A Vacation, Part 2

Vacations are fun for a multitude of reasons. Being away from home, feeling special in public, and not having too many responsibilities. For someone with a chronic illness it has an unexpected side effect.

A vacation from yourself.

When you are at home surrounded by people who know you, there is a certain expectation. Those close to you know what you are going through and help out in the areas you are lacking. The flip side of this is they know how you used to be. They remember how you were able to do so many things. This can make things awkward when you are faced with an activity that used to be so simple but now is a task and a chore.

When in a new setting and with new people, there comes an easier understanding. You explain your condition and there is a moment of understanding (for the most part). You are able to be yourself a bit more than usual. You don’t have to hide behind the mask you put up when in pain.

Two main things came out of my vacation in this regard. First, you are able to truly look at yourself and see your condition in a new light. You get to be honest with yourself, in being honest with those around you. You get to see the amount of pain you are truly experiencing instead of trying to mask cover, or make excuses to yourself and those around you. This can be a harsh reality to face.

The second thing I realized was the effect of my condition of those close to me. I know I can get wrapped up in the misery of my condition and not see the reaction of those around me. Those around you are suffering from the loss of an able friend. A spouse who now has to pick up the slack. The brother who is not the superman he once was.

It is very easy to forget that our condition effects more then just yourself and your body. It touched the lives of all those who know you. The suffering reaches beyond your own body. The ones closest to you suffer with you. It is true we have to fight the guilt that is sometimes associated with not being able to do activities with love ones. I feel we tend to forget that those same loved ones are suffering as well.

Take a moment, all you chronic illness warriors, and reach out to those close to you and thank them. Tell them you love them and appreciate all the ways they help you. Remember, a vacation from yourself is not a vacation from those who love you.

#hugapony everyone.

 

A Vacation, Part 1

I am currently on vacation in Tennessee visiting family. It is a welcome reprieve form life and the stresses in it. We have not had a true vacation in five or more years. This spring break for my girls is their first since entering the public school system. It is exciting to see their minds to take a break and I admire, and am so proud, of how smart they are becoming.

One issue I am having with this vacation is me. I am finding myself not being able to do the activities with others. I am in constant need of more breaks and rest stops. Some times I just need to stop and sit for 20 minutes as my energy levels are too low.

Chronic fatigue hurts.

This coupled with the pain I am constantly in makes it difficult to enjoy some of the exciting aspects of my vacation. I am having to accept the fact that I have more limitations on what I can do. This hurts more than I first anticipated.

Yesterday I went to a children’s arcade/play place with my two eldest daughters and my nephew. My girls had a blast running around in the playground area and climbing the inflatables. They wanted “dad” to run and jump and play. I smiled and did my best, but no where near what I felt I should be doing. It hurt me to tears and not being able to play with my girls.

Today we went shopping. I was the only dad in the group of 6 girls so I ended up with both shopping carts and helped with the lifting and sorting. It was a morning that was already rough due to a fibromyalgia flare up. I ended up sitting more often than not. I smiled a fake smile and pushed as hard as I could through the pain. It wasn’t enough and I felt terrible. I felt guilty at holding the group back, even though I knew I could do nothing about it.

It is a hard situation in the fact that I am suffering from a chronic illness, feeling that I am letting my family down by not keeping up, and then having the guilt and depression from all of it. Constant 24 hour pain and having some seasonal allergies pop up complete the horrid picture. I feel so tired of fighting.

And its not just the chronic fatigue.

I have been reviewing my condition and well-being these past few months. I have looked at my medication and doses and have decided that i am in need of an increase. I have been reviewing how much I have limited myself in lowering my dosage to not have to deal with the pending opioid crisis. I have talked with my doctors at lower it so I am not considered in the “addict” category. I am slowly realizing that this is futile and I need to focus more on making sure that my needs are met.

Then there is the guilt from others at taking a vacation.

Society seems to think that a disabled person is someone in a wheelchair or crutches, barely able to move ever. I have received, for lack of a better word, hate for doing activities that I love that I should not “be able to do” because of my condition. Just because I suffer does not mean that I cannot take a vacation. Do we give up our right to happiness by having a condition that holds us back? This does not mean I get to take a break from my illness. I have suffered everyday of my vacation. I do not get a break from my symptoms. Why must I suffer the feelings of others who feel the need to tell me that I must be faking if I go on vacation. Why add that to someone who is already suffering?

It feels incredibly frustrating.

We try to live normal lives. We deserve to have vacations and enjoy life when and where we can just like everyone else.

#hugapony everyone.

Pleasant Company.

Over the past few weeks I have been introduced to many people who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities. Some online through blog posts, some through video games, and others in real life. I have gotten to talk and help quite a few people who are suffering. I have seen people in so much worse situations and see them powering through with a strength that makes me ashamed of myself.

In my opinion, everyone who suffers like this goes through a period of time when they question themselves on how much suffering they go through. I have been hit hard this last week. I have question how bad am I, what level pain should I admit too, and what right do I have to suffer in all my suffering. One of my issues with invisible illnesses is that I am in constant stress over being judged on how I look. “You don’t look sick” “Are you sure you aren’t feeling well” “It can’t be that bad if you are still able to walk around your house” Words ring in my ears and brain, reminding me that it must all be in my head. Famous words for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia as most doctors are quick to through them out.

