Friday, March 27, 2020

What is Your Essential? Staying Grounded during COVID-19 Pandemic

In Michigan, Governor Whitmer declared a shelter-in-place order that went into effect 3/23/20 at midnight. "The order directs Michigan residents to stay in their homes unless they’re a part of what the governor is calling 'essential infrastructure workforce," which includes health care workers, law enforcement, water and wastewater personnel, and transportation workers. In addition, residents can leave their home if they are engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family, like going to the hospital or grocery store, under the order."

My son, who works at a large Michigan grocery chain, Meijer, has been declared essential and received a letter to carry to show it.
Please, keep in mind that these
essential workers are doing what
they can so that the rest of us are
able to #staysafe #stayhome.
Be Kind, patient, and flexible.
The Thursday before the shelter-in-place order, he had come down with a fever of 100o.  First, he called into work (Meijer is paying wages for anyone who has to quarantine) and then he called his doctor.  He had a sore throat for a few days prior and a gunky nose. The medical screener said that he most likely didn't have the virus due to the fever being under 103o and that should it break, he could go back to work the next day. 

Our daughter-in-law contacted us to let us know what was happening and to cancel the playdate we had planned for the day with our granddaughter.  Up until that moment, I thought I wasn't being affected by all that was going on. I started to bawl, feeling like I was outside of my body. Logically, I know that Andrew is healthy and young and doesn't fall into the at-risk group for a severe reaction to COVID-19.  But, logic wasn't a part of that gut reaction.

Fear Creates Instability

I began to feel disorientated, my chest got tight, and I could tell that I was getting panicky.  A sense of instability, like I've felt when hiking on a narrow rim of a trail traversing side of a mountain; one wrong step could cause a headlong tumble.

Thankfully, my husband came upstairs just at that moment and seeing me cry, he comforted me that Andrew would be all right by telling me what I already know. Then, he suggested we go for a walk in the woods.

Looking up into the sky through
the pine trees, makes me feel
 small yet safe.

I walked mindfully, looking up through the evergreens into the serene blue skies-focusing and taking time to really notice.  Breathing deeply, I savored in the earthy smell of damp pine needles and black soil underfoot. As the birds twittered (still want to look up what that bird was), the bright sun broke through splotchy clouds, warming our faces. I stooped down to feel the soft, cool moss on an egg-shaped rock. The emerald colors were brilliant compared to the dead brown of the oak leaves it sat in. 

Nature's early Easter Egg:)

Breathing in the cool, fresh air, slowly in and out through my nose while practicing belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing), the unease in my chest and shoulders abated.  I began to get my footing, feeling the fear being replaced with grounding.  

The next day, his fever was gone and he went back to work that evening. That day, we had a wonderful overnight stay with my granddaughter, who lights up our lives and brings us all a sense of purpose.
Having this sweetheart
love me so unconditionally
makes me be braver and stronger.

What's Your Essential?

And so, to stay grounded, I review what is my essential. Truly essential.  For me: genuinely connecting with those I love, fortifying my health, soaking in nature, and living with purpose through my thoughts, words, and deeds are the essentials I need to live a FULL life which emanates love.

Here's what I'm practicing daily to ground (helping to heal not only myself but the world around me):
  • Mediation: There are several free, on-line resources but this is one that I'm using by Jeff Warren (besides the 8-week course I'm still taking).  
  • Zoom gatherings with family: We're trying to do some normal things we'd do together albeit virtually. Yesterday, we had a coloring party.  Tonight, we're all going to have a bowl of ice cream as we chat.
    Each of us sat at our tables and colored a picture
    while chatting away.  It seemed almost
    like they were physically in the room.

  • Creating and learning: photo album pages, learning to play the baritone ukulele via YouTube, studying for MSBR course, and Master Class fiction writing course.
  • Reading: Currently, I'm reading The Fibro Food Formula by Dr. Ginevra Lipton and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@#$% (which I will be writing about next week most likely). 
  • Connecting: I've started phone dates with my mom-in-law and friends once a week. Also, created a way for my neighbors to help one another (by sharing shopping trips, info, and things like books, puzzles, and games).
  • Getting outside: so far, mostly for walks in the woods, but soon for yard clean-up, and today for a chilly kayak trip around the lake.
  • Getting projects and cleaning the house that have been neglected (even though I've been retired now for one year). Today-organize the game drawer:) 
This may lead to a raucous game
of Skip-Bo for Kelley and me😁

And so, while these are scary times, I'm choosing to focus on what's essential to help me stay grounded.  This is what's important. This is what makes meaning.  This is what heals.  I feel that if we each do this, we can bring equilibrium to the worlds inside and outside of us.

