Against the Current

Christmas is in ten days, and I am slowly inching towards being less Grinchy. After two weeks of emotional chaos to start the month, I think my mood has finally stabilized. More or less or at least somewhat. I am definitely more myself than I had been…just in time for an upcoming appointment with my family doctor to review the medication and make decisions about continuing or increasing the dosage. The low dose I am currently on hasn’t made any difference to the nerve pains in my legs, so maybe the dosage needs to increase. But do I want to go through the emotional upheaval that will come with an increase? 

While my emotions may not be as volatile today as they were last week, I am still feeling all sorts of sad, depressing, and conflicting things inside. I keep plodding along, because there isn’t any other option. I can’t stay in bed all day, definitely couldn’t sleep that long if I tried. I can’t seem to figure out the gifts for Christmas, and I definitely dropped the Christmas cards this year. I barely cook, although that’s mostly due to working a lot of nights. I’m eating a lot of crap, hating it and hating feeling stuck in this rut. Life feels very big these days, while I feel incredibly small. And through it all, the nerve pains and tingling continue on. 

Motivation and will-power flare up brightly and fade just as quickly. I am like a child trying to swim against a strong current. 

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Mrs. Grinch

Christmas is one of my most favourite holidays; however, in the weeks leading up to the big day, I feel more like the Grinch than a lover of the season. 

I love Christmas, but I do not like the commercialized behemoth it has become. While I do enjoy giving and receiving gifts, I loathe the advertising and push to spend, spend, spend and buy, buy, buy. Have you ever noticed that the push to spend never ends? Back to school sales, Thanksgiving sales, Christmas, Boxing Day/Week/Month, Valentine’s Day, graduation, weddings, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Canada Day, Independence Day, Labour Day, and all the random holidays and non-holiday special days in-between…retailers use them all in an attempt to lure you in and part you with your money or inspire you to go further into debt. It irks me. A lot. That’s not what any of those special days is truly about. 

I also get irritated with the “Christmas” music that is played on repeat in every retail and customer service related business. Now I love Christmas carols and music, but I am not fond of the pop spin on the classics or the obnoxious, superficial holiday songs. Santa Baby makes me cringe. Anything by Mariah Carey sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter shrivels my heart until it is much more than two sizes too small. 

When you add those two aspects of Christmas with the usual stresses and busyness…well, I feel like the Grinch. I am cranky and irritable, particularly in certain settings, like heavy traffic, a crowded mall, and when dealing with people who stopped using their brains and common sense. The ever-present nerve pain and recent mood swings make my grinch-like qualities shine. 

I can recognize that beast inside of me, even though I cannot always keep it hidden. But there is a reason why How The Grinch Stole Christmas is one of my top two Christmas shows of all time (and I’m talking the original cartoon.) 

Christmas isn’t found in a store or in a box or a gift bag. Gifts can be special and meaningful and a blessing, but the spirit and meaning of Christmas is not dependent upon external wrappings, like decorations, presents, and feasts. Christmas Day arrives regardless of how ill-prepared or less than excited I feel. And you know what? I don’t believe I have ever had a bad Christmas! It doesn’t matter what has been going on in the weeks prior, Christmas still comes. I cannot stop it from coming, and I really wouldn’t want to. 

I may be feeling more Grinch than Who these days, but I am feeling my shrunken heart gradually growing. Excitement is creeping into the corners of the chaos, and, even if Christmas is somewhat smaller this year, I suspect that it will still be a season of great joy. 

The Medicine Cabinet

There I was in a bathroom stall in the women’s change room at the gym…sobbing uncontrollably as quietly as possible, and I didn’t even know why. I just was and so the day has continued. It is a bonus day off. My workout was fine. There was no real reason for bursting into tears, but I think I can lay most of the blame at the feet of the new medication I am taking. My emotions are all over the place, and I am quite easily irritated, angry, and teary. This doesn’t feel like me, and I hate it. 

