Posted in Fibromyalgia, life lessons

Bottoms Up

Continuing on this journey of self care, I’ve hit a pretty big bump – since school let out I’ve been severly short on time and energy. And rightly so!  I love spending time with my child and my nieces and nephews!  Summer vacation is time for pools and parks and little trips or even just bumming around the house together. But summer vacation also means way less “me” time, and I quickly started to feel all that I had previously invested in myself slipping away as my old habits of ignoring ME came creeping back. Since I had such limited energy and time, I wondered what was the *minimum* I could do that would greatly benefit me right now…

And that was when I remembered this exercise tape (yes a vhs) I used to do years ago. I found it at the thrift store but then lost it. I remember a woman who used to be a ballerina, bad 80’s leotards, and hip swivels and gyrations. That’s it. But I knew it was really helpful and probably exaclty what I needed since the focus was on small movements. I started searching for it… Calisthenics? No. That’s definitely not it. Um… Oh yeah! Callanetics! Callan Pinckney!

So that’s where the little energy I have has been invested lately. For one hour every other or every third day ib gently pulse muscles I didn’t even know I had and stretch everything to point where I am yelling “oh my good this is fantastic!”. Weird. I know. What can I say.

I’ve done it three times now and can most certainly see benefits already (Callan promises 10 years younger in 10 hours and no one has said she’s wrong), and I plan to continue until my core is stable, my back is stronger, and my feet… Oh dear lord my feet.

It’s ironic that I started this program while having that horrendous foot pain I was telling you all about; it’s as if something inside of me just knew.

After some serious research into why the hell my feet were *radiating* with pain, I came upon this blog that completely explained exactly what was happening with my feet and how to fix it:

https://walkwellstaywell.wordpress.com

Yes. I have plantar fasciatis and a pretty serious pronation problem. And it hurts like HELL. For a while I thought I had a fracture or neuropathy or SOMETING life threatening, because the level of pain eminating from the bottom of my feet was just unreal. I was holding onto walls to walk! Plantar fasciitis??? Pronation??? No way. That can’t be it.

However, some of the exercises in the Callanetics video (I bought the DVD on amazon) were helping my foot pain and mirrored the advice on the site. So I *knew* this was both my diagnosis and treatable. I started in with the rest of the advice on the website plus advice from a running article I read and was absolutely shocked at the results.

But first let me just tell you that the most helpful thing was the most painful thing ever. I cried. I actually cried as I rolled my foot over a golf ball. A GOLF BALL. It was PURE HELL. It BURNED. My shoulers climbed up to my ears and I flinched with every roll. I kept at it for as long as I could tolerate that first night telling myself that it was worth TRYING just to see if it helps. It’s only one night of pain. It’s just one night.

I woke up the next morning and walked into my kitchen to start the coffee maker. I walked down the hall and went to the bathroom. I walked back to the coffee maker and began filling my cup, and that was when I noticed…

I wasn’t flinching, holding onto walls, or avoiding using certain parts of my foot as I walked.

It worked!!

I went back to the website and read up on all the exercises for pronation and plantar fasciitis and started them immediately. Every night now for the past week I have been stretching my calves, rolling golf balls beneath my feet, and strengthening my weak inner calf muslces. All of this on top of doing Callanetics for an hour every other or every third day.

The result? Today I walked barefoot with no pain *at all* today, and my knees feel SO STRONG. I can feel the muscle definition where before there was nothing. Also, my hip muscles feel both stronger and smoother – I don’t know how to explain it, really. My core is getting tight and strong, which is really helping my back. And I can walk like a normal person.

I have been telling my doctors for the past three years that I don’t know how to walk anymore. I kept saying that it just felt wrong and I needed help (physical therapy) to teach me how to walk correctly. Well, they didn’t really listen. But that’s ok because now I know why I felt like I was walking wrong – my calves were so tight that they were pulling my heel up causing me to not be able to strike my heel down as I walked, and also making the plantar fasciatis worse!  Doh!

After all these stretches and strengthening between the Callanetics and the advice from the website, my heels finally touched the ground when I sat on the edge of my bed for the first time in FOREVER.  All this time I thought I just had short legs!!!!  LOL. Nope!! Tight calves! Who knew?

It has certainly not been easy, though. The first night with the golf balls was hell, as I had stated before, but it got exponentially better each night. Eventually, though, I was left with this pain in this one small spot on my right foot that I was SURE was a stress fracture. I KNEW IT. It still hurt after all the golf ball rolling and stretching. It had to be a stress fracture.

