Breathe. Don’t pass out. Keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other. Pay no attention to your pain. Focus on your breathing. Focus on your legs not giving out. Don’t fall down! Ok, throwing up would be the worst right now. Here come the shakes… Breath girl! The light? Do we have to do the light? Oh no, there goes your head. I can’t see, I can’t see… This hurts too much. I can’t do this. I have to do it. Okay, let’s do it.
This was this morning in physical therapy. My physical therapist comes by once each week. Some days are good, some days are bad. Today was a great day, so we decided to do something I’ve never done before… at least not for almost 5 years: go outside.
When I go to doctor’s appointments, I’m usually taken out from my bed in a wheelchair. I have a face mask on, ear plugs, a head set, and I keep my head down between my knees to keep my blood pressure from plummeting, so I don’t faint. If I’m in the seated position too long, over with my head down, I have to get out of the chair and lay down on the ground with my knees tucked to regulate my blood pressure, breathing, and head pain. (Laying in an elevator or doctor’s office waiting room hasn’t made me any friends-yet.) When I get to the car, I lay in the backseat under pillows and blankets for arduous the drive.
Today, I wasn’t going anywhere but the porch. It was a warm overcast day, and happened to be very quiet on our road. What better day than this to do an “exposure” to sound and light? I don’t have OCD or an anxiety disorder and I’m not in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but desensitizing your body and brain to stressors and pain are very similar in traditional Physical Therapy. My PT uses Cardiac Rehab Therapy and Pain Rehab Therapy with me to get me stronger and moving… and it IS working. My fatigue is lessening, I’m stronger, I can tolerate more sound and light than I used to, I don’t pass out like before, and I’m progressing in general.
But today, there was another sensitivity I didn’t expect to encounter…
I bent over my brand new walker, slowly moving out toward the door for the first time, swapping my eye-mask for dark tinted sunglasses. Because I was pretty much blinded by the daylight, I was trying to maneuver awkwardly out the front door. My brother had joined in with my physical therapist to help me on my pilgrimage. I was so focused on all of the physical aspects written in the first paragraph that it caught me so off guard when my physical therapist wrapped his hand around my waste and grabbed my hand to help me out. That’s the moment I choked back tears. That’s the pain that hurt the worst.
It wasn’t the horrible pain in my head, the ringing in my ears, the screaming sound of birds chirping, or my heart racing from trying to be on my feet for too long, it was the caring touch of another person that reminded me so much of my ex-spouse… that almost took me down.
Maybe that sounds creepy to you, but if you have a condition like CRPS/RSD in which people around you are unsure where and how they can touch you, so much that they decide it’s best not to at all, you understand the touch aspect of this. Or, if you are no longer with your once-significant other, you will understand missing supportive touch, like a pat on the back, or an outreached hand when they notice you need help down a step.
Today was 2 firsts. I went out onto the porch successfully. I knocked out another goal! Wahoo! I turned my low pain day into a triumph. It was also a day I realized how much I miss supportive touch. I really want to find ways to incorporate touch back into my life, however physically painful, so it isn’t this emotionally painful to be without.
“Touch has a memory.”
― John Keats
If you’re buying for a loved one with a chronic illness this holiday season, I have you covered with these gift suggestions, links, gadgets and creative ideas to help you find the perfect present especially for them!
*Starred items are sold by disabled entrepreneurs.
Those of us with chronic conditions tend to have extreme dry skin. Personally, I also have extra sensitive skin (because I hit the genetic jackpot). A deep moisturizing product with collagen or an anti-aging night mask helps soak into that dehydrated skin. Mary Kay’s Extra Emollient Night Cream at only $14, has been a top seller for decades. My mother used it from the time I was a little girl and she has always had beautiful skin. My sister and I love it, so it’s definitely one of those heirloom products you pass down through generations. Now I’m passing it on to you! I recently heard a woman in a chronic illness support group suggest that this cream works better than antibiotic ointment for healing her sores caused by autoimmune disease. I wish I could give a bit of this to everyone suffering from chronic dry skin.
I’ve been scouting medical alert bracelets, and these are my top picks specifically for those of us with multiple conditions, rare diseases, or complex health needs.
These fabulous medical ID Italian charm bracelets are available on Gadow jewelry, Ebay, and Etsy for between $20-$40. The individual links are sold separately, and I love that they can be custom ordered. If you want to add a new diagnosis, or take a medication off, links can be added or.removed easily. If you lose or gain weight, they can be easily adjusted by adding or removing a couple links. I also love the idea that you can mix your serious seizure condition alert charm next to a sparkly pink unicorn charm just for funzies 😁 As far as EMT paramedics go, in an emergency, they’re more likely to look for an alert bracelet rather than searching for a necklace, key chain, or wallet card, etc.
