Tattoos and How They Relate to Chronic Pain

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20181204_210738I never imaged myself as someone who would ever a tattoo. I had nothing against tattoos; I didn’t see them as something I would do. The most significant reason being I use to be a total wimp about pain. It’s why my ears are only pierced once. It was fashionable to have your ears double pierced when I was a teenager, but I never could bring myself to do it. I was too afraid of the pain piercing would cause. If it hadn’t been for the fact that my ears were pierced when I was an infant, I probably wouldn’t have pierced ears. That wimpiness about pain is why I figured I would never have a tattoo done, no matter how gorgeous expression of individuality they were.

The joke was on me. It turns out; I had to get over my wimpiness where pain was concerned. I’ve come a long way since and I am a far cry from the girl, who use to freak out of the pain of getting a shot or blood drawn. Pain is now my constant companion. It’s been my bosom buddy for going on almost a decade. I have so many pain issues when I go into the doctor’s office; I have to break down my pain score by body part. “Well ma’am, my nerve pain is at eight on the pain scale today. However, my lower back pain is doing pretty well. It’s at a five.” I have learned how to live and thrive despite the pain. I take medication daily and utilize a whole host of therapies to help manage my chronic pain.

Dr. M, my beloved pain management doctor, who gave me my life back use to tell me that I had one of the most pragmatic outlooks concerning pain that he had ever come across in a patient. I accept that I will never be 100% pain-free. I recognize that no doctor is going to be able to cure me. I don’t want a cure or a miracle. All I want is for my pain to be manageable, to be bearable and still allow me to be a functioning mom and wife. I want to still be me.

I had lost myself in the two years between William’s birth and meeting Doc M.  My pain had gotten so bad that I didn’t feel like a functioning person. I didn’t feel like I could be a good mom or wife. I didn’t feel like I could keep going. I had lost hope. Then in August of 2016, I meet Doc M for the first time. He changed my life. He gave me my life back in May of 2017 when he put me on Belbuca. Belbuca was the miracle I needed. My pain is better managed than ever before. I spend a great deal of my time sitting at a three or four on the pain scale. For someone, who spent many years living at a seven or higher, that is amazing.

In September for my thirty-first birthday, I decided to get my first (and only) tattoo. I wanted a reminder that I was more than just my pain. I wanted something to remind me on my worst pain days that the choices which played a role in my health failing were worth it.  So I had my first tattoo done in gorgeous script on my left forearm. It reads, “Even after the pain & heartbreak, I’d make the same choice.

20181207_211054About halfway through having the tattoo done, I knew I had been wrong. It wasn’t going to be my only tattoo. I am not sure if I have adequate words to express the headiness that comes with having a tattoo done. It wasn’t overly painful (though I might not be the best judge of that.) and the endorphin high is spectacular. However, it was more than just that.  Having my tattoo done was therapeutic.

One could ask, “Why would I want to do something that was even remotely painful given that I live with constant pain.” But that is just it. I live in constant pain which I have no control over. Every night when I go to bed, I know there is a chance I will wake up in the morning in a flare. My pain will have climbed throughout the night and not respond well to my medication in the morning. I never know when I will be hit with a flare. Yes to a certain extent I can predict when one will come on, but I can’t predict how severe or how long it will last. Not only is there the uncertainty concerning flare-ups, but there is also always the fear I will wake up one day and not respond to my mediation; the chance that my body will grow tolerant and they will stop working. It’s happened before and likely will happen again.

But a tattoo? That is a pain I have total control over. If the discomfort (which is how I would describe the “pain”) gets to be too much, then I tell my artist, “Hey, I need a break.” and we take a break. I control how much it hurts by choosing the placement of the tattoo. I decide how long I sit for a tattoo. I control it all, and for someone, who doesn’t have any real control over her chronic pain, that is a powerful sense of ownership. Add in the endorphin high which comes with getting a tattoo done and it’s a surreal experience. I have spoken to several friends, who also suffer from chronic pain and have tattoos. They have all said the same thing that getting a tattoo is therapeutic for them.

