Just Keeping it Real

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just start by writing about the Good in my life. I have so many things I feel incredibly thankful for, but I want to share the fact that I am officially off of the opioids! Yay!

No thanks to the pain management doctor though. He was becoming less and less helpful in working with me tapering off. I think the pain clinics will take your money as long as they can while they push for you to try the “new and improved” spinal cord stimulator or another spinal injection (I’ve had 18 of those injections and they never worked, but I knew it kept my doctor(s) happy and me leaving the office with new scripts).

I had been at a standstill for months and was really, really frustrated. Then the morning of my last scheduled appointment (in August) I simply woke up and said, “I’m done.” That was a defining moment for me. Not showing up to an appointment could easily break my pain management contract. And with the opioid epidemic, it was no secret that it was getting harder and harder to find pain management doctors that would accept the responsibility of new patients.

But I truly felt those words, “I’m done”. They were Soul Words. It was a Body-Mind-Spirit moment of consciousness; the kind that can make your toes curl, like the blissful moment you fall into an orgasm. But unlike orgasms, Soul Words tended to elude me. This was profoundly different than saying “I’m working on getting off these meds that I’ve been taking for the past decade”, which I always meant each time I said it, but during that mind-blowing moment it became crystal clear to me that I would be on the meds as long as a dr. told me I needed them; that it was okay; go on, have some more. It was all simultaneous, and from the very center of my Soul, the Source of those two powerful words, I faced honesty and truth without judgement and without doubt. I was done. So I didn’t go to that appointment.

The next day I felt a little uneasy, but I put on a new fentanyl patch (which would end up being my final one) and began to take note of when I actually “needed” a pill for the breakthrough pain. I was still being prescribed 180 of the 10mg oxycodones for the “breakthrough” pain each month to take along with the fentanyl. I’ve been prescribed as many as 210 pills with the 15 patches; but this didn’t change the fact that I had way more than I should. Way more than I needed. People without the opioid tolerance are usually sent home after surgery with 30 pills of 5mg oxy, vicodin, percocet, etc. with maybe one refill, if they’re lucky. For me, that would be like getting a box of Tic Tacs, because every month the pharmacist would hand me enough opioids to kill a pack of mules.

Making the decision that I was done made me realize what a habit it had become to just take a breakthrough pain pill at the first sign of pain, even the slightest twinge. You see, it had been drilled into my head that “you can’t let the pain get too bad because it’ll be harder to get under control”. Well, of course I didn’t want that to happen!

Now I had to face the unpleasant task of re-shaping my thoughts and begin to lessen my fear of something getting out of control. Oh, the irony! At first it was awful to make myself stop each time I reached for pill and ask, what else can I try first? (and not in conjunction with?). I knew I would have to deal with some additional discomfort than what I already lived with every day.

I knew I could try an ice pack. A warm epsom salt bath. Some gentle yoga. Qigong. Meditation. The tens unit. The compound cream. Writing. Creating. Reading. Even that awful acupressure mat. I had this mental list of the things I knew I could try first and If those things failed, I took some Advil or Tylenol. Then I took an oxy. Sometimes another one an hour later. Then I began to notice that as I reached for the pills less and less, the first options were working better and better.

It took a long time though.

And I am not a patient person.

I knew I had hit a milestone when I began breaking the oxys in half. Little by little, day by day, I made progress. Then something totally amazing happened. I went a day without any pills and didn’t even realize it until I went to bed and saw half an oxy from the day before still sitting there on the shelf of my medicine cabinet.

I’m in no more pain than when I was on the opioids. I haven’t had any worse Fibromyalgia flare-ups either (my rheumatologist had once told me that long-term opioid use can actually cause Fibro). Well, no dwelling on the past decade, eh?

My therapist told me it could take another month or two to get my serotonin and dopamine levels back to normal, but at least he’s not suggesting we increase my antidepressants. I will more than likely be on the neurontin the rest of my life because of nerve damage from surgery #1. But I’m okay with that.

Moving forward, I ended up flushing 6 leftover patches and 97 oxycodones. l still have the other half of the last oxycodone sitting on the middle shelf of my medicine cabinet. When I see it every morning and night when I take my other meds, I think about how it no longer has any power over me. It’s a reminder of how far I have come.

