Getting Sick While Chronically Ill

This article is not giving medical advice. I am not a doctor. This is just observations from someone who has walked a path of illness and the problems encountered. Please consult your doctor before trying any new medication or making changes to them. 

Having been chronically ill for well over 5 years now has been a journey. I have talked about the five stages of grief that you have to survive, the horrors of trying to find doctors that believe you, and even the opioid crisis that has swept the nation and gotten the attention of Congress. One aspect I have not touched on is getting a common illness while being diagnosed chronically ill.

The common cold or flu is debilitating for most people. The coughing and fever run havoc on your body and the aches and pains are terrible to deal with. People take these times to call in sick and take time to recover with grandma’s chicken soup. Others try to prevent it with the flu shot or a Z-pak. The most common option is to stock up on cold medicine and cough drops and power through it while not missing a day at work.

How I wish it was that easy to do.

When you are already taking 5-7 medications (or more), it is very difficult to just grab a box or bottle of cold medicine. You have to check the ingredients in each medicine as you need to compare it to what you are taking to avoid an overdose. I end up having to mix and match different basic medications in order to find the right amount to help. I always cringe when thinking about the liver or kidney damage that is done by the abuse of these medications and since I have been taking mine for many years now, I worry about the stress and damage I have done to my own body in taking what I need to get through each day.

On a good day, I still deal with aches and pains on a level most people would find extremely uncomfortable. While sick with a cold or flu, this pushes my pain tolerance to the limit. Having the wheezy chest and the sinus pressure that makes you fall back into the pillows is hard enough, but add in my fibromyalgia muscle and nerve pain and it hits a whole new level. Factor in that I might not be able to take my normal medication and it just gets worse. Symptom on symptoms will break you.

Common beliefs say that you can just use a sick day and take time for your body to recover. Unfortunately here in the US, that tends to be difficult for many people as sick days for people in jobs in retail, fast food, or the service industries don’t have many days we are allowed to take off with pay. Balancing the options of taking an unpaid day off and the possibility to getting better by not working is difficult. Chronic illness survivors will run into other issues on this as well. We tend to use sick days on particularly hard flare days when your medicine doesn’t help, when your medication has run out and you can’t get more yet, or when your medications have made it too difficult to function and you are in a haze. We tend to be extra cautious in using sick days because we never know “How will I feel tomorrow?”

Having a chronic illness and being medicated as such also invites reinfection. With weaker immune systems due to medications, inability to fight off infections like normal, and body fatigue all factor in to a rolling cold that can last many times longer than a normal person. We take joy in feeling “better” because the cold is gone but in the back our minds we worry about getting it again once it comes back around the office or store.

It can be especially difficult during cold and flu season. I want to say to each and every chronic illness “spoonie” out there that you are a gladiator and deserve the recognition as such. You fight your own body on a daily basis and having an outside invader makes it even tougher. You are a survivor. I see you an I salute you for your bravery and courage for making it each and every day. May you stay healthy this cold and flu season. Those of you who are sick, grab some hot tea and chicken soup, huddle up with your plushie and blanket, and may you get better soon.

#hugaplushie my friends

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Opioid-Ed

I am angry. I have been watching the opioid crisis “epidemic” for quite a while now. Congress just passed legislation to reform everything on opioids. I have read the plan and I see so many issues with what happened. I am deeply concerned at how it is going to affect chronic illness patients and I believes it shows exactly how the country views mental health and chronic illness as a whole.

 

The money spent is a stopgap. The call was for $20 billion dollars and the bill didn’t even get half that. Quoting the Washington Post, “Yet many public health advocates and experts say it doesn’t offer the one thing truly needed: The massive amount of funding needed to fully combat a crisis that deeply affects rural and urban communities across America.” It goes on to say how little prepared we are for mental health in the medical system. This is not the overhaul we need to fix the broken mental care that so many desperately need. This bill will only help people in the form of a grant which may or may not be available to everyone. Grants are competitive and once used up, there is no more help until more money comes.

 

Congress also had to deal with a little known rule known as Institutions for Mental Diseases exclusion rule. It had prohibited Medicaid from reimbursing substance abuse centers with a certain number of beds (16 or more) for patients with mental illness. Why this obscure rule that is decades old shows exactly how broken and old the system has become. An even bigger concern of mine is who is the oversight on this money now to be released? Are we watching were this money is going? Is it even being used properly? I know close friends who get run through mental health “mills” that don’t treat patients and are more concerned with getting money for the number of patients they process. This is going to feed into this broken system and we are going to see a rise in the number of claims in an effort to get a piece of this pie.

 

In the same thought, the number of opioid addictions are declining, however heroin overdose is rising. The CDC says that in 2017, out of 72,000 overdose deaths, 30,000 were caused by synthetic opioids. This is not prescribed medications. This is not for the chronic pain users. This is a synthetic compound that is in laced heroin and is an illegal drug. Almost all the chronic illness patients I know are responsible people and do not abuse their medication. These are the statistics that are being used against the people that actually need help.

