January 1st, 2014

This day last year, I said 2012 was the worst year of my life. I also stated emphatically that 2013 would look very different. And it did. But not in a good way. In 2012, I was still working for 5 months of the year. I got to spend 11 days with my soul sister, E., when she visited from Dublin. I was able to run errands, go to the dog park, talk on the phone, and see friends for 9 months of 2012. Unfortunately, that all went away. Now, I can safely say 2013 was the worst year of my life.

The details are too difficult and depressing to describe or dwell on, but neither will I paint a silver lining around this dark life. It has been unspeakably difficult, what didn’t kill me did not make me stronger, and I’m not grateful for the lessons I have learned since being sick. I am a sadder, scared-er, weaker, lonelier person and I’d give anything to go back to the ignorance and energy of healthier days.

However, I am much more aware of things I used to take for granted and I am more thankful than I’ve ever been: For every bird, tree, and arc of sunshine. For every single dollar that I saved before the abrupt halt of income. For every time a snort of laughter escapes me; every day that my legs hold me; and every book, film, song that distracts me. For every time someone vents to me about their life or asks for my opinion or feels they can use my muscle-wasted shoulder to cry on. For every time someone braves the thin ice of chronic illness to ask what life is like for us or see how I am feeling or offer to help, knowing full well they risk breaking through to the deep despair beneath.

Most of all, I am thankful for my family. My father, mother, brothers, sister, in-laws, friends, husband and dogs. (Oh, husband and dogs! I am alive today because of you! And I fight for tomorrow because of you.) Each day that they are healthy brings me solace and I experience stark, unfettered joy at every festive Facebook photo of holiday parties, restaurant dinners and energy-filled activities. So, keep singing, fishing, working, exercising and traveling, everyone! And I will live vicariously… Just, please, promise me that you do it with an eyes-wide-open acknowledgement of how short and fragile our journey is on this earth.

Here is my 2013 wrap up:

January: Was sorely disappointed at the Chronic Fatigue Clinic; saw first private doctor, tried cranio-sacral therapy.
February: Not much except stool and saliva tests.
March: Was sorely disappointed at second rheumatologist visit; saw second sleep doctor; had the 4 best days between September, 2012 and now; Zyrtec trial.
April: Got teeth cleaned; started seeing wonderful physical therapist; started the awful process of getting an oral appliance for sleep apnea which still hasn’t happened, almost 9 months later; Seriphos trial; started Chinese herbs.
May: New nephew R. was born; saw dermatologist; phophatidylserine trial; Nasonex trial; tried Tizanidine; turned 40; dear friend E.S. died far too young.
June: My mother and D. visited; saw cardiologist; tried valarian; started Unisom; Gabapentin trial; added rice back to my diet.
July: My father visited; stopped weekly therapy; stopped phone calls for the most part; stopped Chinese herbs.
August: Stopped eating soy, citrus; added lentils, garbanzo beans; tried Trazodone; stopped all vitamins and supplements; J. and Z. gave me a scooter: my ticket to some freedom.
September: My mother and brother, T. visited; abdominal pain started; husband’s family visited; celebrated 15th anniversary.
October: Brother A. visited; saw ENT doctor; saw “environmental” doctor; saw neurologist; had bad reaction to Unisom; tried Xanax; Zetonna trial; had hellish 2-week repercussions to autonomic testing.
November: Tried low-histamine diet for 5 weeks; methylation pathway, mycotoxin and adrenal tests; started vitamins again and Metagenics shakes; tried iv fluids and caused anaphylactoid reaction; another zyrtec trial; saw allergist; steps per day decreased below 700 and haven’t come back up.
December: New nephew G. was born; Christmas with sister; saw ophthalmologist; started juicing; tried Ativan.

Like last year, there were births, deaths, doctors, drugs, symptoms, setbacks and disappointments. And, like last year, what I see when I look at this is how lucky I am to have family that would travel across the city, country or ocean to visit me in my home and offer love and support, without judgement.

Happy new year to you all. 2014, please look different than 2013 ~ only in a good way.

Hubby sweeping in the new year, a family tradition. :)

Hubby sweeping in the new year, a family tradition. 🙂

Remember the little moments,

like this,

that were good.

