When I was a teenager I wanted nothing more than to be normal; with my super short, curly, mousy coloured chemo hair I stuck out like a sore thumb. Luckily in high school everyone was so wrapped up in their own lives and drama that people barely gave me so much as a passing glance on their way to English class. And I grew comfortable in my invisibility.
I was never the best at anything. I barely scratched the surface of good most of the time. But I was good enough at a lot of things and that has served me well for most of my life.
I know I have been gone for a while. About two months, actually. That’s a long time to be away from this website, you guys, and really myself. This website and my writing is an escape from this life I no longer feel control over and without putting in the work to keep my sanity, I instead get bogged down and the depression that I fight daily takes over.
I can’t let that happen again. I can’t.
So here I am, friends. Back and ready to work on this website and therefore myself. As you can probably tell I’m not very website savvy. I use this as a medium for my thoughts and writing only and just cannot for the life of me get interested in actually creating a fully functioning website. Thankfully I have some family members who are up on this website building stuff and so I’m hoping to rope them in to helping this website become more professional and pretty looking. If you have any suggestions please feel free to write to me in the comments or personally at firstname.lastname@example.org
I do also want to take a moment to share something that has been helpful for me lately. Something that I never thought I would actually enjoy and something that has helped me find some inner peace amongst the stress of spoonie life…. YOGA.
Now here’s the catch- I don’t do it really in a class or any type of instruction. I do exactly what feels right for me. I enjoy the meditation aspect of it and really value the positivity and endorphins that I get from stretching and listening to my body.
I recently received an email from my friend Sebastian who runs http://www.somuchyoga.com and they have published an article on the benefits of yoga for people struggling with arthritis (or other chronic pain illnesses). If you want to check it out (I recommend it) you can find it at Yoga for Arthritis.
It is important to check with your physician, physiotherapist or whoever is assisting with your pain management to ensure you’re practicing yoga safely. I did check with my physiotherapist and worked with her to make sure I was not doing more harm than good, and she seemed thrilled I was finding some relief from it.
It has really helped with my mood and I find my body is more relaxed almost immediately after my brief yoga time. It is definitely not a cure-all as I’m still struggling pretty hard core and cannot manage yoga daily, but I do find my little 10 minute yoga periods to be helpful! Definitely check out the website, article, and with your doctors to find out if yoga is right for you!
Aside from my yoga fun, I have gotten orthotics made for my shoes but I cannot bear to wear them often. But I know they will be helpful so I really need to put more effort in there.
I have found out that my knees and shoulders are hypermobile and my fingers are still deviating pretty badly but my splints have been so helpful! Definitely check out ring splints if you’re having issues with your fingers! They’re a life saver and super cute!
This is a question I have been asked so many times I have lost count.
Usually it is by able bodied, well meaning, friends and family members who live their typical lives full of work, chores, house buying, child bearing, and other excitement inducing activities. They don’t have a chance to be bored and can never truly understand what it is like to be stuck in bed day after day, week after week, month after month.
This question stabs me like a knife every time I hear it and awkwardly try to answer it. From the outside looking in I can understand why they would ask. They can’t really imagine what it is like to spend life childless, in bed with, in their minds, nothing to do.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I should answer this particular question and I think I am ready to share it, in case you’re ever asked this or have asked it yourself.
No, I’m not bored. I don’t have a chance to be bored. I spend my days trying to survive. I have The Hunger Games going on inside my body 24/7, and it’s a close game.
What may seem lazy to you is a marathon for me. I’m not laying around in this bed for fun. Trust me, it’s not. And my bed isn’t even really comfortable anymore because my side is all sunk in because this is where I live.
I can’t focus enough to even watch a new TV show on Netflix. I am watching the same 4 shows over and over again. I can recite full episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I am pretty sure I’m a resident surgeon by now.
No, I’m not bored. I use all of my energy phoning doctors throughout the week. I get exhausted from playing Tetris on my phone or petting my cat too much.
No, I’m not bored. If I was I would get out of bed and do something. Boredom subsides when you’re physically unable to do anything.
Or maybe I was bored for the first while and it’s just part of who I am now? Either way, my day is pretty much mapped out by TV shows, medicine taking, and bathroom breaks.
I know it sounds like hell for you. Guess what? It is for me, too.
No, I’m not bored. Being sick is a full time job.
If you want to come over and take a look at my fun filled days you’re more than welcome to. When you get the chance to watch me curled up in pain you might be able to answer your own question, then.
No, I’m not bored. I don’t know the alternative anymore.
When I close my eyes I see myself dancing around my room getting dressed for the morning.
