Posted in Fibromyalgia

Chasing Ghosts

I’ve written so much about my struggles with fibromyalgia that at times I can’t imagine any new way to describe it all. Thankfully fibro keeps changing and evolving, constantly giving me new material! I know how that appears. Why is there always something wrong with that woman? When will she feel good? How can she have that many things wrong with her? How can it hurt if there really isn’t anything wrong? And those are just questions from my own brain, what the hell are other people thinking??!!

It’s near impossible to imagine pain with no cause (rebels with no cause are cool, though). I didn’t break my leg or get injured; my nervous system is injured which means you can’t really see my pain and it doesn’t appear to follow much rhyme or reason – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

I have a new primary care doctor, recommended by my pain doctor (when does that even happen?), and he is wonderful. But I can’t help but to think he’s at the “why the hell did I accept this patient” stage of our relationship (even though I was told he loves a challenge, hence why he got me). If I had to be honest I would tell you that I feel emergency levels of pain several times a month, every month of my life. This is pain that my body knows is bad and needs urgent medical attention because something inside me has to be in the process of dying in order to feel this way. My brain, however, knows that this is just par for the course and that the last time (and time before that, and the time before that time) I went in there was nothing wrong with me. It’s like going on Maury on a regular basis, each time certain you have found the daddy of your pain baby, only to hear those words “you are NOT the father” and now everyone just thinks you are a pain slut.

I might’ve taken that too far.

*shrugs*

It’s embarrassing. At least it is for me. And if the attitudes are just right, or if I feel the attitudes are just right, i.e. judgmental, I can very easily be discouraged to come in for any kind of treatment for a very long time out of pure shame or simple self doubt. Knowing I can’t trust my body and that I can rarely tell if I’m actually sick, actually injured, or if I’m just chasing a ghost means I’m not going to trust my uncertainty with just any practitioner unless I absolutely have to. Which means I often end up in a bad place that was completely preventable had I just gone to the doctor. It’s a crazy, endless cycle.

This is my life. This is why I’m a total dipshit.

Every day I am monitoring myself for hints of things going wrong so I can stop them before they get too overwhelming while already dealing with whatever has already gotten overwhelming. This is why when I feel good I just go batshit crazy and do all the things, which must be terrifying for people because I don’t even know how to socialize anymore; I swear to sweet baby jeebus in his little tiny sparkly spaceship that the last time I escaped and tried to be social I sat down next to someone and said “I like pot-roast”.

I’m a grown-up, you guys. I’m in charge of a kid and a dog (and a cat, but we all know no one is really in charge of a cat). Someone let me loose on this world and thought I could adult and check my own engine oil and not explode microwaves and otherwise just basically function, and I don’t even know what a normal human body is supposed to feel like.

WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA????!!!

Take me to your leader right meow.

Posted in Fibromyalgia

Breaking the Silence

Yesterday was my 6 year blogiversary here at Still Smihlen (thanks to my friend Rita for naming it!), and seeing that little notice really kicked me in the ass. I realized that I haven’t been here as of late. You know, here. Not necessisarily here at this blog or on my facebook page – which really sucks because posting ridiculous stuff for you guys is on my Top Ten List of Bomb Ass Shit – but, yes, both here at the blog and here in the normal, functional world. Since I checked out I have taken blow after blow after blow and each time I thought about chronicling my experience I just cringed. It was too depressing, too dark, and simply too painful to recount while I was trying to recover. It’s a bit like falling through an ice covered lake in subzero weather and someone offering you a glass of ice water once you finally pull yourself out. No. I need a blanket, dumbass. STAT.

And so I climbed into that blanket and just stayed there until I could feel my toes again. It took almost a year and a half. I’m not proud, yet here I am so perhaps I should be. Not everyone makes it back.

