Back in the saddle again

The grip of the last round of the Yucks started to break right after posting my last. I hate it when I have to go that far to get past a bad spot, but hey, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep heading in the right direction.

Dignity is optional. Progress is not. Words I live by.

My new kitten has changed apparent gender twice, and is back to being a boy kitty — not that it matters in any practical way. I was looking for a name as elegant, good-natured and playful as he/she/it, while treating an upper respiratory infection that made that left eye look like a mouse:

My cat’s mouse

But then, with returning health and strength, his natural energy and violence reasserted itself. He has exactly two gears:
1. Unconscious (or nearly so)
2. Full-tilt, greedy, grasping, and spikily impulsive (as the scratch-marks around my blinked eyelashes attest)

So I’ve named him Siddhartha, in the hope that something will rub off.

Siddhi playing hide-n-seek.
(“Siddi” is an Arabic address used towards a respectable gentleman.
Another fine malapropism from the chronically punny.)

All of his front nails are trimmed now…

In health care, we call this “desensitization”

As for my own care, I’m up to 2/3 of my reiki time and 2/3 of my basic qi gong routine, and hope to get some t’ai chi in today as well. This is tremendous progress.

Vegetables are once again a chief component of my diet, thanks in no small part to an enormous bag of frozen “Normandy style” blend from Costco and our local dollar store, which sells cheap organic produce out of cardboard boxes.

I actually did laundry yesterday.  Today, I hope to take a shower and — gasp — wash my hair!

 

I realize only a minority of you will find that truly inspiring, but the rest can have a good laugh… and then think for a minute 🙂

For me, life with CRPS is indeed a matter of tiny triumphs and great goals. For the record, I’m still bound and determined to advance the search for a cure, and yes, I’ve gotten slightly more concrete in my ideas about that… More to come in time.

And now, just for the deliciously hokey yodeling at the end…

Links list:
Here is a recap and explication of the links used in this post:

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Frustration at the wall

I’ve had my nose shoved up against a wall for two and a half weeks now. It’s very frustrating but it’s the nature of this disease that, at times, I’m going to get stopped in my tracks, and I may not always understand why.

I have had less energy than I do now, but I have never had less motivation. Me? Unable to start something? This is so out of character that it’s a bit like seeing Mother Teresa bite a kitten — unfathomable.


Speaking of eating, I’ve been craving sugar so intensely I have truly felt like I’d lose my mind if I didn’t eat sweets. I haven’t had serious sugar cravings for almost a decade. That was one problem I never ever thought I’d be dealing with again. That’s finally lightening up, thank goodness — and thanks to some mental judo and nutritional first-aid. I can’t take on any more weight or the pain in my feet will become unbearable, and my hips are already giving me hell.

I have great blog ideas, but getting them into words isn’t happening. No… words… come… together. This is so strange I don’t even need to elaborate. This is the first thing I’ve been able to write in weeks and it’s not a blog, it’s a tirade. Excuse me while I scream.

My muscles across my shoulders and upper back are so tightly knotted I can’t do my exercises or qi gong or even more than a stroke or two of tai chi without that weird warping sensation when the muscles pull my moves awry — and then the nerves pull back and howl. Some activity would be better than none, but low as that bar is, I just can’t make it over.

I got a break from my muscles last night when I loaded up on Flexeril (if you follow this blog, you know it’s almost unheard-of for me to hit the CNS-affecting meds) but the lethargy, brain fog and stupidity this caused, for 18 hours afterwards, is hideously limiting in itself.

After trying to do my most basic stretches just now, I took another dose. I will NOT let this twisty locked-up posture become the new normal.

And somehow, nevertheless, I will function tomorrow enough to get my pills and get my gear and get my food for the day and get my sorry ass over to OT and PT and hope something can break through this maddeningly comprehensive barricade.

Needless to say, this is not my usual pleasant, mindful, lemons-into-lemonade sort of post.

This is me grabbing the damn lemons and throwing them right back, hoping to hear a few screams as they connect. 

In the fullness of time, I expect I’ll be able to  find a trigger, or a clue, as to what exactly started this and how to avoid it in future.  I can’t see it from here, and maybe this is the start of what I dread most: The Slide, the final descent into irresistible helplessness and incompetence.

