Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Changes

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

There have been so many major upheavals lately that I don’t even know where to start. This has led to a kind of writing paralysis, and therefore silence on the blog. So let me try to push through it:

We have, at least for now, relocated to the East Coast. My family is out here, so we have much more support, help with childcare, etc. I don’t know how long we will be here – it depends on several factors. We came out here mainly because of issues with the RA. I have some nasty little things going on with my cervical spine, and I wanted to see a really great spine specialist to deal with them. There’s also a great rheumatologist out here, and I’m hoping that he’ll change things up and maybe get me closer to that elusive remission.

Also, Remicade Dream now has a fan page on Facebook! I am clueless about how to use this page and how to get people to “like” it. If you’re a regular reader, maybe you can “like” it, and let me know if you have a page too!  My page is at:

 http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Remicade-Dream/142092942551992

I’m seeing the spine guy and the new rheumatologist on Tuesday, so I’ll check in after that and let you know how everything goes.

Appreciation

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

I recently learned that my blog has been named as one of  “40 Excellent Blogs for Arthritis Support” by NursingDegree.net. This has really made me think. It’s also given me the kick in the pants I think I needed to start writing again.

The list is divided into blogs of two types. The first are called “Informational Resources.” Many of my favorites are included in this list, and I really value what these people do. Sometimes I feel guilty that my blog isn’t more like these – I feel that I should be doing more to help others with RA.

But then I look at the second part of the list, called “Living With Arthritis.” This is the category to which my blog belongs. And there, again, are so many blogs I love to read. And I remember how many times someone has written to me to tell me that my blog puts into words (or sometimes music) the very things they think and feel. Some have shown my blog to their partners, family, or friends, and said, “This is what I’ve been trying to say – this is what it’s like for me.” And that, I realize, is of value.

I have been hiding out because things have been hard lately, and I’ve been pretty depressed. I guess I haven’t wanted to put that out there; so many people in our community work hard to stay positive, and I admire them. I also tend to go silent when things are wrong, even with my real-life friends. (This is something that started with the RA – oddly, I used to share everything before.) But, unfortunately, sometimes depression is part of the deal with chronic illness, and if I want to be honest about my experiences, I have to include it. There are some things I still don’t want to write about because they are too personal, but there are plenty of other things I could share. Some are good, some are bad, but they are all part of the deal with RA.

So I will try to do better. I’m so grateful to those of you who continue to read my words and come back even when I’ve been silent for awhile. I’ve been silent across the board – not participating in RA bulletin boards, not commenting on other people’s blogs. I want you to know, too, that if you’re on the list of blogs on my homepage, I still read you whenever you post. I’ll try to be better about commenting – it’s nice to know that people are out there!

Privacy and Pain

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

privacy

 

In this article about Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, author Lev Grossman describes the early days of the internet as follows:

The presiding myth of the Internet through the 1980s and 1990s was that when you went online, you could shed your earthly baggage and be whoever you wanted. Your age, your gender, your race, your job, your marriage, where you lived, where you went to school – all that fell away.

By contrast, the viewpoint espoused by Zuckerberg, and the concept on which Facebook is built, is “the fact that people yearned not to be liberated from their daily lives but to be more deeply embedded in them.” Today, it’s all about connecting, networking, sharing everything with everybody. You don’t get to be different people in different places – you have one online persona that you present to everyone.

Well, fine, but I don’t really think life works that way. Not all of us want to share everything with everyone, but at the same time, it’s not fun to be left out. So we do a sort of delicate dance between the right to a private life and the desire to be connected to people. Since becoming sick, I have discovered in myself an intense need for privacy that I never realized I had.

This blog is anonymous – my real name is in no way connected to it. This has given me the freedom to talk about my disease and its details in a way that might be of help to others who are going through the same thing, and it’s given me an outlet. But over time, this privacy has eroded somewhat. There are one or two people in my “real life” who have also seen this blog, and I need to be conscious of them when I write. There’s also another problem – I have become “Facebook friends” with several of the people on one of the RA boards I frequent. I have not shared my health issues with any of the people in my professional life, and so I never mention them on my Facebook page. The people from the RA board know this, and so far they have been completely respectful of this boundary. But it does leave me feeling strangely vulnerable – people from my “sick life,” who I have never met, have access to my “real life.”