Writing is normally very therapeutic for me, but I haven’t been able to pick up my blogging ever since my last fall. I’ve tried, but the nagging feeling that I was avoiding something, that I was leaving something important out of the story blocked me every time. And so I am going to tell you this part of my story and just get it out there and over with in hopes of being able to move on AND in hopes that it will help someone else.

So here we go.

Let’s talk about Depression.

In high school I decided I’d be a great psychologist because everyone told me I would be a great psychologist. I remember one time being called out of class thinking I had done something wrong, but it turned out a peer was in crisis and only wanted to speak with me. Yeah. Pretty badass, right? I know. I know.

Once I was an adult (and not a psychologist lol), I really enjoyed studying and reading about psychology. And I’m glad I did because it really came in handy after I almost caused a severe car accident due to my irrational fear of spiders. That experience really shook me and I knew I had to do something about that fear before I hurt myself or others. So I read up on desensitization therapy and did it my damn self. Successfully. I cured myself of the fear of spiders and also learned that my mind is my own and I am absolutely capable of keeping it in check.

Fast forward about 20 years and there I was crying in my bed, isolated and hopeless, a prisoner of my own mind. I hadn’t posted a single thing on social media in several weeks. I’d try…but nothing would come out. Nothing.

Also, I couldn’t feel happiness for ANYONE.

New baby?

Meh.

Promotion?

Meh.

And creepily I had no reaction at all to people dying or any otherwise awful event. I remember saying to myself “I know I’m supposed to feel something, but I just don’t”.

I was depressed.

We tend to think of depression as sadness, but I’m here to tell you that it’s actually closer to nothingness. And that is quite terrifying.

I set out to help myself and quickly found that no amount of indulgence (I got a dog,) or ridiculousness (I watched only cat videos for several days on end), or self-help (allll the books), or meditating (books and apps and books and apps) was completely lifting me out of the dark, and no amount of telling myself to just snap out of it and feel things that I couldn’t feel was working. I needed professional help. So I called and made an appointment.

Going to therapy felt great. I appreciated having someone objectively examine my situation and explain exactly how I got where I was, by no fault of my own, and how we could improve things. Having a therapist diagnose my fibromyalgia pain as the cause of my depression was the biggest relief of all. Why? Why did it matter? It mattered because I didn’t want to have that flaw that caused me to not be able to control myself. I didn’t want to be weak. Please, anything but weak.

When you are fighting something like chronic pain or depression, you are also fighting stigmas. Mental illness and invisible illness are perceived as lapses in character or strength and control; a poor choice that you continue to make and dare to complain about. If your heart fails you are rushed to the emergency room and prepped for surgery; if your mind fails you are told to smile.

I have always fought these stigmas for others, but when depression landed in my lap let me tell you that my PRIDE took a beating. Everything I knew to be true about mental illness didn’t matter because I was stronger than that. Or at least I was supposed to be.
That pride nearly killed me once before so thankfully I knew better than to let it win, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. The mere fact that it was even an issue at all proves how deadly these stigmas can be.

I’ve done a lot of work. I’ve got a good mix of medication and therapy and coping skills to help ease the symptoms but I am not in the clear yet and I do not know when I will be. Also, I’m pretty pissed. I’ve been busting my ass to beat depression and the truth is that I may not pull through this until my pain is under control – which, based on my medical history, could be never. I honestly thought that if I worked hard enough I could just eliminate this issue from my plate. Learning that it doesn’t work that way has sent me into what I can only describe as rage.

I grieved my former life, I did the soul searching to find my worth beyond a paycheck, I found ways I could still help the world and feel satisfied with myself and yet I still ended up severely depressed. I was not prepared for the level of isolation and utter exhaustion paired with my pain and frustration…. but who could be prepared for that? And then, after I crawled out of that hole, I had to discontinue a medication that sent me into actual for real withdrawal. I’m talking cold sweats and spasms, brain zaps and nausea, and pain like I’ve never felt before. And I was right back in that pit all over again.

