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I could tell you the long story about how I’ve been to the pharmacy four times in the past two weeks, about the number of medical appointments I’ve had, about the gum disease I’ve been diagnosed with three days after getting my teeth cleaned, or about the new issues with my foot. I’ll stick to a quickie about the foot.

I haven’t been to the doctor yet due to the holiday weekend, but I do believe I may have sprained my foot while standing on tiptoe to get some ziplock bags. I find out in a few hours when I go to my podiatrist. Regardless, my foot is swollen, sore, difficult to walk on…not fun. Oh, and it’s the same foot as the neuroma. I’m not sure if that’s good (at least I have one foot to walk on) or bad (it might complicate the neuroma just when things were looking up). We’ll leave it at neutral for now, with the added caveat that it’s a pain in the tuckus.

I’ve been following the RICE method, which seems to be helping. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It all seems to be helping, as the swelling has gone down considerably. It does mean it’s difficult to be at the computer, as my foot is not elevated. So I’ll leave you now, and try to update on Thursday with more details about what the heck is going on.

When I was first diagnosed with a mental illness, I had the general mindset that a doctor would hand me some miracle drug and everything would be better. (After all, those Prozac and Zoloft commercials seem to imply something of that nature.) I quickly found out that finding the right medication is a trial-and-error process, and that it usually takes about 6 weeks to find out if one medication works or not…and then you have to decrease it and take another one. My psychiatrist – thankfully – used a very scientific method of only changing one thing at a time. That way, he could tell it was the Topamax that made my face itch, and not some other drug. The whole process took about a year and a half, and oh what a ride that was. But that’s another story.

I learned that while medicine can help, there is a lot of patient-managed care that needs to happen. Even though I have my medication cocktail sorted out, I still need to take my medication, practice coping mechanisms, notice when I’m having a flare up…

I guess I’m just used to having conditions that no one can really fix. Migraines, IBS, Bipolar Disorder, Fibromyalgia…fun little labels that mean I get to spend a lot of time on medical issues, going to the doctor, stretching, and trying to keep my body and life in balance.

So imagine my surprise recently when three medical treatments seem to have just worked. Like, really worked. (I hope I’m not jinxing anything by saying this.)

Treatment one: occlusal guard, or night guard. There is conflicting evidence about whether or not night guards can help night-time teeth grinding. Some people say not to use them if you have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. (I suppose fibro might fit into that category.)

Still, I have a pretty bad time when I grind my teeth. It’s usually when I’m stressed, and I end up with a lot of jaw pain that often leads to migraines. I was a little skeptical, but since my insurance covered the night guard – wonder of wonders – I decided to try it.

It took a little getting used to, but I’ve slept better than I’ve slept in months – years, even. I’m not saying that this will work for everyone, but I think that grinding my teeth was probably causing some sleep disturbances as well. It is wonderful.

Treatment number 2: my wonderful, wonderful podiatrist gave me diluted alcohol shots to help with my Morton’s Neuroma. The shots are supposed to help break down excess tissue build up to relieve pressure on my nerve. I’m not sure exactly how it works. It seemed to get better at first – although my foot was still numb and tingly, but at least not in horrendous pain. Then the pain came back for a few days, and I was really worried I’d have to have surgery. Now, there is an occasional pang, but the pain is almost completely gone. I’m pretty sure that after a few more treatments I will be good as new. (Again, hoping I don’t jinx this.) Having a medical issue that’s treatable is just amazing to me.

Treatment number 3: custom-fit orthotics in my shoes. I suppose this doesn’t actually count as something that *poof* makes a problem go away. But I now have orthotics in my shoes to help provide extra arch support and deal with my flat-footedness. They make such a difference. I’ve even gotten an extra pair of shoes to wear in the house (ones that aren’t dirty on the bottom) so that I can wear them all the time. My feet hurt less, and I feel more in balance.

I guess these experiences have restored some of my faith in the medical profession in general. Not that I discounted medicine before – I’d just begun to expect treatments to only half work. Or to have a medication that works, but has horrible side effects. This was a pleasant surprise.

I have been feeling pretty down lately. I suppose when body, mind, and spirit are out of whack at the same time, it affects a person deeply. For me, it felt like it was creating some sort of multi-dimensional vortex that sucked all will from my body. Or maybe that was just the medications I’ve been taking.

