Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Downside to Having a Spinal Cord Stimulator

I may have mentioned a time or two that my spinal cord stimulator is awesome. True, it wasn't a cure-all. But it has definitely done wonders for the CRPS pain. And after the long, painful recovery process passed, I've basically been golden. Mostly.

But in the interest of fairness and full disclosure (especially for anyone who is considering having the surgery) I should share one of the downsides that comes up from time to time. One thing to remember is that the stimulator is sending pulses of electricity through your nerves. Usually that's a good thing, but every now and then it can cause issues.

For example... I was sitting at my desk tonight when my thumb started to buzz. (Not audibly, obviously. I could just feel it being zapped with electricity.) Then a few seconds later my whole arm was buzzing. And a few seconds after that I felt it through my entire body. And it wasn't the pleasant, feel-it-in-the-background-but-don't-really-notice-it kind of buzzing that I usually have. It was full-on, I'm-being-shocked-with-electricity kind of jolt. Not the most pleasant feeling.

I tried shifting positions, which usually helps. (But this time it didn't.) I tried getting up and walking around, stretching this way and that, trying to find a way to stop the borderline-painful shocking, but nothing helped. Finally I just had to turn the thing off for a while.

Fortunately this is a rare occurrence. (And when it does happen, it's hardly ever this bad. Usually it's just a quick jolt to one area of the body, and adjusting positions generally fixes it.) And are these little jolts (or even the big ones like tonight) so bad that they outweigh the benefits of the stimulator? Absolutely not! The benefits still outweigh the drawbacks, hands down.

This is just one of those little things that spinal cord stimulator owners need to be prepared for. It can be a shock sometimes. (Pun intended.) But maybe that's just the stimulator's way of reminding me that it's there, and that I should be thankful for all the things it does for me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I know that song was written about Christmas, but for me the most wonderful time of the year starts in early October. Because in my house early October means that the Halloween decorations come out, the festivities begin, and the "holiday season" has officially arrived.

Everyone has their own triggers when it comes to getting in to the holiday spirit. For some people it's the first snowfall, or the first lighting of the fireplace. For some it's hearing their favorite holiday song, or seeing the decorations around town.

For me, there is one particular thing I look forward to each year. Yes, I like the decorations, and the change in weather. (Although here in Arizona October just means that our temperatures finally drop below 110, but we take what we can get.) But there's still something I look forward to seeing even more.

When I see these three cereals in the stores again, I know the holidays have begun. Maybe it's a silly thing to get excited about, but it's tradition, and it makes me happy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

And then there are THOSE days.

When you live with chronic pain, you do still have good days. Of course "good" is relative, but the general cycle is one of ups and downs. (At least this has been the case with my experience over the years.) Sometimes the pain is worse, and sometimes it fades into the background enough that you can actually think about other things for a while.

Those are the good days. When the pain "isn't so bad" and you get to enjoy your life, even for just a little while. Those are the days that I take advantage of, and treasure immensely. But the cruelest twist of fate is that those good days are so often immediately followed by one or more unbearably bad days.

This was the case yesterday. As I mentioned, Friday was a fantastic day. But after spending just two hours at my son's school helping with his class party, I came home completely exhausted. I had hoped that it was just a normal exhaustion from keeping up with five-year-olds and all of their energy. But I had my suspicions that it might be more than that, and unfortunately I was proven right.

By Saturday morning I could tell that it was going to be one of those days. The "not so good" days. The days that remind me, oh so brutally, that I live with chronic pain. Fortunately my husband already had plans to take the kids out for the day... unfortunately I had to scrap my plans to go with them. But at least I got to stay home and rest (as much as you can when you're in pain.)

So I vegged out all day, my only activity basically being what was minimally required to sustain life. It might have been nice to have such a lazy day, if I had been doing it because I wanted to. But doing nothing all day because the pain has drained all of your energy ends up just being kind of sad. By the end of the day I found that I was tempted to have myself a little pity party.