But then I took a second look at the picure of the tendons on the bottom of our foot that is on the website. My pain was right where the tendon branched off…so…it could still be plantar fasciitis. So I went ahead and got the golf ball ready for one more painful experiment…

It felt like I was pinching nerves, hitting bone, burning, aching… I almost gave up but then I felt it – a little release! Holy crap!! But then I though wait… did I do something bad???? I picked my foot up and massaged the area and prayed to jeebus that I didn’t make anything worse.

The next morning I woke up and the pain in that area was SIGNIFICANTLY less.

So I did the same thing the following night, and it was a bit easier but still painful.

I just finished night three of focusing on that tiny spot, and things are improving. I no longer think I have a stress fracture – I think my tendons are just really, really, really pissed off.

So there you have it. It’s like I’m working on myself from the bottom up. Solving my foot problem is helping my knees which is helping my hips which is helping my back. It’s all connected.

I do still get mentally exhausted just thinking about how far I still have to go, but I have to remind myself that it’s not a race and every little improvement I’m making right now is a worthy investment that will help make my life better. It’s worth taking my time and doing it right – there are no quick fixes here.

I’m hoping by the end of summer to have significant improvement in my flexibility, strength, and all of my body mechanics. I am also really enjoying reading about Callan Pinckney’s journey of curing her own severe pain. I don’t think I’m going to cure all of my pain, but I do think I can reduce some of it.

Fibromyalgia is such an asshole. Anyone can have tight muscles, but fibro takes it to the next level and makes it significantly harder to deal with. You have to be super vigilant to keep your muscles from getting tight, yet you have to constantly work under your ability so as not to throw yourself into a flare. It’s a messy, tricky balancing act that sometimes send to have no middle to balance it all on; it often feels impossible.

Bit by bit. It’s the only way. I will just keep going and hope for change.

I guess we’ll see!!

Posted in Art & Photography, life lessons

Where I’ve Been

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Hi everyone! I haven’t been around much lately, and I thought I’d tell you why.

A few weeks ago my friend Janessa shared this article, http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7469526, and it really got me thinking. High vagal tone = less pain for people with chronic conditions (arthritis, in this study). They used an implant to stimulate the vagas nerve, but they found that people who did a loving kindness meditation every day increased their vagal tone just as well as the implants.

So it got me thinking…

And that thinking led me to two apps that have been helping me take better care of myself, meditate, and basically get my life.

The first Android app I found is called The Fabulous: Motivate Me!

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.thefabulous.app&hl=en&referrer=utm_source%3Dgoogle%26utm_medium%3Dorganic%26utm_term%3Dthe+fabulous+app&pcampaignid=APPU_1_NaWBVZKgJ5HHsQTQroOQDw

It helps me make small positive changes in my life, and I absolutely love it.

The next Android app I found is Lifesum

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sillens.shapeupclub&hl=en&referrer=utm_source%3Dgoogle%26utm_medium%3Dorganic%26utm_term%3Dlifesum+app&pcampaignid=APPU_1_GqaBVa27AviQsQToubioDQ

It’s a calorie tracking app that is so positive and caring that I can’t help but succeed! My problem is not eating enough. I know. I’m fluffy. I must eat too much. But that is not the case. I tracked my calories a while ago and I was only eating between 500 and 800 calories a day! What the hell???!

Well, when I am tired and in pain, feeding myself just isn’t a priority.

But now it is.

And that is where all of my energy has been going to lately – feeding myself. And drinking enough water. And meditating. And taking time to do something special for myself every day. And removing a box of clutter from my house every day. Basically, lots of little tiny goals spread throughout the day aimed at making me feel better inside and out.

So for the first time in forever (you sang that, didn’t you lol) I am properly caring for myself… And it’s exhausting! It’s like a full time job! What the hell??! But, it is rewarding as FUCK.

So this is where I’ve been and where all my energy has gone. I’m thinking that pretty soon this full time job will start feeling like a part time job and I will have the energy to keep the page going again. But until then, I’m spent and my presence will continue to be pretty sporadic.

I’ve gotten such wonderful messages from some of you saying how much you look forward to my ridiculousness, and I am truly humbled. Thank you, and I can’t tell you how much I feel like I’m letting you down while I take this time for myself. But I know you get it.

I hope you read the article. I hope you try the meditation and the apps. And I hope to be back in your newsfeed very soon.

Until then, keep smihlen! (:

Posted in Art & Photography, life lessons, oh momma!

Tender

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He’s so tender and I’m so tired
Childhood only lasts so long
He’s so little and I’m so big
But soon he’ll be big, too

I’ll regret these days
Every single moment that I didn’t hold him
He’s so tender
He cries if we don’t get to watch Full House together
One day he won’t want to be with me
What will I do then?

