Look on the bright side

I’m losing weight rather quickly. Clinically, this is unfortunate, and I’m not crazy about the bags of skin.

However, it lightens the load on my feet and makes transit-sized seating less harrowing.

For getting about, there’s really nothing more shiny than a narrow heiny.

And now, an automatic word from our communication device…

iPhone. Because, when you can press only 1 button, there is no substitute.

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Pride of pwnership

I transferred my prescription to a new pharmacy today. When I was asked about existing conditions, I said, “CRPS – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – and fibromyalgia.” My tone, I realized, was firm and proud.
At first, that freaked me out. Proud? To have CRPS? Just how far have I come to identify myself with this disease? 
It bothered me, but not as much as it should have. I put it on a back burner to mull for a bit.
I did some paperwork and watched a movie: Mulan, and I don’t think that’s irrelevant.
I realized that it’s not having CRPS and fibromyalgia that I’m proud of. It’s having CRPS and fibromyalgia, and still being alive – still hugely engaged – still moving to a new place, still sorting out my paperwork, still finding a new adventure, and still organizing that adventure even as it unfolds. 
I identify with whatever it took to develop the nerve, courage, and modicum of grace that got me this far. I identify with what it took to discover those who kept me alive, and made that life worth living. I identify with having gotten to the point where the things that I think about, much of the time, have nothing to do with pain, frailty, and other losses. I have this ridiculously awful disease, but that’s not where my life is. 
I have CRPS, but the verb “to have” has a number of meanings: to possess, to be in relationship to, to be required, to have a duty or need, and so on. If you’ve ever done any translation, you know what a headache the verb “to have” can be. 
In this case, it might just mean that I own the disease, in the way that hackers mean when they spell “own” with a P: pwn. To pwn something (a device, troublesome software, the CIA mainframe) is to figure out how to dominate it, because you know exactly how to make it play ball — whether that’s legal, approved, or otherwise. 
As it happens, that’s pretty much what I intend to do with CRPS.
I’m okay with being proud about that.
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Tern to the present

This is the third major purge of my possessions in 7 years. 

The first time, I decided that anything that I was keeping for sentimental value had to trigger only good feelings; I’d keep nothing that made me unhappy.

The second time, I moved onto the boat, so everything had to have at least two uses.

Now, I’m eliminating everything that isn’t easy to handle, as well as being useful and pleasing.

That meme is extending into the realm of perception. Images and events that used to trigger emotional cascades, because of memories and associations, are finally losing their sickening zap. Associations fall away, and images and events stand out  in simple splendor as just what they are: unlayered, transient, colorful, done.

For instance, I used to hate terns, because their cry sounds exactly like a drowning cat. I blame their awful caw for my not being aware that my cat was in jeopardy when he died. For a couple years now, I’ve gotten snarly at tern-time, when they come here to breed. But, with this shift in my perspective, a tern is just a tern. My excellent companion was still an excellent companion — and, obviously, a kindred spirit.

A tern is not about the past or the future. It’s here now. It’s just that, at this moment, one is floating past with its strange sharp wings twinkling; then it hovers and wiggles for a moment; twists, plunges, spears the water; bobs up again, looking smug, with a little fish in its mouth; takes off and disappears.

Usually, there is no fish. But right now, there goes a pleased tern, enjoying the moment.

It’s just a tern, and it’s doing tern things in a ternish kind of way. Tomorrow it will do tern stuff in a slightly different, but still ternish way. Doesn’t matter. It’s just a tern — nothing more nor less.

There is no furry friend dying alone.

There is just a bird.

Gorgeous photo: Geert Wilders at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2426290/posts

And I want credit for resisting the obvious urge to make a crack about taking a tern for the worse.

Oops…

Anyway.

I stumbled across a quote that seemed shiningly appropriate:

“To live here and now, you must train yourself: in the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the sensed just the sensed, in the thought just the thought. That is the end of  sorrow.” – Gautama Buddha

I don’t know about the end of sorrow, but it’s true that it is far easier to manage my moods, notice my body’s signals, and do what I need to do, when I keep things in this charmingly simple, deceptively rigorous perspective.

It’s rigorous because it goes against all my socialization about the importance of hair-trigger reactions and emotional responses: Am I an ice-queen? Don’t I care about things? Aren’t I human? What’s wrong with me?