 

I look at these actions and I know it is an important election year. I feel this is mainly a political grandstand and we are showing that we are not serious about reform. Chronic illness patients are once again overlooked and not even considered in the bill. It focuses on how opioids are a gateway to addiction. Congress and the general public view us now as heroin users and we need to be treated for our addiction and not looking for ways to help us except with small mental health improvements. That also shows they believe that chronic pain and other similar afflictions are viewed as mental health issues and not a disease. We can view addiction as a disease but not something like Fibromyalgia, that is all in your head.

 

Please senators, congress, anyone in government, come live in my head or body for a day. I have never wanted to do this before but I wish you could feel the pain me and so many others are in daily so you could understand.

Take me home, Country roads.

Music is such a powerful healer. The sounds and vibrations can help break up stress and tension. Feeling the the beat can raise or lower your heart rate. It provides positive feelings and an escape. For someone with chronic illness, this can be such a welcome escape.

When I am going through a fibromyalgia flare or when anxiety starts to pump adrenaline through my body, I have a method of calming down. I use a sensory deprivation where I go to a dark room, put a nice heavy blanket on, hug a plushie, and I listen to music.

My personal favorite is the Lord of the Rings soundtrack (Fellowship of the Ring, Track 17 The Breaking of the Fellowship). I hear the notes and get lost in the music. It gives the soul something to attach on to and it pulls the body with it. By closing off the rest of your senses, with darkness and being alone, you get swept up in the sounds. It is amazingly peaceful.

In difficult times, music has a way of helping us find a way through. I have known quite a few people going through a bad break-up and listening to their couple’s song over and over. I distinctly remember living in a 22-foot pop-up camper with my family (6 people and a dog for 6 months) in a trailer park. The trailer site next to us had a husband and wife who fought like cats and dogs. Being a trailer park, and VERY thin walls, everyone in a 5 mile radius heard everything, much to our regret. The husband who leave each night slamming the door and the wife would play I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton, sung by Whitney Houston while drinking wine.

Every night.

As a teenager, this was not a fun event each night. However, I realized that this was a coping method and was a way for her to calm down. The next morning they would come out of the trailer, smiles and hugs until the next evening. Now this is a very unhealthy situation and was horrible for them (and all of us around them). It has shown me that music can help in a very difficult situations and lead you through them.

I am currently facing a huge hurdle in my health. I am having my Tramadol removed from my medication. My doctor is no longer allowed to prescribe it to me. He was very chagrin while telling me. He was upset. Due to the “Opioid Crisis” I am found to be no longer fit to take it. After almost 6 years of being on it with little/to no side effects, a much higher quality of life, and one of the backbones of my pain management, I am being told there is no reason to have it. My chronic pain and illness disagrees.

Strenuously.

I have have to agree with it. I am having to go through a new cycle of pain management. I am having to adapt to life with severe pain once again on a daily basis. So in order to do this, I have been bringing out music once again. My new favorite is Country Roads by John Denver. I have listen to the track 20 hours in the last month alone, though not all at once. Most times it is only about ten minutes. And finding ten minutes to allow my body to relax and get a break from feeling is sometimes all I can get.

I will take it.

#hugaplushie my friends.

PS 

I have seen my readers in Germany SKYROCKET! I wanted to call upon all you out there and thank you with all that I have. Hugs and love to you all! I will being doing a special post for you all! PROST! ZUM WOLH!

Gathering happiness

A HUGE shoutout to two of my Patreons for helping support me, Charles and Ed! Thank you for supporting me and making this possible! You two are truly amazing people! If you had not checked it out, Check out my Patreon page for early blog posts and more!  Patreon-My Stuffed Little Therapy

I had a recent social media post that was quite touching. I has been a rough time with pain lately and I was needing a boost. I posted a simple question.31281389_10215970592927716_4009656226335121420_n.jpg

This sparked a wonderfully long post with friends and family commenting from all over. I was flooded with memories from childhood, college, present day, all warm fuzzy feelings.

It was fantastic.

As some who has suffered from depression in the past and who continues to struggle with anxiety even now, it was an amazing feeling. The self worth went through the roof. Seeing people post, some I had not talked to in years, was amazing. The love and care that was shared was immeasurable. This got me thinking of what this could do for people who are struggling? I know I pull up the post and have read it a few times since. Seeing the kind, wonderful words brings back the same self-worth growth and warms me inside.

I have seen a lot of suicides in the news lately. A lot of people who are depressed and decide that ending the pain and personal suffering is the best choice. Having been at that end twice now, I know what runs through someones mind. You don’t look upon yourself as a person. You are a burden. You don’t see what other actually think about you. You see a drag on all your friends and family. Your brain tells you that you are not and will not be good enough for anyone.

We need to break that cycle of self doubt.

