Mood matches the sun today…..

Glorious day!  We did one of our favourite things; we got in the car and drove somewhere for lunch.  Today it was Stratford for lunch at one of two Indian restaurants in town, a walk around our favourite antiques mall and a wonderful stroll along the river.  Well, Doug strolled; I watch the swans.

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My friend Peter was talking about retirement planning in his blog today. Retirement planning is a pain, but a necessary one.  We aren’t where we thought we’d be because of the time I spent on long-term disability and because of the stroke that largely ended Doug’s thoughts of full-time work.  My long-term plan, because I am after all, a sociologist, was to marry a younger man and let him continue to work while I concentrated on writing the best-selling Canadian mystery novel.  I did marry the younger man, but the rest of it has kind of faded a bit.  We have an absolutely brilliant financial planner though, and he is managing our resources so well that we have been able to travel far more than I thought we might.  And now that I am being a healthy, etc. ….we should be able to really have some fun for the time that we are both able to enjoy the process of discovering the world.  We are blessed in so many ways.

Tomorrow, we will join my nephew and his wonderful family for Thanksgiving.   We will be representing our generation since both his parents (my brother and sister-in-law) and his wife’s parents are on jaunts of their own this year.  We will get some one- on-one time with the great-niece aged 9 and her little brother, aged 7 who is a particular friend of Doug’s.  Better than when the whole gang is around.

The mood of yesterday seems to have been largely banished, although I did have my moments today.  After a sudden stop in the car on our way home, my neck reacted as it often does by hurting like blazes, and I felt very fragile.  Thankfully, the electric shocks from the pinched nerve didn’t last too long, but it took a while longer for the sense of vulnerability to dissipate. 

Anyway, the Tigers are at it again, so better go watch for a bit.  I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.  May you be surrounded by all the good things in your life.

Love,

gail

 

Some days are like this…

I woke up this morning feeling down, despite what was, for me, a good night’s sleep.  Despite the sun and my being relatively productive in a domestic sort of way, the mood continued and deepened.  In keeping with my new approach to health, I decided to avoid the whole issue of why I was getting depressed and have a nap.  In the past, I would have gone all internal and analyzed everything in my life to figure it out.

Got up from nap feeling even more depressed.  Again, in keeping with the whole idea of being a healthy 67 year old with some chronic challenges, I file this mood in the basket of fibro symptoms and try to move on with the day.  It is now 5:30 so we shall see how successful  this is.

Here we are at 11 pm and apart from slaying my diet with some really good ribs, things are pretty much the same.  So, with a day trip planned for tomorrow, I will just go to bed believing that all will be well in the morning.

Good night, my friends.

Love,

Gail

 

Frustration is no fun on a sunny day…..

The day held such promise.  Sunny, crisp, frosty even at 7:30 in the morning as I head off to physio.  What I thought was fog turned out to be smoke from a fatal fire in a high rise apartment building.  After getting held up by the gawkers, I was a minute or two late, and then things began to go downhill.  The appointment was totally frustrating, perhaps because all I want now is some hands-on stretching of the tight muscles around my crumbling cervical spine and all I got was the mechanical, non-human stuff that I really needed eight months ago.  An upturn when I walked across the hall to my family doc, a woman who I view as my lifesaver.  It was she who originally diagnosed my fibro and saved me from insanity.  Others were beginning to doubt that I had any real pain or limitation, and I had nothing to offer in rebuttal.  At any rate, my visits with her are always wonderful, and this time, I had even lost some weight!

But after that …. The Tim’s drive-through messed up my order.  My Lazy Boy had a melt down and is no longer fully functional (this is important because I sleep in it most of the time since my neck injury).  Attempts to deal with the problem were met with the worst examples of customer service I have encountered in a while.  Later, I had a fight with another of the university’s electronic portals.  Why they can’t make things just a little clearer, I’ll never know.  I don’t even remember the other two things that happened, but by late afternoon, I was totally frustrated.

I had a nap.  Usually that helps.  Got up still out of sorts.  Then I had a pleasant encounter with a person at the Lazy Boy store and got some help from an IT person at Western. So the sun shone brightly at the end of the day as well.

