A Day In The Life…..Chronic Pain

Co-written by Amy Nora

Chronic Pain… is just that. It’s chronic, meaning it’s something we live with ALL the time. It is not the same as stubbing a toe or knocking your knee on the corner of the table.  There is no cursing or exclamation of words and a few minutes later life is perfectly normal and you are moving on.  Nor is it like breaking a bone, wearing a cast and being done with the pain and annoyance 6 months later. Chronic pain forces you to live differently.  Life becomes methodical, more deliberate in the actions we take, and how we live our lives.  This includes the simple things like getting out of bed, going out with friends, cleaning, or trying to cook a meal.  You live you life in pain; therefore, you come to accept various levels of pain as normal.  This does not mean that you would constantly rate your pain a 10/10, you may rate your pain as a 2/10.  However, you had to stand and make a sandwich so now that has spiked to a 7/10.  This is a fight fought daily by millions of Americans with degenerative diseases or chronic medical conditions.

I wanted to give you all a look into a day in life of living with chronic pain. But I decided to go about it a little differently. My friend and frequent contributor Amy Nora and I will both be sharing our views of what like living with chronic pain is like. As living with chronic pain can look very different for different people.

Amber’s Story

I feel that there is so much negativity in news about pain and pain medication these days with all the issues with the changes in the rules and regulations with narcotic prescriptions. There are people killing themselves because they can no longer receive their meds. Others are being fired from their Pain Management Doctors because they don’t take their pain meds frequently enough. We have all heard the stories. But I don’t want to focus on THAT today. I want to bring light to what a real day of someone with chronic pain is like. I want to talk about what a day with multiple conditions that cause chronic pain can be like. I think many people have a stigma in their mind that people with chronic pain take their pain meds and may have some pain everyday, but most of their day is spent doing what they want with no big issues. Just so we are all on the same page here’s a point of reference: besides taking pain medication I also use a combination of heat, hot showers, massage, muscle rub and yoga to treat my pain. I do suffer from multiple chronic illnesses that cause chronic pain, I live daily with Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Debilitating Migraines, Endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis as well as undiagnosed chronic back, hip and sciatic pain.

For most people when the alarm goes off or they wake up, they probably start going through the day ahead in their mind. As far as what they have planned, what’s scheduled, what they are making for dinner etc. For me and those with chronic pain the first thing I do when I wake up is lay in bed for about 15 minutes let my body wake up so I can assess my pain. I have to lay there for a little while to let my body connect to my brain so I can really take account of how I am feeling.  I generally start at my head and work down. This morning for example, I started with my head, and the pain was like a 2/10. Continued down to my throat, neck and glands because I have been fighting a cold/sinus infection, that was like a 2/10. Then down to my shoulders, elbows and hands. Left elbow was a 4/10, still not sure what that was about, but it has been happening a lot lately. My hands, about a 4/10 as well. So I start doing some stretches to see if they are just stiff or if they are going to hurt all day. They seem to be stiff and the pain seems to ease with stretching, so that is a relief. Down to my belly, cramps are like a 6/10 as endometriosis causes MEGA cramps when its time for your cycle. My bladder is probably an 8/10, because I didn’t wake up all night and it feels like it is ready to explode. My low back is a 6/10 as is my left hip, and for the first time this week I didn’t wake up with any sciatic pain or pain in my left calf. Which has been very painful everyday this week. Overall, I would say my pain would be about a 6/10 this morning. So now that I have assessed the pain that I woke up with, now I have to decide what I want to do about. Do I go ahead and take something before getting out of bed, or do I wait and see how things go as the morning progresses? That is sadly the question I address each and every morning after I wake up.

Generally, my rule of thumb in the morning is that if my overall pain is over a 5/10, I go ahead and take something for the pain. I have learned that if I don’t the day is NOT going to get better. And I will most likely not be able to get the things on my to-do list done. Or at least not until later in the day. So this morning that is exactly what I did, I took something for pain got out of bed and did my morning stretches that allow me to be able to move in the morning.  Without those stretches, thanks to the fibromyalgia I would not be able to move first thing in the morning.  I won’t bore you with the exact play by play of my day. But at each step of the way I have to decide if I can complete this task or if I should wait and attempt it later. This morning after getting dressed and having breakfast, my first task on my to-do list was cleaning my bathroom, I knew I didn’t feel like it but it can only be put off for so long. For most able-bodied people they could probably go in and get it done all in one fail swoop. For me however, it takes several steps. Due to my pain and fatigue, any multi-step project will almost always require several breaks. Just to clean my small bathroom this morning I had to stop and rest FOUR TIMES!!!! And it took me over FORTY FIVE MINUTES. Even with the breaks, I still had to lay down with my heating pad on my back and abdomen for about 30 minutes before I could go on to my next task.

I continued on with my day the same way as above. I vacuumed and then had to rest and use the heating pad. Then I did some laundry and had to rest. After eating lunch the pain has escalated again to about a 7/10 so I had to quit what I was doing and lay down. Completing simple tasks is no longer simple. It has to be well thought out and planned. That is generally how it goes for most people with chronic pain/chronic conditions. I can no longer just complete a task without resting or taking several breaks. Things that used to be simple and easy are no longer so easy. Everything that is done has to be well thought out.

