Tag Archives: me/cfs

First Trimester: Pregnant with chronic illness

06 Jun 17
Megan
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It’s my birthday and I’ve finally found some time to write!

As you’ve probably guessed I haven’t found the time and energy to write regular posts for the blog during this pregnancy.  As I mentioned in my last post, where I announced the pregnancy, I want to discuss what this pregnancy has been like for me. Starting with the first trimester, I’ll do a summary post for each section of this pregnancy.

Before I was pregnant…

As my regular readers would know, I’ve been living with Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) (ME/CFS) for at least the last 4 years. I say at least the last 4 years, as that’s when it began to impact my life significantly. It got to the point that I stopped working and studying full time, and basically had no social life for a year or two.

During those first few years I spent a lot of time with doctors and specialists trying to get a diagnosis and working out what treatments and strategies worked (and didn’t work) for me in terms of managing the conditions.

Last year, I finally reached a point where many of my specialists were saying I was as well as I was going to get and that if we did want to start a family it was time to consider trying. After much discussion and research we decided that the potential risks were worth it and so we decided to start trying.

As a result, I stopped all my prescription medications (apart from seretide and ventolin for my asthma) and began focusing on other coping mechanisms.

The First Trimester…

Everything happened very quickly once we’d made a decision and I think both E and I were in shock to start with that it was all actually happening.

The research that we had done indicated that, for both the Fibromyalgia and the ME/CFS, a third of people feel worse during pregnancy, a third stay the same and a third improve. One of our biggest concerns was that I would be in the third that felt worse.

Thankfully that hasn’t been the case.

In fact, even though I suffered from bad morning sickness from before I even found out I was pregnant, my pain and energy levels actually improved during the first trimester. Enough that when we went on holidays to Queensland I was able to enjoy the trip a lot more than I thought I would.

Yes, I still had to rest daily and we had a couple of ‘do nothing’ days but I also managed to swim on the Great Barrier Reef and participate in a walk in the Daintree Rainforest.

Towards the end of the first trimester, my chronic illness symptoms settled back to what I consider to be ‘normal’ levels for me.

First Trimester Symptoms…

My main symptoms during the first trimester were:

  • constant nausea and ravenously hungry at the same time for the first 7 weeks
  • Increased energy for the first 7 weeks (less need for naps during the day)
  • Morning Sickness (vomiting started at 8 weeks and lasted through to 17/18 weeks)
  • Cramping
  • Decrease in general Fibromyalgia pain levels

First Trimester Management Techniques…

As I didn’t have too many symptoms, I didn’t need to change much in the way I was managing my health.

It was important that, although I had decreased pain and increased energy for those first few weeks, I continued to pace myself and not let myself get too run down.

When pain levels got uncomfortable my go to treatment options, which were all in place prior to the pregnancy, included:

  • warm (not hot) baths and showers
  • wheat bags
  • regular acupuncture (3 weekly)
  • meditation and relaxation techniques
  • maintaining a basic exercise routine (stretching classes and regular daily step count)

The last few weeks of the first trimester, and heading into the second trimester, got more difficult to manage as the morning sickness and fatigue got worse. Those weeks were spent mostly resting to avoid any major crashes.

Overall, the first trimester went well. I coped reasonably well with the new pregnancy symptoms because pain and fatigue had improved.

I avoided posting on the blog during this time, mainly because I didn’t want to announce yet and I was worried I’d say something that would give it away!

Postnote:

Before I take a break to settle into being a new mum I thought I’d make an effort to write a few posts and schedule them over the next few months, so hopefully my posts will be a bit more regular than they have been so far this year.

Just be aware that I might not reply to comments regularly from July as I think I’ll have my hands full for a while.


I’ve joined a Gym! Exercising with Chronic Illness

26 Jul 16
Megan
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4 comments

A lot’s been happening around here lately! Preparations are underway for the Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang Book Launch and the AAEE 2016 Conference.

I’ve also added a bit more variety to my exercise routine by joining the new local gym (Council owned and operated).

The main reason I’ve joined is so that I could add swimming into my exercise routine but I’m also going to try out some of the classes they run.

Obviously, I’m going to focus on pacing and aim to not overdo it by adding too much too quickly but I’m very excited to have a bit more variety in what I’m able to do.

To date, my exercise routine has consisted of walks and riding my electric bike (or the stationary bike if it’s raining). I was doing some stretching and yoga, but this was very random (I wanted to do it but got bored of the same stretches over and over).