I went to a get tattoo which would remind I was more than my pain. I came out having experienced control over pain for the first time. I learned something about myself sitting in that tattoo parlor. I learned of another way to look at my pain. I found an experience which was therapeutic. It allowed me to wrestle my pain in an entirely new manner. For the few hours, I was sitting for that tattoo, I pushed my chronic pain out of my mind and dealt with a pain I could control. The explanation seems so inadequate, but I lack the words to give justice to the experience. Despite the lack of words, I can say that getting a tattoo changed how I relate to my chronic pain at a fundamental level.

Earlier this week, I went in and had two new tattoos done. I had a memorial tattoo for my daddy put on my upper arm. Then behind my left ear, I had the Harry Potter chapter stars done in Ravenclaw blue. I don’t know what my next tattoo will be or when it will be done. However, I do know that there will most definitely be more tattoos in my future because as strange as it may sound there is something oddly therapeutic and satisfying about having control over pain even if it is just a temporary control.

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I am Healthy or I am?

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Photo one was taken Saturday afternoon at the zoo. I was feeling great and enjoying myself. Photo two was taken four hours after the first. I felt terrible and spent the rest of Saturday and almost all of Sunday in bed recovering.

Photo one was taken Saturday afternoon at the zoo. I was feeling great and enjoying myself. Photo two was taken four hours after the first. I felt terrible and spent the rest of Saturday and almost all of Sunday in bed recovering.

I am feeling better than I have, well if I am honest, in years. Not since I was pregnant with Antonio, our third son, who turned six earlier this year. I felt amazing when pregnant with him. Then he was born, and the pain came back with a vengeance. Hurting and feeling terrible was my standard. However, I kept trudging onward because there was nothing else to do. Over the last few months, I have established an excellent team of doctors- an endocrinologist, an internal medicine doctor, a pain management specialist, and a rheumatologist. Yup, I see four different doctors frequently. Plus, I have a cardiologist and a spinal surgeon who I see infrequently. This team of doctors, I have assembled over the last few months have finally started looking at the whole picture that is my health, and it is finally starting to pay off.

Numerous friends and family members have mentioned that I both sound and look like I am feeling better. My childhood best friend told me the last time we chatted that I sounded like my old self- the pre-sick me. My house is nice and clean. The boys and I are doing more activities. As a family, we are taking mini-road trips and going on outings. I am sleeping better and waking up in the morning is more pleasant. I am not suffering from as much brain-fog. I have more energy and less fatigue. Compared to how I was 8 weeks ago, I am healthy. However, here’s a secret…I am not cured. I am not really healthy. I am still sick. I still suffer from immense pain daily. I still have a long litany of symptoms. I still have a long list of diagnosis: Scoliosis, Arthrodesis (term for spinal fusion, which is indeed listed in my records as a medical condition) Ankylosing Spondylitis,Sacroiliitis, Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Trochanteric Bursitis, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, pain from nerve damage, unknown thyroid issue (still waiting on test), and chronic vitamin deficiency (still looking for the cause of this). I am currently restricted by my doctors to traveling no further than six hours from home. This really sucks, since I am missing out on a family wedding and a road trip to see friends. I am a walking train wreck. Yes, I am feeling better and it’s because I am blessed to currently be under the care of a great team of doctors, who are using medication, physical therapy, nutrition, and alternative medicine to manage my care. They have knocked several of my conditions back into remission, and the other ones are currently being well managed.

I am taking full advantage of this and living life to the fullest. However, even when I am feeling well, I still have to be acutely aware of what I am doing. I am never going to go bungee jumping or skydiving. I will never be able to hike the Colorado trail. I still have to be aware of what I am doing, because there aren’t any guarantees. I could wake up tomorrow feeling like shit- with all my conditions going haywire and out of control. I spent Saturday and Sunday laid up because I had a flare come up out of nowhere. I hadn’t done anything particularly strenuous either to cause it. It’s just the nature of having chronic illnesses, even ones that are being managed well. Being managed well can also change at the drop of a hat. Medicine can stop working for any number of reasons, or a new symptom can crop up. However, I nor any chronic illness/pain warriors can live in fear of flare-ups or conditions coming out of remission. We must make the best of things, both when we feel good and when we feel terrible.


