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There is a Wisdom,
Buried deep in my bones,
A Gift,
Passed down to me,
From Ancestors of Old.

Today we call it a curse,
And fight and rail,
We give it names,
Arthritis and Migraine,
And call the wild Wisdom,
By another name: Pain.

But, is it, really,
Just the song my bones knows?

5,000 years ago…

…I would have been honored amongst my Tribe. I would have warned my People four hours ago that a change in the weather was coming, something I knew because I felt the change coming in my ears, my head. We would have had time to take shelter before the raging winds arrived, as they have now.

…I would be warning my Tribe now that an even bigger change was coming. I feel it, in my bones – in the bad knee and shoulder that suddenly twinge, and the deep ache in my bones growing sharper by the moment.

My bones know. They are singing to me, singing of the changes to come.

Tomorrow, the temperature here will drop from 35 degrees to something-below-zero, with wind chills of -30 degrees.

My bones are telling me that, a Gift that could have meant the life or death of my Tribe.

I can tell you when rain is within 50 miles and headed this way, whatever the season, by the pang in my shoulder. There was a time when that would have been very useful.

Now, I have no need of this life-saving Gift. Who does? We have the Weather Channel, and weather apps on our fones.

But maybe, it’s time I stopped complaining about the “pain” of my “reactive inflammatory arthritis” and “weather migraines,” and started thanking my body for giving me the warnings it was meant to give me.

It is only my body singing to me with ancient Wisdom.

Maybe, it’s time I started just listening, just being with the sensations, without labeling them as “pain,” and instead, think about what they would have meant a thousand, or five thousand, years ago.

Survival. Life. Or, death.

Maybe, it’s time I stopped running away, and just lay still, curled up, and listened to the Wisdom buried deep in my body.

I think it has a lot to say.

I wrote that last night, but then didn’t post it.
I was too busy, listening to my bones sing.

There is a craft to this, the listening, one I’m sure our ancient ancestors refined. Just as I know the approach of rain by my very reliable shoulder, what exactly was the singing in my ribs, my bad knee, then most of my bones, even into my hands, telling me last night? If I had no weather app on my fone, I would need to know.

Waking far too early this morning, writhing from the ache in my bones, with pressure in my head, I knew the temperature was soon to start its drop and more change was coming. I could hear the wind roaring outside. When I got up, I discovered that yesterday’s mild south winds, that had changed to west winds last night, were now hard and gusting even harder from the north.

My mind flashed back to reading about the “polar vortex” and coming “arctic plunge,” with temperatures so low that “if you are younger than 40 you likely won’t remember anything this cold.” I put that out of mind.

Why stay awake and thrash and fight the “pain,” when it is only my bones singing to me, with the ancient Wisdom, as the bodies of some have done for countless generations before me?

Instead, I thanked my wonderous body for the warning, and told it that I understood why my bones were singing, the Wisdom it was sharing with me.

Muscles relaxed instead of spasmed.
The song became a lullabye.
And then, I went peacefully back to sleep.

It will take time to break long-engrained habits – the tightening of muscles around the signals my body is sending, the labeling of those signals always as “pain,” fighting and avoiding them, causing my body to only send them out louder and stronger, more urgently. But, it’s a start.

I’ve wondered before if weather-related migraines were an evolutionary advantage – if a small proportion of members of a tribe had them, they would have been, I think.

But, I never tried to consciously work with my body, to acknowledge that its messages were received, other than to say, “yeah, that part hurts, I understand, you can shut up about it now.” The flare of inflammatory arthritis I’ve been having has given me a new incentive to work on how I deal with “pain,” and acknowledging it while in deep relaxation does help – to a point.

Maybe, only “to a point” because I wasn’t acknowledging the whole message.

Yes, my wise body, I hear the song in my bones now, and I understand. You’re right, a big change in the weather is coming, a dangerous one. Thank you for warning me. I am safe, warm, and protected – and listening.

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It’s funny, what I forget, even now, after so long being sick. Sometimes, in my mind, I am still strong & healthy, as if time simply stopped passing when I became ill. Sometimes, it really feels that way, as if time did stop, and there is only The Before Times and a giant blur that came after.