When I look at my personal medication history attached to my latest prescription receipt, I am both dismayed and amazed. I am currently on my eighth medication in the past year. Eight different medications since November 7, 2017! Maybe that’s not a lot for some people, but it is for me. Prior to my injury last November, the last prescription I had was in November of 2012, an anti-inflammatory and a pain-killer for a week or two post-surgery. 

I really am a fairly healthy person normally. Five years between prescriptions seems good to me. But now I walk into the pharmacy slightly worried that the pharmacist is going to think I’m a junkie. I’m pretty sure he did at one point, because he took him into a private room to go over my previous medications as well as the new one at that time. I had to explain to him why I was taking the medication and that I was no longer taking the previous ones, which did include an opiate. He was understanding and tried to be helpful, but here I am still unsuccessful in finding something that actually helps me. It might be too early yet to say whether or not this drug will work or not, and I am starting off on a very low dose with wiggle room to increase it. I just don’t like it. 

“I Want a New Drug”

But not really. It might be alright for Huey Lewis and the News, but not for me. 

I had my appointment at the pain clinic this afternoon, and it was yet another exercise in disappointment and frustration. This appointment was booked more than two months ago and was supposed to result in some sort of injection to block whatever could be causing me this ceaseless pain. The pain doctor asked how things have been since I last saw her and put me through the same bunch of tests that she has done before. I am fairly certain that my responses to the questions and tests was much the same as before, but her comments had a slightly different tone. 

At my last appointment, she made repeated comments about my symptoms, as I described them, not matching up with the way that nerves work. While she never dismissed my pain or concerns, during that appointment, I felt dismissed and unsupported. I have always described my symptoms as relating to nerve pain, but somehow she didn’t see it the same way on that visit and thought my facet joints might be the problem. So while I thought I was coming in today for a nerve block, she had actually scheduled me for a facet joint injection. Putting me through the motions today, she realized that my facet joints probably aren’t the culprit after all. Everything seems to point to the nerve(s). 

So back to square one. Kind of. No injection today. The next treatment course of action is a specific nerve root block which will need to be done at the hospital rather than the pain clinic. More waiting. Still waiting for an appointment for an EMG. And the pain doctor wants me to try yet another medication. Of course, it comes with an ugly list of possible side effects, and I will be required to follow up with my family doctor. I didn’t want a new drug. I don’t want any drugs, but I also kind of feel like I have to at least listen to the suggestions of the pain doctor who is trying to help me. How would refusing to try the medication affect her interest in helping me? Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe it would. 

I am disappointed to have waited all this time for an injection that didn’t happen, but I’d rather not get it than go through the discomfort of getting it for nothing. But it is frustrating to be stuck in the same place after having already waited this long. It is frustrating and disappointing to be going back on medication. 

Challenges Into Lemonade

It seems like November started just yesterday, and here we are now on the cusp on December. With one more day to go, I have been (so far) successful in my little National Blog Posting Month challenge. It has been wonderful to have had something to challenge me, even if there were days that felt more challenging than others, but I am also looking forward to being finished. Blogging every single day is hard. It can be time consuming, and I can have nothing to say. 

But a challenge should make us uncomfortable and push us closer to those limits we think exist around us. We grow through adversity and find strength we might not have realized we possessed. Sure, we can pass through a season of challenge and struggle and come out the other side seemingly unchanged; however, I think we also have the opportunity to come out of such struggles having gained new insights and qualities. When we open ourselves to the difficulties and embrace the lessons being shown to us, then we grow and transform into someone stronger, more resilient, more beautiful and gracious. 

Of course, a blogging challenge isn’t exactly high on almost everyone’s list of challenges or struggles in life! It isn’t a challenge that my husband would undertake and that’s okay. But for me, blogging every day for a month is a fun way to push myself a little without over-reaching. A blogging challenge might be easier for me, but it is also a gentle nudge or reminder that I can put my mind to a task and see it through. The past year has been difficult in different ways, and I am still in a place of feeling as if I am struggling against and within myself. As much as I know that I have the ability to reclaim certain aspects that feel out of control, I also doubt myself, because so much feels out of my control. Does that make any sense? 

