Tag Archives: Things I'm Thankful For

Massage Therapy and a breath of fresh air!

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I will admit it: I am addicted.  

It calms me, it soothes me, it relaxes the muscles of my back and neck which bother me, it stimulates an immune response which helps me manage my RA.  I crave time where I am forced to do nothing but chill.  And this takes the cake.

I’ve been to probably 10 different therapists over the years, most of them good, some of them atrocious.  A memorable one would be the guy who chuckled when he had me roll over and got a glimpse of boob.  And proceeded to stare.  Thank you, douchebag- because of you and how uncomfortable you made me, I now only go to female masseuses.  Have fun at the club tonight by yourself with your balding yet spiked hair and Ed Hardy shirt. I bet you like techno music and use cheesy pickup lines.  

I digress.

I found my current one by chance.  A coworker had a gift certificate that he wasn’t going to use.  “I don’t like being touched and I have a problem laying naked on a table in front of a stranger.”  To which I said “I do and I don’t.”  I called, made an appointment and by luck of the schedule, got this one.

Seriously, she is the best one ever.  Not because of her bodywork (which is great) but because of her interest in auto-immune disorders (family member with Webener’s who is on Prednisone and Methotrexate) and the fact that she’s currently studying naturopathic medicine.  

I admit, if you really think about it, that it’s a little weird meeting someone for the first time and five minutes later, you’re laying there with no clothes on.  Somewhat like a frat party?  (Sorry, Mom- totally kidding.)  It’s even a little more intimidating when you have to explain to them that “hey, I have this thing and these spots that if you aren’t careful, you could really hurt me.”  I’m accustomed to having to explain what and where every time I go to the same people.  I’m also very hesitant to let them touch the spots.  In fact, until this one, I’ve never let anyone touch my affected joints.

So, imagine my surprise on my second appointment when she asked to see my hands before we started.  She looked at them and gingerly touched them.  “Ok, you’re a little swollen today.  I just wanted to check before.  How are your feet?”  Wow.  I seriously think I hugged her.

It’s made a huge difference in how I feel.  I’m getting massages weekly like my doctor recommended for the first time ever with no fear of injury.  She is more in tune with my RA than my rheumy is.  She has picked up on the spots in my wrists that bother me sometimes, which I’ve never mentioned, and this week made me happy by saying “Your fingers really look much less swollen lately.”  I had noticed it too but hadn’t said anything to anyone because I thought it was just me being hopeful.

She’s given me advice on supplements-where to buy and brands to try, recommended a yoga teacher who can help me modify things when I need to, and is encouraging me to try acupuncture.  She’s familiar with my medications and is very empathetic on their side effects.  We talk about diet and foods that are by nature inflammatory.  

 I’ve had better conversations with her than I have with my doctors.  And in some cases, more well-informed conversations.  I really believe in treating the whole person, sometimes I feel that my doctors don’t.

I swear I had a point here.  I’m excited.  I’ve always wanted to approach my treatment as a partnership.  I only want people to understand where I’m coming from and where I want to go.  I want to get a massage as often as my budget allows.  I only want my goodies ogled in an appropriate venue. I want to have clinical conversations about my rheumatoid arthritis that don’t make me feel like crying.  And for now, I have that.

It’s almost that time again….

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So, every year from Thanksgiving on, I focus on how much fun I’ve had that year, how sad I am to leave that year, and a very specific list of things I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. 

This time last year, I had just predicted (accurately I might add) my company was going to tank and had decided that I wanted to move.  I’ll  be honest a year later that the move was more about a desperately needed change of scenery to get my head on straight again than a job.  Having to simultaneously deal with a chronic diagnosis, the shock of the diagnosis, the suicide of a loved one, the fallout/litigation from the suicide, a brother’s deployment, worrying about how said brother was handling said family member’s suicide (happened a month after he returned), friends that were continually putting me in bad situations, and a few douchebags thrown in the mix…is a lot.  And I was being pulled in about 400 different directions which was allowing me to quite successfully avoid dealing with any of them.  I was pretty much just going through the motions.  

My goals for 2009?

1. Get out of Greenville.

2. Get healthy- physically and emotionally.

3.  Eliminate all bitchy and douchey people.

And well…mission accomplished.

 It hasn’t necessarily been pretty. And that’s putting it nicely.  Ironically, in spite of the physical, the hardest part has been #3.  I wound up in tears on my birthday because of someone and  (3 weeks ago!) was called” a spoiled little girl who uses guys to fill a void and feed an ego.”   LOL. Taking a step back now, I wonder why in the world I was even friends with several people in the first place and oh dear God, isn’t the saying “you’re only as good as the company you keep?”  

So, walking through Target this morning and seeing Christmas decorations threw me back into thinking about 2009 and what I want from 2010.  

2009 has sucked.  Totally. I’m not sad to see it leave. Sure, I’ve had some moments of pure fun and sure, I accomplished my goals and sure, I have totally set myself up both physically and emotionally to move on with my life, RA and all, better than I ever could have in Greenville with the circus down there.  But getting to that place and finally dealing with all that crap has been extraordinarily painful.  But painful in a good way….it needed to happen because I feared it would come down to deal with it now or massively implode at some point in the future.

I’m at a point where I’m ok with myself and I’m ok with the things that have happened to me. But I still feel a little breakable and I’m not willing to put myself in any situation that involves emotional stress or drama.

So rather than put pressure on myself with a very specific set of goals for 2010 that I will continually beat myself up about, I only want this: to finally be able to move on from ALL above situations and to finally feel like myself again.

The answer is YES.

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Normally, I get a huge kick out of reading the search terms that bring people to my blog.  Some of them are absolutely hilarious and  strangely inappropriate.  But today, I wish I had contact info for the one I just saw.