At the new gym I have access to an internal pool, aqua aerobic classes, body balance and mobilise (low impact stretching and weights) classes, and other gym equipment if I need it.

My plan is to use the pool twice a week, and try out the various low impact classes. In fact, I’ve already started…

After my swim on Monday...

After my swim on Monday…

I swam (8 laps of slow breast stroke) yesterday and today I tried out the Mobilise class. The class is stretching and light weights. I paced myself during the class; doing less repetitions, not using any weights and taking breaks when I felt I needed it. We’ll see tomorrow whether or not the class was too much for me but I think it was ok.

Outside of the gym, I’ll still ride at least once a week and go for walks with E (we’ve actually started playing that Pokemon Go game which has got us out of the house together more often).

The view from halfway through our walk on the weekend

The view from halfway through our walk on the weekend

Thanks to my current medication routine I’ve had less pain and slightly more energy than usual lately which has been great for allowing me to be more active.

What exercise do you do on a regular basis?

P.S. You may have noticed I didn’t post last week, because of everything going on at the moment I’m likely to be posting either once a week or fortnightly for the foreseeable future.

Working with chronic illness: My experience

14 Jun 16
Megan
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2 comments

Back in December of last year, I answered a reader’s question about pacing and working. In this post I talked about some of the issues we face when we’re attempting to work with a chronic illness. We talked about our inability to be consistent and some simple tips and tricks for trying to avoid crashes as a result of working.

It’s been about 6 months since I wrote this post and in that time I’ve been gradually increasing the amount of work I’m doing myself. I’ve been very fortunate that, although I was unable to keep the job I was in prior to my first major crash, I’ve been able to use the connections I’d made when I was working full time to get establish a very flexible working environment for myself since then.

Back in 2013, I was working full time, studying full time and exercising every day (daily walks and gym at least 3 times a week). That all stopped suddenly when I woke up with pelvic pain so bad that I ended up in the emergency department all day while they tried (and failed) to work out what was causing it. I took a few days off on sick leave and then attempted to return to work even though the pain hadn’t gone and the fatigue was getting worse by the day. Obviously, that wasn’t working so I was yet again on leave.

At the time I thought it’d just be a few weeks and I’d feel better and be back at work. I had test after test to try and work out what was wrong with no clear results. As the weeks dragged into months I began to despair that I would never be able to get back to work.

Overall, I had almost 2 years without working at all before I got to a point where I felt confident with my ability to maintain some semblance of consistency and began to look at returning to some form of part time work.

Initially, I attempted to return to my previous role in a part time capacity, however my employers weren’t keen to take on the liability of having me there if I was to get worse again once starting back at work so I began to look into other options.

I have always wanted to work for myself and both E and I saw this as an opportunity to see how I would go with self employment, however I still wanted to have some form of ‘regular’ income coming in.

While looking at self employment opportunities, I approached an old boss to see if he had any casual work available for me to do as a means of seeing how I go with adding work back in. He did and he’s been great ever since then. Originally I thought I’d be able to build up to 8 hours a week of work for him within a few months but I quickly learnt that this wasn’t realistic. To this day, I sometimes manage that level of work for him but most weeks I only manage an hour or two a week (and some weeks none at all).

Having a boss who has been aware of my limitations from the start and willing to be flexible about how much work I take on has been great. I take on the jobs that don’t necessarily have a fixed deadline as they’ve been waiting for so long for clients to provide their data and so it’s not a big concern if I’m unable to complete them as quickly as I’d like. I’m also able to work from home which is a huge benefit as the few times I’ve attempted to head into the office to work, I’ve ended up paying for it after.

Although I like the fact that this work is paid by the hour, I’m able to work from home, and my boss is extremely flexible, it’s not the type of work I’m really interested in doing long term. This is where self-employment has come into play.

I’ve got two distinct areas that I’m working in from a self-employment perspective, both of which I’ve joined together under the LiveKen banner.

The first, and at the moment the largest (bringing in the most income), side of the business is environment and sustainability consulting work. I reached out to my contacts at the local councils to see if anyone had small manageable projects they needed a consultant helping on. I made it clear that my biggest interest was in developing and delivering workshops for the community around living simple, sustainable and meaningful lives but that I would also consider research based projects that fit within my skill and knowledge base. From this initial call out I got two projects:

  • Developing a 3 year Environmental Management Plan for the City of Prospect. This has been a large and ongoing project and we’re about half way through the process now a year on from when we initially started. It’s been a great project with lots of community and staff engagement.
  • Developing a series of Biodiversity Trails for local schools within the Campbelltown City Council. This was also a large project for me and took me much longer than I expected to complete thanks to the ups and downs of my health.

