, noticeably.  Apparently, I maintained a big smile on my face while I slouched in pain, oddly.  I wasn't aware until one of my friends looked at me and curiously asked me what I was smiling about.  I don't know!  I guess I was trying to remain pleasant, despite my personal struggles.  Perhaps the slouch itself made me smile because it was a silly position to take, in public.  Whatever it was, it made me realize that I must do a great job of disguising my pain in front of others.  

When asked about my smile, I confessed that my back was hurting me and I didn't know how to relieve it, I got a bit of a pitiful, synchronized groan from the group.  I don't want people to pity me.  This became apparent to me while I was using a cane to get around at work for a few days.  The cane elicits such a pity response from everyone who knows you!  I found it ironic that the cane really only indicated foot/leg pain or balance issues, while the other pains and problems of Fibromyalgia and my myriad other health problems continue - cane or no cane.  When the cane stopped accompanying me to work, these same folks would delight in my improvement, assuming I was feeling perfect because there was no cane.  This assumption is so wrong it disgusted me.  I blurted out my feelings to some of my coworkers who felt compelled to celebrate my caneless walking.  I also recall telling people not to pity me when they saw me with the cane and instantly frowned and gave me that look. 

So, as I slouched, smiling like an idiot, it occurred to me that I am enabling this whole perception problem to continue.  I'm part of the problem.  People are confused about how I feel and what I'm experiencing because I'm not being true about it.  I'm trying to fool them.  But why?  I never though of myself as a dishonest person.  In fact, I suck at lying and always try to be honest with people, even when it's uncomfortable.  You can't help someone understand you if you lie to them.  So what's with my phony public persona?

Like many folks, I have learned that talking about pains and problems that others don't have is usually no fun for either party.  I hate being a whiner - I want to be tough!  Everyone wants to be strong.  Nobody likes to be weak.  I don't like to ask for help.  I don't like pity.  I want to be independent and able to help others.  

Well, it's nice to want things, isn't it?  I need to face facts.  My condition is limiting, sometimes more so than others.  It is poorly understood and poorly managed.  I have ups and downs and I don't know when the direction will shift.  Sometimes I think it's about time for an up, but I drop down a little more first.  Fibro hurts.  I need to work on the realization that I am chronically ill and am not as healthy as many others out there.  There are others who are ill as well, and they will understand better my ups and downs.  I need to trust that they can handle the truth about how I'm feeling.  I need to give my friends more credit.

Being a party pooper sucks, too, though.  I hate to ruin a party with my awkwardly depressing status updates.  Everyone wants to help, though there is usually nothing they can do.  Perhaps I'm hoping I can fake it till I make it by pretending I'm not feeling quite as badly as I really am.  Sometimes, that works for me.  

At any rate, I'm learning about my ever-changing self and how to best handle the various situations that arise.  Do you have any stories or advice on how to handle the inconvenient symptoms with others around?  I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wellington Bear

This is Wellington.

He has lived in our home for many years - a bit longer than I have been around, actually.  When I was having abdominal pains not too long ago, I decided he looked cuddly and soft and I wanted to hug him, to protect my belly and act as what I call a "magic pillow".

His name has inspired me to use him as a reminder and a symbol of wellness.  There are times when I don't feel so downright awful and I need to notice and appreciate those times.  Other times, when I do feel downright awful, Wellington is there for me to soothe me for a bit and appeal to my inner child while I wait out the pain and discomfort.

I want to thank the person who selected this bear as a gift for Don, many years ago.  She didn't name it or assign it this purpose, but I'm glad he was there for me to adopt and cuddle, (especially when Don is not available for cuddling).  Thanks, Kelly.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An Awful Charley Horse

Last Saturday morning, the day I look forward to all week for sleeping as long as I possibly can, an innocent leg stretch around 5am triggered a ridiculously monstrous leg cramp in my left calf that is continuing to wreak havoc.  

