Chronic Pain is Part of My Life

Accepting that chronic pain is part of my life now and for the foreseeable future is something that took an aweful lot of inner strife. You see, for five years I  have been battling to maintain some semblance of a  normal life, I refused to see myself as broken and believed if I just kept trying at some point everything would work out. Attending the chronic pain program made it so I couldn’t ignore the reality of my situation any longer.
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Chronic Pain is Just a Part of My Life

Self-worth, stamina, normalcy, parenting, fitness, finances, independence…

I sit in the the tiny classroom staring through tears at the white board with the words ‘What Has Chronic Pain Taken From You?’ written in black at the top. Green, red and blue words commingle in a kaleidescope of broken dreams, filling the board and causing my head to ache.
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The Never-Ending Back Story – Chapter 3

Chapter 1 ———————– Chapter 2
I have written a lot about my personal life lately, how happy I am with Mr. Wonderful, how I feel more complete and happy than I have in an awfully long time, if not ever, but I have neglected to even touch on what has been happening with my back, workman’s comp and my future health wise. The news is not any where near as positive as it was in my romantic life.
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Faith and Ms. McCain

In the last three months my life has changed more than I thought it would in a year. I have left a five year long relationship, exchanged a major city for my small home town as my surroundings, admitted I feel better after three and a half solid years of not so good feelings, kicked a three year long narcotic addiction and gained some perspective, experience and self-worth. It’s been a hell of a couple months but instead of feeling drained and fed up, I feel… Hopeful? A renewed sense of faith in the goodness possible in life? Like I am a strong person, – I have been told this in various ways, but had yet to embrace it and learn to rely on my inner-strength to see me through what my emotional self feels is impossible. Faith. In me. – That I can work through and get over this… Whatever ‘this’ the last couple of years have been? Continue reading

Flying By The Seat Of My Pants

An awful lot has occurred in my life since my last post. I broke up with C., moved into my parents basement and have continued to see Mr. Wonderful. I haven’t been writing much, for the first time in a long time I am trying not to think as much… Flying by the seat of my pants, if you will.

I haven’t examined my feelings very closely, especially in relation to leaving C. and starting over again. Or about moving home after ten years of living on my own. Or about beginning a fairly serious relationship with a man that I fell head over heels in love with. In fact, I have been listening to my gut, not to my neurotic thoughts, and as a result I am happier than I have been in recent memory.

Over the last three months I have also worked off all pain meds. I was on Fentanyl 100mcg patches for two years and within a couple of months of deciding to get off, I have completely kicked the habit. I do take Percocet at night, to deal with the pain and the withdrawal symptoms, but one Percocet is still a million times better than being cotton headed and slow moving all. the. time. when I am on fentanyl. I suppose this also means my pain level is diminishing. Unfortunately, without pain meds, I am in a ton of pain but it should dissipate as my nervous system readjusts to being free of opioids. I don’t see the surgeon until the 28th of this month, and my fingers are crossed that there is some discernable bone growth.

I have a return to work tentatively scheduled for the middle of June, depending on what the surgeon says of course. I am apprehensive about pushing myself too hard, but I am also excited to be looking at this recovery in the review mirror. I just want it to be over and to be able to make plans and follow through on them. I am ready to go jogging again, strap on my rollerblades and play Frisbee. I want to jump rope and skip, do a handstand and a cartwheel. All small things, but things I miss and that feel impossible right now.

hopelong

While knocking on wood really hard, I think I might be able to say I am heading in a direction that I am comfortable with. There are issues, there are problems, but overall I have found contentment out of my darkest night.

As always, thanks for reading.
Best,
    – S.

Hope for the New Year

...Hope...

 

 

 

Today is the first day of 2013. Today is the day I want to change. Today is the day that I will take a step.

 

 

 

 

 

I have been listening to podcasts by the uber talented Trish Blackwell. I stumbled across her website, trishblackwell.com, today while looking for something to listen to while I typed out my hopes for this year. Continue reading

Hope

hopeanagram

noun
1a. feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
1b. a person or thing that may help or save someone.
1c. grounds for believing something good may happen.

2. [archaic] a feeling of trust.

verb
1. want something to happen or be the case.
2. intend if possible to do something.

I have been thinking a lot about how hope influences me and the power and place it has in my life. I have resolved some points of contention, like whether hope is necessarily connected to religion (for me, it’s not), but others remain elusive, like whether or not the power of hope is dependont on effort. Here, I am going to try my best to explain and clarify my thoughts not only to you, my dear readers, but to myself as well.