From doing these two projects I’ve learnt a lot about my current capabilities and about the processes and people I need to have in place if I’m going to be successful at working for myself and delivering projects on time and within budget for my clients while maintaining (and if possible improving) my health.

I’ve learnt that when proposing timelines for larger projects like this, I need to schedule in additional time than I think it will take me to allow for crashes and other health related delays. It’s also good to have someone lined up as a backup person (a subcontractor) to complete the work if my health gets to a point that I’m unable to do it.

These two large projects have also led to a few workshops with schools and the Council libraries on topics such as revegetation and up-cycling materials. These have been great for me because, although they don’t pay as well, they have a clearly defined timeframe and allow me to connect with a large group of people within a short space of time. I do need to make sure I schedule time to rest both before and after these workshops but because there’s no ongoing ‘stress’ related to completing them, I seem to recover quite quickly afterwards.

The second branch of the business is invisible illness advocacy. This actually started before I’d established LiveKen, with the idea of a picture book about invisible illnesses and chronic pain. The successful Kickstarter campaign we ran for the Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang picture book, has allowed me to focus on finishing the pictures with the knowledge that I will be able to publish and over 100 copies of the book will be going out into the hands of people who live with an invisible illness to share with their friends.

This is another project that has taken me MUCH longer than I expected it to. We are finally at the point where I’ll be getting quotes for printing within the next few weeks so keep your eye out for more information about this in the next month or so. The plan is for the picture book to be the first step in a larger awareness raising campaign.

This post is getting quite long, so I might stop there today and do a detailed hints and tips post later.

What tips or tricks do you have for working with a chronic illnesses?

Family Planning with Chronic Illness

08 Mar 16
Megan
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A Quick No Buy Challenge Update then on to Family Planning: Although I was tempted by some of the clearance sales in town (hello fluffy warm down jacket) I did not make any purchases this week that weren’t experience related and shared with those that are important to me. I had lunch with my sister while she was in town (over from Hong Kong for a wedding) and E and I spent a wonderful morning out at the zoo for a behind the scenes tour and breakfast on Sunday.

And now for the post… (Apologies this is quite a long one for me!)

Those of you who know me in real life, and those who have been following my blog for quite a while, know that the ONE thing I really REALLY want from my life is to be a mum.

Unfortunately, around the time E and I were finally having serious discussions about potentially starting a family in the next year or two I had my first major crash.

Almost 3 years later and we’re just beginning to start having serious discussions again, but this time my health is the major road block.

Starting these conversations have been difficult this time around. E has not really wanted to talk about it because he feels like he has to be the bad guy saying No when he knows it’s something that I really want. He has wanted to wait until I was physically capable before we had the hard conversations but I think I’ve now made him realise that not talking about it has been hurting me more than having honest conversations.

Being a scientist at heart he really needs us to have logical and rational conversations about how this will all work and he struggles when I get overly emotional during the conversations.

So… where have we got to?

We have agreed that I need to set some goals to get to a point where I feel confident that I can physically cope with the pregnancy and the uncertainties that come with raising a child.

The goals I have set myself are as follows:

I believe that I would be physically capable of handling the stresses and uncertainties of pregnancy and raising a child if I can achieve the following and maintain it for at least 2-3 months with no major crashes/flare ups:

  1. An average step count of around 7,000
  2. The following average breakdown of activities
    • Less than 30% Rest/Mindless Activity – on average around 25% (meditation, naps, audiobooks, tv, Facebook, and travel when E is driving)
    • 10-25% Mental Activity (work, blogging, reading articles, etc)
    • around 50% Physical/Social Activity (exercise, housework, outings, etc)

To determine how I’m tracking for these goals I track my daily activity using a time tracking app on my phone and my steps using Garmin Connect and my watch.

As an example of where I am at the moment, my breakdown for February was:

  • Average steps 5,404
  • 39% Rest/Mindless
  • 15% Mental
  • 24% Physical
  • 20% Social

I also break each category (mental, physical, and social into high and low activity). Overall my February breakdown for this was:

  • 39% Rest/Mindless (as above)
  • 26% high activity (exercise of any kind, work, budget review, large groups of people or stressful situations, cooking complex meals, baking, gardening, etc)
  • 32% low activity (reading, writing in my journal, one on one or small group activities, showering and dressing, reheating leftovers/simple meals, etc)

*Note percentages may not add up to 100%. I am using the percentages provided by the app and I don’t believe it rounds decimals correctly to whole numbers.