The weather was gorgeous today. Spending multiple days snow-bound due to blizzards helps one cultivate a deep appreciation for 60-degree weather. (That’s 60 Fahrenheit for those of you overseas, or roughly 15.5 Celsius.) I did a morning meditation outside in the garden. I was planning on doing a “body scan,” but was overwhelmed by the depth of sound surrounding me. Planes, construction, my dog, people, cars, and lots and lots of BIRDS. It was a nice 15 minutes of connectedness to the world.

My mood started dipping mid-day. No need to go into the how’s and why’s. I think all of the pain – physical, emotional, spiritual – that’s been happening lately just walloped me. Seriously walloped me into deep gloom. So deep that someone I know asked me why I was being so pessimistic lately. Not necessarily the thing to ask someone who’s already not feeling well.

Anyway, I went to meditation tonight and had an amazing experience. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anger, so I decided to mainly focus on a “loving kindness” meditation rather than a body scan. (I did do some body scanning, but that wasn’t my main focus.)

Then came the post-meditation dharma talk. I got a good chance to laugh at/with myself in a very compassionate way. It’s really hard to put into words.

My main realization echoed one of the teacher’s. That when things are going well, I think that it must be because I’m doing something “right” or “good.” And that when things are going down the toilet, I think that it must be because I’m doing something “wrong.” So I drive myself crazy trying to figure out where I went wrong, and what I can do to make it better.

Secret of the evening: sometimes pain just happens. There is no rhyme or reason, or perhaps there’s a reason that’s out of your control. Once I let go of feeling personally responsible for creating my pain, this huge weight lifted from my chest. Don’t get me wrong, my foot still hurts like hell. I just don’t feel like I’m in my personal penal colony anymore.

When I got home, I started thinking about tomorrow morning’s 10 am dental appointment. And lo and behold, my wonderful golden mood went away, to be replaced by something utterly mundane. Which will later be replaced by some other thing. That’s just the way it goes.

My body is all kerfuffled at the moment.

I have a Morton’s Neuroma on my right foot, which basically means that the tissue around one of my nerves there has thickened. As you can imagine, this is fairly painful. I started having a really bad pain flare – triggered by the foot pain, but spreading throughout my body. Add to that some depression due to all the pain…

I managed to see a podiatrist, and he started giving me diluted alcohol injections to break down some of the tissue. Or something. Don’t ask me exactly how it works. This has improved my mood greatly in some respects, as I’m not in as much pain. However, my foot just feels weird sometimes. Like there’s this ball of tissue that I can’t feel, so I don’t quite know where to put my weight. I’m hoping it’s not permanent or anything. The thought that it might be is slightly worrying. I need to call the podiatrist, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ve still been having a continuous pain flare of sorts. It varies in intensity. Not enough exercise, too much exercise, being thrown off balance because of my foot…it’s hard to get my body centered again once it’s gone into a really bad flare. I consoled myself yesterday by buying three new books, and I have a pile of books I want to reread. Currently, I’m alternating between speculative fiction and books on postmodernism. My dog is also an excellent console-r and nurse, as he likes to snuggle. Family and friends are being very supportive.

All in all, it could be worse. However, it is one of those things that’s just very frustrating. I was doing so well. I know this state of affairs is only temporary…

This could be seen as a roundabout way of saying that, while I’ll try to stick to schedule, updates may be slightly sporadic. When I’m in a lot of pain or I’m doped up on painkillers, it’s hard to write a coherent post. I have a few posts saved as drafts for occasions such as this one.

Drugs and medication have an interesting way of interfering with my mindfulness practice.

I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday drugged on Tramadol, which I’d taken to deal with the pain/fear spiral that was going on this weekend. The Tramadol made me groggy, sleepy, and ill-coordinated. My brain felt like someone had shoved cotton balls into it, and I couldn’t get to all the important bits.

I suppose the Tramadol did its job in other respects: I wasn’t in as much pain, I could walk (or hobble) when needed, and I wasn’t having panic attacks from fear about how long the pain would last. The pain was not out of control.

I decided to try some mindfulness meditation to cope with my relationship to the pain.

When I started doing some breathing and focusing inwards, I really felt as though my brain was on some bad carnival ride. When I closed my eyes, I saw a pink trapezoid that kept moving and rolling as though it was in a fun house. There were pink elephants and other objects that kept shifting in and out of view.

