Because of my chronic monsters, the upcoming “Miracle Day”(aka wedding) will require some special technology. I’ve been prepping for about a year, and have done some research to quiet my critters. Would you like to see some of the gear I’ve found?
Even though I am still uncertain how my body will react at the wedding and how long all of my issues (see my about page for specifics) will allow me to stay at the ceremony, having this “armor” makes me feel more ready to attempt this ‘impossible’ feat. I know everything will be in the red zone, but my sister is counting on putting eyes on me when she is at the alter. She needs me there, so these little gadgets are going to add minutes to my miracle- and some extra minutes are all we need, baby! A good friend of mine thesickdiva blog said she’s praying my endorphin’s will kick in and I’ll be there for an hour instead. That would be amazing! Thank you, Jenny!
Ear plugs– I have so many different kinds. I usually use the soft foam kind for comfort. PS, these come in many sound-blocking capacities. But for this special occasion, I’ve purchased Decubulz which have the highest NRR available. I have yet to mold and fit them, which will take help, and boiling water, so we’ll see if they work as well as advertised. I’ll let you know how they work out.
Headgear– Bose wireless sound canceling headset has been on my wishlist for a long time. They have been such a blessing since the holidays! (Thank you Aunt Darlene.) I don’t know how I ever lived without them. Before, I was using gunrange type headgear, and they were not only very tight and painful, but they didn’t offer much sound protection. The Bose are the best sound protection available, and much more comfortable resting on my neuropathic head and face. I like that I can wear them as needed, and then I can flip the switch on the side for the sound blocking feature before my head explodes. It helps turn down the pain and some of the fight or flight sensory overload symptoms. I wish it blocked out all sound, but they are a big improvement over any other headset I’ve tried.
Theraspecs Sunglasses– I did a great deal of research on migraine reducing shades before deciding. Many of my friends have prescription eye wear for light sensitivity, but a physically wearing trip to a new doctor plus lights being shone in my eyes for new specs was off the table for myself, though if you are reading this with headache disorders triggered by light, prescription shades is one of the options. I was relieved to find there are many kinds of shades to choose from. My friends said to look into Serengeti shades, sporting eyewear, and rose tinted lenses. I did. I soon found this company, Theraspecs, which was started by a woman whose severe migraines are brought on by light. She and her husband make lenses with several kinds of filters, (including FL41) and will even custom make your shades if you send in your favorite frames (winning!). Since getting mine from Theraspecs, I notice a big difference in screen brightness from my laptop, Kindle and phone. I’ve yet to try them outdoors, but I’ll be giving them a spin in a couple of evenings! My Aunt also got a pair of theraspecs custom made, so we will give you an update on head pain reduction. We were both very impressed with the level of communication from the company, and customer service.
Bride’s Maid Dress– We were told to pick our own dresses (with criteria). I absolutely love the one I found. As you can imagine, I have not purchased any (non-pajama) clothing for a very long time. I’m so excited to wear it! I haven’t worn makeup in quite a while, either and found some fab red lipstick that I hope will accentuate my pale…ehem porcelain complexion. (The sale price is not what I paid.) ASOS is one of my favorite online clothing shops for gifts and “lounge wear.” Here are one of my accessories that I’m excited about wearing as well; it’s both functional and fabulous. If anything else, I will be put-together on the outside! (wink)
Reclining Wheelchair– Such exciting news!!! Even though last week was one of the worst in a long time (that’s saying something folks!), this wheelchair was such an amazing gift to my life! I’m so stoked about this! Thank you for celebrating its arrival with me, and allowing me to share it with you all!!! My reclining wheelchair was not only approved by insurance, it was already delivered! Isn’t she pretty? We usually have to rent one, and now, we have one for keepsies. As I’ve shared here before, my Postural Othostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) only allows me to sit or stand upright for a couple short minutes before going into Pre-syncope (starting to get sick and pass out). But if I’m in a reclining position, my POTS will stay in check. That is a huge relief! If I am forced to be upright for more than I can tolerate, my health can go into a setback for a while. I know this wheelchair will be an awesome step forward on my journey, and hope it leads to great progression for my life! (If your insurance has not approved your chair, try Invacare on Ebay for new, inexpensive, high quality chairs with free shipping.)