Many Blessing on Your Journey )O(

To Start Where I Am

Since chronic pain came into my life 9 years ago, I’ve been trying to deal with a new way of living and with it a whole new way of thinking. And I’ve done a lot of thinking in the past few weeks as I’ve hit some highs and then some low-down lows.There were times in the past week and a half that I couldn’t get out of bed. There have been days in the past week where light and sound were excruciating to my senses. Two days ago I dropped a dinner plate when my hand spasmed and all I could do was helplessly look at the shattered pieces on the floor.

The feeling of helplessness just builds up…and up…and up….

When I’m having a really bad episode and all I can do is lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, I notice a cobweb in the corner. I’ll turn my head and see an empty water glass that needs to be washed. When I turn the other way I see that my closet is messy. For days, sometimes weeks, (at one point about five years ago it had been almost 6 months) my eyes and mind will focus on all the imperfections in my home and see it as a reflection of me as a person. Me as a wife and mother and how I cannot care for those I love the most.

Then when I begin the upswing of good days, I can’t simply snap my fingers and make all the stress disappear. I fill up with anxiety every time I see my overloaded inbox, the empty refrigerator, and the giant piles of laundry. Then I’m like a lot of chronic pain sufferers in that when I have one decent feeling day, I will run around frantically trying to catch up. I’ll clean like a maniac in hopes I can get it all done before the pain returns. And it always does, and at that point it’s usually pissed.

Even after all these years, I’ve yet to fully come to terms with my illness and pain. I’ve read countless books on my conditions and have seen the top specialists. I’ve been coaxed into getting reacquainted with my body (a body that seemed to no longer like me) in order to be more in tune to our (its) rhythm. I’ve learned about energy management and how to create a schedule that works for me. I have seen the need to pattern my week so that I have active days followed by more restful days. I know I have to to do a little bit at a time to prepare for holidays, vacations, or long, hectic days. (I’m eternally grateful that things were good for the California trip) I’ve been schooled in the ways of expressing what my needs are and how to drop my pride when I have to ask for help.

Easier said than done.

I readily grasped the idea to make an outline for my life. I’m excellent at brainstorming ideas and making plans and schedules, but I’m absolutely terrible at following through. You see, I’m a list-maker. I LOVE to make lists. I have a list for nearly everything. Things I need to do, things I want to do, things I need help with, menu planning lists, shopping lists, need to follow-up on lists, home project lists, and on and on it goes.

During the bad times I’ll have short-term memory issues and terrible brain fog, getting easily confused (especially with dates and phone numbers). So I have spiral bound notebooks in every corner of the house (and in my project studio, but let’s not even go there) so that I can jot down ideas and plans as they come to me. Then when I get too many of these ideas and lists and sketches scattered about, I will tear them out and slip them into clear sheet protectors and then place them in the correct three-ring binder, complete with labeled tabs.

Then after I have everything in order, I don’t know where to begin. Which binder was the kids’ back to school supply list in? Where was the list for treatment plans? Where was the mind-map for my dream week? This eventually leads me to the fact that the current organizational system isn’t working.

So I’ll spend time flipping through the shiny plastic coated papers and sort them into new categories. Then I’ll begin to rearrange the tabs, like I’d like to rearrange my life.

I know what you’re probably thinking. That I’m a control freak. Anal. OCD. Manic. Micro-manager. Perfectionist. Hypercritical. Persnickety. Wonder Woman Wannabe.

I raise my hand in surrender. I’m all of the above…most of the time.

So here I go again. I have pared down to one small binder and I’ve put the other binders away. I am back to the basics with my original, simple day to day plan. I know it works because some of my best months in the past few years have been when I followed it. The problem has always been easing back into the routine after being out of commission for more than a few days. The perfectionist in me doesn’t want to just jump in where I am. I want to start with a clean, perfect house. I’m even sure there is such a thing. Or I think it’ll be best if I start at the beginning of the month. Or after ___________.

Well it’s Monday. I suppose it’s as good a day as any to start. I got out of bed and showered. I even followed my ‘routine’ for the day. I’ll be honest. I had a little bit of difficulty following my plan today. It wasn’t hard remembering what needed to be done, but hard to pace myself. To not panic. To not work ahead. To make myself stop between things. To not do two things at once. To have realistic expectations. And to celebrate the small successes as long as I was making progress.

Today wasn’t perfect, but I think I can call it a success.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

The Swamp Thing; Sweat, Tears, and Triumph

I think back to my sappy post from a few weeks ago and am amazed at what all happened between then and now.