But I think not. I’m too damn angry to give it that much room.

Let’s see what happens next. My money’s on the chunky blonde with the harsh mouth and crappy attitude. 

… And the new kitten…

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Posture matters, across species

For the past forty-mumble years, and for some time to come, my experience of life is shaped by the particular body I’m in. The reciprocal nature of the mind-body experience fills more books than I’d ever want to read, and that’s saying something, so let’s cut past that idea of, “Wow, the mind can influence the body and the body can influence the mind, but neither has sole control of the steering wheel” and look at the subtle, but strangely clear, ways that it plays out – at least in me.

I lived in a dog-friendly marina. – Trust me, this is relevant.

It’s not just about the scenery.
I found that, even before I knew the neighborhood dogs, I could tell which ones belonged on the dock by their posture as they stood, sat, walked, and moved.



I saw dogs in every degree of getting along — or not.

I saw the active posture of dogs who were used to plenty of food and care…



and dogs who clearly weren’t.



This was interesting to me as I was coming out of a period of being thugged on by every force outside myself that had a duty to care for me. Being, not only neglected, but frequently tormented and abused in response to most of my efforts towards survival and care, left me very nervous indeed.

Not good for the brain. Or anything else.

I was having trouble with my posture, and – limited by impaired kinesthesia (the sense we have of where our body is in space) – I was working out exactly what the trick points were.

– My low back was in a tight sway, sticking my stomach and butt out egregiously. I lost over an inch of height to that sway in my back.

– I recently realized that, when I fall back in this posture, my abdominal muscles are braced outward. I’m not slack in the belly; the muscles are braced for an incoming blow!

– My neck was hunched against my shoulders. This was funny because I did used to have a bit of a weightlifter’s neck, short and thick; but that was many years ago… when I lifted weights.

– My tailbone was curled in tight, which I only realized after my physiotherapist at the time taught me to straighten it out as a way of releasing tension on the nerve “sleeve.”

– The points of my shoulders were rotated inward. I attributed this to an effort to ease the nerve opening through my shoulders, but that doesn’t actually make sense.

All of these things reduced effective nerve flow to my limbs, shortened the wrong muscles, limited blood flow to where I needed it most, and reduced my capacity for physical exercise.

And you can see how happy it makes me!

Since activity is key to managing CRPS and keeping the autonomic nervous system under some kind of regulation, this is actually a huge problem.

Good posture is not about vanity, it’s about feeling better, being stronger, hurting less, and surviving tolerably well.

Watching all those dogs running around and deciding whether to let others sniff their butts,

You’re not imagining things: the pit bull is missing a leg.

I realized exactly what my posture looked like: a dog in a hostile area, not wanting to fight, but protecting its spine while bracing for blows. Always ready to snap into action. Never knowing when things will go sour, but pretty sure they soon will.

That’s what those years had brought me to. It was a reasonable response, but not useful.

This is what’s really going on when I fall back into that posture.

I’ve managed to explain this “braced dog” image to my current physiotherapist, who’s wonderfully willing to work with my rather original views. He comes up with ways to tell my body how to stand/sit/move like a calm, alert animal, instead of one that’s braced for the next fight… 

I can’t do anything about the 3 extra cup sizes
this endocrine dysregulation caused, but
my back and shoulders hurt less anyway.

And I remind my too-nervous nervous system that a calm dog can snap into a fight about as fast, but tends to find far fewer of them.

In the meantime, relaxed animals have a lot more fun.

Postscript on self-imaging

Nearly every time I see pictures of someone in regard to posture or movement explanations, it’s someone really fit.

Now, really. Is that who needs to know?

Much as I loathe looking at myself from the outside, using my own image here is preferable to the implicit lie of using others’ figures. So here I am, warts (so to speak) and all.

/shrug/ Could be worse.
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Obsidian drive

I’m behind on my articles, but it’s been an awful week on the internet, with a remarkably slimy predator spreading poison and deceipt like I spread nut butter: lavishly. Boyfriend J gave me a necessary reality check to stop my charging about in pointless anguish, then exerted his remarkable capacity to adjust my mood.