Fortunately, though, I've been doing this long enough to know that these days eventually pass, and I can get on with life. (So yes, suffering from chronic pain for nearly two decades does have a silver lining. I told you I could find a bright side to anything, didn't I?)

So I skipped the pity party, and just got myself through the day, knowing that pain cycle will eventually turn back to another "good" day. And today was better. Still not ready to go out for a night on the town or anything, but I managed to do a little more than the nothing that I did yesterday, so I'm going to call it a win.

And when you live with chronic pain, you have to cherish those little victories. It's a great way to keep yourself going.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kindergarten is Awesome

As I imagine many people do, I have some fond memories of kindergarten. Like having contests on the playground to see who could swing the highest, and talking the teachers into pushing us really fast on the merry-go-round. Making shadowboxes so that we could witness our first solar eclipse. And playing Snow White's evil stepmother in our class play - a definite highlight of the year. :)

But I also have to admit that kindergarten was long ago enough that most of my memories have faded by now. It's sad, but that's just the way life goes. The great thing about life, though, is that if you're fortunate enough to have kids, eventually you get to relive kindergarten through them.

Today was the last day of school before Fall Break at my son's school, so his class had their Fall Party. And I was lucky enough to be able to be one of the parent volunteers for the day, so I got to share it all with them. This was the first time I had volunteered in the classroom, and I have to admit that I was a little nervous about being thrust into a room full of five-year-olds. But the kids were great, and I had an absolute blast.

We had pumpkin relay races, and planted pumpkin seeds, and (the most exciting part) we got to open up a pumpkin and explore its insides. None of the kids in my group had ever seen the inside of a pumpkin before, so hearing the "Wow"s and "Oooohhh"s and "Eeeewww"s as they had the entire sensory experience was just priceless.

Like I said, I have memories of my own kindergarten experience. But until my son started school this year, I don't think I really remembered just how awesome kindergarten truly was. Everything is so new, and exciting, and - let's face it - just plain adorable. (Some of the projects they do are just too cute for words.) Sure, it was hard at first to "let him go" when he started school. But I am so very grateful that I get to share the experience with him.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Things Parents Do

As I was writing yesterday's post about the funny cartoons and pictures going around, of course I got sidetracked for a while looking at the web sites that contained said pictures. (Come on. You would have too. They're funny.) And as I was surfing, I came across this one:

Of course it completely made me laugh, because it's so very, very true. But I would also add to it that if a little girl hands you a baby doll, you will rock it/feed it/ burp it, or whatever else she tells you that you simply must do. If your kids hand you a piece of plastic food that they "made" for you, you will pretend to eat it. And if they hand you a toy tea cup, you will pretend to drink from it, and pronounce it the best tea you've ever had.

This is just the kind of power that kids have over us. We may be the adults, but sometimes that just doesn't make any difference. I can remember as a kid making my mom rock my baby doll on more than one occasion. Now I do the same for my daughter. And I'm fairly certain that if some day she has a daughter, she will do the exact same thing too.

And when you answer that toy phone, or rock that doll, or sip that tea, you may act like you're doing it just for the kids' sake, to keep them happy. But we all know the truth, and it's ok to admit it. We're never too old to use our imaginations, return to our childhoods for a moment, and indulge in a little creative play. It keeps us young, and it makes the world just a little more fun.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sharing the Funny

I don't know about you, but I've noticed another shift lately in Facebook posting trends. That's nothing new, of course - trends come and go. But I've realized that I kind of like this one.

If you've been on Facebook for any length of time, chances are you've seen at least a few of the trends that went around. For a while, everyone was sending each other Pieces of Flair, or hearts, or drinks, or some other virtual thing to post on their walls. For a while everyone and their grandmother was in the Mafia. And just about everyone at one time or another has had at least one virtual farm.