Nurse/ home health aid– I’ve had a home health aid come every week for the last several months (game-changer), and she will be assisting me at the wedding. Because of her help, no one in my family will be distracted by me, and they can focus on my sister and the wonderful event
! A great relief to both me and my sister. When I told my sister my aid would bring me to her wedding, I could tell it lifted a weight off of her shoulders. This newer aid has never taken me out of the house, so I admit that I am anxious about that. My ex-husband is really the only person who was fully aware of all of my transport issues and needs when we would attempt to go to doctor’s appointments. I’m putting a lot of trust in her professional ability and experience with other patients. She hasn’t failed me yet!
Blood pressure cuff– This is just my boring reliable old blood pressure cuff from Walgreens. We got it way back in 2011 when my one monster (RSD) invited a whole crew of critters to the party. I don’t sit around measuring my BP for kicks, but we’ll bring it along in the car just in case.
Though I wish I had a temperature controlled, sound-proof bubble I could participate in the wedding through, I can only prepare so much. We’ve been planning for over a year, I’ve been in physical therapy for months, and I have every item to make my body as cooperative as it will get. If I had not gone through all I did this past year, I don’t know if I would be ready for this day. That is a ray of sunshine coming through these clouds because I love my sister more than anything.
Just as my sister is planning all of the details to make the day as beautiful and memorable as possible, I’m planning for a smooth event as well. We can’t approach it with fear. No day is perfect, but how we enter into it mentally can change the memory completely. For me, the truth is that it will be painful and frightening. I will have to recover for a while afterward. If I can go to be present for their vows between 10-20 minutes, that would be so incredible! It will be a triumph and so precious to be there supporting my sister, her soon to be wife and our families.
I’m so honored and privileged to be her maid of honor. It has been a joy to contribute to her wedding in my own ways. I have some little surprises for her and her bride for the day of, which I’m getting excited for. It has been very difficult, sometimes heartbreaking (for both of us) not to be involved like I would be, like I SHOULD be. That river runs deep for us both, but more importantly, so does our relationship. For the ceremony, I don’t know if anything could stop me from being there in any way I could be. She is my heart. Of everything that has gone on in my own life in the last few years, wedding planning has been such a bright light I am so grateful to be included in. See you on the flip side! Thank you for rolling along with me.
There are many things you can forgive your body for, but there are moments, relationships, days in life you miss which you will never get back, unforgettable, unforgivable events you are denied in the face of disability. My body is broken, and she continues to break my heart.
This is how those of us with chronic diseases struggle so deeply to have “self love.” Trapped inside bodies that attack us, and hearts which shoulder the guilt of our loved one’s pain from the hurt our illnesses have caused- child, love thyself. Love your abuser. Forgive the one which harms those you love the most. Forgive, forgive, forgive….
Body, you have taken my choices from me all of my adult life. Body, you are the abusive relationship I have never been able to flee. Body, you have stolen my health, my career, fun, freedom… my dreams. No permission was granted to you, yet you take all you touch. You are a jealous, volatile disease, and you only care about your own needs. I have suffered abuse and trauma at the hands of doctors on your account, though, you still batter me without compassion. I’ve been abandoned and made to feel worthless, INVISIBLE because of you body; I’ve had enough of your games!
Body, I break up with you. Sorry, not sorry.
I tear you from my soul and leave you. I will still care for you, because I am obligated. I am bound to you in ways I cannot choose, but I will no longer adore you. I will not call you my own. We are committed to one another, but I turn my back to you, body. From here on out, you will be “Body” and I will go forward being Me.
This is my self love. This is my self compassion. This is my choice.