We took a walk in the creek where we admired treasure troves of river-rubbed obsidian, much of it the size of a fist, some rather larger. We got really excited about some of the larger stones, grapefruit-sized.

Only ones that fit in a pocket followed us home:

Then, as it was Sunday, we decided to go to church. For us, this involves no pastors, but maybe pastures…

We went up and around new roads, over beautiful hills, along streams, through forests… and found the sources of all that obsidian.

Great bands of fat black glass sloped up through orange, yellow, white earth.

Some of it spilled onto the edges of the road, much of it clinging to the rockfaces.

Chunks the size of heads, boulders the size of steamer trunks. J remarked, “We hit the motherlode, baby, we hit the motherlode!”

I was so scamperingly excited to get pictures and samples that J was both cracking up and worrying slightly. When I was preparing to dash down a narrow stretch of road to get a shot, h e didn’t send me on and wait by the car… he grabbed my hand and led the way, saying, “If we’re going to get hit by a drunk driver, we’re going to get hit together. Come on, baby, let’s go.”

He met a carnivorous specimen which tried to bite off his finger when, trying to give me a more interesting shot, he reached out to touch it:

This piece has been hacked at by amateur geologists trying, and failing, to collect that enormous sample — well, trophy. J was just being friendly, but the edges are just as glassy-sharp as if he had had more hostile intentions.

It made our river-rubbed fist- and grapefruit-sized pieces look very small indeed — and very gentle!

The temperature dropped suddenly, 3 degrees in 2 minutes and falling. I turned from the rockface and took this picture of the lush region above the volcanic bed just as it did so:

J chased me into the car and ignored all my mindless “ooh, ooh!” noises and frantic pointing after that.

He has seen me, in a 70 degree (Fahrenheit) room, bundled up in a huge sweater and shaking with autonomic chill. When he knows what to look out for, he does a better job of taking care of me than I do. “If I had to drag you by the hair, I was gonna get you off that mountain. By your heel, your ass, whatever. It was getting too damn cold.”

I have to say, it feels good to have backup. I don’t take it for granted.

According to some theories, all this glorious obsidian might have something to do with why this one area of NoCal does not feel like it’s festering… but I’ll let the classical physicists, quantum physicists, wiccans and shamans argue about that. I’m just soaking up the joy of living practically on top of a fat pile of one of the coolest rocks in the world.

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"Angel" in my mouth

I use endearments because I’m an affectionate person. “Sweetie” and “honey” and (my personal favorite) “sweet pea” are terms I use whenever the urge strikes.


One word I never used, because it was just too hokey, was “angel.”

Yes, I used “sweet pea” with perfect ease, but couldn’t bring myself to call anyone “angel” with a straight face.

What can I say? We all have our limits, however idiosyncratic.

I thought, What an overused, overfluffy, overly silly word to use about someone who is decidedly human — as everyone I’ve met so far is.

Then I went through the Years from Hell, a period of about 3 years I try not to even think about because it was so bloody harrowing it’s unbearable to remember, and there’s nothing to be done now to change that.

One set of surprises were some of the people who I was sure would come through, but fell from view when their actions were supposed to match their words.

Many people who seem awfully nice are more socially adept than genuinely good. It’s an important distinction.

Starting late 2011, I found myself using the word “angel” as an endearment for a very particular set of people. It came naturally to my mouth as a substitute for “sweetie” or “sweet pea” when speaking to those who showed up when the going became almost impossible,

who never gave up on me despite good reason to do so,

and who showed up for me through thick and thicker.

The handful of people who made the key difference between my living and dying, are the ones I call “angel” — and find it easy to do so.

It’s not over- anything. It barely does them justice. And, I have to say, some of them were a real surprise: people who aren’t apparently nice can be genuinely decent and deeply good.

Like every ER nurse ever, I used to preen myself on how good a judge of character I was. This disease, and the many versions of Hell that it comes with, teaches us a thing or two about human nature.

It’s fair to say that, even at my most brain-frozen, my judgement about people’s core attributes is better than it used to be.

I know where to find the real angels on this earth.

Among my besties, that’s where.