I’m finding myself at an awkward spot with this right now. I’ve been going through some incredibly painful things in my personal life right now, things that are not about my illness. I have not even shared them with most of the people in my “real life” – just a select few. This blog could be a place to talk about them, if not for those few readers who actually know who I am. The RA boards could also be a place to talk about them, but I’d be concerned that someone might make an accidental remark on Facebook.

I don’t know how to explain why I can talk openly on this blog about the details of my illness but them clam up when it comes to other aspects of my life. When I was first diagnosed with RA, I was completely silent about it for about a year, only telling my immediate family and a few close friends. Maybe I needed the time and privacy for processing. It’s possible that the same thing is happening here. I’ve been reading blogs from others in the chronic illness world who are sharing their struggles more openly than I am right now. Reading them helps me, and I am grateful for them - maybe they are braver than I am? But I’ve also read blog entries by others who are wrestling with the same privacy issues as myself.

Right now, I feel a strong need for an anonymous place to talk about everything, but I am struggling, always keeping in mind that I don’t necessarily have complete anonymity here. The result has been complete radio silence on this blog for a long time.

Darn you, Mark Zuckerberg.

My Inner Geek

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Star-Trek-Voyager-p35

Okay, I’m about to reveal my true geeky nature to my blog readership… any fellow geeks out there?

Lately RA has given me (or forced on me) quite a bit of couch time, and I’ve been using some of it to catch up with reruns of Star Trek: Voyager.  Although I was a faithful follower of Star Trek: TNG, I never got interested in Voyager when it was actually on.  I started watching the reruns somewhere in the middle of the series, and they’ve come and gone on different TV stations over time, so there are still early episodes I’ve never seen.

For those of you not familiar with Voyager, the basic premise is this: The Federation Starship Voyager, while on a mission to track down a renegade enemy ship, is swept by a powerful alien force into a distant part of the galaxy called the Delta Quadrant.  The alien responsible for this promptly dies, leaving the crew stranded.  Traveling at top speed, it will take them 75 years to get back home.  The enemy ship is there too, and the two crews decide to join forces and make the journey together.  (There’s more to it than this, but this is the basic idea.)

Recently, I was watching one of the first-season episodes – the sixth episode, actually, which is titled “The Cloud.”  At the beginning of the episode, the captain, in a log entry, says, “Our journey home is several weeks old now, and I have begun to notice in my crew, and in myself, a subtle change, as the reality of our situation settles in.”  She discusses this with her first officer, and he mentions that the crew is going through a natural grieving period.

I don’t know why, but this really struck me.  A grieving period.  Suddenly, I realized how much Voyager is like life with RA.

In Voyager, the crew’s whole life is suddenly changed by a force outside their control.  They are light-years from the lives they knew, and may never get back there.  They have to learn to coexist comfortably with enemies.  They have limited resources, and need to learn to use them carefully (spoons, anyone?).  The future is a giant question mark.  Their relationships change, too.  In a later season of the show, when the crew finally finds a way to communicate with people back on Earth, they find that some people have given them up for dead and moved on with their lives, while others are still waiting faithfully.  They also form new relationships with each other and with new people they meet during their travels, some of which are stronger than the ones they’ve left behind. 

But what interests me most is the captain’s approach to the mission.  Her primary goal is to get her crew back to the Alpha Quadrant, and she never gives up hope that this will happen.  At the same time, though, she takes advantage of the opportunity to explore this new part of the galaxy, even though doing so sometimes takes them further away from their goal.  She also encourages the crew to make their lives happy and enriching along the way.  They don’t spend every moment focusing on the need to get back home.

Sometimes, especially in the early shows, the crew believes that they have found a way home, and are crushed when it doesn’t pan out.  (This always reminds me a little of Gilligan’s Island.)  As the show evolves, less time is spent on this kind of plotline, and more on the life they have built for themselves in the Delta Quadrant.  And yet, this isn’t accomplished by giving up on the goal.