I miss my time out with friends and family. But a night out or even time at home with friends or family for dinner and a movie requires major planning. Over the years I have learned that if I want to spend a day out of the house no matter what I am doing I better prepare. I need to make sure I rest all day the day before, and maybe two days before. And I know that I will most likely be in bed and doing nothing for several days after. For what seems like a normal day out of the house shopping or an evening out to dinner and a movie to an able bodied person is much different to someone with chronic pain. For example, last week, my little sister played in her last competitive softball tournament. And I just simply wasn’t going to miss it. Sadly, I knew I was going to pay for it because I didn’t feel good going in and it was 95 that day. (People with lupus simply do not do well in the sun.) So I planned ahead and took it easy the day before, and stayed in bed till the last possible minute the morning of, got dressed, and got in the car for the 45 minute trip. I was already hurting (at about an 7/10) by the time we got out of the car, and at that point we still had about 15 minutes to go before the 75 minute game would start. I had taken my pain medication before I had left the house but it wasn’t doing much to relieve the pain. I made it through the game, a quick lunch after the game with the family and the 45 min drive home. After my shower, a COLD shower, I crashed. And I certainly paid for it the next couple of days. Everything you can imagine hurt, my back and hip from sitting, my head from the heat. And just about every joint you can name. I really was hardly able to get out of bed the next day because the pain was so severe. That being said I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I got to see my sister play one last time. I would have done it 100 times over just to be there especially knowing how happy it made her that I was there to see her play.

If my pain is tolerable and I actually get out of the house like I talked about above when I attended my sisters game. Usually as soon as I get out of the house I am counting down the time until I can get back home to my bed and my heating pad. Generally I can’t focus on whatever I am doing because my pain is such a point of focus. I do enjoy getting out of the house but I can’t help but think about how much I am going to pay for leaving the house. So sometimes we have to pay for the good things in life. It shouldn’t be that way but it just is. We shouldn’t have to deal with all we do, but we do and we learn how to deal with the hand we were given.

Amy’s Story

I had my first experience being treated as a drug seeker this week, which I will tell you about in just a second. But I first want to give you a little backstory. Only a few months ago my family moved to a new state leaving behind the doctors who had treated me for many years. Knowing there has been so many issues with pain and pain medication, on my first visit I brought all of my medical records with me. In the state I moved from, the doctor treating the source of your pain would be the one that prescribed your pain meds.   I discovered that my new Rheumatologist does not write pain meds.  I take a rather mild medication; however, he preferred that my PCP write for anything related to pain.  I use a combination of physical therapies, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, rest, heat, massage, and tears to handle and tolerate pain.  Meds were a last resort for me.  In fact, this was a decision that was not taken lightly, and very seriously discussed with my previous doctor.  When I went to my new PCP to get the medication, I was promptly given a long lecture on how doctors are monitored and restricted, and how they are not allowed to write too many of these prescriptions.  They did not look at the scanned records that are in their system, they did not call my rheumatologist.  I was lectured.  I was informed that I had to go to a second doctor to get pain medication, because that practice encouraged doctor shopping.  Something the medical system here should know and discourage; however, this was their policy so I was being forced into this practice not by my choice but by their policy.  A prescription was finally sent to the pharmacy which I picked up the next day; only I discovered the prescription was for THREE DAYS of the medication.  I do not take the max prescribed, I do the best I can because there are no therapies left on the market for us to try.  We are at the end of the proverbial rope.  Asking for help once in awhile should not result in being treated like someone with a contagion that will cause deadly harm.  I feel like physicians are pushing patients into medical marijuana (legal in my state) and can see why patients feel forced to seek illegal options.  When you deal with chronic pain, you learn quickly what things will exacerbate it, what things you do that will make you pay a little bit of a higher price, and things you can do to help here or there.  I have Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, debilitating Migraines, Epilepsy, and Fibro.

If I am lucky, I wake up and think that my eyes might open properly the first time.  My dog is a service dog and has been trained to help gently wake me.  Part of this is because of pain, but also if I am jarred awake it is a promise of a day with a horrible migraine.  I begin taking stock of what is alive or asleep or wishing it were dead on my body.  One thing with RA is morning stiffness, so often you don’t allow you initial impression of the day define you.  I roll out of bed and hope I don’t actually fall.  The first 15 minutes of the day moving is generally agony; an 8/10 because your muscles and joints have no idea if they even want to move.  This does not include all of the other fun stuff like cognitive dysfunction (you can’t think clearly) or your eyes don’t actually focus (thank you Sjogren’s).  After 15 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes, you have an idea of where you are going to hurt the worst for the day and what you will be dealing with.  Normally, I know that my knees, hips, and lower back will always be a 5/10 and that is just what it is.  If I having a migraine, I automatically medicate for that, and if the rest of my joints are above of 6/10 I will take medication to help with that.  This is when two things hit me simultaneously.  My need for coffee or tea and also what will I be able to do today?  Is it a stuck in bed day?  Maybe I can do a couple things, but I will have to depend on my cane?  Oh, it is a good day.  I can walk around and get two or three things done and just rest in between and after.