It’s not easy. And it’s been a non-stop cycle that I just can’t see myself talking about every day because I need to use that time to watch dumb videos that make me laugh and write ridiculous things on my page so that I do not hate life.

I have support. I have a great medical team. I have an amazing family, beautiful friends, and my child shoots sunshine from his butthole. I’m educated on mental illness. I have everything I need to recover but I have to accept that it is a very slow process that is much more like a rollercoaster than a marathon. There is no quick fix.

So there you have it. I don’t have much more to say about it other than if you’re going through something similar, just know you are not weak and you are not alone.

Now go watch that damn Sharkira video. That shit is hilarious.

(:

Posted in Uncategorized

From the Chandelieeeeer

Ok, look. I’m just going to be straight up honest with you here and admit that I am NOT the best housekeeper by any means, but I’m not disgusting. Gross, sometimes [I do have a kid], but not disgusting. And I tell you this because we’ve developed a bit of a fly probem, which might bump me up into the upper tiers of grossness but, honestly, most of it is not my fault so hold that Judgey McJudgerson judgement for just a bit longer as I explain.

Our dog was diagnosed with Lymphoma on April 13th, and a few weeks later stopped eating her regular dog food. So I started scrambling to feed her whatever people food she would eat – which worked great for about two weeks. Then one day I had to feed and water her by hand. When she regained her appetite, or so I thought, I served her a big spoonful of her favorite beef and rice…and the entire bowl disappeared.

No, not like she ate it. She HID it. The entire bowl, with it’s contents. I laughed at first. What a weird thing for her to do, right? I laughed until I couldn’t find real people food in an open container for three days. Not so funny anymore.

I learned that she hid it because I put it next to her new sleeping spot and that she wanted her area clean AND probably also did not want the food period because her appetite was just about completely gone. And so, while looking for my son’s hoodie, I found the bowl and the spilled food in the corner of our “coat rack”, which is a bunch of hooks I hung behind the door but nothing really gets hung on them because my son throws his shit on the floor.

But I digress.

Grossness ensued as I cleaned rancid fat and meat…the rice held up nicely, I must say…but by then it was really too late. And I was too tired – let’s not forget that I’m pretty broken over here – and the seeds had been planted. Or the eggs. Whatever.

Fast forward to a few more episodes of her hiding food no matter where I put it, me having to leave plates of baby food out for her overnight in *hopes* that she’d eat, and, well…flies. Lots and lots of flies.

I was overwhelmed with the whole process of trying to find food for my dog to eat, on top of already being too overwhelmed to clean a normal house much less a house riddled with the remains of people food that was now dog food that was now hidden somewhere inviting problems.

I made a few homemade traps – I am an EXPERT at fruit fly traps, so why shouldn’t I be good at this? I mean, a fly is a fly, right?? After a few spills of just *disgusting* stuff, I quit. I quit and I went online and searched for where the hell I could get fly ribbon…which is where I came up with my first piece of comic relief in this entire fiasco – please see the description.

image
Ass water. I should have known.

I stuck with the fly ribbon.

So here I am, pulling the first fly ribbon apart, and just praying that I do NOT get it stuck in my hair. Because I ran right into one once as a child and the memory of that thing in my hair still haunts me to this day.

I got the first one out very carefully, barely getting any on my hands, and managed to hang it in the bathroom without a hitch. This falsely raised my confidence levels, which really wasn’t a good idea, and so I was a little more cocky with the next ribbon.

I decided the next one should go above where the pet food bowls were. And so I started pulling it apart…pulling….pulling….until somehow it was stuck to the front of my shirt.

No problem, I told myself. It’s ok, I said as I peeled it from my shirt watching the residue stay stuck to my shirt in little patches. It’ll wash off…

Next fly ribbon was to be attached to the dining room chandelier because a) I really like Sia and b) they are really attracted to the light that comes from the window it hangs in front of. So I find some tape, open the ribbon, get the ribbon stuck to itself, peel it apart again, and successfully tape it to the chandelier.

