Posts tagged with: Conditions and Diseases

*peeks around the corner*

winter reflection
Image by Qba from Poland via Flickr

*looks around carefully*

*her face goes red*

How did it get to be the 10th of February? How did I not post for a week? What is going on?

Oh, yeah, real life. My life has been really real lately and my blogging everywhere has taken a downturn. I am hoping that it changes here really soon because otherwise I’m going to have word explosion!

I have an idea of what I want to write about for the next dozen entries or so, but actually getting those entries out is proving to be a struggle. Today is day two of being home from work due to severe sinus congestion and I am not very motivated to actually do the research I need to. Yet. Maybe later. Or maybe I’ll go to bed at 8pm again.

Either way I’ll be back … soon(ish).

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A letter for women with migraines

Stampede
Image by .bullish via Flickr

As a woman who has lived with migraines for 20+ years now, my family understands what’s going on when I am doubled-over in pain or when I’ve got the blanket pulled up over my head to block out the light. My friends, however, have not always been so understanding. Unfortunately, it’s hard to explain migraines to people who have never had one.

When I first began using the internet to do my health research, I came across MAGNUM (Migraine Awareness Group: A National Understanding for Migraineurs) and was blown away. An entire website dedicated to those of us who live with migraines – people who knew what I was going through.

It was a few years ago when I came across Teri Robert’s letter to those who needed help “Understanding Migraine Disease and Migraineurs” and was blown away. I started directing my friends who didn’t “get” migraines and they’ve never responded negatively!

I just recently pointed a new migraineur in the direction of the letter and realized that I wanted to share it with an even larger audience. Do you deal with migraines and need someone to understand you? Check out Teri Robert’s letter.

Other migraine resources I recommend:
WEGO Health Migraine group
Somebody Heal Me
The Daily Headache
Rhymes with Migraine
Pain in the Head
The Sassy Lime
Migraines and Me

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Why is my eye twitching?

A phoropter in use.
Image via Wikipedia

Two weeks ago now my left eyelid began twitching. I was at work and suddenly it was like I was winking at my coworkers. Sorry, PB, I am not flirting with you, I just have a random facial tic today. And the next day, and a week later, and still, two weeks today, I am still twitching.

A friend told me that some extra potassium might help. So I had a few bananas. I don’t like bananas so it took some bravery to eat the darned thing. The eye? It continued to twitch.

Same friend told me that the twitch could be stress related. I can’t really get rid of stress, but even while in South Carolina, not doing anything responsible (well, okay, I was only somewhat responsible, but no where near stressed out!) and the eye? It continued to twitch.

Same friend gave me a third suggestion that it was probably because I wasn’t sleeping enough. Well, for the past three nights I’ve been able to get at least 10 hours of sleep … and that’s a lot of sleep for me. The eye? It has continued to twitch.

Nothing I do seems to make this eye stop twitching, so like the recent Charley horse, I began my Google searching to learn about what’s going on.

About.com explains that “a twitch sometimes develops during times of increased stress.” I don’t think that was my case. A twitch “has also been associated with high caffeine intake[s]” (which wasn’t me the days that it began (might have been since then, though)), “fatigue” (I have been dealing with excessive fatigue for over a year now, and so suddenly developing the twitch doesn’t fit this) “or excessive squinting” (which is definitely not me.

My favorite sentence of the twitch explanation? “An eyelid twitch is usually a sign that you need to take a break and relax.” Yeah, uh, okay. I did that. It didn’t work.

Solutions to this eye twitch include an antihistamine drop (which is a migraine trigger for me, so that’s out), a warm compress or an eyelid massage. I’m giving the twitch 24 more hours to vacate the building, and then I break out the eyelid massaging and warm compresses. The twitch is getting annoying!

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What is a Charley horse?

Gray's muscle pictures b...
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday while doing my lunges and my squats, my left quad suddenly seized up and I almost fell over. I had no idea what was happening, and so I jumped on Google to see “why is my leg killing me?” I have since come to the conclusion that I got a Charley horse in my left quad!