It has only been recently that I have admitted and believed that hope has a place in recovery and everyday life. Not only do I believe it is necessary but it makes my less than perfect existence tolerable and allows me to keep going when I think there is nowhere for me to go. I could certainly use more hope – After all who couldn’t? – but there is a hopeful spark deep inside waiting for the fuel required to make it a roaring fire.

What changed to make me veer away from despair and into the territory of hope?

hope2I have come to see that I have not been doing myself any favors by denying the place hope has in the grand scheme of my life. If I have no hope that anything will improve or that I will ever get better, then why would I? One thing that has really driven this point home for me is my relationship with C. That is one area that my hope is wearing thin and is almost completely gone. When the last spark fades, I think I might finally walk away. I realize how naive it was to think that when C. had made some priorities for himself I would suddenly be neat the top of the list. But I digress, this post is  not about C., it is about me.

I haven’t been very nice to myself in a long time. These past few weeks I have been trying to give myself a break. I have been trying to silence my inner stream of malicious and negative commentary. I admit that it is still there but I have felt an almost imperceptible change in my vision of the future – There’s hope. I have this feeling that if I just decided on something to do I could do it.

hope1Surprisingly, knitting has a hand in this change. In the last two weeks I have knitted a pair of slippers, a hat, one mitten, a hooded cowl and a kiddy sized neck warmer for the little boy across the street. I don’t actually know this little boy, I just saw his mom out walking one day and decided to ask if I could knit for her son. She didn’t think I was too weird to say no, but I think I weirded her out all the same. Completing these projects has given me a sense of industriousness I have been lacking. And the best part is it doesn’t hurt at all to knit.

Now that I am knitting more I am also contemplating trying to find a knitting group that I could go to and hopefully meet some people in my new city. Social time is something I severely lack. I am either alone in the apartment or here with C. and he is working on something, watching something or is otherwise engaged and uninterested in conversations with me. I just need to get out more. Hell, I just need to get out at all.

I have been rather lazy lately. I sleep about sixteen hours a day and am still tired when I am awake. I haven’t been out for a substantial walk in over a week and I have only been doing the bare minimum of stretch routines to keep me moving. So while on the one hand, I am infused with a new sense of hope, I am still rather depressed. However, at least now I have hope that this depression will end. I have faith that depression is not who I am or where I am meant to remain.

despairhopeAs they say though, I need to take baby steps. I know that once I am confronted with a sense of failing or floundering it will be very easy to slide back down the mountain and find myself in the grips of despair again. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to lose hope ever again.

It will be challenging though. My nerve has woken up so three months out of surgery I am in more pain than I have been since the actual surgical pain. I probably don’t need to say that this has been disheartening and rather disappointing. I really just want this issue to resolve so that I can move on. Move on to where, I am not sure but I am determined to try to move somewhere. Being stagnant and stuck in place is certainly not for me.

I will share a small dream with you, one that I hold close to my heart and don’t talk about much. It actually kind of embarasses me because I don’t think I am talented enough to really contemplate going after it. I want to be able to support myself with fibre related things. Knitting, spinning, owning sheep or llama, designing garments – It doesn’t matter what, just that I am immersed in fibre related activities. I know it is an out there dream and I am realistic in my need for a steady income and employment but nonetheless I would be so happy if I could have a career in the fibre arts industry.

My Spinning Wheel

My Spinning Wheel

It is a dream because there are thousands out there like me, who dream of becoming knitwear designers, hand spinners or professional hand knitters and hundreds with more skill, determination and talent. For right now, it makes me happy to seek out patterns, knit for those closest and not so close to me, and spin my fluffy and still slightly uneven yarn on my Ashford Traddy. However I have no one to share this passion with.

I have no one in my family or close to me that really want anything knitted for them so it seems a bit pointless to knit anything. I have been knitting baby hats and blankets for the local children’s hospital and even though I feel good doing it and will continue, there is something about seeing people enjoy your creations that make them so much more special. For Christmas this year I am making C.’s family a variety of knit wear: a hat and scarf for his dad, hat and mitts for his mom and little brother and a hat for his twin. I haven’t had much success knitting things they like so hopefully this year will be different.