I will admit that yes, my husband is sweet and caring and thoughtful and good in bed. And yes he missed us like crazy while he was gone. Yet I found myself rolling my eyes when I saw the fourth text from him within an hour. Wasn’t he supposed to be busy doing all that fancy biomedical training?

He left us with big hugs and kisses and even the sweet little journals, but he also left the pool looking like shit. I mean Swamp Shit. I asked him for weeks if he could get the pool up and running before he left on his trip. I never really paid much attention to what he was actually doing, just that he was working on the pool. Besides, he knew what he was doing. And what a relief, because it was going to be getting hot and the kids were going to want to swim. Come to find out after he left (he was lucky he had already left the state of Oregon) he actually filled it with water after almost a year of non-use. My only guess was that he thought he could do shock treatments daily and the pool fairy would come in the middle of the night and voila! (I’m sure there is a pool fairy, but she’s probably a smart, sassy undine who didn’t want to help him anyway). He had to have been hoping I didn’t go and look over his shoulder or check on the progress he wasn’t making. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking, but I sure as hell know what I was thinking.

It was very warm that first week, and the kids were wanting to swim so badly. But after one look at that nasty water I knew I wasn’t letting them so much as dip their big toe in that pool.

So I did what any crazy Mother Bear with fibromyalgia, CFS, ruptured discs, spine hardware, and an “I’ll show him”attitude would do and spent the day draining the pool. Early the next morning I scrubbed and shop vac’d as much and as fast as I could because I desperately needed to refill it before the plastic hardened (the temperature was going to reach the high 90’s that day). I refilled it, scrubbed and rinsed both the filter and the pump and sprayed out the skimmer. For the next several days I spent hours using the broom and net. I checked the chlorine and pH, and added more chlorine. The levels were fine but there was still some debris floating in the water. The skimmer wasn’t doing as good a job as I had hoped. It was also still a bit cloudy. So I gave it a dose of shock treatment and by the next morning the water was clear but all the the debris had sunk to the bottom forming a gross sludge.

Here I was at the end of week one and also at my wit’s end. But I wasn’t about to give up. I began rigging a pool vac. I had no idea what I was doing other than slowly morphing into an absolute lunatic; but I was cleaning that pool even if it killed me. I had wielded my nightmare into becoming my quest and I spent 5 hours, a ton of duct tape, an extra garden hose, pool hose, and shop vac hose…. and after a ton of trial (the original pool vac was completely useless by the way) and error, cuss words, and more trial and error, I must say I’m proud of the crazy looking thing I thought up. With a good siphon trick, (with a little added suction boost from the pool fairy who had been watching all of my hard work and was obviously now on my side) I was well on my way to victory. I was going to conquer the monster from the bottom of the pool and the demon within.

Towards the end I felt a burst of much needed energy as I pictured my significant other sleeping at the Marriott getting fresh towels daily and his bed made for him. I was sure he had already swam plenty of times while I had been here working my butt off so that our kids could get the chance to. He was fed meals during his classes and given a $27.00 per night dinner allowance while I was too tired and in pain to cook, doling out freezer meals to the kids that I had warmed in the microwave.

Several hours after I had finally finished the pool my husband called. He asked why I hadn’t answered any of his texts. I curtly responded that I hadn’t had much of a chance to look at my phone. Without much pause he told me about his Sunday afternoon. He went for a walk to the city center where he decided to watch the new Star Trek movie and then wandered around the mall for a while. Then on his leisurely stroll back he sent me pictures of the scenery, the park, the neat statues, etc. He then made an offhand comment about me sending him some pictures of myself later on.

That was it. I felt like an enraged cartoon character (think Tom the blue cat or Wile E. Coyote) red with anger, whistling like a steaming hot tea kettle about to blow. I had held it together, kept my complaints to a minimum, was supportive of him. But now all bets were off. I spoke through a clenched jaw to keep my voice down as I explained to him what kind of Hell I had been living in. My fingers were cracked and raw from all the stupid tape and I had a horrific sunburn. And on and on went my tirade. I felt so much better afterwards and had a good cry. All while he was still on the phone.

I had done one of my crash and burn cycles plenty of times before, and I spent the next 7 days recovering from the pain flare that I caused myself. The kids did get to swim a lot the next few days while I lounged in the adirondack watching them splash each other and play “shark”. All I needed then was a cute straw hat and an ice cold lemonade.

