Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Well, this is going to be an exciting entry: today I bathed the cat. Bear with me, because it's relevant as a comment on the state of my health and how severely everyday tasks affect me.

Anyway, it was the cat's first bath in over a year, which was a bit overdue because, even not going out, he has too much hair to do it himself and, for the first time in his life, he's properly molting, so I needed to help with the frequently falling fluff.

(Yes, we already brush handfuls out everyday.)

... because it's frequently falling in big tufts all over the carpet, provoking much deliberate picking up and hand-brushing of the carpet. Hand-brushing, because the Hoover won't pick it up - which is more of a comment on the (lack of) quality of the carpet, than it is on the inefficiency of the Hoover, though there's probably an element of that too.

Can I manage to get on my hands and knees to hand brush a carpet? Not a hope!

In a house with all tiled floors and in a warm climate, you just bath the cat and let it go outside. It just sits in the sun and licks itself dry and any moisture it drops on the floor on the way from bathroom to exit door, is easily and simply mopped up. Job done.

It's a task I'd been putting off for ages here, not wanting to cause him any more distress than he's already feeling in a strange land and, not wanting a grand "ho-ha", because it's not that easy to bathe a cat in a fully carpeted (even the bathroom) house and NOT leave one or two drops of water or slight temporary dampness somewhere.

Odd drops of water - even when they're appropriately inside the bath - cause great distress to my mother, who reacts, flapping about there being "water everywhere".

She also obsessively wipes and dries the bath every single time it gets wet, which I find both hilarious and the possible indication of a mental affliction, but, whilst I can ignore this behaviour, the cat wouldn't and would be likely to pick up on the tension. So to avoid any anxiety that might unnerve the poor cat, with shampoo at the ready, I grabbed the opportunity this morning while she was out for his annual bath.

He's no trouble at all: actually he's more compliant that the dog used to be and hardly objects, so it's not even a case of needing strength and agility to control him, 'coz the little bugger just stands in the bath and lets me massage the soap into his back, thoroughly enjoying the attention, pushing into my hands and purring away.

Afterwards, I wrapped him in a towel - which he lay in relaxed and prone like a newborn baby - rubbed off the excess and then gave him some fluffing up with the hairdryer, which in the absence of sun and decent temperatures, was necessary to keep him warm while he was damp. Thankfully, he's happy to put up with this too and I can even roll him on his back to dry off the fur on his belly. In fact, it's all no trouble at all.

Except the bending. And the doing anything really.

Yes I paced the task sensibly: I took a rest after the bathing and did the drying in several short bursts to avoid over exertion (because the cat puts up with that better too). When he was essentially dry, I let him finish "cooking" at Gas Mark 1 - he got into bed, so I switched on the electric blanket to keep him warm and avoid damp.

Heat helps fibromyalgia too, so I should benefit from lying on it too. And yet ...

This simple task just about "broke" my back (so you'd think from the pain), but not only that, I was actually shaking and trembling from exertion, indicating that I had pushed myself beyond my level of endurance. Now, even I'll admit that it's totally ridiculous to get to beyond my level of endurance from such simple, everyday, activities but this is not unusual. It's what happens and it's hard to see how to avoid or overcome it.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Monday, March 30th, 2009

My eyes hurt and have spots in front of them making it uncomfortable to read, my hands and wrists hurt (enough to make me cry), but I have to keep doing something and distracting myself, because the pain in my hip - which is 24/7/365 anyway, but flares up in the mornings and evenings every day - is beyond unbearable today.

Usually, this indicates humidity or impending rain, so you can understand why this is a constant thing in the UK. It's like having toothache permanently, it gets so bad it takes my breath away and makes me feel nauseous. Painkillers do absolutely nothing for it and there's no comfortable position left that I can get into to alleviate it.

There was one, which placed my foot on it's side, resting on my nice new, soft, comfortable mattress, but the skin on my feet has become so sensitive recently that the side of my foot is sore, red and inflamed and I'm doing my best not to irritate it any further, or I'll be unable to put any shoes on at all, nor walk even a few steps.