A Charley horse is essentially a leg cramp that can occur because of muscle fatigue, heavy exercising (apparently lunges and squats are heavy enough for me), dehydration, high weight, electrolyte imbalances and possible medications.

Ease the pain of a Charley horse by massaging the area, stretching the area or taking a hot bath to soak the pain away.

Prevent getting a Charley horse by staying hydrated, by stretching regularly to relax the muscles fibers and to train gradually rather than doing high intensity workouts right away.

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Five minutes at a time

Every Single Freakin Day
Image by Migraine Chick via Flickr

In July of 2006, my world was turned upside down with five words: “I’m thinking about leaving you.” He didn’t just think about it, the next day he solidified it and left me. He then promptly left on vacation with a friend of his, a vacation that I was supposed to go on.

I had been married for three years at that point. I had been with this guy for eight years. He was more than my husband, he was my best friend and suddenly he was gone. I didn’t know how I was going to breathe, let alone move on with my life. I had no choice, though.

For weeks I was the woman sitting at her desk silently crying. I would stare at the clock wondering when the day would be over just so that I could get into bed. Then I had a friend tell me to “take life five minutes at a time.” I took her suggestion literally at first, telling myself all day long things like “get through these next sixty seconds” and “you only have to live for the next one minute.” I would watch the clock and when I noticed that my single minutes were up, I’d remind myself; “only one minute more.” Eventually it would be the end of the work day and I’d go home to do the very same coping mechanism.

Pretty soon, I moved from making it through the next 60 seconds to making it through the next five minutes. Months later it turned into making it through the next hour. A year after he left I was working through making it through the day. Two and a half years later I can proudly say that I have made it through 82 million seconds, 1.4 million minues, 22K hours and over 134 weeks. I no longer count the minutes (unless work is driving me crazy) and I rarely think about more than “make it through today, that’s all you have to do!” but I know that the next time I need to, I will count to sixty, start over, and then continue for the next three weeks.

How do you cope? Are you a time watcher or do you hide from it? I’d love to hear about alternative coping mechanisms as I know I’ll face more emotional situations in the future.

Thank you to Ellen for the inspiration for this post. Ellen wrote a great piece about Migraine strategies for living where she encourages her readers to break their lives into 15-minute sections to get through their days.

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Useful health websites, III

Healthy Snacks
Image by ChinchillaVilla via Flickr

My favorite site that I’ve stumbled upon since this new project at work has been Patients Like Me. This website has blown me away.

I can’t even go into everything that Patients Like Me offers because it’s so in depth! Create a profile to reach out and make new friends with your same condition. Even if you’ve not been officially diagnosed, you have an option of joining the groups of patients who are living with the same issues you are. Make lists of your symptoms, your treatment options, your lab test levels and even your weight. Update daily, weekly, or even monthly to begin seeing trends in your health.

One of my favorite parts of Patients Like Me is their “research” tab. Look at the available tools, the current studies, and even opportunities to jump into being a lab rat for your condition! Gab with other people on the forums and make connections you didn’t have beforehand.

I liken Patients Like Me to a MySpace for those living with chronic illnesses. It’s such a great way to reach out to others and make new friends who understand what you’re living with!

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Useful health websites, II

Médecins Sans Frontières treating cases of Cholera
Image by Sokwanele – Zimbabwe via Flickr

I am an epidemiology nerd. I love reading about disease outbreaks and poisonings and reading studies about public health problems. Because of this nerdiness, when I found HealthMap, I was blown away. The Global Health Map creates a super-neat map that shows you disease outbreaks globally!

From this map, I was able to see that there has been adverse effects to the hepatitis vaccination in China, two cases of Polio in Karachi, yet another cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, a massive flu outbreak in England and botulism outbreak in Florida.

You can use the left hand menu to choose what diseases you want to concentrate on. Choose country specific alerts instead of disease specific if you’re more interested in looking at things that way. Either way, there’s probably at least one outbreak of something your state and you should go check it out! Think of me as you’re reading about your diseased-state!