But it’s been 15 years this month.

I had relapsing and remitting symptoms for a couple of years, and then in Dec, 1998, ME/CFS & FMS (and chronic Lyme) came to stay. I was diagnosed in 1999.

I just now, today, realized it was now actually the month of December, and the year is 2013, and that means it has been 15 years.

Time passes very differently for those of us with ME/CFS. I often am surprised at what month it is, or how long it’s been since something has happened. Sometimes I’m off by years when asked, “How long since…?”

One of the curses and also dubious blessings of this illness is memory loss. I remember things that happened before I became ill far, far, clearer than things that came after. Those 15 years are a fog, a ghostly mist through which I catch glimpses of events.

Sometimes, something or someone will trigger a memory, and something totally forgotten comes back. Sometimes, no matter how hard someone tries to get me to remember something, even some meaningful and important event, no matter how desperately I grasp for it, there is just nothing there. A ghostly mist where the memory should be. A blank slate.

But the not-remembering, the fog, and the complete lack of a sense of the passage of time, those things can be a blessing, too. If I had to really remember all the pain, misery, and suffering, of those 15 years, the frustrations, the losses… I’m not sure I could handle that. It is better that it is a blur.

Sometimes, because it seems like the last 15 years really didn’t happen, and I’m still that strong & healthy woman I was at 35, I forget, and do stupid things. Things my now-fragile body can’t handle.

Today, we are in something of a crisis as we are preparing for a severe ice storm, and I am totally stressed out. This stress is a huge problem.

My body’s been dumping adrenaline, making me think I am stronger and can do more than I am or should. It’s had this adrenaline dumping issue for months now and we haven’t been able to track down the cause.

Suffice it to say, whenever the slightest bit of stress happens, my body dumps adrenaline and prepares for “fight or flight.” This has led to a lot of pacing around the house like a caged tiger, sleepless nights, angry and irrational outbursts, a “manic & frantic” mental state, and is, in general, driving me and my very patient caregivers absolutely crazy.

Ice

The last 10 days have been incredibly stressful, with a severe ice storm last Tuesday & Wednesday leaving damage behind that I had to deal with, and now a second, probably even more severe, ice storm looming on Sunday.

I have pushed way far through the “energy envelope” we with ME/CFS are supposed to stay within, for day after day, goaded on by a flood of adrenaline.

And I’ve done a lot of really stupid things: walking around in the icy woods assessing damage, flagging down electric company workers…

I’ve been home alone for a week, as Rhiannon’s couple days’ visiting with Ben’s family turned into a week when she caught a terrible cold that I really don’t need to catch. So, I’ve been dealing with a lot of crap on my own that I normally wouldn’t – not just daily living, but getting power lines fixed, both at my house and a neighbor’s retreat cabin, being without cable for days and getting that fixed, etc.

Today’s really stupid thing?
When the electricians who are installing inside wiring for our emergency generator arrived, Kodi, our 125# Tibetan Mastiff/Rottweiler, went ballistic. He is head of security here, after all, and there were 3 people on the porch. His job is to protect me, and he takes that very seriously.

Kodi

2012 – He’s filled in considerably since…

The flood of adrenaline hit. I had to get him in the bathroom so I could insure their safety. I didn’t even think about it. I reached for his collar and he yanked himself away, rearing up like a wild horse. I lassoed him with a leash, and oh, he fought, just like the horses I used to have, before finally giving in.

Kodi understands something I still don’t, after 15 years sick, and 3 or so at this precariously low weight: He’s an incredibly powerfully built, 125 pounds of solid muscle, linebacker of a canine killing machine, and I am 107 pounds of skin, sinew and bone. I am not that physically strong woman anymore, who could wrangle a horse.

He is a dominant-aggressive dog by nature, and it took a long time and a lot of hard work to get him to submit to me as his pack leader. He still sometimes puts up a fight about that, especially when I’m in the frantic-manic mind-state that adrenaline puts me in, rather than the calm-assertive state I should be in.

