Living Beyond Your Illness- Getting By With CRPS
By Guest Blogger Suzanne Stewart. Originally Featured on her Tears of Truth blog.
IF you haven’t read any of my blog before, you won’t know that I always start out my blog with “Hello Luvs”. I had meant to write this long ago, but time gets away from all of us, so today the phone was on mute and the kitty was lying in her spot with me in the same room and it seemed a good time to write about this. We can all get down and sad sometimes, even depressed. I mean, having a chronic illness, or a list of chronic pain illnesses can get pretty monotonous to say the least! If you let yourself get in a “rut”, then you will panic and be sad and “down” and things only get worse from there. You can try to join a support group or make friends that share some of your illnesses. But you really must be careful in that as well. All things are good in moderation, is what someone used to say, right? I cannot for the life of me, remember who said that originally, but I know my mother said it to me many times. She said “we need water to survive, but even too much water can kill you”. She was right. Sometimes when we join groups and make friends who have the same or similar issues or illnesses as we have, things can get a bit “strange” at times. It may be a good thing but you just need to be careful as some people try to compare themselves to each other, see who is the sicker one, who is worse or better? Things like that! It is sad but true. The more and more that I work with groups for the past 7 years and with awareness events, projects and people in pain, like myself, I have seem it all. Sometimes the people do the things they do to make themselves feel better, and that’s not all bad either! It’s great to make yourself feel better by doing something to help others. But when you do it for accolades, applause, gifts, patting yourself on the back or for someone patting you on the back, then it becomes a bad “game” of people hurting people instead of people helping people.
In my life, I first got approved for SSDI in 1998, due to CKDII and PTSD. They had called us the day before my scheduled Dr’s appointment with the SSDI office Dr’s, I’m guessing? They told my husband that they received all of the information from my team of Dr’s. They told him that “she doesn’t need to come tomorrow to see our physicians. She’s been through enough. After reading her history and stories from several of her physicians and Psychologist; we’ve decided that we don’t want to put her through having to tell her story even one more time! She is approved”! I was crying, I was so happy. The reason being, that when I have to go to a new Dr or a “scary” situation (due to the PTSD), I do get stomach aches and diarrhea and even vomiting! I didn’t want to feel “judged” or ridiculed or afraid again. So that one thing, I did not have to do and I was so greatful for the “gift” of not having to be “sick” through all of the poking, prodding and questions.
As time went on, I ended up getting into a motor vehicle accident, just before I was thinking of trying to return to work maybe even part time? But the MVA just took that notion and threw it out the window! I will make a very long story, very short. Because this writing is about getting “BEYOND” the illness and pain. I will just say that I suffered and still do suffer from many issues and injuries following that MVA, when a man ran through a red light and not only totaled our car but my body and my brain as well. You might say that my brain “seems great”. I am writing to you and all seems just fine! Not so much! I have suffered since that time from the aftermath of 8 surgeries, screws in my shoulders, both knees damaged, 2 pacemakers, a stroke or CVA and a heart attack in ’05. I acquired an auto immune disease called “Combined Immune Deficiency Disease”, along with a Neuro-autoimmune disease called “CRPS” (sometimes called “RSD) and also known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome”. Mine went systemic or “full body” following my 2nd pacemaker surgery in 2013. The wonderful Neuro-Cardiologist at Univ. of Toledo Med Ctr. tried with all of his might to head off a full body attack of the CRPS inside of me. He did a “internal Bipvucaine surgical wash” and it was because as he went into my body, to replace my pacemaker, he saw that the old one had been wearing a hole right through my pectoral muscle for those past 10 years that it was inside of my chest! So he had to call other Dr’s to come and help him rebuild my Pec muscle first and then he wanted for that not to ever happen again. He tried so hard to stop a full body attack inside of me, from the CRPS. We were hopeful that he could do that as it has worked a few times in the past. But sadly for me, it did not work and I am now with CRPS “systemic and full body”.