Or so I thought.

I finally go to sit down, flipping off every fly caught on every ribbon on the way because I’m a bad ass bitch, when I hear FLOP!!!

The ribbon hanging from the chandelier had fallen to the floor.

Thank goodness it’s only tile, I tell myself as I get MOAR tape and go to pick up the ribbon.

[cues A Christmas Story’s tongue vs metal pole scene] Stuck? Stuck?? STUCK!!!!!!!!!!!

I finally pull that bitch off the floor only to find MY FLOOR TILE ATACHED TO IT.

So I pull off the floor tile, and the ribbon gloms right onto the front of my shirt as if my shirt were made of fly ribbon magnets. My hair sets on fire, figuratively of course, and I rip the damn ribbon off my shirt only to lose my grip on it and send it plopping back down to my damn floor tiles.

Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

I finally get it taped back up to the chandelier, to the chandelieeeeeeeeer, and then I go and flip every little stuck fly off AGAIN because FUCK THIS, I AM THE BOSS.

The very sticky boss.

Do you know that soap won’t get this shit off your hands???? Thank goodness I tried to be a good mom once two years ago and make my own baby wipes [because CHEMICALS], therefore I still have a newish bottle of baby oil in my cabinet – even though my baby is 8 years old. [Boys have pooping/wiping issues until they get married.]

And so here I sit, waiting for all my hard work to pay off, hoping I won’t walk right into a ribbon like I did as a kid, half knowing I’m probably going to do just that.

And that is life right now in the Ihlenfeld house. Thanks for tuning in. I’ll be pouring baby oil all over my floor tile if anybody needs me…and probably pouring it in my hair later if anyone would like to bring me some wine…

Maybe I should have gotten the ass water.

Posted in life lessons

That Look You Give Your Child When You Know His Fish Died and He Doesn’t Know Yet

We’ve been going through it over here as of late. I’ve been going through it, my son has been going through it, hell even both cats and the damn fish have been going through it. And, based on me catching our dog scootching her ass across the living room carpet earlier today, she’s going through it as well.

Apparently it all started the day I was born, but we’ll start at the end of this summer just to make things a little easier. At the end of summer I scouted out some delicious used furniture from the rich side of town and moved into the era of being a real person that has real people furniture. You know, furniture that is somewhat modern, fairly stainless, and actually improves the look of your entire room. Furniture that looks like you put thought into it. Furniture that matches and coordinates with your room. Furniture that you actually don’t want the dog on…or the kids on….or your guests on….

And as I sat in my glorious new (used) living room, a sense of peace and harmony washed over me and then drained right out of my feet as my hand came down and rested in a wet spot caused by a leak that had sprung from our elder cat. Then I instantly became a basket case.

It was all so easy when I had a hand-me-down couch that was beautiful (but not toddler friendly) and a big patterned couch that *was* toddler friendly and beautiful in my eyes but, based on the $35 price tag at the local Goodwill that has been known to try to sell chipped paint scrapings for more, apparently no one else agreed. I was mildly happy with my acquisition, very happy with the price, and therefore not worried one bit about rips, spills, pee, puke (ok, yes I was worried about puke because omg it’s PUKE), markers, boogers, mud, feet, pets, farts, or anything else my child, nieces and nephew, pets, guests, and even self could throw at it. It just didn’t matter. It only cost $35 and the pattern hid everything. And I mean *everything*.

(My friends are all now wondering what they have sat in over the years. You’ll never know, guys. You’ll never know…)

But now I had real furniture. Light beige furniture. Why did I buy light beige furniture? Was I crazy? Yes. While I may not have been when I bought it, I most certainly was now that I had it I. And so I learned a valuable lesson that I would like to share with you all:

Don’t buy nice shit. All you do is worry about your nice shit getting ruined, and then your entire life is ruined because it’s all you think about. Live in squalor and be happy. Please. I beg you.