It wasn’t until my adrenaline level dropped that I even realized my hand was hurting and damp. Leash burn, so bad it had blistered open and was oozing pus. And then pain in my fingers, my wrist, my back…

“What the hell was I thinking?” I asked myself, as I inspected my hand, noting yet again the hollows where muscles used to be. I wasn’t, I concluded.

Adrenaline fueled, my mind told me to take care of the problem.

Forgetting I wasn’t still that tough & strong woman who not only wrangled horses but also lived with wolves, I did.

Now I will pay the price. Hopefully, this time the lesson Kodi has taught me will stick, and I will approach him differently.

15 years I’ve been sick, and yet, still, there are times I don’t remember that.

And I don’t really know if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing.

But if ever I forget, and truly only see myself as this frail shell of the woman I once was, I think I would be done for. THAT woman has to live on in my mind, the ultimate goal, in order to keep going, keep looking for ways to get better. I will never be quite HER again… I will be older, wiser, and emotionally and mentally a hell of a lot tougher than I ever was. But SHE has to remain the goal, unforgotten.

I think that’s worth a little leash burn and sore muscles.

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“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton, “No Man Is an Island”

Recently, I’ve come to realize (again) just how much being chronically ill has stolen from me, and not just in the obvious physical sense.

Little bits & pieces of me, of who I am, have been slowly slipping away into the morass of living with ME/CFS/Lyme, etc., buried under the avalanche of chronic illness, a little bit (or occasionally a lot) at a time, as I slowly spiral downward.

And then I found myself again, all the little missing bits, in the most unlikely of places.

The loss of physical function, of ability, is the easy part to see.

I can no longer ride horses, garden beyond a few pots on the deck & my beloved bonsai, or even make a trip to the grocery store without seriously overtaxing my body. Those long hikes in the Woods are long gone.

Less obvious to those on the outside looking in are the loss of the ability to watch TV or movies because of sound & light sensitivity & the damned migraines. I had have my favorite sci-fi & fantasy shows & movies, and I miss them, though they wait patiently for me on the DVR.

Perhaps most of all, I miss the ability to inhale a good novel, to luxuriate in a fantasy world of warrior women, magic, and quests to be fulfilled, or to travel backward into history & relive the ancient past. I used to read upwards of 150 pages a night of a good book, but I lost the ability to retain what I read, and so keep track of plotlines and characters, about 10 years ago.

But the Amazon warrior woman within, the myths & magic I love so much, reside within me still, I have found.

Rather than be pushed away into the fog and forgotten, they beg to be brought out into the open, acknowledged, and, even, nourished.

They are part of who I am.

Exploring more, I re-discovered the thrill of seeing a beautiful vista from a far-away land, a gorgeous garden, an amazing animal, an unusual and well done piece of art, and so much more.

And so I have found myself again, I have awoken from my soul’s slumber, thanks to that unlikely source I mentioned: Pinterest.

For those who don’t know, Pinterest is a highly addictive online “pinboard” site, where you can create pinboards – collections – of images of things you like, and keep them neatly arranged in as many boards as you like. You can “follow” people who share your interests, and browse their boards, and repin what you like to your own boards. Most of the pins lead to websites, often of interest, too.

To be honest, I joined Pinterest because I saw friends joining, and didn’t really expect much to use it.

But then I discovered the world of imagery that resides on the web, the treasure hunt that is Pinterest, finding people who like the same things I do, and began luxuriating in the glorious artwork & photography the way I used to do with my reading, tv and movie watching, and travel.

During a bad migraine day, of which there are many, I barely feel like moving, and thinking is terribly difficult. About the only thing I can do at such times is to immerse myself in the fantastic art & images of the divine, creative DIY ideas, magical homes, forests & sacred spaces, found on Pinterest, all while barely budging from my pillow, on my smartphone.

As I collect and categorize, I am both losing myself from the pain of the migraine & drudgery of another day of “chronic-ness”, and also finding myself, the parts so long buried & lost, hidden away. But still there.

Buried, but still alive & well inside my heart & soul.

It’s been six months of pinning now, and I’ve found it to be an interesting & invigorating process, both spiritually & emotionally.

