Tag Archives: spoon theory

Cause it makes me that much stronger, Makes me work a little bit harder

I have been a member of the Spoonie community for a lot longer than I realised, I was diagnosed with a chronic liver condition (autoimmune hepatitis) when I was 24, and will be taking medication to keep it in check for the rest of my life. But as long as my liver behaves itself it really doesn’t have a huge impact on my life, you wouldn’t know I was unwell at all, no time off work, no physical difficulties, but then I became really sick a few years ago and I became a fully fledged member. Hello, chronic pain and chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and arthritis!

It often feels like these are impossible conditions to live with and I really do mean ‘live’, because at it’s very very worst it doesn’t feel like you are living. You barely exist and often feel like you are actually dying, of pain or exhaustion, of memory loss, of the inability to think at all. It is utterly and completely soul destroying and you don’t even need the wee small hours of the morning to impress upon you the isolation, the unending trauma and the fact that no one at all can tell you when and if you will ever feel any better than you do right now. Draaammmmaaaa! Well, no, not really. I have often heard people refer to different phases of their lives, such as before children and after children, but my life is defined by before chronic pain and after it started. I cannot impress upon anyone how completely my life has been altered by this condition, I have no control over my own ability to function. Told you I wasn’t being dramatic.

But I am a very practical soul and have spent, and continue to spend, a great deal of time reading up about developments in my conditions The British Medical Journal is always a great source of info for latest studies and research and I have seen some of the doctors I have found through this research. I refuse to believe that this is it, that the medical profession has reached their conclusions and that there will never be a better way to treat my illnesses. I have investigated and tried many medications and assistance aids over the years and, while I am not going to write about the meds right now, I thought I would share some of the assistance aid purchases that I have made that have actually helped.

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My faithful Yuyu

First up is the Yuyu, a long hot water bottle that you can sling around your neck, it comes with a tie at each end so it can tie it security around your back and walk around quite happily. Why no one has thought of this before I have no idea but I quite happily wear mine under my coat on old winter days when I collect Lu from school, I suffer from excruciating pain around my right shoulder blade so I can manoeuvre this like a jaunty sash and it eases the pain. Cold is a real issue for exacerbating my pain so this has been a godsend. They are a little dear, starting at £33, but to me, mine has been worth every single penny and maybe something to ask for as a Christmas gift.

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Multitasking. Please excuse my terrible taste in Tv programmes. Catfish is a real weakness of mine.

My second useful item is a bed desk on legs, specifically made to use with a laptop so it has holes allowing the computer to cool down. No more hot laps and wondering if your computer is going to go into literal meltdown as you binge-watch Netflix as sometimes when bedridden box sets are the only thing that one can do to pass the time. I got mine from Amazon.

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All the hospital glamour.

My next recommendation may seem slightly odd but works for me. Soft blankets, the fleecy type, when my skin hurts and I ache inside the thing that helps the most is lying on one in bed and having one to cover me, its something about the softness that I find comforting, a bit obscure, maybe its a infantile cozy security issue that one needs to fulfil when feeling so so sick but it does help my pain. I took one to hospital with me to lie on when I had my last procedure and I tell you it made it more bearable, even if I did get odd looks. I have a few of these ones and a few of these. They are relatively cheap, Primark does good ones as do most supermarkets.

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This doesn’t come with a cover, the thing you can see to the left is part of the Starship Enterprise that Lucia has been making out of a cardboard box.

Next is a lightbox. Being inside so often, not always able to do the obligatory go outside and see the daylight means I suffer from SAD, and actually I have for an awfully long time so to address this I got myself one of these and it has made a huge difference to my mood, I’m not composing poems to the beautiful sun but I am feeling less blah. I pop it next to my bed, in my living room or on my desk, whenever I go it comes with me and I have it one for maybe an hour a day.

Finally, let me introduce you to the thing has diminished my physical pain by the most. It is a neck support memory foam pillow which has a large or small hump, depending on which side of the pillow you use. I don’t really know how to describe it, so when you put your head on it your neck is supported and your head almost dips back to what would seem a much more natural position when sleeping, it is hands down the best thing I have ever bought and the thing that I cannot be without. I take it on holiday with me, I take it everywhere I will be sleeping. See the photo for the humps and a soft blanket thrown in.

It is worth noting that all of these aids are portable and the fact that I can take them with me places means that I can go places without having to reap not only the tiredness of travel but also the setbacks caused by compromised comfort.

Amazon also deserves a shout out for those of us who are housebound or lead lives of unpredictable ability. I pay the subscription for Prime next day delivery and it has been my saviour, my contact to the outside world. Let’s face it chronic illness means our best-laid plans are often thrown into turmoil within a matter of hours and something that was as simple as a drive to shops to pick up a gift for someone’s birthday becomes an impossibility. So it has enabled me to order everything from birthday gifts for my daughter’s friends parties to straw for our house rabbit, all delivered in a timely manner. Mostly.