But I noticed in the past couple of weeks that more than anything else - more than game requests, or even political commentary - people seem to be sharing random, silly, funny pictures. Cartoons, random sayings, pictures of animals in weird situations. You've probably seen them. They're everywhere.

At first, I thought "Wow. There are a lot of silly pictures being posted these days" and kind of shook my head at the latest thing that "everyone's doing." Then I thought, "Wow. There are a lot of silly pictures being posted these days" and smiled, because there are worse things that everyone could be doing. People are embracing the silliness, and having fun. And I for one think it's refreshing.

I don't know if it's something in the air, or just the natural swing of the pendulum, but I like it. Yes, there will probably come a time when everyone tires of this, and moves on to the next great new trend. But I hope it takes a while. I mean, how can you not smile when you see something like this in your news feed?

Courtesy of "Funny photos"

Or, one of my other recent favorites:

Courtesy of Psychotic Humor

I love having my news feed filled with things like this. And I love that I see the same pictures reposted by several friends in completely different circles, because it means that the humor is making the rounds, and spreading the joy as it goes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Twilight Sedation

Early tomorrow morning I'm going back to the pain clinic for a medial branch block in my lower back. (Basically, they inject drugs into the space around the nerves to help reduce the inflammation, and hopefully the pain.) While my spinal cord stimulator does wonders for the CRPS pain in my arm, unfortunately the mechanics of it are such that it can't help my back. So my doctor and I are still trying to find something else that will. (Fingers crossed.)

When performing procedures, the docs at the clinic use what they call twilight sedation. Unlike being "knocked out" with regular sedation, this way lets you be aware enough of what is going on to still communicate with them, but relaxed enough to not be bothered so much by all the needles that they're poking you with.

Before one of my previous procedures, I was explaining to my husband what they were going to be doing, and he asked if I was going to be sedated. I said that they would be using twilight sedation, to which he replied, with a completely straight face, "So, what, they just put the movie on for you and it puts you to sleep?"

You just have to love a man that can make you laugh when you need it the most. Because even though I've been through these procedures plenty of times, I still can't help getting a little nervous before each one. Problem solved. Now whenever I go in to have something done I don't think about being nervous, because I'm too busy picturing this.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes It's Invisible

I mentioned last month that September was Pain Awareness Month. I had said at the time that I thought I would "be sharing a few pain-related things with you this month." That was totally the plan. But because the universe loves irony, I was too consumed with getting through the days and dealing with my own pain to worry about blogging.

But when it comes to pain awareness, there is one thing that I have to share, because in my experience it's the one thing that so many people seem to forget: You can't see pain.

I can't tell you how many times, particularly when I was younger, that people accused me (sometimes to my face, and sometimes behind my back) of faking my illness. Because on the outside there was nothing physically wrong with me. So apparently people figured that if they couldn't see anything wrong, there must not be anything wrong.

Trust me when I say how wrong that logic is. None of the things that are wrong with me have any noticeable physical symptoms, but that doesn't make them any less real. And it doesn't change the fact that I have very real, constant pain in several parts of my body.

Be honest - have you ever seen someone get out of the car after parking in a handicapped space and thought, "he doesn't look handicapped." I've actually been stopped and yelled at, more than once, by someone who thought I had no business taking up one of those spaces. I'm sure they meant well, but the fact is they were judging me based on their perception, without making any attempt to understand the true nature of the situation.

I guess the point is that you never really can know what is going on inside of another person. But you can try. I have been very fortunate over the years to have an incredible support system. If it wasn't for my friends and family, I'm not sure that I would have made it through the past 18 years. Living with pain is frustrating, and it's depressing, and it can make it feel like everything else in life is just too much to deal with. But with love, and support, and understanding, I was able to live through what I sincerely hope was the worst of it, and begin the healing process.