As you can see, I’ve improved a fair bit since my crash in November (my average step count was down to 2,000-3,000)

The next step is to have discussions around the difficult questions like:

  • What will happen if I’m having a crash?
  • How will I cope with the day to day activities of looking after a newborn/toddler/older child?
  • What kind of support do I need for this to be possible?
  • Not only CAN I have a child but SHOULD I? Is it fair to the child?

What I’d like to do is get your input. If you have had children of your own while dealing with chronic illness like Fibromyalgia or ME/CFS, how did you cope?

Even if you don’t have a chronic illness, do you have any tips for minimising the impact of flares?

Here are my thoughts so far:

What will happen if I’m having a crash?

Flares and crashes are part of the parcel with many chronic illnesses so it’s important to have some sort of system in place for dealing with them. The first 5 years will be the most difficult to cope with as the child will be too young to actually understand what’s wrong when mummy needs to go lie down and isn’t able to do all the things they want to do.

Depending on the severity and duration of a crash/flare up there are several things that I can do to make sure I’m not neglecting my child during this time…

  1. Be realistic about what is really essential to be a ‘good parent’. A young child doesn’t necessary understand what is going on but they are aware of if their parents are there for them or not. Realistically, the occasional day of ‘low energy activities’ is not going to be detrimental to my child’s health and mental well being as long as I’m with it enough to be there with them.
  2. Have stand by ‘Low Energy Activities’ available. This could mean a day in bed reading stories, watching tv/movies, or listening to music. It could mean allowing my child to have free play time while I observe from the couch.
  3. Have family support available on call if needed. At this point in time we are very lucky to have a large network of family support with reasonably flexible schedules. E’s Amma and Uppa, his parents, and my Gran are retired, my mum works part time, and my dad has a fairly flexible schedule. Obviously, they still have things that they do regularly and tend to fill up their schedules with other activities but between them all I’m fairly confident I could find someone at short notice who could help me out.
  4. Do my best to minimise the chances of a crash/flare up occurring. Obviously prevention is better than treatment, so having systems in place to minimise the likelihood of a flare is important. The ideas I’ve come up with (or found while researching this topic) are:
    • With a new born, rest when ever the baby sleeps. During the first 4-8 weeks focus only on what is necessary – feeding, cleaning and resting with the baby. If possible, have support come in to do other tasks like cleaning, cooking, etc. (We already have a cleaner coming in once a fortnight, and – because I’m keen to use cloth for health and environmental reasons – I’d consider a nappy service for at least the first while).
    • As the child grows, continue to pace your activities. Consider having regular days/times where the child is in someone else’s care (family, child care) so that you can still have regular rest breaks.
    • Consider using a combination of breast and bottle feeding so that others can assist. This would be particularly useful for night feeds so that I can still get reasonable sleep. The impact of sleep deprivation on my health is one of our primary concerns at the moment.

How will I cope with the day to day activities of raising a…

Newborn?

From what I’ve read, the newborn stage (apart from the sleep deprivation) is relatively simple to cope with. As your baby is not yet mobile it is easy to do low energy activities with them. Most of your time would be spent just feeding, cleaning (nappy changes, etc) and cuddling your new little bundle.

As stated above, I’d consider having support services in place for cleaning, etc.

The verdict on breastfeeding vs bottle feeding for those with chronic illness is still out. Breastfeeding is simpler in that you don’t need to worry about sterilising bottles, making sure the formula is at the correct temperature, or just using up your energy in making up the formula. However, it uses much more energy to breastfeed and can leave you physically more tired (something that a person with chronic fatigue doesn’t really need) and you can’t share the task of feeding the baby.

Personally I’d still like to breastfeed, at least for the first few weeks if possible, but would be open to pumping and supplementing with formula so that E and others could help with feeds after the first few weeks.

To make breastfeeding (especially at night) as easy as possible in the beginning I would like my child to sleep next to me. However, due to my pain levels I tend to toss and turn at night and E is a very heavy sleeper so I wouldn’t want my child in the bed with us. I’d look at getting something like the arm’s reach co-sleeper which converts from a co-sleeper bassinet to a free-standing bassinet to a ‘read to me’ love seat. I’m interested in getting items that will have longevity in terms of usefulness and style.