I rage against your victimization. Your assault on my essence is over. I choose to make my life despite you, in spite of you!
I choose, I choose, I choose.
My flesh and bone surrenders, but my spirit rises up! Your reign, your emotional and psychological torture is over. Call it dissociation, call it compartmentalizing, call it what you will- it IS a detachment, and it is necessary.
I sign the papers and I box up your things. You can live in the basement and I will now and forevermore preside upstairs, in charge of THIS HOUSE.
Sign here X _________________
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This time last year, I published my first and only post detailing life with POTS and my recovery process, My Toothbrush, My Trophy. One hour after hitting the publish button: BOOM, I was back in the hospital for more POTS shenanigans. It felt like some kind of blog jinx! October is POTS Awareness month, and last year my body threw a parade in honor of it.
For me, the thing about POTS is that I didn’t know there was an illness I couldn’t fight my way through. With chronic pain, I had forced my body into submission for so many years- all of my adult life in fact. Whether I needed to utilize walking aids, medications, treatments, or therapies, my crippling pain hadn’t kept me from working, going to school, or being there for my husband and family. So, when my autonomic nervous system kicked it (and it really crapped out on me), I was (and still am) shocked that my willpower has not been enough to overcome.
Last October, the ER doctors thought I was having a heart attack because my chest pains were so intense, like electric jolts piercing my heart. I had experienced chest pains, palpitations, and a racing heart (tachycardia) regularly for years with the onset of POTS, however nothing as intense as the pain that began that morning. The ER had never heard of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or Dysautonomia before (go figure). They didn’t know what my other conditions were either (of course) but I wasn’t as concerned about those at the time. We explained how once upright, my blood pressure drops and heart races, and my autonomic nervous system shuts down. “Oh, almost everyone has that,” the ER doctor said under his breath, chuckling. “Well doctor, everyone doesn’t almost pass out every time they try to sit or stand up,” I whispered through my head pain, angry that he would assume I am confined to lie flat in a bed for years shrouded with earplugs, a headset, and an eye mask- all over a little dizziness upon standing. (Sure, everyone has that). Keep in mind, this is tucked into a tiny dimmed closet-size room in the ER, as my hypersensitivity to light and sound exacerbates my ongoing migraine disorder too much to be around noise. I lucked out with a sweet nurse who knew what RSD was, and she was the only reason I was given special accommodations. They did multiple tests at the hospital, then through the week, I had several rounds of tests at my Cardiologist’s office. You know, the usual fun…
Verdict? They couldn’t find any reason for my heart to experience the additional pain. That was excellent news. POTS is a nervous system condition which effects the way the heart behaves; it isn’t a cardiac condition effecting the way the body behaves. No heart condition- score!
Conclusion: Since they couldn’t find any cause for the pain and onset of increased symptoms, the next 5 months thereafter were out of the doctor’s hands. (Thanks doc!) My fatigue and brain fog were unwavering. Just trying to move my fingers across the keyboard, holding my phone to text, or forming complete thoughts enough to compile a short blog post became so trying…so overwhelming…so frustrating… my short-lived recovery progress had taken a step in the wrong direction. For the first 2 years after the POTS began, I was in stasis mode. Pancake body, syrup brain. I was so ill and no one knew how to help me. After the spinal procedures in 2011 which threw my body into this tangle of illness, I was basically a lump of pain and un-moving frustrated flesh. Having finally made my first bit of progress last year, working so hard to use the restroom on my own and do some of my own personal hygiene from bed, falling backward again was not in my recovery plan! By last Christmas, I became depressed that my body was no longer moving forward and I was still stuck in the same bed going on 4 years after all of the doctors, hospitals, medications and hard work. (If you follow my blog, my posts reflected my disposition.)