Is there anything knitted you have always wanted? I would be absolute thrilled to knit for anyone who would appreciate the garment so if you are reading this and thinking ‘Ooh! I would love a knitted…’ please feel free to request something in the comments. I’ll happily create and knit the article for free but depending on required or desired materials I may need to ask for the yarn to be paid for. If you don’t want to pay anything, or can’t or what have you, please leave a message anyway and we can probably work something out. Accessories are more practical dollars wise as the smaller the finished product the less yarn it requires. Also if you would like to give a pair of handmade mittens or a hat or cowl as a Christmas gift I could get it done by then so ask away and I will get back to you!

Eeek! I really hope someone requests something!! It will give me something to knit in the lull after Christmas. Okay, I will stop trying to solicit patrons! However, as I am doing the creating and knitting for free it is more like asking if I can give you a present than if you will buy my knitwear. I really just wanted to put it out there that I would love to knit for anyone who reads my blog!

Back to hope…

hopeI sometimes wonder if there is something really wrong with me. Outside of the last three years and the injury and such, I have always been a bit of a funny pickle. In high school I never had any really close friends. I just didn’t connect with many people until the end of grade ten when I started hanging out with a group of unsavoury and unpopular girls and a periphery of other shady characters. (‘Started’ may not be the right word as I was friends with these girls in grade school but had lost touch in the first years of high school when I desperately wanted to be ‘cool’ and hang out with those perceived as popular.) It didn’t take me long to become the risk taker, more daring and audacious than the others and therefore the quasi leader of our little group. Grade eleven, or the year I was sixteen was the wildest year of my life, and the freest. It was a year when I had very little care for what others thought of me because I was actually okay with myself. That is not to say that I was all grown up and that I would be okay with being the same person at twenty seven, but at the time I was confident and happy.

Two really bad long term – for my teens – boyfriends, two long-time, if not good, friends and two years later I was no longer as confident in myself or my looks and I definitely wasn’t happy. At eighteen I moved out with a boy who I new for a mere five months and was five year older than me, enrolled in college and began my struggles with my identity, worth and self confidence. Until now I never really believed that my high school years had any impact on me, but I think that it was naive to think so. I believe we are a product of our experiences and choices rather than that we have predetermined ‘decisions made for us so why wouldn’t the experiences and choices I made in high school impact the woman I have become?

So many questions with no answers. But I have a kernel of hope telling me that if I keep asking the answers may become clear.

hope (1)

As always, thank you so much for reading my words!

Best,
xoxo – S.

Pros, Cons & the Grey Areas In-Between

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions I have been thinking a lot lately about the emotional turbulence I have dealt with throughout this ordeal. I have been trying to create mental pro and con lists in relation to surgery and have been unsuccessful as yet. There have to be good things that have come out of surgery but I have had a tough time teasing them out. It doesn’t help that my mood swings wildly from optimistic and hopeful to defeated and blah sometimes more than once a day, although it tends to rest on the downside more often than not. I have been trying to pinpoint what sets off these drastic transitions but have yet to discover their cause. I feel so many different things about this injury and the state of my life now I am not sure I can clearly articulate any single one or apply the terms pro and con, there is just too much grey area. So I thought that, like Susannah(a wonderful blogger whose life seems amazing and I am really not sure how she does it) helpfully suggested, I would try to work out some of the emotions bombarding me.

I am angry. Oh so angry, some days it borders on full blown rage. I am angry for many different reasons, from the loss of years of my life, to my physical limitations, to the way I have been treated by Workman’s Comp. (Who are trying to get me to do a gradual return to work starting in two weeks. I have not gone to physio once and have not seen my surgeon since October, so I am justifiably terrified and angry about the lack of medical knowledge the people forcing me back to work have.) I am angry about more than just the injury and the three years it has lingered for, I am angry that it caused a breakdown in my self-worth and brought me down a path of depression and uselessness. I am angry that I have had to grieve the life I had, where I could be carefree when hiking and feel completely confident in my body’s ability to function properly. I am angry that I am still with C., practically in the same position we were last year, and the year before that. I am angry that I can’t make this recovery any faster and I am especially angry that I have months before I will see if this surgery was a success.

Along with all this simmering anger comes resentment. I resent all the things I am angry about. I resent that I can’t be a fit, healthy and happy individual. I resent that I know things I could do that may help, but lack the desire to try. I resent that nothing has come easy in the past few years. I resent that so many people have said if I just forget about the surgery I will be better. I resent that I am depressed and struggling to want to live. I resent that workman’s comp guidelines for spinal surgery say you are fit for work 56 days after a spinal surgery, but that they don’t differentiate between a discectomy and a full on fusion with hardware. I resent that they don’t understand the underlying fear I feel when told I have to prepare myself for a return to work. I resent that I now have anxiety issues that I can’t seem to control. And I resent that I have to be on such a cocktail of meds to make my life tolerable in the psychological and pain control sense.