As I mentioned above, my passion for sustainability and my own experience with disposable items near my nether regions (I’m allergic to disposable pads, etc) mean I’m keen to use cloth nappies on my child. I have done a lot of research on this topic and feel that it is doable even with limited energy and physical capabilities. With a young child you will already be increasing your washing requirements to keep their clothes clean, it doesn’t add that much to throw in a load of nappies every 2 days or so. It’s even easier if you use a nappy service that collects the dirty nappies once a week and washes and returns them.

Crawler/Toddler?

This in when I think things will start to get interesting. At this point in time I believe I’d be considering putting my child into some form of care (family members or child care) 1-2 days/half days a week so that I had some ability of pacing and having some more intensive rest.

I’d also consider going to spend days at other people’s houses (or have people over to visit) so that I have some support during the day.

Older Child?

As my child gets older I’d explain to them in age appropriate ways how my illness impacts our life and why I need rest periods.

Well, I’m starting to run out of steam and I have gone on for quite a while so I’ll leave it here for now (stay tuned for more as I continue to consider our options)…

Read More…

There are plenty of articles out there on this topic but here are just a few

Parents and Chronic Illness

10 Tips for Parents living with Chronic Disease

Caring for Your Child During a Chronic Illness Flare Up

Do you have any tips or advice you could share that would help us through this decision process?

Are there any other questions we should be asking ourselves?

 

Share Your World – Week 5

04 Feb 16
Megan
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The questions this week have been very thought provoking and I’ve struggled with a few of them but here we go… Let’s Share Your World!

If you had a shelf for your three most special possessions (not including photos, electronic devices and things stored on them, people or animals), what would you put on it?

I don’t really focus much on ‘stuff’ and ‘possessions’ any more so I’ve struggled to think of 3 things that would go on the shelf.

I would definitely include my childhood teddy. He’s been through everything with me and he’s not going anywhere…

2014-12-16 18.55.58

The second thing I’d put on it is the old cigar box that currently holds my yearly letters to E. Starting from our wedding day I’ve written a letter to him each year as part of his anniversary gift.

The third thing I’d add would be my special jewellery… My engagement ring (was my great grandmothers) and wedding ring, my heart necklace (6-month dating anniversary gift from E) and my crystal necklace (also a family heirloom).

If you had a box labelled ‘happiness’, what would you put in it?

NOTHING, or a note that just says ‘Be Present’. I would use it as a reminder that happiness comes from within, not from external sources.

What do you want more of in your life?

I’m very happy (or as happy as I can be) with my life at the moment but I’d be happy if I was able to have more family time and less pain/health issues.

Daily Life List: What do you do on an average day? Make a list of your usual activities you do each day.

An average day… I was planning to do a day in my life style post like my friend Joy and Toni Bernhard anyway so I guess I’ll describe it here.

Wake Up time… Generally between 8 and 9 am (although the last few days I’ve woken earlier then fallen back to sleep). At this time I take a moment to scan my body and see what parts are hurting the most and the least (there’s never no pain so it’s more an assessment of how well the day is going to start).

While still lying in bed I do at least a 5 minute meditation before stretching and slowly sitting up. Most days I’ll take a shower (sitting on the floor to avoid falling over or making pains worse) and get dressed.

Breakfast is the next task to address. I make a cup of tea and see how much energy I have. Most days I just have a piece of fruit or something premade that’s easy to eat. When I have the energy I’ll make a cooked breakfast with veggies and eggs.

While the kettles boiling (and breakfast is cooking) I’ll do a short sun salutation. Just 5 minutes is enough to stretch out my muscles but it also wears me out again.

After eating breakfast it’s time for another rest so I’ll sit on the couch drinking my tea. I may browse Facebook on my phone.

After 10-15 minutes rest, I’ll read through some blogs for up to 30 minutes (usually closer to 15 minutes) then push the button that sends the robot vacuum on a round of the kitchen/family room and laundry.

I’ll clean the litter trays and then assess how I’m feeling.

If it’s a good day I’ll do an hour or two of work (writing blogs, working on consulting jobs) or spend some time cleaning up around the house with regular short rest breaks in between. If it’s a bad day I’ll put the tv on or listen to an audio book.

At around 11:30 I’ll start thinking about lunch. Generally this will either be left overs or a sweet potato which I throw in the oven with salt, pepper and oil and leave to bake for an hour.

After lunch I have a nap before either doing a bit more work/housework or putting the tv/audiobook back on.

Around 5 I start considering dinner. I slowly make dinner taking lots of rests and by the time E is home (generally between 6 and 7pm) dinner is ready to eat.