After that surgery, which was not my last, I still had to have some jaw surgery, but that did go well. But I could have gotten depressed and given up on life. I don’t have an extended family as far as parents or siblings or Aunts, Uncles, cousins (just a few). It’s pretty much my husband, myself and our cat, Luna! We have 2 grown daughters with their husbands and 2 granddaughters with another on the way in June of 2016. They are busy and have their own lives to live, but I’m very close to my daughters and so glad of that. Still, because I try so hard to downplay my feelings of being in pain, nobody really “gets it” except those who truly live or haved lived in the same house with me for an extended period of time. It’s hard to explain to friends and family that you are on medication for pain, but that mornings are still bad for me and the pain gets worse with each outing and the more I do. Nobody except someone with daily chronic nerve pain and more, can truly understand. It is OK though because I needed to find a way to help myself and not complain to everyone around me every minute of every day. It makes people tired to be around me if or when I do that. I learned that lesson very early on.
So I became involved in something other than thinking about myself. I became a “chemo angel”, a card angel, special assignment angel and I became a prayer angel. These are all for the same non profit org. I actually volunteer and I get daily emails of who to pray for and then I get a list of who might need a cheer up letter or card, with a small mail-able uplifting item. I get assigned a “buddy” who is going through chemo-therapy. I accept or decline the assignment and then I go from there. If it is a good “fit”, and usually it is; I accept and then I start to send a weekly letter and cheer up mail to them. I send small mail-able items, such as: magnets, book marks, tea bags and such. It is good for me and I enjoy doing it. I have a cat, as I mentioned above, her name is “Luna” but online and for chemo angel kids, she is “Angel Kitty Luna”. The stories for my assignments, which are children, they get stuff from “Angel Kitty Luna”. She writes stories about chasing bugs and jumping up at flies and swiping them with her paws. She tells of how she drinks water from the faucet and sleeps on me, her “momma”. She has exciting adventures and it makes the children smile for a few moments. That makes me happy and it takes my mind off of my own illnesses. I am not allowed to be sad or grumpy or talk about my own problems. I do not ask for nor expect, “thank you’s”. I hear back from some of my “buddy’s” and/or their families, and sometimes I never hear anything…that’s OK too.
I started to dabble in making jewelry one time when we were on an overnight trip with our daughter, who was about 18 at the time. We got some beads and elastic and just made a bracelet. Then I started to look for “awareness” beads online. I started making Awareness jewelry in earrings and bracelets. I would put them up online after I made a website and started to sell them. Then I started some fun other jewelry items as well, such as: Pet jewlery, Swarovski crystal necklace, earrings sets and just a lot of different things. People asked me to make jewelry for their wedding and wedding party. I was so excited to be doing something that I could do sometimes, at my own pace and I took no money except to replenish supplies. The money went to whichever charity the items were for, including the Humane Society. If it was for a wedding party, then I made it their gift when at all possible.
I got involved in Bible studies when I could, but then I missed so much because they were all in the mornings or later in evenings and I couldn’t do well at either. I started making “groups” for support online and inviting everyone with any pain, or Invisible Illnesses to join. I made the groups “closed” and one is “secret” and one is just “private” and people can choose both or either one to join. I am the only administrator for the groups and it works well for me in that, this way not “too many hands in the pot”. I don’t tolerate any drama and if I come across a post that is in any way demeaning or hurtful to anyone in any way, I remove it. I have a couple of “pages” too. Some are ….or actually only one is for people in pain with Invisible Diseases, chronic pain and issues such as these. The other pages that I have are for ” Angel Kitty Luna” , for helping those who’ve lost hope or who’ve been abused, also for my second love and my old career; that of ASL and Artistic Interpreting. That page is called “I Luv ASL”. I post information sometimes about different things that has to do with Deaf Culture. Other times I post a song that I might do in ASL. I try to do an Artistic version of a top 40 song or a song to motivate people or make them feel happy.
I have a few very wonderful friends in real life, who truly understand or try to when Im’ unable to go someplace that we’d planned on going, for example. I try to go out to dinner once in awhile with my husband and these good friends. We have a really nice time, but then afterwards I’m pretty much exhausted and in pain. Same with putting some quality time into being with my lovely oldest daughter who lives only blocks away. We do something several times per week, but only for an hour to two at most. Then the rest of the day I’m exhausted and in pain. But it is worth it because I get to spend time with our granddaughters and daughter. On weekends we try whenever possible to visit our other daughter and son in law, who are due to have a baby girl, Kiera, in June of 2016 maybe once a month or so?