And as much as I hated to admit it, I also felt a deep need for my husband. Maybe it was my triumph. Maybe I was proud to prove to him I could do it. Perhaps it was because I realized I had the strength to do something so physically challenging by myself. Or quite possibly it was after faithful daily Qigong practices of the 8 Brocades, some heartfelt journaling, meditation, a myofascial release massage, and extra helpings of pain medication and supplements. Maybe a combination of all those things. All I knew was that I actually missed the lazy ass.

Many Blessings on Your Journeys of Triumph )O(

Making Magick With Shel Silverstein & Chicken Noodle Soup

When the kids get sick I have a knee-jerk reaction to find out how I could have prevented it. The Goddess knows that I try and be a great mom, but the reality of it is I’m not perfect. My kids had the flu this week and I’m frustrated I couldn’t have prevented it.

It’s also a very difficult undertaking for me to care for my sick children in times of personal debilitating pain. This week has been one of those weeks, but somehow, I not sure exactly how, I’ve made it through. My children are well and finally back at school today and I think I’ll go ahead and collapse. Well, after I do a few things.

I’ll be somewhat functional today while I do a much needed load of laundry, (because Mount Washmore is gaining amazing altitude in the laundry room) catch up on correspondences, and empty the dishwasher. But then I’m going to relax. No, collapse. Well at least until 3:30.

I’m crossing my fingers the school doesn’t call because one of my kids starts feeling icky again, and I sure as hell hope that they don’t catch something else that may be going around.

I’ve known the most fastidious of germaphobes who still get sick. I myself am constantly making sure everyone washes their hands, eats reasonably healthy, and are active. I also make sure my kids stay home from school/social situations when they are sick so they aren’t spreading the illness to others. But some things just can’t be helped.

2015 flu season, commercial cleaning company, detroit office cleaning, detroit jantorial services, smart clean, cleaning for health, germs, dirty bathrooms

The awful thing was that I knew it was coming. Last week during my daughter’s basketball practice I watched as more than half the girls on her team were coughing and sniffling then handling the basketball, which was being bounced around from teammate to teammate. I inwardly cringed as the ball made its rounds, knowing that the germs were successful in finding new little hands to cling to.

As much as I tried to keep the right balance of vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc going, and as much as I charged and anointed my healing candles and surrounded my children with energy of protection, they still succumbed to the flu. My efforts failed. Am I truly so powerless? I mean, what kind of Witchy Momma am I?

At first I panicked. Then I cried. How was I going to care for my sick kids when I myself was on the verge of insanity from my pain? The area around my fusion and disc replacement was in knots, my sciatica was turned to high, and my fibromyalgia reacted to the stress with a vengeance. But I would do what I had to do, then my husband would take over when he got home from work (bring on the guilt, I think I can take it).

So the daily routine this week went like this:

I would be jolted awake by coughing fits after short bouts of painful sleep, but would take a deep calming breath and go and visit each child. I’d give out doses of honey if they asked, I’d spread globs of vicks vapo-rub on their feet while giving a quick tickle that made them squirm or smile just a bit before I put their socks back on. If needed, I would refill the humidifiers and add additional germ-killing essential oils, sometimes refreshing the cool rags for foreheads, and giving a dose of Tylenol if needed. I’d do all of this calmly and methodically then shuffle back to bed.

I spent a lot of the daytime sitting in the living room surrounded by sick kids with fever, coughing, and whining as my company. I wandered around picking up used Kleenex off the floor (no one could seem to hit the makeshift paper bag garbage can sitting right next to them) and would periodically go around the house wiping door handles, faucets, and light switches with an essential oil mix or just go ahead and heavy hit places with Lysol spray. I’d rinse the dishes, and maybe do a load of laundry. But when my body warned me to stop doing things, I listened and rested. At night my husband would give me a massage which caused tears to stream down my face, but as always, it ended up relieving some pain.

During a late Monday morning when my pain was at a steady level I took the opportunity to make a double batch of our favorite chicken noodle soup. We had it for lunch the first few days and we ate it with crackers while sitting on the sofa together watching old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and Lassie while nodding off now and then.

When they’d get tired of watching Lassie save the day they’d come find me in my bedroom on the heating pad, our adjustable bed in the zero gravity position with the full body massage on (that bed was one of our best investments we made to help manage my pain). Usually by the time they found me I had been resting long enough and my afternoon medication had kicked in that they were welcome to climb into bed with me. We would read Shel Silverstein’s wacky poems over and over again or look through our family pictures on the laptop, revisiting their baby years, vacations, holidays, all of which brought smiles and occasional laughter. A much needed reprieve from misery.