We eat and watch tv until around 9-9:30 when I take my medicines, floss and brush my teeth, shower and bed.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful that I’m able to live a slow life. Over the weekend E and I were able to slow down and just relax. I spent a whole morning listening to audiobooks while E was on the computer and doing things around the house, we visited family and we went for a slow walk in the local national park.

This week I’m looking forward to continue living slowly. Taking the time to enjoy the simple things like the warmth of the sun and the sound of the rain. I’m also looking forward to afternoon tea with Rach as a special mid-challenge catch up as part of our 20 week no-buy challenge.

Share Your World: Week 4

28 Jan 16
Megan
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I can’t believe it’s almost the end of January already and we’re up to week 4 of Share Your World 2016 !

So far this year I’ve been struggling to maintain my balance. If I look at it from a week or month point of view I’m doing ok but on a daily basis I’m still struggling. Some days are crashed on the couch and unable to do anything much other than listen to an audio book or the tv in the background. Other days I’m rushed off my feet trying to do appointments and out of the house activities… I haven’t worked out the balance there yet.

It’s difficult for me to work out how to do this properly because I see the benefit of not having to drive more than once or twice a week (it’s still an activity that wears me out a lot) but then it means those days I am out I don’t manage to pace my step count, I don’t get my usual rest breaks, and I just over do it in general.

I’m also struggling to get any sort of regular routine in place for work activities. I’d love to be doing at least a minimum amount of work each week but Foggy Frog seems to be my constant companion again and he’s making it very hard for me to do anything for more than 5-10 minutes at a time with any hope of having reasonable results.

How do you pace yourself with activities outside the house or with adding in any work?

Anyway, being Thursday today, it’s time for another round of Share Your World.

Share Your World – Week 4

What one thing are you really glad you did yesterday?

Yesterday was one of those super full days where I over did it. That doesn’t mean there weren’t things I achieved that I’m really glad to have done though…

I managed to make it in to town to have lunch with E and one of his work colleagues before heading to the meeting I had in the afternoon. This is something that I really enjoy doing as it doesn’t happen very often these days unless I have a medical appointment in town.

Are you generally focused on today or tomorrow?

I do have a habit of focusing on things that I feel are important or scary that might be happening in the future but these days, thanks to the uncertainties related to my health, I’ve gotten a lot better at just focusing on one day at a time. Most weeks I don’t even look at my calendar in advance unless I’m booking something in. I might check it the night before when I’m getting ready for bed or when someone asks me what I’m doing.

Would you want a guardian angel/mentor? What would they tell you right now?

A mentor (or several mentors) provides inspiration, advice and guidance to help you succeed the best in life. Yes, I’d want that in my life and look up to several people in my life now as mentors.

Right now my mentor would be telling me to remember to be gentle with myself. As you might be able to tell from the last few posts I’m feeling very frustrated about my limitations at the moment. I’m wanting to do way more than my body will actually allow and I’m struggling to accept it. If my mentor was here right this minute they’d be reminding me that my health is the most important thing, without it I can’t do anything. They’d be telling me to continue to listen to my body and rest when I need to, to accept where I am at the moment, and to not set unrealistic expectations for myself.

Would you rather live in a cave house or a dome house made out of glass? (photos of the houses found on google search)

I love the idea of both but my dream house would be a dome house that’s built into the ground with lots of glass… something like this.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for the understanding and support of the wonderful people in my life. I realised in the last few weeks that I’m not going to meet my deadline for one of my consulting jobs. When I contacted the client to let them know they’ve been very understanding and said there is no rush and to just work on it as quickly as I can.

Being able to spend time with my friends has also been very satisfying.

In the next week I’m looking forward to talking with my doctors about some test results I got in the last week and hopefully getting some guidance on how to approach the issues that have arisen (More to come in an upcoming post on this).

Week 7 No Buy Challenge: Celebrations, side effects and PEM

19 Jan 16
Megan
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Another successful week for the No Buy Challenge. I’ve been so busy dealing with health related activities and issues that I haven’t had a chance to do any shopping at all. 🙂

There were a few things I was tempted by, but I managed to either find alternatives or get past the temptation.

On Sunday we spent the afternoon down at the beach. We went for a swim, I floated in the water, and then went to a friends birthday/promotion party in the surf club. It was a wonderful afternoon, but as you’d expect it was way too much for me in one day. I’m still dealing with PEM (Post Exertional Malaise) today and it’ll probably take another day or two at least to get back to my ‘normal’.

Warning: The rest of this post may be TMI (Too much information) for those who know me closely, read on at your own discretion….

