THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF LIFE WITH CHRONIC PAIN…
or please, somebody change that tune.
I’ve lived with chronic pain every day of my life for over 25 years. I must say you never get used to it, but you do learn to accept it. Because this miserable condition has affected my entire life, sneaking and crawling like a coward into every corner of my existence, there are many things I have learned along this troubled way.
The first and most important of those lessons was the ability to accept what I cannot change, to change what I can through medical help, attitude and my spiritual life and to always keep an open mind. Change entered my life as a companion to daily pain and for that reason; I learned to embrace change as being invaluable, because a static condition could be my enemy. I had to change everything. Daily habits, personal hygiene, house cleaning, laundry and cooking; all changed.
The mornings are often the hardest, seconded closely by the restless nights. I have learned over the years to keep yogurt or Ensure, along with tiny cans of juice in a little, inexpensive refrigerator we keep upstairs in a small room off of our bedroom. I call it the train room because I papered it years ago with a scenic wide wallpaper border of an old-fashioned village on a river, much like our town. Along the top I papered an old fashioned train chugging around the room…wish it was a real model train, but alas.
In the morning I take my medications, which are plentiful with a glass of seltzer water and a small yogurt. None of us should take any pills on an empty stomach unless specifically told to do so. I learned years ago to fill those weekly pill containers with my daily pills, for two reasons: it’s simpler than opening bottle after bottle in the morning when I am at my worse and secondly because it’s a good reminder in case I’m wondering later in the day, “Did I remember to take my pills this morning?” I simplify life by filling the weekly containers once each month. I do the same thing for Jim’s vitamins and daily aspirin. For all of my prn medications, which simply put is “as needed.” I keep them together in a shoebox sized plastic container with a snap lid and write an initial of the drug on the top so I can find them more easily. Aren’t they printing the med labels smaller than usual these days, or is that just my problem?
Once the day is off and limping, I make myself get dressed and wash my face or take a shower. I personally find it helps my attitude to be dressed and I feel prepared if the mailman or someone else knocks on the door. After my morning pills have kicked in with their effects, I carefully walk downstairs to get a cup of latte which is my one cup of caffeine for the day. When you live with IBS you have to watch the intake of caffeine and that includes non-herbal teas and worst of all, chocolate. I still eat an occasional bit of chocolate but usually pay the price of it later. Hey, we can’t give up all the good stuff in this life, right?
Then my day is off and if not running, at least moving forward. I’ve found, as I know many of you have, that a list of daily activities is helpful. Calls to doctors, friends, shopping lists, cleaning chores and laundry, etc. all go on the list. As I’ve mentioned so often in the past, my chores are planned to be interspersed with rest times. A movie, a good book, the computer and chatting with all of you are a few of the activities that appeal to me. I do try to get out of the house at least two or three times a week to see others, to shop or just to walk.
I pick up my youngest grandkids from their school buses which stop out front twice a week. Those are, of course, my favorite days. We watch Disney movies, play games, eat popcorn or sandwiches, depending on their lunch consumption and during the summer, they will be here for the entire day, twice weekly. I need to rest on those days and they understand. During the summer we visit our wonderful Maritime museum, go fishing, or just go out to the bakery and choose cookies and goodies. The children and I also love to feed breadcrumbs to the seagulls and have discovered our Yorkie, George thinks he can fly. We also do a fair share of cooking which they both enjoy. The beaches around here are wonderful but I’m limited a bit by my sun sensitivity but still have to slap on the sunscreen and enjoy it on occasion. I wear long sleeves and a hat 365 days a year. When I add wrap around dark glasses I become a very mysterious woman, indeed.
I love digging holes in the sand and building tiny inlets, sand castles, or just enjoying the marvelous scenery, such as the rough waters here where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River. The area is inhabited by ducks, cormorants, seagulls, and all sort of God’s creatures. The grandkids are getting a new pup this summer and she will probably have fun getting acquainted with our Yorkie, George.
This summer, the month of June will be a change of venue for me as I am scheduled for radiation therapy but when it’s over, we hope life will go back to normal…whatever that is. It is always a surprise, have you noticed? I hope I will have enough energy to see a bit of Portland, Oregon which is a beautiful city with thousands of trees, sided by two rivers with plenty of shopping.
One of the valuable lessons I have learned is to ask and accept help when I need it. That was a hard lesson for this independent woman. I had to realize by accepting help, we are allowing someone to be useful and to have a reward for that kind of caring. It’s also important to see our own limits and to stay within them. I’ve learned that the hard way also with the enduring of long nights of pain in my ankles, knees or sitter due to my own stubborn determination to do something myself. I’m trying to educate the clerks at the market what “Please, keep that bag light” means, but believe it’s a difficult lesson for them. I try to use my own cloth bags because they’re easier on the hands and since we live on a hill, a hole in a plastic grocery bag can send a cantaloupe careening down the street. They roll much faster than I can scurry. Sometimes I have to ask Jim to get away from work and come home for ten minutes to help me, but it’s not always possible for him. We do what we can do, don’t we?
Shopping has changed drastically for me. I often have to decide if I’m better off doing several per week or one huge shopping about every 10 days. For two folks and two dogs, we do seem to use a lot of groceries and sundries. We buy in bulk at Costco to save money and effort. We mostly purchase paper goods and medical supplies because their food is just too much quantity for us. The freezer can only hold so many items to grow frosty and freezer burnt. I often shop through Amazon.com so I don’t have to lift it and it is delivered to the front door. I’m afraid the UPS delivery man is developing a hernia from our dog food shipments. It’s also a great source for those hard to find items when you don’t feel like driving all over town searching.
My housecleaning habits have changed and as I’ve mentioned so often on here, I couldn’t exist without a Scooba and a Roomba, both made by IRobot. They are computerized vacuums and scrubbers which don’t need my help except to clean and empty them. They are both such back savers. I’m waiting for someone to invent an automatic vacuum for stairs. Let me know if you hear of one. I also like the Swiffer products for dust, dog hair, etc. This includes the Swiffer squirt mop which is great for quick clean-ups. Just in case you’re wondering, no, you can’t eat off the floor at our house and yes, I have become more slipshod in my battle with dirt, dust and dogs. It used to bother me but I’ve made many choices which are better for me because my husband and I, and our critters, come first. I’m not the personality type to have a housekeeper. I’m just too private and don’t care for the idea of strangers in my home. That’s just me.
As far as laundry, it has always been in the basement of our three stories home. Two years ago we bought a stackable washer/dryer set to put in the corner of the kitchen and that has been great for me; although a bit noisier. I recently found a light weight laundry carrier online which I like very much to tote laundry up and down the stairs. It has a handle and can leave one hand free to hold the railing when going up and down. The few times I have tripped and fell, I had both hands full. It’s now a motto of mine I try not to forget.
For safety at home we have rubber treads on all of the outside stairs and carpeted the entire indoor stairs. There are also rubber pads beneath each throw rug to keep us from that careless and dangerous indoor skiing that always ends so badly. Don’t we have enough challenges? I know I do without being careless.
No, I’m not Mary Poppins and my life is not “spit-spot” but it is doable and most importantly, my dear man and I are facing these challenges one at a time, one day at a time and looking for the joy to be found under the most difficult of circumstances. It’s a gorgeous time of year here in the Northwest. Rain every few days means that God does most of the outside watering for me and I have an abundance of indoor plants blooming. The dogs are always acting up and causing mayhem in a comical manner as we tread this road we’ve been directed onto. Happy traveling to each of you, my fellow trekkers. Hang on, hang in but don’t get hung up on the little things and instead, search for the meaning, the joy and the lessons which will enrich your life.