When I close my eyes, I’m back in my dream job, working my daily 9-5.
When I open my eyes I’m still stuck in this bed with a nightstand full of pill bottles.
When I open my eyes I watch the same shows on Netflix that I’ve seen a million times.
But when my eyes are closed I’m backpacking through Europe with my husband.
When my eyes are closed I’m doing cartwheels and handstands through grassy fields.
But when my eyes are open I am going to the same doctors appointments.
When my eyes are open I get my weekly injections and pray for no side effects.
When I fall asleep at night I dream of the life I could have had, would have had, should have had.
But the truth is, when I fall asleep at night I thrash and groan and cry.
When I fall asleep at night I dream I’m healthy. But I don’t have to wake up to know I’m not.
My name is Courtney and I ruin parties. I don’t do it intentionally. I don’t mean to draw attention to myself when I need to move because the pain shooting down my legs is unbearable. I don’t drop my cane on purpose so people feel sorry for me. Trust me, the pity is the absolute worst. I don’t leave early to be a buzz kill, and I certainly don’t avoid social gatherings because I’m a loner or a snob. My reality is just different than yours.
I don’t want to miss your wedding or baby shower, I would love to be there to celebrate these moments.
I don’t want to miss concerts or plays, these were my favourite things in the whole world.
The truth is that it kills me that I’m not able to attend places where my walker would be an inconvenience and I hate being the girl who has to call ahead to check for accessibility. The truth is that it’s embarrassing to constantly have to alter the room set-up for optimal comfort, and even then I have to leave earlier than everyone else due to pain, discomfort, or other health related reasons.
Chronic pain and illness makes me stick out like a sore thumb as I limp around and my eyes well up with tears. This does not feel like the girl I was meant to be, but it is the girl I am. I try to make the best out of every situation, but when awkward seating at a restaurant causes me to stand to finish my meal or my legs are squished during an outing with family, I am thrust back into the harsh reality of these illnesses.
I don’t want to rush people into finishing a meal they’re enjoying, or for people to feel bad as they see the discomfort on my face. This is my reality and as much as I try to hide it and make it not so, you are part of this reality also and for that I could not be more sorry.
So if I rsvp no to a future Facebook invite or a proper mailed invitation, I am not trying to be rude, I am trying to spare you and your guests from this reality. The reality of back cushions, leg lifts, mobility aids, and a rattling pill case full purse.
I wish I could be the fun loving chick I once was who could close down a bar like a whiskey shooting bad ass, but this is no longer something I am capable of. Now my resume boasts such goodies as “Netflix Aficionado,” “Pillow Setter Up Extraordinaire,” and “Snack Queen.” If you’re down with that, I’m here for you. In a couch, bed, or otherwise properly comfortable seating situation.
Before I get into it, please check out the Song of the Week page for an awesome, fighting tune!
I am sitting here with throbbing shoulders, swollen fingers, and an aching head because what I’m about to write needs to be written.
I have fibromyalgia. It is not my only diagnosis but it is the most debated of my illnesses. I’m very lucky that I have an amazing team of doctors that believe in my pain and chronic illnesses enough to diagnose and attempt to treat said conditions. That being said, I know so many friends around the world who are not so lucky.
I have rheumatoid arthritis and because of that I already had a rheumatologist to diagnose my fibromyalgia. If I did not already have a specialist I wonder how long I would have been waiting for that diagnosis. My guess is I’d still be waiting, in agony, for someone to believe in my pain and help me. For a fibromyalgia warrior, or really any person in the world, living in chronic, debilitating pain with no answers and no treatment is not only maddening, it’s downright unbearable.
What makes it worse, is people telling you your pain isn’t real, it’s all in your head, or if you just exercise more or take this magic potion everything will be better. It is real. And there is so much evidence now to back it up that your argument is not only unwarranted, it is wrong and doing far more harm than good.
I remember the day I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia like it was yesterday. I remember what I was wearing (purple shorts and a white and purple t-shirt), I remember the doctors office and the tender point test (ouch), and where I went after and spending the rest of the day in a dumbfounded haze. What did this mean? What really is fibromyalgia?
These questions I’ve had to answer myself through experience, trial and error, and several unsuccessful treatment protocols. But I am muddling my way through it, like so many other fighters out there. And we are all in this together.
One of the things I’ve learned about fibromyalgia is how it can take one good moment and turn it into days of unrelenting pain. It can take one dedicated, hardworking person and turn them into a shadow of their former self. Everything you thought to be true completely flips upside down and you feel like you’re drowning, except nobody around you can tell. It’s absolutely isolating. But thankfully, I know I am no longer alone.