I had one day recently when I got really ambitious.  I wanted to get sheets, blankets, and clothes washed and dried in the same day.  That morning my pain started at around a 5.5/10.  My energy was pretty decent, I had a plan of action in place and life was good.  You become a bit of a master planner with chronic pain and any chronic illness.  I have learned that I can have the best plan, and it will go straight down the toilet.  I started with the regular clothes.  Just the act of getting them moved from the washer to the dryer, using my laundry aid, escalated pain to an 8 and delayed me getting to my next load for an hour because my legs and back gave out and I was unable to tolerate the simplest actions required to put a load of laundry in.  Sadly, this was with pain medication on board.  My goal was three loads of laundry for the day.  To an able bodied person, that may seem like nothing, for me to complete that in one day would have made me feel like I had just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.  When you have a chronic illness that no longer is how life happens.

For me, time with friends is one of the most beautiful and precious things.  It also is the one thing you lose that people don’t understand about you.  When first diagnosed I thought that I could just power through, now I have learned the price I pay.  Last week I went to the movies with my sister and niece.  I wanted to see Mamma Mia 2, they did too quite frankly.  It was girls night.  I had to rest 2 days prior.  The night I went I almost collapsed going into the theatre, and I did collapse coming out.  I started the night fatigued and about a 5/10; before we left I had a slight moment where I wanted to sit down and sleep for a month but I was not missing.  By the time I got home I was about a 9/10.  I have been flaring, which in our world means additional pain, swollen and stiff joints, and fatigue since.   I would not trade that fun night though.  There is a price you pay for all of your time.  I know with this post, I am not asking for sympathy.  But before you make a judgement, pause and maybe try and step into another’s shoes for just a moment.

Even our families and closest friends don’t always understand. Chronic pain is hard for anyone to understand because it can’t be seen. When you look at us we don’t look any different from the next women. Unless you you see us limping, walking with a cane or rubbing a sore spot you wouldn’t know we were hurting. They try to understand, and at first they do really well. But even the closest of friends or family start to get frustrated after repeated cancellations. They think back to the time they sprained their ankle or tweaked their knee, and the pain was gone in a couple weeks and they don’t understand why “a little pain makes life so hard!”

What Amy and I shared above is simply a small glimpse into the life of someone who has chronic pain. Someone who has to carefully plan each and every task they do on a daily basis. No on will never be able to explain to what it feels like to feel like your body is no longer your own. Your head and heart want to do one thing but your body says NO. No one will ever be able to explain to you how hard it is when you have to turn down your best friend for the 9th time, simply because the pain is to unbearable. No one can ever explain what it feels like to be told by the people who you are closest to to “Just take some Tylenol, and a nap, and you will be fine!” No one will ever be able to tell you what it feels like EVERY SINGLE TIME you go to a doctors office and they see that you take pain medication, and you can see their thoughts about you change for the worse. No one will ever be able to tell you how it feels to have someone tell you to “Just exercise and lose some weight, and you will feel better!” All that being said, until you have lived and walked in our shoes please try to keep your judgments about us until you meet us, and really get to know us. Yes, my pain impacts almost all of my daily life, but it DOES NOT make me who I am.

With Love,

Amber & Amy

The Truth Behind Photosensitivity

By AMY NORASummer is officially here. It means we go to the beach, we sit outside at the Ballpark, we go and plan for those wonderful picnics, we spend time with family barbecuing, it’s about the time with friends family and just enjoying those wonderful late nights at the lake. The other thing is that we are out in the Sun a lot. When you have an autoimmune disease that also means that most likely you experience photosensitivity. Photosensitivity is that nasty little friends that accompanies us everywhere. It means that we lather on that sunscreen as if, well honestly, she were our best friend. We layer it on at 2 hour intervals as if our lives depended on it; ironically in a way our lives do depend on it.“Photosensitivity is the term used to describe sensitivity to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight and other light sources, such as indoor fluorescent light. Photosensitivity can cause rashes, fever, fatigue, joint pain, and other symptoms in people with both cutaneous (skin) and systemic lupus. Excess exposure to UV rays is a common trigger for increased disease activity (flare) of both cutaneous lupus and systemic lupus.” (Lupus Foundation of America)Remember, with the 4th of July holiday coming and summer here,  have fun but also protect yourself.  Use sunscreen often, stay in shaded areas but remember you are still exposed to UV rays, wear hats, and just be smart. Lupus Love…

The Ugly Truth About Chronic Illness

The ugly truth…… the lives of people who are chronically ill are often not what you may think. Most suffer a lot more than they are willing to share. We fight something everyday, whether it’s pain or fatigue or just feeling bad overall. And naturally we don’t want to seem like we are always negative. We don’t want to appear like there is nothing good in our life, so often times we hide all the bad and just talk about the good.  But after awhile this gets old and too hard to keep up the lies. So we just stop talking to people and start shutting people out because if we don’t see them or talk to them you don’t have to lie about what is really going on. For a good majority of people with chronic illness even on the days when we “look and sound good,” we are still fighting some part of our disease process. There are very few days where we feel “normal.”

I recently read a statistic that said that 80% of people with chronic pain/illness will hide their pain and symptoms from friends and love ones. At first I thought this was a crazy statistic but the more I thought about it I really believe that’s true. We don’t want looks of pity or for people to feel sorry for us and by keeping things to ourselves this is less likely to happen. If we don’t share we don’t have to worry about what others will think or say about us.