When I tried to focus on my body instead of on the happy-fun-trip going on inside my mind, it was like wading upriver through sludge. I could kind of feel myself through a dim haze, but it was a lot of effort. The pink elephant kept calling me back.

Eventually, I fell asleep.

I suppose the mindfulness didn’t work in the way I intended or expected, but it did give me insight into the workings of my brain when I’m taking “heavy duty” painkillers. (Tramadol is a “mild narcotic.”) It feels like the medication is closing a door on the parts of my mind which might experience pain. Clobbering them over the head and sticking them in a closet, if you will. Then it distracts the rest of my mind with smoke and mirrors.

This doesn’t usually happen – as much – when I take Tramadol. I think it was because I took a larger dose than usual. However, the feeling of “wading upriver” when trying to practice mindfulness while on Tramadol has happened before.

Fortunately for me,  I managed to see a podiatrist yesterday. I’m narcotic-free today, and I feel like I have my mind back.

Note: This is another early post (Thursday instead of Friday), because it again relates to how I’m doing right now. We’ll see what the weekend holds, and if I do a “weekend extra” or not. It probably depends on how much pain I’m in, or what medication I’m on.

I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on coping with fibromyalgia-induced pain. My bipolar meds are fine-tuned enough that it’s usually under control, and I know all the warning signs and have my list of coping mechanisms ready. I do what I can to prevent migraines (wearing sunglasses, avoiding too much dark chocolate, avoiding other triggers), and have medications that usually work.

I like to think that I kind of have things “under control,” or at least well managed.

Recently I got hit with a new kind of pain. I’ve had occasional foot pain this fall, which got better when I switched shoes and insoles. On Thursday, though, I found that the occasional pang in my right foot was interfering with my ability to walk…causing me to limp…causing me to throw my body out of alignment…causing everything to hurt (an 8/10 on the “pain scale”)…causing my mood to just come crashing down. I worried about when it would end, how I would cope, and just wanted to scream. I tried doing mindfulness meditation. It helped a little bit with my mood, but I really became aware of just how much I hurt. My pain started feeling like a Jackson Pollock painting. (You know, the ones with all the paint drips everywhere?) It was a discordant symphony of pain – stabbing, burning, crawling, icy, hot, and on and on. I have a lot of experience with pain, but I had never felt anything quite like this.

There is something about unfamiliar pain that is much scarier than pain you know. There is all this emotion tied up with the pain. “When will it end? Is this something acute or chronic? How much will treatment cost? How will it affect my daily life? Am I going to be able to exercise? Am I about to go into a bout of a bipolar flare-up too? I don’t think I can take much more of this…” With fibromyalgia, it’s mostly, “Oh, this again. I know how to deal with you. If you get really bad, I’ll call my doctor.”

I woke up with pain yesterday morning, and managed to get an appointment with my physical therapist right away. She helped a lot, put tape on my knees, etc. I was pain-free all day (always a plus). Later in the evening, though, I found myself with stabbing pain in my foot when I was sitting at the computer. I quickly found the pain spreading throughout my body, and consequently spreading through my consciousness.

I ended up in bed, sobbing and having a panic attack. It was not a fun night. I’m worried about the potential cause, how long it will take to treat it, etc. I really enjoying walking as exercise, and I’m afraid my body will suffer from not being able to get out. I have to climb stairs to get to my bedroom and my office. My brain went on and on into worst case scenarios and pain, and everything started to spiral out of control.

I tried Tylenol, with no luck. I tried my usual dose of Tramadol (25 mg). I tried the higher prescribed dose of Tramadol (a total of 50 mg), and that eventually started to dull the pain. It also knocked me out, which meant I didn’t have to think about the pain for about eight hours. Sleep helped, too. This morning, I’m achy and the only real pain is in my foot.

I managed to get an appointment with a podiatrist my friend recommended. The appointment is in 13 days. I’m going to try not to catastrophize about what might happen, and try to be in the moment.

Here’s hoping for inner strength and compassion towards myself.

Early post (Tuesday instead of Wednesday) because I feel like sharing now instead of later.

My Etsy Store

A fibro-friendly item from my Etsy store

I've been working on making fibro-friendly jewelry. I'd love it if you checked them out by clicking the image above, or going to www.etsy.com/people/RogueCrafter

About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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