Re-Energizing Daybook

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FOR TODAY

Outside my window…
Spring seems to have taken a break. It’s been gray, cloudy and chilly. Sunday for Mass I had to dig out the light weight jackets. Today it was long sleeve shirts. I have had to turn the heater back on as well.  It should warm up as the week goes on so that we can enjoy plenty of time outside.

I am thinking…
Rejuvenation is needed by all the kids and I after a busy few weeks.  Since Easter we have been going non-stop and it finally caught up with the boys at Mass yesterday. Mass was not pretty and we ended up having to leave early. This week we have nothing on the schedule minus an orthodontist appointment for me and therapy for Paul and Antonio. We will have a week of free play and unscheduled fun around the house; as well as lots of good eating and good quality sleep.

I am thankful…
For this giggling baby that I am blessed to call mine.

In the kitchen…
I’ve been enjoying a new regular breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage. It’s a big departure from my usual sugary breakfast. I have a sweet tooth and have started my mornings off with a sugar sweet breakfast of some kind for as long as I can remember. I love cereal…all kinds of cereal but not grown up cereal. Nope, I am a total kid at heart when it comes to cereal give me the Lucky Charms, Coco Puffs, etc. Oddly, enough I am finding that I don’t miss the sugary breakfast. The morning runs more smoothly when I eat a good breakfast. I don’t find myself getting cranky and frazzled around lunch time.

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My new favorite pot holders! Silicone and super easy to clean.

I am wearing…
It’s night time so I am wearing yoga pants and a tee-shirt so that I am ready to go to the gym first thing in the morning. I am also snuggled up in one of Mark’s hoodies for warmth. The house is on the chilly side of things tonight.

I am creating…
I am working on a gift wrapping station. I saw it here thanks to pinterest and decided it was a perfect project to do. I already had all the materials on hand and I am always struggling with what to do with my rolls of wrapping paper.

I am wondering…
Thoughts of my wardrobe have been on my mind a lot lately. Pre-kids I use to dress wonderfully. I had nice clothes and I presented a pretty nice put together picture most of the time. However, when I moved out of my house I didn’t get to take all my clothes with me. My mom decided to keep a lot of my clothes that she liked. Then I had Paul and somewhere down the line I allowed her voice in my head to convince me that I had to wear the “mom” clothes and that I wasn’t allowed to dress pretty; unless I was going out on a rare date with Mark. So, now I am faced with a closet full of nothing but yoga pants, tee-shirts and what few other clothing items I have are ill fitting and/or unflattering. My closet is in need of a serious re-vamp. So, I’ve been doing lots of thinking and wondering around the internet in search of clothing that speaks to me. Clothing that I like.

I am reading…
Currently, I am re-reading Large Family Logistics- The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family by Kim Brenneman. Technically, our family is still small but regardless of size the book if very helpful, in my opinion. I first read it right after I had my back surgery last summer and frankly I was on some very heavy pain killers and can’t clearly remember last summer; much less what I might have found helpful in the book. :-p

The Boys and I have been doing lots of reading too. Antonio is at the stage where he likes to sit and just flip through books. He will listen to stories but more than anything him and I will just sit and look through them while I identify the things in the pictures that he points to.

Paul and Thomas have been enjoying the Disney Small World Library books. They are stories set in different countries featuring Mickey and the gang going on adventures that deal with the local culture of the country. The boys are enjoying learning about other parts of the world.

Their enjoyment is seriously making me wonder if I want to introduce the subject of history this year to Paul as part of our homeschool curriculum. I don’t want to over burden us but also think he would enjoy it. For now I am prayerfully considering what to do.

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I am hoping…
I can begin the healing process of dealing and overcoming the emotional abuse I suffered as a child and young adult. I want to be the best mother and wife I can possibly be and that means I need to let go of the baggage I carry with me.