It is really easy to pass judgement on someone you don’t know who looks fine. You see a overweight young women getting out of a her car that is parked in a handicapped spot, and think there’s nothing wrong with her she’s just fat! Almost all of us have all done this at some point, myself included. But we should all really think twice about spewing judgement! By just assuming something about someone you don’t know at all or someone that you are close to you make them feel badly about themselves, and make them not want to go out to do things. Just because they look fine doesn’t mean they are not fighting something on the inside. I know for me it’s easier to just not say anything about the amount of pain I live with. Simply because people will want to pass judgement on my pain, my lifestyle or how I treat my pain. But honestly it’s no one else’s business.

If you see a young person limping or parking in a handicap spot don’t always assume they are jut lazy or overweight. They could have any number of health problems that you could never see. Heart disease, lung issues like asthma or COPD, cancer, Lupus, RA etc. Same goes for anyone really, not just those that are young. I read somewhere that 80% of older people have one chronic illness, while 50% have at least two! I know how easy it is to place judgement, but until you have walked in their shoes you will never know what’s really going on in their life.

The ugly truth is that most people with chronic illness have very few really good days. Often times the bad days outweigh the good. That being said you may not know this because they don’t tell you. But it’s just the truth. Most people with chronic pain won’t ever tell anyone just how bad their pain is and how much it impacts them daily because they don’t want the judgement. In these days people hear chronic pain and automatically think druggie. What you don’t know is that many of us would rather do anything than take pain meds. If we could work a full time job and be a truly functioning member of society we would! For me personally I would give basically anything to be able to go back to working as a Nurse. I miss it ALL the time and often reminisce about the days when I was able to work. I never wanted to end up like I have. But it happens. Anyone can experience a life changing illness or accident. It’s not just a certain kind of person who these things happen to. So be mindful of that. Be mindful before you pass judgement and before you say hateful things to someone. You probably know next to NOTHING about what their life on a daily basis is like.

Dear Lupus…..

Dear Lupus,
You came into my life with asking, without an invitation. You came in and made it known by all that you were GOING TO BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION. Who asked you to come? Who asked you to come into my body and take my life away?? I sure as hell didn’t.

Looking back you made yourself known and reared your ugly head the first time when I was in highschool. Although no one called you that. They just said I had mono forever. Six months to be exact! Who has mono for six months?!? I always wondered why the simplest tasks made me exhausted and the people around me could run circles around me for hours. I also wondered why I seem to require so much more sleep than others my age! It was because of you LUPUS.
You went away for several years for the most part and I was grateful. I was able to finish nursing school and my bachelors degree. I was able to work as a nurse for 6 years without any issues. Even though you weren’t active I was always exhausted all the time. And I could never stay up as late as people my age or couldn’t go out and “party” like others my age etc. It was all because of you. Damn you LUPUS!

Finally six years ago you officially made your move. You moved in and took up residence for good. Although we never discussed this, I never agreed to this, I didn’t give you a key or clear out a drawer for you. Instead you just made yourself welcome. Since that day long ago. You’ve made my life or a good part of it a living hell. I have lost several friends along the way because they think I don’t want to see them or that I’m just full of excuses as to why I don’t want to go out to eat or go the bar after work. Or because they simply don’t understand when I say I’m tired it’s not just lay down and take a nap tired it’s pure exhaustion. The one thing you’ve taken away from that hurts the most is the fact that I haven’t been able to cheer on my sister as she pitches and plays travel ball all summer. Because of the heat. Since you moved in you made me so sensitive to the sun and have taken away my ability to be out at the ball field without paying for it later. And it literally has broken my heart.

You came and brought along uncontrolled pain (at times), long term steroids (leading to weight gain), inability to be in the heat or sun, sleep issues, and a plethora of other very undesirable diseases that go hand in hand with you. I can’t thank you enough for your generosity. You’ve done enough. Now go away and take all the “gifts” you’ve brought with you that are also not welcomed here.

One of the reasons I hate you the most is because between you and your friend endometriosis I will no longer be able to carry my own baby. And I’ve never wanted anything more than to be a mother. But because of you, the side effects of the drugs I take to treat you, and your buddy endometriosis that’s no longer possible. My lifelong goal gone in a second.

You can also take adrenal insufficiency and Hemiplegic migraines with you. Because of the three of you I had to quit my job and move home with my parents. Because you were all being so mean. My blood pressure would stay in the 70’s and 80’s because my adrenal glands no longer act like they should. Over the last two years I have spent more time in the ER than most people do a LIFETIME!! All because of the debilitating migraines that are now a part of my daily life.

I’m tired of all of you. Tired of the medications, the depression, the anxiety and most of all the pain.  I never asked any one of you into my life, yet you are all here. You have changed my life in so many way I can’t even count. I’ve lost the majority of my local friends. I will never be able to complete my masters degree that would give me the knowledge to teach nursing school because of you!! Thanks to you I can’t hold down a job outside the home. You need to pack up and get the hell out of my life! GO. GO I tell ya!!

I live by the verses.

*Philippines 4:13 I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

*Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

With Love

-Amber

** This is my updated letter to lupus. I felt with it being Awareness Month this was a good time to update and share.

How I Really Feel About…….. Pain

Pain….. is something I deal with daily. And I am guessing that many of you do as well! It has just become a part of our daily lives and something many of us don’t give a second thought to. And most of us would give anything to have one pain free day where nothing hurt at all without having to take a pill to get that way. That being said it has become a BATTLE for some to actually get the medicine that they need to treat said pain. Thanks to all those who are abusing pain medicine it makes those of us who actually battle chronic pain to also be viewed as an addict to some care providers. It is so sad that people who have chronic pain and live in pain everyday have to jump through such hoops just to get the medicine that we need to be able to function.