Successfully blogging for a month isn’t that big of a deal, but it reminds me that I can be consistent and focused in my efforts. Tackling my 1000-piece candy cane puzzle feels like an exercise in frustration, but it reminds me that I can be patient and persistent. I allowed those qualities to get lost in the back of my closet, but a simple challenge like NaBloPoMo has me pulling them out and dusting them off once more. 

Moving Pieces

Earlier this week when I opened up my new training program, I was surprised to see that my coach had given me a deload program. I was a little confused, because it felt like I had a deload not too long ago, and I wasn’t certain if this was a planned deload or one given out of pity for my constant state of physical discomfort. A deload is a lightening of the load or the number of sets or reps to give the body a bit of a break, to recover and rest. Deloads should be a regular part of training, and they have been part of my training from the beginning. 

The body is usually feeling beat up and exhausted by the time a deload rolls around, but I don’t really feel anymore beat or tired than normal. Of course, my definition of normal this year is entirely different than it was before my injury. Now I live in a constant state of fatigue, aches and pains. Okay, so I do appreciate the deload this week, even if I feel slightly disappointed. 

What excites me the most about this week’s deload though is how nicely it allows me to juggle the pieces of life that need to be fit into the week. It’s like playing Tetris, moving boxes around in an attempt to make everything fit nice and tidy without having it all crash down around me. The big pieces are my work shifts. Although my schedule is fairly consistent, there is just enough variation each week to require frequent adaptations to the rest of life’s plans. Fitting training and life into my work schedule is a bit stressful and burdensome at times, but I manage the best I can and look forward to my days off when I have more breathing room and time to move pieces around. But my days off this week look a bit different than usual.

On Friday, I will need to get my training done first thing in the morning, unless I were to go to the gym tomorrow instead; however, that would be three days in a row and I’m not keen on that, even with a deload. After the Friday morning training session, I have a chiropractic appointment. Then I have a couple of hours to come home and clean up before an appointment for a nerve block at the pain clinic. I really do not know what that appointment or treatment will entail or how it will affect the rest of my day (or weekend). So nothing is planned for the rest of Friday, except to hang out at home, do some light housework, and probably have a nap. A few days ago, some girlfriends and I decided to do a little wine tour trip on Saturday. Good-bye weekend! 

All of my energy and organizing this week revolves around Friday, particularly the nerve block. It feels like my last hope, even if there may yet be other options to pursue. I knew more about my previous pain clinic treatment before it happened than I do about this one, so the uncertainty stresses me a bit. I’m sure it will be fine…I just like to know things. What’s going to happen? What am I likely to experience immediately after? 

I am not super stressed though, but I am now thankful for the deload. My training sessions are a bit easier and faster than usual, so it doesn’t feel too onerous to squish them together. 

Walk Along

Ever been caught off guard by someone asking for your help in an area in which you can claim no expertise? That happened to me recently, and I stumbled my way through a response, trying to be helpful, and feeling woefully inadequate. And then I walked away from the encounter, feeling like I had been wise.

However, in my tossings in bed last night, I reflected on the conversation and realized that, while I had indeed passed along some helpful information, I had also failed quite miserably. Someone had asked me for help with a specific situation, because they knew I had walked a similar road before. There was an essence of trust that I could understand the situation, the struggles and challenges, and that I was a safe place to turn for help. And essentially, I tried to slough it off. 

I never want to claim to know more than I actually do. My knowledge on a variety of topics is reasonably broad, but I have no formal education or training or experience in imparting knowledge to others. It is reasonable then that I feel reluctant to have someone else depend upon me for help in matters of importance. What if I fail them? Who am I to pretend to know what I’m talking about? 

But last night I realized that sometimes helping someone is as simple as supporting them in their struggle and walking alongside them on the journey. My own journey started with the help and guidance of others, and it continues along in the same manner, even if some of the players have changed. While I might not have all of the answers for my friend, I am completely capable of supporting her and walk with her.