Now I've gotten Charley Horses in my calves before, and they are usually triggered by some instinctive leg stretching done in the bed, but this one was some kind of mother of all Charley Horses.  I couldn't use my usual trick to chase it away - flexing my foot to help stretch the calf muscle out of its tight lock.  This time, The pain was so intense there was really not much I could do to find any relief but suffer and wait it out.  I was crippled so badly, I had to bend my knee to bring my leg up to my hands, but I was almost terrified to touch my leg.  Plan B was to massage the muscle back into a relaxed state.  Yeah, right.  The tight rock of a muscle trapped inside made the skin on my leg not want to be touched, much less be massaged.  I did my best to try not to wince loudly enough for Don to awaken, though all the movement was already ruining that.  I said nothing and tried to settled back into an acceptable position for a bed-mate, while handling the pain as quietly as possible.  

The episode lasted less than a minute, I'm pretty sure, but it lasted entirely too long for me, agonizing as it was.  After the muscle finally gave up its death grip a bit, I tried to move my foot a bit to help stretch it.  It resisted a lot and I was really afraid of damaging it if I forced the stretch, so I was very gentle about it and tried to sleep a bit longer.  

Afterwards, I was immediately aware of that lingering feeling of the post-cramping pain.  As crazy as the episode was, I didn't think I'd be feeling anything by the time I got up.  Little did I realize that something evil was awakened that morning.  The fibro beast of muscle cramps decided to crack the whip on me and show me who's boss.  The first dozen or so steps from the bed that morning and this morning as well, both felt like I was trying to walk on a sprained leg.  I couldn't bear the weight of the step and practically hopped to the bathroom each morning.  Luckily, as I continued to walk, I was able to do so with just a limp. 

As I write today, this Sunday evening, I continue to feel the after-effects of the ugly incident.  I limp and long for the more normal feeling in my right calf.  Both legs were sensitive to the touch before this, but compared to how my left calf is feeling, I am going to call the right leg "normal" by comparison.  (For someone dealing with Myofascial Pain and Fibromyalgia, that's really saying something!)

I felt more comfortable with my cane with me when I took a walk with Don around the block, but I have been trying to stay off the leg for most of the day, with some continual stretching movements being my primary treatment.  My back is also nagging at me but I can't comprehend what it is that it could want, as nothing seems to console it lately.  I've used the heat wrap on it, which feels a little better, but doesn't relieve it.  Medications are not cutting the mustard either, lately.  I'm tempted to medicate with some delicious beer.  At least I'll be enjoying something.

As for possible causes, I've read that dehydration, lack of potassium or electrolytes may contribute to such problems, but I don't think these could be the case.  To be safe, I ingested some potassium-rich orange juice that we happened to have in the fridge and have been drinking plenty of liquids.  

I also realized that Friday, as a response to my flaring Morton's Foot symptoms in my left foot, I'd devised a simple solution that seemed to help me greatly: I wadded up some tissue and taped a bandage over it on the bottom of my left foot, in the appropriate place (knuckle leading to the big toe).  The restoration of the tripod structure of the foot relieved the pain in my second foot knuckle right away, and I was able to transfer the support from shoe to slipper in the evening, without doing anything special.
I'd learned recently in my trigger point workbook that there is a trigger point in the calf muscle that can contribute to pain in the foot.  Perhaps when I changed the balance of my foot, it may have affected my overworked calf muscle?  I don't know if any of this is even possible, but it's crossing my inquiring mind.  I did not repeat the bandage trick yesterday or today, partly because I wanted to see if I could prevent further attacks, but mostly because I couldn't imagine bending my leg over my knee to work on the foot while my calf is so sensitive.  I must find some sort of balance.

So, if things don't improve soon, I'll likely have a rough morning tomorrow and the cane will be accompanying me to work again.

UPDATE: As of Monday morning, I was still feeling the after-effects, but was able to walk on my left leg much better, even right out of bed.  I may be able to do without the cane today after all.  Hurray!