What I don’t get is why I get so frustrated by these little things.  Is this part of aging, the decreased tolerance for incompetence and idiocy?  Or is it just me? 

Going to go and watch the Tigers now.  More frustration?

Love,

gail

Ironic, perhaps….

I think there is a special irony in this whole blog thing; at least I think it’s irony.  Doug and Jen will correct me if I’m wrong.  You see, a significant part of the transformation of me necessarily involves taking the focus off health.  When I have a conversation with anyone anymore, it always begins “How are you doing?”  For someone who is trying to be a health 67-year old and shed her past preoccupation with health and illness, this is a deadly opener.  It leads me to exactly where I don’t want to go.  And yet, here all I do is talk about my health and how it has defined me for so long.  I guess both the conversations and the blog will change over time.

The other ironic thing about it is that after all the time, effort and health care dollars spent trying to find out how deathly ill I am (not), the majority of the troubling symptoms are part of the legitimate health problem I have.  An easy fix, relatively speaking.  More drugs, as I said.  Go figure.

In an effort to talk about something other than health, today’s class was awesome.  Well, perhaps “awesome” is a bit hyperbolic but it was great.  Hit by a fire drill in the first 5 minutes, most of the kiddies came back when we got the all clear, unheard of in previous years.  There are 75 students in this statistics class, and most of them are simply delightful.  Is it also ironic that this is the last class I will teach?

It’s been a long day.  Jeopardy is on TV and my post-dinner tea is almost ready,

 

Bye all,

Love,

Gail

Next Stop on the Medical Mystery Tour

To understand this bit, I need to explain that I have been experiencing sensation problems in my right hand since a fall three years ago.  I am a clutz and do fall a lot.  Someday I’ll post a picture of the knee that takes the brunt of it!  Anyway the tingling and numbness and pain have been a real menace to everyday activities.  Like burning fingers when I pick up things and don’t feel the heat in time and doing up buttons and putting on necklaces.  That sort of thing.  So yesterday I went to have some Electromyography … big word meaning studies of the flow of energy in the nerves.  My stable of health care professionals seems to have decided that the problem originates in the pinched nerve in my neck.  Well, surprise of surprises, they are all wrong.  There is nothing wrong with my nerve flow, except for a small impingement in the radial nerve on my right hand, and that would explain the sensation issues and the eventual pain.  Solution … more drugs, of course.  After working really hard to reduce the amount of one of my more potent meds, I now have to begin to increase it again.  Well, I always say that God made meds and docs to help us out.  And why should I argue with God?

The issue, of course, is how I deal with this.  For weeks I have been imagining that the nerve problems were an indication that I had more serious damage in my neck than anyone knew, that it would require major surgery to fix, that I would never be able to half of the things I wanted to do.  Or that I had MS or some other debilitating and life-threatening disease.  Now I have to process again that I am a healthy if somewhat hampered 67-year old.  Life is conspiring to make me do this thing!! 

For my friend Peter who wanted some clarification of hypochondria, that’s how it starts.  Here’s the official definition:

 the Preoccupation with fears of having a serious disease based upon a misinterpretation of bodily sensations. The preoccupation exists despite assurance from a physician that the individual does not have a serious disease.

I would be a true hypochondriac if I continued to believe that I was dying or going to be totally disabled by this, or any of my other chronic issues.  That’s what I’m trying to change.  As a sociologist, I think I am being a case study of one person who has lived in a fantasy world (one actually recognized by my field) and is trying to break free of it.  So that’s how it goes. 

 

Now my right hand is pretty much useless, so I better quit this.  More tomorrow…..

Thank you all for reading..

gail

 

A Rainy Night in London Town ….

I didn’t post yesterday because I was feeling crappy and didn’t want to deal with it.  I hid out and slept a lot.   I got some unsettling news about a couple dear friends, which didn’t help.  

Just to clarify, the difference between hypochondria and “real” illness is that the sufferer creates one, often from the symptoms of the other.  So when my arthritis and fibro both flare at the same time leaving me in pain that is what the docs call manageable, I often retreat into the imaginary world of the rare and far more interesting diseases that are actually treatable.  