Many with autonomic nervous system dysfunction (dysautonomia) carry on normally, dealing with bouts of dizziness or feeling lightheaded periodically. About a quarter of those with POTS are too disabled to work a job. And a small percentage have symptoms which are so severe, they are confined to a bed and may be hospitalized regularly. I fall into the last category, though I haven’t been hospitalized for a whole year- take that chronic illness! (Let’s not count the times I’ve ignored my doctor’s recommendations to go to the ER). A very large number of those with POTS are teen girls. Awareness and treatment options are lacking for the estimated 70 million individuals living with Dysautonomia worldwide. [Dysautonomia International] Conditions like EDS, Fibromyalgia, CRPS/RSD, heart attack, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME/SEID, Chiari Malformation, stroke, Intracranial Hypertension, Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury and Parkinson’s can cause Dysautonomia and POTS. To find out if you or a loved one have POTS, see a cardiologist for a “tilt table test” and cardiac monitoring.
Symptomatically, POTS is compared to Congestive Heart Failure, COPD, and massive blood loss. I’ve learned that everyone with Dysautonomia experiences it a little differently, but the most prominent symptoms for me have been low blood pressure, fatigue, confusion, trouble concentrating (brain fog), extreme hypersensitivity to sound and light, brain fog, head pain, trouble breathing, syncope/pre-syncope (fainting or almost fainting), vertigo, brain fog, muscle shaking, weakness, trouble digesting and absorbing food (gastroparesis), bladder dysfunction, chest pain, heart palpitations, brain fog, weak pulse laying down, heart racing when upright, orthostatic intolerance, brain fog, and temperature change intolerance…did I remember brain fog?
It took 2 years for me to get properly diagnosed with POTS and Dysautonomia because pain management doctors and primary care doctors don’t know what it is, what the symptoms are, or how to treat it. Just yesterday, my pain management doctor tried to argue that I developed it from “laying around too much” when the immediate onset was actually damage to my spinal cord. For individuals with POTS, the opposite is true. Pushing yourself to do more than your body allows can send your blood pressure plummeting for weeks or months putting you into an almost comatose state, can cause fevers, flu-like symptoms, severe fatigue, wide-spread physical pain, swelling or “blood pooling”, and a long list of intensified symptoms (see all Dysautonomia symptoms here). Last October, for instance, I believe my trip to the ER and subsequent 5 month puddle-of-me was the result of pushing myself to climb a flight of stairs.
Thankfully, this past spring, my body let up enough to allow me back on my journey toward recovery. (Que happy music.) I’m currently doing home physical therapy from bed with a knowledgeable cardiac rehab therapist, I have new goals for my life, and when I am faced with my body’s set-backs, I’ll try not to allow my frustrations to defeat me.
After many years of pain I then came on a time of suffering so unforgiving, it appeared my body would not make it out alive. But finally, I feel an awakening is upon me. In some ways, I believe my brain is renewing itself.
The putrid smell and taste of physical rottenness dissipated. The illness and ongoing pain have not left me by any means whatsoever, yet over this past year I have felt a change occurring inside of my mind. Maybe a transformation.
I did not realize how large a gap I had put between myself and my body these past years. I suppose the traumas experienced under medical care contributed to my drifting. My complete and sudden loss of physical independence surely didn’t help. However, there was no crueler attacker than my own body. To endure this unending physical pain and other debilitating maladies, I must have cut so many ties between me and my lump of person. To live under a physical betrayal so strong you realize no sense of personal willpower can guide the outcome- was an enormous blow. The only way to survive it was to drift beyond my physical self.
~Free My Self~
After the damage to my brain.
After disengaging from my great betrayer: my body.
After the pain went from unspeakable to so immeasurable,
I could no longer speak.
After there were doctors who were unafraid
to use uninvited hands on my body in its weakened state.
After family members had to dress and clean my flesh.
Yes, “my self” liberated from “my body.”
It had to, you see?
This recent awakening began with feeling present again. And new creative thoughts and senses followed. More than my only thoughts, “just breathe, drink, eat.” After years of survival alone, something new surfaced, like a tiny green sprout pushing its way through heavy concrete.