Fear has permeated my psyche and tainted my recovery from the beginning. I am so scared. So overwhelmingly terrified that thinking about another non-union and subsequent spinal fusion makes my breath catch in the very real beginnings of an anxiety attack. It starts off that I feel I can’t breathe then there is tingling in my hands and I get stars in my vision. Finally, if I can’t calm myself down I end up blacking out. It has only happened five or six times this year but it is certainly scary when it does. I am also terrified that I will never be able to be happy with where I am and what I am doing. I am terrified I won’t find a place where I feel like I belong and am loved and safe. I am afraid that I am going to fail. Fail in life, fail in healing, fail in being a good partner, just generally that I will fail and have been failing for a while.

Angry girl.

I have always felt like I underachieved, in university I wrote papers in a day because I knew I could get at least a B and didn’t fight for the A’s. It led me to feel like a fraud. It also made it hard to sink my teeth into anything I found really  interesting. I feel like I have been lost to myself for so long, or that I am not sure I ever knew myself to begin with. When this injury happened I had never had the opportunity to think about what I want out of life because I was so wrapped up in trying to make it work day to day. I don’t know how to go about learning what I want and need when it is a struggle to shower bi-daily. How do I start discovering new things when I am exhausted by the mere basics of existence?

All these negative emotions churn inside me so often it makes it difficult to realize the good emotions when they come around. (And to trust that they are real and not a farce created to hide what I see as my rotten bits.) I do feel gratitude – I am grateful that I can walk and that it is even possible to have spine surgery. I am grateful that I haven’t had to pay for my surgeries and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to have the best orthopaedic surgeon work with me. I am grateful for my parents support and their unconditional love. I am grateful for all the wonderful people I met and worked with in physio therapy and I am especially grateful that I had such an amazing advocate in my chiropractor and continue to have outstanding support from my family doctor as well. I am eternally grateful for this blog, even if I don’t use it as often as I should. I am indebted and indescribably grateful for my readers who have found my words worth perusing and every comment is a revelation and treasured.

So there are things I am grateful for and I know that my life is not all bad, doom and gloom. I just can’t seem to shake to feeling that there is something I should be doing, or could be doing that would make me want to get out of bed in the morning. That I have some larger goal than to work a menial job, but I have no idea what that goal is. I want and need a direction and goals desperately but can’t seem to find either.

What do you do when your sense of self is badly shaken? How do you motivate yourself in the morning? How do you eradicate guilt? (Another emotion I haven’t discussed here but experience an abundance of.) I guess the basis of my questions are what makes all the struggles worthwhile for you? How did you discover your self and your unique path in life? When did you remedy your view of yourself with your ideal self? When, and how, did you learn to accept the things you can change and find motivation for the things that can? Why does life seem so vibrant to some and so dreary to others?

There are a ton of strong, confident and utterly content women who read this blog, and maybe a couple of men. Winking smile I realize that you may not have an answer to all, or any, of these inquiries but if you can answer and would like to, I would love to hear from you. Even if you have no answers,  like me, knowing there are others who feel lost means  a lot.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it greatly and with sincerity.

                – S.

“… if I have shared too much here… if I have alienated or disappointed some of you with this revelation, I am sorry that you have experienced this post in that manner, but I am not sorry for having shared. Because I sincerely suspect that for every person who doesn’t understand, there is another who does and finds solace in being understood and acknowledged here.” This is a wonderful post that discusses the aspects of depression that are rarely brought to light. How many of you feel shamed when you find yourself in a depression? How many of us keep our suffering and anguish inside for fear of upsetting others?

that precarious gait

I began this post multiple times over the last couple of months.  The most progress I made on it prior to this weekend was a late night writing session following three vodka tonics, which sufficiently braced me to put letters to screen about a subject I find particularly painful and shameful.  I know this post is lengthy, but I believe this issue is deserving of the time and space, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Much of this year has found me facing a daily struggle within myself.  I was unable to write.  Unable to play my guitar.  Unable to enjoy many of the things that I used to enjoy.

Because I was severely depressed.

Those of you who have experienced depression are already nodding along sympathetically.  You know the heaviness of it, the hopelessness of it, the monotony of it.  You know how it robs you of any…

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