Hidden anger & grief has risen to the surface to be dealt with, as I see things that remind me of The Before Times, of things I used to do, places I wanted to see, but now can’t.

I thought I was over that aspect of this illness we call ME/CFS, over the loss of so much that was a part of my identity.

But seeing some of these images, these visions of the Past and hopes for the Future, served as a reminder to me that grief is a process, a spiral, not a circle – we don’t go through the steps of the circle and be over it.

Instead, we go ’round and ’round the spiral of grief and anger, mourning the loss of Life-As-We-Knew-It, and with each turning of the spiral, the grief in our hearts heals a little more, slowly, ever so slowly, fading away…

As I’ve wandered the spiral of grieving for my life, I’ve found Pinterest to be invaluable in renewing my hope and fueling inspiration.

Creativity has budded, and begun to flower.

Images and how-to’s fill my Creativity board of things I know I can make and do, albeit very slowly. I can revisit and refine what inspires me, as new pins are found and pinned, and not-quite-right pins are removed. They remind me that:

I can still create. I can still make beautiful things.

Another board reminds me of my deep connection to Nature, and is populated with images of wild women and wild places, prompting the sleeping wildling within to awaken.

With every visit, the fires of inspiration burn brighter.

Once upon a time, I had my very own, very large, herb garden, with just about every herb, medicinal and culinary, you could have. But for now, we have the Woods, some pots on the deck, and dried herbs that can be purchased.

Pinterest has re-kindled my interest in using natural ways for healing. The internet is full of tons of information on using herbs & foods for healing, and my board is a great way to organize all that info – and encourage me to try it!


When things are very bad, physically, I can drop myself into the sacred imagery, fantasy art, especially lovely places, or beautiful wildwoods that populate my boards, and hide myself from the pain & distress. I can distract myself from the boredom of living a life filled with chronic pain & exhaustion by going treasure hunting – for new & wonderful things to pin.

It is a refuge, a respite, and a renewal, that I never expected, but am very thankful for.

To see my entire collection, please visit me on Pinterest ~ and if you’d like an invitation to join, just let me know (it’s free).

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We had been following The Election – you know, the one billed as the most important in decades – for months. Sifted thru dozens of mailings. Watched all the debates. Read article after article. Signed petition after petition. Seen hundreds of facebook postings about it.

It had all come down to this moment.

We were psyched!!!

Election night!

And I utterly ruined it, for both of us!

But, in exploring what happened, I learned some valuable things that will help me, and also might help you, if you have migraines.

Let me explain…

It had been a long day.

First, voting – so important in this battleground state.
Then, Rhiannon & I headed to town for some errands. We stayed out a bit longer than we should have.

I was really tired when I climbed into bed & turned on CNN.

Generally speaking, I don’t watch TV anymore – too many migraines. Back when I could, though, I had designed & had had built a combination bed/storage loft/entertainment center. A very big TV resides right at the end of my bed, along with the Tivo DVR, DVD player, etc (this will matter later).

So there I was, exhausted but excited, anxiously watching the Red states & Blue states come up on the screen as CNN discussed them (this, too, will matter).

I had previously paused the DVR for 30 minutes so I could fast forward through commercials, but they weren’t having too many. As it neared 11:30PM, I started fast forwarding on the slowest setting, so I could follow along with what states they were calling for which candidate (this will matter a lot).

A succession of Blue & Red states flashed over the screen faster as I watched, and then I spotted the announcement we’d been waiting months for:

CNN was projecting a winner in the Presidential Election!

“Rhiannon, you’ve got to see this!!!” I called.

Rhiannon has been following the election as closely as I have, and I re-wound it a bit so we could see the crucial moment together.

Nausea, dizziness, and double-vision suddenly rose up out of nowhere as I hit PLAY on the remote. My eyelids wouldn’t stay open and I felt extremely confused.

Rhiannon watched the announcement, and turned happily to me, only to find…

I was out like a light.

But I had been talking to her a moment before… wtf? So she called my name, and my eyelids fluttered & I mumbled. Alarmed, she yelled:

“MOM!!!”

I remember that – the concern in her voice, the fear. The rest of the next hour is pretty dang hazy. Some things I remembered after Rhiannon reminded me, but some things are a total blank.

