Sunday, August 24, 2014

Reality Bites -- Twice!

This past week, we've been bitten by Reality twice..........

Last weekend, I sprained my ankle, and rather oddly. No twisting or turning, just landing as I normally would have when taking a step down. Finally, I couldn't stand it any further and I went to urgent care. It's just a moderate sprain, but the doc was very concerned because my ankle had "lots of arthritis" in it.

Wow, doc. You don't say. I was only diagnosed 25 years ago with it. It's high time the thing caught up to me. I've been outrunning it for ages. For the first 5 years or so of my diagnosis, I noticed it more often than I did over the last twenty. Or when it got to me, pop the requisite number of pain relievers and just keep plugging along. I've been referred to an orthopedist for additional work; the earliest they can see me is in 6 weeks. And that's with the earliest doc in the practice (who just also happens to be the one they are trying to get me in to see, because he's the arthritis specialist).

Then Friday, reality hit us again........... Well, really, Reality had been messing around on this one for about a couple of weeks. Mom had been telling us for a couple of weeks that she was really warm all the time..... odd, since this hasn't exactly been a record-setting summer for heat. But in this last week, which has been more like our usual "hammered-down hinges of hell's door" type of weather (hot, humid, horrific), it evolved into "I'm roasting and I am having trouble breathing...." By Friday morning, I asked her just what she intended to do about it -- given the fact that she's already had one heart attack and congestive heart disease. Was she planning to contact her doctor? Up came every reason why she couldn't..... Until 10:00 or so, when she called my Dad to say that no, she was really having trouble breathing, in an air-conditioned house, and having done nothing but remained in pretty much a seated or a horizontal position all morning.

Yep, her CHD/CHF had decided to rear its ugly mug yet again, and she has spent all weekend in the hospital trying to get the fluid removed and off her heart. They're keeping her a little longer than we originally thought due to a small bit of pneumonia and the need for an echocardiogram. Then we begin the real work -- life as a cardiac patient. Changing the way she cooks. Making time for even small activity (5 minutes at a time). Reading labels. It's not going to be easy for someone in her late 70s, but it's what must be done to make the most of the time remaining.

And you'd better believe I'm going to do everything I can -- not only to support my mom, but to make it as easy as possible. I'm thinking maybe a list of "green, yellow, red-light" foods or recipes (especially in terms of sodium, given the fluid issues). Maybe an easy way for her to track her foods and activities..... Just thinking of tangible things I can do in addition to offering support.

So yeah, reality bites -- but it is needed to remind us to do all we can for ourselves when we can. And to allow others to help when they can.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Behind Blue Eyes

Today, the world lost one of its funniest souls ever in Robin Williams. And sadly, if the reports concerning his method of departing this world are indeed true, it is another sign that sometimes the funniest souls contain the deepest sorrows and fears.

My best friend posted as a Facebook status: "Some of the funniest people I've known are also people who have battled depression. Don't assume that the jokesters and pranksters in your life don't battle their very own demons." Humor, that beautiful mask which hides so much pain, that deflects so much sorrow and serves as a way to shift the focus.

Some people learn to use humor to overcome shyness, or to make friends. Others use humor as a weapon, a defense -- make 'em laugh and maybe they won't pick on you or beat you up today (at least). I decided to try to become funny so people might forget I was fat.... at least for a little while. Of course, I had forgotten all about the dreaded Triple-F (Fat Funny Friend) but that's okay .... make 'em laugh, chica, make 'em laugh. I was never going to be as funny as Robin Williams, as my humor tends to be more like Daria Morgendorffer's, but hey, I could try.

But just like so many funny people, my heart contains much sorrow and fear. I already battle daily against a horrific monster myself, so I can understand how it feels to make the world laugh and have it ring hollow. And yes, I have felt so very empty that I pondered my absence in the world -- a very brief pondering, to be certain, but it did cross my mind. At that point, a fighter was born in me, and the fighter is still going. But I know what it's like to feel that sense of hopelessness, the sense that you have reached the end of your rope and there is nothing left with which to tie a knot and hang on.