I’ve often wondered if this is possible with RA.  It seems like the perfect way to be, really.  On the one hand, I never want to give up on the goal of remission.  On the other hand, I don’t want to be so obsessed with it that I miss the opportunity to make my life as rich as possible, right here, right now.  If the Voyager crew had spent all seven of their years in the Delta Quadrant focusing on nothing but getting home, it would have been a boring show.  It also would have been boring if they had given up hope and settled on a nice planet somewhere.

I guess I just wish I knew for sure whether or not I’m going to get “home” someday.  But that’s not the way it works in real life.

Rheumaversary

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Blue_candles_on_birthday_cake

Monday, April 9, 2007

“You have rheumatoid arthritis,” the doctor said.

I looked at him.  He waited for me to speak.  I looked down at the table, at the long silver tray where the hypodermic needles lay waiting, loaded with hydrocortisone.  The doctor was a hand specialist, and I had come to be treated for what I thought was tendonitis in my left thumb and right index finger.  My mind reached back to the mother of an old boyfriend – she had rheumatoid arthritis.  What did I know about her?  She didn’t seem to have much wrong with her.  I remembered that she had a massage therapist come to her house every week, and that she told me that she needed to avoid stress because it made her condition worse.  From this, I had developed an impression of rheumatoid arthritis as something mild and possibly psychosomatic. 

Then I looked over at the nurse.  She looked stricken, as if the doctor had just told me something terrible.  Why? 

The doctor explained, slowly and gently, that while he could still give me the hydrocortisone shots, they would only help things temporarily, and that the problems would almost certainly come back in another joint.  He showed me my blood test results.  Something called the “rheumatoid factor,” which was supposed to be below 14, was listed as 468.  He used words like “severe” and “aggressive” and “damage,” and told me that I needed to get in to see a rheumatologist as soon as I could.  I just stared at him, trying to put what he was saying together with the impression of my old boyfriend’s mom.

I declined the shots, took the phone numbers he gave me, thanked him, and left the office.  I went to my car, sat down inside, and called my husband.  “He says I have rheumatoid arthritis,” I said.  There was a lump in my throat and I didn’t know why.

The ironic part is that I turned down the shots because I was afraid of needles.  I had no idea what was coming.

 

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My husband and I sat in the rheumatologist’s office.  I liked it – it was messy, a trait that for some weird reason, I had always associated with creativity and intelligence.  Under his white lab coat, the doctor was wearing a loud plaid shirt with a clashing tie.  For some reason, I liked this too.

He fired information at us quickly, so quickly I could barely take it in.  Words like “rheumatoid factor” and “sed rate,” “DMARDS” and “biologics” and “prednisone” flew through the air.  Again, like the other doctor, he mentioned “severe” and “aggressive.”  He kept saying, “We need to get this shut down.”  I had done a little research by then, and what I had read scared me to death.  The things he was saying didn’t make me any less scared, although he seemed pretty calm.

Then he said, “And, of course, you can’t get pregnant while you’re on these drugs.  Were you planning to get pregnant?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I’d like to see you wait about two years.  That should give us enough time to get this under control, and we can go from there.”

Two years?  I was 36 years old, almost 37.

In an examining room, a nurse gave me two shots, one called Toradol and the other called Depo-Medrol.  So much for avoiding the needles.  She sent me home with a lab slip ordering more bloodwork (again, more needles?) and four prescriptions. 

I called my mother and cried on the phone.  “Two years!  I can’t wait two years to have a baby.”

“If these drugs are really that dangerous, you should really take a pregnancy test before you start them,” she said.

“I don’t think I’m pregnant.”

“Just do it for me.”

 

Friday, April 13, 2007

Early morning.  I left my husband sleeping in our bed and went into the bathroom.  I took a pregnancy test out from under the sink.  It was a cheap one; one of my friends had bought them in bulk when she was trying to conceive.  I peed on the stick and left it lying on the counter, then went into another room and tried not to think about it.  I hadn’t even missed a period; it was due in about four days.

A few minutes later, I realized that I had forgotten to set the timer.  “Crap!”  A lot more than three minutes had gone by, and I knew that the results were no longer considered valid if you waited too long.  I looked at the stick anyway.  It looked like there was a faint line in the test window, but it was too hard to tell.