The new tech trend in medical info/alert jewelry is sporting a hidden USB in your bling. If you have ever been at the ER, urgent care, or doctor appointment when you couldn’t advocate for yourself, then you might see the benefits of medical USB jewelry. This technology is available in a broad range of styles from bracelets, key chains, necklaces at every price point.
One thing I learned when I entered the POTS world is that they have the lockdown on health technology!
Since you can get a quick-read blood pressure cuff at any drug store, I’m going to try and kick it up a notch here.
Today, smart watches can read heartrate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level, along with tracking steps, distance, calories burned and has a sleep companion which all syncs with your mobile. It comes in Dysautonomia blue as well as black; price range on Amazon, $93-$250. If this works as well as the company claims, that is one heck of a Dysautonomiac invention!
I learned Biofeedback 11 years ago to help me manage pain, stress and sleep. Four years ago, when all the crazy Dysautonomia and POTS symptoms undid my body, I started whipping out my Biofeedback techniques like my life depended on it (well, it has). Learning to have better control over typically automatic responses like breathing, heart rate, blood flow, circulation, and blood pressure are very challenging, but can be so helpful in conditions affecting the heart, nervous system, or in conditions which interrupt sleep.
This amazing Biofeedback and Neurofeedback smart phone app was made by a little known group you might know called THE US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE! The app can monitor respiratory rate, skin responses, temperature changes, as well as brain waves. Check out more about this FREE app here at Neurogadget.com which includes links to purchase the biosensor devices for your smart phone. Good job, America!
I can’t say enough about compression socks. And now, they are finally cute! You can even find printed compression leggings. They help us keep the “blood pooling” or edema to a minimum by encouraging circulation. Compression stockings displace blood from the lower extremities and squeeze it into the upper body where we are desperately lacking. It also lowers vascular issues in the legs and helps prevent strokes. This is one pair of socks that earn their keep! Check more cute compression socks links here on my last gift guide for people with Chronic Pain.
If you know someone with Dysautonomia, POTS, or Hypotension, then you know we are a little obsessed with our salt intake to raise our blood pressure. For the holidays, turn your loved one into a connoisseur of specialty salts by allowing them to sample 6 different types of sea salts from around the world. Purchase through Amazon, made by The Spice Lab, for only $29.95. They arrive in a wooden stand, nestled in a kraft gift box. Or, spice up your loved one’s pallet with specialty seasoned salts. SaltWorks.com creates 5 unique salt blends like Merlot salt and black truffle salt in their Fusion Flavored Salt Sampler, $26.95. Mmmm, pardon my drool!
Fellow Dysautonomia fighter and advocate, Suzanne Stewart makes fabulous custom awareness jewelry to your desire. A portion of her earnings go to help chronic illness organizations because her rapidly beating, pace-maker equipped heart is also full and generous! Take a look at her website, *Support in Jewerly, and order something pretty for the chronic diva in your life.
Dr. Lam, a leading expert on Dysautonomia, has developed Tai Chi for Rehabilitation, $24.95. I first learned about Tai Chi for Dysautonomia from POTS and chronic pain blogger, Elle and the Auto Gnome who attributes Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi in part for her improvement. The DVD’s can be adapted to a sitting position or even (as I’m learning) a flat position, thanks to my cardiac rehab therapist. [If you give a gift of “
healing” to a friend with a chronic illness, it’s best to include it in addition to her main gift. Otherwise, it may send a negative message to us that we aren’t doing enough for our health in your eyes.]
Artist, Sarah Allegra has developed this magical *2016 Calendar with Red Bubble, depicting her favorite images. Sarah Allegra is not only a provoking photographer, she also suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME/SEID which always influences her art. She is an activist, raising awareness through her blog, Mythic Pictures, as well as through her expressive images which speak volumes. If your loved one has severe fatigue associated with her disorder, often artwork can say so much more than words.
Other awesome gift ideas include: a nice juicer/blender $30-$200, electric toothbrush $5-$200, Funny original Awareness tops $20-$30 on Zazzle and Cafepress, Whole Foods gift card, Amazon gift card, vitamin shop gift card, massage gift certificate, electrolyte drink drops, or ear plugs.
As you are shopping for your friend, consider that she has to lay down A LOT due to chronic daily fatigue and because of many other symptoms causing falling or potentially fainting when she tries to get up and around. Anything cozy, things she can do laying down, and compact items she can keep near her bedside are all ways to play the chronic shopping game. Thank you for playing! Most of all, your solid presence in your loved one’s life is already a win as far as they are concerned. Just so you know, you are the best! Thank you for visiting,
Find out what my gift-giving NO NO’s are when shopping for your chronically ill/ disabled loved one here.