But there is hope out there. There is help. There is no shame at all in reaching out for help. I was lucky that in my darkest moment, I had angels looking out for me who got me through my worst times. Find a friend, a neighbor, a trusted coworker, a clergyperson, or if you have no one, call one of these numbers:

*1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) -- Kristin Brooks Hope Center; you will be connected to a mental health agency closest to you.
*1-800-273-TALK (8255) -- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Find someone you trust. Talk to them. Find help. Get help. Reach out. Please. Please. Please.

The world has something only you can give. Please let us see it for as long as possible.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. You gave me so much laughter from my childhood to the present day. You couldn't hide the shyness behind the blue eyes or the pain either, even through the humor. But oh, what gifts you had and shared with the world! You will be so sorely missed by a world that needs your humor. May the peace you sought in this life be yours in the world to come.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Do You Know Me - Really?

So you think I'm the average person-next-door. Miss Normal.

Erma Bombeck said it best: Normal is a setting on a dryer. Nothing more, nothing less.

If I ever look tired, it's probably because I'm dead tired from trying to fit in with what is perceived by a larger world as something close to "normal." How so?

  • I'm an introvert. Introversion is greatly misunderstood. Introversion is not shyness. It is not anti-social tendencies. It is merely an indication of where a person derives his or her source of energy. Extroverts receive energy from outside sources or other people. Introverts get their energy from inner sources -- their minds, their emotions, their thoughts -- or by separating themselves from the world-at-large for a while. For years, I fought the label. No, no, no, I was an extrovert, I screamed. Look at me, could I do all this stuff if I were an introvert? But as I got older and wiser, I realized that I really did have to withdraw to recharge..... oh wait, right? Yeah. Introvert. I can turn it "on" -- and indeed, I must in certain circumstances such as phone work, stage performance, etc. But as soon as those things are over, I really do need to be alone. I need the solitude and relative quiet to unwind. It's one of the reasons I don't really complain too much about my commute. Yes, it can be an absolute drag at times -- yet in the afternoons, when I need to decompress, having that hour (or so) to myself is a thing of beauty. Sometimes I talk it out, when there's not another soul (but me) listening. Other times I need silence, with only the sound of deep breathing for a little while.  
  • I have some chronic medical issues. Let me preface by saying I have friends who go through much worse. And my conditions are managed well enough that they don't cause me much grief -- though if I am in the throes of a migraine, my face will give it away. But on those days when I'm not feeling well, it truly takes every ounce of energy from every cell of my body for me to simply function at a basic level. Quite frankly, those are the times when the word "fine" would be understood as code for "go away, leave me alone, I'm not okay and I don't wish to discuss it." One of my conditions requires ongoing therapy, and after 6 years, is finally down to just once-a-month treatments. But I will need this therapy the rest of my life, if I expect to keep this condition in check. There are no cures. It's not especially life-limiting, though it can be. So far, the worst limitation for me is that this summer, I haven't been able to be outside in the heat and humidity. There goes sitting on my back deck until after the sun is sinking (usually after 7:00). The other condition requires that I carry an emergency kit (including injection meds) on me at all times, just in case. I also get chiropractic care every two weeks to keep my shoulders and neck from kinking up on me (the hazards of a desk job) and causing the migraines to be even worse. Things that only others with a chronic condition (or those who care for someone with a chronic illness/condition) would even begin to comprehend.......
  • Concentration is extremely hard for me. I have never been diagnosed with an attention disorder, so let's get that out of the way. It would not surprise me, however, if I were found to have one. Concentration or focus has never come easy, as far back as I remember. I've always had to just force myself to do it, someway, somehow. So if I am ever in "the zone," I may not always be at my kindest if I am (how shall I say it?) "untimely ripped" from the zone, and especially if it's something that breaks the concentration just enough...... "Might I borrow your pen?" would be no big deal -- I can say "Sure" and keep going. "Hey, what do you know about....?" will get a "Wait, what, huh?" from me, because you have just completely stopped me cold. I didn't hear a thing you asked, I didn't pay a bit of attention to what you said -- because my brain had to change gears without shifting the clutch. 

So there you have it. Things you may have known -- or possibly not.