When I was a kid, the only way I could get my parents’ attention or get out of working in the family business, was to be sick.  Short of taking an unwanted journey down thst road, the behaviour was established early on.  The development of rather difficult to treat and relatively uninteresting illnesses, no matter how real, failed to bring much attention, so I began to be creative.   Perhaps it’s difficult to understand, but that’s how it was.  Over time, my identity became bound up in the fantasy world, and that’s what I want to change.  Reality is hard enough to deal with these days.   I don’t need also to cope with the unreal! 

A wise man told me recently that he was sometimes irreverent in his blog.  I think a little irreverence might help me take myself less seriously and actually begin to enjoy this process.

And now to bed, for tomorrowis another day, ana a teaching one at that.  And yet another major medical consultation…..will report

Another day on the journey

I got up this morning, changed into sweats and went down to the “gym” in the basement to ride the recumbent bike.  Did my current max and then actually did some more stuff called exercise (scary, I know).  Came back up to change for breakfast, looked in the mirror and saw the face of a woman of advanced middle-age whose pain lines now outnumber the smile-laugh lines.  This is not how I envisioned the face of a healthy 67 year-old.  I suppose the change in perception will come with a more deep-rooted change in definition of self.  Let us hope and pray.  Discouragement and depression set in so easily.  I did lose a pound and a half this week.

On to the rest of the day.  Posting this evening.

I am blessed by incredible people in my life.  My family, my friends, my colleagues, my students.  I thank them for their comments and their support.  Michael, my TA-extraordinaire, you have made the return to the classroom so much easier for me.  Your support for this endeavour and your comments on it embarrass me, but thank you.  you are a God-send, literally!  One of the young people in our class sent me a note today that also helped to make the whole effort of teaching worthwhile.

I’m awfully tired and achy.  The weather makes me hurt.  My right hand is nearly useless because I can’t feel anything.  I drop dishes and knives and have trouble holding onto my fork (and my chopsticks).  The little finger of my left hand hurts so much… I don’t feel healthy.  I feel yukky!  I love that word; it’s so descriptive.  And my friend Philip, who I’ve known for 45 years, has just told me that he had a recent brush with death,  All in all, a crappy day, and I think I’ll go watch TV.

 

A Second Day

So what am I to say when I do this daily?  “Today I didn’t think I was dying”?  Well, that’s true, I didn’t, but that’s also no major accomplishment.  After all, I don’t mean to imply that I was morbidly preoccupied (no pun intended, really) with the belief that I had some terrible illness.  It’s just that when I felt crappy, I didn’t think it was just the usual stuff that makes people feel crappy; I thought the worst.  I guess a bit more background would be useful here.  I am, or was, a university professor, one whose love of teaching was truly legendary among her colleagues.  I had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, but who doesn’t have some form of arthritis these days, especially after age 40.  My diagnosis was earlier than 40, and it did interfere with my functioning, but I managed.  Then another whammy, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia at age 43.  Sure lots of folks have that too, but the combination of the two had me in pain pretty much constantly, and within a couple of years, I started to develop some of the brain fog issues that plague many people who suffer from fibro.

Brain fog is pretty much what it sounds like, a sense that your brain is mired in some sort of muck that prevents it from functioning at anything like normal capacity.  I had trouble remembering the names of my students and that was something I needed to be able to do.  As a teacher of statistics, I needed to be especially sharp in the classroom but I found that I was making too many mistakes.  By the age of 55, I felt that I could no longer do my job properly.  Docs and university administrators agreed and after a couple of years of trying to work half-time, I ended up taking long-term disability.  That’s how I spent the last 7 years or so of my career.  Until the pension folks forced me to retire at 65.   Then I went back to work.  But that’s another day’s tale.

It’s really hard to explain how devastating the disability thing was, even for a hypochondriac.  I was so tired all the time, and every time something new hurt or the pain got worse or I felt different somehow, the horrible thoughts took over.  I became depressed,  anxious and totally miserable. I got over the worst of it, I think, largely because I started going to church (trust me, I’m serious), found something to believe in and thought maybe I might survive.  Then, I met Doug, and of course, that made everything better (again, I’m serious).  He supports me even in my darkest moods and cheers me on when I’m in a good place.  He encourages and loves unconditionally.  We’ve been together for nearly 24 years now — the anniversary of our first date is October 20th.  I honestly believe that without him in my life, I would have been in some facility somewhere so that I could receive at least partial care.  He deserves a me that is happier and healthier, so that’s who I will be.  But not for him alone.  It’s really about me.