I have no affiliation to any of these companies but thought others may find this information useful, either for yourself and or someone you know.

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all. (Or – What would you choose – excruciating pain or chronic exhaustion?)

Hmm, difficult on so many levels and the fact that it isn’t actually a ‘real’ choice, after all who would choose either? But, for me I would take the pain over the exhaustion since I have luxury of having both. The exhaustion is completely debilitating for me. It is “bone-crushingly, walking through treacle, dragging water up a hill, can’t remember my own name” awful. Don’t get me wrong the pain ain’t great either. It hurts when I move, it hurts when I’m still, the touch of my T shirt on my skin hurts, everything hurts, inside and out and I occasionally lose my vision because of it. “Well, get some painkillers” I hear you cry but really none of them work for me and all I’m left with now is morphine but I am already dopey enough with the tiredness thank you, and I have to be able to drive to get to work. Those pesky bills simply won’t pay them selves!

I am in the middle of what I believe is known as a ‘fibro flare’, an exacerbation of my symptoms that happens for no apparent reason what so ever but then again no one has any idea why people develop fibromyalgia in the first place.

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So, if I accept that things hurt and that is just life, how do I deal with the tiredness? It really does not matter how long I sleep for, I will still be tired, there is no ‘catching up’. I already take an array of vitamin and mineral supplements, including turmeric for the joint inflammation, magnesium for my insomnia and now I have added ginseng for energy. I eat well but the fly in the ointment is when I am tired, the time you should really eat all the best things, it is the time that I can barely wash my own hair let alone contemplate making anything to eat. My appetite wavers a bit and I then crave bad sugar and carbs blah blah blah.

I’ve made reference to the Spoon analogy before and at the moment it is so true. I have a limited amount of energy, spoons, each day. So I have to make choices, during my flares particularly, most days. If I walk up the stairs at work will I be able to have a shower when I get home? as walking up stairs uses one spoon as does having a shower. So I mitigate my circumstances as much as possible and no, exercising and pushing on through does not help, it makes it worse. I know that I felt particularly bad on Monday as on Friday I had a half day at work and I went shopping for two hours to buy my mum a birthday gift and have a nice wander by myself. I slept until 5pm the next day. Now, one can ‘borrow’ spoons to use from the following day but then the next day you have to manage with less spoons. More crappy choices. I think what I really need is a PA and a house keeper to look after me.You know, stroke my hair, tell me I’m pretty,  and that I shouldn’t worry as everything will work out just fine.

Over the last few months I have grown to be genuinely grateful for my mum and having her around me now rarely makes me grumpy (I am clearly much sicker than first imagined!!!), but wow the guilt I feel around my 6 year old daughter is over whelming. ‘Mummy, why don’t you ever want to play with my barbie dream house?’ err because mummy is using all her energy to stay upright at the moment! – only joking, I’d never tell her the truth but she is verging on thinking that I really don’t want to play with her so I have now taken to saying ‘you know how mummy sometimes gets a bit tired? well, I’m a bit tired now so we can do either do activity a) or activity b) but not both, which would you like? but if even giving options is exhausting, alternatively we can watch a film on the good old ipad instead which she loves and I can nap. But it is very obvious to me that I am not the same person I used to be. Having less energy also means one has less enthusiasm for things which is hard because I am usually one of those annoying smiley happy excited people, ‘Spring is coming hurrah’, I adore Christmas and start decorating in October. I am tenacious and passionate and interested in so many things, the world is an amazing place, but I feel a bit like a tortoise, crawling slowly through the day, no time for distraction, just concentrating on finding the energy to put one foot in front of the other.

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When I was in hospital recently I met a lady in her 70s, we were both waiting to collect our meds. She was an academic that had lectured in economics, still bright as a button and absolutely fascinating. She told me that she lived alone and relied on her friends to help her as she had had an accident a while back and had been house bound while she was on the long road to recovery. The thing she discovered was that in order to allow your body to heal physically you had to somehow turn off your brain, stop using all your energy thinking so much, no pondering life great questions in bed alone at two in the morning. She said of course it rendered her unable to have very interesting conversations with people but that it was a necessary part of recovery that simply had to be accepted. Just allow yourself to rest and to heal. She is right, she sparked something in me, it was almost a permission to allow myself to concentrate on healing my body without feeling like failure. I saw with great clarity that while my body was poorly I had been busy trying to prove that my brain still worked and I could have interesting  informed conversations and still had lots of jolly clever ideas to share. “See, see, I am more than my failing body”…..I see how desperate I may have seemed. Maybe instead of worrying that other people would judge my abilities now that I was poorly, I should stop judging myself. I’m still me, just a hazier version of me and one that needs to lie down more often than I used to but, as my Irish mammy would say “sure, it could be worse.”