Thank you to all the essential workers who are risking their own health to protect, feed, heal, supply, transport, and care.  You are so appreciated for all that you are doing. Thank you to the employers, too, that have made plans to protect and care for their employees during this time. 

What are your essentials?  How are you staying grounded?

Thank you for visiting my blog today. 

I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.  
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes 
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through 
as planned. 
Thank you for your understanding.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Ur In Trouble: Interstitial Cystitis & Fibromyalgia

It's not fun to acknowledge
when you are having "urine problems".
I find it to be one of the most silent and
life inhibiting issues I face with FMS.

There are many, many co-occurring issues that can come with Fibromyalgia (FMS).  Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is one of them that isn't mentioned much in the FMS community.  I was diagnosed with IC about 15 years ago, when I was 40.  However, I believe I've had some level of IC for most of my life.

In the article Fibromyalgia and Related Conditions written by Dr. Daniel Clauw of UofM for the Symposium on Pain Medicine in 2015, he states, "Nearly all individuals eventually diagnosed with FM have several bouts of chronic pain in other regions of the body earlier in their life." Among the long list of comorbid issues interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome. He explains, "This disorder often begins in childhood or adolescence, and individuals who eventually go on to develop FM..."

I don't have all of these symptoms
and compared to some, my issues are moderate. 
However, its impact on my daily life 
and self-perception has been damaging.

IC Progression

As a child, I hated taking time out from life to use the bathroom.  I prided myself on how long I could go without peeing.  To do that, I didn't drink much.  Back then, there wasn't talk about drinking water and certainly wasn't a concern in my family. However, this penchant for not going to the bathroom, during my elementary years, combined with my people-pleasing ways would sometimes lead me to have accidents on my way home from school because I hadn't wanted to miss anything that was going on in class.  

As a teen and a female, I was acutely aware of my weight and body image.  I always felt overweight and was conscious of what I put in my mouth.  Back then I remember thinking and even saying that, "I rather eat my calories than drink them." While this isn't all that bad in theory, it didn't mean I was drinking water. To me, water made me gag (I was that unused to drinking it). So, what it meant was that I didn't really drink much at all.  What I did do, though, was to eat a lot of fruit, mostly canned back then. 

Then, I began my teaching life.  My doctor at the time said that it was very common that teachers had urinary tract infections and bladder infections because they were infamous for not drinking water and not being able to go to the restroom as needed.  At this time in my life, I went from UTI to antibiotics, to yeast infection, to UTI sometimes leading into a bladder infection, to antibiotics, to yeast infection,...over and over and over.  There was a time when I found myself going to the doctor every couple of months.  One odd thing, though, was often, the "infections" were found out to be false when the urine test was finally completed a few days after I had already started the antibiotics. At that point, the doctor would always tell me to finish them "just in case" which I dutifully did.

It wasn't until I started having severe urgency and frequency (at this point I had finally learned that drinking water was important and had come to enjoy it) that led to a few embarrassing accidents at school that I went into an OBGYN doctor who also specialized in Interstitial Cystitis.  At the age of 40, I was diagnosed with IC, after umpteen misdiagnosed infections.

As far back as I can remember, I had an aching in the area below my belly button.  What made it feel better (and still does to a degree) is pressure and warmth. To my husband's chagrin, I was the clingiest spooner at night (when I most noticed the aching). His cute booty provided the exact pressure and warmth to calm the ache and let me sleep. I didn't know that ache was due to a problem with my bladder.

Been There. Done That 

I've done all (multiple times) but the last line
of treatment, and I am
determined NOT to go there!