So our cat had a leak (big problem) and I was covering all three pieces of new (used) furniture with aluminum foil every single evening (possibly a bigger problem on the crazy person scale) because cats don’t like aluminum foil. Dogs, however, don’t give a shit fyi.

I’ve gone through 5 bottles of Urine-B-Gone and upholstery cleaner and three rolls of aluminum foil since then, spent about $300 on a leaky cat and still have a leaky cat, spayed the other cat so she would stop spraying but she’s still spraying and, somehow, still got her monthly visitor, and the dog is scooting across the damn living room carpet.

So we thought we’d alleviate some of the insanity by upgrading my son’s fish tank. He loves his fish – he’s had them for 4 years. Had. He had them.

First Hammer died. Yes, Hammer. My son went through a stage where he wanted to name his fish Hammer, his baby cousin Hammer, and even himself Hammer. Only the fish got lucky enough to keep the name. Hammer was also lucky enough to have me notice he had passed just in time for my son to look at my face and know something was wrong but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him his fish was dead so I tried to use telepathy and it kind of worked but mostly it was just the “your fish died” look on my face that probably told him… but regardless, he was a lucky fish. Lucky to have a headstone made for him by my niece, an entire funeral in our front yard, and the undying affection of my son for forever and always.

So we replaced Hammer with Bubbles and my son focused on his original fish, Emo. Yes, Emo. He was 4 when he won him from a fair, and I initially thought he was trying to name it Nemo….but, as always, I was wrong because I’m a mom. Emo. His name is Emo.

So I transferred Bubbles the newbie and Emo the oldie to the new tank and pretty much killed my son’s favorite fish. He’s currently in our freezer as the trauma still hasn’t ended and my son can’t bring himself to bury him.

Oh, and then just two days ago one of the other newbie fish we added to make up for Emo dying, died.

I’ve found myself actually having chats with the the tank, telling the occupants that no one else is allowed to die because I can’t handle another bedtime fish investigation trauma extravaganza. I. Just. Can’t. My son has a heart so big that he cares so deeply for even the small animals and eyes so quick that I wasn’t able to sneak out and replace any one of the three fish before he knew it was dead. Or maybe I’m just slow.

And I could be slow. I’ve lived on my couch for the past month and a half in a woozy haze thanks to new meds. I might technically *be* a couch now. And while my pain levels are down and my depression is lifting, I am so tired that I fall asleep in the middle of being asleep. I also break all the things and dumb all the things and, well, am basically a hot mess….yet…it’s a million times better than the hell I was sitting in before, so I guess I’ll take limbo. An upgrade is an upgrade, right?

Oh, and everything tastes like crap. When I actually have an appetite I swear all the food is spoiled, and that coupled with the extreme nausea caused me to drop 20lbs in a month – something that my fluffy frame can certainly stand to lose, but it’s just not the most fun way. Like, I can’t brag about my lack of appetite or post pictures of an empty plate on facebook to get healthy life points like all my friends who are on raw food vegan triple venti diets that will make them live for forever. They get points, right? That’s why they photograph and post it, right? And you get to cash the points in for stuff, right? Right????????

Point being (see what I did there), no one feels bad for the fluffy person who is too nauseous to eat and is losing weight quickly. No one.

On top of all of this I caught a nasty virus and just couldn’t even parent, so I didn’t hang out on the playground before school with my child that day and then I also didn’t come in to read with his class that day either because I was either burning up or freezing at the moment…and I temporarily broke my child. All the fish deaths, and then his mother disappoints him twice in one day…..I broke him. Which broke me. So now we are all broken but only one of us is leaking and only one of us is scooting our ass across the living room (it’s not me), but we are all still broken.

But the furniture looks fucking fantastsic.