I am looking forward to…
Since, this week is all about re-energizing and relaxing I am looking forward to doing just that. As the weather warms up I am excited to be able to get outside with the boys; so we can play, pick flowers and just enjoy each other’s company.

I am learning
Water is my friend. I have never been a good water drinker and have always struggled to drink enough water. However, I have really been working on making sure I am drinking plenty of water and have seen amazing results from this. I have learned that when I drink plenty of water my skin looks and feels nicer. I get less headaches. I eat better and don’t snack as much.

Around the house…
Purging and more purging. I am working on purging the laundry room, linen closet and our bedroom. I am also working on getting our homeschool area set up. I am looking forward to having lots of time to work around the house this week.

I am pondering…
This article about the Kermit Gosnell trial and what it says about us as a society here in America.

http://www.lifesitenews.com/blog/to-look-into-the-face-of-kermit-gosnell-is-to-look-in-the-american-mirror

A favorite quote for today…
Thomas has been sleeping in my room the last few days and every night when I come to bed he sits up and looks at me. Then he tells me he loves me, hugs me and goes right back to sleep. I am not even sure if he actually wakes up or not

One of my favorite things…
I’ve been blessed this past week to get to spend time with a couple good friends; who don’t live super close. Both of them are internet friends I meet from two message boards I joined when I was pregnant with Paul. I have made some amazing friends because of these two boards. While, the boards have long since gone in-active we have moved over to facebook groups. In a lot of ways I consider these groups of women more family then friends.

A few plans for the upcoming week:

Nothing


Spring is Here Daybook

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FOR TODAY

Outside my window…
Spring has finally arrived. This past week has been sunny and warm. A few days have even felt down right summery. With the arrival of spring the yellow pollen has arrived. Thank goodness for allergy meds. We also took the first beach trip of the year this past week. The sand toys that were in the boys Easter basket were a good purchase.

I am thinking…
Truth isn’t always pretty to tell. Sometimes, the truth is downright ugly but it’s important to tell the truth. This past weekend I spoke the truth to my mother. I let go of secrets about myself as a teenager to her. It’s wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty. She has decided not to believe me and that is alright. I had to speak the truth for myself and I am glad I did.

I am thankful…
That I, the girl who wrote this in 2004, “I am trying so hard to fight the depression, but I am afraid I may not be able to for much longer. Lord, help me. I wish I could crawl into a hole and disappear. I feel empty cold exposed. There are no words to invoke my pain. I would like to die. I pray to die” held on. That despite everything not only did I hold on; I survived. I left that situation behind me and learned how to thrive. I am incredibly thankful that God didn’t grant my prayer but instead allowed me to survive and be blessed with an amazing husband and 3 amazing children.

In the kitchen…
Routine and rhythm are the game in the kitchen right now. Several years ago I ran a pretty efficient kitchen. We had a general schedule of breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. Somewhere in the process of chronic pain, adding more children and multiple moves we dropped that habit. The kids started constantly grazing and the amount of food that was being wasted because of this process was ridiculous. Given how expensive gluten free foods are this cannot continue. So, now we are working on getting back into this habit. It has been very painful and invoked lots of whining from my kids; especially, Paul and Thomas.

I am wearing…
I am suffering from a nasty headache today; so comfort is what is needed. I am wearing yoga pants, tee-shirt and flip flops. I figure I am doing good to have just made it out of bed today and gotten out of my pajamas.   

I am creating…
The lego workstation didn’t work out so well and ended up having to be thrown out. We have been out of town for Easter and this past week was catch up week from that. Therefore, not much creating here but I have started working on making my diaper boxes that I use for storage pretty. I will take a few pictures and share later.

I am wondering…
How I came to be so blessed with my boys; who melt my heart on a daily basis. I am also blessed to have a wonderful husband; who surprised me with a delivery of chocolate covered strawberries this morning. He knew it has been a tough weekend,

I am reading…
Currently, sitting on my desk is the following:

Style, Sex and Substance- this was given as a gift from my mother-in-law way back in September for my birthday. I read part of it and misplaced the book. I found it under the couch the other day and I am excited to finish reading it.

Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Gregory L. Jantz- Mark bought this book for me when we first got married. I tried to read it but at the time was not ready to admit that I had been the victim of emotional abuse. The time is right now.

I am hoping…
That potty training Thomas is going to get easier soon and not be a long drawn out painful process.  

I am looking forward to…
A May visit to see a good friend of mine up in Maine. I am also looking forward to long afternoons spent outside with the children enjoying the sunshine and all the fun summer has to offer.  

I am learning
Recording keeping for homeschooling is my current topic of research. With Paul’s kindergarten school year set to start in July I am trying to figure out the best way to organize and keep records of his education.  

Around the house…
We are trying to get back in the groove of things after being gone for a week and half and then coming home to a jam packed week. The boys’ clothes need to be changed from winter to summer. I also need to get the chance to de-clutter our outdoor toys. It’s on the to-do list for the upcoming week.

I am pondering…
The following excerpt from Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse:

“Emotional abuse isn’t normal. Emotional abuse is the consistent pattern of being treated unfairly and unjustly over a period of time, usually by the same person or people.[…] Emotional abuse is an intentional assault by one person on another to so distort the victim’s view of self that the victim allows the abuser to control him or her. […] If you have grown up in an abusive family, your experiences will all have a bizarre sense of normalcy.” 

A favorite quote for today…
Paul- “I love you 20,000”
Thomas- “Me too, me too!”

One of my favorite things…
How happy Antonio is. He is just happy.  When he is unhappy it is normally very easy to make him happy again. His smile is infectious.Also, getting to see dear friends and catch up. I was able to meet my best friend sister 2 weekends ago for a lunch date. It was the first time in over 2 years that we were able to spend time in person together. While, I am gratefully we can easily stay in touch via the phone and internet nothing beats face to face time.

A few plans for the upcoming week:

Tire Shop to get leaking tired fixed- Tuesday
Speech and OT- Monday and Thursday
Play date- Wednesday and Friday
Birthday Party- Saturday
Mass- Sunday


Daybook Marking 1 Month Down

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FOR TODAY

Outside my window…
It is gray but nice. It rained this morning and has remained over cast most of the day. However, the temperature is wonderful. Spring is coming. You can feel it in the air and see it the planets trying to start blooming. Soon, we will be moving into April- what I like to call the yellow month which means I need to stock up on allergy meds!

I am thinking…
Homeschooling and how to organize for it when space is limited; that seems to be the problem I keep running into organizing when the space just isn’t really there.

I am thankful…
That we have wonderful friends; who came to join us to celebrate Paul and Thomas’ birthday today. Despite my original reservations about throwing the party everyone had a great time. 9 of the boys’ friends joined us for playing, cake and a piñata. The boys had a great time and were sad to see their friends go.

In the kitchen…
Gluten free seems like it will most likely be a long term thing. We had Thomas’ 3 year well check up at the beginning of March. It had been 2 months since his last weight check and a month and a half of being gluten free. (well 90 to 95% of the time, we do cheat occasional like when we go over to someone’s house for a playdate) and he gained 2 whole pounds! That is an amazing weight gain for him. The previous year (January 2012-January 2013) he gained 3 pounds the whole year.  I made a gluten free cake for the boys’ party using a gluten free betty crocker mix as my base and it was a hit with everyone! I felt pretty proud of myself. Apparently, I can bake a better gluten free cake then I can a regular cake. The cake I made for the party was super moist and yummy; whereas my regular cakes tend to be dry and crumbly.

I am wearing…
I wore jeans and a ruffled blouse with my sequin flats for the boys party. The sequin flats are some of my favorite shoes I have ever owned. They are super comfortable and I can’t help but smile when I see them! Now, I am wearing my new yoga pants I bought recently from old navy and a tee-shirt since I stretched and did my yoga routine after the party. I am thinking I am going to need to get some new sneakers soon for working out. Mine are pretty worn out and several years old.