I was thrilled to get a diagnosis and find out that I was not having constant infections.  I first was put on Elmiron for two years.  This seemed to help with the pain at first; however, by the end of the two years, once I was off of it, I didn't notice any difference.  I was just used to the continuous dull ache in my bladder all the time. (I liken this pain to the ache women get when menstruating with bad flares feeling like my bladder was on fire.)  Also, I was introduced to Prelief which is an OTC dietary supplement that removes acid from trigger foods. This does seem to help with pain to a degree. My urologist also suggested I take aloe vera.  I've used Desert Harvest Super-Strength Aloe Vera Capsules, and these seemed to help some as well. 

I have no affiliation or kickbacks for mentioning 
any of the products in this post.  
I am writing about my experiences only.

In addition to medication, I adjusted my diet as much as I could. I eliminated coffee (mostly due to the acid).  There are some chicory and low acid coffees, but I have not found any locally. I have always been a semi bland eater due to acid reflux, so I have mostly stayed away from acidic fruits. However, with me being lactose intolerant (I could eat a piece of cheese and be cleared out for a colonoscopy), giving up all things tomatoes is nearly impossible.  And I also refused to give up wine. These non-concessions are when I use Prelief. 

You'll note that most of the "good stuff"
is on the avoid list😢

Besides, the pain, the frequency (especially in the morning) and urgency (which comes up strongly and seemingly out-of-the-blue) was the most embarrassing and difficult issue I had to contend with, especially at work.  As a teacher, even when we are all having a break, students would invariably want to talk to me individually during this time.  Some would even follow me to the bathroom, and I'd have to finally say, "Excuse me" and hedge my head towards the staff bathroom's door, for them to realize I had to use the loo.

I have used four types of prescription medication to alleviate frequency: Enablex, Tofranil, Myrbetriq, and Vesicare. These caused symptoms that were not fun: constipation, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, nausea just to name a few. And in the end, they didn't really seem to make a huge difference which I only found out after I got the courage to stop taking them.

For pain and the frequency/urgency issue, I have gone to four different pelvic-floor physical therapists. For someone who had planned what she would wear for her first delivery (for the 2nd, I knew better) and was too inhibited to get a massage from a stranger, this was really a step of desperation and a major lesson on not giving a damn. During my third stint of physical therapy, my urologist suggested botox injections at the trigger points in my bladder.  This was an outpatient procedure that did involve me going under anesthesia. Sadly, I had no change in my symptoms.

My last PT suspected I had a labrum tear in my left hip; she said that she had been finding a connection between IC and hip-labrum tears. She, then,  referred me to a specialist who after an MRI verified that this was the case, so I had the surgery.

Insterstim is a device that sends electrical stimulation to the sacral nerve, which is thought to normalize neural communication between the bladder and brain and between the bowel and brain.

Being, in the end, these did not make much of a difference in my IC symptoms, I went to see another urologist who suggested it was time to implant an Interstim which a device the size of a quarter.  This surgery was outpatient with local anesthesia only. I have a one-inch scar near the top of my left glute and a smaller incision at the sacrum. This healed up easily and being I did it during spring break, I didn't have to have any time off from work. There is a remote control that can change the level of stimulation delivered as well as change the program which determines the direction of the electrical pulse. I tell people, "It's like a pacemaker for my bladder."

This implant seemed to really help for a bit over a year (I had it two years ago).  However, I began to have site pain in my left glute and was having ongoing sharp pain in my left psoas which became convinced was coming from the electrical stimulation and my crazy Fibro-amplified nervous system. I chose to turn it to zero for about three months.  During those months, with chiropractor adjustments, medical massage, and yoga, the sharp pain went away. I was set on getting it removed.

However, after seeing my urologist, and hearing what the removal would be like (not as easy as the implant surgery), we came up with a retry. She reprogrammed the device and set me up with new physical therapy which I have just started. 

Getting tired of having to
know the whereabouts of every
bathroom wherever I am.

And so, I am working on retraining my bladder which in the end is just like retraining my brain with an addition of a few exercises. My goal is to be able to comfortably go on upcoming hiking trips (in which restrooms are not readily available and dropping into a squat in the woods isn't fun to do every hour.) 

Helpful IC Resources:

If you are suspecting IC or are contending with IC issues, I'd love to hear from you.  I have gone through nearly every treatment; I sure hope I don't ever have to get to the bladder surgery step. 

Thank you for visiting my blog today. 

I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.  
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have
to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned. 
Thank you for your understanding.

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