And if I find a comfortable position for my hip and foot, my knees hurt. They're already both still burning in pain and feel (but don't look) swollen from Friday's walk and from time to time I have to bend them (and my ankles and my hip) and then straighten them again to make them "crack" noisily, which temporarily relieves the "locking."

Yet despite the burning sensation and despite the temperature reaching a relatively decent level today because of some morning sun, I've felt absolutely icy cold.

I bought some more long socks to be able to wear my boots without them rubbing painful red marks on my shins, or causing blisters so deep they take great gouges out of my heels, but that's not a permanent cure. Clearly, one can't wear ski-boots all year round and I'm finding them too heavy for anything but a short walk anyway.

I also bought some Velcro fixing (can't manage to bend to fiddle with laces and they'd dig in somewhere anyway) Reebok trainers recently, but without support round my ankles, those are no good for walking further than about 100 yards either. I wore them when I went out on Friday and my ankles still feel "broken", swollen and painful.

Because the pain, particularly in my left wrist, has been unbearable since I came home Friday (I walked, but not on my hands!), I've had to try supporting it to ease the pain.

Once again, the neoprene support has caused my skin to resemble that of a decomposing lizard. It isn't just dried, it hurts like really bad sunburn; feels like it's stretched too far and will rip apart. And I have a mysterious bruise on the back of my hand, which, unless I hit something in my sleep, I have no recollection of getting, except that it's just appeared above my wrist where the pain is already.

For no apparent reason too, this morning, I was up at 3 a.m. with the "irritable" out of Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - which I was diagnosed with as far back as 1980.

Actually, I'd rather have that than be clogged up and, I always think of the excess weight I'll be losing ... but this repeated itself when I woke up again at 8 a.m. and through most of the morning, leaving me feeling tired, weak, nauseous and with horrible cramps in my stomach. I felt too ill to do much more than lie still and really couldn't concentrate on anything other than the simplest of banal tasks.

Of course I want to feel annoyed at not getting things done, but I dare not overstep my capabilities to do them, or I slow down my recovery time from days to weeks or months. And I cannot either allow myself the "luxury" of the stress.

Is this a particularly bad day? No, not really.

Probably 1 in 10 are this bad and 6 in 7 are not far off. Nothing life-threatening, you say, but you imagine feeling this bad, that often, day in, day out, for years.

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Right now I'm having to take deep breaths to cope with chest pains, which I'm sure were caused partly by anxiety (I don't believe they always are, exclusively), because, once again, mother has pushed me beyond the limits of endurance and I finally had to tell her that I'm trying to do something and that my door was closed for a reason. (Both true.) Yes, I shouted at her and yes, I feel entirely justified. And, no I will not feel guilty for upsetting "a poor little old lady." The boot, as they say, is very firmly on the other foot. Of course, publicly, she makes sure she claims to be the victim.

Earlier she'd already intercepted me to ask, in a tone that sounded like the sort of panic akin to the ending of the world as we know it, had I changed my clocks.

So, for the umpteenth year in succession, I reminded her that computers change themselves (so does my mobile phone I use as a watch), so she had no need to tell me.

Anyway, if they hadn't, the world - probably - wouldn't have ended.

Yes, I know the incident sounds like absolutely nothing, taken out of context, but her entire tone and timing made it a clearly deliberately unwarranted (and unwanted) disturbance.

Oh, mother probably believes her own hype: that only she could possibly know about clock changing and thus she was being helpful (in control), or feels justified in wanting to get my attention, but, considering what she's been doing to me, I feel no guilt and no compulsion to give her any and, certainly not just because she WANTS it now, paying no attention to how I might feel and what my medical needs are.

There are plenty of other reasons why I'd shut my bedroom door, but the one I feel most justified for today - apart from the probably obvious and necessary stress avoidance - is that mother was yet again using spray polish in the house.

She is well aware that I've been allergic to all household sprays since, goodness knows ... before I reached puberty anyway and, polish sprays (along with hairspray that she's also been insisting on using a lot lately) are among the worst for me.