(:

Posted in Uncategorized

A Typical Friday Afternoon

I stand on my front porch fully medicated and woozy. A chemical taste emits up my throat and out of my mouth like invisible cigarette smoke, and while it’s not horrible it’s most certainly weird and noticable. It feels as if it has permeated my lungs, and the damp post storm air does nothing to help.

Landi is rambling about the yard, testing limits, yet again, ever since both cats went in to the vet one after the other. I think she worries she’s next ever since that crazy Petco experience where she incited every dog in line with her incessant high pitched bark. She honestly just wanted to play. I swear. Fun times.

Little guy is on the floor playing with fully *clothed* barbies for a change along with a headless G. I. Joe doll. Why is he headless? We don’t know. Best not to ask. Plus, little guy has strep throat and is currently happy, so sometimes you just need to keep the peace by leaving well enough alone.

Unless the peace is a hyperthyroid cat with possible kidney failure who is leaking diluted urine down his legs and all over the house non stop. Then you pick that dude up and shove him into a modified baby diaper that you learned about from a YouTube video, at around 1am last night during the power outage, and freak him out and make him miserable, and eventually watch him escape from its grips around his bum using his hind legs, destroying all your hard work.

Pick your battles wisely, they always say.

Hindsight is totally 20/20.

Posted in Uncategorized

That Boom

My guitars are dusty
My keyboards rusty
My voice is gusty-less

I’ve got no breath for my reeds
No shake tambourines
No show for your appease-ment

My glitter has faded
My moves all out-dated
My act would be rated-less than zero on Yelp if Yelp rated such things like acts and singing and music playing and whatnot

But I’ve one little spark
And I’ll wait for the dark
Then l’ll light that shit up like – “BOOM MOTHERFUCKERS!”

– s. m. ihlenfeld

Posted in Fibromyalgia

Obama Alien Baby (tmi)

You guys, I am miserable. And mortified. And thankfully I can laugh about it and share it all with you so you, too, can laugh.

So, enjoy.

*tmi warning*

I headed to urgent care this past Wednesday evening due to this horrible, gnawing, burning, and sometimes stabbing and slicing pain in my stomach that had been going on and off for almost a month. I know, long time, but the first time it happened I thought I had a stomach virus. The second time it happened I stopped taking my antiinflammatories. And this time it happened I thought I was having an alien baby… Or just had an ulcer.

So I get there and they are very kind and most certainly suspecting an ulcer. They give me a nice cocktail of lidocain to drink in order to rule out acid reflux, and then they sent me for xrays to rule out whatever it was they were going to rule out with that. Probably to get a good look at the alien baby growing inside me…

As I waited for X-ray results, the lab tech came to draw blood, and for the first time in my life I got to experience what it feels like when someone hits a nerve in your arm while drawing blood. HOLY SHITBALLS!!! I felt that ish in my damn TEETH!

He was really nice, though, and was extremely apologetic, and he was humming “you keep me hanging on,” – the Vanilla Fudge version – so I couldn’t even be mad. We clearly had the same soul.

Long story short – Gastritis (figured), a UTI (wtf?), and…. wait for it… Constipation.

Wait… WAT.

Now let me just say that the idea that there is an X-ray of my poo-filled insides floating around in my medical chart is just more than I can handle. Also, the fact that my alien baby is really a poo baby is messing with my mind, man, and a bit more than I can handle. And I’d also like to say that three days on laxatives is CERTAINLY more than I can handle. But I do remember telling my doctor that I thought the Lyrica was causing me problems down there when we first started upping my dosage…

So…. Thanks, Lyrica. And Antiinflammatories. And… Whatever else. Obama? Can I thank Obama? Fine. Thanks, Obama. Whew. I already feel better.

Except I really don’t.

The one good thing is all the burning in my stomach is fine thanks to the famotidine. I’m so thankful that I can finally go back to consuming an entire jar of Famous Dave’s sweet and spicy pickles without any pain. Not that I’d actually do that…often…

We’ll see how this progresses.

To be continued……