Set up for a day on the couch... Water and tea, tablet and headphones, tv controller...

Set up for a day on the couch… Water and tea, tablet and headphones, tv controller…

As I mentioned last week I’ve been trialling Cymbalta (only at 10 mg a day) at the recommendation of my Pelvic Pain Specialist. It’s now been just over a week since I started it and I’ve been struggling with quite a few side effects even though I’m on such a low dose!

Of the common side effects I’ve been dealing with dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, low energy, and nausea (to the point of feeling like throwing up).

In addition to that:

  • I’ve felt like there are little electric shocks going all the way through my body and causing me to be very light headed and shaky.
  • High levels of pain down the inside of my limbs (especially my left leg).
  • Painful, tingly breasts with milky discharge from both. This is listed as a RARE side effect on WebMD but it came as a big surprise to me.

I’ve got an appointment with my GP on Thursday to get the results to the blood tests taken last week and will be asking his opinion. At this point I’m going to give the drug at least another week but I’m not sure if it’s worth continuing long term with this drug, it has reduced the general aching but there are so many other pains and side effects that I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Have you had any strange or rare side effects from any medications you’ve tried?

How long do you give drugs before you decide if they’re working or not?

Share your World: Week 2

13 Jan 16
Megan
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Balance… My word for 2016… is difficult to achieve. I’ve got many ideas for posts but, in an attempt to maintain my balance, you’ll find for the next few weeks at least you will only be getting 2 posts a week from me… My No Buy Challenge update and this, my Share Your World post (although I will probably add a bit of commentary to each like this).

Although I have been keeping it in mind each day I still managed to do too much last week and crashing again on the weekend.

This week I’ve begun trialling yet another drug (Cymbalta this time) to see if it helps me with pain and fatigue. Thankfully my doctor recognises that I’m sensitive to drugs so we’re starting at a very low 10 mg a day.

Share Your World: Week 2

Do you believe in extraterrestrials or life on other planets? 

I don’t believe in extraterrestrials in the sense of the aliens you see in many movies but I do believe that the chances of life (in some form) on another planet are quite high. Given how large the universe is I don’t see how this can be the only planet on which life has grown.

How many places have you lived? You can share the number of physical residences and/or the number of cities.

I’ve only ever lived in South Australia, but given that my parent’s divorced when I was young and we moved around a bit I’d say I’ve lived in at least 8 different residences (this doesn’t count any housesitting that we’ve done.

If you given $22 million tax free dollars (any currency), what is the first thing you would do?

The first thing I would do is pay off the rest of our mortgage and any other debts we may have. After that I’d look at how to invest the remaining money so that it could provide us with an adequate annual income and we can make our own choices about where and how we live, work and play.

The Never List: What are things you’ve never done? Or things you know you never will do?

I have never been sky diving, bungee jumping or probably any other extreme activity you can think of.

I will never stop striving towards a simple, sustainable and meaningful life in which I can make a difference and help others.

I have never

I will never give up on my dreams. Chronic illness may have taken away a lot of my options but I will always find a way around it.

 

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for the understanding and support of my husband when I was unable to do everything I wanted because of my health and for the opportunity to discuss options and trial new medications with one of the leading pelvic pain specialists in town.

In the next week I’m looking forward to continuing my daily meditation practice (something I’ve taken up in the new year).

“You’re looking good”…

10 Dec 15
Megan
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I’ve lived with chronic illness to some extent my whole life but for the last 2 1/2 years illness has been a major contributing factor in my life.

One thing I’m noticing more and more as I learn to accept, and live with, my chronic illnesses and the disabling symptoms they impose on my daily life is the innocence and ignorance of many who do not suffer from them.

It’s not only what’s happening in my life, but what I hear from others online and in person who are also suffering from invisible chronic illnesses.

The key word there is INVISIBLE…

Whenever I meet people in public I’m asked “How are you going?” or told “You’re looking good” and when I hear these things I never know how to reply.

On the outside I look like any other healthy person.

I walk normally most of the time (no obvious limp) although this can be difficult when I’m in a lot of pain or when the fatigue is so bad that my legs feel like lead weights. I look bright and happy (because I am happy) even when inside my body is screaming at me and my brain is in a dense fog.

Yes, I may ‘look good’ but I don’t feel good but I don’t want to be a downer for everyone around me so I don’t necessarily want to tell people I feel like crap.

How should I respond to these comments and questions?

I’ve seen different responses online from others going through the same thing.