I have been a mentor forsince about 2008, after having a mentor from them for a year after my diagnosis. It helped me so much to have someone who understood and could answer my questions and knew what I was going through. Now I try to do it back whenever they need my help. I feel like the Orsini family is my family too. I’ve become an Advocate for those in Pain, chronic pain and with Invisible disabilities. I’ve helped the I.D.A. by doing a feature commercial for them a couple of years ago. I write to try and give people idea and information. I love blogging and helping others. I do try to help other pain org. also at times when they might need me to write something. I have tried to be a health activist by writing for Pain News Network as a guest columnist and I am an avid “tweeter” about CRPS and chronic pain as well.
We can live beyond our pain even though we must live with it. I don’t mean that we should “make light” of it. We can share experiences with others and have our friends that have pain. I feel we should also get “out of that” at times and have friends and activities not involving Dr.’s and only our “sick friends”. If you don’t feel well you might try music or writing, like I do? There’s always knitting, crocheting and things with your hands if they don’t hurt too much. Some can do Yoga, that’s not a thing I can do. But you see there are Bible studies and mom’s groups and libraries, coffee shops and a whole world of things to try and keep your mind off of your pain. I honestly have full body, systemic CRPS and I have several bad pain diseases such as : Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis, Arnold Chiari malformation I, Degenerative Disc Disease with multiple herniated and bulging discs in my neck and lumbar spine with L-4/5 radiculopathy. I have Poloyneuropathy in Collagen Vascular Disease and Autonomic Neurapathy along with several heart problems and a pacemaker. I have right long thoracic nerve injury where an 8″ span of nerve is broken and I have numbness in my hands/feet due to a CVA in 2006. I have Prinzmetal Angina which are Coronary Spasms. It’s alot and I have much pain. But the pain Dr. even told me “I cannot ever take your pain away, but I can try to make you more comfortable”. So that’s what we do. I take medications to help and I get about 2 good hours per day before I start to slide. I am unable to drive more than to just go to the corner store and get milk or eggs or something like that. So I truly know it’s not an easy thing to do.
Just try your very best to get involved in something, anything aside and outside of your pain. Try not to do something where you need a “pat on the back” or you need to “pat yourself on the back”. You don’t need to have a “title” or be a “important” or “special” person in the pain community because you ARE an IMPORTANT and SPECIAL person no matter what! Do something that makes you feel good just for you and believe me, if you can relax even for 10 minutes, it can be TV or music, a book or quiet time with your fur baby or babies. But those 10 minutes when your body and mind are relaxing will do you a world of good in your physical and mental world. Get someone to drive you if you are unable to drive and do something like a small outing even once per month. ..get out of the house if at all possible. These things will cheer you up, I promise! Lastly, find some organization, or a family that could use some kind of help that you are able to do or give? Like I do the writing letters or even just join a prayer group at a church? Be someone who prays for others, that cannot hurt you? If you don’t have that belief, find something that you believe strongly in and participate in some way?
If we just concentrate on the pain, that is all we will have. If we just concentrate on Facebook, Twitter and/or online groups 100%, we must remember that all of these people that we associate with in the “illness themed groups” are also all fighting their own battles with pain. They can feel vulnerable, in pain and intolerable at times; when they may not mean to be that way at all! Make sure you are getting real and up to date information and double check it for yourself if you know how to use the internet. Help a group or a person in need ….you don’t need money to do that. You can do many things that you probably don’t give yourself enough credit for doing.
Know that I always have all of our lives best interest in my heart an soul and mind. I want only what is good for you and for me. I want to help and the other way to help is to “KEEP HOPE ALIVE” (my favorite slogan that I started using as a Meme and in other ways during CRPS Awareness month in 2013!!). Don’t lose hope and do not lose your temper. If you cannot sleep, that doesn’t help with pain either. Try as best you can to sleep or take a nap during the day if at all possible. Try to Live beyond the pain and use it to work for you and your life instead of against you and your life! Try to find something to make you happy and remember the best way to make yourself happy is by doing something kind for others without asking anything in return. Random acts of kindness are also free and do a lot of good for you and others. Peace to you and know that someone cares!