Am I good enough, did I do enough
Did I not screw it up enough?
Does he know, really know, that he’s loved?
Could I have done more, said less, held longer, tried harder?
Will he look back and say he had a good childhood? A good mother?

He’s so tender and I’m so tired…

Posted in Uncategorized

Just. Stop.

The other day I saw the most disturbing thing on TV. Now, I don’t normally watch this program because I think it’s just trash (no judgment if it’s one of your faves), but I was waiting for the show I DO watch to come on. And there, on Entertainment Tonight I saw them bring a child onto their stage to confront her about her weight.

I’m sure you all know who it was – Honey Boo Boo. Regardless of what you think of that girl’s fame and her family, she is a child. A CHILD. And they sat her across from this miniscule woman who asked her to basically justify her size.

WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BULLSHIT?!

Read any article on weight and childhood and it will say that telling a child they are overweight is one of the worst things you can do, and here a TV show that parades the tiniest of tiny women as their hosts are telling this child these things. Has anyone ever asked these hosts about their weight? Would they like someone asking their children about their weight? No. No they wouldn’t.

And why do I point out the hosts’ size? Because that is the “normal” we are being fed. I’m sure the hosts are wonderful women, and if that is their god given body type then rock on! All bodies are good bodies! However, do you ever wonder what if that isn’t their natural weight? What kind of weirdness do they feel pressured to do in order to keep that weight? Would they still be employed if they gained weight? Why aren’t any other sizes shown on tv?

What about that one newscaster who was plus sized and got that nasty hatemail? What about the sizes in between plus size and size 0 – where are the size 8 and size 12 people? What’s wrong with them? Why can’t they be on tv? Do you know Amy Schumer is getting shamed by people who are saying she’s too chubby for movies – she’s a size SIX, people! A size SIX! This kind of bullshit needs to stop. It is harmful, sick, and just wrong.

If you think you are the authority of health, the authority of how much people should weigh and look, go fuck yourself. “Healthy” and “Fit” are this decade’s version of “Skinny”. New words, same idea – you are not ok as you are.

“Healthy” and “Fit” people die every day. They get diseases, too. A lot of those diseases cannot be seen from the outside, though. They don’t walk down the street with their disease on display for everyone to mock.

Is it OK to be “obese”? Well… Is it ok to have a face that looks like yours? Is it OK to be short? Is it OK to be very thin? Is it OK to be too thin? Is it OK to make fun of people with eating disorders? Is it really any of your business? Do you ask your friends for their cholesterol levels and blood pressure? Do you check up on your friends’ dental health? Is it OK to mock people at the gym? Is it OK to Instagram your every meal telling the world that you, too, “eat clean” and then you secretly scarf down a bag of cheetos but don’t post a picture of that? Is it OK to be alive?

There’s more than one issue here, but they all go hand in hand. Experts are learning a lot about obesity, from gut bacteria to inflammation and genetics. People who have obesity are screaming that they don’t only eat junk food, are not lazy, and sometimes actually under eat. People who have fought to get rid of their extra weight have been speaking up about what helps and what doesn’t, and shaming is certainly one of the things that doesn’t help. And people affected with bulimia and anorexia have been saying for years how media images only encouraged their disease to progress.

I just can’t honestly believe that Entertainment Tonight blasted that child for her weight – and she’s on steroids to boot! And this is entertainment, you guys. Disgusting.

My wish is health and happiness for us all. I want to see the return of fresh vegetables to everyone’s diet regardless of their size. I want to see processed foods on the decline all over, and I want to see people able to enjoy their favorite foods without being shamed because of their size. I want to see people embracing their bodies regardless of their size. I want to see body diversity on TV. I want to see people not embarrassed to participate in their favorite activities because of their size. I want to see us ALL move a little more and eat a little better regardless of our size. And I want to see the demise of the diet industry.

Is that really too much to ask?

Posted in Fibromyalgia

Haunted

Sometimes when I’m walking, I feel the ghost that haunts me. It’s a memory that has a predicted future, a ray with tangible purpose. I’m walking to an IEP meeting. I’m going to talk a parent at their home for the first time. My client is waiting for me at the park just a few more steps ahead. I can feel my work bag’s weight on my shoulders, gravity pulling down on all my paperwork and visual aids. God I love my visual aids.

Reality hits when I open the door. The ghost is gone, and instead of opening the thin wooden door to the office I’m walking through the tall, cold automatic doors of yet another hospital, another doctor’s waiting room, another disappointment.

The ghost never really leaves, though. I’m haunted by what should have been nearly every day, and I would do anything to get back there. This life? This one that I’m living right now? It was not in the plan and most days I’d rather succumb to the misty leftovers and imaginary continuation of my former life that plays in my head than accept what has really been laid before me.