On this day, May 12th, we come together to celebrate our victories over fibromyalgia (however small they may seem to the typical person, we know they are monumental for us) and fight towards awareness, acceptance, research, and treatment. Our battle is not yet over, but united we will continue to push forward!
As (mostly) usual, check out the Song of the Week page for an awesome recommendation from a lovely spoonie friend!
Dear Friend, Acquaintance, Family Member, Random Person Staring at me with my Walker, or any other person who judges me without knowing anything about me and/or my condition/s and therefore should have no opinion on my medical situation,
This letter is for you.
I usually try to steer clear of you, as negativity is not permitted in my bubble of self care, but alas, you continually attempt to pop my beautiful pink bubble.
I used to think it was easy to avoid you and others like you, but as my medical conditions make it more challenging to survive without the need of mobility or accessibility aids in public and my life revolves around the illnesses more than anything else, we seem to be at an impasse.
I have several chronic, autoimmue, life-altering illnesses, whether you believe they’re real or not. And they are, just to be clear, as years of research and medical documentation support their existence (and I’m not on all of these medications for nothing). These conditions, illnesses, horrible-things-that-have-happened-to-me are in no way fake, misleading, or caused by anything I have done. I do not choose to be ill and miss out on work, bearing children, or vacations with my husband. I do not want to use a cane or walker around the house or in public (even if they are pretty cute), because in reality, it’s all a huge inconvenience. I do not want to spend hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies, employee benefits, or disability services. I don’t want to be in agony over the sound of birds chirping, motorcycles starting, or my husband trying to hug me. This is not a fun life. But it is my life.
This is my life, and it is not yours. And just because it does not make sense to you does not make it any less legitimate. These are illnesses I didn’t even know existed until they happened to me. But now that I know they do, I am a champion for these causes and for the people’s lives they’ve affected. I do not write this letter for your benefit or mine, I write it for theirs. I write this for my friends around the globe who encounter naysayers and hurtful doubters who make their already difficult lives that much harder. Nobody chooses to live in pain, but you are actively choosing to be ignorant to it.
I’ve heard you say things like “just push through it,” or “why are you in bed still?” or “if you just keep moving,” or one of my all time favourites “if you just take this one supplement your life will be completely different” which shows me just how little you know about our illnesses. And if you know that little about them, you are in no position to comment on how we survive them. If you think that one lap around the dog park is not enough to wear us out for days, you have no idea what we’re dealing with.
I’m sorry if this is coming off harsher than I had intended, but enough is enough. If you cannot stick by us, support us, encourage us, and just generally try to understand what we’re going through, then we’re going to have to cut ties here.
Speaking for myself, I cannot push through these exchanges anymore. I am begging for compassion, and if you are unable to provide that, there is nothing left to say.
Thank you, our friends and family who have shown us unending support and love. It means more to us than we can say.
This past week I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and family. People that love me, care for me, and take care of me. Friends that let me (or tell me) to sit when I need to, rest if I’m tired, and eat with my medications.
Having these people in my life reminds me that nobody fights alone. We aren’t meant to. It’s biology. It’s evolution. It’s in our DNA. We need each other! “We are all just walking each other home– Ram Dass.”
Community can mean a couple of different things. It can mean a group of people who live in the same vicinity or people who share a common characteristic or trait. I am so lucky to have amazing communities in accordance with both definitions!
The people who live around me, that I’m in constant contact with, are incredibly supportive of my needs. They may not completely understand the challenges I live with, but are always ready to grab my walker/cane, pick up things I can’t, arrange my pillows in a comfortable way, and offer their hand to assist my balance. All of these seemingly little gestures are more helpful and moving than anyone could ever know.
My spoonie community, the people who share a common characteristic of chronic illnesses, is without a doubt the greatest blessing I never saw coming. I hadn’t heard the word spoonie until I began my Tumblr blog and now I don’t know how I ever made it so far without this tribe. I have learned so much about my illnesses and myself through the spooniverse and I could not be more grateful. Sharing tricks of the trade and support from those who understand has been immeasurably instrumental in where I am today.
Sometimes these communities overlap, like when I have friends and family members who are also battling chronic illnesses. Like my friend who was over this week who has suspected arthritis! Or my parents and grandparents who suffer with arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, degenerative disc disease, and others.
Look around you right now (assuming you’re not alone), and you will find people who are fighting battles you don’t know about. Talk to them, get to know them, they are your community. Your tribe. And even if you don’t live with them, you might have common characteristics or traits to bond over. Nobody can walk this road alone. It’s much more fun to have someone to chat with along the way.