Some people keep all the pain and suffering inside. They tell others they’re fine and try to ignore what’s going on then get upset and angry at the people asking the questions because they don’t understand.

Others tell anyone and everyone what’s going on with them. This can lead to people getting frustrated at you. People can begin to think you’re not really as sick as you say you are.

Personally, I think something in between is the best road to take. When answering questions or talking to people about our health we should take into consideration who we’re talking to and what their relationship is with us.

Even those closest to us don’t need to be constantly told what we’re feeling. Yes, they need to understand but we also need to understand it can be hard for them to cope, especially if you fell ill after you were close.

Responding to “You look good”

If I don’t know the person at all, I’d just reply ‘Thank you’.

If they know about my condition but I’m not very close to them, I’m likely to say ‘Thanks, I don’t feel that good’.

If I’m close to them I might share more detail about how I’m feeling, especially if how I’m feeling will impact on what we’re planning to do together.

Responding to “How are you?”

If I don’t know the person at all, I’d just reply ‘Fine’ or ‘OK’.

If they know about my condition but I’m not very close to them, I’m likely to say ‘As well as can be expected’. If they’re interested I might go into more detail afterwards.

If I’m close to them, I’d give a similar answer to above but would usually give them more detail.

How do you respond to well meaning but difficult questions and comments?

The Difficulty of Pacing: Work

03 Dec 15
Megan
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I’ve been so excited to hear from you all about your thoughts on the most recent A-Z guide to a simple, sustainable and meaningful life. One of the questions I’ve been asked to share more about is how work fits in to pacing with a chronic illness.

One reader in particular approached me with her current situation and I could see a lot of similarities so I wanted to talk about the issue in more detail.

This lady has ME/CFS like me. I’ll let her share her experience in her own words (modified for privacy):

I’ve been working on trying to get my activity level up for a while now but have only been keeping track of my daily steps for about a month. At the moment I seem to be averaging about 4000-5000 steps a day which I’m really happy with. I think a couple of years ago I would’ve been lucky to average 1500-2000. My main problem at the moment is that my step count is very inconsistent. It can vary anywhere from 2000 steps a day to over 8000 a day depending on the activities I have on.
I’ve now been back at work for just over 3 months… I’ve only been doing short shifts (3 or 4 hours) but these shifts involve being on my feet and walking around for most of the time. This makes it hard for me to pace myself and on a work day I don’t think it would be possible for me to keep my step count below 8000. I then find that the day after I have worked I’m exhausted and my step count is very low.
The issue here is the inconsistency. It’s something I can relate to strongly, on the days I need to go out of the house I tend to find myself doing double or more steps than on the days I’m home and can pace myself. I’ve also found it harder to avoid crashes since I’ve started working regularly.
My exercise physio has made it clear to me that the most important thing in order to avoid crashes is to be consistent. As the reader above stated, this isn’t always possible. It’s difficult to maintain a consistent level of activity when you have to do more on certain days due to engagements you can’t (or don’t want to) avoid, things like doctor’s appointments, work, important social events.
One thing I’ve done to try and help with consistency, is to consider it more on a week or monthly basis (rather than a day by day basis). That is, like the reader above, some days I do a lot more but I balance that out by doing a less on the other days.
I’m not completely happy with that approach though because some days I’m doing less because (like today) I literally have no energy left. What I’d like to do is find a way to pace so that even though I do more some days and less on others, I’m not doing the less because of crashes. I want to be doing it because I want to.
Pacing is about setting base levels and sticking to them for as long as necessary before slowly increasing them.
Since I’ve started working again, I aim to do a minimum of 5-8 hours a week. I break this down into smaller time slots. Some days this may be an hour at a time, other times (like today) it’s in 5-10 minute blocks…
I’m lucky in that most the work I’m doing I’m able to do from home and sitting down, but I still need to pace myself. I need to find the right balance of mental and physical activity to maintain my health.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to only work what fits with our health but in some roles (as with our reader) there are minimum shifts that you can do so if you’re going to work at all it’s likely to be too much to start with.
In response to the reader’s concerns I’d like to offer some advice…
If it’s possible to take short breaks, or even just ask for a stool at the counter (if you’re in customer service), that would give you a chance to pace yourself even within your shifts. However, knowing the area you are working in I know that the workplace isn’t always willing to be that flexible.
From what you’ve said to me it does sound like you are doing the best you can in your situation. It’s great that you’re tracking your activity levels and maybe you could look at working out what your baseline is.
How do you pace?
If you work, how do you manage the difficulties this can raise?