This is not something she's forgotten, because only the other day I'd reminded her, YET AGAIN, that I just can't have them in the same house as me. It's partly because of the hayfever like symptoms (believe me this is severe enough and the sinusitis headaches totally crippling), but also because exposure to these chemicals causes flare-ups of all my fibromyalgia symptoms. That's well documented and she knows, because (stupidly) I told her, because it seemed the logically correct thing to explain it all to her.

And that was a relatively pleasant discussion, where I had explained once more (just in case she had not recalled) - and she seemed to understand and accept - that I've always had to do all my dusting in my homes with a damp cloth and a little vinegar. (Cheap, ecological, non-harming ... surely adopting this method is good and no hardship?)

She claims she remembers everything. In fact, she seems to do so - well, certainly all the things she WANTS to remember - so, what is she doing? Yes, I really do think that now she has the knowledge she is doing things to upset me deliberately.

Because I immediately become breathless and nauseous, start coughing - and yes it provokes chest pains too - when I'm exposed to these substances, if she refuses to avoid their use, then all I can do is to shut the door to keep away from them and try my best to mitigate the effects - after all, who would want to feel more ill? 

But not even that works, because she will look for any excuse to open the door (doesn't knock, or if she does, doesn't wait for an answer) and twice more this morning, she's barged in, first wanting to know if I wanted her to clean in my room.

What makes that "inappropriate" and unnecessary is that, she has not done so before since I've been here. First, because I certainly wouldn't expect her to clean my room, secondly, I need to do it my way and, when I have the energy, etc., to manage and pace my fibromyalgia symptoms and, I need to do it myself because of the cats who are still hiding and scared of everything here. She knows all of that and that I cleaned the room not long ago (certainly not long compared to her cleaning frequency.)

Then she asked if I would do it - yes (obviously.) Now? "NO, I'm doing something", I said (pointing at the computer screen, though she could see I was anyway) and her reaction; the disappointment and frustration that flashed across her face, was like a 1000-word picture. She seemed most upset that I would not jump, disturb what I was doing to do it right now, this minute, on her schedule, to suit her wants.

And she still just couldn't accept a negative answer, because 30 seconds later, she had barged in again (didn't even knock) to whine that she is only trying to help, which is when I shouted to cut off the whole pathetic insincere diatribe.

It isn't worth explaining to her, but it's obvious that, if she really was trying to help, she'd a) let me rest and / or do things undisturbed b) allow me some basic respect and privacy c) not use chemicals in the house, etc., ad nauseam.

Obviously, one thing I could do (again, I think justifiably) is to put a lock on the door, but I know doing so would create a huge reaction and argument.

It's already bad enough that, as soon as I began closing the door to the room, the crazy woman started going outside the front of the house and I'd see her pressing her nose up against the glass to the window of my room, trying to see in.  Yeah, really!

There are net curtains, but it is still possible to see in, so for this reason and because it dawned on me that others would be able to see my laptop, I now keep the curtains closed all the time. I often also suffer from an over-sensitivity to light, it's better than looking out at a crappy wall and it's necessary on the mornings when the sun reflects on the screen. Of course, as soon as I began keeping the curtains closed, was when she decided that she could open the door whenever she wanted to. And that she does, despite more than once, I've told her that I don't care if the house is on fire (if it were, the alarm would alert me), so she has no reason whatsoever to open that door.

And, of course, I can't stay in the room permanently. I just had to go out to the loo and, the strength of the waft of polish is so strong the cloud hit me like a wall. Now I know that I'm super-sensitive, but it seemed excessive. Is that deliberate too?

Another of the things that (again, since I was a kid) has always upset me are air-freshener sprays - I also seriously disapprove of these things on ecological grounds, I should add - and, yet again, this is something that has been discussed all over again in recent months, reminding my mother that these cause me problems (hayfever, allergies, headaches, etc.) Yet, I've heard the spray and smelled air freshener - she's done this when she's thought I was asleep - that alone suggests that she knows she's doing something wrong - and she still she does these things and refuses to desist.

These are not the actions of someone trying to be "innocently" helpful, are they?