I’ve gotten all of those remarks in my time, when I strove for calm in former years — especially from mere acquaintances and random strangers, which always shocked me. How I, and those around me, survived my 13th-23rd years is unimaginable at this distance of time and self-certainty, but falling into the reactivity trap was one good way not to get verbally assaulted.

One advantage of being plumply middle-aged is that, for one thing, people watch you less; for another, a degree of equanimity seems to be less … annoying.


Exqueeze me?!?

I’ve had it up to here with emotional reactions. CRPS is a roller coaster par excellence, for emotional reactions. I’m quite done, thank you, and I’d like to get off now.

Actually, I think I just did.

And now, a tern is just a tern. For better … or worse.

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Getting it right

H’mm… Struggling with the recurring message from the world around me that I can’t do this, I can’t cure this case of cold chronic CRPS. It’s twinned with the message that, whatever I’m doing, it’s wrong.

I’m not interested in whining, because, as my CRPS cohorts know, this nonsense is par for the course… but every now and then, it’s good to step back and do a reality check.Let’s take a good look at this thinking:

  • On the conventional medicine side, I walked into a new doctor’s office with my tabulated timeline of years of a complex case, pictures showing the evolution of the disease in this body, and documentation about what works and what doesn’t. The response: “You spend way too much time thinking about this!”

Don’t waste time trying to find any upside to that remark. It surprised me especially because most of my docs (the best in the biz) loved my documentation. Now I know that the really good doctors love it, and the ones who don’t love it are either one-trick ponies or second-rate. This one was a one-trick pony, and once he’d done his job, I was gone.

Let’s back up and pretend this guy asked,

  • “Wow, that’s a boatload of well-crafted, thoughtful documentation. Why did you go to so much apparent effort?”

I’d say, “I was a nurse so the concepts are easy, and I was a tech writer so the structure is even easier. This is a cakewalk for me. If I CAN’T document what’s going on, check for a pulse!

“Moreover,” I’d go on, assuming the doctor cared about my well-being, “tracking this stuff frees up my attention by letting me plonk it down in black & white and then put it out of my head. That leaves the rest of my time free for meditating, friends, bathing, housework, and so on.

“Besides,” I’d add, if the doctor looked like one who could take a joke, “most docs find this case hopelessly confusing, and I don’t need you wasting my time by asking the same questions 3 times and still getting it all wrong in the end, just like the one other doc who refused to look at this!” Ha ha.

Clinical note: Seriously, physicians, that’s how to handle an expert patient: Ask, then listen. Saves time.

  • The alt-health folks are liable to tell me, first, that I’m sick because I think the wrong thoughts; then, if they ask about my mental habits, it’s obviously because I eat toxic foods; if they want to get straightened out about that, “it’s clear, dear, that you’re too attached to this disease” and there’s nothing anyone can do to help. (Direct quote.)

My fellow CRPSers are thinking exactly the same things as me right now.

Besides the sheer cruelty of that response, the fact is that spontaneous total remission from CRPS after the first 3 years is even rarer than spontaneous remission in cancer or AIDS. I’ve heard of it happening once as late as 7 years; I’ve had it for roughly 10; average survival is 30 years after onset. If any of you has more optimistic data, I’d love to see it!

Here are some things I’ve learned about how what you think and what you do REALLY affect the course of your CRPS:

  • Those who stick exclusively with the conventional model and submit to their doctors without question, especially when they have noxious drug reactions (as I do), tend to suffer much and die young.
    That’s what happens when you’re a passive patient with a disease that few doctors understand.
  • Those who become well-informed and educate their doctors, have better results and do considerably better for much longer.
    That’s what happens when you open your eyes and take initiative regarding a very rare and complex disease.
  • Those who research and implement changes to diet and lifestyle most vigorously, have the best results from their care and use a lot less medication with much better results, higher function, and lower disability.
    That’s what happens when you shoulder real responsibility for what you do and how it affects your life.
  • Those who are active in the online communities, seeking support and providing support to others and sharing information, tend to beat the odds.
    That’s what happens when you constructively engage with your community.

I’m looking for something I’m not doing yet. I will figure it out, hunt it down and I will do it.

CRPS is an incredibly hard disease, in every conceivable way. Where there is any spontaneous remission at all, there is something to work with. I just haven’t figured out what yet.

Since I still have CRPS, I find those recurring messages a little intimidating. I  don’t yet have hard data to throw back against the key message.

I can see that, when others say I’m doing things wrong, the statements tend to be presumptuous and ill-informed — but the fact is, I still haven’t cured my own case of CRPS …YET.

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