I took out the expensive Clearblue Easy test I’d been saving.  It was going to be two years of waiting – might as well use it now, right?  This time I set the timer.

There it was, in words clear as day – “Pregnant.”

My heart was pounding.  I went into the bedroom, woke my husband, and said, “I think I’m pregnant!”

“Really?” he said.  He looked excited and happy.

“I don’t know,” I said.  Then I started to cry.  I cried because I was happy, because I was mixed up, because this wasn’t the way I had wanted this moment to happen.  I cried because my husband’s birthday was in six days, and the timing would have been perfect – I would have just missed my period, and this could have been a wonderful birthday surprise.  I cried because I had gotten two shots the day before and had no idea what they might do to the baby.  Most of all, I cried because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.  Would I be okay without the medications for nine months?  Would I be able to take care of the baby once he or she came?

We were only four months into our marriage, and everything had changed.

The Acceptance Experiment

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Bunsen-Beaker-web

I was feeling tired and fed up last week.  I felt that my world was getting smaller all the time because of this stupid RA, and I was sick of it.  Then I read this post by Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, and I could really, really relate.  I would have loved to just press that eject button RA Warrior described – just quit the whole damn thing – but, of course, I couldn’t do that.  Still, I needed a break, and badly.

So I started thinking about what kind of break I could take.  I’ve done the Denial Experiment before – the one where I decide that for a week, I will just act as if I don’t have RA and live life like a normal person.  Well, that one never lasts long – by about the third day (often even sooner), my body lets me know that it just ain’t gonna happen.  So what could I do instead?  And exactly what kind of break did I need?

I thought about the things that were bothering me most, and the main thing that jumped out at me was this: RA had become the central fact of my life.  When I wrote about my world getting smaller, one of the things I said was that I no longer had anything to talk about with friends except illness, and that illness just isn’t that interesting a topic to most people.  Also, I know someone who talks about nothing except her aches, pains, and health problems, and I can’t stand to listen to her.  She’s never happy, never positive, and never interesting.  I don’t want to be her.  But lately I have become exactly that person.  (My husband kindly points out that no, I haven’t – the person I’m describing complains but never does anything to try to make it better, and keeps putting off surgery she’s needed for about three years now.  So okay, I’m not EXACTLY the same as her… but still.)

So I decided that RA was just plain getting too much airtime in my life.  My husband agreed that we seemed to spend most of our time talking about it and almost nothing else.  I was getting tired of listening to myself sound whiny.  I was spending too much time every day reading RA blogs and discussion boards.  I was feeling exhausted and burned out and didn’t want to post on my own blog.  I just needed a mental break from the subject of RA.

Here’s what I decided to do:

If denial didn’t work, maybe acceptance would.  Just for a week, I would behave as if I had already reached the acceptance point, and RA had become an integrated part of my life.  I would take my meds every day, do the things I need to do to take care of my health, not push myself too hard or pretend I didn’t have RA.  But I would also stop talking about it.  If I had a bad flare, I would tell my husband that I wasn’t doing well and would ask for help, but then I would stop complaining.  If I talked to a friend and they asked how I was doing, I would give a very short, honest answer like “About the same” and then talk about something else.  I would also stop reading RA blogs and boards, just for a week.  It would be, I hoped, like hitting a reset button.

So how did it go?

First, I learned that I really do complain a LOT.  Complaining words were on the tip of my tongue way too often.  So I think it was good for my marriage and my friendships to cut back on this.  

But it was hard, too.  Really hard.  Three days in, I had a day when I was in a lot of pain, and I didn’t say anything.  By nighttime, I ended up crying.  (I rarely cry.)  My husband gently reminded me that the idea of the experiment was not to pretend I was fine – it was okay to say that I was in pain and needed help.  So I did, and found that saying it once was enough to get what I needed.

I learned that I really DON’T  have enough other things in my life.  It was hard to find things to talk about.  It also felt good when I actually did find topics, and my husband and I had better conversations this week than we have in awhile.  We both really needed to talk about something else, and I think we still do. 