I usually try to stay away from the highly debated issues like this, but I read something that really struck a chord with me this weekend. A fellow Lupie posted that she got to the point where she could no longer handle her pain at home with all the alternative options, and ibuprofen she has at home. So she went to the ER, simply because she didn’t know what else to do. And of course because her primary complaint was pain, she was looked at by some of the care providers that she was simply drug seeking. And I know she is not alone in this I know this happens all the time. It has happened to me when I went in to the ER with a Hemiplegic migraine, there was no test to show that I was truly in pain so its easy to assume that I really just want pain medications. I even had one doctor tell me that I was just a hypochondriac and that there was no reason for me to be seeking treatment in HIS ER.

That’s the whole problem with autoimmune conditions and chronic pain syndrome, there is not always a blood test or imaging that will show that the patient is truly hurting. Most doctors don’t understand autoimmune conditions therefore they don’t understand why we are in pain. If they can’t see a lab result change or something on an MRI or CT Scan to explain the pain they just don’t get it.  And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t be honest about my pain with some of my doctors without them looking at me and thinking I just want the drugs. When in all reality I just want a day where I can wake up and function like a normal person. I don’t like how the pain medications make me feel but if that is what I have to do to function then so be it. I think many of you would agree with me when I say I just want a day without pain. I would give almost anything to have a day, a week, a whole seven days where I didn’t hurt somewhere and I could do all the things that I want to do without having to spend the next day(s) in bed.

The government at the local, state and federal levels are trying to do what they can to change how pain medications are prescribed and filled to decrease the level of abuse. In some states you are only allowed a seven day prescription no matter what the reason for needing pain medication is. In other places you have to give a urine sample every thirty days before you can get a new script to show that you are really taking the medicine and not selling it. Pharmacies are now being linked in many states throughout their local areas to try to prevent those abusing drugs from doctor hopping and having multiple scripts from multiple different doctors. While all of this is positive and will hopefully start to decrease the abuse of pain killers. It has actually made it harder for those of us who really need it to function. We are being made to jump through more hoops then ever before.

The real question I guess is how do we change the views of these care providers, especially ER providers. Where they see a large amount of drug seekers everyday. What can we do to prove to them that we aren’t wanting more and more medications, that we just want help getting through this flare up. Even with our conditions in our charts that say LUPUS, MIGRAINES, ENDOMETRIOSIS or whatever conditions you have that cause pain, they still often times wonder. I have thought about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that we will never change the way they look at us. We just have to have tough skin and prove to them that we don’t want an extra script or something new to take at home, we just needs something to break the cycle we are in. Maybe one day more doctors and care providers will start to understand the conditions that cause chronic pain. Until then we are stuck in this horrible rut and just have to prove our self to each new provider, and show them who we are and what we stand for.

With Love,

Amber

The Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me

Even though I’ve been diagnosed with Lupus, Fibromyalgia, and Endometriosis there are still things I come across that I wish someone would have told me about. You all know what I’m talking about, those little “tricks of the trade” that people who have been dealing with that condition for awhile and no one shares with the newbie. So after having a discussion with several people across several different groups, I have complied a list of things by asking others who have autoimmune illnesses. The list we complied could apply to anyone, not just me, but could change the way you do or look at things!!

-I wish someone would have been honest with me and told me that it may take MONTHS or YEARS to accept the changes brought forth by the illness. If you can ever truly accept the changes.

-I wish someone would have made it more clear that this is not something you can adjust to overnight! It may take a lifetime to fully adjust to the changes in your body, your energy level and your fatigue.

-I wish someone would have mentioned the depression that happens as you start to really accept the changes in your life is real. As well as made it clear that is is okay for you to feel that way! And suggested early on that seeing a counselor might be a good idea. 

-I wish someone would have prepared me for the fact that there is a very good chance that you won’t make a LOT of the plans you schedule, due to your health. Even if it was something you planned and were looking forward to. You just may not make it!! And in most cases your friends will never understand why you can’t just get up and go.

-I wish someone would have prepared me for the fact that not all Rheumatologist’s (or other drs for that matter) know much about Lupus or the way to treat it. And most even if they are familiar may not know the newest meds or what’s really best for each individual patient.

-I wish someone would have reminded me that no one will understand what is happening to me, and no one will stand up for me like I will. I MUST ADVOCATE FOR MYSELF AT ALL TIMES!!! (As do each of you reading this!)

-I wish someone would have told me that anytime I go to the dr or the ER with a pain related issue that I am most likely going to be treated like a DRUG SEEKER!  Whether I am or not. The drs don’t care. They just go off what they see before even talking to the patient!!!

-It would have been great to know that many of my friends and some of my family would turn their back on me and simply walk away! Because they don’t understand the changes in my life or just simply can’t handle it.

-I wish someone would have prepared me for the pain I would feel, not only from Lupus & Fibromyalgia, but also from Interstitial Cystitis and Endometriosis!

-I wish I had been prepared for the fatigue that Lupus brings on. It’s not like any fatigue I have felt before. It can honestly be totally disabling.