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The point of mythology — and there is one

I’m working on a series of 3 novellas, a triptych:

1. Kronos in season: The growing-up of a primal god.
2. Hell — the bright side: The original story of Persephone, the original career woman.
3. Pain, a comedy: the intimate family drama that came down to us as the story of Chiron, the wounded healer — and possibly the first recorded case of CRPS.
(Warning: slapstick and hangman’s humor, sometimes simultaneously.)

I’ve been bogged down on number 2 for the best part of a year. In other words, I’ve been stuck in Hell… heheh.

“That Heironymous Bosch. What a weirdo.” – Good Omens

When asked what I write, I usually talk about CRPS and turning medical science into plain English. When asked what my favorite thing to write about is, I have to say, it’s mythology.

“Wait — mythology? … Why??”

Because myths are about the greater parts in ourselves. Those of us in unbearable situations (like the Newtown teachers or Mother Theresa or, indeed, anyone with a terrible illness) have to be superhuman at times. Sometimes most of the time.

Myths remind us of our innate capacity to reach beyond our limits and own the moment, hideousness and all, so that we can lift ourselves beyond all reason and find a way to make things better.

We have modern myths, like James Bond, Star Trek, the X-Men and Harry Potter.  While they have their limits as myths, they still meet the inward need to see that part of ourselves that can bear the unbearable, survive the murderous, and emerge victorious from a no-win situation.

I should have died at least 5 times in the past 10 years. But here I am, very much against the odds, still thinking (sort of) and writing. Rediscovering mythology played a part in that.

And, more than ever, I find it incredibly easy to tell those enormous stories as if I were talking about real people in real time — because, in my own mind at least, I am. When I write about gods and demons, I’m writing of things I know, although under different names.

You should meet my friends with CRPS — and some of their parents. These people embody powers of creativity, diligence, determination, resourcefulness, strength and brilliance that make the great gods of prehistory look like punks, and leave modern adjectives beggared. Telling myths is easy-pie after talking to them!

If we should stick to writing what we know, then I’ve been to Hell and back so often they’ve installed a revolving door for me. I’ve wept on the knees of Hera. Sedna is my sister. I’ve heard Taliesin’s lament. Coyote has my home address, and comes over (too often) for tea… I have my suspicions about what he puts in his cup — and mine.

I won’t discuss the demons, except to say that they, too, can usually be healed. But it’s always by the thing you wouldn’t think of.

“O..kay.” Checks my head for tinfoil hat. “But what does mythology have to do with CRPS?”

It gives us back the unstoppable inner part of ourselves that can defeat it in the end.

And that’s good medicine.

 

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A great flight

The first leg of this flight was the best I’ve had in years. I chit-chatted at the gate with another invisibly disabled person for half an hour and the three of us (including his wife) kept each other very amused, then wound up with not just one, but two, delightful neighbors.

No sooner had I noticed, and enjoyed, the fact that I could converse for an hour and a half without saying “CRPS”, than one of my lovely neighbors turned to me and said, “And what do you do?”

“I’m a writer.” A surefire conversation-starter, that.

Inevitably, “What do you write?”

I talked, not so much about the disease, but about my core group of CRPS friends, most of us in different countries. I described our ongoing efforts to publicize the disease by surfacing the art and creative work of people with CRPS, of pooling our own information about what works both within and outside the standard medical model, and our hope, one day, to be funding research to quantify what works in fields that have been completely overlooked (I’m being tactful) for so long.

I got what could be THE critical referral to a lawyer who has relevant experience in nonprofit structure. That alone might have been worth the price of the ticket.

Then the entire plane sang “Happy Birthday” to my other lovely neighbor.

It really was a great flight.

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Bringing chocolate

I have to be back up North by noon on Thursday, to collect my mail, get the paperwork, meet one of J’s many brothers, and catch up.

A friend is going to come up and visit me when I’m up North.  I actually have a friend in SF who likes me enough to make the drive. Pretty cool 🙂

J has been making friends with the neighbors, and there is nothing like friendly neighbors.

I didn’t find a place to land in LA for my upcoming doctor stuff, but I did cultivate one real, very charming possibility for the future. Not open now, but maybe in a month or two. Which would be better for me anyway.