Rhiannon took charge – she knows I have Neurally Mediated Hypotension (POTS), so she thought maybe my blood pressure had tanked. She loudly demanded to know where my blood pressure machine was, and I was able to point to the side of the bed… barely.

My arm was limp when she took it and pulled up my sleeve & took my bp. It was low, but has certainly been lower without causing unconsciousness.

I slowly started to be able to keep my eyes open more, to respond more clearly. I was only totally out of it for about 3 or 4 minutes.

But the incredibly distorted double-vision, dizziness, nausea, difficulty staying awake, incoordination, and impaired cognitive functioning, stuck around, slowly dissipating over the next hour.

By the time Romney gave his concession speech, I was back to “my normal,” and pretty sure what had happened.

I reassured the very concerned (to put it lightly) Rhiannon that I was okay, and that I thought it was “just a seizure… and I’ve had them before, although not for years.”

I’ve never been diagnosed with a seizure disorder or epilepsy. But some years back, the last time was likely in 2006, I had several similiar episodes. They did the whole workup – EEG, MRI, etc, and came up with nothing, so it never got officially diagnosed.

Some reading over at The Epilepsy Foundation helped me understand why it happened just then, just that night, and why it was always before at night, too, always when I was watching TV using the DVR.

It seems that some people are prone to seizures only when under certain visual stimuli – flashing lights, in particular. And even more particular (and fascinating), the colors red & blue are known to stimulate seizures more often than any other colors.

Remember how I said my TV’s location mattered? Well, it does. It takes up a lot of my visual field. And, it was dark in the room behind it, so there was a lot of contrast between the brightness of the TV and the surrounding area.

Just as important is the number of flashes per minute, and I was fast forwarding through the DVR on its slowest setting, while those red & blue states flashed up & down on the screen.

All things that mattered, as did the fact I was already exhausted from having been out that day. A perfect storm for a photosensitive seizure.

Interestingly, photosensitive seizures are related to photosensitive migraines.

They both seem to involve an overload in the visual processing center, although how this works is poorly understood.

Flickering or flashing lights can trigger a migraine or make one worse for many more people than will have photosensitive seizures – and not just from TV’s, of course. Flickering fluorescent lights, computer screens, or natural light can all cause problems.

The sun flickering through the trees as I drive or ride in the car drives me absolutely nuts, and can quickly trigger a migraine, or make an existing migraine much worse.

I’m going to try this simple trick to see if it helps with my migraine photosensitivity:

Cover one eye (either one) with one hand until the stimulus is over. Closing both eyes or turning your eyes in another direction will not help.
– from The Epilepsy Foundation – Photosensitivity and Seizures

This reduces the field of vision by 50%.
And, as is further explained:

Monocular vision (covering one eye) is a most useful practice because it works in most circumstances and still allows the subject to see. It is important to know that just closing the eyes does not prevent photosensitive reactions because the red-tinted light filtering through the eyelids will be just as provocative, if not more.
– from Shedding Light On Photosensitivity

The other thing I learned was that if you have a seizure and have not been diagnosed with a seizure disorder, you will be asked repeatedly by every person you speak with at your doctor’s office why you didn’t go to the ER or call 911. I couldn’t exactly drive myself, and Rhiannon did have her phone in hand contemplating the call.

But I was “out” only a few minutes, and recognised the feeling from previous experience – and told her I was okay. I did go to the doctor yesterday, and they’ve drawn blood for labs, but by the time I got there I had already diagnosed it myself as a photosensitive seizure. I’m to follow-up with my neurologist & get an EEG.

So, while my unexpected reaction to the Election results pretty much ruined the evening for us, it did provide an opportunity for me to learn not just about seizures, but also photosensitivity in general. This might help me and, hopefully, others, as we struggle with our migraines. Everything happens for a reason…

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The Eagle (Social Security) delivers a kick in the face to the hapless canine (me).


Warning: there will be foul words in this post. I don’t use them often, but this is just the final straw. Venting ahead…

As you, my friends, know, this Summer has been hell.