-I wish someone would have prepared me for the cost (even after insurance) that I will have to deal with and pay out of pocket.

  -I wish people understood that exercising and eating better will NOT cure my conditions.

  -I wish someone would have prepared me for how hard it is to keep a full time job doing the things you like once you are diagnosed with a life changing disease!

-I wish someone would have prepared me for all the dumb questions I get based on my conditions. I know people mean well, but their delivery could definitely be worked on.

– I wish someone would have prepared me for all the conditions that would come along after lupus. I had no idea that once Lupus came into my life that he would then invite all of his unwanted friend.

This is just a list of things that was combined from a poll Results from a questionnaire in an autoimmune support group, along with my own thoughts. I know many of you feel this way and could contribute many more points to the list. I hope you enjoyed reading this and it made you think about all the things that you have to deal with. Please feel free to share this with friends, family or others who suffer with chronic illness. And always remember YOU ARE NEVER ALONE IN YOUR JOURNEY!! There are always many of us out there willing to help and talk you through any struggle!!

With Love,

Amber

Raising Awareness of Invisible Illness 

Invisble illness, invisible disability……. To those who don’t have one, most would assume that it’s in your head. Thus invisible. However, this so far from the truth An Invisible Ilness is an illness that cannot be seen outwardly.  So for instance; Migraines, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Kidney Disease, thyroid disease, Heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Chronic Pain. This list goes on forever!!  Invisible illnesses could even include mental illnesses. You can’t and most of the time will never see mental illness outwardly. They are conditions that can not be seen by just looking at someone. They are conditions that may be wreaking havoc on a person internally but you would never know because they may or may not be showing any signs outwardly. The Invisble Disabilities Association has deemed October 15, 2017 – October 21,2017 to be Invisoble Disabilitoes Week Online. A week to celebrate if you will, or bring conditions like these to the forefront. So let’s do just that. 
When you see someone in their thirties get out of a car they just parked in a handicap spot. What’s your first thought? For most I would almost guarantee it’s not “Oh how sad, I wonder what condition has made them disabled!”  For most it is probably more along the lines of “Look at that fat lazy girl taking up a handicap spot. I bet that tag belongs to her grandma or somethings!”  Now, don’t get me wrong not everyone thinks that way. But I know a large amount of people do. I have even caught myself at times thinking things I shouldn’t. Sadly in this day in age it just seems like second nature.  People don’t automatically assume that their may be a reason that a 32 year old slightly overweight female has some big bad illness because on the outside other than maybe a limp or the look of exhaustion on her face you don’t see anything wrong.  

    According To Everyday Health,  “But for the millions of people who are living with arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other forms of pain that are “invisible illnesses,” explaining what’s wrong is another side effect of their condition. Not only do you have to put up with challenging, often painful, and sometimes debilitating conditions every day, but on top of that, you may have to face skepticism from people — friends, family, and co-workers, as well as strangers — who don’t understand what’s wrong with you.”

    So what do you do to get past the skepticism and the non-believers? Do you put up bumper stickers with a list or your conditions? Or wear a T-shirt that says something along the lines of “Yes, I’m really sick? No!  Because you can’t change the way people think.  All we can do is pass on awareness to our friends and family. And even the people who follow us on social media. The only way we will ever get past the way people who view those of us with invisible illness is awareness. 

    Awareness can come in many forms. For me Blog. I can get my information out to larger volumes of people by blogging. I also use My social media accounts as platforms to spread awareness. Do people get tired of it? I’m sure! But we have to spread awareness for the Invisiblem Illnessea that are touching our families and friends. Should we shove it down peoples throats? Absolutely not, people aren’t going to change!  Some people will always think we are just lazy. And you know what we have to be okay with that bc we can’t change anyone else. 

    So help me help us this week by spreading awareness of Invisible Illness. One way we can do so this week is to change the frame on our face book profile picture to one that says I live with an Invisible Illness for the week. That just might open some eyes for people around you!!  The Huff Post posted this graphic and it feels like the perfect way to end this blog. But should you have any questions or anything please reach out!  

    Go out and spread awareness of your Invisible Illness/Disability!

    https://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/invisible-illness-when-others-cant-see-your-pain.aspx

    https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8178886

    Lupus Paychosis/ Neuropsychiatric Lupus 

    Lupus psychosis or  Neuropsychiatric Lupus sounds pretty scary right? Well it is. It may also sound pretty far fetched…. That it is not!!!!It is a truly scary condition that someone with lupus can deal with, but others who don’t have lupus might have trouble understanding.  So what exactly IS LUPUS PSYCHOSIS??? Or Neuropsychiatric Lupus? The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has identified “19 different ways that lupus can affect nervous system, including the brain. This complication of lupus is known as neuropsychiatric lupus, or NPSLE. Compiled research suggests that as many as 90 percent of adults, adolescents, and children with lupus will at some time experience the devastating effects of NPSLE” According to MedicineNet  “Systemic lupus erythematosus can cause inflammation of virtually any tissue of the body. … When lupus affects the brain, it can lead to headache, seizure, stroke, or psychosis. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder featuring defective thought processes, frequently with delusions or hallucinations.” 