By Monday afternoon and thereafter, I was having have them each take a warm but quick shower and change into clean pajamas. By then they would be tired again so back to the couch. During the late afternoon I reheated some of the soup broth and they sipped on it while settled in their own little makeshift nests of pillows and blankets on either end of the couch, zoning out in their little foggy orbits. Thankfully the television stayed off.

By Tuesday afternoon they began arguing. For lunch they finished off the soup. A good sign they were recovering!

By Wednesday their coughs had become considerably less often and there were very few wads of Kleenex on the floor.

By Thursday they were playing with toys and complaining about how bored they were.
I was relieved when they slept through the night and that their eyes were bright this morning and they were ready to go back to school. Thank you Dear Goddess! I too was feeling so much better that I even did a little happy cha-cha-cha in the kitchen after the school bus drove away. Yes, I definitely feel better.

It took many years of Mommyhood to finally understand that I needed to slow down the pace when caring for my sick kids. One of the things I wish I knew as a younger mom (way before I even had to deal with chronic pain) was to relax when caring for my sick kids. Of course I still worry and listen to my inner-mom intuition, but when I come from a place of calm I am better aware of whether they need more or less of something and can adjust accordingly. It also gives me the ability to send them healing energy more effectively. I can make sure they drink plenty of fluids and gently remind them to rest, then taking that opportunity to rest myself. I can read aloud to them when they don’t feel well enough to read on their own. We can even watch an old movie or t.v. show together even if we end up napping through some of it. And I can even find the opportunity to make chicken noodle soup.

The way my life is now, living with daily chronic pain, I know from experience that If I don’t slow down when I know I should then my pain level will spike to an unmanageable level causing all kinds of misery. My children can sense when Momma’s not okay, but I can do my best not to add additional stress to their recovery. If I repeatedly went down the checklist of things to do for children with the flu, constantly took their temperature, and tied to maintain a perfect house through it all, I would be a raving lunatic stressed out to the max, and believe me I’ve been there, done that. Now as an older mom with young children and pain issues I’d have to add delirious from pain to the stressed out lunatic description. Stress is ugly and will spread just as quickly and with as much stealth as the nasty virus that has invaded my children.

It’s important for me to find joy in the little things that we did this week. Yes, it’s awful that my kids were sick, and no, it wasn’t necessarily a productive week. However, we were blessed with those quiet moments to connect and to feel the love and healing that came from them. In the process, I ended up loving and caring for myself which gave me the strength to overcome the obstacle of pain. I really believe that love is the best medicine of all. The beautiful feeling we find in love that is given and received in times of need is above and beyond any magickal power you will ever have, ever want or ever even find.

Many Warm Blessings of Health on Your Journey )O(

homemade chicken noodle soup

Photo from Honey Bee’s Recipes

         Magickal Chicken Noodle & Herb Soup

This is my take on the basic chicken noodle soup recipe that I have tweaked over the years. It’s now a family favorite and staple during cold and flu season. It’s full of cold and flu fighting herbs and the potato thickens it just a bit. If you are worried about the amount of herbs being too strong, start with half the amount and adjust to your taste from there. It makes about 8 servings and is ready in about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup diced celery
12 cups chicken stock*
½ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
3 cups diced cooked chicken meat

1 (8-ounce) package dried egg noodles
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced potato
1 tablespoon chopped lemongrass**
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

In a large pot over medium heat drizzle in the olive oil. Add onion, garlic, and celery and cook in olive oil until just tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in chicken stock and stir in chopped cooked chicken, dried egg noodles, carrots, potato, sea salt (optional), and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

*Take advantage of store bought rotisserie chicken for both the meat in this recipe and for making chicken stock for future recipes. After removing the meat, save the carcass to make chicken stock. Place the carcass in a large crock pot. Cut 3 whole celery stalks into thirds being sure to keep the leaves on the ends as they are full of flavor and place in pot. Then add 3 carrots cut into thirds. 2 medium onions quartered, 4 cloves of garlic, split, 2 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary, 3 teaspoons sea salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Fill with enough water to fully cover the chicken. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Strain through cheesecloth and discard bones and vegetables. Store in refrigerator or freeze in gallon freezer bags.

***Lemongrass can usually be found in the produce section where the herbs are stocked. Our store sells it fresh as well as in a tube next to the ginger, tarragon, thyme, etc.