Living in pain is difficult enough. And the last thing someone in pain needs is to be judged unfairly. Please, please keep that in mind if you are ever tempted to make assumptions based on outward appearances.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sing "Soft Kitty" to Me

I've been having a lot of trouble with my foot lately, thanks to a flareup of the plantar fasciitis. (It's something I've lived with for years, and it's gotten immensely better since I finally got a diagnosis and started treating it, but it does still give me problems from time to time.) And the past couple of weeks has been one of those times.

So this afternoon, after limping around for a while, I finally realized that I should take a much-needed break and put some ice on my foot. When I mentioned to the kids what I was going to do, they immediately ran to help. My son got the ice pack out of the freezer and my daughter got a towel to wrap it in, and they took me over to the couch to get settled.

Satisfied that he had helped, my son went back to the playroom. But my daughter stuck around to see if there was anything else she could do. I told her that I thought I would be ok, and that she could go play if she wanted to, but she just stood there deep in thought for a minute. Finally she said "How about if I sing 'Soft Kitty' for you?" Since having a hurt foot is a kind of sick, I gladly accepted her offer.

If you get that reference, then you know how awesome it is, particularly that a three-year-old would come up with it. If you don't get it, I'm not sure that I can really explain, other than to say that you really should watch "The Big Bang Theory." (Granted, it's definitely not for everyone. But if you like geeky comedy I don't know that there's a better place out there to find it.)

No, my kids don't actually watch the show. (They're three and five.) But they do love that song. They were playing one day, and they decided to pretend to be cats. (Like I said, three and five.) When I heard them meowing that song popped into my head, and for some reason I decided to sing it. The kids thought it was hilarious, and made me sing it over and over. Finally I got tired of singing and pulled up YouTube and let them watch videos of it until they were satisfied. So now they know that when someone's sick, you sing "Soft Kitty" to them.

I haven't been able to get my kids singing it on video yet, but here's its original appearance on the show.

This is the most recent (and I think my favorite) appearance.

Yes, it's ridiculous. But still makes me laugh every time. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Confessions of a Sporadic Blogger

I have to say that I found myself in a bit of a quandary today. Over the last few weeks I had debated with myself, and had finally decided (or so I thought) to once again participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I even submitted an RSVP to the Facebook event invitation. So you know I was serious.

Then this afternoon I discovered that I was trying really hard to talk myself out of committing to this. (Hence the quandary.) I was tired, and I had a headache, which made me cranky. And it seems that when I get grouchy I don't really like thinking about long-term plans. (Because it's so much more fun to just sit and have a pity party.) So that's when I decided that I really needed to just snap out of it and move on. Granted, that's usually easier said than done. But I'm trying.

As I'm sure some of you will recall, I participated in the challenge for the first time back in July. And after having been a sporadic blogger for eight months, I successfully posted 31 times in 31 days to meet the challenge. (Yes, I was amazed with myself.)

When I chose to participate last time, it was all for the sake of taking on a new challenge. I was excited by the idea of pushing myself to do something new, and seeing how I would grow from it. It was a great (albeit sometimes frustrating) experience, and I met some great people, and I learned some new things, and I had a lot of fun.

That being said (and here's the confession part) it turns out that I didn't really get everything that I had wanted to get out of the experience. You see, part of me - and I'm still not honestly sure how big of a part - had hoped that getting in the habit of daily blogging would somehow turn into a lasting discipline. Because it's not that I need to be a daily blogger, but it would be nice to know that I could be if I wanted to.

But it turned out that once I no longer had that daily deadline hanging over my head... I got lazy. And I have a whopping four posts to show for the last two months. It wasn't that I suddenly ran out of things to say. (I'm pretty sure that never happens.) But for some reason I just couldn't push myself to sit down and write. So all of my internal debate over the past couple of weeks led me to decided that I needed that challenge - and that motivation - again. Growth is a process, after all.

And with growth in one area comes the inevitable growth in others. I'm looking forward to sharing all kinds of wonderful things with you in the weeks to come....