    See scary stuff. But we never hear of it!? Is it really that common? No. I’ve never heard of it, it must just be a couple people here and there? Well….. that’s actually not the case.  According to National Institute of Health, Neuropsychiatric manifestations are present in two-thirds of the patients with SLE.[system lupus erythematosus]. The most common neuropsychiatric manifestations in SLE are cognitive deficit (49.33%), lupus headache (23.11%; in 57.69% of these patients, tension-type), psychoses (12.00%), seizures (10.67%), and cerebrovascular events (9.78%).[3]. So there you have it. Lupus psychosis is seen in about 12% of those with neuropsychiatric manifestations!  Who knew.

    Now that we know that this happens way more frequently than we thought let’s look at the symptoms of  Lupus Psychosis//Neuropsychiatric Lupus(NPSLE). The most common side effects or problems people who live with with Neuropsychiatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is cognitive dysfunction. This simply means that they have a hard time concentrating or they have a hard time with reason or problem solving or recalling memories. These symptoms may not seem problematic to the average joe but to a person suffering with them they can disrupt all aspects of life. I can personally tell you. They can affect your work, your ability (or lack thereof) to organize, ability to learn new things, ability to Process visual-spatial things, and language issues. For kids and adolescents the effects of NPSLE is usually on school work. 

    The most common complication of NPSLE is cognitive dysfunction, meaning difficulty concentrating or reasoning and problems with memory and recall. These symptoms can disrupt all aspects of life, including the ability to plan, work, organize, and learn, visual-spatial processing, and language. For children and adolescents especially, this effect of NPSLE on school performance is a major concern. To make SLE harder for kids and adolescents to deal with because  NPSLE occurs often. Usually early in the course of the disease process and in children usually happens with great severity.  However, other symptoms can be life-threatening. These including seizure and strokes. These can be major causes of illness and be major causes of changed quality of life or even brain damage and death. At this point there is no point that can gauge if Lupus is affecting your Nervous system. However, we do know that NPSLE can be present even if a persons SLE is inactive in their other organs.  Sadly, even though there are medications to treat symptoms of SLE with nervous system involvement, but not ALL PEOPLE with NPSLE will respond to those current medication. And the side effects of these meds can be quite undesirable. 
    We have now looked at  the frequency and the symptoms of this condition but I was curious as I’m sure you are as well , if there is a cause. So I did a little more research. And I really I didn’t find much that I hadn’t already found. According to the National Institute of Health “Psychiatric symptoms in SLE can be functionally independent psychiatric disorders. It can be due to drugs (steroids) used for SLE or secondary to SLE because of its brain involvement, which is termed as neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus (NPSLE).”

    I talked with a couple of people who have suffered with Lupus Psychosis and this is what they told me: Melissa said ” I have dealt with lupus psychosis a few times. Both times I ended up being admitted and tested for every illegal drug under the sun because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. It was scary I couldn’t feed myself, work a phone, or even the tv remote. I couldn’t even recognize my family. Then I was having these crazy physcadelic dreams. And I would cry to my parents that the nurses were making me clean hallways of the entire hospital with bleach on my hands and knees.  It is definitely a scary ordeal and something I hope to never experience again.”

    Susan’s experience is a little different. She said “I get brain fog often. Sometimes when people are talking I don’t understand what they’re saying, even though they’re speaking English. Then there’s the persistent searching for words and forgetting things. It’s especially embarrassing when I’m teaching and I know what I want to say but the word won’t come out.”

    Living with a condition with Lupus Psychosis or NPSLE is a difficult one. And it truly Becomes a family affair. Because it affects the persons children, parents, siblings etc.  Anyone’s life who lives with the person is going to be affecte any at times devestaved by NPSLE. There is so little understanding of Lupus Psychosis and NPSLE  that there needs to be an expansion in clinical and research development urgently!!! 

    -Amber

    Resources: 

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3361854/

    http://www.lupus.org/research/neuropsychiatric-lupus-research-program

    http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/mobileart.asp?articlekey=21147fojovç l  

    Pain Medication…. The Debate

    Ma’am I see you have scheduled pain medicine on your list of meds……… Yes, I take them for my PAIN….. What do you need pain medicine for????  Well, let’s see. Could it be the Systemic Lupus? Or Maybe the Endometriosis? Or could it be the interstitial cystitis? Or maybe the chronic migraines or fibromyalgia?????? 

    For some pain medicine is the only way that they can make it through the day. Maybe even the only way they can get out of bed!!!  For others it’s just something they can take a couple times a week and be good. Why is it that those of us with documented conditions that are known to cause pain are still looked at like drug seekers? 
    Have you ever been on the receiving end of questions about the medication you take that just gets you through the day? Do you ever feel like you are treated like a druggie or a criminal because you need prescription pain meds? 

    There is nothing more frustrating to me then being looked at like I’m a drug seeker when I go in to the dr or pharmacy because I take pain medication. And heaven forbid I ever go into the ER because if a hemiplegic migraine or a horrible lupus flair, and need some relief. When that happens it’s almost for sure someone will look at me like I’m drug seeking. This shouldn’t be!!! All the people out there who have abused the system and abuse prescription pain medication have ruined it for all the rest of us. 