Another discovery was that I really, really, REALLY missed the RA blogs and boards.  They have become a big  part of my life, and cutting them off left me feeling isolated and sad.  I do think that I’m on the computer too much, and that I need to cut back, so I really shouldn’t be checking them as often as I do.  But they serve an important function in my life.   

I’m still not sure exactly what I learned.  I felt both better and worse this week as a result of pushing RA to the background.  I guess the main lesson was one of moderation.  I need the RA online community, but I don’t need to check for new posts several times a day.  I need to vent, but not all the time.  I need to be honest and speak up when I am having trouble, but I don’t need to repeat it over and over.  And when I’m burned out and need a break from the whole thing, the Acceptance Experiment seems to be a better choice than the Denial Experiment.

The Incredible Shrinking World

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Shrinking world 

This painting, by artist Shia Moan, is called Shrinking World.  It was exhibited as part of a show called Windows On Pain.  In this article, the artist is quoted as saying the following:

“People who live with chronic pain deal very literally with shrinking options in their lives. If and how they can work, exercise, socialise, travel. Usual activities are affected, all subjected to scrutiny: what is possible, what is not? They also speak frequently about not being able to communicate their pain, wearing a mask.”

When I was looking for a picture to go along with what I wanted to write today, I was amazed to find this painting, and that quote. It was exactly what I was trying to express. I literally entered “shrinking world” into a Google images search, knowing nothing about this painting, and up it popped.

I am bored.  Really bored.  So bored that I’ve been neglecting this blog, simply because I have nothing to say.  And the reason I have nothing to say is that my world is shrinking.

This is something I’ve known for awhile, but I became very aware of it a few days ago, when I was on the phone with one of my friends.  I called her because we hadn’t spoken in awhile, and I wanted to know what she’s been up to.  So I listened to her talk for a long time, enjoying her stories about her children and her activities.  Then she asked me, “And what’s new with you?”

Well, what could I say?  Another Remicade infusion, more blood tests, more doctor and physical therapy visits… besides that, nothing much.  I haven’t been anywhere interesting, haven’t been doing anything exciting.  Frankly, I haven’t been doing much of anything at all.  And that realization depressed the heck out of me.

Chronic illness is BORING.  Sure, there are exciting and dramatic moments, like when something unusual pops up on a blood test or a major flare hits.  (Of course, this is a kind of excitement I’d rather do without…)  But most of the time, at least for me, it’s just not that interesting.  Just a lot of exhaustion, lying around, canceling plans, not having enough energy to even think of something new to do.  It gets depressing.  And there’s only so much you can say about it to your friends.  “I’m still sick”  just isn’t that interesting as a conversational topic.

So my world is shrinking.  I don’t want it to.  I keep thinking that it doesn’t have to be this way – while I’m lying on the couch, I could be learning a new language, or listening to great music, or SOMETHING.  But I tend not to do these things.  I don’t know why.

I’m also starting to develop some habits that I don’t like.  One pattern I’ve noticed lately is that whenever I’m getting ready to leave the house, I always say to my husband, “I don’t want to go.”  It doesn’t matter where I’m going – work, a guitar lesson, a party.  Somehow, all the time I’ve spent by myself on the couch has created a sort of social anxiety in me.   It just seems extra-hard to pull myself together, go out and be with people.  When I do go out, it’s a mixed bag.  Every once in awhile, I’m sorry I went – sometimes it means that I’ve pushed myself too hard that day, or that week, and I end up paying for it.  But most of the time, I end up glad I did.  The world seems a little bigger and a little brighter after I’ve connected with people.

Sometimes there’s another kind of backlash.  I went out last week to watch some friends dance in a show.  I used to dance with them.  I had a really good time and really got into the show.  I was able to forget all about my RA for a little while, and started thinking, “Maybe I could do that again…”  This is a dangerous path for me.  The truth is, no, I can’t.  This type of dance is too rigorous, too joint-jarring, and my doctor has said NO quite clearly.  So this kind of thinking feeds my denial, sets me back.  I need to be out in the world, but that doesn’t mean I can go back to doing everything I used to do exactly as I used to do it.

I need to make my world bigger, or at least minimize the shrinkage.  There is too much sameness to my days.