I am creating…
I have been very busy of late in the creative department. I re-did the dresser that we use as an entertainment center in the loving room. It came out amazing. I painted the coffee table to compliment the dresser as well. However, the top of it already needs to be re-painted since Paul scratched the paint finish (even through the clear protective coat) with a toy. He and I had a long talk about doing things to intentional cause damage to something. My next project is to make a lego work space for the boys. I’ll post about it when I am all done! I have about 3 days to get it finished; since daddy is sending them a surprise gift of a huge bin of legos- 700plus! They are going to be over the moon.

I am wondering…
About what is in store for the Church now that a new Pope has been chosen. From the media coverage and my reading this past week I believe God has great things in store for his Church under the leadership of Pope Francis. I am excited to get to know more about our new Pope and look forward to getting to know him better. I think it is amazing that the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople plans to attend the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis on March 19. This is a first since 1054! Maybe, under Pope Francis there will be reconciliation between Rome and Constantinople.

I am reading…
A young adult fiction called Flappers that I checked out from the library. So, far they are a fun light easy read. I am also reading lots of different teaching manuals for the various curriculums we have decided to use for Paul’s schooling this upcoming year.

I am hoping…
The next five months go by as quickly as this month has. We have successfully made it through the first month of Mark being gone. Despite how much I have missed him we have been busy enough that this past month went fairly quickly. I am hoping that is how the rest of the months go. I am also hoping and praying for the results of the officer board coming out in May that Mark applied to.

I am looking forward to…
Easter and a visit to see my sister-in-law and her family. The boys are eagerly looking forward to it as well. When I told Paul we had 2 more weekends to go he said, “But mommy, all the chickens will have crossed the road by then!” I am not sure what he was talking about but it made me laugh.

I am learning
The getting up before my children doesn’t work. Last time I wrote I was so excited about the idea and how wonderful that quiet time was. It lasted all of a week before my kids were getting up earlier. Every time I try to get up earlier they, most especially Antonio move theirs up too. I have given up on it. However, I am swamping it for starting the day with snuggles in my bed with my 3 favorite little boys in the whole world. It’s not a bad way to start the day.

Around the house…
De-cluttering and decorating. Since, Lent started I’ve removed 5 13gallon bags of clothes out, 4 brown bags of clothes given away to friends,  3 large toys removed, 3 bags of paper trash, 5 brown bags of miscellaneous stuff to the airman’s attic. I have also been busy re-organizing and decorating the house. I am thrilled with my “new” dining room table. The red makes me happy. It’s so cheerful.

I am pondering…
How amazing God is. No matter how many wonderful things I see his amazingness never ceases to cause me to look on in wonder. Thomas and Antonio’s Godparents; are expecting their first; a very long awaited baby. I couldn’t be happier or more excited for them.  This past month through the wonders of the internet I watched a brave little boy and his parents deal with the news that he had a brain tumor and needed immediate surgery. All of this happened while they were thousands of miles away from home on vacation. Praise to the Lord his tumor was benign and he is making a good recovery. I was also privileged to watch a pretty amazing group of women from across this country (and some aboard too!) mobilize to help this family- a group of women that I am proud to consider myself a part of. Many of us have never met each other but in a lot of ways we’re family. We take care of our own when they need us. We lift each other up and no prayer request is too small or too large.

A favorite quote for today…
Thomas in response to his kite being a spider man (it was a birthday gift from friends), “Mommy they know me. They really get me!” My children keep me from being too serious or to fuddy duddy.

One of my favorite things…
Being able to see Paul discover and learn about our Faith. He is at the age where he is just soaking it up and actually starting to understand things. We have wonderful discussions after Mass about what we heard that day. When Pope Francis was elected this past week I was telling him about the Pope. His reply, “Wow, he sounds so awesome! I bet he would like that I can make the cross. I want him to come visit!” When I explained he couldn’t just come visit Paul replied, “Yes, he can on an airplane. I think he should come on Thursday!”

A few plans for the upcoming week:
We have therapy and a few playdates planned. This upcoming weekend is the big Easter event at Mark’s work so we’ll go to that and then we also have the playgroup’s Easter party. I would like to try and figure out something special to do to mark the Feast of St. Joseph and Pope Francis’ inaugural Mass on the 19th.