    We shouldn’t be grouped into that category. Especially when we have multiple document conditions that can cause life altering pain. But we are. I see almost daily that there are lawmakers trying to pass a law that should prevent the abuse of narcotic pain meds. But if that happens will we stop getting the looks? Or will providers stop making us feel like we can’t seek medical treatment for fear of being treated like a drug seeker?? In my opinion no!!  It’s always going to be a problem for us. No matter what laws are passed and how much thy try to cut down on the abuse of prescription drugs I feel like we are always going to be treated poorly. It’s always an assumption that just because we take the meds we are a druggie. 

    I’m not saying every doctor or nurse or pharmacy treats people like that. But I guarantee that at least 5 or more of the people who are reading this could tell us a story about how they were treated or not treated because of the medication listed on their home Med list!

    How do we stop this unfair treatment? How do we stop feeling like everyone assumes the worst of us?  I wish I knew. But we need to find a way. Find a way to prove to the world that just because you take pain meds you are a seeker or a druggie. Prove to the world that these conditions that we suffer from everyday cause such pain that we need those meds. Prove to people that sometimes without those meds we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. Or complete our daily activities. And sometimes even WITH the meds we can not complete any of our daily routines. Do we carry a sign that has a list of our conditions? Sadly, that wouldn’t help. Because if you haven’t experienced the pain of these conditions yourself you can never fully understand. 

    How do we prove to the world that just because there are those scummy people who buy meds for abuse or steal meds to abuse them, that we aren’t all that way? Sadly, in this day an age there is such a high rate of abuse of prescription meds that I don’t know that we will ever be able to prove our case. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2015, 2
    million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers. And In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to
    give every American adult their own bottle of pills!!! 

    I don’t know about you but to me that data is staggering. And the fact that Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers is beyond understanding.  I completely underatand why law makers and medical providers want to find a way to cut down on the number of people taking prescription narcotics. But what they don’t seem to understand is that there is a large population with chronic pain issues who truly require these meds. 

    According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine; pain is a significant public health problem that costs society at least $560-$635 billion annually, an amount equal to about $2,000.00 for everyone living in the U.S. This includes the total incremental cost of health care due to pain from ranging between $261 to $300 billion and $297-$336 billion due to lost productivity (based on days of work missed, hours of work lost, and lower wages).  These numbers are crazy to me. Do all these people really need pain medication or are some of them abusing it? Probably a little of both.  

     Chronic Pain is a real thing and needs to be dealt with. And those who really need the meds should be able to get them without feeling like they are being looked upon negatively.  I hope and pray that there is a way for this to be done. But at this point I don’t know how to go about it!  (Okay rant over!)

    If you would like to share your story about how you have been treated negatively because you take prescription meds or have requested meds because of you condition. Please place those stories in the comments or email me. I would love to read them and compose another blog post with everyone’s story. 

    -Amber 
    Resources:

    http://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf

    http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx

    Sick of Being Sick

    Since the beginning of March I’ve been sick!  Almost every day I feel terrible. And I have been running high fevers of an on all that time. I’ve had enough antibiotics for three people. Even IV antibiotics. And still sick. I have a sore throat, runny nose, constant wheezing and coughing.  Always nauseated and have actually lost about 5 lbs.  Now my lupus is flaring because I haven’t had my treatment since February because I have been sick. And can’t get it till I’m not sick or at least not running a fever. So it’s like a never ending circle. Sick, lupus flare, sick, Lupus flare, add in migraines and IC pain and repeat. It’s really getting old. 

    I realized the one day this week that I haven’t left the house other than to go to work (which I haven’t done a lot of), or to go to the drs office. And my friends don’t get it. They just think I’m using an excuse again not to do something but I’m not. You know when you feel like crap the last thing you wanna do is get out of your nice comfy bed and go to some loud restaurant that serves food that just the smell alone makes you queasy. And all the noise causes a migraine.  It’s just not worth it. 

    But then you get depressed bc you haven’t really gone any where or done anything. And you really don’t want to. And then for me the tears start. A dr I saw this week had known me for about eight years through work, looked at me and asked if I was depressed. And the water works started flowing. And then EVERYTHING that day made me cry. TV commercials, someone teasing me. It was stupid. Someone told me that maybe I should go back to my counselor. They were probably right and are seeing things that I don’t as they see me in a way I cant. So I made an appt. 

    I saw a specialist in infectious disease.  And all my labs came back normal for the most part. So there’s really no reason for the fever. Except I’m a LUPIE!!! So I have no idea. And my insurance wants me to MAIL order the treatment I get ever 28 days in my port. Or they will charge me $835 a month. Sighhhh. Insurance companies are a topic for another day. So I have no idea what that next step will be if my provider and pharmacy don’t all me to mail order my medicine. 

    I know that my problems pale in comparison to others. And I am okay with that. Sometimes you just need to vent. I am thankful for the health that I have. And that I am still semi-able to work part time. I am grateful that I am still able to get out of bed everyday.  And I don’t take any of those things for granted because I know that could change at any given moment. But truthfully, I’m just sick of being sick. 

     We all have crappy days, weeks or even months. But we will get through. We just have to pick ourselves up by our boot straps like we always do and do what needs to be done.  I think those of us with chronic illness are probably the strongest people I know. We do things with pain that other would never think of. We work on no sleep when others couldn’t make it an hour. We push through and try to make everything seem FINE. When really it’s far from that. I have had soooo much support from the chronic illness community the last month and really the last five years.  We are a hell of a group. And I couldn’t make it without all your support!!! 

    -Amber