Things got even “hotter” yesterday with the delivery of a letter from social security – and it wasn’t the kind of letter I had been hoping for.

The craziness started in May, when my Mom moved to Houston, I subluxated my shoulder & tore it even worse, was diagnosed with adrenal exhaustion, and re-visited Tick-Borne Disease treatment with my LLMD.

Then Rhiannon’s father become very ill and passed away, and we headed to Ohio, where he lived. My body has been precariously teetering ever since. There have been issues with the will, and her father’s estate, I have to deal with.

Stress on top of stress.

My shoulder has continued down its path of self-destruction, subluxating at will, catching & tearing more, making it more & more painful. I have no choice but to have surgery now.

I have to get appointments with an orthopedic surgeon and for a repeat shoulder MRI, and would if this migraine would just let up for a little while, and the crap stop falling on my head.

That’s why I’ve been writing less & less.
It hurts. A lot.

My weight continues to drop.
My doctors are very concerned by the muscle wasting (as am I). They have done countless labs, turned up a few abnormalities, but nothing to really explain it.

My LLMD thinks it might be TBD, likely Bartonella, but she thinks I’m too weak to do IV antibiotics, and might need IV nutrition first, because of malabsorption.

Both my docs want me to get an MRI/MRCP of my abdomen/liver/pancreas, plus a transvaginal ultrasound.

They are very clear about what they are looking for. Mostly, cancer. And, a reason as to why I’m not absorbing what I eat, and why I’m having “dysfunctional uterine bleeding” (I’m getting my period every 2 weeks, and with it a 5 or 6 day hormonal migraine from hell).

As I was getting a grip on all this, suddenly, my own father became very ill and passed away. This triggered a flood of memories of growing up, deep grief, sadness, and mourning.

My body reacted badly to the stress of that.

I’ve spent all week very weak, very shaky, having adrenal dumps & in hormonal migraine.

Just when I thought that there surely couldn’t be any more shit left to be dumped on me, that we had to be due a break…

I got a letter yesterday from social security.

I had appealed my social security disability application to the highest level, the appeals council. This has been going on for FOUR years.

There is mounds of evidence.
Thousands of pages of records.
Multiple letters from three different doctors.
And one very frank, very honest, heartbreaking letter from my youngest daughter, Rhiannon.

Despite all that, they turned me down. Again.

They didn’t even review it, standing by the administrative law judge’s decision.

According to my understanding, the judge broke the rules, because there’s a special rule for people with ME/CFS. I even pointed it out to him at the start of the hearing, and put that in my appeal.

I tried to get an attorney. You have to get a really good attorney. There’s lots of lawyers out there saying they do disability, but ME/CFS is not in SS’s blue book, so you can’t just have anyone. It has to be someone really good.

When I first applied, I was forced to have the application done by an organization that “specializes” in helping people get disability, because we were, and still are, receiving food stamps & TANF. They totally fucked up the application.

So I went to the attorney after my first two denials, and she pulled my file, read through it, but said she couldn’t take the case, because it was a mess, and she wouldnt get paid if she didn’t win, and she didn’t think she could win. She used to work for social security. She knows how they operate.

So I did the hearing & appeal myself. Was denied. Again and again.

Now I have 2 choices.

1. Appeal their decision, which means take them to Court – real, true, court. Civil court, the kind before a real judge, not one employed by social security. Sue the assholes. I would assume that would take a year or two.

Or,

2. File again & start from scratch, except since they have my medical records already it won’t really be from scratch. Instead of having my start date for disability be 1/2007 it will be 3/2011.

It means filling in a new application, which is about 40 pages long, if not more, but it can now be done online. I’ve spent much of today wandering through the social security website.

The kicker here is that they have dragged the process out so long that our TANF and, most importantly, my Medicaid, are about to run out, when Rhiannon turns 18 in December. My prescriptions and monthly doctor visits are at least $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

I cannot be without health coverage.

If it’s not going to be the SSDI Medicare I had hoped for, then it’s going to have to be SSI, and if I understand this correctly, the state will give me Medicaid until I get Medicare next March, and pay the co-pays, Medicare Part D, etc, after the Medicare kicks in.