I’ve been meditating and doing a lot of spiritual work, and am bent on making as little room as possible for mean-spiritedness and ill-will in my life. This is a wonderful exercise because let’s face it, it’s a challenge to have no ill-will in these (apparently) increasingly mean-spirited times.

But I have a very welcome houseguest to see, a bf who’s a bit challenging but extraordinarily loving, and the sweetest dog alive to get back to.

My bf’s brother is going to be hanging around for a few more days. I find that comforting. I’m bringing chocolate.

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Any such thing as "just another day"?

At the end of last year, I had the pleasure of writing exactly the kind of end-of-year post I’d always wanted to: Pleasant without being dull, reflective without being melancholy, whimsical without being trivial, and, of course, linking back to blog posts marking turning points in the year.

I took that week to reflect, which was appropriate. It had been, for me, a year of great inward shifts, starting from the inevitable, flattening despair of the massive practical and intangible losses this disease brings, to a new awareness of possibilities that I had discovered, fought for, or created out of whole cloth. It was probably the year that this blogging voice really took shape.

This year is quite a bit different. I’ve been technically homeless for most of it, catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in far too long, and looking for a rational way and reasonable place to set up my post-poverty life. (Oh well.)

 Despite my plans, I haven’t had much time for reflection these past few weeks. Physical survival in the form of an income and affordable home were taken care of… but then the survival issue became much more personal, and at the same time, even further beyond my control as my nervous system took off without me.

Despite all that work, all that expense, all that hope of 2012… Nothing is assured. There is more to manage, but less I feel I can hang onto.

Admittedly, this isn’t my cheeriest post ever. Be assured that my determination remains unmoved.

With it, that F-U imp still holds the back of two fingers up to anything – or anyone – that thinks to squash me.

This date is an accident of history. The end of the year has even less reason to land on this day, of all days, than the last cycle of the Mayan calendar had to land a few days ago.

Our calendar is only loosely tied to anything but mental habit — and centuries of political pressure.

But it does us humans good to have a chance to pause and reflect, think about how we define ourselves, how we adapt, how we react, how we think, notice what we’re grateful for, what we cherish and want to keep.

As for me, that’s now too obvious to bear speaking of.

I will not die.  
I have work to do
I love, and am loved, more than my pitiful mind can encompass.

It’s more than enough to keep me going!

Whatever we call this day, it’s one more in the middle of an adventure beyond imagining...

 Adventures tend to be damned uncomfortable things, as Bilbo Baggins was not the first to assert; but they make good material. As a writer, I get something out of that. If it’s a form of insanity, at least it’s an adaptive one.

Come with me on the journey. I always appreciate the company.

Links to blog entries:

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An upside down day

Today was a day when everything seemed to turn at least one somersault, including my mind. In fact, I just took off the headset and turned one myself, to complete the set.

Extreme stress makes me a little whimsical…

Food & housing

I woke up this morning in a motel that was as creepy as it was the night before, when the desk clerk had looked up and down at sweet, white, worried me, and said in her most reassuring tones, “I’ll give you the room on the second floor, on the corner, right where I can see you.”

On the one hand, I was glad there was someone to look out for me. On the other, it was horrifying that it was so baldly necessary. A bit like my relationship lately.

Today was the last day of intestinal meltdown before heading into real wasting syndrome: relentless nausea, episodes of dizziness, and nearly volcanic indigestion. The next step is relentless diarrhea. I’ve had wasting syndrome once this year already, and that was enough.

The automatic drive is about to go in reverse…

Time to put more money into staving off physical self-destruction: I called a good hotel with monthly rates, and made a 30 day reservation.

The indigestion is considerably better, and at least I can eat past the nausea. Success! I WILL save this system!

I finally had a good, real conversation with boyfriend J this evening. For all our mutual problems, there’s a lot of love there. This separation is agony for both of us.

I finally got to say what I have been tripping over all day: nothing feels right. I usually have a strong sense of flow, of what should happen next and how to get there. But it’s as if I got washed up on the riverbank weeks ago, and however hard I try, I can’t catch up with the current. I’m more lost than I have ever been.

Being away from my sweetie, and pouring so much money I really need elsewhere into the painful boondoggle of a separate life, is lonely and brutal.
So I have some thinking to do…

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