For the past few years, eating has been an uncomfortable challenge and chore. Although I have little appetite, I notice the smell of foods with a new curiosity. And my tastes have changed. I favor different foods and savor scents, flavors and textures I never enjoyed before.
All of my life I have been a sort of “Tom Boy.” Collecting bugs and rocks as a child, preferring to play outside with boys, spending far less time thinking of my appearance than most girls and women it has seemed. The only lotions or perfumes I own have been gifts. But coming into this renewal of myself, I have become acutely aware of my skin. For so long I didn’t have any connection to my flesh-I have even detested it in some ways. The betrayal, the dying, stinking body I could feel slipping away from this world. But it fought. It held onto life! And now, I dab a scented lotion onto my living body in appreciation. I inhale the mild fragrance all day knowing I am the bearer of this pleasant lingering smell.
When did my eyes become attracted to jewel tones like fuchsia and purple? I long to shop for clothes and home decor some day. What!? This is unlike me altogether. Then, as I practice my handwriting, it appears much more feminine than before (my scribble used to be a family joke). Reuniting with my body has brought about a womanly change in me. And I do feel different. Aware of new things. So much has occurred; I don’t think I can go ever back to being that person I used to be. I may as well transform into someone new.
My brain is making connections and is attempting to make friends with my flesh once again. Obviously, there are some new connections, as well. It is challenging to make friends with a body that constantly bites back, but some friendships are difficult yet still rewarding, right? I’m learning a lot about Neuroplasticity and how much the brain renews itself. I hope in time I will be making even more transformations. Who knows what other discoveries I will make along the way and what new connections I might find.
Please visit her enchanting shops of original prints and leather goods to purchase something beautiful for your home or gifts!
This entry has been included in The Spoonie Daily online magazine!
In 2004 I read Christopher Reeve’s autobiography, Still Me. I had recently been diagnosed with a neurological condition which was quickly crippling me at 22. And Superman had just died.
I didn’t so much read the book as I did listen to it on audio book. Christopher Reeve’s voice filled my car as he read his own words. I still remember how his breathing machine sounded as he gasped for air while still comforting me with his powerful life’s message of hope, courage and perseverance.
While Christopher Reeve’s autobiography is one of the most inspiring and memorable books I have ever read, this story is about Robin Williams and their friendship.
After the dashing hero’s tragic accident, he was in the hospital for months. He underwent a series of surgeries and it was clear he would never regain feeling or movement below his neck. In the days after, Reeve had lost all hope, yet he could not even take his own life, had he tried.
Superman’s best friend was a fuzzy little curly-haired man with sparkling blue eyes and enough energy to light up Manhattan. Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve had met long before either of them were recognizable. They were roommates in college at Julliard and remained best friends thereafter, supporting each other’s acting careers and their families spent time together.
Robin Williams appeared in Reeve’s hospital room, fully dressed in scrubs and a face mask, speaking in a Russian accent. “Time for your rectal exam!” Williams exclaimed. He spent the day visiting with Reeve and helping his friend regain the much-needed light he had lost.
In his book, Christopher Reeve wrote, “For the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”
Reeve and his wife went on to change the face of spinal cord injuries along with the perception and treatment of paralysis through the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Robin Williams became involved in Reeve’s foundation, and they continued encouraging each other over the years. Williams took a greater role in the foundation after Reeve and his wife passed…what a great friend.
Ever since reading Reeve’s autobiography, whenever I would see Robin Williams, I thought: he may have saved his best friend’s life. And without that friend to penetrate the darkness and shine a light on the hope he could not grasp on his own, Reeve may have never started the foundation which has been a beacon for so many individuals. We all know Robin Williams for his abundance of sensational talents. However, I think I can take liberty in saying that those who he loved knew the kind of friend he was and the legacy of love he will leave behind with them.
My first entry is dedicated to Robin Williams and to friends who lift each other up out of dark places.