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Fibromyalgia, Stress and the Brain-body Connection

Fibromyalgia was recognized by the American Medical Association as an illness and cause of disability in 1987, yet it has been a struggle for many since Hippocrates first described a similar set of symptoms in 400 BC. In the early 1900’s, fibromyalgia was considered “arthritis of the muscles” and classified with other rheumatological conditions involving pain in the muscles or joints.

Stress and pain are irreversibly linked in fibromyalgia. For many people, some kind of stressful event is what initially triggers the illness.  It often shows up after a serious illness, some kind of emotional or mental shock or with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Many believe that stress unmasks the disorder.

Today fibromyalgia is thought to be a central nervous system disorder in which either pain-sensing nerves are excessively sensitive, or the brain is extremely sensitive to pain impulses.  People with fibromyalgia are out of balance in the HPA axis – hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal – which is our body’s system for responding to stress with neurochemicals like adrenalin and serotonin. Pain sensation and abnormal stress response are related and people with fibromyalgia experience more pain when they are stressed.

Simply having fibromyalgia is stressful.  Though fibromyalgia feels different to each person, the common denominators are painful and uncomfortable sensations throughout the body, fatigue and mental cloudiness. Not being able to accomplish things is stressful, especially when it affects your employment situation, leading to financial stress. Dealing with a chronic illness and lifestyle changes is stressful. 

Adding insult to injury is the fact that you may still appear healthy to everyone else, no matter how badly you feel, so that few people understand how compounding these conditions can be on a daily basis.  Anything in addition to the everyday stress load tends to tip the scales and cause the fibromyalgia symptoms to be worse.

Stress reduction is an important part of managing fibromyalgia.  Here are a few ways that my help you alleviate some of the stress:

1.      Good self care.  Eating a nutritious diet, getting the right amount of the right kind of exercise, establishing regular sleep habits and giving yourself grace are all part of taking good care of yourself.  They are important.  You will feel worse, and be able to do less if you do not take care of yourself.

2.      Practice body awareness.  People who deal with chronic pain, as in fibromyalgia, become accustomed to ignoring their bodies; it’s one way they cope with the pain.  If you learn to recognize your body’s cues that you are becoming tense, you can use a relaxation technique or exercise early on, before stress becomes unmanageable.  At the same time, you don’t want to lose that protective lack of awareness about pain.  Take breaks every so often and just sit quietly and pay attention to how you feel.  Learn where you feel stress first.  Do you get heartburn?  Do your shoulders get tight?  Once you learn that, you can periodically scan to see if your body is showing tension.

3.      Change the way you think.  This takes practice, yet it gives you a change to respond to situations instead of reacting.

4.      Keep a stress journal.  This has two purposes.  You can journal about stressful incidents and use the journal as a tool to help you identify situations that are stressful to you.  This can help you either avoid repeating these situations or be better prepared should they be unavoidable.  Journaling about a stressful event also helps you debrief and de-stress after the event.

5.      Learn stress management techniques, such as visualization, meditation, and breathing.  These techniques decrease the level of neurochemicals circulating in your body, and help decrease both stress and pain.

6.      Chiropractic adjustments may help reduce pain and improve range of motion. Chiropractors use a wide variety of manipulative techniques and can individualize your treatment.

7.      NeuroEmotional Technique (NET) focuses on releasing emotional blocks stored in the body’s memory through simple chiropractic adjustments.  Everyone has emotional trauma, past or present, that the body has locked into its memory, often below the realm of conscious thought.  NET can isolate these events and release them from the body.

When you decrease your stress, you will probably experience less pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia.  Changing your lifestyle so that you are taking care of your self can help prevent flare-ups and give you a better quality of life.  Eat well, think well, and move well!

Michael Roth

Dr. Michael B. Roth has been a holistic chiropractor for 23 years. His goal is to transform the health care system from crisis/reactive care to a wellness model of health. Dr. Roth is a dynamic speaker on health and wellness who can motivate and transform your audience and you to bring your own health and well-being to a new level! Learn more about Dr. Roth’s programs by visiting his website,


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