I don’t think I’m cut out for this kind of life.

I want the old one back.

Posted in dreams, life lessons

Car Games

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Driving in Dreamscapes

It was evening. My hands rested on the cold stainless steel sink as I peered through my kitchen window out towards the street just to see that my car was still parked there. It was just barely visible through the dense fog that had settled all around, but it was there. Right where I had left it. And it wasn’t going anywhere.

This was significant, and I noted it while I was still dreaming. For the past few years my car has ended up missing or stolen in nearly every single dream, so this was a welcome surprise. And I knew it meant something.

For as long as I can remember, cars have represented my life in my dreams. Who’s driving, what the car looks like, and where it goes all reflected what was going on in my life at the time. It is truly uncanny and absolutely fascinating to me.

When I was young, my father was always driving. This made sense because he was the boss. Then he started getting out and leaving me alone in the car. The vehicle would shift out of park and start rolling away every time, and reluctantly I would jump into the front seat and grab a hold of the wheel, attempting to steer or apply the brakes. It was scary yet invigorating.

As I got older, my first boyfriend was always driving. This was the time I realized the life/dream/car connection and I started to make a conscious effort to make more of my own decisions in real life. My very next dream after that was me driving my own car confidently.

When I moved out of the city away from my family for the first time, I stole a car and transformed it into a motorcycle.

When my fibro started flaring more, I would get lost. I’d drive around and around an ever-changing dreamscape of streets that seemed familiar only to turn back on themselves and lead me to where I started – or to someplace I wasn’t trying to go.

When I finally had to quit working and file for disability, my car would get stolen.

And that’s how it has been for several years now. I wake up and try to go to school or work only to find that my car is gone. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don’t. If I find it and park it, it’s missing as soon as I turn my back. Fitting. Completely fitting considering my current circumstance.

Last night was the first time my car has stayed put, right where I had left it, in years. I could see it, even through the thick fog, and I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. All that was left to do was go out there and get it and move it into the driveway.

I think I can do that.

Posted in Fibromyalgia, pain awareness art

The Cycle of Hope

Yesterday I wanted to call my sister and tell her how amazing I felt.  I had so much energy that it felt as though I would burst right through my own skin, and my muscles were having a hard time keeping up with all of the things I was doing, yet I managed to accomplish everything I had thought about accomplishing. “This is it,” I thought. “I’m cured. It was my thyroid all along. And now I have a new life. I can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow!”

And then tomorrow came.

I should know better by now, and I don’t mean to be bleak or morbid. It’s just a simple fact of life with fibromyalgia – everything changes, nothing stays the same. The pain comes and goes, the good days come and go. There is nothing constant but the changes, and you must do all you can to not get caught up in the current cycle, good or bad. Forgetting that the bad cycles end is pretty typical and very depressing, but it’s the warm glow of the good cycles that is the most dangerous; when you forget that the good ends, you risk losing hope once again. And that letdown is worse than any depression that any bad cycle can bring.

Hope is dangerous when you have an invisible chronic condition. Again, I don’t mean to be bleak or morbid, but it is the truth. When you get that taste of what life could be like again and you dare to allow yourself to believe it is really within your grasp and that you can actually hold on to it… Well, it’s like watching a loved one die over and over and over and over again when the pain returns, yet again, tomorrow.

Tomorrow. It’s a four letter word when you have fibromyalgia. Today is all you can really plan for because today you feel good enough to take the trash out so you better do and it anyone and everyone around you better coordinate and cooperate along with you to make this trash taking out thing happen, because tomorrow you might not feel well enough to even lift your coffee mug much less a trash bag, so it is of the utmost importance that it get done RIGHT NOW while you still can do it. And so it goes with hobbies, chores, outings, shopping, friends… Do it now, while you can, because there is no guarantee you will be able to do it tomorrow.

But every now and then a good cycle comes along that is just so good that you don’t even worry about tomorrow because you are confident that “This is it, I’m free.” It just feels right. You just know you will be returning to work. Your whole new life unfolds before your eyes, and you go to bed eager to wake and do it all again.

But when you wake, your hands and face are completely swollen. You can barely grasp your coffee mug or lift it to your lips. Pulling your clothes on and off is suddenly two steps away from impossible.  Your feet feel like two overfilled water balloons. And every muscle feels as though you spent your sleeping hours clutching onto a rope for dear life.

And that’s when you know that you haven’t been cured, you won’t be returning to work, and your little dream has once again died.

Hope is a very dangerous thing.

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The Letdown, smihlenfeld 2015