Assuming I get approved.

I have a feeling I will, though. Not only am I a lot sicker, with this very dramatic weight loss (they apparently like shit like this), but I have a lot more documentation now than when this whole damned mess started, the forms will be filled in correctly, and I know a little known secret…

…Social Security has a rule whereby if you make a declaration that you are in “dire need” of approval immediately, for financial or medical reasons, they are required to move your application to the top of the stack.

It doesn’t get much more dire than this, folks. We’d have been out on the street years ago were it not for the generosity of my mother, and if I don’t get health care coverage lined up by December 1st it’s going to be very ugly.

So I will be very, very busy, in the coming days (or weeks), filling in the damned forms and marshalling the paperwork and re-reading the social security website.

Assuming my head doesn’t explode first. It really feels like it’s about to…

Thanks for listening…
~Ash

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For some time now, since the “protein wasting,” also called muscle wasting, and unintentional, major weight loss started, two years ago or so, we’ve been refering to my overall health status as “precariously balanced.”

When I say “we,” I don’t just mean Rhiannon & I, but also, my doctors. We are a team, working collaboratively to keep me alive & as functional as possible.

But my body is precariously balanced, like a scale or these stones, and every decision, whether to add meds, subtract meds, change my diet or supplements, had to be figured into how it would impact the overall balance of my body.

So precarious is the balance, there is no room for error anymore.

The two most important factors became:

  • Stop the weight loss and the muscle wasting. This is likely, at least in part, because of the adrenal exhaustion. The body tries to save energy by shutting down digestion, and scavaging from muscle, which releases all sorts of toxins, as well as being generally disconcerting.
  • Don’t stress out, not over anything, since my adrenals are already exhausted, and we didn’t want them to get worse.
  • Over the last two months, however, all hell broke out in our life, and the balance is really teetering.

    The re-cap, for those who missed it:

    First, adrenal issues became worse, my mom moved and my shoulder disintegrated (SLAP tear – a Very Bad Thing). Then, Rhiannon’s father became critically ill, and after a week of complications, he passed away. I made a decision to take Rhiannon to Ohio (could hardly have been more stressful – thank goodness for the loving support of our friend, Kathy, with whom we stayed) knowing full well the ramifications for my body would not be good, and it could “push me over the edge.”

    Since we returned, I’ve been resting, resting, resting. Eating, a lot. But also having disturbing, and sometimes, frightening, new symptoms, that have led to multiple doctor visits & consultations.

    Here’s where I stand (err, lay):

  • Most disconcerting, I have lost 5 very precious pounds since my visit with my PCP 4 weeks ago, despite taking our blender & “medical shake” mix & assorted edibles to Ohio, and eating a fair amount at Kathy’s home.
  • New symptoms include episodes of extreme weakness & shakiness, often with trembling.
  • My brain tends to go into shut-down mode when this happens, and I get what Rhiannon calls the “lost puppy look.” If we are out (have had to go out for multiple doctor visits plus groceries, etc) she will take me by the arm & guide me out of the store. I have limited comprehension when this happens, way beyond brain fog. This is not entirely new. What is new is the quickness with which it happens, after just moments on my feet.
  • Something has definitely tilted in my adrenal system. I seem to respond to even tiny annoyances with a dump of adrenaline that induces the fight/flight reaction – usually, fight. In other words, I find myself getting really angry a lot over stupid shit that wouldn’t have bothered me before.
  • There is also The Hunger. The ravenous, give me food NOW or I WILL KILL YOU Hunger. This is certainly very, very new, since a month ago I was still forcing myself to eat. The Hunger comes on very fast, demanding to be satisfied immediately. It’s a very bizarre feeling. I’m craving sugar, salt, carbs, meat… and if The Hunger is demanding to be satisfied, there’s not much I can do to stop myself from stuffing my mouth with whatever’s easiest. Rhiannon has hidden the chocolate & sugary foods, since they aren’t good for me, and just feed the yeast (candida).
  • What my medical team thinks:

  • Knowing that I was in adrenal exhaustion before all this happened, and being very tuned into my body, I became very concerned that I was teetering on the edge of adrenal insufficiancy. Many of the symptoms I’ve been having are very typical of that. My medical team agreed.
  • The biggest concern with adrenal issues is adrenal crisis, which can be life threatening, and develop quite suddenly. Rhiannon has instructions on when to call 911 or take me to the ER, but hopefully we’ve headed that off.
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is also a concern, and I had this as a teenager. It could account for some of the shakiness & trembling.
  • What we’re doing:

  • Many labs were drawn yesterday. I’m having a lot of bruising, so am concerned the leukopenia is back. Who knows what else will show up.
  • My PCP prescribed a glucometer (those things diabetics use to test their blood sugar) and wants me to check mine several times a day to watch for hypoglycemia.
  • My cortef (hydrocortisone), which I started on only a month ago to treat the adrenal exhaustion, originally at 5mg in the morning & 2.5mg in the afternoon, has been doubled. This is not a large dose. My adrenals should be making cortisol (the body’s equivilant) but they are not. This dose is just to replace what is missing, as cortisol is essential for the functioning of the human body. I definitely feel better on a higher dose.
  • I had been taking florinef (fludrocortisone) only as needed, a half tab every 10 days or so, but until my body stabilizes, I need more. This is to treat Neurally Mediated Hypotension (NMH), aka POTS. It is commonly seen in both ME/CFS patients as well as patients with adrenal issues, and is associated with very low blood volume.
  • I’ve started monitoring my protein & calorie intake again with an app on my phone. It has a goal weight for me as well as my current weight, and tells me how many calories I need to eat to gain weight. It’s pretty cool – even has a barcode scanner.
  • I started on Topamax a month ago at 25mg for a week, then 50mg for 3 weeks, always at night. This is the one & only thing we hadn’t tried for migraines, and we hadn’t tried it because it can cause weight loss in some patients. But it does seem to be helping with the number of migraines & their intensity, so we’re sticking with it, and bumping me up to 75 mg, the level most patients need to see real improvement in migraines. Some need much more. It makes me very sleepy & incredibly loopy, much to Rhiannon & Ben’s amusement.
  • Mostly, I’m just resting, staying cool, well hydrated, eating a lot, meditating & deep breathing to reduce stress, and trying to relax & let my body regain its delicate balance. It’s going to take a while, perhaps a long while.

    My shoulder still has to be dealt with, but not now, I can’t take the stress, whether of surgery or going out to see the orthopedist or having the MRI. So I’m dealing with the pain, which is pretty bad, hoping that the “sub-chondral loosency” that showed on the xray, and can mean the bone is getting necrotic, is not getting worse. I’ve already had one necrotic bone, so it does need attention as soon as I can safely go out.

    Deep breathing. Not thinking about it.
    Remembering how many friends & family members are out there showering me with Love and good energy…

    …thank you!

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    This Routine

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Afternoon sun hits my shaded eyes
    Like a boxer hitting his opponent.
    It hurts.
    I see it coming.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Dog claws click on floor,
    Spoon taps bowl,
    My muscles twitch.
    I hear its approach.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Waves of nausea
    Crash over me.
    Wipeout.
    I feel it swamp me.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Say, “I’m sorry,
    “I’m going to the bad place.”
    And close my door.
    She knows this so well.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    My day is done.
    Now it is
    Migraine’s day.
    Out of my hands.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Swallow meds,
    Zofran under my tongue.
    Bowl beside my head.
    Try to soften the blow.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Tummy Mint tea cools,
    Spearmint oil soothes,
    Stones ground me.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Curl up, stay still.
    Close eyes.
    Breathe deep.
    Ignore the explosive pain.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Listen to the pounding
    Pulse in my ears,
    The neverending whine.
    Soundtrack of my life.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Door opens softly,
    Muscles twitch anyway.
    “Is there anything you need?”
    Not now, maybe later.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    The neighbors’ dogs bicker,
    Birds’ evening calls,
    So loud I recoil.
    Silence is needed.

    This Routine is all too familiar.
    Breathe deep and slow.
    Controlled descent.
    Where shall I go?
    Far away from here.

    This Routine is all too familiar.

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