Cheers.

~James Gandolfini in The Sopranos R.I.P.

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All Aboard the Brain Pain Train!

It’s been about a month since I wrote a decent update. I’ve been trying to keep my readers entertained with short posts, NY Times articles, and reblogs of others’ writing because I have been in a sorry state ~ mostly because of crippling headaches. I think I’ve said it before: bad headaches are, to me, the number one most evil and debilitating symptom of this disease. I’ve written about them before here and here and here. Don’t get me wrong, PEM is by far the most disabling and cruel aspect of ME (I will write a rant about this one day), but, it is somewhat controllable… Muscle pain can be beyond everything you’ve ever imagined… I’m sure vertigo, if bad enough, would be as incapacitating as these headaches… The complete loss of life force when your mitochondria simply can’t keep up with the energy needs of your organs is more handicapping and terrifying… But, none of those, in my experience, blot out existence like the headaches.

Not only do the headaches affect me, but my family has to tip-toe around, talking softly, closing doors carefully, opening soda cans outside, watching tv with headphones, jumping up to distract the dogs when they bark. One of my neighbours had their hardwood floors sanded and varnished during the last few weeks and I stayed inside with doors and windows closed, griping about the fumes tearing at my brain. Another neighbour seems to have purchased the loudest weed-whacker available and insists on using it on the patch of grass closest to wherever I happen to be sitting, whether it’s in the front or the back of our garden. I texted my husband (who was nearby, but I can’t yell out with this headache and I always try not to get up needlessly because of ME): “There is a $100 bill in my bag. Please, please go give it to whathisname and bribe him to stop that noise. When I get better, I’ll do his yard work for the rest of my life. Can you die from noise?” My husband reminded me that we have the loudest dog on the planet and, so far, nobody has given us any grief. So, I kept the $100 (a birthday gift) and turned my attention to being grateful I don’t live next to the airport or a nightclub or a war.

headache

The headaches alternate between throbbing aches and all-encompassing migraines with blinding auras. They are always accompanied by extreme noise and light sensitivity and never able to be touched by medications. On a day like today, I am able to function, but, as the hours progress, I become more and more grumpy, silent, and still. My body tenses, brow furrows, and I stop being able to communicate. On middling days, I move very carefully, I can try to interact wearing earplugs and sunglasses, staying well away from phone and computer screens. And, on the worst days, I can’t leave bed, I can’t speak or see very well, I have ice packs on my neck and eyes, I pant, I sweat, I moan.

This current journey into headache hell started 22 days ago. The worst of it was a few weeks ago and caused me to stop taking all drugs and supplements in an effort to abort the pain. The multicolored, zigzag aura disappeared and the headache lifted enough to function, but, even today, it’s still a doozy. It is the first thing I noticed before opening my eyes this morning. Ugh, headache is still here.

I had quite a few theories. It started with my period, so I thought it was hormonal, but has continued too long. I started Nasonex about a week before the headache came, so I stopped that (and won’t try it again now that it is “tainted” in my mind), but I’m still suffering 2 weeks later. I thought it was from stopping Pantanase nasal spray after using it daily for a year, so I started that again. I thought it was from the new bottle of Chinese herbs (which looked and smelled vastly different from the previous bottle), but I stopped taking them for 4 days with no respite from the pain. I thought it was from overdoing it in general, so I rested a bit more ~ to no effect. I thought it was due to my chronically messed-up neck, so I used my traction device, my tens unit, tiger balm, hot pads, cold packs etc. Nothing. From sitting in the sun? No, it’s still here on cold days. From being on the computer? No, it’s still here on days that I’ve mostly avoided the computer. All the strawberries I’ve been eating lately? No, I haven’t eaten any in over a week. I refuse to believe there is no reason. I don’t want to take prophylactic migraine drugs. I just want it to go away. So I can continue to enjoy my exhausted, stiff, achy, fluey, brain-fog-filled summer days.

I have a lot of other stuff to report on, but it’ll have to wait. Apparently, it was far more important for me to get some company on this brain pain train. Thanks for joining me!