“Does RA ever get better?”

Yes, my friend, it does.  

It is such a shock to get a diagnosis like that.  I could expound on that forever but you all know exactly what I’m talking about.  

My first reaction to it was deny, deny, deny.  And then take a long boat ride down my favorite river in Egypt.  And then more denying!  

But eventually, once the shock wears off and the treatments kick in, you get some relief.  And once you start to get the physical relief, you can begin to search out the emotional relief.  

It is entirely possible to live a very fun and full life with rheumatoid arthritis.

So yes, it does get better.  Virtual hug!

The 4-1-1

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Long time, no write!  

I’ve been busy…working, playing, traveling….living!

Until I can get something meatier up, I will give you a little list of some things going on:

1.  Doctors- I have (finally) found a new primary care doctor here.  I’m picky about all doctors unfortunately but have found a good one who asks the right questions and doesn’t roll his eyes when I keep asking mine.  I am scheduled to see a new rheumatologist tomorrow am….fingers crossed that I like this one as well.

2. Work- I have been swamped.  I don’t post many specifics about work for obvious reasons but I’m in outside sales and my territory was expanded a couple weeks ago.  So I’ve been all over the place trying to strum up business- and actually got a commission check this past month.  (Yay- I haven’t lived on just base salary in years and it SUCKS.)

3. Fun- oh gosh, where to start!  

-I went to the lake for a long weekend for a friends birthday.  It rained the whole time and we ended up playing marathon games of Cranium  in front of the fireplace which sounds super dorky but was hysterical!  

-I went to watch a whitewater kayaking competition here in  Charlotte which was fascinating.  I’d love to try that someday but even without RA, I’m sure I’d end up leading off the 6 pm news (Woman drowns in freak accident etc.) Ha!  

-I went on a ropes course AND a zipline.  Obviously, the ropes course had to be modified some but it wasn’t too bad although my hands hated me for several days after.  The zipline was AWESOME and I’m so mad I don’t have pictures.

-I went back to SC this weekend to see a friend and had a blast.  We were going to a birthday party and, unclear on which house the party was at, had the wonderful experience of walking into the WRONG party in the WRONG house.  We were a street off….oops!

-Next weekend, I’m going to Baltimore for a wedding and am so excited to see my college friends.

So now that you’re all caught up, I’m going to try to not be such a slacker!

A picture speaks a thousand words…

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So, out of curiosity, what goes through your mind when you see this picture?

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On the surface, I bet you would say 5 pretty girls who had dinner, drinks and went dancing to celebrate a 30th birthday.  And you would be correct.

But what do you think if I tell you this picture also illustrates the following:

  • 1 case of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • 1 case of Celiac Disease.
  • 1 case of ADHD.
  • 1 who has a good friend with bipolar disorder.
  • 2 who are close to people  with PTSD.
  • 3 who have close family members who have severe depression.
  • 2 who have lost close family members struggling with depression to suicide.

Bet you weren’t expecting that.  

Is this some sort of invisible illness support group?  Nope, although we did go to a martini bar named Therapy.  I hope you’re appreciating that little nugget of irony like I did.

This is merely a cross section of life.  And I imagine that this would be fairly representative of all of us.  Just because you can’t see these illnesses on our faces or bodies doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.  In fact, I’d wager that because you can’t see them, it makes  existence harder for those who suffer from them because there is no sympathy or understanding because there is no cast or stitches.  Nothing visual to suggest anything is out of the norm.

On the flip side, because you can’t see these illnesses, you can hide them and only disclose them to people you feel comfortable with.  

And it still lets you take great pictures with your friends in bars named Therapy.

Aren’t they pretty? :)

Get Ready for Invisible Illness Week: Beginning Sept 14th

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30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Rheumatoid Arthritis

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2006

3. But I had symptoms since: May 2005

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: slowing down, cutting back on physical activities.

5. Most people assume: that I’m being lame or lazy when I cancel plans or skip the gym. I’m not- it’s because I hurt.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: my body needs sleep. The mornings in flares where I haven’t had enough restorative sleep- waking up in pain doesn’t bode well for the day to come.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: Grey’s Anatomy. No RA reasons- McSteamy reasons.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my TENS machine.

9. The hardest part about nights are: getting comfortable during a flare.

10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. Right now, 3. At my worst, it’s been upwards of 11.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: have tried a lot of them but unfortunately, my body responds best to traditional medication supplemented by alternative treatments.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: invisible all the way. Being in pain makes you feel very exposed- being able to hide that anything wrong is a comfort.

13. Regarding working and career: hard to balance sometimes but something I could never not do.

14. People would be surprised to know: I’ve learned a lot about myself through having RA.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: accepting that it’s forever. Forever is a very long time.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: continue running. In 2007, I did 5 5K’s back to back! 

17. The commercials about my illness: generally tick me off. They’re generally off base in every way you can be off base. They feature older people playing tennis. Hello- twenty somethings get this too!

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: the ability to be completely spontaneous.  Not having to plan for rest or take medications with me.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: boot camp classes and high heels.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: um, blogging.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: go wild.

22. My illness has taught me: not to sweat the small things. We all have struggles. Be sympathetic to everyone- you have no idea what they’re dealing with inside. 

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “but you’re so young.”

24. But I love it when people: say “please tell me more.”

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.” -Lance Armstrong.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: it’s going to be ok.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: there are ways to modify virtually everything to make it something you can do. 

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: bring my friends to me one time when I felt awful and couldn’t go out to see them. 

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: it’s so important that people understand us!

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: cared for. I appreciate that you want to know more about something that affects me everyday.

Find out more about National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and the 5-day free virtual conference with 20 speakers Sept 14-18, 2009 at www.invisibleillness.com.