I have had personal events happen that reinforce this. I have been denied disability. I submitted to the 8 month long process that took place and have seen more doctors and nurse than I care to admit. Being weighed and measured, poked and prodded has been an absolute nightmare. I suffered through it and in the end I was deemed too fit to be on disability. In the end letter, it was determined that I did suffer from fibromyalgia, insomnia, anxiety disorder, nerve pain, muscle pain and more. A total of 9 severe problems with my health. They did not find these severe enough to warrant me disabled. My final icing on the cake was reading on of the last lines in my letter saying: “If your job is too difficult for your condition, find an easier job.” My mind’s sarcastic response was “Sure I’ll go to the job tree and pick a new job straight off the branch.”

I have also had to fight with new insurance and new medications. I have been prescribed Lyrica. This is the first drug that I have seen that is specifically made for fibromyalgia sufferers. Being new, it is expensive. The classification it has been giving by insurance is that unless every other test and drug has been used and found not to work, then they will not pay for it. Fighting to get help is one of the most common themes I see in chronic illness patients. As if we didn’t suffer enough.

In my recent post that has been published, I have been able to interact with many people that have a myriad of different conditions. I have wept over reading the stories of those who have suffered. I have talked and comforted those who asked. I have been praised for helping raise our voice so others can see. In all of this, I look back at myself and ask “Am I really that sick?” Do I have the right to be a voice if I am not suffering as much as those around me. I am constantly questioned on how bad my pain and condition is that I am beginning to question myself. Yes, I have pain but is it bad enough.

I read an article recently that brought it to light for me. Erin from The Mighty.com posted on how Doctors are Advocating on Pain Acceptance. Doctors are now looking into “pain acceptance” as a treatment philosophy. It is an eye opening to see the direction this is going. As someone who suffers, I find it interesting to see that not believing chronic pain sufferers is a new direction to go. To be told that we should learn to live with the pain is insulting. To be told that my opinion, the patient’s opinion is not considered and the doctor’s view of my pain and condition makes me all the more fearful of doctors who don’t listen. Being told that I should just accept and live in pain, which is something I do every day, makes my and so many other voices sound like we are complainers.

It is infuriating.

If anything I have seen over these past few weeks is how many there are of us. It has shown me that we need a voice. It has shown that I matter. It has shown me more kind and compassionate people who, suffering like me, agree that we are not being heard. We have to fight our illness. We have to fight for our diagnosis. We have to sometimes fight our doctors and pharmacies and lawmakers. We have to fight to make our voices heard.

Thank you all for the pleasant company.

#hugapony my friends.

The Fibro-Dad

Being a dad with fibromyalgia is a difficult life. The days are long, lacking energy and being racked with pain. You end up staring at the clock, trying to survive to the next min, hour, anything to the time when you can get relief. However, when you have your kids involved, this adds a new level of pain, shame, and hardships.

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 2 years ago, my daughters were 5 and 7. I was already a full-time dad with tons of responsibilities. I was working full-time, managing flareups, and trying to find time and energy to be a dad. Over the next 2 years, my condition and health worsened. I had to leave two jobs over my medical conditions and ended up a stay-at-home dad. My wonderful wife picked up the slack on the job front, and my daughters started helping me at home.

I would have days were I could not move from the bed. My daughters became super troopers and would ask, “Daddy, are you having a bad pain day?” “Yes baby, I am.” My soul would be crushed at having my daughters help me. I was the dad. I should be the one taking care of them. Over the next year, I would learn to swallow my pride and shame, and learn that I needed to accept help. My girls adjusted and learned to cook, clean, and help me around.

Then my wife got pregnant.

We were overjoyed. I love my daughters and wanted the best for them. Now there would be a new little sister added to the family. I was so happy for a moment. Then it dawned on me that my new daughter would never know a daddy who was not in pain. This new life would never be able to see me at my full best. Would I have the energy to keep up with this new little one? Would I be able to overcome the pain to be there for my wife? How was I going to be able to help?

I was terrified and ashamed.

Throughout the pregnancy, I did my best. I got a part-time job to help with the bills. I helped around the house, pushing myself in ways I thought were the most I could give. Little did I know that more was required of me.

I was only able to hold the job for a few months before pain and fatigue set in and I was unable to continue. Amazing family and friends pitched in support in ways that still make me tear up. I pushed though until the wondrous day of the birth of my new baby girl. I was a proud dad for a third time. We brought this bundle of joy home and she is amazing. She laughs and talks and makes life so fulfilling.

My health chose to find this happy moment and turn things to 11.

Over the past three months, I have had my pain levels spike and maintain those levels for weeks. After two weeks at a time with no relief makes for a serious mental breakdown. I had to find days to which to take heavy meds just to get relief. Caring for a newborn is difficult in the best of times.

Doing it with Fibromyalgia is a nightmare.

There are no breaks in the day at which you can just lay down to try and relax your body. The little restless sleep that never gives rest is gone. You learn to survive on even less energy, more pain, more problems. That survival has made me go back to watching the clock tick by the minutes until my next moment of peace.

I find time to catch a break in these small moments of the baby sleeping. I rest for 5-10 min before another daughter needs me or I try and summon the energy to complete a task of housework. I would not trade my life with my beautiful wife and amazing daughters for anything. It just takes me longer and is harder for me to do the things that need to be done. Sometimes I don’t know how I am able to get all the daily tasks done. I feel that makes me a super hero.

The Fibro-Dad.

#hugapony my friends.