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Here we go again …

Western Honey ...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I live with chronic pain.

My pain has had a flare up and I’ve been going to bed early and being so tired in the morning I hardly drag myself out of bed. In the rollercoaster of life with chronic pain, I am at the bottom. That means I can only go up, right?

More soon! I promise! I have GOOD entries on paper that I just don’t have the energy to get onto the laptop!

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Intimate partner violence and chronic pain

Chemical structure of cortisol.
Image via Wikipedia

I read an interesting article this week showing that there is a predisposition to chronic pain in women who have suffered with intimate partner violence.

Abusive Partners Predispose Chronic Pain by Rick Nauert explains that even two years after separating from an abusive situation, many women still experience “high-disability chronic pain.”

I would have never made a connection in my head like this without someone else prompting it. “The authors noted that chronic stress caused by IPV may inhibit how the body naturally adapts to stress and causes imbalances in cortisol levels.” That makes sense. Cortisol levels are the cause for most inflammation in a person’s body – and when things are inflamed, they aren’t healthy.

I’d love to know more about this connection, and I’d also love to know if there is a personal story out there willing to be shared. If so, please email me. No information would be shared here without permission, but I would really like to talk with someone who is willing.

Living with an invisible illness is not easy, help me educate those seeking information!

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My marble theory of chronic pain

None - This image is in the public domain and ...
Image via Wikipedia

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pingu1963 

Today at Help My Hurt I was directed over to But You Don’t Look Sick to teach me about The Spoon Theory. Reading about how Christine Miserandino taught her friend about living with lupus reminded me about how I’ve taught people I live with chronic pain. I have used this explanation with a few friends and it seems to give them a sense of how I live my life.

For those who are healthy, you have unlimited marbles and you can keep them all in one bowl, or you could put them in 26 bowls, really, only the fact that you have unlimited marbles matters.

For those living with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraines, and many other illnesses, marbles are limited. Your body tells you how many marbles you get.

Each week I’m given 70 marbles and seven bowls. I put ten marbles in each bowl and proceed to go through my week, spending marbles as I need to. Normally Mondays are hard at work and easy at home  and so I’ll only use six or seven of my 10 marbles. I move the remaining three marbles to Tuesday’s bowl. On Tuesday, depending on the week, I either use all 13 of those marbles, or sometimes I can save another five or six and move them to Wednesday. Oftentimes, by Friday, though, I am breaking even again. However, there are often weeks where I’m in the negative by Thursday, though, and the rest of my week includes some really hard days. Saturday and Sunday are normally pretty low-key days in my life because I literally don’t have the marbles to get up and go.

Sometimes, like right now, I have a Monday where I start out with five marbles. I stayed up too late on Friday night; I drank, was on my feet AND stayed out too late on Saturday; I spent most of the day Sunday in a highly emotional state. When I do this to myself, I know what I’m getting into. I knew, when I fell asleep during Family Guy (which yes, means I missed American Dad), I knew I was in trouble today.

The social side effects of living with chronic pain are rough. My close friends understand that I’m not a flake, I just sometimes don’t know how I’ll feel on Friday night even after I tell you on Monday that we can go out after church. I budget my marbles pretty carefully most of the time, in hopes that I can function. I try to sleep enough (which is an entry all on it’s own; I think I’m continually dealing with sleep deprivation), I watch what I eat in hopes of getting the right nutrition for my own condition, I try to do some regular workouts (in hopes of avoid weight gain and my doctor reminds me continually that light exercise will help my pain), I’ve been in all forms of physical therapy, I take extra potassium and I spend a lot of time seeking spiritual healing. These things may add a marble or two to my week’s total, but aren’t always enough.

With a more concrete example, I hope you can understand how many people live their lives. It’s not fun, it’s not glamorous, but it’s an easy way to visualize taking care of yourself.

I budget my life with marbles.

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