I challenge you to post this to your social media. Make the post and see what happens. Save the answers you get. Use it as another weapon to fight back the hard times. See what others took the time out of their day to say to you. Smile in the memories shared but not only you but others. Have a written document were people see the value in you. Have yet another tool, like stuffed therapy, to fight back. Even if it is against your own mind.

I will do my best to comment my memory as well.

#hugapony everyone.

Doctor New

I have had a lot of people ask me about when I am getting a new doctor. I have talked about how my last doctor retired and the one before that gave up on me as a patient. I have been through a terrible run of doctors in my life and they are usually not my favorite people.

Having a chronic illness mess going to the doctor a lot. Having an illness that a third of the medical community believes does not exist, another third that it is a mental issue, and only the last third that it is real is never a fun fight. Also being a guy, being diagnosed fibromyalgia is a an odd one as it effects women much more than men by a margin of 5/1. This is a fight I am used to with having to explain, yet again, that I have this illness and yes I need help.

I did my research on my doctor. Google reviews, doctor review sites, even your own insurance will sometimes have ratings on doctors. I highly recommend to everyone to look into your doctor, see what people are saying about him/her. See if they have dealt with your issue or see the personality of the staff. You have the power to see and choose your doctor. You have the power to find a new doctor. You do not have to stay with a bad doctor. I feel that a lot of those with chronic illnesses feel they have to stay with the doctor that they go to the first time and are stuck with them forever. If you feel the doctor is not listening to you, you can find someone different who will. If you feel the doctor has given up on you, get a second opinion. Find a good one.

I took my wife and baby with me for moral support. I had several panic attacks leading up to actually seeing the doctor. I get worried that he would not listen to me or would, irrationally, make fun of me. I have had doctors tell me that I was imagining things or that I was wrong about an illness and then I was proven right at a later date. I go in early, fill out my paperwork and wait. I am then taken to get my vitals taken and go into the patient room.

The doctor comes in, introduces himself, and asks what is going on. I explain I am due for a 3 month checkup and am due for a refill on my perceptions. I am explain that my last doctor retired and was looking for a new primary. He looked at me sternly and and questioned my medical history. I told him who diagnosed me, how many procedures I have been through, the tests run on me. He watched me carefully and informed me that I was on an opioid and started to tell me the dangers of the drugs I was on and that he did not believe that I should be on them. He said he would need a drug test and a blood test to confirm that I was the one actually taking them and I wasn’t selling them. I said OK as I was taking my medications correctly. He informed me that many people had been dying on the exact medication I was one.

This was not looking good so far.

I was starting to panic because I was feeling attacked. I, once again, was having to prove to another stranger that I was sick. I had been through so all this be before. I was given a cup to pee into and waited for the results. He came in to inform me that the test did not show the opioids I was taking and that he wanted more information. He asked for the names of all the doctors I had had, where their offices were at, who gave me the actually diagnosis. I grew frustrated. I give him all the info I had. He said the nurse would be in for the drug test in a min and gave me the physical exam. I winced and groaned as he pressed and push on the points of tenderness and he seemed surprised. He poked like someone who was expecting not to find something. He pressed a lot harder than I expect at first and then he realized he was hurting me. He had me sit up and left to get the nurse for the drug test.

I was embarrassed at all this. I was angry. I complained to my wife. I was frustrated. She gave me some amazing clarity. She told me to stand in the doctor’s shoes. I was a new patient, with an uncommon illness, asking for a drug that he believed to be dangerous, coming from a doctor who “retired” and had a urine sample that showed I was not taking  my medication. She asked if I was in his shoes if I would be suspicious. I said she had a point and kept pushing through.

My blood was drawn. I hate this more than anything. I had a nurse once hit the nerve in my arm and my arm went numb for almost a week. This nurse had to go get someone else as well making it last even longer. Then they had to switch arms. I struggled with it all and squeezed my little Fluttershy plush hard.

The doctor came back in and told me he was able to pull some of my records. He was going to refill my medications but that he wanted to go through the active medication list as it had some discrepancies. Evidently it showed multiple duplicate medications. I cleared them up and was gave information on each on and what had happened.

The doctor finally showed some compassion and started listening to me. He asked to hold the baby and started asking questions instead of demanding them. Hr told me that my medicine was not what he wanted me on but he wanted to try a new one to help ease the inflammation as he thought that it would help me a lot more. He was surprised that no one had tried it before. He agreed that I should have my doses increased as I was having more pain and needed more help.

We finished up, got my paperwork in order and I thanked him and left. I thanked my wife for giving me clarity and calling me out on being too judgmental. We talked about how organized this doctor was and how I had so many red flags that probably set off alarms all the way to Washington, DC. He had refilled my prescriptions, even if he didn’t agree with all of them, and had given me a new one to help me out.

We both had prejudices that we had to overcome. I was forced to look at the other side. It is always interesting walking in someone else’s shoes. I know I can get wrapped up in my own prejudices when it comes to my illness. I am glad I overcame them.

#hugapony my friends