There is so much I want to do, so many places I want to go.  Doing all that as a hypochondriac is really tough.  Doing it as a health aging person who has a few limitations should be a whole lot easier.  But time will tell.  I think it will be easy to fall back into old habits, so anyone who reads this blog regularly has my permission to send me notes saying “Don’t go there” or whatever other comments may be appropriate.

It’s important for me to say that this isn’t meant to be a work of art.  There’ll be some grammar gliches and some non-sequiturs.  This is from the heart so it may not even always make sense!  But now, it’s late, and I must sleep.  Tomorrow, recumbent bike at 7:30 am, errands, work and the edit this and post it.

 

Tomorrow … or I guess it’s actually today.  It all came back.  I’ve been suffering from some interference with the nerves in my right hand, resulting in numbness and pain, lack of grip, etc.  I was scheduled to have some nerve conduction studies on October 23 but this morning, the appointment was changed to this coming Monday.  All of a sudden, all the images of the horrible things it could be have flooded my brain, leaving little space for anything else.  It’s far too soon in my process to have such a challenge!!  I did get me cycle ride in though.

 

 

 

The Transformation of Me

Something more than a year ago, I set up this page because I thought writing would help me with the journey into older age.  I did nothing beyond setting up the page, except of course, continue on the journey.  Recently, however, I have been going through some rather significant life changes, changes that require me to reconceptualise my self.  I need to develop a whole new identity, and I know it will help to document the process.  This is a different journey, but a journey nonetheless.  Before anyone panics, this has nothing to do with my marriage, except that it is becoming stronger every day.  Doug is sharing my journey, and will be a continual source of feedback, course correction and encouragement.  I truly hope that anyone who follows me here will join him in being my helpers.

I do have to bore you all with a bit of background.  For most of my adult life, I have been a die-hard hypochondriac.  Over the past few months, things have happened that fed beautifully into that pathology.  I began have severe dizzy spells, even falling a couple of times.  My stable of physicians was at a loss to explain them, so I imagined I was dying of something.  Or that I would become severely disabled and be unable to function.  Or that I would continue to get dizzy without warning and have a major (or even minor) car accident).  The latter fear was so real that I refused to drive Doug’s new car unless he was with me.  Then everything changed.

It began with a search for answers to the dizziness.  Cardiology workup, MRI, balance testing, the whole gamut of diagnostic investigations.  Nothing.  There was nothing wrong, nothing that could explain the dizziness.  No-one denied that they were real; there was simply no medical explanation for them.  I actually got depressed because the hypochondriac in me was convinced that I had some esoteric disease that would kill me before anyone figured out what it was.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, I had my final consultation, this one with an otolaryngologist, who, after apologizing for keeping me waiting for two-and-a-half hours, told me he too had no explanation.  The spells were “idiosyncratic,” and I should be happy that they seem to have stopped.  The consensus, he said, was that the problem was simply the changes in blood pressure that normally accompany changes in position.  “As we age,” he said….this from a man who looks all of 30 (he isn’t quite that young).  “As we age,” he said, “it takes longer for the pressure to equalize when you stand up, turn around or move rapidly.”  Slow down was his advice.

But he wasn’t quite done.  He went on to say that based on all the testing, I was a healthy 67-year old.  Yes, I had some chronic health issues, but I seemed to be managing them quite well.  Live your life to the fullest, he said.  Enjoy it.  You have nothing that will kill you.  Can you see how this news didn’t fit well into my self-image?  So that’s the journey, from a hypochondriacal (I think I created this word) women who acted far older than her age to a happy, healthy 67-year old who manages her limitations reasonably well.  It’s harder than it sounds.  So I’m going to try to post here daily, or nearly daily, to help me along the way.  Hopefully, you won’t be too bored.